Meet Elizabeth McKenzie, author of the Women’s Prize 2023 longlisted novel The Dog of the North. A novel which The Times has called “an exuberant comedy of a Californian family at its nuttiest.”

The premise of this book is powerful and unique, so what was the inspiration behind the novel? We grabbed a quick five minutes with each of the authors behind the longlisted books to ask that question and more…

Describe your novel in one sentence as if you were telling a friend.

The Dog of the North is about a woman who, moving on from a failed marriage, soon stumbles into a series of misadventures involving a mystery, an investigating detective, imposters, and other calamities of the sort that befall someone who often fails to understand people even when they’re trying to get close to her.

What inspired you to write The Dog of the North?

Likely the origins of the book are in my family’s immigration to Australia, thoughts about expatriation, and the realization that feelings of joy can exist side by side with loss.

Are there any locations that have a special connection for you or your book?

Australia, particularly Queensland, Santa Barbara, California, and Tyler, Texas.

The Dog of the North

by Elizabeth McKenzie

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Which part of the book was the most fun to write? Which was the most challenging?

Everything that occurred spontaneously and unexpectedly in the narrative was very fun. Challenging, often, is biding my time until the next right move presents itself.

Which of the characters from the book would you most like to spend a weekend away with and why?

It would have to be Dale Lampey, the defence attorney from San Francisco who, despite Penny’s initial belief that he resembles a hedgehog, is really quite dashing.

What first inspired you to write?

As Lorrie Moore once said, “Not being fluent on one’s feet sends one to the page, and a habit is born.” That, and growing up feeling that books were exalted objects, that there could be no greater calling than to write one.

What is the best piece of writing advice you have received?

Look for what’s already there. I take this to mean that it’s possible to have planted important seeds early in the work without consciously having done so.