Wednesday, 20 November 2013

Zanna Mackenzie talks love and books

Zanna Mackenzie lives in the UK 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!
Formerly a travel agent and therapist (she has qualifications in clinical aromatherapy, crystal healing, naturopathic nutrition and herbalism) she loves walking the dogs and gardening – that’s when she’s not writing or reading!
Zanna has written two novels, The Love Programme (Astraea Press) and How Do You Spell Love? (Crooked Cat Publishing) and both were published in early 2013.
You can find Zanna’s books on Amazon -
Find out more about Zanna at:
Twitter: @ZannaMacKenzie
Facebook: mackenzie
Goodreads -


In February of this year you released two books, 'How Do You Spell Love' and 'The Love Programme', please could you tell me about them?
The Love Programme is a contemporary romance set in the Highlands of Scotland. Lucy and Marcus have had an on again, off again relationship since they were at school together. Marcus always refusing to accept they didn’t have a future together. When Lucy turns down yet another proposal of marriage from him, he finally moves on, and asks someone else to marry him within a few months!
At the wedding things don’t go to plan though and Lucy finds herself needing to make her escape while the dust settles. She ends up being a last minute replacement for a contestant on The Love Programme – a reality TV show being filmed in a castle in the Scottish Highlands. Even though he’s strictly off limits to the show’s contestants Lucy can’t help feeling there’s a mutual attraction between her and Paul, the successful businessman who is now Laird of the country estate the castle is part of.
Lucy thinks there might be a chance for happiness with Paul but then she discovers Marcus has tracked her down and is coming to Scotland to cause trouble; she also hears about Hannah, the mysterious woman in Paul’s life. The book follows Lucy’s journey as she struggles to figure out what – and who – she wants in her life.

How Do You Spell Love? is a chicklit rom com with some spells, witchcraft and magic thrown into the mix.
Kat can’t help wishing there was more to life than this. What happened to her dream job? What happened with Nathan?
Summer is wondering where her life is going too… battling the developers of a controversial housing estate and working out why boyfriend Rob is increasingly distant.
When the developers win the battle and move into town everyone’s life is turned upside down.
Kat meets building site project manager Alex. She enjoys his company far too much, even though he’s on the town’s most hated list.
Summer meets Tom who has plenty of relationship troubles of his own, so things could get really complicated.
Soon everyone is keeping secrets, lives change and hearts are broken. Is everything falling apart, or does life just work in mysterious ways…?

'How Do You Spell Love' is about Kat and Summer, please could you tell me about them?
Kat is at something of a crossroads in her life. For a variety of reasons she finds herself back home, living with her parents, putting her dreams on hold and taking on a job she dislikes because she needs the money. She’s still trying to make sense of her life and definitely isn’t looking for romance. Fate has other ideas though when she meets Alex and she starts to wonder if maybe it’s time to move on…
Summer provides the magical element of the novel. She’s a modern white witch trying to figure out how to save her relationship with live-in boyfriend Rob. She reluctantly breaks one of the cardinal witchcraft rules – do not cast spells to help yourself, only others. After performing a lunar love spell in an attempt to rekindle things with Rob she ends up meeting Tom who has plenty of relationship problems of his own. Rather than trying to mend things with Rob it seems as though she’d just made them even worse…

'The Love Programme' is about Lucy, please could you tell me about her?
Lucy has led a sheltered life largely thanks to her ex-boyfriend Marcus. They were childhood sweethearts but she felt they were growing apart so tried to end their relationship. In a small town it’s tricky to avoid people though. Everywhere Lucy turns Marcus always seems to be there, following her, keeping an eye on what she’s doing and scaring off potential dates. She’s frustrated and knows she needs to make a break, get away to somewhere new, enjoy some freedom for once and attempt to sort out her life and her priorities.

They say the journey to being published is one of the hardest an author can take, please can you describe the journey that you went on?
My first attempt at creating a novel took place in my work lunch hours and on the bus to and from said work. When my husband was offered a job in Edinburgh we relocated to Scotland and I was incredibly fortunate that my former employers asked me to carry on working for them but part time on a self-employed basis working ‘remotely’ via the Internet.
Working from home I signed up to study via distance learning with the Writers Bureau for their Comprehensive Writing Course, during which time I learnt loads about plotting, creating characters etc. The course gave me a bit of confidence to send my novel to a government-supported appraisal scheme which was free to local aspiring writers. Thanks to that scheme I received lots of constructive criticism and edited my novel as per their advice. The appraisal scheme suggested I join the Romantic Novelists Association New Writers Scheme (NWS) in which they accept 250 members each year and the manuscripts are professionally assessed and critiqued. Luckily the advice to join the NWS came at exactly the right time of year so I was able to apply and get a place – the scheme is usually oversubscribed within weeks of opening to applicants each year. I wrote three novels over three years and each one went through the NWS critique scheme. I learnt a huge amount from that process but never plucked up the courage to try sending my novels off to agents or publishers.

