Monday, August 25, 2014

Interview with C. Lee McKenzie

Can you give us a little bit about who you are and what you write?
I'm  a native Californian who grew up in a lot of different places; then landed in the Santa Cruz Mountains where I live with my family and miscellaneous pets—usually strays that find me rather than the other way around. I write most of the time, garden and hike and do yoga a lot. I taught at San Jose State University and my field was Linguistics and Inter-cultural Communication which carried me to a lot of places in the world to explore different cultures and languages. I'm proud to say I know how to ask, “Where’s the toilet?” and scream “I’m lost!” in at least five languages and two dialects.

All but one of my books are contemporary, realistic young adult novels. Sliding on the Edge (2009), The Princess of Las Pulgas (2010) both tell stories about teens in trouble, teens who are struggling with some big issues and without all the experience they really need to help them.

I did take a break from that kind of story before I wrote Double Negative, and I wrote a fantasy/adventure story for middle grade readers called Alligators Overhead.

What book(s) influenced you to become an author?
There were so many. I've always been a huge fan of F. Scott Fitsgerald, but it was mostly his style that I admired, and then there’s Hinton and E. B.White and . . . well, there you have it. No one book influenced me, but I guess a whole bunch of them did.

What would you list at the top 10 greatest books for young adults.
It’s hard to only choose ten, but here are the ones that leap to mind.

1.     The Outsiders
2.     That Was Then, This Is Now
3.     Rumble Fish
4.     To Kill A Mockingbird
5.     Elenor & Park
6.     The Hobbit —This doesn’t seem to fit in my list, but I think this was a great YA, too.)
7.     Scars
8.     I Am The Cheese
9.     The Chocolate War
10.  Speak

When you’re not writing, what do you like to do?
I love to hike and I do that a lot. Besides that I practice yoga, I keep a flower and veggie garden going because I really do like the taste of fresh produce. You can’t get fresher than from your own garden. My grandmother was gardener, and she’s where I learned about doing anything involving dirt.

I read on your website that you like to travel, too. What’s been your favorite place in the world to visit?
So many, I’m afraid. But I do like Nicaragua. I’ve been there twice and each time it was a wonderful experience. The beaches are long and sandy and the people are very kind. I hope they learn about plastic bags, though, because they’re strewn everywhere, and you know where they all wind up, right? In the ocean.

Where do write your stories?
Mostly I write them at my desk on my computer, but I do get tired of being in one spot, so I often go outside to sit in the garden. It’s a wonderful spot to get energized and inspired, so that’s the place to go when I bog down in a story.

Thanks for featuring me on your blog. I appreciate being here.

Book & Author Details:
Double Negative by C. Lee McKenzie
Published by: Evernight Teen
Publication date: July 25th 2014
Genres: Contemporary, Young Adult

“My life was going, going, gone, and I hadn’t been laid yet. I couldn’t go into the slammer before that happened.” Hutch McQueen.
Sixteen-year-old Hutchinson McQueen is trapped between an abusive mother and an absentee father. Shackled by poor vision and poor reading skills, he squeaks through classes with his talent for eavesdropping and memorizing what he hears. After another suspension from school and suffering through one of his mother’s violent attacks, he escapes to a friend’s house that turns out to be a meth lab. The lab is raided and Hutch lands in juvenile detention. When the court sentences him to six months in a new juvenile program, he meets a teacher with Alzheimer’s who will change his life and hers.


In my other life--the one before I began writing for teens and younger readers--I was a teacher and administrator at California State University, San Jose. My field of Linguistics and Inter-cultural Communication has carried me to a lot of places in the world to explore different cultures and languages. I can say, “Where’s the toilet?” and “I’m lost!” in at least five languages and two dialects. Go ahead. Pat me on the back.

My idea of a perfect day is one or all of the following: starting a new novel, finishing writing a blockbuster novel, hiking on a misty morning trail in the Santa Cruz Mountains, saying Namaste after a great yoga practice, sipping a cappuccino topped at a bustling cafĂ©, reading in front of a fire with snow outside, swimming in an ocean someplace.

I've just set out my perfect life. Day after day after day.

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