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I’m telling you right now, you are going to love today’s Behind the Quill author interview. Why? Because chatting with me today is the spunky and spitfire CC MacKenzie, author of Reckless Nights in Rome and A Stormy Spring. I’ve only known CC for a short time, but she has inspired, supported, and encouraged me in so many ways. Not to mention, her writing is ON FIRE! Don’t believe me? Grab a copy of Reckless Nights in Rome, which is now free on All Romance Ebooks. This book revived my interest in the contemporary romance genre.

I could go on all day about this book but instead, let me share with you what CC had to say:

Me: When did you first know you wanted to be a writer?

CCM: I think I was seven, but when I told my family they just laughed and said I was a dreamer. I remember telling them I’d do a better job than Enid Blyton, which made them laugh even harder.

Me: What led you to writing contemporary romance and urban fantasy?

CCM: I’ve been a huge fan of vampires since Nosferatu and Dracula, especially the scary Christopher Lee Hammer House of Horror films. As for romance, it was the great Georgette Heyer’s Regency romances that whet my appetite. Never wanted to write historicals, which is strange because I love them if they’re well done. Then I found a couple of the real legends in Mills & Boon like the early work of the late Penny Jordan and that was it.

Me:Does your husband read your books? And what about other family members? What do they think about them?

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CCM: Ahh, the age-old question. My DH didn’t in the beginning because he reads biographies and rarely reads fiction unless it’s Wilbur Smith for the characterizations and local history, but he likes Patterson for the page turning quality. He’s always been 150% behind my ambitions and me. But since I started winning and finaling in competitions he became interested and now he does the technical stuff so he does need to read them. I’ll be totally honest and say it’s changed the way he sees me because he can’t decide whether to be proud or terrified with the love scenes. However, now he understands that the scenes are not about ‘me’ but about what the characters feel and do. My immediate family does not read my books, ever. I’m a mother first and writer second. If they ever want to read them then fine, but I never, ever ask them to have an opinion. I wouldn’t put them on the spot like that. Also the feedback would not be true or real. I have two girls and neither read fiction because they’re too busy with their own lives and careers.

Me: How did it feel when you published your debut novel, Reckless Nights in Rome? And was it any different for you when you published A Stormy Spring?

CCM: Yes, absolutely. With Reckless it was like sending a toddler out into a jungle without protection and I felt physically ill for weeks. With Stormy it was still hard but not as gut wrenching. One of the things I’ve learned is that once the book it out there it no longer belongs to a writer, it belongs to the reader, so we need to let go – bit like a child leaving the family and becoming their own person. We cannot take a criticism as a personal attack; every one is entitled to an opinion, no matter how hard it is to hear it.

Me: What was your favorite chapter (or part) to write and why?

CCM: In Reckless Nights In Rome, it was the scene where Bronte is listening to music too loud on her iPod deck and boogies around the kitchen with a bottle of water as a microphone. She’s swinging her hips and strutting her stuff with no idea that Nico is watching her from the door. He’s biting down hard on his knuckles and enjoying the show. She turns and sees him and screams on the spot in shock. That actually happened to me once so I used my utter mortification in the scene. In Stormy it has to be the scene in the café where Becca and Lucas are talking about her pregnancy and the ramifications. The part where he says ‘I have never made love to a pregnant woman before. I am a big man. I might hurt the babies.’ And Becca’s response made my readers howl with laughter, I know this because they’ve told me and it was a fun scene to write. So I think it’s the fun scenes that do it for me every time. Just like in real life I don’t believe two people can fall in love without laughter.

Me: If you could be a character from one of your novels for a day, which one would you be and why?

CCM: Goodness me. It would have to be Coco Monroe (you haven’t met her yet, she’s due out in January 2013.) Coco is an absolute pistol and beloved by my crit partners and beta readers. She’s the adored daughter of a business tycoon and haunted by the paparazzi and the celebrity press. On the surface it looks as if she leads a charmed life and has everything any woman could ever want. But she has no freedom, no love and can’t trust. She’s trapped in a gilded cage and has worked hard to escape it. We meet her when her great plan to be independent and give back to others less fortunate in society goes spectacularly wrong. She needed a strong hero to be her match and Rafael Cavendish was just the boy. She’s a gutsy, independent, fun and very naughty heroine. I hope the book is going to strike a chord with my readers.

Me: Where do you get the inspiration for your contemporary romance novels and all those steamy scenes?

