Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Interview With Author C. Lee McKenzie


Today, the lovely C. Lee McKenzie is here to answer a few questions about her writing experience, and to fill us in on her latest book publication, Alligators Overhead.

A hundred years ago the Hadley mansion vanished. Now it's back, and Pete Riley, the town rascal, is in trouble! When his aunt disappears and the Ornofree alligators threaten war, it's up to Pete to save his aunt and stop that war. But how? (Check out the fun trailer at the bottom of this post)

And now, heeeeere's Lee!

1. Lee, from idea to final product, how did Alligators Overhead come to be?

I've been carrying around this title in my head for years. All I needed was a story to go with it, and lucky for me one sought me out. I've been meaning to write something with "magick" and a touch of spookiness that would appeal to kids. So when Pete Riley popped into my awareness along with his sidekick, Weasel, I was ecstatic. All I needed to do was figure out how to fly a few alligators and make readers suspend their disbelief enough to enjoy the idea. So with this book I kind of worked backwards. Title first. Characters second. Plot last.

2. Can you give us a brief summary of your writing process? Plotter? Pantser? Somewhere in between?

Mostly I'm an in between, I guess. I start with an idea that's about as solid as Jello before it goes into the fridge, and then I work on creating a single sentence (or two) that gives me a "Through Line." That way I have a guide while I'm writing. I put that sentence in the header and adjust the story or the sentence(s) as needed. Sometimes I write the end first, then work my way to it. Other times I write scenes that I want in the book and connect them up. It's always a surprising process and it's never the same for any book.

3. You independently published Alligators Overhead through Outskirts Press. Can you tell us a bit about this experience?

I've been traditionally published by a small press two times. It was less work, I can tell you, than doing it all by yourself. Of course, Alligators Overhead is my first experience with Indie Publishing, so maybe next time will be easier. I hope so. I like the control I have as an Independent, and I'm scared to death I'm making all kinds of mistakes, so you can see where I am most of the time: elated with success, then miserable with self-doubt.

4. Can you offer us any advice about book promotion? What's working for you and what isn't?

So far I'm totally impressed and quite possibly in love with Mark Coker at Smashwords. I like his approach to do-it-yourself publishing and his Style Guide was a great help. I'm published there as well as on Amazon and B & N, but I have't passed the second phase for Premium Status yet. I'm hoping it won't be long or that I won't have a lot more code issues to resolve.

I like Facebook and Twitter and Goodreads, so I focus on those. Of course, I'm a Moderator at YAlitchat and that group is very supportive of their writers, so I use that as well. The bloggers are wonderful and I think they are excellent at spreading the word about new books. Besides so many have become online friends, so I feel very comfortable "talking" to them about my books. 

I stopped thinking about printing and giving away bookmarks. I know a lot of people prefer paper books, but so many are turning to eBooks that I didn't see the point in spending money on anything involving printing and mailing. Besides, I think my sales will be mostly digital anyway.

5. Is there any writing or publishing advice you'd like to share with us?

Take vitamins and try to get good sleep. This is not a job for those without energy. If you're depressed, take a walk or stand on your head. Those two things seem to help me through slumps. You aren't alone and that's a good thing as well as a bad one. You have all kinds of support out there if you ask, but you have all kinds of competition, too. Be prepared for a long haul and, above all, keep your sense of humor.

Excellent advice, right? Big thanks to C. Lee McKenzie for stopping by and sharing her wisdom with us. She's kindly giving away to copies of Alligators Overhead. Simply leave a comment, and we'll draw two winners at random.

Tell us...how does your writing process compare to Lee's? Have you ever had the title first, characters second, and plot last?

Alligators Overhead is available at...

Smashwords
Amazon
Barns & Noble

Visit C. Lee McKenzie at...

Facebook
Twitter
And her website


C. Lee is a writer who captures the pulse of adolescent confusion in her Young Adult fiction, Sliding on the Edge and The Princess of Las Pulgas. She admits to revealing a lot of her Old Adult confusion while doing that. Alligators Overhead is her first Middle Grade novel. She lives in California with her husband and assorted animals at the edge of a redwood forest.


42 comments:

  1. I get to to leave a first comment? I never get to do that. I feel a change in the air and all will be sweetness and light from now on. :-)

    Thanks, Julie I really do appreciate your hosting me here today.

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    1. Yay! The guest of honor is first! Thanks so much for sharing your publishing wisdom with us.

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  2. Thanks for the interview! And it's sounds like an intriguing premise!! :D
    You know what? I think my son would love this! When he comes back from school, I'll make him watch the trailer too! ;)

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    1. Showing it to your son is a great idea, Monica. I hope he loves it.

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    2. I hope boys like the book. I love writing things I think they'll get into. Let me know what he thinks. They're my audience!

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  3. Been following Lee's launch closely (her blog has some hilarious cat shenanigans going down right now ... all I'm going to say :), and I'm thrilled to death to see her good work out there.

