Updated: Oct 11, 2021
Rab Ferguson's debut novel released last month. Landfill Mountains is a YA fantasy novel about climate change, community and the magic of storytelling. Born and raised in the UK, he graduated with a first class Creative Writing and English Literature degree in 2013. Since then, he has worked with young people, including as a performing storyteller.
I'm so thrilled for the opportunity to talk with Rab Ferguson today. I have to admit, I've been waiting for this book, Landfill Mountains, to come out. It touches on a subject of great importance to me. Also, I learned on Twitter that Rab and I share an affinity for trees. When I meet a fellow tree person, I consider this a gift.
Hi Rab! Thank you so much for talking with me today. Congratulations on releasing your debut novel!
What inspired you to write Landfill Mountains?
The original idea was actually the setting - I was really interested in the idea of people surviving from the waste thrown away from our time, and what they'd think of us. That's where the huge mountains of landfill and the scavengers living around them came from.
From there, the concept formed of having different generations living at the landfill, some of whom who'd been part of the old society who threw it all away. I wanted to explore how the young people who'd not been part of that would feel about the generations older than them. These conversations between generations about the earth and environment are important now too!
The last ingredient was the idea of storytelling, which was how the younger generations hear about their past. For one 16 year old, Joe, the grandson of the storyteller, it changes his life forever when he starts seeing the folktale characters in real life...
Your cover is absolutely beautiful! Can you tell me about it?
I'm fully in love with the cover art. People say don't judge a book by its cover, but I'm sort of hoping people do on this one, at least at first. Because I hope it'll lead to them buying it and giving the story inside a try!
I mentioned in the last question that folktale characters begin to appear in Joe's real life. The character on the cover is called the Forest Woman. In her story, she wears a dress made of earth, and flees from her husband who wants to destroy parts of the world to make things for her. He wants to cut down trees to make her a city, and rip stars from the night sky to make royal robes. She loves and is part of nature as it is, so this is abhorrent to her.
For the cover, she's been combined with the setting of the novel, the Landfill Mountains themselves. The book is all about folktales colliding with the real world the scavengers live in, so I was amazed by this piece of art!
The artist on Instagram Ann__Mi_ if anyone wants to check out her other work, or speak to her about designing a cover.
I loved your initiative, btw, to plant trees for those who pre-ordered your book. What is the significance of trees in your story?
I'll say what I can. In the scavengers real world, there is a place called the fallen forest, where there's a lot of collapsed trees. It's where Joe and the love interest Sonya meet. It's seen as a sacred place to the scavengers. They'd rather take ruined wood from the waste on the Landfill Mountains than remove wood from the fallen forest.
There's also the forest in the Forest Woman's folktale. It's her home, which her husband cuts down to make a city for her, as he judges that will be a better home. You can see why she runs away!
Now this real world of landfill forest, and the folktale forest are linked. If you want to find out how you'll have to read the book!
How does your story intersect with real-world issues?
Climate change is a key theme of the book. Environmental disaster impacting food supply is what caused the fall of society as we currently know it, leaving the scavengers struggling to survive and reliant on selling on waste from the Landfill Mountains.
The connection between climate change and storytelling is one that I think is incredibly relevant in today's society. There's a battle over the story behind climate change currently, with some media outlets downplaying the threat, others demonising environmental activists, and even some that acknowledge the danger portraying it as inevitable and discouraging action. I believe being able to analyse the stories we are being told, and have the tools to construct our own narratives, is empowering - and it's a key part of what Landfill Mountains is about.
What do you like most about Landfill Mountains?
Good question! Personally, I loved creating the varied cast of characters.
There's Joe and Sonya, who's romance is the heart of the novel. There's Grandad, the storyteller, who sees the world through the patterns of stories. There's the Witch, who seems to have a relationship with the crows that flock around the waste.
A personal favourite of mine is the Librarian, who stores books found on the Landfill Mountains in his shack, so they don't become lost to time. I also like the artist sisters, two women that create art from junk that can't be sold.
What’s next for you?
I actually have a middlegrade novel coming out. It's called The Late Crew, and it's about young carers meeting aliens and saving the day. I'll have more news about that one soon!
Thank you so much, Rab. I appreciate you taking the time to share a bit about you and your work. And congratulations again on releasing Landfill Mountains!