Hello friends! I bring to you…a little late…the author of April, C.K. McKenzie. I just read her book The legendary Haunting of Quentin Wallis. I will share my review of that book as soon as it is posted on the ReadingBud. But, C.K. was awesome and agreed to do an interview this month. So here it is!
- What inspired the Quentin Wallis novel?
I really wanted to write a book set on Halloween, but I didn’t want to go down the traditional horror route which left me free to do whatever I wanted. I played around with quite a few ideas and it became a gathering together of many things that I love. I drew in elements of traditional gothic literature but mixed it up with a little dark comedy, romance and some adventure.
In terms of what influenced me, it could be everything from ‘Northanger Abbey’ to ‘Sleepy Hollow’, ‘The Princess Bride’ to ‘The Addams Family’, to the illustrations of Edward Gorey, the slapstick dark comedy of classic movies like ‘Arsenic and Old Lace’ or even the early horror films of ‘Frankenstein’ and ‘Dracula’
- Are any of your characters modeled after any celebrities?
Not really, I rarely find myself inspired by celebrities, but there are a lot of film references in the book. However, since reading the book, one of my friends who’s a big fan of Criminal Minds thinks that Quentin reminds her of Matthew Gray Gubler – although everything reminds her of MGG!
- What kind of research did you have to put into your novel?
I was already obsessed with Halloween so I had that aspect well and truly covered, but I found myself doing a lot of reading about the early history of the USA and New England because while there are a lot of fantasy elements it was important that the story and the place have a solid grounding in reality. Mostly though I did a lot of sketching – it was my way of getting to know the place and the people – so I have piles of these pencil drawings.
- When did you decide to become a writer?
There was never really a time in my life when I wasn’t writing or making up stories but the idea really solidified when I was 17. I was in my final year of school and my English teacher suggested that I should give writing a try. I spent the next year writing my first book, which was so bad that I burned it but I loved the experience so much that I immediately started in on the second one and I haven’t stopped writing since.
- What made you decided to self-publish as opposed to traditional publishing?
Quentin Wallis doesn’t fit neatly into a genre category. I knew it was going to be tough to get an agent or publisher onboard so I decided to go ahead and publish independently. I also wanted to give independent publishing a real go to see what it was all about, work out the pro’s and con’s for myself. I’d also been in a position in the past where I had an agent interested in a manuscript, he took it on and then nothing happened with it – for two years it was on a shelf while our agreement slowly expired. It was one of the most demoralising and frustrating experiences.
- How do you set aside time to write? And do you have a daily word or page goal?
I write every day – it’s a habit I developed early on and I’ve kept to it. There are days when I work more on screenplays than books and vice versa depending on deadlines and sometimes I don’t write very much but no day is complete without it. I set goals but these have to pretty flexible to fit around the other things I do.
- What did you find to be the hardest part about writing?
Never having enough time to write.
- How long did you work on this novel?
I was playing around with ideas for a few years, trying things out and thinking about it while I worked on other things, but once I decided to go ahead and get it done it was about ten months.
- What made you feel that you needed to write this particular story?
Everything else I was working on at the time was very serious so I was looking for something more upbeat. I also think that there are far too many books where it’s the woman who has to wait around to be “saved” by the dashing hero and I wanted to see what I could do if I turned that literary convention on its head
- Will the Quentin Wallis story become a series or is this a stand-alone novel?
I originally thought that this would be the only story. It’s very different from the other books I’ve written, but there’s a lot of material that didn’t make it into the book so I will at some point write another one. I haven’t finished with Quentin and Nell just yet. I also hope to release an illustrated edition at some point.
- What comes next, after this story? What other kind of books do we have to look forward to from you?
I have a number of projects that I’m working on.
My next self published piece will probably be a novella ‘Yesterday Today Tomorrow’ which is about unrequited love and loss of identity. I’m also writing a companion book to a short film I wrote, ‘Repossessed’, and which we’ve just finished filming. In the meantime there’s a couple of other projects, both novels, one of which is being polished up now in order to send it off to agents and publishers.
- Do you want to make a career of writing? Or have you already made it a career?
Writing is definitely a career, but more importantly it’s a passion, and one I couldn’t walk away from if I tried. Writing books is one of many things I do, I thrive on variety, and I’m always looking at ways to be better, be more successful, and work at a higher level
- Since you are self-published, would you go the traditional route if the opportunity arose?
Yes I would because I don’t see traditional and self publishing as mutually exclusive. I think they can co-exist very happily and there’s a place for both.
- Did you have a professional editor polish up your novel? If so, how did you go about finding them?
I’m lucky that I had a friend who works as a script editor and she agreed to go through it a few times. I’d also talked the book through her in the ideas stage and she was a great sounding board. I’ve always struggled to find a book editor who I trust enough and want to work with. Maybe it’s because I work with other writers as an editor myself so I’m super picky and I also have a very clear idea about what I need from them.
- What kind of books do you read?
I’m very omnivorous in my tastes so I read a mix of fiction and non fiction, occasionally I’ll throw a biography or some poetry into the mix to keep things interesting. I also have an almost inexplicable obsession with cook books
- Do you have a favorite book or series? Favorite author?
I hate playing favourites as my reading choice depends so much on my mood but Anna Karenina is a book I love and have re-read many times. I’d also have to include most gothic and victorian literature in any list of favorites plus Jane Austen, Stephen King, Ray Bradbury (especially Farenheit 451 and The Illustrated Man), The Harry Potter books, Charmaine Harris… Alice in Wonderland is a fantastical masterpiece but I equally love the cutting wit of Oscar Wilde and Dorothy Parker.
Isabel Allende, the author of ‘Zorro’ and ‘The House of the Spirits’ is a writer who inspires me greatly as is Tamora Pierce, who I was lucky enough to meet a few years ago. Her ‘Immortals’ and ‘Song of the Lioness’ series were a revelation to the teenage me and she writes fabulously strong women.
- In the big debate of e-book or traditional hard copy, which do you prefer?
When I travel you can’t really beat e-books for convenience; however I could never give up real books. There’s no simpler pleasure than holding a book in your hands, cradling its reassuring weight, and feeling the silken well worn pages beneath your fingers tips. I come from a family who really prize books and reading and I find it impossible to walk past a bookstore without going in and browsing. I think that’s why it was important for me to release my titles not only as e-books but as paperbacks too.
- What is your favorite movie?
How much time do we have??? I love all movies
- Which famous person, living or dead, would you like to meet and why?
Nora Ephron. She was an extraordinary writer with a career that I aspire to
- Lastly, what advice would you give aspiring writers?
Write every day, be passionate about what you’re writing, and persevere through rejection.
- Where can we find you on social media?
Any other platforms:
Thanks for reading. And thank you C.K. for letting me pick your brain!