Ross MacKenzie

The Colour of Hope
Ross MacKenzie

About Author

Award-winning author Ross MacKenzie introduces his incredible new fantasy novel, the Colour of Hope.

Ross has been writing stories since he was seven years old, when he created an illustrated short story about a hungry crocodile named Crunchy Colin in a smuggled school jotter.   His children's novel The Nowhere Emporium won the Blue Peter Best Story Award and the Scottish Children's Book Award.  He now splits his time between writing, his day job as a graphic designer, and his wife, daughters and cocker spaniel, with whom he lives near Glasgow.



The Colour of Hope (Andersen Press)

May 2022

Born into a world without colour, Hope is a miracle; she can see colour, and her touch brings colour - and hope - back into a world that has none.

Award-winning author Ross MacKenzie tells us what inspired his new book, The Colour of Hope; how lockdown during the Covid pandemic helped him develop ideas for the novel; and the challenges that writing a world with no colour brought. He also reads from the start of the novel in this short video. 

Read a chapter from The Colour Of Hope

Q&A with Ross MacKenzie

1. Can you tell us a little about your writing journey to date, and if any of your books stand out for you for any particular reason?

I knew I wanted to be a writer when I was nine years old. Our Primary Five teacher, Miss McLean, read our class The Witches by Roald Dahl, and something just clicked in my head. I wanted to make people feel how that wonderful book had made me feel. After that, it was a case of having a clear goal, and believing in myself and the stories in my head. I read lots, I wrote lots, and eventually, after a lot of work and a pinch of good luck, I became a published author.

In terms of books that stand out to me, I'd say The Nowhere Emporium, because it was the book that really kickstarted my career, and also The Colour of Hope, because it challenged me in ways that I hadn't anticipated when the idea came to me. It's difficult to write in black and white!

2. What kinds of stories do you enjoy writing?

All my books so far have had magical elements to them, and that's something that I really enjoy having fun with. Working out the rules of a new world, what magic can and can't do, what creatures live there; all of that is an adventure. I also like to write stories that have a bit of darkness in them. There's a very fine line between fear and laughter and I enjoy walking it.

3. What is your new book, The Colour of Hope, about?

The Emperor has drained all colour from the world, leaving the Dominion to exist in shades of grey. It's illegal to even whisper about colour (doing so usually has deadly consequences), and the Emperor's army of huge ripper dogs and devious black coats lie in wait to dish out punishment.

But one fateful night, a baby girl is born in dazzling, perfect colour. A miracle. Her name is Hope, and word of her existence sparks a rebellion. As Hope grows, so does her legend. Danger grows too, though, as fate propels her towards a showdown with the Emperor and a chance to bring colour back to the world.

4. What inspired this story about a world without colour? As you were writing it during lockdown, how did that influence the story?

When I was growing up, my mum loved to watch old black and white movies. I enjoyed watching them with her. I think the seed of the idea of a black and white world began there. It was in my head for years, bouncing around, not going away, reminding me that one day I had to tell this story. Then, a few years ago, I finally began to put the pieces together; the world, the characters etc.

Writing the story during lockdown added layers I hadn't anticipated. There was a lot of fear in the world, and we lost a lot of freedoms that we'd always taken for granted. If you think about it, we lost much of the colour from our lives. I think some of that fear and uncertainty came out in the story. Writing it became a way of coping with what was going on in the real world.

5. How did your world, the Dominion, develop? Was it hard to imagine a world without colour - and what were the challenges as a writer? 

It was a great challenge - and one I hadn't quite realised would be so difficult! Writing in 'black and white' was like nothing I've done before. I lost count of the number of times I'd spend all day writing and then realise I had to go back and change lots because I'd used colour to describe things!

I do believe the experience has helped me become a better writer though, because I had to get very creative with description. There's a scene at the beginning of the book where an old woman is trying to describe certain colours to her grandson, who has only ever known a colourless world. It was such a challenge to do that, but one that I loved.

6. Are your stories guided by your characters - in this case, Hope and Sandy - or by the plot?

Mostly by characters. I like to have a loose idea of where the story is going, but beyond that I let my characters lead the way. It feels like more of an adventure for me as the writer that way - and sometimes the characters steer the story off in directions that take me completely by surprise!

7. There are many incidental characters who play a brilliant part in the story - which one(s) stands out for you?

I loved writing Death. Right up until I started typing her dialogue, I wasn't sure what sort of personality she'd have. It just came spilling out as I went along, and now I have a real soft spot for her - so much so that I'd like to see her again in other books down the line!

8. You also weave in characters from other myths and stories - Baba, for example, and a wyvern or dragon. What do these bring to your story and world?

I just think it's all about adding layers. I love reading about worlds where you know there's much more going on than just the story that you happen to be reading. I wanted the Dominion to be one of those worlds. I want the reader to think "if I scratch the surface here, I'll find lots more beneath".

9. Which part of the Dominion would you love to visit, if you could?

I'd really like to see a moonpond, which are pools where moonlight gathers and can be harvested for magic spells.

10. Apart from a great adventure, what would you like your readers to take from The Colour of Hope?

I like to think that readers take whatever they need to from any book. Books are like mirrors in a way, reflecting the world back at us in ways that make us see things from a different perspective. If there's anything I'd like my readers to take from this story, it's that there really is always hope, even in the darkest of times.

11. Do you plan to return to the Dominion, or is Hope's story complete? What are you writing currently?

Hope's story is complete, but the Dominion is vast and there is potential for coming back one day. We'll see. At the moment, I'm writing another middle grade fantasy with plenty of humour, a dash of mystery, a pinch of murder, and lots of adventure in an enchanted old hotel.

12. If you could 'write' your ideal writer's shed into existence, how would you describe it?

A small wooden cabin overlooking the crystal blue waters of somewhere in Cornwall. I wouldn't need much more than that. Maybe a nice coffee machine in the corner, fuelling me and making the place smell delicious. And, if I'm being greedy, an enormous bookcase overflowing with my favourites.

13. What do you enjoy doing to relax away from your desk?

I love walking our French bulldog in the woods, spending time with my family, and going to the gym. I also love to read, and recently I've become rather addicted to audiobooks!

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