What were you trying to accomplish when you started writing Mackenzie, Lost and Found? What do you feel you’ve accomplished with the finished product?
When I first sat down to write this book, my goal was to explore the notion of what would happen to a typical Canadian teenager who was taken out of her comfort zone and dropped into a completely foreign environment. But as I got further along in the writing process, other themes emerged that begged to be addressed. Themes like interfaith relationships, the Arab-Israeli conflict, coping with loss, and cultural division in society. In the end, I feel like Mackenzie, Lost and Found offers a glimpse into a part of world that not many North American teenagers are familiar with. And I think it’s a romantic, exciting book that will leave readers thinking, asking questions, and remembering the importance of considering both sides to every story.
Why did you choose to write about
The idea of setting a book in
What sort of research did you have to do?
My friend Simone (the one who moved to
But nothing can replace real-life experience. When I was in the final stages of writing the book, I was offered an opportunity to accompany my husband on a business trip to
What was the most difficult scene for you to write?
The scene that was the hardest to get right was the climactic end scene in Nasir’s apartment. I don’t want to spoil the ending for anyone, so all I will say is that I had to re-write this part many times trying to strike the perfect balance between the characters and lead the reader towards certain assumptions, without being too obvious about it.
Describe the development of your characters, especially Mackenzie and Nasir. Did you have a specific vision of them before the story came, or did they gradually evolve with the story?
Mackenzie was pretty much all there from the beginning. I had a very clear picture of who she was going into the writing process. Nasir, however, was definitely a character that evolved over time. I always knew he had to be conflicted between his father’s plans for him and his own personal hopes and aspirations – but the nuances of his character weren’t there originally. He was tricky for me to write, because I had no idea what the motivations and desires of an Arab teenage boy might be. After doing a lot of research into Arab-Israeli culture, a better picture of Nasir began to form in my head and he emerged in the story as a sensitive, caring, dreamer-type of kid.
Which of your characters can you relate to most and why?
I’d have to say, Mackenzie. There are always some subtle traces of me in every female main character I write about. So, Mackenzie and I do have a few things in common. Like her, I was pretty naive as a teenager. Also like her, I usually go out of my way to avoid confrontations. Also, neither of us can ever get a suntan.
What’s the most interesting or surprising thing you learned while writing this novel?
I love the great little facts that I learned while researching this part of the world. Like how all the buildings in
What can I say? I’m a trivia nerd, so small details like this appeal to me.
On the writing side, I learned a great ‘character’ insight from an author friend of mine who read the first draft of Mackenzie, Lost and Found. She taught me that there should be no such thing as a purely ‘evil’ character in a book – that even the worst of characters must have a good side.
What is the most rewarding part about being a YA author?
Connecting with kids! Writing about teens and speaking with them about my books really helps keep me in touch with that exciting stage of life when everything moves at high speed...when emotions are felt so intensely and experiences are fresh and new. And because I work from home, I get to stay connected to the two most important kids in my life – my 6 year old son and my 3 year daughter. Nothing beats it!
If there was one thing you could change about Mackenzie, Lost and Found, what would it be?
Ha! Definitely the typo that everyone keeps pointing out to me. In the editing stage, I switched Nasir’s voice around from 3rd person to 1st person...and finally back to 3rd person. And one little word got lost in the shuffle.
What are you working on next?
For my next YA, Girl on the Other Side, I used alternating narratives to tell the story of two opposite teenage girls whose lives come crashing together through a series of strange events. I’m really excited about this book – so far, the feedback has been awesome. Watch for it to be coming out in November, 2009.
Also, I just finished up another YA manuscript that I’m calling Bye-Bye, Evil Eye which is kind of a paranomalish mystery, comedy, romance about the Evil Eye...very different from anything else I’ve ever written.
So currently I’m in between manuscripts...taking a much-needed creative break. Phew!
Don't forget to visit Deborah online at: http://www.deborahkerbel.com/