A graduate of McGill University in History and Law, Catherine McKenzie practices law in Montreal, where she was born and raised. An avid skier and runner, Catherine’s novels, SPIN, ARRANGED, FORGOTTEN, and HIDDEN are all international bestsellers.
Her novels have been translated into French, German, Czech, Slovak and Polish. And if you ask Catherine how she has time to do all that, her answer is: robots. This is a great interview with Catherine McKenzie: full time attorney, part time columnist for the Huffington Post, and full time bestselling author.
Scroll down for a complete transcript of the interview or click the Play button below to listen to the interview now.
And don’t forget to leave a comment to let us know what you thought of this interview!
Books by Catherine McKenzie
Catherine McKenzie Transcript
Tim Knox: Welcome in to another edition of Interviewing Authors. I’m your host Tim Knox. Great program for you today. On the show bestselling author, Catherine McKenzie. Now Catherine has five international bestsellers. Not only is she an author, she is also a full-time litigator in her hometown of Montreal, Canada. So this is a really good interview because Catherine talks about how she juggles a full-time career as an attorney as well as a bestselling author. She’s also an avid runner and skier. How does she fit in that fun time into all of that work? She talks about how she comes up with her characters. Her books are what she called in the genre of commercial fiction. They have strong female characters, got some humor, got some drama – really, really interesting work.
So she’s going to talk about character development, how she writes, when she writes, how she got started, started out writing poetry and gave that up to create fiction. So a great interview all the way around. You’re going to learn a lot this morning from Catherine McKenzie, bestselling author, full-time litigator and our guest today on Interviewing Authors.
Tim Knox: Catherine McKenzie, welcome to Interviewing Authors.
Catherine McKenzie: Hi, how are you?
Tim Knox: I’m good, how are things in sunny Canada today?
Catherine McKenzie: Not so sunny. It’s kind of raining right now but that’s better than snow.
Tim Knox: This is true. You made it through the winter okay then.
Catherine McKenzie: I’m crossing my fingers that it’s over but I saw snow yesterday so you never know.
Tim Knox: Did you really? Well I’m calling from Alabama so it could be sunshine and 80 here tomorrow and then snowing on Friday. We have a thing here that if you don’t like the weather, just hang around and it will change.
Catherine McKenzie: Yeah that’s true for a lot of places.
Tim Knox: Let’s get started. I know you’re busy because you’re not only a bestselling author, you are also an attorney. You write for The Huffington Post. Give us a really quick overview of who you are and maybe the names of your books.
Catherine McKenzie: Sure. I am born and raised in Montreal, Canada where I still live and as you said I work as an attorney. I do litigation, which means that I do court work. I’ve also written four novels named Spin, Arranged, Forgotten and Hidden. I like the one word titles obviously. I do blog off and on for The Huffington Post. Last year I was doing something called 52 Books in 52 Weeks so I was reading a book a week and reviewing that. I’m taking it a little easier this year on that front so I blog less frequently.
Tim Knox: How do you do it all? I know a lot of the folks that are the audience for this show, they have full-time jobs, they have kids, they have this and that. How do you manage being a full-time litigator as well as a part-time columnist and, you know, the writing part, the authorship. The books can sometimes be like a full-time job as well. How do you handle it all?
Catherine McKenzie: Well I say on my online bio that robots is the answer.
Tim Knox: I saw that. That’s cute.
Catherine McKenzie: I don’t know. I honestly sometimes don’t even know. I think, you know, you just have to be organized and make time to do the things you want to do. It probably helps that I don’t have kids. So I have my own time as my own. Maybe my husband’s [indecipherable 3:29]. I don’t know.
Tim Knox: Be glad you don’t have kids. It would be completely different. You also ski and run. How important is your recreational time to all this?
Catherine McKenzie: It’s pretty important. I mean I think, you know, you need to – at least for me – have a physical aspect of your life or it can get… it’s hard to have an outlet without it. Unfortunately this has been a terrible winter for both. It’s either been too cold or no snow for skiing and too cold for running. I did get to get out to Jackson Hole for a couple of days so that was nice.
Tim Knox: Cool, good deal. Well let’s talk about the process of writing. That’s what we talk about on this show. We want to talk about going back to your early days, how you got started, how you do things. I’ll just throw some questions at you and you just give me your thoughts. When did you first know that you wanted to be a writer?
