Anna Mackenzie is a full-time writer with a background in public relations, publishing and ‘numerous less tidy jobs’. She writes contemporary, historic and speculative fiction for adult and young adult audiences. Since her first novel was published in 2003 she has written nine titles and won numerous awards. Her latest title, Evie’s War, was released 1 July 2015. Anna teaches creative writing to all ages and is a popular speaker at literary festivals. She is available to visit schools as part of our Writers in Schools programme, as well as lead Professional Development sessions for teachers.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Mackenzie, Anna (1963 –) writes contemporary, historic and speculative fiction; edits magazines, teaches creative writing and mentors emerging writers.
Anna Mackenzie’s first novel, High Tide (Scholastic, 2003) was listed as a 2004 Storylines Notable Young Adult Fiction Book. Kate De Goldi, on Saturday Morning with Kim Hill, described High Tide as a ‘really very good adventure thriller… [Mackenzie] knows how to structure a book and how to paint with delicate brushstrokes.’
Her second novel, Out on the Edge (Longacre, 2005) explores the lives of two teenagers, one the victim of violent abuse, the other totally together – until their lives collide. A review in Reading Time said, 'This is an excellent piece of work from an emerging writer - well-written, intelligent, in character and perfectly pitched for the intended reader. Highly recommended!'
The Sea-wreck Stranger (Longacre, 2007) won the 2008 Young Adult Fiction Honour Award at the New Zealand Post Book Awards for Children and Young Adults, now known as the New Zealand Book Awards for Children and Young Adults. It also won the 2008 Sir Julius Vogel Award for Fantasy and Science Fiction, was listed as a Storylines Notable Young Adult Fiction Book and was shortlisted for the LIANZA Esther Glen Medal. It was also selected in 2008 by the International Youth Library in Germany for the prestigious 'White Raven' list.
Set in a post-apocalyptic world, The Sea-wreck Stranger begins the Sea-wreck trilogy, telling the story of three children, Ness, Ty and Sophie. Faced with a startling discovery, they make a choice that sets them on a path of conflict with the elders of their community – but which also confirms that the world has possibilities beyond the rigid confines of their isolated community. John McIntyre on National Radio said, ‘it’s a really tight, gripping story with a pacey plot, but what really stands out for me is the sheer beauty of the writing. Here there is a wordsmith at the top of her game... it’s one of those novels where a great story meets a great storyteller. There’s going to be a sequel and I can’t wait!’
Shadow of the Mountain (Longacre, 2008) explores the territory of grief and loss. The work was listed as a 2009 Storylines Notable Young Adult Fiction Book. James Norcliffe in NZ Books writes: ‘Shadow of the Mountain grips the reader’s interest at the outset and thereafter rarely falters. The emotional and technical business of rock climbing and its obsessions are made very real and provide an ideal backdrop for the novel’s ultimate confrontation of physical and personal challenge. That the challenge itself is in the end a compromised one is as it should be, and far more satisfying than easy heroics.’
The sequel to The Sea-wreck Stranger, Ebony Hill (Random House/Longacre, 2010) was shortlisted in the 2011 New Zealand Post Book Awards for Children and Young Adults and was listed as a 2011 Storylines Notable Young Adult Fiction Book. Anna Gowan of TVNZ said, ‘Ebony Hill is a dramatic, unpredictable read that should appeal to readers beyond its target demographic. Anna Mackenzie has created a strong and independent heroine in Ness, who… finds herself an unlikely participant in an unforeseen war.’
The final novel of the trilogy, Finder’s Shore (Random House/Longacre, 2012) was described by Trevor Agnew as ‘a splendid ending to an intriguing and original trilogy.’
The Elgard Duet of Cattra’s Legacy (Random House, 2013) and Donnel’s Promise (Random House, 2014) is set in a medieval kingdom and details Risha’s journey to uncover her past in a political world fraught with danger, intrigue and betrayal. The New Zealand Listener’s ‘Best Books of 2013’ described Cattra's Legacy as: ‘an eloquent, richly rewarding blend of romance, warfare and domestic life in the Middle Ages that will have readers queuing up for the sequel.’ Cattra's Legacy was listed as a 2014 Storylines Notable Young Adult Fiction Book and was shortlisted for the LIANZA Children and Young Adult Book Awards, now known as the New Zealand Book Awards for Children and Young Adults. Donnel’s Promise was selected by iBooks for their ‘Top Five’ list of 2014 and was shortlisted for a 2015 Sir Julius Vogel Award.
