Hello lovely readers! 👋 I'm delighted to be joined by the wonderful Maz Evans who is here today to spill the beans on her hilarious new middle grade novel, Vi Spy: Licence to Chill. The book was published earlier this month and has already gained the accolade of #IndieBookOfTheMonth from the wonderful folks over at the Booksellers Association so if you haven't read it yet you're missing out! You can check out all my thoughts here, but for now I'm going to hand over to Maz who I'm sure will do a far better job of explaining her stupendously silly story! 🤪
Hi Maz! Thank you so much for wandering over into my virtual neck of the woods to chat with me about your fabulous new book, Vi Spy. Now for anyone out there who might not have read your books, would you mind giving us a quick introduction?
Maz: It’s my enormous pleasure to be here! So thus far, I’ve written four books in the Who Let the
Gods Out? series, which follow the adventures of Elliot Hooper as he becomes embroiled in the
crazy world of the modern-day immortal community. Vi Spy is the start of a new three-book
series starring Valentine (Vi) Day as she tries to save the world from a supervillain called Umbra
– and her divorcing parents from each other. And later this year I have a new series for 6 – 9
readers, The Exploding Life of Scarlett Fife about a 9yo girl who finds that the more she pushes
her feelings down, the more they explode all around her…
I'm so thrilled we're getting three Vi Spy books! And I can't wait to meet Scarlett. Now, don't take this the wrong way Maz, but Vi Spy is a pretty bonkers book. Where did the idea come from?
M: Why thank you…! As with everything I write, it’s a combination of something I know and
something I love. I’ve always loved spy movies, so setting my next series in that world was a joy. And having lived through my parents’ divorcing marriage as a child, then my own as a mother, divorce is something I’ve seen from all sides. I wanted to let kids know that, tough as it is, time is a great healer and everyone finds their new normal eventually.
You're absolutely right. My parents separated when I was a kid so I know how difficult it can be - but like you say, you just adapt and move forward. Things settle down and everyone adjusts and it's refreshing to see a book that tackles the subject head on with such a reassuring message. Speaking of adapting to new normals... I heard you wrote Vi Spy during lockdown. How was that?
M: At the time, it was lovely! The first lockdown was actually a much-needed change of pace for me as I’d been on the road for months before and was just so happy to stay at home and write. It was nice to have something positive to do with the time and just focus on writing for a while rather than all the other things that come with being an author. But now we’re in Lockdown 3.0, I’m a bit over it!
I hear you. Lockdown #1 definitely felt the most productive. Lockdown #3 basically consists of me watching back-to-back Judge Judy reruns and shovelling chocolate into my face. Are there any positive you've taken from lockdown?
M: Many, actually. One, the desperate need to stay at home and spend more time with my people.
It’s all been a bit crazy since WLTGO was published and I’ve valued the time with those I love
most more than I can say. I think (hope!) I’ve used the time to make my business model more
sustainable going forward, and not rely on me being on the road 3 – 7 days every week. I’ve done
a lot of reflecting on the type of person and the type of writer I want to be and that can only be a
good thing. But ye Gads, I’m dying to get down the pub now!
It's definitely been a time for self-reflection. And reading. Sooo much reading! Are there any books you've been reading recently that you've really enjoyed?
M: The last few years have seen my reading drop off a cliff as I’ve been so busy, so I’ve been
determined to put that right. In kidlit, I’ve read and loved Ross Montgomery’s Midnight
Guardians, Phil Earle’s When the Sky Falls and Jenny Pearson’s The Miraculous Journey of
Freddie Yates. I’m trying to challenge and educate myself by reading more non-fiction, so I have
Sathnam Sanghera’s brilliant Empireland on the go, as well as P.D. James’s Death Comes to
Pemberley, which is just a joy to escape into.
Wow, what a diverse reading list - go you! I definitely need to read more non-fiction - it's my booksellers' achilles heel. What are you most looking forward to when the world gets back to normal?
M: Travelling! Last year I was due to go to abroad seven times for work and pleasure, but only got
one in before lockdown. Meeting up with my author buddies at launches and festivals is a big one
– those are some of my favourite parts of the job. Writing outside the house will be a joy – I miss
cafes and libraries. And just being able to hug, touch and laugh with people in person – Zoom is
all well and good, but it’s no substitute for human contact.
Oh, to sit in a cafe and read and write... hopefully one day soon! Now, one of my favourite parts of Vi Spy is the Silver Service and, in particular, Desmond - the inventor whose motto "if in doubt, blow it up" is one I wholly endorse. If you had Desmond's skills and could invent any spy gadget, what would it be?
M: A car with assorted weaponry to punish inconsiderate drivers. I’m increasingly grumpy behind the wheel of my car!
Ha! I love it! Honestly, I'd be quite happy with Vi's Eye-Spy. A timepiece with tranquilliser darts, memory-erasing gas and conversation amplifiers?! Yes please! One of the things I noticed when reading Vi Spy is that - just like Elliott in WLTGO - Vi and Russell are put in a position where they effectively have to parent their parents. Children taking on extra responsibilities seems to be a recurring theme in your novels. Why do you think that is?
M: Oh Lord – paging Dr Freud! I guess I grew up pretty quickly, so maybe I make my characters do
the same – I’d honestly never thought about it! But it is part and parcel of the children’s lit deal –
you have to get rid of adults so the kids can take centre stage. I’m a huge admirer of kids and how
extraordinarily resilient they are. Watching mine through lockdown has made me very sad for all
they are missing, but incredibly proud of how they are handling it.
Absolutely. I think in some ways the kids have handled the whole pandemic situation better than the adults! We definitely don't give them enough credit for their strength and perseverance, and you're right that it's in children's books that kids are able to seize control of their own lives. That's what makes children's literature so tantalising to young people and so terrifying to grown-ups! When it comes to Vi Spy, one of my favourite things was the colourful cast of characters. Did you have a favourite character to write?
M: Hands down, it was Siren! She came to me in one of those joyful flashes of inspiration where she just landed fully-formed in my mind and I never changed her. I wanted a female supervillain to
flesh out EVIL and when I started researching, you realise they are all a little one-note. So I
thought of this gorgeous femme fatale… who was also a Mastermind champion with personal
hygiene issues. It made me laugh…
It made me laugh too. And gag - she certainly has a way with words 🤢! Vi Spy ends on a heck of a cliffhanger. Without giving too much away, what can we expect to see in Book #2?
M: Well Book #2 finds Vi and Russell at Rimmington Hall… but it’s not all going quite as Vi had
hoped and she’s really struggling there. The hunt for the true identity of Umbra is on, with all
three suspects looking very likely indeed. And there are some new additions to both EVIL
and the Silver Service as Vi finds herself stuck between her parents again, while Russell’s
mum turns up finally wanting a relationship with her son…
Oooh I can't wait! Thank you so much for taking the time to answer my questions, Maz. It's been great chatting with you!
Vi Spy is available to purchase now along with all of the Who Let The Gods Out? series. You can also pre-order The Exploding Life of Scarlett Fife too, which is released on 13th May. Check out the links below.
And please remember to support your local bookshop and library where you can. Their doors may be physically closed but many are taking orders online and over the phone so get in touch with to find out what options are available to you - they appreciate your loyalty more than you know. For more information on Vi Spy, you can check out my spoiler-free review here.
Have you read any of Maz's books? Which is your favourite? Let me know in the comments!