AUTHOR SPOTLIGHT: ZANNA MACKENZIE
British author Zanna Mackenzie has stopped by to chat with us on “this side of the pond”…
What is your most current work we can find?
I had two books very close together - The Love Programme was published by Astraea Press in Feb 2013 and How Do You Spell Love? were published by Crooked Cat in March 2013.
Tell us a little about one of the works above:
The Love Programme begins when Lucy is attending the wedding of her ex-boyfriend Marcus, thinking she can finally put an end to that chapter of her life but unfortunately he stands in the church and says he cannot marry his bride to be because he’s still in love with Lucy! After that she decides she needs to get out of town for a while and has the once-in-a-lifetime chance to go to Scotland and live in a castle for two weeks as part of a TV series called the Love Programme.
In Scotland Lucy meets Paul – the handsome owner of the castle and Highland estate – and 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.
The book was the result of watching a couple of different TV programs, one was a drama set on a country estate in the Scottish Highlands and the other was one of those tacky love reality things – the two ideas merged and The Love Programme concept was formed but the TV series in the book isn’t tacky, it’s about the psychology of love and romance with a program psychologist on hand.
When you start writing, do you already have the story plotted out or do you let the characters dictate what will happen?
A bit of both. I start with the story planned out and then as I write and the characters start to ‘come to life’ they start getting ideas of their own and the plot ends up going off in entirely new directions. An example would be the book I’m currently working on when what should have been a minor male character decided he wanted to try to compete with the hero for the attentions of the heroine!
What inspired you to write in your genre? Is this the genre you started writing in or have you morphed to this one?
I write in the genre I love to read in, and always have.
Do you have a favorite character you have written?
It’s usually the male characters I create who end up being my favorites and it’s usually the hero in the book I’m working on at the moment who is my favorite, so at the moment it is James the aforementioned minor male character who is vying for the attentions of the heroine in my current work in progress.
Who was the toughest character for you to “get right” that you have written so far?
Probably Paul in The Love Programme – unfortunately I’ve never come across any young, handsome, ambitious Lairds who own thousands of acres of the Scottish Highlands and a castle so he was tricky to create! I wanted him to be strong and determined but also have a soft side with a conscience, so he was a bit of a balancing act.
Do you draw inspiration for your characters from real life? Any fun stories you could share?
Not from real life no. I get an idea for a plot and then the characters just evolve. I have a rough idea for them but then I do a detailed character biog and tend to ‘ask’ them key questions and their lives evolve from there.
What do you find the hardest part of writing?
Being patient! Once the plot is in place and the characters created I have loads of ideas in my head all of the time and am constantly making notes and get so eager to tell the story that I can never type fast enough!
Name one thing that your readers would be surprised to know about you.
That I don’t believe I’m really an author! It still seems like a dream.
Do you have a guilty pleasure?
Escaping into a lovely fluffy romantic film or book.
What TV Show are you addicted to?
I tend to have phases and become completely obsessed with one program and watch it all the time, then I’ll swap to something completely different. I’m currently swapping between my favorites being the gripping crime drama Vera, the escapist world of retold fairytales in Once Upon A Time and the all singing and dancing SMASH – quite a wide range!
What do you need before you start writing? Anything that is just a must have or the creative juice don’t flow?
No,thankfully the creative juices are constantly flowing and I have ideas all the time and I’m constantly jotting things down in my notebooks.
Does music influence your writing? If so, do any of your stories have a theme song?
Yes, it does a little bit. I find it helps to get into writing particular scenes in a book when I listen to a certain song. In my current work in progress I have a list of songs I listen to when I’m working on different scenes. For one of the emotional will-they-won’t-they possible break up scenes between 2 of the characters I listen to Brandy Carlile’s atmospheric Bend Before It Breaks.
If your story was optioned for a movie, who would play your characters?
In The Love Prgramme I’d probably say I’d like someone like the gorgeous Josh Dallas to play the Laird Paul. Josh is great as Prince Charming in Once Upon A Time and I think those handsome good lucks with impeccable manners and a cheeky charm would sum up Paul brilliantly. For Lucy I would go for someone fun, blonde, bubbly, like Julia Stiles.
Where were you when you got your first contract? Who did you tell first?
At home. I work from home as freelance business editor and I opened my emails one morning to see the email from Astraea Press about The Love Programme. I burst into tears and told my husband the great news as I sobbed!
How old were you when you read your first romance book?
I can’t remember! I’ve always loved books and read avidly but I can’t say I specifically remember reading my first romance book.
What author causes you to “go fan girl”/ squeal over/anticipate upcoming books?
Lots!!! I read more widely than I used to but my favorites always used to be Jill Mansell, Sophie Kinsella and Katie Fforde.
If you still have one of those pesky non writing jobs what is it?
My day job is writing but its non-fiction writing and editing for business publications – I enjoy it and it means I get to work from home which I love.
Do you have a favorite movie you have seen in the last few months and/or an all time favorite?
I recently saw The Lucky One on DVD and totally fell in love with it – so much that I’ve watched it again and again, purchased the book (the film is based on the Nicholas Sparks book of the same title) and also the sound track!
What are you currently working on, and what else is in the wings?
I’m currently editing my next book and writing the book after that. I also have the basic plot outline and 2 main characters sorted for the book after those two.
If you could co-write with another author who would it be?
To be honest I don’t think I could co-write! Writing is a world I escape into and totally lose myself in, it’s just me and the characters. I would be too impatient and too much of a control freak to share that with another author!
How do you pick your characters names?
Sometimes their name is obvious when I create them, at other times I check the list I have of names I’ve come across on TV or magazines or books and liked and noted for future use, and at other times I hit the internet for inspiration
Do you prefer the love at first sight approach or a steady growth throughout?
What is your reaction to people who say one of the following…”Oh you write romance, I thought you were a real writer”, “Romance isn’t a real writing career” or the ever popular “Oh, one of those books”.
I don’t mind. I think it is a terribly snobby attitude – what makes a lovely escapist romance any less of a book than a gloomy literary tome or a terrifying thriller? Nothing as far as I can see!
Where can readers find you?
Facebook: www.facebook.com/zanna. mackenzie
And for the silly side –
What is your favorite type of chocolate?
I’m not actually a huge chocolate fan but when I do get the urge I chose Nutella chocolate spread on oatcakes.