Visiting with Zanna Mackenzie

Hi Zanna. Welcome to my blog. Let’s get started.

If_You_Only_Knew_2Have you had other careers before becoming a writer?

Yes, I have, many of them! When I was at college I worked part time as a dental nurse which is weird because I hate going to the dentist and am an extremely squeamish person! My first full time job was as a travel agent and I loved reading all the glossy brochures and dreaming over the photos of exotic places. Later I worked on researching and writing brochures for the UK tourism market which was great fun. I got to visit lots of local tourist attractions, towns and pretty villages and write about them. After that I worked in admin for a vegetarian charity and started writing for their magazine which then lead to my job for a chamber of commerce as writer, editor and proof reader of their business publications. I still do this job now but working from home on a self-employed freelance basis. Along the way I have also worked in a tourist information centre, a health food shop and as a therapist – I have qualifications in aromatherapy, nutrition, crystal healing and herbalism.

What inspired your latest book?

I love setting my books in favourite UK locations of mine and have written books set in the Scottish Highlands, North Yorkshire, the Lake District and now, in If You Only Knew, the Peak District in Derbyshire. The village in the book was inspired by the village of Castleton in the Peaks. I was fascinated by the area around Castleton with all the caves and hills, it’s a real outdoor and extreme sports mecca, and the book grew from that. Once I had the ‘where’ in place and the key settings of the café and the extreme sports centre, the characters and ideas just popped into my head. The original outline plot idea and the eventual plot do share some similarities but there were lots of changes along the way as the book unfolded!

I recently discovered the joys of PInterest and had great fun setting up a mood board for If You Only Knew which contains pictures of the village, the scenery, how Faith’s coffee shop might look and photos of the famous people who visually inspired the characters of Zane, Faith and Matt. The If You Only Knew PInterest board can be viewed via this link:

What is your favorite part of writing?

I love creating the characters for a book. I have the plot outlined and then start to build a detailed bio for each character including how they look, their star sign, age, jobs, where they grew up, family background, their issues and worries, what they like, what they dislike, their romantic history and much, much more. I have some great books for writers about astrology which detail how people from certain star signs behave, their ambitions, their concerns, their strength and weakness etc and I find these books invaluable when I’m doing character creation.

What is your least favorite part of writing?

Writing the actual book! No, seriously, I love writing and get totally caught up in the plot, the setting and the characters (and usually end up developing a huge crush on the hero in the book!) but my problem is that I’m quite an impatient person and I always feel as though I can’t write fast enough. So, in some ways the writing process itself is both my favourite and least favourite part of creating a book.

How likely are people you meet to end up in your next book?

Not at all – they’re quite safe! I don’t use real life people at all, not even an aspect of a personality, in my books. My characters are completely made up via the requirements of the plot and the star sign I give them, their motivations etc and they are usually visually inspired by actors I see in films and TV programmes.

Was your road to publication difficult or a walk in the park?

A bit of both. I was part of a new writers appraisal scheme and the idea was to complete a manuscript and submit it for critique by a published (anonymous) author in your genre. My first year critique was very positive and I was delighted. My critique the following year on another book could best be described as ‘blah and bland’ and in my third year another novel was totally trashed in its critique. At which point I gave up on writing, thoroughly confused and disillusioned. I didn’t write for a few years and then one day my husband encouraged me to write again, to totally revamp the previous books and edit them to my own style and voice rather than doing what everyone else told me to write. I spent ages working on changing the books and then I did nothing with them after that until my husband nagged me (again!) to start sending the books out to publishers for consideration. I sent one book to a publisher in America and another to a UK publisher and told myself to forget about them whilst mentally preparing myself for the rejection emails from them. Within one month the American publisher came back and said they loved the book and offered me a contract. I couldn’t believe it, I was stunned. I cried. I danced around the room. One week later an email arrived from the UK publisher about the other book I had sent out. They liked what they had read so far and asked me to send them the full manuscript. I duly sent it off to them, convinced I couldn’t be lucky enough to sell that book too. Two months later they came back to me and said they wanted to publish the book and offered me a contract. Cue more crying and dancing around the room. In Feb 2013 my first book, The Love Programme, was launched, closely followed in March 2013 by my second book, How Do You Spell Love? My third book, If You Only Knew, was launched in Feb 2014, by the same UK publisher who launched my second book.

Give us an elevator pitch for your book.

Faith owns The Coffee Pot in the outdoor adventure sports mecca of Derbyshire’s Peak District. She hasn’t had a man in her life for a while, as she’s been too busy serving cakes to weary rock climbers and mountain bikers to find time for the complications of a relationship with the male of the species.

