Please welcome Zanna Mackenzie, author of the Amber Reed CCIA Mysteries and other works.
What’s your idea of a perfect day?
I would say that it is being out in the countryside with my husband, walking our dogs and then having a picnic for lunch. Later, a spot of gardening perhaps, followed by some reading, then a treat of cheese, crackers and crisps for tea before cuddling up on the sofa with my husband to watch some chill-out TV.
Do you have a signature accessory, color, fragrance, phrase, or meal?
I adore scarves and have lots of them in various colours, fabrics and weights for all occasions and seasons so I’d say that’s probably my signature accessory. My favourite colour would be deep pink, though it’s a close thing between that and lilac-purple! I used to be a clinical aromatherapist so I love the smell of pure essential oils, my favourite one is rose oil. Favourite food, that’s easy, mature cheddar cheese, crackers and crisps on a tray in front of the TV!
Excluding family, name three people who either inspired you or influenced your creativity.
Ooh, that’s a tricky one! I love reading so there are many authors whose work I have read and admired and who, in my days before I got my publishing deals, shared words of encouragement with me via social media and author groups and inspired and motivated me creatively. The three which spring to mind as urging me not to give up and to be true to my writing voice when I was a struggling aspiring writer are Jill Mansell, Katie Fforde and Julia Williams but really there are too many kind and supportive authors out there to mention, they’re all amazing!
Do you listen to music when you write?
Yes, often. It’s usually in the background and varies enormously. Some days I opt for chill-out music, others it’s heavy rock or dance-around-the-room pop music.
If your latest book were chocolate, what kind would it be and why?
That is a very difficult question. Mmm, let’s see. I’d probably say it’s something like a fruit and nut milk chocolate as it’s quite light and fun with elements of nutty comedy!
What made you interested in writing this particular story?
I’d read a lot within the chicklit /cozy mystery genre and wanted to create my own version of a story which combined romance and comedy with solving a murder mystery. I opted for writing in the cozy mystery genre because I didn’t want to write anything too scary, violent or gory! I wanted to capture a mix of romance, comedy and mystery. My previous books are romantic comedies so I wanted to build on this and bring in the mystery aspect. I also wanted to give the book a bit of a twist that made it different so I developed the CCIA, as a play on the CIA. I thought the world of celebrities would offer a lot of scope for plots so I invented the CCIA – the Celebrity Crime Investigation Agency.
For And The Earth Moved I had these characters in my head (Charlie and Amber) and wanted to create lots of fun and scary adventures to send them on. I had so many ideas that I knew straight away Charlie and Amber would be the key players in a whole series of books so I could get them crime solving in all sorts of exciting locations – from snow covered ski chalets and remote Scottish islands to bustling Canadian cities and the hills and moors of Derbyshire’s Peak District.
What themes do you regularly (re)visit in your writing?
Facing your fears. I think a character in a novel has to be challenged in some way, to learn and grow from their experiences, so really it’s all about fears and finding the courage to face up to them. Fears can be about all sorts of things, such as falling in love, trying a new career, overcoming a fear of heights, learning to do something better, learning to trust, trying to believe in yourself. In fact, Amber has to get to grips with all of the aforementioned in And The Earth Moved, book one in the Amber Reed CCIA Mysteries.
Tell us about your main character’s psyche or personality. What led her (or him) to be the person s/he is today?
Amber’s a contrary mixture of personality traits. Sometimes she’s lacking in confidence and doubts she can do things well – for example, she’s a terrible driver. On the other hand she can sometimes be a bit headstrong and go off and do something without thinking of the consequences, which, when she becomes part of a murder investigation, can put her in great danger. She can be a bit of a joker but she’s also very determined if she feels so inclined. She’s just your average person, trying to cope with everything life throws at her, trying to make a better life, looking for Mr Right, wanting to stretch herself but at the same time worried what will happen if she does!
Describe your protagonist as a mash-up of three famous people or characters.
Amber is fun but has a serious side too. In that respect she’s similar to the character of Audrey Parker, the police detective in the TV series Haven. I picture Amber as looking a lot like Audrey too – long strawberry blonde hair, pale skin and a warm smile. She has a mischievous playful side to her personality, similar to Elizabeth Bennett in Pride & Prejudice. She can be stubborn and go off and do something even if she’s not supposed – sometimes it works out OK and other times it doesn’t. I’d say in this respect she’s rather like Lorelai from the TV series Gilmore Girls.
If you could host an author dinner party, who are the six writers (living or otherwise) you’d include?
What’s next for you?
I’m hoping it will be lots more in the Amber Reed CCIA Mysteries . Book three, set in a celebrity-filled snow-covered ski chalet, should be out this summer, closely followed by book four, which will land Charlie and Amber in the middle of a murder investigation in Vancouver.
Zanna Mackenzie lives in the UK with her husband, 3 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!
Goodreads – http://www.goodreads.com/user/show/10703273-zanna-mackenzie
Amazon Author Page – http://www.amazon.co.uk/Zanna-Mackenzie/e/B00BKY1A18/ref=ntt_dp_epwbk_0