Saturday, 12 October 2013

Author Interview: Zanna Mackenzie

This afternoon I'm delighted to welcome Zanna Mackenzie to my blog for a bit of a chat.

Did you always know you wanted to be a writer? 
I think I probably did yes. When I was about 8 or so I used to chop up magazines, cut out photos and articles and stick them on to paper to make a little book with them. At high school I wanted to be a journalist but realised I didn’t have the right personality for that job so went for my second career choice instead - working in travel. It didn’t take long though before I started writing travel articles and brochures – the writing bug was back!

How long did it take you to get your first book published? 
That’s a tricky one to answer. The first book I wrote was probably completed about six or so years ago. Then I wrote 2 more books and all of the books went through professional manuscript appraisal schemes and I learnt lots from that experience but I never actually dared to send any of the books out to agents or publishers until last year. My husband nagged me to start sending the books out, so I decided to be brave and go for it. I sent one of the books to Astraea Press and another book to Crooked Cat Publishing. I thought I would receive standard rejection letters soon after. Instead, 2 months later I had been offered contracts from both of the publishers. I was stunned, still am in fact!

Do you have a set daily writing routine?
No, not at all. I’m a self-employed writer, editor and proof-reader working primarily on business publications so it depends what I have on with the day job as to when I can get around to doing some creative writing. I try as much as possible to keep Fridays free from other work so I can have a day focussing purely on writing.

Have you ever had writer’s block? 
Funnily enough, yes, I’m just recovering from it at the moment. When I got the two book contracts last year I was on a real high and wrote frantically at all times of the day and night for about 10 months, then I got burn out and couldn’t write at all. I was frustrated and worried so sought advice from other writers and tried some of their techniques to ‘beat the block’ and thankfully they worked.

If you weren’t a writer, what career path would you have chosen to follow?
I’d probably go back to working in travel and tourism like I used to many years ago. I’ve always felt there’s something exciting about the travel industry.

Can you tell us a little bit about your latest book?
I had two books out within a couple of weeks of each other – The Love Programme, which is a contemporary romance set in the Highlands of Scotland, was released in Feb 2013. 

Thanks to an embarrassing incident involving a wedding and her ex-boyfriend Marcus, Lucy has to leave her home town in a hurry and needs a place to escape for a while.

Best friend Fiona is convinced now would be a good time for Lucy to get herself a new life with some potential for romance thrown in. Fate seems to agree when Lucy is given the once-in-a-lifetime chance to star in a TV show and be a contestant on The Love Programme - two weeks of luxury living on a grand Highland estate coupled with, she hopes, fun and romance in wildest Scotland.

When Lucy meets Paul - the young, handsome owner of the Highland estate - she thinks she may have found the love of her life, but who is the mysterious Hannah and what part does she play in his life? When she discovers that Marcus is planning to follow her to Scotland to win her back Lucy has some serious soul searching to do. Does she have a future with Paul, with Marcus or is she yet to find the man of her dreams?

How Do You Spell Love? is a chicklit novel with some magic, spells and white witchcraft thrown into the mix and it came out in March 2013.

Make a wish.

Kat can’t help wishing there was more to life than this. What happened to her dream job? What happened with Nathan? 

Summer is wondering where her life is going too... battling the developers of a controversial housing estate and working out why boyfriend Rob is increasingly distant. 

When the developers win the battle and move into town, everyone’s life is turned upside down. 

Kat meets building site project manager Alex. She enjoys his company far too much, even though he’s on the town’s most hated list.

Summer meets Tom who has plenty of relationship troubles of his own, so things could get really complicated. 

Soon everyone is keeping secrets, lives change and hearts are broken. Is everything falling apart, or does life just work in mysterious ways?

Where do you get the inspiration from for your stories? 
Anywhere and everywhere. To be honest, I’m not sure where the plots and characters all come from! For a while I thought I might be crazy with all this stuff going on in my head, then I spoke to other writers and realised, with a huge sigh of relief, that it’s quite normal for authors.

Would you say that any of your characters are like you? If so, which one(s)?
The character with some similarities is Lucy in The Love Programme. She works in the travel industry like I used to. She’s also a bit shy and confused – like me!

Are you currently working on a new novel, if so are able to give us a hint as to what it is about? 
I’ve just had my latest novel accepted by Crooked Cat Publishing and it will be out in Feb 2014. It’s a comedy romance about what happens when a woman discovers her new boyfriend and an ex-boyfriend are best friends and business partners. There’s quite a bit of jealousy, lots of secrets and plenty of fun and games.

If you could write another style of genre, what would it be and why?

I’ve often wondered if I might be able to write murder mystery stuff as I’m quite a fan of TV programme like Vera, and Midsomer Murders but every time I try the books veer off into comedy and romance!

If you could give one piece of advice to an aspiring author, what would it be?

Being a writer appears to be such a solitary lifestyle, especially when you’re in the midst of writing, so do you consider the influence of social Media, Facebook and Twitter, a blessing or a hinderance?
I think it can be both. On the plus side I’m a member of a couple of author groups on Facebook and everyone is so helpful, supportive and encouraging of each other which is brilliant. It’s also a wonderful promotional tool. 

On the negative side there’s so much going on with social media that it can take up lots of time which should probably be spent writing!

Do you prefer to read physical copies of books or e-books?
Physical books without a doubt. I spend my days in front of a computer so I’m reluctant to spend some of my leisure/reading time in front of a kind-of-computer as well.

What’s the last book you’ve read that has made you cry?
Paige Toon’s Pictures of Lily – an excellent book.

When you’ve finished writing a book, do you treat yourself to a reward?
No, I don’t think I do. Great idea, maybe I should start doing that!

Where would be your idyllic location for a writing retreat?
A summer house overlooking a lake and the hills in the Lake District. I love it there; it’s my favourite place in the UK.

If you were going to be stuck on a desert island and could only take 3 books with you, which ones would you choose?
Ahhhh! I love books and have shelves and shelves of them because I like to keep them to re-read. If I can truly only have 3 books then I’d probably choose the books on my ‘recently read favourites list’: Martina Reilly’s Even Better Than The Real Thing; Paige Toon’s Pictures of Lily; Carole Matthews That Loving Feeling.

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