Lily Iona MacKenzie's Blog for Writers & Readers

MY BLOG POSTS COMMENT ON SOME ASPECT OF WRITING & READING.

The Ripening
The Ripening:
A Canadian Girl Grows Up

" A wildly inventive, consistently engaging, and amusing comic novel, but under its bright exterior lurk darker undertones and truths.... "

" A wildly inventive, consistently engaging, and amusing comic novel, but under its bright exterior lurk darker undertones and truths.... "

" Tillie’s grit and ability to face life’s challenges are inspiring, the seeds for later discovering her artist self. Tillie takes readers on a wild ride. Join her if you dare! "

Lily Iona MacKenzie Books
Curva Peligrosa
Curva Peligrosa

" A wildly inventive, consistently engaging, and amusing comic novel, but under its bright exterior lurk darker undertones and truths.... "

" A wildly inventive, consistently engaging, and amusing comic novel, but under its bright exterior lurk darker undertones and truths.... "

" A wildly inventive, consistently engaging, and amusing comic novel, but under its bright exterior lurk darker undertones and truths.... "

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FLING!
Fling!

" A wildly inventive, consistently engaging, and amusing comic novel, but under its bright exterior lurk darker undertones and truths.... "

" A wildly inventive, consistently engaging, and amusing comic novel, but under its bright exterior lurk darker undertones and truths.... "

"Fling! is both hilarious and touching. Every page is a surprise, and the characters! I especially loved Bubbles, one of the most endearing mothers in recent fiction. A scintillating read."

Lily Iona MacKenzie Books
Freefall
Freefall :
A Divine Comedy

" A wildly inventive, consistently engaging, and amusing comic novel, but under its bright exterior lurk darker undertones and truths.... "

" A wildly inventive, consistently engaging, and amusing comic novel, but under its bright exterior lurk darker undertones and truths.... "

" These fascinating characters will fill your imagination, defying expectations about aging, art, and what truly matters in life. "

Lily Iona MacKenzie Books
All This
All This

" A wildly inventive, consistently engaging, and amusing comic novel, but under its bright exterior lurk darker undertones and truths.... "

" A wildly inventive, consistently engaging, and amusing comic novel, but under its bright exterior lurk darker undertones and truths.... "

" Indicative of the title, the poems in All This range from the conventional lyric/narrative that captures an intense moment of emotion, an epiphany glimpsed briefly out of the corner of the eye, to the more experimental. "

Lily Iona MacKenzie Books
No More Kings
No More Kings

" A wildly inventive, consistently engaging, and amusing comic novel, but under its bright exterior lurk darker undertones and truths.... "

" A wildly inventive, consistently engaging, and amusing comic novel, but under its bright exterior lurk darker undertones and truths.... "

Each finely crafted poem in this powerful collection comes alive on the page while she traces the days’ journeys with a painter’s eye, a musician’s ear, and the deft pen of a poet.

Lily Iona MacKenzie Books
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Tag: novels Page 1 of 2

Giving birth to fictional characters

My novel Curva Peligrosa opens with a tornado that sweeps through the fictional town of Weed, Alberta, and drops a purple outhouse into its center. Drowsing and dreaming inside that structure is its owner, Curva Peligrosa—a curiosity and a marvel, a source of light and heat, a magnet. Adventurous, amorous, fecund, and over six feet tall, she possesses magical powers. She also has the greenest of thumbs, creating a tropical habitat in an arctic clime, and she possesses a wicked trigger finger.

When Curva had ridden into Weed on one of her horses two years earlier, she was like a vision from a surrealistic western with a parrot perched on each shoulder and a goat following. Curva’s glittering gold tooth flashed, and she wore turquoise rings on each finger. A rainbow-striped serape hung from one shoulder. Curva also wore a flat-brimmed black hat and carried a rifle along with six-shooters.

Do novelist’s books really come fully formed?

Before I committed myself to writing and became part of that world, I had no idea what was involved in constructing a novel. I assumed the narrative flowed easily from the writer’s pen to paper (and in those days, a lot of writing was done with a pen or pencil, though typewriters also were used). The finished product looked so pristine that I couldn’t imagine it ever being anything but perfect. Not only did narratives read as if they had come fully formed from Zeus himself, but they also were error free.

Doin’ what comes naturally!

cupid-1295027_1280I’ve been surprised by the questions I’ve received at readings and from friends about what is considered my overt treatment of sex in my novels. All of the characters, male and female, experience complications because of it.

Book Marketing 101

art-2417013_1920We writers are innocents in many ways, especially regarding the selling side of the publishing business. As long as we can stay in front of our computers, engaged in the dream world of our fictions, we don’t have to think of how these narratives will find their readers. Now that three of my novels have been published, I’ve had to make the adjustment. It hasn’t been easy.

How does writing novels give birth to the author?

The road to publishing a novel is a long one. When I reviewed my notes for my first published novel, Fling!, I was amazed to discover I had started working on it in 1999. When I first began, I had hoped to write a lyrical novel a la Virginia Woolf. Then my husband called my attention to a review of another Canadian writer’s book, Barbara Gowdy’s Mister Sandman. When I read of her comic sense, “both inventive and tough,” I realized again how much I wanted to and can write in this way. But I also had resisted it because the style seemed limited to certain topics. It’s difficult to write beautifully and be funny, and I was letting my desire for beauty inhibit the progression of what later became Fling!

