The first of my author interviews over afternoon tea is with McKenzie Richardson. Having immensely enjoyed all of McKenzie’s work that I’ve read, both poetry and prose, I was delighted to be able to put my ten questions to her.
So grab a cup of tea and maybe a biscuit or slice of cake, then sit back and relax and read the interview…
Thanks so much for taking the time to join us for afternoon tea today, McKenzie. To begin with, for those who don’t know you or have yet to discover your writing, please introduce yourself.
Greetings! My name is McKenzie Richardson. I am an author, poet, crafter, blogger, book reviewer, and avid reader.
I write in a variety of genres, but mostly horror, fantasy, and poetry. Recently I have been leaning toward more fairy tale retellings and am currently working on a gender-centric collection of dark fairy tales. My stories range from zombies and nightmares to Rapunzel escaping her own tower. I like to write about whatever inspires me without letting labels hold me back.
My work has been published on various online platforms as well as in multiple anthologies. I have also written and published a middle-grade fantasy novel called Heartstrings.
When I’m not writing fiction, I run a crafting website where I craft with found objects and repurpose things I would otherwise throw away. It’s always an adventure.
When did you first realise you wanted to become a writer?
I have always enjoyed stories. I vividly remember my mother making up bedtime stories for me and I was fascinated with her ability to string words together in an entertaining way. I was always reading and had a deep love for books from an early age, but hearing my mother’s impromptu stories made me realize that this wasn’t just something grownups in books could do. I could be a writer too.
Once I started school, I began writing my own stories. I always loved creative writing assignments at school, but soon I just wrote for the sake of putting my ideas on paper. One Christmas when I was in elementary school, I wrote and illustrated (with the help of my mother) a three-chapter book about adventures my toys had and gave them to my family as presents. I feed off their smiles when they opened them and knew this was something I wanted to keep doing.
I have always had a lot of support from my family. My grandmother was an artist and wrote for a newspaper. She was always there for me and helped my imagination blossom with creative crafts and an open ear for my ramblings.
As I grew up, I never stopped writing. Whether it was stories, songs, poems, or novels, I just loved the act of putting words on paper (or a computer screen, although I always have had a soft spot for words I can physically touch).
Where do you find your inspiration?
Usually from everyday life. It’s always fun to take something real and turn it into something fantastical.
When I first moved into my new house, I never saw my neighbor, but would occasionally hear bumps through the wall. My speculation on what was going on next door turned into one of the first stories I had published, “The Perfect Neighbors”, which you can read on the Flash Fiction Magazine website.
I also pull from the strange dreams I have and the pictures that I find myself doodling, which helps me get story ideas and more fully visualize what I have created.
Can you tell us about your writing process? What’s the first thing you do when you get a new idea?
To be honest, I am a bit of a procrastinator so when I first get an idea, I usually write it down on whatever is available, then set it aside. I have a folder filled with these scraps, written on the back of receipts, napkins, junk mail, and tiny pieces of notebook paper. I also have an email draft that is just a list of unrelated words that sparked a story idea. I have an abundance of ideas in a variety of forms.
If a story really strikes me, I basically shut myself in a room and just start pecking away on my keyboard. Many of my story ideas develop as I’m writing and change as I go. This means a lot of editing work once the final story is set, but I like to see where the story takes me. Many times, I let my hands type and allow the story to lead. I just do my best to keep up.
In your opinion, what’s the best and worst thing about being a writer?
The best thing is when someone has a positive reaction to something you’ve written. Whether it’s seeing someone smile at a poem you’ve created for them or actual verbal praise, it is so wonderful to see that your words matter. I am so thankful to all of the people who have read my work and taken the time to leave a review or comment. The thing that makes writing worth doing is having someone to read what you’ve written.
With that in mind, the worst thing is rejection. It’s hard enough to gather enough courage to put yourself out there (to publishers, to reviewers, to agents), so when someone finds your work lacking, it really hurts. At that point, you just have to remind yourself why you like writing in the first place, learn from the experience if you can, and get back to writing and improving your craft.
What projects have you been working on recently? What plans do you have for the future?
I have just never been satisfied with “happily ever after”. So for the past year, I have been working on a collection of dark fairy tale retellings in which I imagine alternate lives for well-known characters. Whether its Snow White, the Evil Queen, Sleeping Beauty, or the witch from Hansel and Gretel, I really enjoy taking a story almost everyone knows and putting my own spin on it. In college, I majored in Psychology and Gender Studies, so I especially like giving traditionally passive female characters more agency in my stories.
I am just finishing up the last story, which is very exciting but also nerve-racking. Once it’s finished, I will start the daunting and time-consuming task of trying to get it published.
As I said before, I have tons of story ideas on tiny scraps of paper so I will definitely continue writing. I have plenty of partially-written novels, stories, novellas, and even a book of poetry in the works. It has always been such a big part of my life, I can’t imagine not writing.
Many authors are also avid readers. Who are some of your favourite authors? Can you share with us some of your favourite books?
I have always loved reading. Anyone who knows me even a little bit will tell you that I am a major book nerd. I try to read a little bit of everything, because I really believe that reading helps your writing.
