I’m very excited to be a part of the tour for this wonderful book, as well as my review I also have Ross here answering some questions about the book and his experience of being published. Before we get to that here is what the book is about.
An eight-year-old girl and her Granpa are on the run…
“When me and Granpa watched James Bond films, he told me not to be scared because people didn’t have guns like that in Scotland. That must’ve been why the robbers used hammers.”
Orphaned Mary lives with her granpa, but after he is mixed up in a robbery at the bookies where he works, they flee to the Isle of Skye. Gradually, Mary realises that her granpa is involved. And the robbers are coming after him–and their money.
Mary’s quirky outlook on life, loss, and her love of all things Elvis, will capture your heart. Full of witty Scots banter, Mary’s the Name will have you reaching for the hankies, first with laughter, then with tears.
If you were a girl with brown hair, you were a brunette. Boy’s couldn’t be brunettes. I though the word must be Scottish because the first bit, you said it like broon. I would usually have said brown. Granpa tried his best not to sound too Scottish around me so I wouldn’t pick up his bad habits. I said some things Scottish-y though. Sometimes a word like braw or pure chilly Baltic was better than a boring english word.
Mary and her Granpa are heading off on holiday. After witnessing a robbery at the bookies where her Granpa works, he decides that they should take a trip to visit an old friend in Skye. Mary, through an inquisitive nature and innocent conversations, starts to suspect that her Granpa may have been involved in the robbery. Then she realises that the robbers have followed them to Skye and are looking for their money.
It is very hard to put into words how brilliant this book is. Eight-year-old Mary is utterly fascinating and I instantly felt a connection with her. The book is written from her point of view and as such we get to delight in her simple observations of the world that are usually highly entertaining. She has a remarkable mix of seeming older than her years but still having a youthful naivety, and I liked that she was never predictable. I would be laughing at her thoughts one minute and then feeling so sad for her as she revealed a more vulnerable side the next. Mary is a character that you are sure to fall in love with and it was a delight getting to see her start to find her place in the world.
Grace’s bike was in the shed and she had to ask her dad to get it out for her…He had to get the shed key from a drawer in the kitchen. There were so many things in the drawer it took him ages. Scissors and a ball of string and lots of little black things he said were Alan’s keys. There were so many, Alan must’ve had loads of sheds.
The relationship between Mary and her Granpa, Arthur, was wonderful to read. I loved that even though it wasn’t a “traditional” upbringing, they had a very strong bond and even when things happened that made one upset or angry with the other, at the end of the day they would still put each other first. There were a few points that I got just as frustrated with Granpa as Mary did, but it was easy to forgive him when you know that he did what he did with her in mind.
Skye was a beautiful backdrop to this story and you can tell that a lot of research has gone into the local area, as it really comes alive on the page. I have only driven through Skye but felt as if I could see the places described very clearly in my mind. The book is written in a Scottish dialect and I think it definitely adds to the humour. It makes the book feel authentic but is done in a simple way so that everyone should still be able to understand what’s being said.
Mary’s The Name is more than just a story about a robbery it’s about relationships and learning that the world and the people in it aren’t perfect. It is a book that will take you through every emotion; I went from laughter, to shock and then tears towards the end; but still leaves you feeling hopeful. Ross Sayers has incredible talent, he has managed to capture the voice of a young girl so effortlessly, this is a book that you don’t want to miss!
So now to the really interesting bit, Ross very kindly answered some questions I had about his book and his experience…
Where did the idea for Mary’s story come from?
I knew I wanted Mary to go with her Granpa to his work, and I wanted the work to be somewhere girls aren’t usually seen. Once I had the bookies at a setting, it felt a natural next step to have a robbery and some thieving!
Skye is a beautiful setting for the book, was it chosen because you’d been there before or did you have a lot of researching to do?
I hadn’t visited before the book, no! I decided to have Mary and Granpa run away to some remote location, and Skye seemed a good fit. Once I saw the harbour street in Portree, with the multi-coloured houses, I knew I had the right place. I visited for a few days in 2015 to get a feel for the town of Portree and so I could get the little details right. I hope I’ve done Skye justice!
It’s unusual to read a story from an eight-year-olds perspective, what made you decide to tell the story from Mary’s point of view?
After I read, and was amazed by, James Kelman’s ‘Kieron Smith, Boy’, I knew I wanted to write something similar. He captured the child’s voice perfectly. To challenge myself, I tried a girl as a narrator, and received positive feedback after the first chapter. It can be really handy narrating from a child’s perspective, as they can understand enough to tell the story, but not quite enough to realise all the scary stuff the reader can spot!
I don’t think I’ve read a book with Scots dialect in it before, was that a conscious decision or did it just come naturally and did you ever worry how that would be received?
In my very early drafts, I wrote with Scots dialect, before taking it back out. My thinking was: if I want to get this published, it should have as broad an appeal as possible. However, when I met with Cranachan, they told me how passionate they are about Scottish dialect, and asked if I’d put it back in. This was a win-win situation for me, as I got to write the book the way I originally intended, as well as pleasing the publisher! I’m not worried about people struggling with it, as I’ve already heard from people in several countries, who’ve had no problems reading it.
You used some very interesting marketing tactics, Tinder being one of them, what made you think to use that? Did you get much feedback from it?
Having used Tinder before, I knew how many people can be reached in a small amount of time. For every swipe, that’s your picture coming up on another person’s phone. So I thought, if the picture was the front cover of my book, it’d certainly reach a lot of people! This also gave me the chance to promote the book to girls I matched with, as well as having a laugh. The blog post I wrote about it (which you can read here) received a lot of great feedback, and a lot of writers told me they want to try it (or that they’re not brave enough to try it!).
How have you found the experience of being published?
It’s been amazing. I signed my contract in April, so there’s been a bit of a wait, but I’ve loved the build up to the release. Hearing people from all over the world tell me they’re enjoying my story is such a great feeling. It still feels surreal, whenever I’m referred to as an ‘author’, or when ‘Mary’s the Name’ gets a glowing review. A dream come true, absolutely.
Do you have any advice for other first time authors out there?
Don’t give up after rejections! Obviously there are more extreme examples, but ‘Mary’s the Name’ was rejected by a LOT of agents and publishers. Be open to feedback, as it’s very unlikely your story will be perfect in its first draft. Don’t be afraid to write in your own dialect and voice, it’s what makes you unique as a writer. Also, read a lot!
What’s next for you…any more book ideas in the pipeline?
Putting together the idea for novel number two at the moment. Don’t be surprised if it features my hometown of Stirling again, and some high school pupils getting mixed up in a crime when they should be in class!
Well I hope you enjoyed my stop on the tour, be sure to check out some of the other stops as well.
Ross Sayers is a writer of Scottish fiction, and his debut novel, ‘Mary’s the Name’, was released January 30th 2017. Ross graduated from the University of Stirling in 2014, with a BA (Hons) in English Studies (first class), and graduated again in 2015 with an M.Litt in Creative Writing (distinction). His stories and poems have featured in magazines such as Quotidian and Octavius, and his short story, ‘Dancin’ is currently used on West College Scotland’s Higher English course. You can connect with him on Twitter or his Website.