Zanna Mackenzie lives on the Derbyshire/Leicestershire border with her 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 her ‘day job’ but, at every opportunity, she can be found scribbling down notes on scenes for whatever novel she’s working on. She loves it when the characters in her novels take on minds of their own and start deviating from the original plot!
If You Only Knew is Zanna’s third novel; her previous books The Love Programme, and How Do You Spell Love? were both published in 2013.
1.What got you into writing? I’ve always wanted to write, ever since I was a child. At school I wanted to be a journalist but soon realised I wasn’t forthright enough so I ended up working as a travel agent. Then I started writing copy for holiday brochures and articles for magazines. I had the writing bug again and started trying my hand at short stories before eventually writing full novels. I love writing. I feel it’s want I’m meant to be doing.
2.What is a usual writing day like for you? I work from home as a freelance writer, editor and proof reader of business publications for a chamber of commerce so that takes priority each day. I try to keep Fridays free as a writing day but it doesn’t always work out that way if I have copy or proofing deadlines on the business publications. I have to try and fit writing in around my ‘day job’ so I often end up scribbling bits of scenes and dialogue in a notebook at all times of the day and night.
3.Do you get writers block? If so, how do you overcome it? Not long after I signed my book contracts with my publishers (I signed one book and then two months later signed another book with a different publisher) I felt the pressure to write, write and write some more. I did too much and I think that the creative part of my brain went into overload and I found myself unable to string two sentences of fiction together. I panicked and sought advice from fellow authors on how to get back into the creative zone again. They had lots of good ideas – have a day out and visit a new place for fresh energy and inspiration worked best for me – and I thankfully soon found myself able to write again. I tried to pace myself better after that but I get so many ideas for plots going round in my head and I want to write them all at once so I have to be careful.
4.Are you a plotter/planner when it comes to writing a story? I start off with a setting, a plot outline, listing the key plot points and where they occur in the story, and have detailed biogs for the characters then I start writing and inevitably things take on a mind of their own and the plot deviates somewhat and characters start behaving how they want to rather than how I had planned! I remember in one book a man who should have been a minor character suddenly started getting ideas above his station and decided he wanted to compete with the ‘hero’ for the attentions of the lead female. I ran with this change and let him give it his best shot to try to win her over!
5.What was the publishing process like for you,& any advise to aspiring authors? I was part of a new writers appraisal scheme and that helped me to shape my writing a lot at the start of my writing journey. After the books had gone through the appraisal scheme I did nothing with them for years and it was my husband who nagged me to start sending the books out to publishers for consideration. I sent one book to a publisher in America and another to a UK publisher and told myself to forget about them whilst mentally preparing myself for the rejection emails. Within one month the American publisher came back and said they loved the book and offered me a contract. Two months later the other publisher came back to me and offered me a contract on that book. Cue much crying and dancing around the room. I still have to pinch myself – I can’t believe I’m a published author. I feel so fortunate.
My advice to aspiring authors would be plain and simple – do not give up!!!!
6.What has been your highlight since becoming a published author? I think it was about a week before How Do You Spell Love? was due to be launched and the publishers sent me a copy of the paperback of the book in the post. Holding a proper book with my name on it felt amazing – I went all goose-bumpy.
7.Can you share a little of your most recent book with us? And any other books of yours, if you wish. The latest release of my three books is called If You Only Knew, here’s a taster –
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…
Here’s a sneaky little extract from If you Only Knew:
She took a step back, wrapping her arms around herself. Suddenly she felt cold and shaky. Aaron was back? This was impossible.
Yet here he was, standing in her kitchen. She felt dizzy and light-headed.
How should she react? Should she admit they knew each other? Why had Aaron changed his name to Matt anyway? Would he prefer it if the fact they knew each other was kept quiet?
But she knew she couldn’t keep something like that from Zane.
As she debated what to say and do next, the room remained awkwardly silent. Zane was looking at her questioningly.
What should she say?
Come on, think, woman. Think.
Too late. Aaron spoke first.
“Faith, it’s amazing to see you again after all these years.”
OK. So he didn’t want to keep it a secret that they already knew each other.
“Aaron,” she managed to say. “This is a bit of a shock.”
“That’s an understatement,” Matt replied, stepping forward to pull her into a hug.
“Hang on a second,” Zane said, pushing into the room. “Aaron? That’s your proper name isn’t it?” He raised enquiring eyebrows at Matt. “What’s going on? You two already know each other?”
8.Apart from writing, what do you do in your spare time? I love gardening. Our garden is on the small side but each spring I plan how I can redesign it to try and fit more plants in. I love propagating from cuttings and collecting and sowing seeds so I can add more plants without spending more money. I also love getting out into the countryside and walking the dogs; we have 4 labradors so there’s plenty of opportunity for walks! My other favourite way to spend time is reading. Until a week or so ago I was a strict ‘real’ books only person until I realised I had about 70 downloaded ebooks on the Kindle app on my computer I wanted to read but never got around to because when I was sat in front of the computer I was working with no time for a spot of reading here and there. So I finally gave in and somewhat reluctantly purchased a basic Kindle – now I’m a convert and can see that both real and ebooks have their place in the world.
9.If you could trade places with any other person for a week, famous or not famous, living or dead, real or fictional, who would it be & why? My favourite TV programme at the moment is the supernatural series Haven about a small New England town which has ‘troubles’ with people taking on strange powers. Audrey Parker is one half of the local police department which has to tackle the problems, working alongside Police Chief Nathan. I could quite like the idea of being Audrey for a day. She’s strong, confident, capable and, at the same time, kind and compassionate. Plus Nathan is rather cute so it would be rather nice to get to spend some time with him…
10.Do you have anything that you want to say to your readers? Thank you very much for buying my books and I sincerely hope you enjoyed them!