Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Meet Author C. Lee McKenzie

Today, I have another author visiting my little blog.

C. Lee McKenzie

*Squeals of joy and praise.*

I met C. Lee McKenzie through Yalitchat. Followed her on her twitter and then her blog

Poor Ms. McKenzie, I'm such a stalker.

C. Lee McKenzie writes both MG and YA novels http://www.cleemckenziebooks.com/.

Let's meet C. Lee McKenzie....

Tell us a little about yourself...

Hmm. A "little" means selecting through decades of experiences for the important highlights. Let me see . . . I'm married. That's important. I'm a native Californian who has traveled a lot but keep coming back. Every place I visited or lived was lovely, but California was and always will be home. I hike and practice yoga as much as I can and still write. Since I live in the Santa Cruz Mountains I have a lot of places I hike by simply walking out my door and onto a trail. I also have Santa Cruz beach very near, so what could be better than all of that? I'm not a city person. I can take a city for about a day, then I get the jitters.

What is your favorite book of all time?

I have to say it was Alice in Wonderland. That was the first book I ever read where I totally lost myself inside the story. I was with Alice all the way and I fell in love with the Cheshire Cat. I've obviously had many favorites since then, but whenever someone asks me this question that's the one that pops into my head.

Why did you decided you wanted to write?

I didn't. That's the only answer I can think of. I've always written something. When I was in grade school I wrote plays and conscripted the kids in my neighborhood to play the parts. We would put on plays in my grandfather's garage and charge a nickel. No overhead. No capital investment. All profit. Maybe all that early financial success is what kept me engaged in writing. Probably not. I just liked doing it.

Who is your favorite author that has inspired you the most?

Only one? That's impossible. I'm a huge fan of Joyce Carol Oates. Love her darkness and her depth. I really wish I had that talent. Barbara Kingsolver never leaves me untouched by her ability to tell a story and then there's Margaret Atwood who is brilliant. I'll stop there, but I have others I've been inspired by.

How long have you been an author?

I sort of think I called myself a writer before I sold my first book, then I started saying I was an author, so 2009 is when I became an author.

Can you tell us about the first novel you wrote? Did you query it?

Yes. I queried and sent sample chapters to about six publishers. They all turned me down. The seventh didn't, so that gave me some hope. Then that editor asked me for a full and a week later made me an offer.

You write both middle grade and young adult, which do you like writing the most?

They are really different genres, so I can't say I like to write one more than the other. I find I'm really interested in writing about what young adult experience in today's world when I'm working in YA, so all of that writing is realistic fiction--sometimes with a hint of magic--can't help myself. However, it's so much fun to play with dragons and witches and fantasy worlds when I'm writing MG. We're children such a short time that I like writing about all the wonderful "what if" worlds for that age group. Besides, I still wish I could dive into a rabbit hole and meet the Cheshire Cat. Maybe one day.

You have a new book coming out soon. YAY!! Can you give us a teaser about PRINCESS OF LAS PULGAS?

The Princess is a girl of privilege with lots of ideas about status and class and how things should be in this world. I take everything away from her and she has to take a look at the world differently. My background is intercultural communication and one area that always interests me is cultural stereotypes. I love to hold those up to the light and reveal how false they are.

For PRINCESS OF LAS PULGAS, can you tell us what inspired you?

The truth is I needed something to present at a conference. I'd signed up for a session where everyone was to share her opening pages, meet an agent or editor, and get a critique. The problem was that the day before I left for that conference I sold the manuscript I'd intended to hand out. It didn't make much sense to have people critique something that didn't need critiquing. I guess Princess was panic inspired because tin my hotel room he night before the session I hammered out the opening pages of the book. Ironically, after I started Princess, the economic downtown was real, so while I didn't mean the story to be topical, it became so.

This is for either of your middle grade or young adult books. Can you tell us something strange or funny about how you came up with the characters of one of the books?

Shawna, my MC from Sliding on the Edge, came from two sources: a newspaper article about girls who cut themselves and from someone I knew who was distressed enough to self-mutilate. Okay, that's neither strange or funny, but once I had that girl in my head she wouldn't let me be. I swear she talked to me every night until I got up (a lot of times at 4 a.m.) and put down what she had to say. She was such a sassy creature.

You also have a new book your working on, THE THIEF.

Can you give us a teaser of that? Here's the opening as it reads now. I'm never sure the opening is done until I'm ready to sub the manuscript, so be kind.

