1. What gave you the inspiration to write this book?
It started with a herb! ;) I visited the Colosseum a few years ago, and there were torches of burning lavender at regular intervals throughout the ancient site. The guide explained they often burned lavender ( the most effective way of dispersing its scent) in the days of gladiatorial fighting to cover the scent of bloodshed. It was such a tiny detail, but one that stayed with me and went on to inspire a whole book
2. Who is your favorite character in the book?
This is ridiculously hard, and I’m not entirely sure authors should have favourites?? (But as long as you don’t tell the rest of the cast, it probably has to be the unexpected hero, Unus the Cyclops. Unus = Latin for ‘one’ )
3. Which came first, the title or the novel?
Definitely the novel. While I was writing, I initially called the book ‘Genetica' to reflect its genetic theme. But when Hannah Smith, my first Editor, starting reading about the *Voynich Manuscript theme (the *Voynich is a real, medieval manuscript that has never been deciphered - my books hypothesise that there may be 'one or two' mythological secrets hidden within its ornate cryptic text) she immediately suggested ‘Book of Fire’ which felt much wider and enigmatic.
4. What scene in the book are you most proud of, and why?
In the first book, ‘Book of Fire’, it has to be the Flavium scene. The Flavium is the original Latin name for the Colosseum, and is a Pantheon replica of the ancient combat arena. While in the Flavium, Talia finally glimpses beneath August’s veneer in the most harrowing of circumstances - watched by a baying crowd, surrounded by blood-thirsty Griffins, and faced with the proposition of watching her brother and best friend die. It is also the moment she witnesses her silent brother’s transformation from 'boy to hero', and learns what a true hero looks like in the shape of her cyclopean bff!!
5. Thinking way back to the beginning, what’s the most important thing you've learned as a writer from then to now?
That writing is a continuous journey. There is no end destination, merely stops along the way, interspersed with plenty of peaks and troughs! So, while gaining an agent, a deal, and a royalty cheque can all be very nice, none of these building blocks are end points in themselves. Even for the most successful writers, there is no such thing as having 'made it’, because there is always another book, another series of editing hurdles and the test of the open market to navigate. Writing is hard, involves very long working hours, and means facing a lot of rejection - which is why it so important to enjoy and celebrate each step, no matter how big or small.
6. What do you like most about the cover of the book?
For City of Dust it has to be the colour. And the doorway beckoning the reader through, which seems almost metaphorical in a way as it's a fantasy book. Also the sprinkling of gold dust, which appeases the little girl in me.
7. What new release book are you looking most forward to in 2018?
Muse of Nightmares by Laini Taylor which also comes out Oct 2!! I’m a huge fan and everything she writes has that killer mix of fantasy, tangibility and heart. Just brilliant.
8. What was your favorite book in 2017?
The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas. For obvious reasons, and I can’t wait for the movie.
9. What’s up next for you?
The Book of Fire series is a trilogy so I’m already drafting the third and final instalment. This stage is very much 'throw it all down on the page’ for me, which I love. There is something very cathartic about channelling all the energy and plot twists that have been bubbling away in my head onto a page. It’s the last book in the trilogy though, so there are a lot of strands to bring together which is both satisfying and a little bit terrifying (I still wouldn’t trade it for the world though!!)
10. Is there anything that you would like to add?
Only that City of Dust is coming out in both paperback and ebook so if you’re a hardened paperback reader, watch out for December 13th! Or keep an eye on www.michellekenney.co.uk for giveaways
11. Which was the most difficult or emotional scene to narrate?
There’s a scene in the middle of City of Dust where Talia is so brave despite being faced with the toughest decision of her life. She already thinks of herself as a ghost girl and the odds are stacked against her, but she squares up to adversity head-on and nearly trades her own life in the bargain. It actually made me cry (I took that as a positive sign though ;) )
12. Which character gave you the most trouble when writing your latest book?
Definitely the brooding enigma of a Roman Knight, August! He was absent for the first part of the City of Dust to allow Max and Talia a little time to rekindle their relationship, so even I felt he was a bit of a stranger when he was reintroduced and the fireworks began to fly!
13. Which part of the writing process do you enjoy more: Drafting or Revising?
I love both, but it completely varies according to my mood. If pushed, it would probably be drafting.
14. What would you say is your superpower?
Crazy Origami! I can make a very mean party-hat &/or unsinkable ship *super fast. This jaw-dropping skill has been known to wow and calm many tantrum-prone children (and adults) on occasion.
15. Is there an organization or cause that is close to your heart?
Yes, my family and I support SOS Villages, a charity that does lots of valuable work overseas. We are all so blessed in the western world, and often forget how we our daily challenges pale into insignificance next to some others. Individual action can go a long way. www.soschildrenvillages.org.uk
I am also involved with Operation ShoeBox and, together with the rest of the local village, try to help best our running annual total of around 50 boxes each year.