Introducing Jill MacKenzie and SPIN THE SKY


Today we’re so excited to introduce you to Jill MacKenzie and SPIN THE SKY, which is slated to release Fall 2016!

  1. Why did you choose the setting for your book? Did you draw from any real places to create your world?

    The setting in my book, Summerland, is actually a real place on the Oregon coast that stole my heart when I was fifteen. I stumbled upon it on a rogue road trip with some girlfriends, and never wanted to leave. That was the summer I met a boy and fell in love and learned to surf and learned how cool and calming clamming can be.  I gave it a fictitious name for my story because it’s how I see the town, like, my own interpretation of it. I was worried that if I called it by its real name, the people who actually live there would be like, “that’s not how it is here at all” and I definitely didn’t want to upset anyone with this story–especially because I paint the town in not a very pretty light. But I just wrote it the way I felt it–the good parts, the bad parts, and the really, really bad parts. I chose it for my setting because it’s the only small town I’ve ever spent a significant amount of time in and it just felt right. When the story started to unfold in my head, the town of Summerland took shape around it, and through it. 

  2. What was your inspiration for SPIN THE SKY?

    My inspiration for SPIN THE SKY obviously came from the TV show SO YOU THINK YOU CAN DANCE. I danced my whole life, but there was nothing like this for me to work toward growing up. If there had been, I think I would have worked harder in dance because I would have known just what it could do for me. Also, in watching the show, I was always moved by some of the stories the competitors had, and I wanted to write a story about the competitor who had the really, REALLY brave story, the thing that made her want to win the show more than any of the others. I love the show, so I wanted to compliment that…but I also see the “larger than life” aspects of the show because it is reality TV, and I wanted to (gently) poke fun at that, too.

  3. What was your favorite part about writing this book?

    My favorite part about writing this book was that I got to live out my dreams while writing it! I wish I could have been a professional dancer, and I think I could have been…in another life. Also, sometimes I have these weird, small town fantasies and think how nice it would be to grow up in a place where everyone knows your name. It was really interesting for me to start with that fantasy and then realize that the things about small town life I had romanticized in my head, might not be as great as I originally thought.

  4. What was the hardest part about writing this book?

    The hardest part about writing this book was definitely trying to squeeze an entire dance competition into the time frame I wanted the main plot of the story to happen in. It was hard! Also, all of Magnolia’s “mom stuff.” That was really hard for me to write, too. A lot of tears were shed for this story, but I feel stronger coming out of it! 🙂

  5. Who is your favorite rogue character from a book, TV show, or movie?

    My favorite rogue character from another book? This one is SO easy for me! I’m obsessed with all Matt de la Pena’s characters, and they’re definitely all rogue. I guess if I had to pick one, I choose Kidd from I WILL SAVE YOU. I seriously fell in love with him after the first read (and I’ve read it like six times.)

  6. Which character in SPIN THE SKY do you identify with most, and why?

    I definitely identify with Magnolia the most. Wait. Maybe I identify with George the most. Er…maybe I’m wrong. Maybe it’s Rose I’m most alike. Ugh. I suppose that the truth is that they’re all part of me, and I identify with all of them! I think I have George’s lust for life (except for when I don’t), Rose’s protective side (most of the time) and Magnolia’s drive and passion (some of the time.) But they’re all me, and none of them are me. It’s the best I can do.

  7. SPIN THE SKY deals with a reality TV dance competition. Tell us about the process of creating an original competition show for a book–did any current reality shows influence or inspire yours?

    As I said before, the show was really hard! I always knew I wanted the framework to mirror SO YOU THINK YOU CAN DANCE because I love it and think they accomplish a lot in a short amount of time. Even though there are some classic reality TV moments on that show, I also think they do incredible things for dance and dancers and challenge their competitors in ways I never could have imagined when I danced seriously. I hope I did the show justice. I hope I put my own spin on it enough to make it my own.

  8. Describe the type of reader you hope will pick up your book when it’s on shelves.

    The kind of reader I hope picks up my books is the kind of reader with big dreams that will stop at nothing to achieve those dreams. But also, I hope someone that is looking for a sign, a reason, a way to let go of the shadows they’ve walked in for too long also picks up my book. That’s the heart of the story. Letting go. It’s the hardest thing I’ve ever had to learn, but the best thing, too.

  9. What sources did you draw inspiration from while writing SPIN THE SKY (this can include music, movies, books, art…etc!)

    I’m a huge music fan, and like with SO YOU THINK YOU CAN DANCE, I drew a lot of inspiration from music while writing this book. I love music that makes me feel something and makes me want to dance and just shake it all off, you know? For this book, I listened to LCD SOUNDSYSTEM’s “This Is Happening” over and over. It made me feel everything. It made me get up and move and then sit down and put it all on paper. It gave me the original title for this book, which was DANCE YOURSELF CLEAN, a track from that album. I always knew that title would change, but it was a constant reminder to me what I wanted this book to be. A book about gaining the want, the ability, the desire to dance yourself clean from the things that try and try and try to weigh you down.

  10. I love books that deal with sibling relationships. Talk to us a bit about the sister dynamic in SPIN THE SKY.

    I, too, love books that deal with sibling relationships. The thing is, when you have a sibling, you know that nothing is a deal breaker with them and that’s comforting, you know? You can love them and hang out with them…or you can tell them you want them dead or to eff off and you know it won’t kill your relationship because they’re the only other person on the planet who knows your childhood the way you know your childhood, and vice versa. I guess it’s that whole “bearing witness to your life” thing. You can love them or you can hate them, but either way, you’re kind of just stuck with them and that’s just nice and warm feeling. The relationship between Mags and Rose is nothing like the relationship I have with my sister, though. Again, I sort of took the vision of what I wanted my ideal sibling to look like and act like around me, and tried to write it like that. But as I started writing the story, I realized that their relationship didn’t look as rosy or pretty as I thought it would either and, somehow, that gave me comfort, too.

Jill’s bio: Although my heart will always be on the West Coast, I’ve lived in the heat of Florida for nearly 11 years and am finally getting used to it. Together with my South African husband named Gus and our two gorgeous little daughters (one girly, one not) named Alice and Lila, our lives are pretty much spent on the beach, navigating the clear, warm waters of the South. In addition to being an avid member of SCBWI Florida, I’m currently completing my MFA in Creative Writing through the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, BC. I also work as a freelance writer and write book reviews as a sideline gig whenever possible because, you know, I’ve got to help bring home the bacon, too. In my free time, (free time? What’s that?) I enjoy dancing, reading, snorkeling, surfing, running and travelling. 


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