Lee, we first met via cyberspace almost ten years ago and I’m delighted to say that we have stay connected through our writing and publishing journeys. We reside in different parts of the United States, but through technology the connection is authentic.
Now to catch up, I’m curious as I am sure our visitors are:
Donna: Your publishing career covers several genres. How many books do you have published? Please share the titles, genre, publisher and synopsis of each.
Lee: You’ve made me reach back into my dim publishing past, Donna. Let me see, my first young adult book was Sliding on the Edge (Westside Books, 2009). In a nutshell, here’s the story: Scared. Alone. Can sixteen-year-old Shawna Stone overcome her inner suffering and transcend the past?
The Princessof Las Pulgas came next (Westside Books, 2010). The synopsis is “Carlie Edmund has everything, and then suddenly almost nothing. Follow Carlie and her family as they rebuild their lives.”
In 2012 Evernight Teen published Double Negative, my third YA, I wanted to take on the issue of illiteracy, and this was the book I did it in. Here’s what this book is about: Hutch McQueen is trapped in a dysfunctional family and shackled by near-illiteracy. Once he's arrested, his dream of escaping dies.
When he's sentenced to an after-school youth program, he goes, but won't take part. The question is will Hutch come around in time? Will he grab this last chance and finally find the freedom he craves?
That same year, Evernight Teen also published Sudden Secrets and I was back to a female protagonist. This time I focused on bigotry. In this book Cleo Brown is concealing a terrible secret when she accidentally stumbles onto another terrible secret in a mysterious and apparently deserted house.
So that’s my past as far a young adult books go. I also have four middle grade stories. Three I self-published: Sign of the Green Dragon (2016). This one was a kick to write because I really love Chinese mythology and mysteries. In this story, three boys discover a skeleton clutching a crumbling note with a treasure map from the 1800s, trace the story of an old murder, stumble into a modern crime, and confront ancient Chinese dragons.
AlligatorsOverhead came out in 2018 (2nd Ed), and as it happens became the first in what I call the Adventures of Pete and Weasel. Book two was The Great Time Lock Disaster followed by the last one, Some Very Messy Medieval Magic (Dancing Lemur Press, 2018). All of the stories are about two boys on different magical adventures: saving a swamp from bulldozers, stopping a war between the alligators and the town, traveling back in time to close the time lock, then again in the last book to find someone who had been lost in another time.
The middle grade books are where I just have fun and write about things I really wish I could do. They also clear my head so I can think about more serious topics.
Donna: All of your characters are unique. How do you keep each storyline and character different from one another?
Lee: I have had some interesting moments when I’m writing and suddenly I think, “Wait! I had another character who said that same thing, felt that same way, didn’t I?” But when I check, I can’t find that duplication. Maybe I considered that phrase or that feeling in another book, but I didn’t use it. I am dipping from the same well, so I have to be very careful each bucket comes up with a fresh supply, and that means doing a thorough search whenever I’m in doubt.
The storylines are a bit easier because I do tackle different main themes: cutting and suicide, devastating loss, illiteracy and neglect, bigotry, and lastly friendship and injustice are unique and the stories that come from them are, too.
Donna: What is your process in creating your characters? Do you create a profile outline or other technique?
Lee: I hear a lot about profiles and outlines, and I do think they are a good idea. My problem is I can’t do it. I can outline a textbook or a science project, no problem, but when I’m writing a story that is purely fiction, there’s no way on earth I can sit down and itemize anything about my characters. To me it’s like dissecting something. I could never put whatever fell under my knife back into the organic original that I imagined.
Donna: What is your process in creating your storylines? Do you create an outline, free write or other technique?
Lee: I’m a pantser, and that is a terrible way to write books, so I don’t recommend it to anyone who isn’t firmly committed to this free-range method. You have to do a lot of back-pedaling, re-writing, re-organizing. I do start with a three sentence statement of what I think I’m aiming for. I put that in my header, and I adjust it whenever the story takes off in a different direction. When I really get stuck, I write the ending, and then go back and aim for it—kind of like engineers do when they drill underground tunnels. They calculate where they want to come out, put an X on that spot and start at the other end. There are degrees of success with this method.
Donna: Your latest book, Not Guilty was published by Evernight Teen in October 2019. I’ve had the honor of reading and reviewing an Advanced Readers Copy from your publisher and the topic of being wrongfully accused is handled beautifully. What inspired you to tackle this topic from a spiritual angle? Please see my review on my January 24th blog post. https://donna-mcdine.blogspot.com/2020/01/book-review-not-guilty-by-c-lee-mckenzie.html
Lee: This book had a couple of iterations. I knew I wanted to write about injustice, and I think I was into my mystical, ghostly period when I did my first draft because the story came out with a much different look than I intended. My agent liked it, but the book—maybe the characters—nagged at me until I asked for it back. I wanted to do a “little fiddling” with it. Well, it turned into an entirely different book, and the theme of injustice almost took a backseat to the one of friendship. There were no ghosts, there was no mystical aspect, I was back into my comfort zone of contemporary/realistic young adult. I think I may have left some spiritual residue while I was fiddling, but there’s not much more that remains of the first version.
Donna: Please share with our readers your current work-in-progress, your marketing strategy and how to reach you.
Lee: I’m straddling a few projects at the moment. One is with my agent and is a multiple point of view book with a sociopath at the center causing grief. I’ve titled it Retro Girl. On my C drive I have Revenge Mountain that has only gone out to one reader so far. I didn’t have enough ghosts after I tore apart Not Guilty, so I wrote a ghostly kind of witchy tale to satisfy my craving. Then I’ve just finished a first draft of my first adult book I’ve called The Woman Who Learned to Fly. It’s a story of a young skier and her life after a tragic accident. This one has connected me with some interesting human beings in the health care industry. I hope a publisher will like it enough to take it on.
Lee, it’s been an honor to interview and profile you at Write What Inspires You! Wishing you all the very best personally and professionally.
You always ask the best questions, Donna. I loved answering these.
Lee, I’m delighted you enjoyed our time together.
Thank you for your interest and time in visiting with Lee.
Donna M. McDine
Multi Award-winning Children's Author
Ignite curiosity in your child through reading!
Angel's Forever Home ~ March 2019 ~ Mascot Books ~ 2019 Purple Dragonfly Honorable Mention Picture Books Six and Older
Dee and Deb Off They Go Kindergarten First Day Jitters ~ December 2015 ~ Guardian Angel Publishing, Inc. ~ 2016 Purple Dragonfly Honorable Mention Picture Books Five and Under and Story Monster Approved
A Sandy Grave ~ January 2014 ~ Guardian Angel Publishing, Inc. ~ 2014 Purple Dragonfly 1st Place Picture Books 6+, Story Monster Approved, Beach Book Festival Honorable Mention 2014 and Reader's Favorite Five Star Review
Powder Monkey ~ May 2013 ~ Guardian Angel Publishing, Inc. ~ 2015 Purple Dragonfly Book Award Historical Fiction 1st Place, Story Monster Approved and Reader's Favorite Five Star Review
Hockey Agony ~ January 2013 ~ Guardian Angel Publishing, Inc. ~ 2015 Purple Dragonfly Book Award Honorable Mention Picture Books 6+, New England Book Festival Honorable Mention 2014, Story Monster Approved and Reader's Favorite Five Star Review
The Golden Pathway ~ August 2010 ~ Guardian Angel Publishing, Inc. ~ Literary Classics Silver Award and Seal of Approval, Readers Favorite 2012 International Book Awards Honorable Mention and Dan Poynter's Global e-Book Awards Finalist