Kranski’s office is my second home. I spend more time with the principal than I do with DD, but the principal’s friendlier. For this visit I already cleared out my locker and my backpack’s crammed with books I didn’t plan to see till the end of the semester when I turned them in. Maybe Kranski’ll be impressed.

“This makes seven times this year you’ve cut Mr. Diakos’ class.” Kranski opens a thick file and writes something at the bottom of a page. When he finishes, he looks up. “Did I miss any?”

I shake my head. “Nope.”

“Since we’ve had this talk six other times I won’t waste my energy repeating what I’ve already said.” He jabs his pen into a World’s Best Dad cup and leans back with his hands behind his head.

Sentencing. Detention? Probably not this time. Totally dumped from old Larkston High? Not yet.

What stage are you on with your draft?

I'm on the first draft stage. Oh, that is so not where I like to be. That means hours, days, weeks, months of work ahead. But what else would I do while loving to do it?

How did you find your critique circle?

I started in a small online group called Middle Critters. That's when I was only ready to show my MG stuff. Then L.K. Madigan who was also a member of that group asked me join her in a new group that would be critiquing YA as well as MG. I accepted her invitation and have been with that group ever since. L.K is a super writer and editor.

First thing that pops into your mind time...

Favorite food? Prawns. LOL!! I never expected that.

Dessert? My Gram's apple pie.

Best kiss you ever received? Gawd! Second grade. Bobby something. He was a hunk.


First thing you notice on a male? Hands

An embarrassing moment that happened to you? I fell on my butt during a dance competition.

Best vampire story? Dracula

Favorite movie? Matrix

Okay, now to what unpublished writers want to know....

You don't have an agent, who is your publisher?

WestSide Books

What made you decide to use this process?

It happened first.

Can you tell us a little how this process works?

You sub. They buy. You work directly with an editor, no middlemen.

What about the editing process? How does that work?

For me, I sub the manuscript. My editor comes back with "What do you think you're doing?" and I rewrite. Then I sub again and this time she says, "Mo betta, girlfriend," but . . . ." I rewrite. This time when I sub she

What sources do you use to advertise your books?

Mostly it's online. This time since I'm totally swamped I hired a publicist to help me out. I don't know a thing about using a publicist, but I'm learning.

For someone who wants to go this route, what would be the best piece of advice you can give them?

I hate giving advice. If you've read my first book, even my characters in an advice-giving position hate giving advice. But here's the best I can come up with: Be prepared for a bumpy ride. Don't think that because you sold one book means you are a "shoe in." Put as much effort into #2 as you did to #1. If you're thinking of a long term career keep trying for an agent because s/he will have a better overview of the business than you ever will.

Since already publishing your books with your publisher WestSide Books, have you ever thought about querying again?

Oh, I'll query again. I still haven't sold any of my MG books. They've been buried on my C drive for a long time, so I'll probably query those.

Any other advice you'd like to share for us aspiring writers?

Think of what you do as a business. There's a bottom line in all businesses. If your book is marketable, you'll be able to sell it. If you sell it be prepared to promote it.

And there you have, right from a talented author. I highly suggest you click on the link provide to visit C. Lee McKenzie website. For those of you who don't want to scroll up, I'll provide it again http://cleemckenziebooks.com. You can read her middle grade short stories, which are great. I loved STRING BEAN.

Thank you so very much for visiting my little blog. I hope you can visit us again when your novel, PRINCESS OF LAS PULGAS, is released.

Thanks, Ebyss. That would be great. Loved your questions and appreciate your hosting me here.


  1. Great interview! I'm looking forward to C. Lee McKenzie 's next books! :)

  2. Thanks for hosting me, Ebyss. It was fun answering your questions.

  3. I love your interview series :)

    Yay, yay, yay for Dracula as a favorite vampire book!

    Congrats on your success!

  4. Nice job with the interview! Well done.

    Also Ms. Mckenzie, thanks for daring to write about girls who cut themselves. It's a very taboo topic, but I think it really helps them to see somebody in their situation. (A good book to read to research that would also be "Cutting" by Steven Levenkron"

  5. Ebyss- great interview and Lee- great to hear your story.

  6. Nice interview. I enjoyed learning more about C. Lee. Best of luck to you.

  7. Oh I love this interview. It's so awesome to get to know some of the authors that hang out at YAlitchat :-D Wonderful interview Ebyss!