Author Interview with C.A. MacKenzie

Author Interview with C.A. MacKenzie

interviewed on Aug 27, 2018Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada
Q. How would you describe yourself?
A behind-the-scenes type of person. Creative. Caring. Sympathetic. A worrier. Too focused.
Q. Tell us something about the books that you have written and the story behind them.
My late mother once asked me, Can't you write anything happy? So it appears I veer toward the dark. I have written all genres of short stories, but my favourites are drama/literary fiction/women's fiction/border-line horror--not guts and gore horror, but more like ordinary episodes that turn into the unexpected. My women's fiction isn't romance per se but stories that relate to and are about women. I try to make my stories end with a twist. I don't accomplish that all the time, though.
My first novel is WOLVES DON'T KNOCK, which evolved from a sappy short story that I wrote for a Christmas anthology published by Dancing With Bear Publishing.
I have published several short story compilations, the most recent being WOMEN: WISE, WICKED, WORN. This is a themed book; the title is self-explanatory. I've also written several children's picture books.
Q. What place does writing hold in your life, how has been your writing journey so far?
I started seriously writing in 2010 after the births of my first two grandchildren (both girls, three weeks apart) inspired me. Previous to that, before my marriages and children, life got in the way as the cliche goes. Now that I'm retired, I spend the majority of my alone time writing and publishing. I'm not sure how my days would unfold if I hadn't gotten back into writing.
Q. What is your writing process, a typical writing day routine?
I wake, shower, devour a breakfast of a muffin and diet Coke, then sit at the computer most of the day. I take small breaks--cleaning the house, doing laundry, etc. Some days I might meet up with friends or family, shop, or enjoy overnighters with grandchildren. My grandchildren, truly, are my pride and joy.
Q. What book marketing techniques have been most effective for you?
I haven't promoted my short stories much, so I'm just now, with the release of my novel, WOLVES DON'T KNOCK, trying to promote. Thus far, I've been taking every opportunity I can, whether it be interviews for blogs, spamming on social media, pestering friends. I can't say what's been effective thus far as I've barely started.

I'll start promoting my favourite book of short stories, WOMEN: WISE, WICKED, WORN, soon.
Q. What do you think makes a book sell, or makes a reader buy it?
Sometimes I feel it's the popular people who get known, the more outgoing ones on Facebook with the most friends, the pages with the most likes. Almost like a popularity contest. I know people who have sold a lot of books based on who they are and not solely on their books. Word of mouth, too; when someone spreads a good word, the book sells. Also reviews. If only more readers would leave reviews! I think a great cover helps to sell, along with a well-thought-out blurb.
Q. What's the most moving or affecting thing a reader has said to you?
That my next novel should be picked up by an agent/publisher and that WOLVES DON'T KNOCK shouldn't get lost in the 'Amazon slush pile' of undiscovered books. THAT made my day.
Q. What are your favourite three books, and why?
(I'm assuming this question pertains to books other than my own.) I don't know that I have favourites. I love all my books and wouldn't part with any of them, to the chagrin of my husband who continually moans that I have too many. I do have quite a few books that used to belong to my maternal grandmother (now long deceased) that were given to her by her husband on various occasions. My grandfather wrote in each one and dated them. I also have a couple of books that used to belong to my great-uncle that I also cherish.
Q. Who are your favourite three authors and what do you like the most about them?
I don't really have favourite authors. But two I enjoy are Joyce Carol Oats and Alice Munro.

Joyce Carol Oates: I'm told I write like her. An extremely wonderful compliment, for sure!

Alice Munro: I've been reading short stories more than novels lately, and I enjoy her short stories.

Chevy Stevens: I read her novel STILL MISSING last year and enjoyed it immensely.

John Cheever: I love his short stories. They're dark; perhaps that's why.
Q. Tell us about the books that you are currently writing and their progress.
I've started the sequel/prequel to WOLVES DON'T KNOW, which will be called MR. WOLFE (or maybe MISTER WOLFE). Both novels will be stand-alone novels, but some things from WOLVES DON'T KNOCK will be pursued further in MR. WOLFE. I don't want to give anything away, but if the reader has read WOLVES, he/she will be totally unprepared for some revelations in MR. WOLFE. At least I hope so! The book is in my head. I just have to get it down on paper.

I'm also involved in a sort-of memoir. My middle child died unexpectedly in 2017 of a rare heart cancer. I had planned to write an inspirational book about his 'journey' with a mechanical heart and then a donor heart, but unfortunately the ending isn't as I had anticipated. Now, the book will be more about me and my grief over his death. Other than those two books, I don't plan to write more novels. I will be sticking to short stories and poetry.
Q. What challenges do you think are faced by writers, what's the worst thing about the book industry according to you?
One of the biggest challenges is having one's book traditionally published--if that's what one wants, of course. That was my dream, that a big-name publisher would take me on. It never happened. I'm not getting younger, so I continued on my own as I did not want to wait months/years for a publisher/agent to get back to me. I won't get rich publishing on my own, that's for sure, but it's not all about the money. Perhaps, if I have 'success' with WOLVES DON'T KNOCK, a publisher might pick up my next novel, MR. WOLFE, and then I'll have REALLY accomplished my dream. One can only hope, right?
The worse thing: the rap that indie writers endure. The pittances we get paid for our writings. The bad name that (sometimes rightly so) indie writers as a group get labelled from all the trash that's self-published. There is bad stuff out there, but there are also a lot of great, undiscovered writers, too.
Q. Apart from writing, what goals do you want to achieve in life?
To be happy. To live a long life. To have my children and grandchildren continue to like me. (Some children/grandchildren don't like their parents/grandparents. That's terrible and one of the worst heartaches a woman could endure. The worst, of course, is to lose a child to death. Sorry, I always seem to interject my deceased son into conversation, but his death will always remain a defining moment in my life.)
Q. What message do you want to share with budding writers?
To never give up. Write your novel. Don't say 'I can't do it' because you can. It was always a dream/desire/wish of mine to write a novel, but I never tried until recently (and even then it was a fluke that I finished it). And now I'm totally amazed I did it! So often I wanted to give up, and I was ready to trash it numerous times. I know WOLVES isn't perfect; nothing ever is, but I needed to let the book go once I had reached the point where I was happy with it even though I could have spent more time on it. It had started to consume my life as genealogy had for ten years. But, thankfully, I've had numerous great reviews about WOLVES, so I'm extremely happy.

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About the author
Cathy enjoys writing poems, short stories, and essays, some of which appear online and in various anthologies and other publications. She has self-published several books of poetry and compilations of short stories. She has also written several children's picture books. Her first novel, Wolves Don’t Knock, was published in July 2018. Available on Amazon and other retailers, or contact the author for an autographed copy.