Catherine McKenzie: It’s funny. People always ask me that but I don’t think I ever made a decision about that. I just always wrote growing up. It wasn’t something that I sort of decided to do or was something that I knew actively was part of my identity, if that makes any sense. I wrote poetry from when I was a kid all the way through my teenage-hood and into early adulthood. I did put together a book and I did finally get that published. It didn’t go anywhere. I started and stopped a couple of novels. I’d read a book that I loved like Foucault’s Pendulum or something and I was like, “Ah, I’ve got to write a book like this,” and then I realized I was just trying to rewrite Foucault’s Pendulum.
Tim Knox: Exactly. Everybody’s trying to rewrite Hunger Games now.
Catherine McKenzie: Yeah right, exactly.
Tim Knox: What was the first thing that you thought was good enough to be published? Was it poetry?
Catherine McKenzie: Yeah I had a book of poetry that I hoped was good enough to be published. I was wrong. There’s actually a poem that I wrote in my latest book and my joke is that I had to publish four novels to get a poem published.
Tim Knox: Well maybe one of your heroes in the next book can be a poet.
Catherine McKenzie: Well yeah, one of the characters in this book is a poet. So that’s how I got my poetry published.
Tim Knox: Very good. What was your first published work? Was it a book? Was it a magazine article? What was it?
Catherine McKenzie: I did actually have some poetry published in my college poetry journal. I did also happen to be the co-editor so I don’t know…
Tim Knox: What the hell.
Catherine McKenzie: I won an honorable mention in the Books in Canada poetry competition back in 1993 or something. I’d say my real first publication was my, it was actually the third novel I wrote but the first novel that was published, which was Spin.
Tim Knox: That was the first novel. Your novels… I kind of read bios of each one of them earlier. They remind me a lot of movies. Are there any plans to turn these into movies?
Catherine McKenzie: The second book, Arranged, actually has been optioned for film and a short movie has been made of it. There’s a program here in Canada called Short to Long, which is pretty descriptive. It gives you money to make a short film as a sort of trailer for a long film. So I got to be on set and there’s an eight minute… I’ve seen the rough cut of the eight minute short. That was really kind of a pretty cool experience I have to say.
Tim Knox: Oh I can imagine. I can imagine. I interviewed Andy Weir the other day. He’s the author of a really good book called The Martian and it’s been optioned and he wants Bradley Cooper to play him in the movie and I’m like good luck there my friend.
Catherine McKenzie: Well I keep getting asked that. I’ve been asked that by a couple of blogs recently – in the movie of your life who would play you? I’m like who would make a movie of my life?
Tim Knox: Exactly. Your books are really, really varied in topic. Talk a little about how you get the ideas for these books. How do you take them from the spark of an idea to a story?
Catherine McKenzie: It really depends but the sort of overarching thing is I do need to see the beginning, middle and end of a book. So I’ll often have a lot of ideas kind of floating out of my head and then they’ll coalesce into something. Then I’ll think about it for awhile. I need to be able to see the end of a story. It’s actually not that hard to think of the beginning of a story but to see that through and to see that it would go somewhere and be interesting for, you know, 100,000 words or 90,000 words – that’s the trick I think. I think about it and I wonder if I can see the end. I try and think of what the twist will be and then I need to think about the voice of the main character. Once I have those elements in place then I’ll start to write.
It was a bit different with my last book, Hidden, because it’s told from three points of view and it’s told out of order chronologically so I really actually had to have an outline for that book which, you know, writing outlines is boring. It really actually made the writing more helpful but yet somehow I am not using an outline for my next book so I obviously do not learn from experience.
Tim Knox: Exactly. Well that was one of my questions is do you outline or do you just plow in and start writing and see where the story goes?
Catherine McKenzie: Yeah, I mean, I think I sort of do an in-between thing. Like I said I’ve got a big picture of the story and then I need to see, I always need to see a couple chapters ahead when I’m writing and I jot down ideas and stuff. Often there’s more in my head than I sort of think. If you ask me when I’m in the middle of a book like exactly what’s going to happen in each chapter I couldn’t tell you but I can see it in my head and it’s translating what I see in my head down onto the page. That’s the trick.
