Author Interview: Catherine A. MacKenzie

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  1. Tell us a little bit about yourself.

I’m a wife, mother, and grandmother living in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada. I write short stories, poetry, and essays. I’ve self-published several short story compilations and poetry books, along with a few children’s picture books. I’ve also had some of my work published in print and on-line publications.

I’m elated to announce my first novel, WOLVES DON’T KNOCK.

  1. What is the title of your current work (WIP or recently published) and what is its genre?

My first novel is WOLVES DON’T KNOCK. It’s a psychological drama, with elements of thriller, suspense, mystery, romance, and family relationships.

My plan is to write the sequel/prequel/stand-alone novel, MR. WOLFE (perhaps titled MISTER WOLFE) that will complement WOLVES. Both books will be stand-alone novels. I say “sequel/prequel” because the story of MR. WOLFE, as I envision it in my head, could go ahead of WOLVES or after it.

  1. Is this book suitable for children, or is it adults-only? If there’s mature content, what type of mature content does the book contain?

Though WOLVES DON’T KNOCK deals with sensitive issues (kidnapping and rape), there are no graphic scenes or bad language. I’d say it would be suitable for mature teens and up.

I have a funny story to share. My eleven-year-old granddaughter Taylor was recently at my house, and I “caught” her leafing through my book. As soon as she saw me, she put it down, clearly upset she’d been caught. I acted nonchalant, but I didn’t want her handling that particular copy, as it was designated for a purchaser. I gave her a damaged copy, thinking she would look at it for several seconds and discard it, but the next thing I knew, she was on the couch, deep into my book. I wasn’t certain it was suitable for her age, so I called my daughter for permission. My daughter was, at that time (probably still is!) at page 30, so she couldn’t definitively say it was an “okay” book for her daughter to read, but she approved it, saying, “Mom, you don’t know the books I read in grade six.” No, I probably don’t, I thought, thinking back hundreds of years to when I was in grade six and the books I had read. But, to me, my granddaughter Taylor is still a little girl. A child, but a grownup one. Gah, where does time go?

Continuing the story: By the time Taylor left my home on that visit she was on page 70 something. I called her the other day and she was up to page 90. School started shortly after she returned home, so she probably won’t have too much time to read it now, but I was elated she was so excited about something her granny had created!

Hubby started reading the book when we were camping over Labour Day weekend. He’s more than two-thirds into it but hasn’t touched it since we returned home. It’s not his genre, but he’s plugging through it for me. He said he was enjoying it, said it was well-written, which meant a lot to me. He hadn’t found any errors even though my daughter said she had discovered one within the first 30 pages. (Of course, she couldn’t remember where it was.)

I had thought the book would appeal to women only, but six other men I know of have read it and enjoyed it. So that’s a good thing!

  1. What inspired you to write this work?

I didn’t plan to write this—or any—novel. This book evolved from a short story I wrote titled “Doorbells and December,” which was published by Dancing With Bear Publishing in a Christmas anthology in December 2012. The following year, DWB put out a call for submissions for another Christmas anthology, so I wrote part two to the story. Both stories ended abruptly (no ending, really!), which antagonized the publisher. After that, I added more, reaching around 30,000 words, planning to publish it as a novella. Then I was up to 60,000 words and was almost going to publish it as a novel but wasn’t quite happy with it. I kept at it, reaching 80,000 words. Still unhappy, I thought it needed more. When I reached almost 104,000 words, I knew it was done.

I think a writer knows when to stop! In my case, it wasn’t the length, but I had said all that needed to be said and had included all the suspense that I could. Sure, I could have kept on with the book, but there needs to be an end.

I’m planning on another book, titled MR. WOLFE or MISTER WOLFE. Readers have asked me for more of Paul Wolfe, the kidnapper. What makes him tick? What is his story? This book will be in his POV, and I’m hoping for a publication date in 2019.

  1. What makes this book special, unique, or interesting? How does it “stand out”?

I used a lot of symbolism and imagery. There are ten knock-knock jokes in the book that, I think, make the story interesting and different. The jokes are there for a reason, though; they’re not just fluff. Two poems, too, are weaved into the story.

As well, I tell the story without using graphic scenes. A reader recently complimented me that I was successfully able to do that.

  1. Tell us some key information about the main character(s), both protagonists and antagonists.

The story is told through the POVs of Miranda and her mother, Sharon. Both Miranda and Sharon (mostly Sharon) have secrets they dare not reveal. The reader will see how both their lives intertwine.

Paul, the antagonist, is obviously a crazy person, but the reader doesn’t learn much about him. I purposely wrote the story that way because the book isn’t about him; it’s about Sharon and Miranda. But, as I said previously, I’ve had readers ask about him, so I plan to write a book in his POV. The story is in my head; I just need to get it on paper.

There are a couple of little “hints” or foreshadowing in the book that the reader of WOLVES won’t pick up on as needing further clarification, but reading MR. WOLFE will give the reader some “aha” moments.

  1. What is your back cover blurb? Or if you don’t have one yet, how would you pitch your work in 200 words or less?

The back cover blurb:

Twenty-two-year-old Miranda escapes from her abductor and the wolves that have tormented her soul for six long years. She returns to her childhood home where her mother, Sharon, caring for Miranda’s son, Kevin, has feared for her daughter’s fate. Uncertainty and distrust taint the first year after Miranda’s return. Miranda and Sharon hide secrets they dare not reveal while constantly wondering when Miranda’s kidnapper will reappear. Can mother and daughter bury their demons and repair their strained relationship? Can Miranda bond with the baby she never knew and find the love she so desperately wants? Will Kevin’s father play a role? Will Sharon find the answers she needs to recover from her own troubled past?

  1. Share a tempting bit of the plot with us. Is there a particular scene that you’re really excited about? Why does it excite you?

