Sophie Cameron’s newest release Last Bus to Everland follows Brody Fair who, after meeting a boy named Nico, is shown a diverse magical place called Everland. In Everland, time stands still, rules are nonexistent, and the party is always going. This novel is an addition to the portal genre novel that deals with human truths, reminding us how much we all actually have in common. I was lucky enough to chat with the author about her influences, writing process and this new narrative.
How has growing up in the Scottish Highlands and living in Edinburgh shaped your writing style?
I grew up in quite a rural area where there wasn’t a lot to do if you weren’t into sports/outdoor pursuits – also, the internet back then was really expensive so we were only allowed on it for about 10 minutes a day! I think, for me, that encouraged me to be creative and use my imagination, and it also meant I had a lot of time to read.
When did you start writing? When did you decide to pursue writing as a profession?
I wrote my first story when I was about six – a blatant copy of the Sophie stories by Dick King-Smith, only all the characters were dolphins. I always wanted to be a writer, but it wasn’t until I finished university that I started taking it more seriously.
Since The House of Spirits by Isabel Allende is one of your favorite books, how did it influence your use of the fantastic and magical in your own writing?
My English teacher introduced me to Isabel Allende in my last year of high school. I loved the way Allende, like other magical realist authors, presented fantastical elements in such a straightforward way: Clara is a clairvoyant, and her ability to see the future and read dreams is presented totally naturally. I’d read a lot of fantasy before then, but nothing that blended realism and the supernatural in quite that way. I don’t consider what I write magical realism, mostly because that’s a term that mainly refers to literature from Latin America and other postcolonial regions, but also because the fantastical elements in my books aren’t woven into the fabric of the world in the same way – they’re definitely a big surprise for the characters! But magical realism has been a huge influence on my writing and the way I combine the real world and elements of fantasy.
Do world events ever offer any inspiration?
Yes, in a way. When I was writing Out of the Blue, for example, the migrant crisis in Europe was at its peak. I think seeing the selfish-centred and unempathetic way people in the UK (and elsewhere) reacted to this influenced the behaviour of some of the characters in the book act towards the Beings, even if it wasn’t a direct source of inspiration.
Once you have an idea, how do you approach the writing process?
I sketch out a plan and write as much as I can, but I usually find I can’t get past 30,000 words at that stage. After that I need to leave the idea to simmer for at least a year until I can come back to it and know how it needs to be written. Sometimes it takes a few tries, though! I started writing what will hopefully be my third book in 2013, and it took me multiple attempts before I was finally able to finish it last year.
With Out of the Blue released in 2019 and Last Bus to Everland being released this year, were you writing both stories at the same time?
I started Out of the Blue first, then put it aside for a while and started Last Bus to Everland, then went back to Out of the Blue and finished it while I was submitting it to competitions and agents. I worked on Last Bus to Everland in between rounds of edits of Out of the Blue, so I went back and forth between the two of them for a few years.
How did you keep the continuity of each novel?
I would work on each one for several weeks or months at a time before going back to the other, so it wasn’t too confusing. I think the fact that they’re both contemporary fantasy novels set in Edinburgh and have similar atmospheres helped, too.
What was your inspiration for Last Bus to Everland?
The idea came from an Edinburgh folktale called The Fairy Boy of Leith, about a Captain who meets a boy who goes to Calton Hill in Edinburgh every Thursday evening to drum for the fairies in a secret world that opens via a gate that appears from nothing. My version is a modern retelling, but instead of fairies Everland is home to people from all over the world. It’s also – as the title suggests – inspired by Peter Pan and by portal fantasies.
What do Brody and Nico represent in this novel?
For Brody, Nico represents the power of having confidence in yourself and in embracing your differences. I think Brody represents the way your life can improve when you open up to people, and when you take the time to try to understand what other people are really feeling rather than judging them by appearances.
Publisher’s Weekly calls this novel an addition to the Portal Fantasy genre. What were some Portal Fantasies titles you enjoyed reading?
I really loved The Chronicles of Narnia, Alice in Wonderland and Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman. Phillip Pullman’s His Dark Materials are some of my favourite books, and I think The Subtle Knife would count as a portal fantasy, too. More recently, I loved The Light Between Worlds by Laura E. Weymouth.
Where is your personal Everland?
Ses Salines in Ibiza. I live in Barcelona so we go to Ibiza quite a lot as it’s close by, and it’s the perfect place to unwind and forget about any stresses back in the real world.
What are you hoping readers take away from this narrative?
Throughout the book Brody comes to realise that he’s not as alone as he thinks he is, and that the people around him are all dealing with their own issues and insecurities. I’d love it if the book left readers thinking about that and hopefully understanding that there will always be people who understand and will listen, even if it doesn’t always feel like it.
Will you be making any appearances this year to promote the novel?
As I live in Barcelona, and as my books unfortunately haven’t been translated into Spanish or Catalan yet, appearances are a bit tricky for me! I’ll be in the UK in August and September, though, so I’m hoping to line up a few things then.
Last Bus to Everland is already out in the UK and will be released on June 18, 2019 in the U.S.