Thursday, May 22, 2014

Author Spotlight - Zanna Mackenzie

1. Tell our readers a little bit about yourself

I live in the UK on the Derbyshire/Leicestershire border with my husband, 4 dogs, a vegetable patch that’s home to far too many weeds and an ever expanding library of books waiting to be read. Being a freelance writer and editor of business publications is my ‘day job’ but, at every opportunity, I can usually be found scribbling down notes on scenes for whatever novel I’m working on. I love it when the characters in my novels take on minds of their own and start deviating from the original plot! The recently released If You Only Knew is my third novel; my previous books The Love Programme, and How Do You Spell Love? were both published in 2013. If you feel so inclined you can find out more about me and my books over on my blog, on Twitter via @ZannaMacKenzie or on Facebook.

2. What number book is this? First? 100th? 200th?(Nora only!)

My latest novel If You Only Knew was released in February this year. It’s my third novel; the previous two books were both published in 2013.

3. What inspired this book?

Would it sound crazy if I said I don’t know? It was about two years ago that the idea for the book was ‘born’ so I can’t remember all the details now! Seriously, I think I had been watching a TV show The Adventurer’s Guide To Britain where the presenters visited areas of the UK and tried various extreme sports. I loved seeing the scenery and the people trying everything from abseiling and mountain biking to climbing cliffs and canyoning. I think that sparked the idea I’d like to write a novel with an extreme sports element to it. I loved Derbyshire and decided to set the book in the Peak District in a fictitious version of the area around Castleton. I adore coffee shops and so decided that the two main places in the book would be the coffee shop, owned and run by Faith, and the Carrdale Outdoor Extreme Sports Centre, co-owned and run by Zane. I’ve always been fascinated by the ‘first love comes back into your life’ scenario so I decided that would be the theme for this book. I wanted to complicate things even further for Zane and Faith though so I added some more bits and pieces to the plot! Matt was Faith’s first love; he’s now Zane’s business partner. Faith and Zane – both battered emotionally by the past – decide to throw caution to the wind, take the risk of getting involved and potentially getting hurt again, and begin dating. At this point, Zane knows nothing about Faith’s past with Matt and likewise, Faith doesn’t know who Zane’s business partner is. When Matt arrives in town a few weeks later, after trying to sort out the disaster of his own life in Austria (that’s a whole other aspect to the plot…) they all get a bit of a shock! All of the characters have their fears, secrets and worries; they make mistakes too, so things become decidedly complicated for Faith, Zane and Matt during the course of the book.

4. Who or what was the inspiration for your hero?

I knew I wanted Matt and Zane to be complete contrasts. Matt is full of himself and far too good looking for his own good, as well as confident and arrogant. He’s tall, blond, handsome – picture Ryan Gosling! Zane, on the other hand, I wanted to be ruggedly handsome rather than drop dead gorgeous. I pictured him as tall, dark wavy hair, stubble, a slightly dishevelled but sexy look to him. I keep a file of photos of actors and actresses I have seen on TV and in films who I think could provide the visual inspiration for characters in my books but nothing seemed to fit for how I wanted Zane to look. I watched various TV programmes and films again on DVD searching for ‘the one’ – the actor who I felt best captured the look, style and physical ‘attitude’ of Zane. Eventually, it clicked and I knew the New Zealand actor Kieren Hutchison ‘was Zane’. He had the right good looking but not too good looking, dishevelled appearance. You can see what I mean on the If You Only Knew mood board on Pinterest which has photos of how I picture the various characters, as well as the setting for the book and Faith’s trendy coffee shop.

5. Have you any burning ambitions to write a story in a different genre?

Funny you should ask! Yes, absolutely. I am just finalising the edits on book one in a series of humorous romantic mystery novellas. Soon the manuscript will be whizzing off to some publishers for consideration. I have my fingers firmly crossed this series of books will get to see the light of day. If the publishers aren’t interested then I might even be brave and contemplate tackling self-publishing for them providing I can get to grips with cover design and the formatting side of things for how to upload ebooks to Amazon etc. – I’m not the most IT proficient person!

6. In what way is being a published writer different to how you thought it would be?

A couple of ways spring to mind. Firstly, I wasn’t at all prepared for how much I needed to get to grips with a variety of marketing and promotional techniques. The author is expected to do all this side of things these days and it has been (and continues to be) a very steep learning curve to understand and implement everything! Secondly, the advent of ebooks and the current trend to give away or heavily discount ebooks is changing the face of publishing and means the money you earn per book sale is very low indeed. It’s hard work but hugely rewarding at the same time. I feel very privileged to be a published author.

7. Which of your characters would you most like to be?

I’d probably choose Kat from my second novel How Do You Spell Love? I can identify with her a lot and the various dilemmas she faces in the book. At the start she thinks she might be on the mend from past hurts and gathering the courage to move on with her ‘life plan’ in terms of relationships and career. When various things start to happen in the story she feels as though she’s being taken off on the wrong track, her life is going in a completely different direction to how she thought she wanted it to and she starts to question everything – relationships, friendships, her career ambitions. I think we can all probably identify with that feeling.

8. Are your family and real-life friends supportive?

If so, in what ways? If not, do you have another support network for your writing? My novels would never have got published if it wasn’t for my husband. For a variety of reasons I’d had yet another ‘creative meltdown’ and had ditched writing, doubting the books were good enough, convinced I was wasting my time trying to be an author. It was my husband who persuaded me not to give up. He cajoled me to try sending the books to publishers. I made various excuses; in truth I was scared to start sending the books out into the ‘big wide world’ for consideration. Eventually he nagged me enough so that I sent one completed manuscript to a UK publisher and another completed manuscript of a different book to an American publisher. I told myself to forget about them and not constantly check my emails for the inevitable rejections. About two weeks later I received an email which changed my life. The American publisher offered me a contract on the book I’d sent to them for consideration. I was so excited, dancing around the room and crying at the same time. A few weeks after that I received an email from the UK publisher – they also offered me a contract on the other book. I simply couldn’t believe it, I was stunned. So, yes, my husband has been, and continues to be, incredibly supportive. I think he has more faith in my work than I do!

9. Where do you write?

Our living space is open plan – the kitchen leads to the dining room/ office, which leads to sun room (a grand name for a porch facing the back garden!) and off this dining room/office is the lounge area. My desk is positioned right in the middle of all of this so it can be tricky getting some peace and quiet at times when I need to concentrate, especially as my husband is also self-employed and often works from home too. I love that I have a view of the back garden from the window next to my desk though– great when I’m in need of a spot of procrastination or inspiration!

If You Only Knew

Faith owns The Coffee Pot in the outdoor adventure sports mecca of Derbyshire’s Peak District. She hasn’t had a man in her life for a while, as she’s been too busy serving cakes to weary rock climbers and mountain bikers to find time for the complications of a relationship with the male of the species. At least, that’s what she tells herself. The truth is that since she got her heart broken she’s had problems trusting men. When she meets Zane, one of the new owners at the Carrdale Extreme Sports Centre, Faith finds herself enjoying his company even though part of her can’t help wondering why he’s so reluctant to talk about himself. Then the past comes back to haunt her in the shape of Zane’s business partner Matt, who just happens to be the guy who broke Faith’s heart all those years ago. With Matt out to cause trouble and Zane keeping secrets Faith’s life is about to get very complicated indeed…

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