I got a brainstorm after the book was almost finished and wrote another chapter. I’d share part of it here, but it would give too much away. (It’s Chapter 74 for those who’ve read the book.) I love this chapter and think it really adds to that specific character and the book. And I hope it’ll shock the reader, too, but in a good way.

  1. Share up to 800 words of your current work with us (with an intro of up to 200 words to establish context).

This is part of chapter one in the novel, just before Miranda is abducted. Another chapter deals with her escape, but the rest of the book covers the year after she returns home. A lot goes on in that year. Miranda and Sharon continually look over their shoulders, wondering when the kidnapper will reappear. Miranda readjusts to her new life with her son. Sharon has secrets she doesn’t want revealed. I can’t say much more, but there are twists and turns. The novel may start off a bit slow, but the intensity increases with every page.

Miranda Morrison raised her arm and turned, ready to lambaste the person who had shoved her, but the supposed culprit disappeared into the Subway Restaurant.

“Idiot,” she muttered, hoping no one heard. Only crazies spoke to themselves.

She resumed her position, waiting for the red light to change so she could cross Spring Garden Road. As usual, traffic zoomed up and down Robie Street. People hovered around her, close enough she could touch any one of them. No wonder the guy had bumped into her.

She sighed, blaming her blue mood on post-natal stress. She had heard of post-natal depression, but she wasn’t depressed; at least she didn’t think she was. She suffered stress, though.

She gave up on the light and turned right on Spring Garden Road toward downtown Halifax and the waterfront. Despite being early December, the temperature was mild, and the sun shed its warmth. Soon it would be Christmas. All good reasons to be happy.

After an unexpected glimpse of her reflection in a storefront window, she stood straighter, heeding her mother’s incessant nagging. She placed her palms over her swollen stomach, confronting emptiness. How had she morphed into a mother at sixteen? With her pregnancy finally over, those drawn-out months seemed to have sped by. The cramping had lessened, but she had no doubt it would worsen.

She tugged at the bottom of her baggy T-shirt and yanked the fronts of the down-filled jacket across her chest to camouflage the bulge, unable to zipper the jacket over a belly that protruded as if she hadn’t yet given birth. She could kid herself that she had gained weight by making a pig of herself, but who else would believe it? Her swollen belly screamed the truth, and it was more than embarrassing.

She had been careless getting pregnant, especially at fifteen—not that she’d planned the pregnancy. What teenager did? She had made an even dumber move leaving the IWK Maternity Hospital—she glanced at her watch—thirteen minutes previously, where her mother and the doctors and nurses bustled about. She should head back. She hadn’t told anyone she was leaving, not that anyone would miss her. Everyone was all gaga over Kevin, and he sure didn’t need her, either.

Kevin, her baby. What would he be doing? Nothing. She giggled as her mind drifted back to the wailing infant. At five days old and premature, what else could he do but sleep, cry, and eat?

Her stomach growled. She’d only eaten half a grilled cheese sandwich at lunch. Hospital food was gross.

She continued down Spring Garden Road and stopped at a coffee shop, where she eyed mouth-watering sweets through the window. Should she? Yes!

Grateful for money in her pocket, she ordered a cinnamon bun and a Coke. She nibbled the warm bun, wanting it to last as long as possible, but slugged down the pop. She licked the creamy frosting from her fingers, wishing the baker had been more generous with the topping.

Back outside, she continued down Spring Garden and crossed to Summer Street, where several pedestrians strolled. The street glistened with melted snow, and white covered the median. A light dusting blanketed the sidewalks. She avoided patches of thick, slippery crusts shaded from the sun by overhanging branches. She should have worn her boots, but she and her mother had left the house so quickly when labour started that she had slipped into sneakers instead of searching for boots.

She peeked at the Public Gardens on her right, remembering brilliant, fragrant flowers during the summer, the colours so vivid in her mind she could smell their perfumy scents. She dreaded the long winter ahead and yearned for spring when plants evolved from hibernating bulbs or brown stubs into beauty and fragrance.

Camp Hill Cemetery emerged at her left. She would have wandered in had her father been buried there, but he was interred at the Garden of Eden Cemetery, an hour’s drive from town. Would she have stood before his grave and conversed if he were there? It boggled her mind that so-called sane people believed in such crap as talking to the dead.

She noted the contrast between the cemetery and the gardens. Winter brought out similarities between the two: bodies or bulbs, both buried deep underground. In the spring, the Public Gardens would be awake, boisterous with burgeoning blooms and bustling bodies, but Camp Hill would never awaken.

She had nearly reached Sackville Street when she heard what sounded like feet crunching in the snow behind her. Her stomach lurched. She turned. No one, and the only vehicle in sight was a dark-coloured truck turning left from Spring Garden Road.

  1. What is the easiest part of writing for you? And what is the hardest?

The easiest part is that I have the time to write. The hardest part is coming up with good ideas, dealing with writers’ block, and editing. No matter how often I proofread/edit, inevitably I find errors. I’m a perfectionist, so the smallest mistake will bug me to death. By far, though, the hardest part is AFTER the book is published. Who wants to promote themselves and their work? I sure don’t. I’m more of a behind-the-scenes person, and putting myself “out there” to sell my book is very difficult. I’ve had great reviews of WOLVES thus far, so that spurs me on, that maybe I’m not such a fake, afterall.

  1. Finally, if you could offer some advice to up-and-coming writers, what would that advice be?

This is a cliché, I know, but follow your dreams. If you want to write a novel, write a novel. That had been my unverbalized “dream” since I was a teenager, and I never did anything about it—until recently. Now that my book is done, I’m amazed I actually did it! If it could only be a bestseller…


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Cathy Wolves Don't Knock June FINAL PRINT FRONT COVER