Janis Mackay

I am from Edinburgh, have travelled a lot, lived in France, Israel, Greece, London, Sussex, the far north of Scotland, and am now back in Edinburgh, with a collie dog, a river across the road and two Rowan trees in the garden. I always wanted to be a writer but following advice to get ‘a proper job’ I took myself off to the big city of London when I was just nineteen and trained to be a journalist. By 21 I was a journalist on Fleet Street – but soon realised this wasn’t the kind of writing I wanted to do. So off I went – round the world having all kinds of adventures – sailing yachts, sleeping on beaches, looking after children, working on kibbutz…then back to Scotland for more adventures – looking after children with learning disabilities then studying speech and drama. I became a storyteller, drama teacher and voice teacher. I did this for a long while – which was a great learning for a writer, then I remembered my childhood dream – to be a writer. So I took myself off to university, did an MA in creative writing at Sussex University – and wrote!The Scottish Arts Council sent me up to the far north of Scotland to be a writer in residence. I didn’t even know where Caithness was but that’s where I went, and soon realised Scotland wasn’t as small as I had thought. It’s miles away! I lived there for five years – in a cottage on the beach writing books about the sea and seals and was lucky to win the Kelpies prize 2009 for my first novel – Magnus Fin and the Ocean Quest. (I say first novel but actually I had several other novels gathering dust in drawers.) So since 2007 I have been what you might call ‘a writer.’ And sometimes doing other related things like storytelling and voice teaching.I went to Duddingston primary school and Portobello High school where I learnt to touch type, speak French, a bit of German, play squash and spell. I suppose I must have learnt a few social skills as there were two and a half thousand of us at Portobello High school!I was a child and teenage athlete and I am really glad about that. The Commonwealth Games came to Edinburgh when I was about ten and it was very inspiring and I went along to the races with my dad. Then I joined the Edinburgh Southern harriers and spent the next five years running and jumping and throwing a discus, but mostly running and going off all over Scotland on Saturdays to run up hills cross country. I am pretty fit and healthy now and I think that gave me a good boost.When I visit schools with my Magnus Fin novels children often ask what books I read as a child and I usually answer (rather embarrassed) Mallory Towers! I wanted to be that girl in the attic who wrote stories. But before that, when I was very wee, I loved nursery rhymes, and like athletics I think they gave me a boost into being a writer. I love language and sounds and I remember being really young and loving the sound on my tongue of nursery rhymes like Doctor Foster went to Gloucester or – with rings on her fingers and bells on her toes, she shall have music where ever she goes!
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