Monday, 28 September 2015

Interview with Virginia Macgregor, author of 'What Milo Saw'

Displaying WhatMiloSaw_B_9780751554274-2.jpgToday I have the honour of presenting you guys with an interview with the author of the amazing What Milo Saw, Virginia Macgregor! I read and reviewed this book recently and highly recommend it.
Nine-year-old Milo suffers from retinitis pigmentosa: his eyes are slowly failing, and he will eventually go blind. But for now, he sees the world through a pin hole and notices things other people don't. When Milo's beloved 92-year-old gran succumbs to dementia and moves into a nursing home, Milo begins to notice things amiss at the home. The grown-ups won't listen when he tries to tell them something's wrong so with just Tripi, the nursing home's cook, and Hamlet, his pet pig, to help, Milo sets out on a mission to expose the nursing home and the sinister Nurse Thornhill.
Sounds good no? Check out the interview below to convince you even further.

J: What inspired you to write about a character with Retinitis Pigmentosa? 

VM: I’ve always been fascinated by sight and vision: both physically and metaphorically every human being has a unique view of the world. I am also hugely short-sighted (when I take out my contact lenses, everything’s a blur), so I’m aware of having a visual limitation every day. As writer, I naturally made the imaginative leap of wondering what it would be like to lose my sight altogether, or to have a condition that severely limited my vision.

During one of my check-ups, I spoke to my local optician about the kinds of visual impairments that children struggle with, and she told me about a little boy she was looking after who has Retinitis Pigmentosa. At the same time I read a touching article about a six-year-old girl called Molly Bent who had created a bucket list of the things she wanted to see before she went blind. These events all came together while I was planning and writing What Milo Saw and I immediately knew that RP was something that Milo was struggling with too.
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J: Was it challenging to write from a child's point of view?

VM: It was a complete joy. Milo’s perspective was the most fun to write – while I was working on the novel, I really felt like I was living in Milo’s world. Of course, I had to make sure that I got the details (I wanted the viewpoint to be real and authentic), but I never felt it was hard work. Writing from the view of children is one of the things I love most. You’ll find me doing the same in my second novel, The Astonishing Return of Norah Wells. I think it’s really important that adult fiction reflects a range of perspectives from characters of different ages, including those of children.

J: One of your novel's main characters is a Syrian refugee. How did you go about writing this character?

VM: I am a contemporary writer. That means that I ground my fiction in the here and now. I want every one of my novels to give a sense of what it means to be alive today and that means weaving in the issues that face us as individuals and as a society in the twenty first century. While I was writing What Milo Saw, the Syrian crisis was just beginning to rear its head. It is sad to see how the refugee crisis has got worse than I ever could have imagined when I wrote Tripi’s story. I wanted to show how refugees can enrich our lives, how they are human beings, like you and me, and that some of them have suffered a great deal to find a new life in a safe country. On a personal level, I had a nomadic childhood and my extended family is scattered fire and wide around Europe and beyond, so I am interested in the notion of home and belonging.

J: Aside from the title, there are clear parallels in your novel to James' 'What Maisie Knew'. Were these parallels something you purposefully explored?

VM: While I was writing What Milo Saw I read a number of adult novels written from the point of view of children. I loved how Henry James explored a little girl’s perspective on her parents’ divorce. We see her confronted by the messiness of the adult world and the shortcomings of the grown-ups who live in it. This technique creates what literary critics call ‘an ironic gap.’ Because a child’s view of the world is incomplete, when we, as adults, read that view, we fill in the gaps because we know more than them. This can be hugely poignant. Children also have a wonderfully honest and quirky way of seeing things, which can add humour to an otherwise sad story. 

Thank you so much for your interview, Virginia! I love getting an insight into an author's mind and into their writing process. So, does What Milo Saw sound like your cup of tea?


  1. sounds like it will be an inspiring read for all, thanks for the wonderful insight of Milo's world

    1. It definitely is and I love the care with which Virginia wrote about all these contemporary issues as well! Thanks for dropping by :)