Monday, June 23, 2014

Author interview: Zanna Mackenzie

I’m so glad to welcome back UK author Zanna Mackenzie! Zanna is the author of The Love Programme and How Do You Spell Love? This past February, she introduced us to the characters in her newest book If You Only Knew (if you missed it, you can find the character interview HERE). Now she’s back to tell us more about herself – and to let us know about a special sale!

What do you do when you’re not writing?
We have four dogs so there’s lots of country walking, which I adore. I’m also a keen gardener and love trying to propagate plants from seeds and cuttings. I’m a big reader too and enjoy putting my feet up and escaping into a book.

Sounds like a great life! What's your idea of an ideal vacation?
A few years ago we booked a cottage on a private country estate in southwest Scotland. The estate owned a section of beach and our rental cottage was right on the edge of that beach. To get to it we had to drive down a very steep narrow track overlooking the bay. At the bottom stood the cottage, all on its own at the end of the track, surrounded by woodland and garden. The cottage lawn met the edge of the beach and it was a truly stunning setting.  It was wonderful to get up in the morning, open the window and there was the sea. We used to take our bowls of breakfast cereal onto the beach and sit on huge stones to eat. When we could tear ourselves away from the beach and the cottage there was more amazing scenery and fantastic walking in and on the forests, hills and beaches in the area. In the evenings we returned to the cottage and sat on the beach with our dogs to watch the sun set before going inside and spending the evening watching TV in front of a real fire. It was sheer bliss. The sun even shone all week – best holiday ever!

What a perfect getaway! How do you market your work? What avenues have you found to work best for your genre?
I was completely unprepared for the marketing side of things. I’m still on a very steep learning curve with it all. Many writers are naturally quite introverted people – myself included – and find it extremely difficult to try to promote their books. With the advent of ebooks, small independent publishers and self-publishing I think the book market is even more competitive than ever. Making your books stand out and get noticed is a big challenge. I have no marketing or promotion/PR background and don’t have a big circle of friends or family who can help get the word out either so I have found promotion tricky and, to be honest, at times incredibly frustrating. I love writing though and feel hugely privileged to have had my books published so I’ve been gradually learning as much as I can about how to market and promote books, getting tips and advice from experts, how-to books and the internet. I actively promote via blogs (my own, book bloggers and other authors) via social media, via paid promotion. I wish I knew the answers re what works and what doesn’t but I’m still trying to figure that out!

I think we’re all trying to figure it out! What was your favorite chapter (or scene) to write and why?
I think it was probably the moment in my latest novel If You Only Knew when Zane finally confessed his secrets to Faith. There was a lot for him to tell her so the great confession actually ended up taking place over a few chapters. I found it very emotional to write and ended up shedding a few tears along the way! During the course of writing If You Only Knew I’d developed something of a crush on Zane and felt his pain, hurt and confusion as he faced his fears. At the same time I felt like it was a big relief for him to explain everything – this probably sounds crazy but I actually felt proud of him! Many writers feel as though the characters they create in their books are friends, they have developed their personalities and helped them live their lives for however long it has taken to write and edit the book. I confess, I become quite attached to them all!

I can sympathize with that. What has been the toughest criticism given to you as an author?
The early drafts of my first novels went through a professional appraisal scheme whereby published authors read and critiqued the manuscripts. One of those books was ripped to shreds with criticism by an appraiser. I remember being told I had no writing ‘voice’ and that it was clear I’d tried to ‘tick too many boxes’ in terms of writing style, plot etc. I was told the characters were weak and uninteresting. I was also told books in that particular sub-genre (contemporary romance with a magical element) weren’t of interest to publishers as there was no market for them and they didn’t sell. I was devastated. I tore up the manuscript and completely gave up on writing for about two years. It was my husband who persuaded me to try again. I sought advice, took courses, absorbed all I could about the craft of writing a novel and set to on severely editing the manuscript (thankfully I still had a computer copy of it). I revamped everything – developed the characters, added extra aspects to the plot and re-wrote it all in my ‘own voice’ rather than in the one I thought I should have written it in. It became a very different book from the one I had submitted for the original critique. Eventually I found the courage to send it off to a publisher for consideration - after much nagging to do so from my husband who has always believed in me, bless him! I heard back from the publisher a month later and they offered me a contract for the book. That original criticism upset me enormously and was difficult to take but because of it I - eventually!- completely changed the book and, in its new guise, it became a published novel called How Do You Spell Love?

Kudos to your hubby for his support! Do you have any advice to give to aspiring writers?
Don’t wait until your book is published to start networking or promoting. Get a website, a blog, be active on social media, get networking and generate interest in yourself as an author and in your book well before it is available for sale.

Great advice!

If You Only Knew is on sale this week for only 99 cents (99p)! You can get it at Amazon or Amazon UK

Here’s the blurb:
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…

And here’s an excerpt:

“I guess that’s the man you’ve been waiting for.”
Sophie nudged Faith, almost knocking the fresh-from-the-oven apple pie from her hands, and pointed towards the door.
Faith chose to ignore the double meaning behind her friend’s words. She wasn’t waiting for any man, not in the romantic sense anyway, and certainly not a guy who reminded her of Aaron. Her café, which she had created from scratch six years ago, was hosting the meeting of the local Tourism Association. And the guy currently making his way towards her was Zane Ferguson, one half of the new ownership team of the Carrdale Outdoor Activity & Extreme Sports Centre. She’d reluctantly phoned him a few days ago when he’d arrived in the UK and invited him to the meeting to give everyone an update on the Centre.
“Faith, right?” he said, extending his hand and hopping onto one of the stools in front of the café’s counter. The hand was firm, slightly rough to the touch and warm. It was strangely comforting. “I’m Zane. Good to get to put a face to your name at last.”
Faith nodded, even though she was anything but pleased to put a face to the name of Zane Ferguson. What kind of a name was Zane anyway? It sounded all-American, as though he should be something like a baseball player, a superhero, or a cowboy – certainly not an English extreme sports instructor. Out of the corner of her eye she could see Sophie giving Zane the once-over. Sophie knew all about Aaron, knew every detail of what had happened…

You can find Zanna at her blog, and on Twitter, Facebook, Goodreads, and Amazon.


  1. Thanks so much for the interview opportunity and letting me visit your blog Patty - it's been great fun!