Timing: Giving Birth to a Novel

When I give readings of my last published novel, Freefall: A Divine Comedy, I always spend time explaining that it didn’t come fully formed like Athena from Zeus’ forehead. I’d worked on parts of it for years, but eventually, the narrative solidified and attained its final shape. As is often the case for me, it took a while for the main character’s voice to fully emerge. It’s a little like a partial birth, if there is such a thing. The legs and arms came first. Eventually the rest followed.

What goes into launching a book for publication?

With a poetry collection (All This) and three novels published, I’ve experienced what it’s like to release a book into the world. Each work offers its own peculiarities. Partly it’s the difference in publisher (Little Red Tree Publishing released All This, Regal House Publishing put out my novel Curva Peligrosa, and Pen-L Publishing gave birth to Fling! and Freefall: A Divine Comedy), each having its own approach. But it’s also the difference in genre. While poetry has a more limited audience base, fiction is another animal, appealing to a wide range of readers. Consequently, in many ways, a novel has to be packaged differently. What ends up on the cover must stimulate a potential reader’s imagination and seduce him/her into buying the book.

Where do characters come from?

Readers who aren’t writers themselves tend to think that most aspects of a novel come directly from an author’s imagination. Some novels do arrive in that fashion, but most don’t. These readers don’t understand how characters can appear and then evolve during a narrative, learning and growing through their actions and the resulting events that unfold.

A tribute to beta readers

tux-161439_1280Since the release of Freefall: A Divine Comedy, I’ve been asked numerous times at readings what inspires me during the process of writing a long narrative. How do I keep going in the face of years of revisions? This questioning caused me to review the notebook I kept during the writing of this novel, something I create with each book I write. The notes end up being almost as long as the work itself, allowing me to have conversations with myself about the project—what’s working and what isn’t.

What’s It Take To Be A Novelist?

writing-3209899_1920Pen-L Publishing, the house that has published two of my novels (Fling! and Freefall: A Divine Comedy), has also contracted with me to write another that features Tillie Bloom, Freefall’s main character. This new work’s title is Tillie: Portraits of a Canadian Girl in Training, and I’ve been working on it for the past few months when I wasn’t making final revisions to Freefall.

Where do characters come from?

flamingo-3334359_1280During a recent interview, I was asked how I start a novel and create characters. Unfortunately, I couldn’t give this person an answer that was universal. Each book puts different demands on me and has its own particular origins. So I’ll focus here on my most recently released work, Freefall: A Divine Comedy.

Why Do You Read Novels?

colorful-fireworks-4th-of-july-picjumbo-com copyAs a fiction writer, I often ask myself why people read novels and how can I convince them to read mine? That question occurred to me again recently when I finished a novel that had me questioning why read fiction. The book was engaging enough. The writer was competent and had created characters that seemed believable (though that isn’t necessarily a criterion for me). There was enough tension to keep me reading in order to discover more about these lives I had immersed myself in. But the experience felt flat, and I wondered why I had spent several precious hours on something that wasn’t more satisfying.

Editing’s Many Layers, #AuthorToolboxBlogHop

Small presses don’t have the reputation that larger presses do of maintaining high editorial standards. But my experience with these presses, especially the one that published Curva Peligrosa, my second novel, has been revelatory.

Welcome today’s featured author, Julie Christine Johnson, author of The Crows of Beara!

crows banner

The Crows of Beara by Julie Christine Johnson

Genre: Fiction, Climate Fiction, Eco-Lit, Women’s Fiction

Along the windswept coast of Ireland, a woman discovers the landscape of her own heart.

Discovering Narrative Structure in the Dordogne

During our recent month-long vacation in France, we spent a week at an Airbnb rental in the Dordogne area. You, dear reader, may be wondering what this post has to do with writing or reading. But bear with me. You’ll eventually see the connection.

Located near the village of Pellegrue, our accommodations originally were constructed 700 years ago. At that time, the farmer lived in the upper level with his family, and his animals were housed below.

 

Having spent some years on a farm myself as a girl, I have some idea of what the smells and sounds may have been like! Fortunately for us, they hadn’t lingered.

But the external structure has retained its original shape, though its interior has been remodeled. My husband and I were impressed with how the owners, Jane and Mike, originally dairy farmers in Australia, transformed this ancient stone building essentially themselves, calculating how to move beams and hoist them into place, stripping the roof tiles and replacing their under layer before resetting the tile, merging the original stone walls and beams with modern trappings. Modern Italian tile floors meet the authentic stone enclosures on the ground floor, while hardwood floors graces the upper level. The four bathrooms and kitchen all have modern appliances. It’s the ideal blending of old and new, filled with character and charm.

It occurred to me that Jane and Mike’s work was similar to how a novelist constructs a narrative. Sometimes we start out with a basic structure in mind that might not even be conscious yet, but in the process of writing we uncover it, our words like the items needed to construct a building. We link them together until they eventually take shape and tell a coherent story. The story that the Dordogne Airbnb tells is many layered, still resonating with echoes of its past, just as our novels also have multiple levels, the images our words create transporting readers (and writers) into a new (novel) place. And while readers might not be aware of the work that goes into writing long fiction, it involves a lot of heavy lifting!

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