CCM: From everywhere. Magazines like GQ (always good to get the male perspective) Vogue, Cosmo etc. I spend a lot of time in cafés people watching and I’ve traveled extensively for work and pleasure throughout my life. I’ve met powerful and wealthy men with my husband’s career. I’ve seen the very best of people and the very worst too, so nothing surprises me. There are scenes and events that have happened in real life I could never make up. I don’t use specific events or people, but I can imagine the ‘what if’ question and that’s what turns ideas into stories. The love scenes are a form of intimacy that’s difficult to write without making them sleazy or uncomfortable for the reader. If I’ve struck a chord and made them ‘real’ then I know I’ve hit the spot. I spend a lot of time choreographing scenes and getting in the zone with music and peace and quiet. No one must disturb me. My betas are great at telling me if they’ve worked, they guide me. If anything they pull me back. The key to writing them is that they must always be relevant to the story and be an emotional pivotal moment for one or both characters.

Me: Are there certain characters you would like to go back to, or is there a theme or idea you’d love to work with in the future?

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CCM: I’m in the middle of a couple of drafts for two stories in the Ludlow Hall series of which Reckless Nights In Rome is the first. A Stormy Spring is linked, but Run Rosie Run is out in October and is the official number two of the series and is the story of Rosemary Gordon and Alexander Ludlow and how they get together – at last – jeez, if they’d been any slower they’d need Zimmer frames, but once the romance starts it all happens and Rosie’s determined to find a man who loves her the way she needs to be loved. She’s another great character and a lot of fun.

I’m also in the process of outlining a huge Angel paranormal series. No one’s written the definitive Angel character yet and I hope to do that with an alternative reality futuristic police series I’ve been mulling over. My son’s actually been assisting with world building on that one, so it’s all good.

Me: What has been the toughest criticism given to you as an author? What has been the best compliment?

CCM: Gosh, this is hard because any criticism from people who know what they’re talking about isn’t criticism it’s a gift! I think a submission I did for a publisher and the response was a rejection, but a good rejection which because I was new I didn’t realize was good until I thought about it and mulled it over and realized the editor was absolutely right – I did need more character development. I did need to down play a secondary character. The theme did not work.

The best is from readers who’ve connected with the characters and really ‘got’ them and the story. My first reader fan mail was so exciting I was pumped up for days and I’ve a dialogue going with my fans. These are the girls I write for and it’s made the journey so worthwhile.

Me: What would you say is your most interesting writing quirk?

CCM: Good question. I can work on four things at once. I need my environment to be ‘right’ which means peace and quiet with no distractions. However, being indie published that’s almost impossible to attain which means things can get angry and loud in the house if anyone disturbs me. I’ve had to learn to multitask and to give a little. But when I’m in the zone, no one is permitted to intrude. I just wish the people I live with would remember that.

Me: When you aren’t writing, what do you like to do?

CCM: I get out and about with friends and family. I’m not doing enough of that and they’ve been hassling me. I like to travel but again haven’t done enough of that recently either. I’m hoping to do more next year.

Me: What would you like your readers to know about this book or you in general? What do you want readers to see in your books?

CCM: With A Stormy Spring I’d like them to connect with realistic characters who although they’ve found each other and the attraction between them is seismic, they have a hard road ahead, just like the rest of us. Shit happens in life. Things happen when we least need or expect it and sometimes from the people you love the most and it’s how we deal with it that matters rather than letting our feelings and emotions rule us. There are times we need to reach out, ask and accept help from others. That’s an incredibly brave thing to do for a person who is suffering. But an even braver thing is for the person who loves them to stick with them when it might be easier to walk away. Lucas Del Garda in A Stormy Spring refuses to walk away. He’s a true hero in the very best sense of the word.

Me: Tell us about your current or upcoming release. Will you have a new book coming out soon?

CCM: Reckless Nights In Rome is free on All Romance EBooks and will be migrated to Kobo, iTunes and Amazon ASAP – it takes a while for the price matching to happen. A Stormy Spring has been out for three weeks. I have Run Rosie Run coming out in October 2012; readers are waiting for Rosie’s story.

Me: What is one piece of advice you would give to aspiring authors?

CCM: Understand that you will never stop learning the craft; it’s part of the joy of writing. Write what you’d love to read and cannot find. Write with confidence. Write with authority. And tell the story.

Me: Truly great advice, CC. And I’m looking forward to October so I can grab a copy of Run Rosie Run. Thank you so much for talking with me today.

Here’s a little more about CC MacKenzie:

CC MacKenzie is a wife and mother of three and lives in Cheshire, United Kingdom.

Her first career was as an International Banker where she ran the trade finance department. After meeting her husband, she then married the bank(!) and had over twenty house moves covering six countries and continents over the following twenty years. During that time she taught a dance fitness programme, ran an interior design business and brought up her family.

Want to know more? Then check out CC on her Amazon Author page, subscribe to her blog and don’t forget to follow her on Facebook, too!

So, what did you think? Do you have other questions for CC MacKenzie? If so, post them in the comments and I’ll see if I can get her answer a few of them for us. And because CC loves her readers, she has decided to give away a copy of A Stormy Spring to one lucky commenter! The winner will be picked Friday, Aug. 10 at noon (EST).  Isn’t she awesome? Tell her so in the comments!