Today in Behind The Scenes, I am very happy to get a chance to interview YA author C. Lee McKenzie. Her latest novel, Double Negative is now available. If you haven’t yet, it’s not too late to join her giveaway!
1. Tell us a bit about your writing journey. How did you get started, and how did you get to where you are now?
I’d have to say I got started through a series of well-planned accidents.
I read an article about teens who cut themselves, and it nagged at me for several months. How could young people have to self-inflict pain in order to feel something—in order to have some control over their lives? I knew I had to write something about my reaction to the story, but I didn’t have any idea it would be a novel. Then one day it was. Then the next thing I knew someone wanted to publish it, and in 2009 Sliding on the Edge came out. From then on I was on the train, and I kept writing and subbing until I wore down publishers. I now have three young adult books out.
2. Anything you would’ve done differently if you could do it all over again?
Does take up coal mining count? Just kidding. But I often wonder if it wouldn’t have been an easier way to spend my time.
Seriously, I think I would have researched more about what I’d be up against, but if I had, I might not have continued. There’s so much to know and so much to do that’s not related to creating stories, and creating stories is what I really (naively) thought I’d be doing all the time.
Next I would have learned more about how to market books. That has been a huge learning curve for me. I would have built my social media network before I started publishing, but it seemed crazy to do that at the time. I didn’t know if I was going to be published.
3. What advice would you give to new and aspiring writers?
Don’t stop trying to be better. I strongly advise reading widely, reading a lot, talking to and sharing writing with other writers, and going to workshops given by talented, experienced people in all phases of this industry.
4. Is there any book you’ve written that is particularly special to you? Which one and why?
Sliding on the Edge will always be special because it was my debut book. I formed a deep bond with each of the characters. Shawna, the lost and lonely girl on her way to destruction, will always tug at me. Kay, the grandmother with most of her life behind and so many regrets is still vivid in my mind. Kenny, the mysterious old vet with pain in his heart for something he’d done and must live with was another special character. I’d love to hear more of his stories. I know he has many of them and that some would be difficult to hear, but like all people with shrouded pasts he fascinates me.
5. Who would you say is your favorite character(s) from your books, and why? What is it about this character that makes him/her tick?
Shawna and Kay from Sliding on the Edge, of course. They’re so damaged and so in need of each other. From their first meeting, I wanted to let them discover how much alike they were and how, once they let down their barriers, they’d each be okay. It was hard not to let that happen right away, but then I would have had a very short book.
Then I really like Juan Pacheco from The Princess of Las Pulgas. I think I had a crush on Juan while I wrote his story. He’s so self-assured and straight forward, not to mention handsome. I kept thinking what a wonderful boyfriend or husband he would be.
In Double Negative, I’m really fond of Maggie and Fat Nyla. They have wit, and they’re smart. They move ahead with their lives in spite of all the roadblocks I keep hurling at them. Hutch also has a huge hold on my heart. While I was writing his story, I kept asking myself, “What would my life be like if I could barely read?” “Horrible” was the answer.
6. Tell us about your new book. What can we expect from it?
Here’s the tag line:
Sixteen-year-old Hutch McQueen is shackled by near illiteracy and trapped in a dysfunctional family. When he tries to escape, he chooses the wrong way and lands in juvenile hall. He might have another chance at the freedom he craves if he listens to the priest and the teacher.
In spite of some of the darker themes, I think readers will come away feeling positive about all of the kids in this story, especially the ones who have the hardest journeys.
7. Are you self-pubbed or traditionally published? What made you go for this model? What advice/tips can you share with writers working towards the same goal?
My young adult books are traditionally published. I went Indie with my middle grade, Alligators Overhead. I decided to test the self-publishing route with this one to see 1) if I could do it 2) if I liked it.
The answer to each question is yes.
Here’s my best shot at giving others advice:
*Test out different routes to publication. Decide what you think will be best for you as a writer.
*The publishing industry is fast changing and opportunities for writers are opening up more each day.
*If you go traditional, be ready for a hard road and stick to your guns.
*Rejection of your work is not rejection of you, and you have to tell yourself that.
*If you go Indie, be ready for a hard road and stick to your guns. (Does this look familiar?)
*If you give up you can guarantee failure. Otherwise, you stand a chance of publishing and selling books.
It’s a great pleasure to host you in my blog. Thank you!
Thank you. Great questions you asked today.
Author Bio: C. Lee McKenzie is a native Californian who grew up in a lot of different places; then landed in the Santa Cruz Mountains where she lives with her family and miscellaneous pets. She writes most of the time, gardens and hikes and does yoga a lot, and then travels whenever she can.
She takes on modern issues that today’s teens face in their daily lives. Her first young adult novel, Sliding on the Edge, which dealt with cutting and suicide was published in 2009. Her second, titled The Princess of Las Pulgas, dealing with a family who loses everything and must rebuild their lives came out in 2010. Her short story, Premeditated Cat, appears in the anthology, The First Time, and her Into the Sea of Dew is part of a collection, Two and Twenty Dark Tales. In 2012, her first middle grade novel, Alligators Overhead, came out.
I am always on the lookout for authors to interview for Behind The Scenes. Anyone interested? Please let me know!