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Author Interview: C. Lee Mckenzie & Giveaway

Tuesday, March 19, 2013
Today, I have for you my interview with author C. Lee Mckenzie. Some of her titles include YA books Sliding on the Edge and The Princess of Las Pulgas and her more recent middle-grade work Alligators Overhead.

Alligators, witches and a spooky mansion aren't your average neighbors unless you live at the edge of the Ornofree swamp in the backwater town of Hadleyville. The town’s bad boy, Pete Riley, may only be twelve, but he’s up to his eyeballs in big trouble, and this time he isn’t the cause. This time the trouble arrives when a legendary hundred-year-old mansion, materializes next door and the Ornofree alligators declare war to save their swamp from bulldozers. Things only get worse when Pete’s guardian aunt and several of her close friends vanish while trying to restore order using outdated witchcraft. Now Pete must find his aunt and stop the war. He might stand a chance if his one friend, Weasel, sticks with him, but even then, they may not have what it takes.

Interview with C. Lee McKenzie

Tell us a little about yourself and your journey as an author.
I really started writing non-fiction--mostly dry things about language and culture because that's my field. Then one day I found an article about "cutting," a frequent practice among Ivy League students. I knew I was going to write about that because it was so disturbing to me. I thought it would be an article, but something very odd happened. A character showed up in my imagination by the name of Shawna Stone. She was a cutter and bent on self-destruction. I wanted to tell her story, so I did. It wound up being Sliding on the Edge. I subbed that story to a few places, and then to WestSide Books. They bought it, then they bought The Princess of Las Pulgas. I think you could say I backed into this fiction business, and I'm glad I did. I've met so many interesting and talented people here.

It's interesting how characters have a life of their own, and I'm glad that you met Shawna and got into fiction writing! Your previous books, like Sliding on the Edge, have found your characters in emotionally trying situations. What challenges have you faced portraying their lives and how they overcome their self-doubts?
It was a matter of putting myself in their teen shoes. I had to ask myself, "How would it feel if I were abandoned by my mom?" "How would it feel if I lost everything: my dad, my friends, my status in school as the popular girl, my security?" Since I've had a few emotionally trying situations to face in my real world, I connected to those feelings and tried my best to express them through my characters. I think the challenge was to go back and dredge up those emotions. I really didn't want to revisit the painful times, but they helped with my books.

It's great that you were able to connect with your characters on an emotional level, though I can see how it can also be emotionally exhausting. I saw on your blog that your cats are protesting because Alligators Overhead doesn't have cats in it like your previous books. Why the "big change"? What inspired you to write about alligators, witches, and spooky mansions?
The alligators, witches and spooky mansion came because I burned out on Teen Angst and wanted to have some fun, so I decided to write for the younger reader. I like to entertain myself! That cat protest was a bit of fun I cooked up to launch this middle grade book that was so heavily ladened with reptiles. I figured that cats would be quite upset to find their traditional roles as "familiars" for witches usurped by alligators. I know what upset cats sound like, so I imagined up a Howl In. Readers found it fun. I found it fun.

That was an excellent marketing tactic (and a great way to let the cats speak up). I understand the feeling of turning to books for younger readers for fun. That's why I still read Middle Grade books! What have you learned from delving into a new genre?
For me, I'm able to go into fantasy when I write for the middle grade reader. I can't when I write for young adults. I haven't figured out why that is, and I guess I'll just accept it as the way I am. Besides there's plenty of YA fantasy out there. There's no need for another one.

As much as I love YA fantasy, I'm glad that you wrote an MG fantasy because it's another favorite genre of mine. If you got to hang out with a character from any of your novels, who would it be and what would you do?
I always answer this question in the same way. I'd hang with Kenny from Sliding on the Edge. I know a lot about him and I know there's still a lot I don't know. He has a past that's connected with the Vietnam war and I'm sure he did something very bad as a young man. I haven't figure out what yet, but it was something that put him into that war and later at Sweet Water on a horse ranch. He's one character that keeps at me to write more of his story.

I would love to read more of Kenny's story should you get around to writing it. If you were a witch, what would you do with your powers?
Stop hunger. Stop war. Provide everyone with the opportunity for the best life they are capable of achieving. I'd also make myself young and beautiful. I'm not totally altruistic. :-)

As much as the rest of the world could use some help from a good witch, it would certainly be tempting to keep myself young and beautiful had I the ability to do so! What are your working on right now?
I have one manuscript out for consideration with a request for a full. It's another adventure fantasy for middle grade readers. Then I have two YA's that I'm just beginning to sub. I'm dabbling with an old ghost story to see if it's worth reviving and revising. I've always loved the story, but it never quite worked. I'll give it one more try.

I hope it works out. I'd love to read your ghost story. Thanks for interviewing!

About the Author

C. Lee Mckenzie's Website | Facebook | Twitter
A native Californian, C. Lee McKenzie lives on the edge of a redwood forest with her husband and assorted cats. When she's not writing or blogging she's hiking or practicing yoga. She wrote her first young adult novel, Sliding on the Edge, after reading a news article about "self-abuse" among ivy league students. Since then, she has gone on to explore magick and some uniquely talented alligators in her middle-grade novel Alligators Overhead.

C. Lee Mckenzie has kindly offered the following for a giveaweay

U.S. Prize
Hardcopies of Sliding on the Edge and The Princess of Las Pulgas

International Prize
An e-copy of Alligators Overhead

Giveaway ends April 2nd
To enter, fill out the form below
a Rafflecopter giveaway
10 comments on "Author Interview: C. Lee Mckenzie & Giveaway"
  1. I've been tied up with tons of family issues this week, Kris! So I'm late in responding. Sorry. Thanks for hosting me. Your post looks great.

  2. I really like middle grade adventure fantasy too and have been reading more of it since my daughter is coming to the age where she enjoys it as well. I hadn't heard of any of these books so I'm off to look them up!

  3. Fun interview. I enjoyed learning about Lee's motivation for writing fiction. I loved Alligators Overhead, but haven't read the others. Maybe I'll win one.

  4. I wish that I had Witch magic. Knowing my luck it would backfire though.

    A great post thank you.

  5. Great interview. Loved learning more about Lee and her books. I didn't realize she had written so many.

  6. @Ben Glad you stopped by, and very glad you took the time to leave a comment!
    @Mary, talk to me about magic and backfiring. I have some insider info. :-)
    @Natalie, really appreciate your being here today.

  7. Great inteview! I always love to reading about the author and how the book became a book! :-) Thanks for the giveaway! :-)

  8. I agree, Alicia. Knowing about an author makes reading his or her books so much more exciting. Of course, for me, meeting the author is the best. I'm so likely to gawk and be nervous when an author signs a book for me. I'm such a fangirl.

  9. Wonderful interview. I enjoyed getting to know more about Ms McKenzie through this interview. I like her versatility as an author. I absolutely loved The Princess of Las Pulgas and looking forward to reading Sliding on the Edge ..Kenny sounds deep. --Hoping to win Alligators Overhead ..I think my kids would enjoy it too. :)


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