Friday, 22 February 2013

Zanna Mackenzie: "How I got published"

I'm hosting Zanna Mackenzie, whose romantic novel "The Love Programme" (Astraea Press), is out today, and here she tells us all about her journey to publication.

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?


I’d always been drawn to writing, starting with short stories and progressing to full novels.  The first book I wrote got some great feedback from a professional manuscript appraisal scheme but I was told it didn’t quite have that special something to make it stand out. 
In my second book I tried to ‘tick all the boxes’ I’d be told I needed to, and correct the errors in style, characterisation etc. that I had been told I’d made in my first novel. My feedback on this book (from a different person) said I had ‘lost my voice as a writer, probably from trying too hard’ – confused? Yes, I was. 

My third book  was eventually sent off for professional appraisal via the same initiative and got completely slated – at which point, I’m ashamed to say, I packed away my ‘writing brain’ for over a year because I was disillusioned, lost all confidence in my writing and confused as to how people wanted me to write. 

After a while I could feel writing ‘calling me back’ and I started to peruse my ‘how to write’ books again, and I read, read and read, trying to figure out what I liked about different plots, why I liked some characters more than others, what made them work and I learnt loads. I started to revamp the novels I had written previously and began to see where I could make them better.  My husband encouraged me to stop editing, editing and editing again and start sending my novels out to publishers for consideration; reluctantly I agreed to do so. I know everyone says that as a writer you have to develop a tough skin and learn to bounce back from rejection but, no matter what mental preparation you do rejection hurts (well, it does with me!) and I wasn’t looking forward to getting the ‘thanks but no’ emails back.

Then something miraculous happened. Astraea Press got in touch to say they liked my book. I was stunned; in tears in fact! This was truly brilliant.  Three days later, still on a high from my news about my novel "The Love Programme" being accepted by Astraea , another email landed in my inbox.

At the same time as sending "The Love Programme" to Astraea I had sent the opening chapters and synopsis of one of my other books, "How Do You Spell Love" to a UK publisher called Crooked Cat. The email said they liked what they had read so far and asked to see the whole manuscript, I sent it off, fingers firmly crossed but thinking I couldn’t be lucky enough to get a yes from them too. A few weeks later they came back and said they loved the book and offered me a contract for it. I was totally stunned. The first times I had sent either book out to a publisher and they had both come back and said yes – a miracle! Now, six months later, "The Love Programme" has just been published and "How Do You Spell Love" is launched on March 1st, and I am truly, truly grateful to both publishers for giving me the chance to become a published author.  

"The Love Programme" is available on Amazon and Amazon USA

Follow Zanna on her blog

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