Lily Iona MacKenzie's Blog for Writers & Readers


Thanks to Lia Mack, author of WAITING for PAINT to DRY, for this interview!

lia mack waiting for paint to dry copyWhat genres do you work in?
All of my books will be women’s fiction. I love and enjoy delving into the emotional journey we women must take to find ourselves, our place in the world. Everyone’s story of when they realized their sense of self, is a beautiful, powerful one. That said, my novels also have a vein of activism attached to them. Not activism in an IN YOUR FACE manner, but there’s a unique thread that streams throughout the entire novel that will hopefully bring about a sense of understanding and knowledge in my readers. And my novels will always have a spiritual side. Not religious, but spiritual. Sometimes there’s a spiritual pretense that hardly anyone ever picks up on, but it’s there. Adding to our lives, our stories. Pointing us in certain directions. Will my readers find the spiritual elements in my debut novel WAITING FOR PAINT TO DRY? I hope so 🙂
If a movie was made of your book, who would the stars be?
Fun question! Well, for starters, it can’t happen because she’s no longer acting… but definitely Meg Ryan. She’d be the perfect main character for WAITING FOR PAINT TO DRY. Everything from her quirky sense of self, to her beauty that always seems hidden behind a self-conscious smile, all the way to her short, sassy, sexy hair. She’s the perfect Matty Bell. Anyone else in my novel I’d have to have help casting. I love movies, but I hardly ever remember actors names. 
At what moment did you decide you were a writer?
I honestly thought everyone liked to write as much as I did. I was always the new kid, moving around from school to school – my father was in the Air Force – so I was never in one place long enough to be seen. No teacher ever picked up on my writing talent or, rather, no teacher ever had the time to let me know they saw that I had one. I was always that new student that showed up in February that didn’t come back following year. Then, when I was a junior in high school, I had this wonderfully imaginative creative writing teacher. She pointed out that I had something special. 
She had asked us to write a short story one day. The moment she said, “Go,” I was transfixed. I didn’t stop or feel or see anything outside the paper I was writing on until she said, “stop.” By then the hour had blown by and I had written the first two chapters to a novel. Of course, I hadn’t followed the directions (story of my life!) When I saw that everyone else had 1-5 pages written verses my 30 back to back, I knew I had failed the assignment. But then something magical happened. The next day the teacher read some of the best stories and left mine for last. I presumed she did so to show the class what NOT to do when writing a “Short Story”. Only, once she started to read what I had written, and I finally opened my eyes against the humiliation I felt,  I saw that everyone in the class too had become transfixed. They leaned forward in their chairs, wanting more. And when the bell rang and that was it – I only wrote the first two chapters – I didn’t stop hearing from my classmates that they just HAD to know what happened next! For the remainder of the year, students that never paid an ounce of attention in class still remembered my story. They stopped me in the hallway. Begged me to finish writing it so they could find out how it ended. That’s when I knew for sure this wasn’t a  talent that I could pass up. I could move people. I just needed to discover my voice. And a reason to write more.
As a result of publishing your book, what have you learned about yourself and/or the writing process?
I love this question… I learned that I’d rather be writing!  Writing is the EASY PART. Seriously. I think I may need to make a bumper sticker for my truck… Now that I know how painful publishing is, I will never groan about writing again. Getting a book from writing to publication takes a lot of ‘blood, sweat and tears’, with publishing is the ‘blood’. Although it had nothing to do with my actual publisher. Rather, it had everything to do with me. I’m comfortable being a ‘closet writer’. Publication brings you out into the spotlight like you’ve never been before. And what writer likes that? Social media is great in many respects, but it also brings us out into the open. That part, to me, is unnerving at times. Yes, yes. It’s exciting and the best type of stress I want in my life – the stress of having to be a published author. But it’s still stress. “Enjoy!” my publisher at Pen L Publishing keeps saying… I’m trying! 
What does your writing space look like?
I prefer to write at my writing desk. Just got one last year as a present to myself for signing a publishing contract! On it I have piles upon piles of notebooks filled with notes. I have post-it notes and pictures cut from magazines taped to the wall above my cluttered desk. But I can’t think if I can’t see it all spread out like that. I need to be able to ‘daydream’ with all my inspiration right at hand. Although, if I’m being completely honest, my writing space is anywhere I can hide! With two kids, two dogs, a hubby, and all the fixin’s of life, I sometimes have to hide to get some peace and quite. So anywhere I can find to hide and sit and dive into my head – either with paper and pencil, or my laptop – is my writing place. One of my favorite places is my local coffee shop. Even thought it’s no where near to quite (and I don’t drink American coffee), NO ONE BOTHERS ME. It’s actually pretty nice, being uninterrupted!
Where do your ideas come from for stories/books?
Honestly, they come from my life. I find a spark, a ‘thing’ that needs dissecting. For WAITING FOR PAINT TO DRY, that spark/thing was the need to move past a trauma from my life and find common threads from other survivors to heal from such trauma. But from that ‘spark’ I generate a totally fictional story that, sometimes, seem to just happen. Automatically. As if my subconscious takes over and my characters drive the story, decide what happens next. Why write from aspects of my own life? I like to write from a place of knowledge, of understanding, so as to bring forth characters who aren’t just formed from research, but from experience. To me that’s deeper, richer. And it’s very cathartic personally. They say, ‘write what you know’. Add that to my desire to be a fiction novelist, and I find the challenge very exciting. To take what you know and fictionalize it to the point that it’s so much more than just your experience. It’s now wide reaching and has the potential to help and heal others. And entertain! I love the challenge. 
Do you travel to research your book(s)?
YES!! It’s the best part of researching a book. For WAITING FOR PAINT TO DRY, I traveled to sunny, southern California more times than I can count. Of course, I wrote the novel over the course of 10 years, so I had time to travel! But it’s important to do so, in my opinion, to bring realistic elements into your story. While there, I do things that my character does, plus things they don’t, so I can see the whole picture. I read local publications to get a feel for the community, the happenings. And I buy a map of the area for when I get home and can’t recall names of lagoons, streets, beaches. 
Lia-mack-bcard copy
What writing mistakes do you find yourself making most often?
I’m not honest enough. At first, that is. But with each iteration of the manuscript, I dig deeper and dipper to find the hidden truths that even I don’t want to spell out. It’s too painful to be that intimate with your characters, especially when you’re inside their head when writing in a first person POV. You know more than anyone would ever tell an outsider. You also feel, see everything. And you can see why that character would rather not let anyone know they’re hurting inside. But as the writer, there you are, writing about all their hiddens for the world to see. It’s quite a vulnerable feeling. Hence I have to force myself to do it.  What helps me the most is a quote from Stephen King’s ON WRITING memoir. To paraphrase, “This isn’t a church. This isn’t politically correct. This is writing. Tell the truth.” I have that in big, bold letters taped to the wall above my writing desk. TELL THE TRUTH. 
You can reach Lia at

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