Tim Knox: What genre would you say you’re writing in with your books?
Catherine McKenzie: I call them commercial fiction. The protagonist of most of my books are women so people also way women’s fiction or chick-lit, which is fine if they don’t mean that in a pejorative way.
Tim Knox: I was going to say a guy is not allowed to say chick-lit.
Catherine McKenzie: I know.
Tim Knox: Unless you’re talking about the gum.
Catherine McKenzie: Have you seen that thing on the internet where they say women’s fiction and they put men’s covers on them?
Tim Knox: I have not.
Catherine McKenzie: Or vice-versa. I mean, I think that’s true. I do get sometimes men who write me and say sort of like did they do something wrong. “I read your book and I really liked it.” That’s okay. You’re allowed.
Tim Knox: Men can read them too.
Catherine McKenzie: Yeah, yeah, yeah. So, you know, when you do marketing you put covers on things so I understand why just visually sometimes men might not feel comfortable reading some of my books. In particular, my most recent one, one of the main characters is a man and I wrote from a male perspective for the first time so that was interesting.
Tim Knox: What was that like?
Catherine McKenzie: It was neat. It was interesting in the since that I had to put myself in the shoes of a man. I waited until the end. I realized close to the end that no men actually read the book; it had all been women so I asked my husband to read it and he pointed out a couple of places where [10:45 intro music started playing].
Tim Knox: … Girl asked him how did he write like a woman. I think his response was something like… or no. She asked him how he wrote these novels, these romance novels and he goes, “I think like a woman and then I remove logic and reason.”
Catherine McKenzie: Oh, ouch.
Tim Knox: Well being an attorney, have you thought of moving into the legal thriller type of book?
Catherine McKenzie: I do. People always ask me… when I first started writing I’d say, “Oh I’m publishing a book,” and then people would say, “Oh like John Grisham?” No.
Tim Knox: Does that bother you?
Catherine McKenzie: It doesn’t bother… I think there’s a sort of symptomatic thing out there that people think you can only write what you know and I think that people misunderstand what that means. They think it means write about your life. I was just at a book fair in French this weekend and I got asked that question a million times. My first book is about someone who goes undercover into rehab and my second book is about someone who uses an arranged marriage service. I was asked two seconds apart whether I’d been to rehab and used an arranged marriage service. It’s like, no, I think these things up. I was sitting next to a crime novelist and I was like nobody ever asks him if he kills people. What is that?
I think, for me, that’s what I do for a living. One of the main characters of one of my novels was an attorney and the novel I’m working on now is set more in the legal world, though in the criminal world and I don’t work in that world. I don’t want to be limited like that and honestly I’m not sure that that’s my forte, like a true crime, true courtroom thriller. That’s just not the sort of stories that come to me. I guess I write for fun and not that my job isn’t fun but I do my job enough hours in the day. I probably don’t need to do it…
Tim Knox: You don’t need to write about it all night.
Catherine McKenzie: I don’t need to write about it also.
Tim Knox: Your first published book, which one was it?
Catherine McKenzie: It was Spin.
Tim Knox: Spin. Let’s talk about the process of getting that published. Did you have an agent? Did you go directly to a publisher? What was the process that you used to get it out there?
Catherine McKenzie: Yeah so I did go to an agent but I actually went to an agent with my second novel. Well the first one that I wrote, Arranged, I went and I got an agent in the stage looking for four or five months, something like that, and then we did edits to it. Then she took it out for a year and a half, and in the meantime I wrote Spin. People talk about like oh I had 12 rejection letters. I’m like I got 12 rejection letters a week. What are you talking about?
Tim Knox: That’s what I get.
Catherine McKenzie: So when I finished Spin I really felt like I had something, like I tapped into something. I asked her, my current editor in Canada had read Arranged and liked it but sort of had comments and wanted to see changes and I said why don’t you send her Spin and see what she thinks. She loves Spin and so she made me a two book offer for that. So then Spin came out six months later in Canada, which is actually really fast. It was a bestseller and it got all these great reviews and everyone said, “Oh you’ll sell in the states right away of course,” and that didn’t happen. Then the next year came around and my next book came out and it was a bestseller, et cetera. “Oh you’re going to sell in the states for sure right away, no problem.” And that didn’t happen. Anyway, so eventually I did get a U.S. book deal but that was another two years later. So my books started coming out in the states in a few years.
