An Interview with…Grant McKenzie
Today we have the fabulous Grant McKenzie joining us at Author Toolbox. He is one amazing author, a man who knows how to set a fast pace, pen an amazing plot, and compose a book that is impossible to put down and leaves you feeling lost when it ends.
Switch drew me from the first few lines. From then on during that sitting, I only put it down because my body screamed for sleep. I looked at the half-finished book the following day and literally forced myself not to pick it up. I had too much to do, but come evening, that book was in my hands and I was once again in the world of kidnapping and deception.
I don’t usually urge people to read certain books in such a pushy way, but please, please go and buy this book. If you love thrillers, you’ll love Switch, and I really hope it makes it to the big screen one day. Now that would be something to watch!
My review of Switch is HERE.
Emmy: Hiya Grant. Brilliant to have you here.
As I’m not into poking around on the Internet in a creepy manner, searching out information on people, please forgive me if I double up on questions you’ve been asked before. My first question is: Have you always written?
Grant: From my earliest memories, I was always making up stories. Even before I knew how to write, I would act out imaginary adventures wherever I was with whatever I could find: cigarette butts and discarded lollipop sticks in thestreet, seaweed and stones at the beach, and, of course, my ever-present Action Man with lifelike hair and Kung Fu grip. My first real memory of writing a story with a beginning, middle and end, however, was in primary school in Scotland. I was about 10 or 11 and decided to write a play based on the popular cartoon show Hong Kong Phooey about a crime-solving dog who worked as a janitor in a police station. I wrote, directed and took on the role of the feline sidekick, Spot, for the classroom production. The play was such a hit that I ended up writing and performing two more during the school year.
Emmy: Would you mind telling us about your publishing journey? I want to give people hope that they can also break into mass-produced publication territory.
Grant: My journey has definitely been a long one. I actually started writing my first novel when I was 14. I wrote the first draft in longhand, then asked my parents for a typewriter for my birthday. I finished the third rewrite of that novel before I graduated high school. I never showed the novel to anyone as it was just meant to prove to myself that I could actually do it. (I had started others before, but this was the first one I finished.) After college, I went into journalism and worked my way up to editor and columnist. In 1989, however, I told my bride that what I really wanted to do was write fiction. I dusted off my old typewriter and started work on my first real novel. It was called Murder To The Max. Twenty years, hundreds of rejections, and more than a few unpublished novels later, my debut thriller launched in the UK and Germany.
Emmy: Do you find people view you differently now you’re published? Not family, of course, but people in general. Oh, and have you heard the hilarious line “Cor! You must be loaded!” yet?
Grant: Since I live in Canada and my book debuted in the UK, few people here actually know about it (that may change in July 2010 when Penguin Canada will launch it). And because people don’t see it in stores, they think I’m pulling their leg. As for the money, people do tend to think that writing fiction is lucrative. It can be–I hope Unfortunately, the big deals that get reported in the media are rare (that’s why they’re news). Remember, even J.K. Rowling only received £1,500 for her first book. Most debut writers would receive more money on the dole.
Emmy: On the back of my ‘loaded’ comment, are you able to write full time, or do you still have a day job?
Grant: I have to work, as does my wife. We’re both still rather fond of food and lodging.
Emmy: I admire anyone who is dedicated enough to keep plugging on in the publishing world until they hit the jackpot. The mines are out there, ready to explode in our faces, and some hurdles seem too high to jump. Was there ever a time when you considered giving up on your dream to become a published author?
Grant: I never considered giving up, but I’ve certainly spent time concentrating on other things. I turned to art for awhile and actually managed to sell some of my paintings. It’s always difficult to start a new book when all you’ve received is rejection for the last one. But after the mourning process, there’s usually another story nagging at me to be written.
Emmy: How many countries now sell Switch? It must be amazing and surreal to be you right now. Do you have to pinch yourself at times and wonder if this is really happening?
Grant: Switch has been sold into three languages and is available (if you look hard) in seven countries–so far Naturally, I’m hoping for more as it really is such a thrill to be picked up by a foreign publisher and to see what they plan to do with the cover. When I make the time to take a deep breath and enjoy the moment, looking at my bookshelf with different copies of Switch on it really does make me smile.
Emmy: What can we expect to see in the future from you? Care to share what you’re currently working on?
Grant: The next book will be another stand-alone thriller with all new characters and setting. I’m hoping it will be available in the summer of 2010.
Emmy: Some banter scenes between the detectives were cut out of Switch which helped up the pace. Did you feel sad at letting them go, even though you realised the sense in their deletion?
Grant: It’s always tough to cut out scenes that you’re fond of and I have definitely found the editing process to be tough. When you’re published, you’re no longer writing for yourself–you have to please a lot of people and that brings its own set of challenges.
Emmy: Because Switch is so intense, I can almost imagine it being written in one go with snatches of sleep at the keyboard. Did you find it easy to dive back in after breaks and start up where you left off? I didn’t spot one place where it lagged. It must have been one hell of a wild ride while writing.
Grant: I wrote Switch in daily spurts while I was commuting by ferry from the small seaside town where I live to the newspaper in Vancouver where I was working at the time. But that’s where routine comes in. By sticking to a rigid writing routine, I found it only took a few seconds for my imagination to kick in and for me to continue telling the tale. Of course, rewriting and rewriting and rewriting helps, too.
Emmy: Moving away from publishing now, I’d like to ask some more laid back questions, if you don’t mind. The first is one I ask everyone: What would be your ideal menu at a dinner party—let’s say three courses—and where would you go to eat it? Any destination in the world. Oh, and what would you wear? (I’ve just handed you a credit card with unlimited funds so you can buy your clothes and shoes for the evening…what is your dream store/designer?)
Grant: Prop me on a beach somewhere under a shade umbrella, let me dig my toes into the warm sand, and bring me endless and assorted little hors d’œuvre. I love variety. Mix it up: Greek, Indian, French, Italian, Chinese, Spanish, etc.
This do you, Grant?
Emmy: When you have the time to read, which authors’ books are you most likely to pick up? Do you select those in the genre you write or go for something completely different? And, have any of those authors inspired you in your own writing?
Grant: I read a lot of everything: Thrillers, Sci-fi, dark fantasy, horror, mystery, etc. Like most readers I get excited when a new book by one of my favourites comes out: Robert McCammon, Stephen Hunter, James Rollins, John Sandford, Neil Gaiman, James P. Hogan, and too many others to mention. And they all inspire me.
Emmy: Are you a movie-watcher? If so, do you enjoy thrillers? What is your all-time favourite film?
Grant: I love movies–especially action movies as I like to be entertained. The Dark Knight, Blade Runner, Pan’s Labyrinth, True Grit, Silence of the Lambs, Star Wars, Big Trouble, Little China, 28 Days, Silverado, Dog Soldiers, Rocky, So I Married an Axe Murderer, The Big Chill, Reuben Reuben, and too many others to mention.
Emmy: Okay. Imagine it. You have a day off to spend as you wish. Anywhere in the world, unlimited funds, and the twenty-four hours are guaranteed to feel like a week. How would you spend it?
Grant: Spending money wouldn’t be high on my list. However, if all my bills were paid and I had a little money left in my savings account so that I didn’t have to worry about where the next paycheque was coming from, then you could just drop me back on that beach with my wife and daughter. A relaxing massage, a dip in the warm ocean, a laugh with my girls, and I would be happy.
Emmy: Awww. Well, on that note, I’d like to thank you again for letting me interview you and I wish you much luck in the future. Here’s to more fabulous books by you! Cheers!