Friday, December 24, 2010

C. Lee McKenzie Interview & Give-Away

Merry Christmas Eve to all of you Oasis Seekers!  Today, our gift to all of you is an interview with the ever-awesome C. Lee McKenzie and a BOOK GIVEAWAY.  One lucky Oasis Seeker will win a copy of Lee’s new book, The Princess of Las Pulgas, which was just released on the 15th.  (Hint: If you need a last-minute gift idea for any YAs or YA-lovers on your list, this is a great idea!)
Welcome, Lee!  Thank you so much for dropping by during this super-busy time of year.  Have you managed to get any writing done at all this past month?  If so, please tell us how you found the time.
I'm so pleased you asked me to visit your super Oasis, Jessie. I really appreciate your including me here. As to the writing . . . yes, I did write this month. I re-worked the first chapter to my third book and added two chapters to a fourth that is in an embryonic stage. I'm not a late night person, but I don't mind a four o'clock in the morning writing stint. That's really the only time I know I have two uninterrupted hours. 

Congrats on the release of Princess.  This is your second published novel.  Does it get any easier to write and publish the second time around?  What were the biggest differences?
No, it wasn't easier. This book was challenging for me. I had to back track twice and take a new path each time before I sorted out the princess and her story. With Sliding on the Edge I didn't have that problem. That was the biggest difference. 
Can you give us a twitter summary of Princess (140 characters or less)?
Okay, that wasn’t really fair.  I’ll save you and give the Amazon description:
After her father's slow death from cancer, Carlie thought things couldn't get worse. But now, she is forced to confront the fact that her family in dire financial straits. To stay afloat, her mom has had to sell their cherished oceanfront home and move Carlie and her younger brother Keith to the other side of the tracks to dreaded Las Pulgas, or "the fleas" in Spanish. They must now attend a tough urban high school instead of their former elite school, and on Carlie's first day of school, she runs afoul of edgy K.T., the Latina tattoo girl who's always ready for a fight, even on crutches. Carlie fends off the attention of Latino and African American teen boys, and one, a handsome seventeen-year-old named Juan, nicknames her Princess when he detects her aloof attitude towards her new classmates. What they don't know is that Carlie isn't really aloof; she's just in mourning for her father and almost everything else that mattered to her. Mr. Smith, the revered English teacher who engages all his students, suggests she'll like her new classmates if she just gives them a chance; he cajoles her into taking over the role of Desdemona in the junior class production of Othello, opposite Juan, after K.T. gets sidelined. Keith, who becomes angrier and more sullen by the day, spray paints insults all over the gym as he acts out his anger over the family's situation and reduced circumstances. Even their cat Quicken goes missing, sending Carlie and Keith on a search into the orchard next to their seedy garden apartment complex. They're met by a cowboy toting a rifle who ejects them at gunpoint from his property. But when Carlie finds him amiably having coffee with their mom the next day -- when he's returned her cat -- she begins to realize that nothing is what it seems in Las Pulgas.
Sounds fantastic!  I read in your bio that you wrote your first novel, Sliding on Edge, after reading a disturbing article about self-abuse.  It sounds like Princess also has some social commentary to it.  Was that intentional? Do you set out to gear your novels towards teens in crisis?

Oh, yes. All my poor teen main characters are in crisis. The only way they're going to get out of their predicaments is to learn and grow and become a touch wiser than they are in the beginning of their story.
Quick character insight: If your main character, Carlie, was getting ready to celebrate Christmas tomorrow, what would she most wish to find under the tree?
A toy--probably one from her dad. She's still so young and still needs his love and understanding. Maybe a Jack-in-the-Box that pops up and scares, but delights her at the same time. 
Aspiring authors want to know... How do you take a seed of an idea and grow it into a whole novel, full of subplots, twists, and three dimensional characters?  Any writing-process secrets you can share?
Well, my family would tell you that I daydream a lot, so when I'm writing a story it's better if one of them drives. 
Seriously, I listen to my characters, let them tell me about who they are and what they want. I put down notes in a spiral notebook that's more of an appendage than my arm, and, when I'm ready to write a scene,  I refer to those notes. They are my small seeds and I grow them into scenes. Gradually, these scenes come together to create my book.
It’s make up your own question time.  What’s something you wished interviewers asked you, but they never do?
Nobody ever asks me what I want to do when I grow up anymore. When I was young that was the most common question I got from just about everybody. They must  think I'm too old to ask about my next adventure. Well, surprise! I'm not. Of course, I don't have an answer yet, but I'm working on it. 
Finally, can you tell us the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?  (It doesn’t have to be writing related.  Any shared advice is welcome this Christmas eve.)

"Get over it!" 
I have a tendency to hold on to slights or grievances for a long time. My sister-in-law, who never held on to these things, gave me that advice and it was excellent. Very freeing. 
BONUS QUESTION:  If you were stranded on a desert oasis and only had the supplies to celebrate one holiday, which one would you pick and why?
Halloween, hands down. There' s no expectations of anything by anyone, except to find some outlandish costume and behave a bit wacky!  There's the color of autumn everywhere, harvest of the last summer crops,  and brilliantly orange pumpkins that are easily carved into grinning ogres. Oh, and then there's all that candy. Yep. Halloween would be my pick.
Awesome!  I'd have a hard time choosing between Halloween and Christmas, but you make a convincing argument for the former...
You can learn more about Lee at her website or check out her author page on Amazon  where you can also order copies of her novels.  Thanks again, Lee, for dropping by.
If you’d like to win a copy of The Princess of Las Pulgas, follow these simple steps:
 1.  Be an Oasis for YA follower
 2.  Grab our new Oasis for YA button and post it on your blog or website
 3.  Leave a link to your posted button (and your e-mail address) in the comments
 4.  Follow Oasis for YA on twitter (we recently made our debut there too)
Tweets are not required, but are appreciated  :)
We’ll use to select one lucky winner at noon on December 27th.  Good luck & Merry Christmas.


  1. Grats on the release. :) Merry Christmas

  2. Hi, Jessie . Thanks so much for hosting me here. I enjoyed my visit a lot.

  3. This is an insightful interview. I really liked reading it.
    And I'd love to win as well, hope I didn't miss out on the deadline. (I was away from the virtual world for a while)

    I posted the button on my blog sidebar:
    And congrats on your twitter debut. I'm stalking you there as well: @bee_muses



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