Tim Knox: That’s really interesting because I think a lot of authors who’ve never had an agent or never had anything published think that you get an agent one day and the book deal is that afternoon. It doesn’t always happen that way.
Catherine McKenzie: It often doesn’t happen like that. Look, I’ve been lucky. I’ve had two agents who are both very persistent and didn’t give up even when they were told no and believed in the work. Agents don’t get paid unless they sell your stuff so in a way that’s kind of… it’s an interesting validation. When an agent says, “Yes, I’ll take you on,” that’s kind of the first external validation that you have. It’s not just your friends telling you what you want to hear that what you wrote is at least sellable, if not good and hopefully good. So, you know, I actually know people who got agents super quickly and then sold super quickly but I don’t think that’s usually peoples’ experiences.
Tim Knox: I think that’s the exception to the rule.
Catherine McKenzie: Totally.
Tim Knox: You mentioned rejection. I’m with you. I’ve got enough rejection letters to paper my office here. How did you handle rejection? How did you keep pushing through?
Catherine McKenzie: I think it just sort of gets easier and what I notice now is that I’m kind of glad I went through that process because the more success that you get, the more rejection and negativity you face. So, you know, the example that I always use is Dan Brown has the most awful reviews and the most negative press in the world and we’re not going to feel sorry for Dan Brown but if Dan Brown’s out there on Amazon and read every single one of the reviews of his books on Amazon, he might not feel the same way about it himself.
Tim Knox: I think the only way Dan Brown will see those reviews is if they’re written on the checks he’s cashed. He’s not too worried.
Catherine McKenzie: No, I don’t feel sorry for the man. I do think you need to toughen up. Yeah the first time my book went to editorial, which for those of you who don’t know, what happens is an editor gets a book and if they love it they don’t usually have the power to say yes or no themselves. They have to take it to a committee and fight for the book. I knew my book was going to editorial and the editorial meeting took place on a Tuesday or something and then we got turned down. That was hard because you sort of feel like, oh, it’ll happen. Then it doesn’t and it doesn’t again and it doesn’t again and it doesn’t again and it doesn’t again. I don’t know, I guess the fact that it was getting into the room was what kept me going.
True story – I had been trying… it had been almost two years since I got my agent. I had written in total four manuscripts. We still hadn’t sold anything… or I was working on my fourth, which is my favorite book, Forgotten. I actually sort of said to myself, you know what, if nothing sells by the end of this year I’m just going to stop because at this point I am just writing books for my friends. It’s too much. It takes too much time. It’s too much emotional investment. Two weeks later I got my first book deal.
Tim Knox: So you were almost ready to call it off.
Catherine McKenzie: I really was. I mean, I say that to myself. Who knows? But I had made the decision. I was going to finish the book that I was writing and give it until the end of the year and if nothing’s happening then I was just going to try to move on.
Tim Knox: Let’s talk a little about the process of writing. When do you find time to write?
Catherine McKenzie: It varies. I’d say consistently on the weekends. I try and put aside a block of time to write on the weekends. And then if I can I either write early in the morning or after dinner at night.
Tim Knox: Do you feel like you have to force yourself to write? Is it often a chore?
Catherine McKenzie: I wouldn’t say it’s a chore but I would say it’s work. I think that, you know, if you’re waiting to be inspired to write you’re probably never going to finish even on novel. That’s the way I used to write poetry was I’d get inspired and I’d write down a page full of words and it didn’t matter if I didn’t write anything for the next six months. The first thing I had to learn in finishing the first book that I wrote was that you just have to write whether you feel like it or not and learn how to write well enough when you’re not feeling super inspired. Sometimes I find actually that’s the best stuff that comes out, when I didn’t think I wanted to write. Knowing that you can go back and you can fix it later but you just have to move the story ahead and get the words down on the page.
Tim Knox: Right. Let’s talk a little about character development because your books all have strong female leads, strong characters. How do you develop those characters? How do you come up with the idea for them? Are they based on real people? Are any of them based on you?
