Thursday, June 7, 2018

Interview with mystery writer C. Lee McKenzie

Today is the eighth interview in a series with the authors of

Tick Tock: A Stitch in Crime
An Insecure Writer’s Support Group Anthology

About the anthology:
The clock is ticking...

Can a dead child’s cross-stitch pendant find a missing nun? Is revenge possible in just 48 minutes? Can a killer be stopped before the rescuers are engulfed by a city ablaze? Who killed what the tide brought in? Can a soliloquizing gumshoe stay out of jail?

Exploring the facets of time, eleven authors delve into mysteries and crimes that linger in both dark corners and plain sight. Featuring the talents of Gwen Gardner, Rebecca M. Douglass, Tara Tyler, S. R. Betler, C.D. Gallant-King, Jemi Fraser, J. R. Ferguson, Yolanda RenĂ©e, C. Lee McKenzie, Christine Clemetson, and Mary Aalgaard.

Hand-picked by a panel of agents and authors, these eleven tales will take you on a thrilling ride into jeopardy and secrecy. Trail along, find the clues, and stay out of danger. Time is wasting...

“Each story is fast paced, grabbing the reader from the beginning.”
- Readers' Favorite, 5 stars

Founded by author Alex J. Cavanaugh, the Insecure Writer’s Support Group offers support for writers and authors alike. It provides an online database, articles and tips, a monthly blog posting, a Facebook and Instagram group, Twitter, and a monthly newsletter.

So far, we’ve had C.D. Gallant-King (on April 19), Gwen Gardner (on April 26), Jemi Fraser (on May 2), Christine Clemetson (on May 11), Rebecca M. Douglass (on May 15), Yolanda Renee (May 23), J.R. Ferguson (on May 31), and now C. Lee McKenzie is here to chat about her crime thriller short story called “Heartless.”

Welcome, Lee. Please tell us a little bit about yourself.
I have a background in Linguistics and Inter-Cultural Communication, but these days I write for young readers. Some Very Messy Medieval Magick is the third book in the time-travel adventures of Pete and Weasel, with Alligators Overhead and The Great Timelock Disaster being the first two. Sign of the Green Dragon, another book for young readers, jumps into ancient Chinese dragon myths and a quest for treasure.

My young adult work is represented by Italia Gandolfo. I’ve published four young adult novels: Sliding on the Edge, The Princess of Las Pulgas, Double Negative, and Sudden Secrets. When I’m not writing I’m hiking or traveling or practicing yoga or asking a lot questions about things I still don’t understand.

What do you enjoy most about writing short stories?
They’re short. Seriously. After putting together 70K words and wrestling all those threads into a pattern that makes a good tale, I love the focus that the short story gives. Of course, that doesn’t make them easy to write, just a different challenge.

Can you give us a little insight into a few of your short stories – perhaps some of your favorites?
I loved writing Premeditated Cat (2011) and Matilijas (2018) and now Heartless. These are as different as any three stories can be. The first is about a teen escaping from a brute of a step-father. She applies her art talent that brings things to life and ends her oppressive situation at home. With Matilijas, I went a bit literary and into a grieving woman’s soul. Heartless let me expose my darker side with a touch of horror. I set this one during the great Chicago fire of the nineteenth century because I wanted a larger horror to loom over characters while they were up against the ticking clock to save a life.

What genre are you inspired to write in the most? Why?
I mostly write what the book business markets as Young Adult. Most of my readers are in their twenties, and I have some in their sixties, so the term “Young Adult” is quite broad. I like to write in this fiction category because it’s a time of life when there are so many choices, and it’s a time of life when there’s the greatest potential for the choices we make to impact the rest of our lives.

What exciting story are you working on next?
Right now, I’d say this thing I have under construction is far from exciting. It’s at the stage of “What was I thinking?” However, if I ever sort out the mystery of what to do next, this will be a Young Adult story about treating people badly because they’re different from us. I’m couching it in a ghostly fantasy, something I haven’t really tried in YA.

When did you first consider yourself a writer?
I’m still thinking about that. I’ve always loved to write, and it seemed like a logical extension of loving to read—the other side of the coin I guess you could say. I’m looking ahead now to when I can consider myself a good writer.

How do you research markets for your work, perhaps as some advice for writers?
I used to go to bookstores and look at the shelves. Since most of our bookstores are gone (insert a great lament here) Now I look at what’s being checked out at the library or what's being reviewed well on Amazon. If you can’t attend conferences, there are blogs that feature agents and editors. Those are great resources for writers to find out what people are interested in managing and selling.

What would you say is your interesting writing quirk?
I often write with my eyes closed. I learned two things by doing that: 1) I see the story so much better that way and 2) I should always make sure to have my fingers on the right keys before starting typing.

As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
An archeologist. I went around for years digging up stuff. I was actually fairly “successful” at discovering small artifacts people left behind. My mother didn’t apply the term successful, but she let me keep a lot of what I found. I called them buried treasures. The discovery of Troy and King Tut’s tomb had a powerful impact on me.

Anything additional you want to share with the readers?
Thanks for reading to The End. I hope you read and enjoy the collection of stories in Tick Tock: A Stitch in Crime. I’ve read all of them and they are quite good. I’m not just saying that because I have a place in the anthology. I’m very proud to be included among such strong writers.

Thanks for joining me today, Lee.

Tick Tock links:

Purchase links:


Gwen Gardner said...

What an awesome mom to let you keep most of your finds! LOL. I've always found archaeology so interesting.I'm pretty patient, but once the summer heat hit I'd fold ;)

Thanks for hosting, Lisa!

cleemckenzie said...

Thanks, Lisa. It was great to be featured on your blog. Tick Tock A Stitch in Crime has been an exciting anthology to be a part of.

Hi Gwen! Mom was tolerant in that area. I think she knew it was a passing phase. :-)

Mary Aalgaard said...

Great interview. I'm imagining you with your eyes shut and fingers poised over the keys! Great way to visualize your story. I am also honored and thrilled to be included in an anthology with so many fantastic writers!

Rebecca M. Douglass said...

Great interview! Good advice about positioning the fingers correctly before you type.

I let my boys collect bones. We still have a box of them on the shelf in their room. It's important for parents not to be squeamish :)

Jemi Fraser said...

LOL - moms are awesome! :)
Lee is a fabulous writer (I ADORE Pete & Weasel and their adventures!) and Heartless is a great story!

Anonymous said...

I hope my comment posts. Computer problems, the fan on my laptop died. So trying to go anonymous here since this isn't my computer. Loved the interview, Lee! Thanks again, Lisa, for hosting us! This is Renee, by the way. :)