Friday, July 25, 2014

Interview - C. Lee Mckenzie

Today I have C. Lee Mckenzie, an Evernight Teen author and a blogger many of you are familiar with. Today happens to be the release date of her new novel, DOUBLE NEGATIVE! Congratulations, Lee. She agreed to answer some of my questions.

Give us a brief elevator pitch or tagline about what your book is about.
Sixteen-year-old Hutch McQueen is a big time loser, but the priest, Fat Nyla and Maggie still want to save him.

Sounds interesting. I love YA contemporary. Give my blog readers a snapshot of how you got DOUBLE NEGATIVE published. Also, give us info on your other published pieces. 

I’d seen that Evernight Teen was publishing contemporary, realistic fiction and accepting submissions, so I submitted this book to them via email, and they got back to me four weeks later with an email saying, “We would like to publish your book.” I accepted their offer, which was to publish Double Negative as an eBook, and then as a POD if the sales supported doing that. I think that’s a smart business model in today’s publishing world. I even signed my contract online. All very efficient.

I did two rounds of line edits which were really easy, and I returned my edited copy also via email. Their editor was clear, concise and light with her edits. She used Track Changes, which made it easy for me since I’m familiar with that.

I’ve been published traditionally twice before with Sliding on the Edge (2009) and The Princess of Las Pulgas (2010). I’d written and published a lot of short stories and articles for Stories of Children and Crow Toes Quarterly, and later I was asked to contribute to two anthologies: The First Time has my story Premeditated Cat, and Two and Twenty Dark Tales includes my Into The Sea of Dew. Recently, my short stories appeared in Beyond the Binding and Heroes of Phenomena, so as you can see I’ve gotten my feet wet in many different publishing experiences. I even went Indie with my first Middle Grade fantasy/adventure, Alligators Overhead (2012).

I couldn’t do any of this if it weren’t for my amazing critique group at The Garret. They have eyes of eagles and brilliant literary editing skills. We exchange manuscripts when we need to and not on any set schedule. That has worked for us since 2007. I think that’s when we banded together. It has been so long that I’ve forgotten the exact year.

I’m not agented. Don’t laugh at this next part, but remember I was totally new to this business when I wrote Sliding on the Edge, so I didn’t know you were supposed to have an agent. When I worked at the university my experience was that the publisher's representatives came to my office to ask me what I was working on and if I was interested in them looking at it. So can you blame me for going directly to the publisher? Besides, when I did, they accepted my manuscript, then the second and by that time I didn’t see any reason to try for an agent.

And you've been on a roll since then. List some books or authors who inspired you.

S. E. Hinton’s books caught my attention a long while ago. I liked her terse style and her subject matter. The Outsiders was the first one I read. Then I think I read Rumblefish and, over time, the rest of her work. I love F. Scott Fitzgerald’s prose, so he’s a writer I like to revisit. I recently found Valerie Storey and I love her work. Better Than Perfect was her young adult novel I just finished. Then I can’t stop admiring Barbara Kingsolver, Margaret Atwood, Meg Rosoff.

I also admire some of those authors. Next question...what are some must-have conditions for writing?

It has to be early to do any serious writing. Either that or really late, but I’m a morning person, so I usually go for the before dawn hours when I’m creating a book. My computer is an extension of my body, so it’s very important. When it fails, I’m so stressed I’m reduced to plotting revenge on Apple. I don’t like distractions, so I don’t play music while I write. Before or after is great, but not during. I like lots of clutter: notebooks, pencils, coffee, of course.

I also usually write really early or really late. What are some favorite ways you promote your work?

My three favorite ways are bookstore signings, school visits and writing workshops. I like to talk to the readers and get a sense of who they are. Online is fun, too, but it never satisfies me the way face to face does.

What are you working on next?

I’ve finished another young adult. At least it seems finished to me. I’ll revisit it again later to see if I’m right. I’ve also got a sequel to Alligators Overhead on submission. That one is called The Great Time Lock Disaster. I’m still not sure about that title, but so far that’s the one that’s stuck.

I look forward to these future works. What words of encouragement or inspiration would you give to unpublished writers in the query trenches?

Don’t give up, just get better. Learn how to survive and flourish.

Great advice, and thank you for stopping by.

Find Lee Online: Website | Blog | Evernight Teen Link

Bio: C. Lee McKenzie is a native Californian who grew up in a lot of different places; then landed in the Santa Cruz Mountains where she lives with her family and miscellaneous pets. She writes most of the time, gardens and hikes and does yoga a lot, and then travels whenever she can.

She takes on modern issues that today's teens face in their daily lives. Her first young adult novel, Sliding on the Edge, which dealt with cutting and suicide was published in 2009. Her second, titled The Princess of Las Pulgas, dealing with a family who loses everything and must rebuild their lives came out in 2010. Her short stories appear in the anthologies, The First Time and Two and Twenty Dark Tales. In 2012, her first middle grade novel, Alligators Overhead, came out.

About DOUBLE NEGATIVE: Sixteen-year-old Hutchinson McQueen is a big time loser. Trapped in a dysfunctional family, his one thought is escape, but everything he does to get away lands him in trouble. Shackled by poor reading skills, he squeaks through classes with his talent for eavesdropping and memorizing what he hears. When he shoplifts and lands in juvenile detention, the court sentences him to a county youth program. There he meets the priest and Maggie, a retired teacher. They’re determined to set Hutch on a path leading away from trouble. Hutch is determined not to cooperate, and he blunders his way from one mess into another. It isn’t until he’s facing serious charges that he confronts the truth--his own bad choices are trapping him. The priest and Maggie have offered him the freedom he craves. All he has to do is take it.

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