My all-time favorite authors are Margaret Atwood and J.K. Rowling, because they both have an amazing talent for world-building and story-telling. I can’t get enough of their writing.
I really enjoy dark books, so growing up my favorites were Frankenstein, Jane Eyre, The Handmaid’s Tale, and The Scarlet Letter.
More recently I read Cressida Cowell’s The Wizards of Once and N.D. Wilson’ 100 Cupboards and loved them both. Even as an adult, I really enjoy books written for young readers. Both of these books are great examples of how to capture the reader with your setting and I was very inspired by them.
I honestly love too many books to do them all justice here, but you can find tons of reviews on my blog.
If you were only allowed to own three books, which three would you choose?
I’m going to be a bit of a cliché here, but my first pick would definitely be Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. I feel like that is so many people’s go-to answer, but it is a book I could read again and again. It gets better with every reading. It’s something I really enjoyed as child that is still inspiring and meaningful to me as an adult. It is also a fantastic example of wonderful writing. The characters, the world-building, the narrative. The whole thing is amazing. I strive to write something as good as that book one day.
I also have a copy of The Complete Tales & Poems of Winnie-the-Pooh, which is a book that always helps me when I’m feeling down. It allows me to reminisce on my childhood when I just want to escape adulting for a little while. It’s another one I could read over and over again. That silly old bear always has a way of warming my heart and bringing a smile to my face.
And lastly, I would choose my own book, Heartstrings. It sounds narcissistic, I know, but hear me out. That book is a physical reminder of how many people I have that support me. Whether it was my mother or my husband helping me proofread, my mother-in-law designing and painting the gorgeous cover, or all of the friends and family members who read and reviewed the book, that book reminds me that I have a truly remarkable group of people surrounding me who are always ready to give me love and support when I need it. I am so thankful for them all.
We love quotes at Sammi Loves Books. Please share with us one of your favourite quotes from one of your own stories or poems, and explain why you chose it.
I think my favorite quote comes from my short story, “The Reading Willow”, which is featured in Outcast and Other Words.
“Because when we read and write, we leave a little bit of ourselves in each printed word, to be enjoyed by another, to feed us and grow us and maintain us, as we live an eternal life, reading in a meadow filled with wildflowers.”
This really sums up why I enjoy writing (and reading) so much. It’s all about putting a little piece of yourself out there into the universe and seeing what it comes back as, seeing how it has morphed and changed and how it has touched other lives. That is why I write. Because I want my words to matter to someone else.
Another thing we love at Sammi Loves Books is afternoon tea. If you could have afternoon tea with any author or fictional character, who would you choose and why? Just so you know, the table can seat four, so feel free to fill all available seats, but don’t forget to leave one for yourself! 😉 Also, where might you have this afternoon tea and what is being served? You know, so we can all enjoy it…
To be honest, I am much more comfortable with the people in books than those in the real world, so even in this fantasy, I’d lean toward fictional characters (although in real life, I’d love to have tea with Margaret Atwood, because she is my idol, though I would probably just stare at her mouth agape in awe).
I would definitely invite Sophie from Howl’s Moving Castle, because I have real respect for a girl who gets turned into an old woman and just kind of shrugs it off like it’s no big deal. In all seriousness though, she is such a wonderful balance of kindness and strong-mindedness that I think she could really teach me a thing or two about being more outgoing.
I would also invite Meggie Folchart from Inkheart. I’d love talking about books with someone who could literally read them off the page. Plus, she is brave, quick-thinking, and determined. I’m noticing a pattern of bold females at this tea. I think that’s me subtly telling myself to take more risks.
And finally, I’d ask Greta from Katie O’Neill’s The Tea Dragon Society. She is such an awesome character and I’d love to talk about tea dragons with her. For those who haven’t read the comic series yet, I highly recommend it. We would all sit outside Hesekiel’s tea shop, admiring the beautiful scenery while talking about books, writing, and magic. And, who know? Maybe Greta would let us all share some of her tea dragon, Ginseng’s, tea, an experience anyone would be lucky to have.
Thank you again, McKenzie, for the interview. I really enjoyed reading your answers, many of which I can relate to. I think it’s a lovely idea to have included your own book, Heartstrings, in the three books you would choose to own – and the reason behind it is a beautiful one. The quote you chose to share was delightful; it clearly illustrates the wonderful way you have with words. Your book of dark fairy tale retellings sounds amazing and I wish you every success with it, and all other future projects.
Connect with the Author
McKenzie Richardson lives in Milwaukee, WI. Her short stories have been featured in the anthologies, Mutate, Electromagnetism, It’s Behind You, Doomsday, and Evil Lurks, all of which are available on Amazon. Her work will be included in two more anthologies coming out this year. She also has been published in 101 Words and Flash Fiction Magazine, as well as various online anthologies through Dreaming Spirit Press including Love Letters to Selene, Summer Dreams, and Whispers and Echoes (Issues 1-4). Her first novel, Heartstrings, was published in 2018, and is also available on Amazon. McKenzie also runs a blog where you can find crafting tutorials, book reviews, and a running list of all of her work.
If you would like to be interviewed as part of Afternoon Tea at Sammi Loves Books, check out this post.