    As someone hip-deep in publishing independently for the first time, this interview was insightful and rang very true. It's extremely nerve racking. I have been told by some veterans that it does get easier, but it's truly a ton of work. And I've outsourced a ton of my stuff to pros. (Cover design, conversion--which I salute Lee for being bold enough to tackle--etc.)

    Still, there's a certain amount of empowerment and ownership with the process that makes you really feel like--well, an author! No, THE author. You're a business owner, and it's your product, so that comes with all the cool perks you can imagine. (Think about telling your cover designer that's not how you pictured the MC's hair, and they actually change it. Yeah, it rocks. :) And also comes with all the anxieties. (How the heck do I categorize the darn thing on Amazon???)

    In the end, I just think there's so much value and reward in publishing, no matter how you go about it (traditional, indie, etc.), and like Lee, I'm kind of just thrilled to be a part of any of it.

    Best of luck, Lee, and thanks for having such an entertaining guest, Julie. :)

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    1. I love so much of what you say, especially "there's so much value and reward in publishing, no matter how you go about it..."

      So true!

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    2. I'm glad you felt I was on spot for the points I covered on self-publishing. You are so right about us being in business and as business owners we must be responsible for our product and our marketing.

      I really appreciate your careful and considered comment, E.J. I also love that you are enjoying my little cat fun.

      Thanks so much for taking the time to say hi here on Julie's blog.

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  4. Thanks Julie and C. Lee! Fun interview!

    I love when we have a title in our head that comes to life!

    Answers to q #5 Great advice!

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    1. I know, right? I've never tried standing on my head. But hey, when I'm in a slump I'll give anything a try :)

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    2. Glad you came by to see us today. Isn't Julie's blog a great place? As to head stands, I'm kind of nuts that way. Ask my family. :-)

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  5. Great interview ladies! I LOVED the book - it's such a fun MG story - so many elements kids are going to love.

    I wish I had titles pop into my head - for me, it's normally more like sludging through that swamp your alligators inhabit!

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    1. LOL! The Title Swamp! I usually don't come up with that first either, but I do have a running list of possible titles for future work. "Alligators Overhead" is such a fun title, so I'm glad she was able to come up with a fun story to match :)

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  6. As solid as jello - that made me laugh out loud!

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    1. I know, right? Makes me not feel so bad for having mushy ideas!

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    2. Glad you got a chuckle, Alex. I'm always surprised when those kinds of ideas actually gel into something I can use.

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  7. This book sounds so good, and I love the cover! Best wishes to C. Lee McKenzie on her new release. It's on my to-read list.

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    1. Karen, you are always a sweetheart. Thank you for supporting C. Lee!

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    2. Hi, Karen. You came down the mountain to say hello! Thank you so much. And thank you for adding Alligators Overhead to your list. I'm honored.

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    3. Hi, Karen. You came down the mountain to say hello! Thank you so much. And thank you for adding Alligators Overhead to your list. I'm honored.

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  8. I loved the Jello analogy. :D Brilliant, as always!

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    1. Carrie, I loved it too. Totally applicable, right?

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    2. Thanks, Carrie. Glad it worked to convey the idea. Appreciate your stopping in today.

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  9. I love that advice!

    I've had some story ideas come to me through titles, but most of the time I struggle with naming a book.

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    1. Me too. And the book title is so important! Sometimes I'll read a book based on the title alone. No pressure though, right ;)

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    2. Titles aren't my strong suit, Eagle. This one was a gift from the guy who invented knotty pine.

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  10. I write in a straight forward process and it always amazing me that someone can write scenes out of order. There's just so many processes out there. Isn't it wonderful that we can all come up with our stories in different ways but get the same end results: a good book?

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    1. Traci, I'm with you...I'm amazed at all the different approaches out there. I even love stealing great work ideas from other writers. I've heard of writers writing scenes out of order, and I wonder how in the heck they do that. My mind is linear also, and I'd be a total goofball with that. Even in revision, I have to do it in order. Sheesh!

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  11. The book sounds fun! Perfect for the MG age group. Thanks for the information and advice on self-publishing!

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    1. Linda, thank YOU for stopping by! I loved C. Lee's advice about self-publishing. And yes, how can middle graders resist Alligators Overhead?

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    2. Thanks, Linda. How great to see you here!

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    3. Thanks, Linda. How great to see you here!

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    4. Thanks, Linda. How great to see you here!

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  12. The trailer is very intriguing (excellent job!), and the reviews sound great. Just got my copy from Amazon and added to my e-collection. Much success to you C. Lee!

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    1. Linda, you are so sweet! Thanks so much for supporting Lee and her fun book.

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    2. Thanks, Linda. So appreciate your taking the time to leave a comment here with your good wishes.

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  13. Nice article, thanks for sharing.

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  14. I'm reading Alligators Overhead to my new class starting on Day 1. I can't wait to experience it with them. I LOVE Lee's voice and sense of humor. Yeah, I'm gonna get right that math lesson - NOT.

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    1. I'm so excited about what your class thinks! Math? What's that? Sorry. I don't really mean that.

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  15. Julie, you are a fabulous hostess. I so appreciate this. Not only have I met some great new people, but I've had a great time.

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