Catherine McKenzie: I really try not to base them on real people. I have one friend that insists I should put him in my books. I really try not to do that and I try not to base them on me either. Again, I don’t write memoir; I write fiction. I think that to write real characters you need to take a couple of characteristics that people have, whether it be you or people you’ve met, and then exaggerate those characteristics. The weird irony is that to write realistic characters you actually have to writer bigger than life characters. So I do that by kind of thinking about the one or two things that are going to be defining for that person and then I use a trick actually that I think I knew intuitively but I remember reading in one of Donald Maass’s books, which is sometimes you just need to have your characters react in the opposite way that that person would. So I sort of put myself in their shoes. They’re someone who is very reactive all the time – just react, react, react, react then something will happen to that person and I’ll just be like, okay, if I was a reactive person how would I react to that? On the tenth time something happens to them it’s like, okay, now they’re going to go the other way. They’re going to go passive; they’re not going to be reactive.
Tim Knox: Do you often find the characters driving the story? You think it’s going to go one way and the characters tell you to go another.
Catherine McKenzie: Yeah. I know it sounds so weird but it’s true. It happens in all my books but it’s definitely, I remembered distinctly it happening in Spin where the main character was doing something and then suddenly her roommate came into the room and I was like, oh who’s this? Okay, I guess she’s got a roommate. Hi, how are you?
Tim Knox: I know Homer Hickam was telling me he wrote a book and he had a character in it, a female character that he kind of left in peril and never went back to. Then he would wake up in the middle of the night worried. So he’s actually going to figure out what happened to her.
Catherine McKenzie: Yeah.
Tim Knox: They take on almost a life of their own.
Catherine McKenzie: They do and I know people who are actually really sad when they finish a book because they’re like I’m never going to spend time with those characters again. I don’t feel like that. They don’t become real people to me in that way but I guess they do sort of live in my head and I am thinking about them. I’m thinking about what I’m going to do to them, how they’re going to react to things, how their issues are going to get resolved. You do sort of live with them for the period of time you’re writing the book.
Tim Knox: Are you ever tired of them, just ready for them to go away by the time the book is over?
Catherine McKenzie: Well I like to feel at the end of the book like I have solved all of their issues. The way I think about it, I don’t know why I came up with this analogy but I feel like I’m sort of fly fishing or something so I’m casting out my lines in the beginning of the book and the middle of the book I start pulling them back in. By the end I need to have all of my lines back. My agent uses the analogy of a braid. You’re braiding things together and by the end the braid has come together. I want resolution for my characters. That doesn’t mean everything is solved in their life but I want to feel like they started in one place and I took them to another and that place is different from where they started. When I feel that feeling that’s where the end is. A lot of people always have trouble writing endings and I think we’ve all read books where you’re sort of like is this not the end? What? There’s more? What? Okay, you couldn’t figure out where the end was. I don’t think I’ve ever really had that problem. I’ve always known where the end was going to be.
Tim Knox: You wrote a really great article for The Huffington Post called ‘The Top 5 Things I Wish I Knew before I Published My First Book’. If you don’t mind, let me go down the list and you just kind of comment here. I thought these were really excellent. Number one, publishing can be a full-time job. Don’t let it be.
Catherine McKenzie: Yeah. I mean, that was just number one piece of advice I think and another author was just saying the top five things she learned from other authors and she credited me with that being the first one. It can be a full-time job – all the publicity and being online and getting sucked into writing, talking to people and doing blogs and promoting your book. If you let it take over your life you’ll never write another book. You just have to… your full-time job should be writing and not all the stuff that comes with writing is I guess what I would say about that.
Tim Knox: Number two was promoting a novel can be a full-time job.
Catherine McKenzie: Yeah. So that’s related. I think most publishing houses will do three months of promotion. That’s the cycle for a book and I think if authors adopt that for themselves that’s probably the right thing. Obviously if your book takes off… I know someone who’s been on the bestseller list for a year and she’s like, “It never stops!” When are you going to write your next book?
Tim Knox: It never stops, wah.
Catherine McKenzie: Yeah, wah. No but she’s the sweetest person ever. I’m happy for her. But it is… I try to limit my promotional stuff to an hour a day. It’s not always possible, especially right when a book comes out, but I really try and limit that stuff to an hour a day.
