Today, I’ve the honor to pick the brains of a wonderful blogger friend by the name of C. Lee McKenzie, (she of the awesome sauce blog, The Write Game.Aloha Lee,
Thanks for dropping in and agreeing to be my latest
Aloha back! I only wish I could say that to you in person. It's been too long since my last visit to the islands. Gotta do something about that!
In late July, you published your first MG book, Alligators Overhead. Sincere congrats on that, but I have to ask: Why alligators? You seem very nice and normal, and alligators are mean and abnormal (I lived in Central Florida for three years and one nearly ate me…)First, thanks for the "nice and normal" compliment, Mark. You obviously haven't talked to my family or you might not have written that about me. Sorry about the traumatic alligator encounter. That would put me off those critters for sure, but they've been on planet earth for over 65 million years, so they got here first. We have to give them some space and what better place than a lovely swamp?
So why alligators? I guess I wanted to write a story without a cat in it for a change. There are cat stories all over the place . . . and dog and horse ones, too. In my opinion, alligators are underrepresented. And as for those cats, well, I love cats or I did. Have you read the news on my blog about what those cats are up to? They want to ban my book. Very unreasonable demands! They're calling for a total rewrite of the story, taking out the alligators and putting themselves in as the witch familiars. This is a battle, but I'm determined to win.
Am I allowed to be bold? Why C. Lee? (I’ve always wondered what the C stands for :)
|C. Lee McKenzie|
How did you come up with some of those awesome character names like Lucy Thricewater… she must have a very clean and filtered family history JClean and filtered she is, indeed. Each of the characters needed something special about them and I began with their names. (Do you see some kind of pattern in my life? Naming seems to be important. Maybe that came from something in my childhood.) The problem about the names in this book is that I had to put them into my spell check so I could spell them the same way throughout book. I mean Stiltencranz and Wartgob and Frankenhoff aren't too easy to say, let alone spell. But I loved the quirky names and they fit the quirkiness of the story. I kept the MC pretty common (Pete Riley), but then I had to tweak his sidekick's name a bit. I had a neighbor once that we called Weasel. He hated that nickname. Hope he has a good laugh if he ever reads my story. Either that or he'll write me a nasty letter to tell me how much hated me for calling him Weasel lo these many years ago.
If *they* said you could not be an author, and you had no choice, what is the one job you would most least like to do – and why?How about witch for what I'd like most to be? That's an ancient and honorable job. They don't burn witches anymore, do they? That would be a downside to that career choice. I'd least like to be night watch woman. I'd also be almost totally unemployed, too. I'm an early riser, and I'm definitely an early to bed person. If I had to guard anything after ten, whatever I was guarding would pretty much be up for the taking. So there you have it: witch woman but not watch woman.
Can you remember when you finished your first ever story? How old were you, and what was it about?I was about 8. It was actually a play about vegetables. (You're laughing? And that would be because . . . ?) I took my play seriously, and I created my cast only after giving it a lot of thought. There was Miss Tomato, Mr. Cabbage, Mrs. Carrot, and I think an onion or two. When I cast my play I could recruit the tomato and the carrot, but no kids wanted to play the cabbage or the onions. I had to do a rewrite and make the cabbage into a cucumber. I forget what the onions became. It was first experience with critics.
Someone gives you $5,000 to give away. You’re not allowed to spend it on friends or family, or donate it directly to a cause... but you do have to spend the money in a charitable way. How would you pay it forward?That's easy. I'd buy up tons of books and send to libraries all over the world, especially ones that were small and in poor areas where they needed books for young readers. Could you make that $10,000?
Wow… You’ve been blogging since 2007. How did you first hear about “web logs,” and was it like just you and like six other people here on Blogger? (I bet one was Alex J. Cavanaugh :)Yep. Them was the good old days. To tell the truth, I hated blogging. I only did it because my editor told me I should. I not only hated it, I was rotten at it. Then I started connecting with writers and readers and that changed how I looked at this new way of sharing ideas. I started enjoying it. I started having a lot of fun. I'm glad I kept at it. I mean if I hadn't, I never would have joined the A to Z Blogging Challenge. I never would have met you or all the other great bloggers!
I'm finishing up another MG fantasy adventure, but it's another stand alone and it doesn't have any alligators in it . . . No cat either. I have a hard time with series. I can read them; I just don't think I have the talent for writing them. I'm also in the final stages of a rewrite on another YA that I hope to put out next year. In between those two books, I hope to get away and find an island paradise where I can locate some inspiration for some future stories. Any suggestions in your neck of the woods, er, water? (Stay away from Tahiti… they’re always filming The Final Bachelorette there…)
Reading your five fabulous moments here I’m going to hazard a guess you don’t live in Manhattan or Downtown Chicago. Are you all country – or a recent import?I'm a long time hick. I love visiting cities, but they make me jittery after a while. If I have a perfect day it has to be a walk in the forest or along a creek. My next best one is a sandy beach day. I really love the sounds that nature make and prefer them over our noisy man-made ones.
You walk into a classroom, full of first-year writers, and you’re *the* teacher. What three points would you want to impress on this group of fresh, eager author-interns JFirst, I'd ask if they've consider coal mining? It's honest work and when they go home at night they won't have to face letters of rejection or critiques about their current WIP. Seriously, I guess I'd want them to know that everyone can write stories. Then I'd want them to know that not everyone can write them well, but they can learn with practice and by paying attention to good writing. Third, I'd want them to know that if they are truly passionate about writing and sharing their stories with others, they can never give up. Giving up is the only sure way to guarantee failure.
Lee, thanks so much for taking the time to answer my random questions – and much success with Alligators Overhead.What great questions, Mark. You did your research! I really appreciate the time you took to put this together.
Alligators Overhead is available from Amazon and a variety of sources via Lee's blog, The Write Game.