At least, that’s what she tells herself. The truth is that since she got her heart broken she’s had problems trusting men.

When she meets Zane, one of the new owners at the Carrdale Extreme Sports Centre, Faith finds herself enjoying his company even though part of her can’t help wondering why he’s so reluctant to talk about himself.

Then the past comes back to haunt her in the shape of Zane’s business partner Matt, who just happens to be the guy who broke Faith’s heart all those years ago.
With Matt out to cause trouble and Zane keeping secrets Faith’s life is about to get very complicated indeed…

SONY DSCDo you have a view in your writing space? What does your space look like?

Yes, I’m lucky in that I do have a view of the garden. Our living area is all open plan so the kitchen leads into the dining and lounge space at the back of the house. I have a desk right in the middle of things and it’s also where our 4 dogs sleep as well! It can be a bit chaotic at times but I love it. (NB- have attached a photo if you want to use it)

Tell us about your hero. Give us one of his strengths and one of his weaknesses.

Zane is an outdoor sports instructor specializing in rock and ice climbing. He’s been living in Austria for several years but has just returned to the UK as the co-owner of the Carrdale Extreme Sports Centre. The past has made him cautious about relationships and he isn’t looking to get involved, but when he meets Faith who runs the local coffee shop he finds himself forgetting how he’d planned to focus solely on matters of business instead of matters of the heart. Zane’s strength is a fierce determination to get what he wants when it comes to achieving his dreams. His weakness would be his vulnerability when it comes to trust and relationships.

Tell us about your heroine. Give us one of her strengths and one of her weaknesses.

Faith is the owner of a coffee shop and a woman using her work as an excuse for avoiding relationships. She’s independent and strong willed and soon realizes Zane is holding something back from her about his past. Though at times she is frustrated by him she refuses to give up on finding out what made him the way he is and trying to help him move on from it. Her weakness? An inability to let go of things which are holding her back and hurting her emotionally.

This couldn’t be happening.

Zane had said his business partner was called Matt. She was sure of it. Yes, he’d definitely just introduced him as Matt. But the man standing before her wasn’t Matt.

It was Aaron.

Faith wiped her hands on a tea–towel. She wanted to speak, but couldn’t get her brain into gear enough to make her mouth form the words.

She’d thought Aaron was gone from her life.

It looked as though she was wrong.

She took a step back, wrapping her arms around herself. Suddenly she felt cold and shaky. Aaron was back? This was impossible.

Yet here he was, standing in her kitchen. She felt dizzy and light-headed.

How should she react? Should she admit they knew each other? Why had Aaron changed his name to Matt anyway? Would he prefer it if the fact they knew each other was kept quiet?

But she knew she couldn’t keep something like that from Zane.

As she debated what to say and do next, the room remained awkwardly silent. Zane was looking at her questioningly.

What should she say?

Come on, think, woman. Think.

Too late. Aaron spoke first.

“Faith, it’s amazing to see you again after all these years.”

OK. So he didn’t want to keep it a secret that they already knew each other.

“Aaron,” she managed to say. “This is a bit of a shock.”

“That’s an understatement,” Matt replied, stepping forward to pull her into a hug.

“Hang on a second,” Zane said, pushing into the room. “Aaron? That’s your proper name isn’t it?” He raised enquiring eyebrows at Matt. “What’s going on? You two already know each other?”

Buy Links

*Amazon UK

*Amazon USA

ZannaM_scale_2Author bio:

Zanna Mackenzie lives on the Derbyshire/Leicestershire border with her husband, 4 dogs, a vegetable patch that’s home to far too many weeds and an ever expanding library of books waiting to be read.

Being a freelance writer and editor of business publications is her ‘day job’ but, at every opportunity, she can be found scribbling down notes on scenes for whatever novel she’s working on. She loves it when the characters in her novels take on minds of their own and start deviating from the original plot!

If You Only Knew is Zanna’s third novel; her previous books The Love Programme, and How Do You Spell Love? were both published in 2013.

Find out more about Zanna on her blog, on Twitter via @ZannaMacKenzie or on Facebook at

4 thoughts on “Visiting with Zanna Mackenzie

  1. Love your Pinterest page, Zanna 🙂 The landscape pics bring back all sorts of memories. It sounds like a fun read! Good luck with it, hope it sells like hotcakes for you. And give that hubby of yours a hug; it sounds like he knows a good writer when he lives with one 😉

    • Thanks Maggie, glad you liked the pics on PInterest! I will indeed give my hubbie a thank you hug when he gets home from work, I’m very lucky he encouraged me to try again with my writing and got me to send my work out to publishers for consideration.

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