Tim Knox: Number three, I think is really good. You are running a small business; treat it that way.
Catherine McKenzie: Yeah. We’re artists. I’m an artist. That’s fine. But I run a small business. It’s called Catherine McKenzie or Catherine McKenzie Books or whatever. I have to make business decisions and so I can’t take everything emotionally and reactively. I have to think about my career. I have to think about, you know, what my next book’s going to be, what makes sense – not necessarily in the market. I’m not trying to be cynical and find that niche in the market and just write to that. That’s not what I mean but I think you just have to treat it professionally and not just sort of be like, oh I’m nervous. I can’t deal with the business side of things. Ultimately, you know, nobody’s going to care as much about your book as you are, not even your publisher. You have to take responsibility for that.
Tim Knox: Well you know the great point there is, okay, you’re an artist and you don’t want to be a starving artist. Just because you have this book deal, you need to treat it like a business or one day you may be.
Catherine McKenzie: Yeah or, you know, you really are going to be a starving artist.
Tim Knox: Exactly. Number four, you are never going to know everything you want to know.
Catherine McKenzie: Yeah. I mean I think it’s just the nature of the business that you have a million questions and nobody’s really going to answer all of your questions. You’re never really going to know why did title X get what I call ‘being hit by the prince stick’ treatment. Nobody’s really ever going to explain that to you. Or why did Costco decide not to take this book or why did… whatever. It’s like breaking up with someone. There’s the reasons they tell you and then there’s the real reasons. You just have to find a way to live in the place you’re in and control the things that you can control. That doesn’t mean don’t question and just accept but at some point you just have to accept that you’re not going to know everything.
Tim Knox: Right, and that’s okay.
Catherine McKenzie: That’s okay.
Tim Knox: You don’t have to know everything.
Catherine McKenzie: That’s just life.
Tim Knox: It doesn’t hurt to ask, yeah. I love this one. Don’t forget to celebrate. Tell us about celebration.
Catherine McKenzie: Well I think, you know, I mentioned earlier that one of my books was being made into a movie. For me, and maybe it’s just my personality, but things with books is so slow. Say you get your book deal and if your book came out the next day you’d be on cloud nine and champagne and blah, blah, blah. It’s not like that. It just gets broken down into tiny, little pieces. You get your first stages, you get draft covers and you see a mockup of your book, then you see the actual book, then it’s out there. It all gets broken into these little pieces and it’s like, okay, when’s the moment when you’re really supposed to be like ‘woo-hoo’?
Tim Knox: Right, at what point do you pop that champagne?
Catherine McKenzie: I know right. All the time or never? I kind of made a pact with myself in the last year to try and take a moment when good things are happening and celebrate them and not be like, okay, what’s next? What’s next?
Tim Knox: I think you got to pause and soak it in at some point.
Catherine McKenzie: You do, you do or it’s like a big blur and you look back and you’re like, okay, all these amazing things happened. Why didn’t I celebrate that?
Tim Knox: I worried my way through them. Let’s talk a little bit quickly in the time we’ve got left about marketing because so much of selling books and even being “discovered” as an author is how do you market yourself? How do you get out there? How did you market in the early days and what’s your involvement in doing it now?
Catherine McKenzie: Badly in the early days. I remember having this phone call with the digital marketing person at Harper telling me that Twitter and Facebook and Goodreads, which I’d never even heard of. I was like my head’s just spinning. I think what I learned along the way is that you really need to find one or two vehicles that you’re good at and just do those. So if you want to write a blog every day or once a week about whatever topic, do that. If you enjoy Facebook and what works on Facebook, then do that. If you like Twitter, do that. Don’t try and do everything because that’s impossible. I don’t think it’s really realistic for most authors, certainly not commercial fiction authors, to not be involved in social media in some way these days unfortunately. But find a way to have fun with it, you know. I think honestly the biggest thing is not because somebody asks you something that you have to tell them. I have a zone of privacy. I don’t speak about my family. I don’t post pictures of my personal life. I have a zone of privacy and I’m entitled to that zone of privacy. It’s not because I’m a public figure to a certain extent that I have to violate that. So, you know, I do what I feel comfortable doing and I think that comes from an authentic place and so that’s what people connect with and that’s what I still do now.
