Today’s guest host is fellow Astraea Press author, Zanna Mackenzie. She’s agreed to share her “Path to Publication” story here today, and it’s a fantastic one!
Plus, you’ll see the struggle to get published is a worldwide phenomenon…Zanna lives in the UK. Without further ado, here’s Zanna…
I always wanted to write but initially didn’t mind what. At high school I wanted to be a journalist but soon realised I wasn’t pushy enough for that job so I ended up working in my second choice career instead – travel and tourism. After years as a travel agent I got a new job and started researching and writing tourism brochure which was when the whole writing bug started up again. I had some articles published in magazines, then I tried short story writing and eventually progressed to trying my hand at a novel.
My first attempt at creating a novel took place in my work lunch hours and on the bus to and from said work. When my husband was offered a job in Edinburgh we relocated to Scotland and I was incredibly fortunate that my former employers asked me to carry on working for them part time on a self-employed basis working ‘remotely’ via the Internet Citrix system.
Working from home I signed up to study via distance learning with the Writers Bureau for their Comprehensive Writing Course, during which time I learnt loads about plotting, creating characters etc. The course gave me a bit of confidence to send my novel to a government-supported appraisal scheme which was free to local aspiring writers. Thanks to that scheme I received lots of constructive criticism and edited my novel as per their advice. The appraisal scheme had suggested joining the Romantic Novelists Association New writers Scheme (NWS) in which they accept 250 members each year and the manuscripts are professionally assessed and critiqued. Luckily the advice to join the NWS came at exactly the right time of year so I was able to apply and get a place – the scheme is usually oversubscribed within weeks of opening to applicants each year. I nervously sent off novel 1 with my fingers firmly crossed and was delighted to receive very positive feedback but I never actually mustered up the courage required to start submitting the manuscript to any agents or publishers for consideration – it was all too daunting!
I put novel 1 aside and started work on novel number 2. I spent a lot of time doing loads of ‘how to’ research from books, internet and authors, absorbed all the information and tried to ‘tick every box’ with book 2. After writing and extensive editing it went off for critiquing. The feedback was mediocre to say the least. The appraiser said they thought I had ‘lost my writing voice’ and that it seemed I had written ‘almost to a template’ – which was true, I’d tried so hard to do all the things the advice I’d read, heard, been told, said to do. In doing so the book had become almost a ‘painting my numbers’ attempt at a novel.
Disappointed and confused as to what to do next – should I listen to advice or ignore it? – I floundered for a while. I discussed my dilemma with published and would-be authors. Most of them told me there comes a point where you have to conjure up some conviction in your own voice and your own writing. Advice, they said, is useful, but it’s also subjective and you have to decide what and how you want to write and go with that. Write what you’d want to read, they said. Eventually I decided to do just that.
I began work on book 3. I loved reading chicklit type novels with a magical element to them so I decided this book would be along those lines and would have white witchcraft, spells and a touch of folklore. I wrote. I edited. I edited again. Off the book eventually went for appraisal. I loved the book. One week later I received my critique. It was bad. Very bad. It seemed I’d done everything wrong and, I was told, chicklit books with magic in them don’t sell, too much of a niche market. I was devastated. I stopped writing, thoroughly disillusioned. I threw out all those ‘how to’ books, ripped up the critique into tiny pieces and dumped my manuscript in the paper recycling bin. For a while I even stopped reading – and I love, love, love reading books – that’s how bad it was. Confused, angry and upset nothing happened on the writing front for me for about 2 years.
Then, one day, I was moaning about work to my husband and he said why don’t you try writing again? This time around try sending out your novels to agents and publishers, he suggested. They’re not ready, I protested, too scared to send them out into the big bad world. Then edit them and make them ready, he replied. In August 2012, after extensive editing, more editing, yet more editing and proof reading I finally found some courage to send an extensively revised book 2 off to Astraea Press for consideration. At the same time a much changed book 3 whizzed its way off to Crooked Cat Publishing for consideration. I told myself to forget about them, not keep checking my emails every five minutes.
In September 2012 I heard back from Astraea Press, they liked the book and offered me a contract for it. I was ecstatic – dancing round the room, laughing and crying at the same time. Two weeks later Crooked Cat emailed me to say they liked the first three chapters of book 3 and would I send them the full manuscript so they could read it all and see what they thought then. Following a nerve racking 2 month wait I received their verdict – they loved it. They offered me a contract for it. Cue more dancing round the room, laughing and crying.
I was stunned. I still am! I still struggle to believe my good fortune, one year later. In February 2013 book 2 was published by Astraea Press under name The Love Programme. In March 2013 book 3 was published by Crooked Cat with the title How Do You Spell Love?
The moral of the story? If you want to a published author DO NOT ALLOW YOURSELF TO GIVE UP!
Thanks to an embarrassing incident involving a wedding and her ex-boyfriend Marcus, Lucy has to leave her home town in a hurry and needs a place to escape to for a while.
Best friend Fiona is convinced now would be a good time for Lucy to get herself a new life with some potential for romance thrown in. Fate seems to agree when Lucy is given the once-in-a-lifetime chance to star in a TV show and be a contestant on The Love Programme – two weeks of luxury living on a grand Highland estate coupled with, she hopes, fun and romance in wildest Scotland.
When Lucy meets Paul – the young, handsome owner of the Highland estate – she thinks she may have found the love of her life but who is the mysterious Hannah and what part does she play in his life? When she discovers that Marcus is planning to follow her to Scotland to win her back Lucy has some serious soul searching to do. Does she have a future with Paul, with Marcus or is she yet to find the man of her dreams?
The Love Programme is available in paperback and ebook formats:
Prequel To The Love Programme Now Available For Just $0.50
Zanna Mackenzie’s novella Back To Square One has just been released by Astraea Press and is the prequel to The Love Programme –
Lucy thought she was finally going to be free of her ex-boyfriend Marcus. He had other ideas. They’d grown up together, been childhood sweethearts, but in the past few years Lucy had felt as though she was starting to grow apart from Marcus. Trying to make a new life for herself when they both live in the same small town proves tricky. Beginning to date other people seems to be impossible. Lucy finds Marcus isn’t at all keen to let go of their past, making her wonder where her future really lies and who with…
Zanna Mackenzie lives in the UK 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.
Zanna has written two novels, The Love Programme (Astraea Press) and How Do You Spell Love? (Crooked Cat Publishing) both published in 2013.
FIND OUT MORE ABOUT ZANNA AT:
What about you? Have you been given advice only to realize that it hurt more than helped?