My first love is writing YA fiction. But I also write ads for whisky, alluring Italian hotels and even tacky football merchandise as an award-winning copywriter. I’m also a man-loving feminist and planet-hugging activist. For example, I recently set up an event for top climate scientist Katharine Hayhoe (who famously shared a platform with Obama and Leo Di Caprio) from North America after ‘meeting’ her on Twitter. My light and fluffy side includes a soft spot for lemon drizzle cake, and dancing - especially in my chair when typing.
About writer's work
I write about what makes our hearts beat faster: the people we love, the things and places we care about, how little we really know ourselves (what lies in our shadow self) and the interplay with the forces of cultural change. The novel that broke through for me, Black Snow Falling, is an Elizabethan fantasy-thriller. It took 16 years from first concept to publication, writing in the margins of the day as a single mum working full time.
Black Snow Falling is about a spirited 15 year-old Elizabethan girl. Ruth has secrets. An old book of heresy belong to her long-absent father. A dream that haunts her. And love that she and Silas hide from the world. When she is robbed all she holds true, her friends from Crowbury slide into terrible danger. Hope is as faint as a moonbow. Dare Ruth trust the shadowy one who could destroy them all?
Ruth struggles to find agency as she is trapped by monstrous sexism… then, monsters. She has no superpowers to save her; her intuition and her friendship with a young man become her greatest weapons. The themes resonate today in the age of Weinstein, Trump, the NRA and climate change, when the challenges facing young people are on an epic scale. Using myth, such as in this novel, can help people articulate their fears about issues and situations that feel overwhelming. Black Snow Falling is not a depressing feminist dystopia. Rather, it becomes a story about hope overcoming evil, written with moral complexity.
Stolen Dreams, an earlier version of the novel, was long-listed for the Sunday Times & Chicken House Children’s Fiction Prize and the Mslexia Children’s Fiction Prize, and gained a financial bursary from Creative Scotland.
My creative copywriting has won 25 national and international advertising awards. I continue to work freelance, still writing for clients while developing my latest novel, a YA love story set in war-torn 15th century Scotland.
Websites featuring the authorL.J MacWhirter's Author WebsiteL.J MacWhirter on TwitterL.J MacWhirter on FacebookL.J MacWhirter on Instagram
Current events and projects
I’m available for schools, bookclubs, workshops, residencies, library visits and festivals. My ‘Feisty Fantasy’ event with Alice Broadway at the 2018 Edinburgh International Book Festival sold out. I will be part of the ‘Interesting Times’ UK Bookshop Tour with fellow YA debuts, Rowena House (The Goose Road) and Tracey Mathias (Night of the Party).
Black Snow Falling is YA/ adult crossover literary fiction. It’s a thrilling page-turner and an encouraging story about Ruth’s journey into hope, which may particularly appeal to young people affected by prejudice / worried about world events. The story is cross-curricular.
For schools and libraries I offer an interactive ‘story of the book’ PPT presentation with readings from the novel. Themes include: sexism as prejudice; subverting masculine and feminine archetypal journeys; early science as heresy; the dream thieves myth and fantasy/epic world-building.
My session can be supported by several inspiring classroom activities. The dream thieves myth lends itself to discussions / research into Jung and the shadow self, does evil exist. Copernicus lends itself to ‘dangerous’ books and censorship. The monstrous sexism can be explored with historical sexism and the suffragettes. Black Snow Falling resonates with the ‘monsters’ of today, such as climate change and continuing sexism, so these issues can be explored while noting hopeful campaigns such as #HeForShe and the work of climate scientists such as Katharine Hayhoe.
I also offer creative writing workshops for S2+ inspired by the novel.
The Fairy Pools, an MG story in the Wow 366! anthology, published by Scholastic, 2007. A little girl wants to believe in fairies... and a fairy wants someone to believe in her.
Merchant of Venice. Mass Storytelling and the Power of Advertising. A chapter in The Bard & Co published by Cyan 2007 for 26 and Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre. My chapter argues that the comedy archetype, such as in The Merchant of Venice, is used, perhaps unwittingly, in many TV commercials. A brand becomes the redeeming character that enables the protagonist - the customer - to become more fully 'themselves'. As an old MD of mine once said, at its best, advertising is simple and sincere; at its worst, it’s manipulative. The power of the story archetype lies in the fact that all of us tell stories, all the time, constructing meaning by connecting one event to another in a narrative. We make sense of life through stories.