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August 15, 2016 / peoplesbookprize

Mags MacKean’s The Upside Mountain – TPBP Summer Collection 2016


In the lead up to The People’s Book Prize 2016 we caught up with author Mags MacKean to talk about her children’s book



Where did the idea of THE UPSIDE MOUNTAIN come from?

The Upside Down Mountain was inspired by a trip to Mount Bugarach near the Pyrenees in south-east France. The mountain has drawn pilgrims throughout the ages and inspired many legends, including Mary Magdalene living out her days there and extra terrestrial visitations. More recently, thousands of New Agers besieged Bugarach to escape the “end days” of the millennium foretold in ancient prophecies. I wanted to experience this high-energy mountain for myself on a self-styled vision quest. Bad weather forced me to de-camp and retreat to the refuge of the valley. Descending, I had a strong intuition that “the way up is down.” This led me to explore descent as a theme – and link it to my travels elsewhere, including the Amazon swamps. I’ve always loved mountains and the thrill of climbing them. Mount Bugarach inspired me to explore the opposite direction: the journey downhill, earthbound – and what that might mean in the quest for fulfilment.

John Hunt Publishing publish a variety of brilliant authors, what is it like to be in the company of talented writers?

John Hunt Publishing is committed to giving a platform for books to inspire and inform. The range of authors, genres and specialisms, as well as the different imprints is nothing short of amazing. JHP is run largely by fellow-authors, who understand the fine line of keeping true to the heart of a book, and the importance of reaching readers. Without their backing, I might never have summoned the motivation to self-publish, and see my stories in print.

Have you got a message for your readers?

The Upside Down Mountain tells the story of how I woke up to the inner mountain – focussing downwards, rather than upwards, for fulfilment.  For many years, I mountaineered and always had the next peak or challenge in my sights. I quit my career as a BBC journalist to climb full time, chasing seasons across hemispheres. Over the months, I woke up to how the goal-driven quest at altitude was as exhausting as the sea-level rat-race from which I’d escaped. Exploring descent has enabled me to live more in the present, in the here-and-now – and to embrace each day as an adventure. I am not so driven by planning for events at a future date, or as invested in the values of success, such as outcome or feat. My values have shifted, and I’m a lot more content as a result. I believe we’re all storytellers, making sense of our lives. We can become the change we seek

What can we expect from you in the future?

I am committed to the cause of conserving white lions. They are technically extinct. Last year I volunteered in South Africa at the Global White Lion Protection Trust which has three prides in their natural habitat. I’m fascinated how these beautiful creatures are linked to many ancient legends about restoring balance in the world – and were only discovered in the early 1970s. I am just beginning work on a novel linking a teenage heroine to one white lion with whom she identifies. This is against the background of the lucrative canned hunting industry and the profiteering from tourists wanting to take a “trophy” back home. I hold workshops and courses supporting people’s creativity, and self-expression.

Any suggestions to support libraries?

Libraries are so important: they encourage reading, curiosity and community. In our digital age, it is too easy to download books, and to have a remote relationship to the physical act of reading. The experience of handling a book, of drawing on the expertise of library staff or their recommendations is about contact. Organising community events in libraries, talk programmes, local author events are all ways to raise the profile of libraries and their role in our community.



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