Last year though my husband tried to persuade me to start sending my books out to publishers. They’re not ready, I protested, too scared to send them out into the big scary world. Then edit them and make them ready, he replied. After extensive editing, more editing, yet more editing and proof reading I finally dared to send an extensively revised book 2 off to Astraea Press for consideration. At the same time a much changed book 3 whizzed its way off to Crooked Cat Publishing for consideration. I told myself to forget about them and not keep checking my emails every five minutes.
In September 2012 I heard back from Astraea Press, they liked the book and offered me a contract for it. I was ecstatic – dancing round the room, laughing and crying at the same time. Two weeks later Crooked Cat emailed me to say they liked the first three chapters of book 3 and would I send them the full manuscript so they could read it all and see what they thought then. Following a nerve racking 2 month wait I received their verdict - they loved it. They offered me a contract for it. Cue more dancing round the room, laughing and crying.
I was stunned. I still am!


Are any of your characters anything like you?
No, they’re all far more fun and adventurous!

Writers put so much time and energy into their characters and I have been told in the past that a writer carries their characters around with them.
So my question is if you could go out for a day with any one of your characters: who would it be, what would you do and why did you pick this particular character?

I think I would choose Alex from How Do You Spell Love? Why did I opt for him? Well, I confess I developed something of a crush on him when I wrote the book. I pictured him in my head as looking like the actor Paul Walker. For another thing, he’s fun, quite a laugh and a bit of a sweetheart. In the book he takes Kat on a beach picnic, they chat, eat and round the evening off with a spot of kite flying – though things, quite literally, soon get out of hand! In a fictitious world I’d choose to replicate that date with me standing in for Kat!

If you could give one piece of advice to an aspiring author, what would it be?

What can we expect next, any future books in the pipeline?
I’ve recently signed a contract with Crooked Cat (who published my novel How Do You Spell Love?) for my next book, it’s called If You Only Knew. It’s due out in Feb 2014 and is a comedy romance about what happens when a woman’s new boyfriend and an ex-boyfriend who broke her heart a turn out to be best friends and business partners. There’s quite a bit of jealousy, lots of secrets and plenty of fun and games as the story unfolds.


If there was one saying that could sum up your life, what would it be?
It’s important to try to think, act and be positive in all aspects of your life.

If you could choose one book that you think everyone should read, what would it be and why?
Probably Paige Toon’s brilliant Pictures of Lily. Be warned though – you won’t be able to put it down till you reach the end and you might need a pack of tissues handy!

What or who in life inspires you?
In writing terms I would say anything and everything – other books, films, TV programmes, papers and magazines, snippets of overheard conversations.

What is your all time favourite book?
Only one? I could do a recent favourite top three?! No? Well, OK, if choosing one favourite I’d go to my favourites ‘collection ‘ and opt for the book in there I read most recently which would be Carole Matthew’s book called That Loving Feeling. The story is in turn laugh out loud funny and rather touching but, for me, it was the characters that made the book so special.

Please would you share who your 5 dream dinner party guests would be?
Off the top of my head, here’s my five party guests – just noticed there’s a connection between them, they all present programmes on BBC TV!!! Mmm, perhaps I watch too much TV….
Iain Stewart – one of the new breed of sexy professors and TV presenters making science and natural history (in this case, geology) very interesting indeed.
Kate Humble – I think she’s fantastic, she presents some wonderful TV programmes, isn’t afraid to get her hands dirty, and makes things like sheep farming fascinating! She now runs a small holding in Wales with her hubbie – I’d love to do that (with my hubbie though of course, not hers!!!)
Claudia Winkleman – the Great British Sewing Bee and Strictly Come Dancing TV presenter is hysterical, she always makes me laugh.
Patrick Grant – this Savile Row tailor and Great British Sewing Bee judge makes my knees go all weak! He does loads for charity, has a quirky sense of humour and seems to be a genuinely down to earth and likeable guy as well.
Mary Berry – this Great British Bake Off presenter is a baking legend and comes across as a lovely person to have a cosy chat with and get some baking tips from. She’s a keen gardener too so we could talk about plants as well as cakes.

Thank you to Zanna for talking to Love of a Good Book

1 comment:

  1. Kirsty, thanks so much for letting me visit Love Of A Good Book!