Tim Knox: I think you make a really important point there is people connect with you, not only as an author but as a person.
Catherine McKenzie: They do.
Tim Knox: Especially the ones that really like your work, they come to look at you as a friend almost.
Catherine McKenzie: Yeah, they do but that doesn’t mean that they need to know, you know, what I had for breakfast or whatever, unless I want to tell them. Some people are really open and they’re happy sharing that stuff but for me I like talking about books and whatever – funny, political things. It’s just sort of whatever strikes me on a day. I do have my own rules about what I will and will not talk about.
Tim Knox: Gotcha. Are you a big reader yourself?
Catherine McKenzie: I am.
Tim Knox: What do you read?
Catherine McKenzie: I read eclectically honestly sort of vastly between reading non-fiction and fiction. I wouldn’t say that I read a lot of literary fiction but I can tell you right now I’m reading Maddie Dawson’s, The Things We Left Behind. Is that what it’s called? I’m sorry, I just started and I’m blanking on the title. Stuff that I’ve read recently that I enjoyed… this is terrible. I read Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell, which is a YA novel but it’s really good. Oh and I just read Flash Boys by Michael Lewis. So that’s a non-fiction title about terrible things that people are doing on the stock market.
Tim Knox: I’ve got that. I haven’t cracked it yet. I saw him on 60 Minutes and it looked really good.
Catherine McKenzie: It is really good. It’s really good. I’m not sure it’s all true but it’s really good.
Tim Knox: If enough of it’s true, it’s scary isn’t it?
Catherine McKenzie: Yeah, yeah, that’s true.
Tim Knox: One last question and then I will let you go. I know you’ve had a very long day there. The audience for this show, again, is writers or authors who are trying to break through, who are trying to market. Some of them are going the self-publishing route. Some of them are still struggling to get the traditional publishing route. What are your thoughts on self-publishing?
Catherine McKenzie: Look I think it can be an opportunity for people. I just know for myself that my book is so much better because I went through a professional editing process and I just hope, and I know, that a lot of people who are self-published do that as well. That’s my one piece of advice. Just make sure that it’s the best thing that you can put out there. If you wrote the end five minutes ago, it’s not the best thing that you can put.
Tim Knox: Exactly.
Catherine McKenzie: So if you’re going to publish yourself then treat it like it’s a business. Treat it like you’re the publisher. Hire an outside editor, hire a line editor, hire someone who knows how to put together a good cover. There’s lots of resources out there that are not that expensive that can help you put together a quality product. I also think though sometimes people give up a little too early in the process because it’s so easy to sort of just throw it up on Amazon or whatever other places that they don’t go through that process of rejection, which ultimately hurtful but can also be helpful as a process. I would just say that people need to be honest with themselves about where they are in the process and they’re really putting out their best work. You don’t benefit from putting out something that’s not good. That’s not going to help you.
Tim Knox: I agree with you totally. There’s so much stuff. I think it’s so easy to self-publish, especially with Amazon and Kindle. There’s so many books on there and a lot of them are just, you know, not spellchecked, not edited, not complete. They reflect back on an author who may have been a really good author had they gone through the process.
Catherine McKenzie: Yeah, but that being said, one of my favorite books that I read last year is a book by someone named John Harris called The Banks of Certain Rivers that was self-published. They tried to get it traditionally published for a long time and eventually put it out there. It’s a great book and it has amazing reviews on Amazon. Just like there are terrible books that are traditionally published, there are great books that are self-published. I think if everyone just made sure that what they’re doing is the best that it can be then it’s not so much about self-publishing or not self-publishing. It’s about good books, which is what it should be about.
Tim Knox: Exactly. Catherine McKenzie, this has been really, really fun. Tell us where we can find more information about you and your books.
Catherine McKenzie: You can find me at CatherineMcKenzie.com or on Facebook or on Twitter at CeMcKenzie1 if you want to read my really boring tweets.
Tim Knox: And if you ever need a great litigator in Canada.
Catherine McKenzie: Oh right, yeah.
Tim Knox: Give Catherine a call.
Catherine McKenzie: That too.
Tim Knox: Alright, Catherine. Thank you so much for being on the show.
Catherine McKenzie: Thank you.