Mackenzie’s ninth novel, Evie’s War (Longacre, 2015) is set in World War I, and follows a young heroine as she faces the harsh realities of war, meeting both courage and tragedy. Evie's War was listed as a 2016 Storylines Notable Young Adult Fiction Book, one of only four awarded in the Young Adult category for 2016. In 2016, Anna Mackenzie toured the country presenting WWI Voices, an audiovisual presentation which shares the letters between her great uncle and grandfather in Word War I. These letters provided the inspiration for Evie's War.
WRITERS IN SCHOOLS INFORMATION
Mackenzie is able to discuss her writing; the process of writing and of being published; writing for different markets, e.g. fiction vs. non-fiction, public relations; children’s literature in general. She can speak to children aged 7 and over and prefers to talk to students aged between 10 and 18. She can speak to any number of students for a Q&A session, and 20 students in a workshop. She is able to travel outside of her region to visit schools, as well as lead Professional Development sessions for teachers.
Please continue down the page to see Mackenzie’s answers to a list of questions provided by school students:
Kapai: Kids Authors’ Pictures and Information
Where do you live?
On a farm in Hawke’s Bay. A few years ago we built an office for me to work in. It has been partly taken over by the rest of my family, but I retain my own corner which has lots of light, lovely rural views and a big corner desk.
What sorts of books do you like to read?
I read a wide range of adult fiction and as much young adult fiction as I can find time for. I also read cookbooks and history.
Who is your favourite author?
Michael Ondaatje and Kurt Vonnegut, while my favourite young adult authors are Margaret Mahy, Jonathon Green, Garth Nix and – literally – hundreds of others.
How do you think up your ideas?
The smallest thing can grow into a story – an unusual scene, a story someone tells me, the juxtaposition of two separate memories or thoughts. I don’t have time to write them all!
What is the best thing about being an author?
Doing something that I love, and creating something that others can enjoy.
Some Questions from Primary School Students
What sort of pets do you have?
My children have a cat and a dog, as well as occasional pet lambs. I’m not really a pet person, but I’ve become quite fond our two.
What is your favourite colour?
What is your favourite food?
I love lots of foods; I enjoy cooking, especially trying out new things for family and friends.
Do you have a favourite movie?
There are lots of movies I like. My favourite kid’s movie is Toy Story.
What is the most fun thing about being an author?
Being able to spend my time doing something I enjoy, and reaching the point in any story where the characters become real – ususally after I’ve got the nub of the idea down they start to ‘live’ in my head and become real, fully developed people. I enjoy thinking through how they each think and would react to one another.
How do you make books?
I let an idea develop in my head, and then I sit down and write and write and write. After that, I go over it several times, honing and improving.
Where do you like to go for your holidays?
Mahanga, near Mahia, and Wanaka
What was the naughtiest thing you ever did at school?
I climbed onto the roof of my boarding school so I could see the fireworks on Guy Fawkes’ Night. And got into a lot of trouble!
Some Questions from Secondary School Students
How did you get started as a writer?
I began writing as a child because I enjoyed it. Later, when writing was part of the various jobs I’ve done, I did far less fiction writing. Then one day, I had a story idea in my head and I decided to write it down and see what happened.
Who inspired you when you were getting started?
My parents encouraged my early efforts and exposed all of our family to different forms of writing. When I began working on children’s novels, my own children and my nieces and nephews provided insight and ideas.
What advice would you give an aspiring writer?
Be prepared to work at it; read widely; live life with one eye on the whys, hows, and how comes…
Is it difficult to make a living as a writer in New Zealand?
If you are prepared to take on a wide variety of writing activities it is possible. That said the irregular nature of the income can be a problem.
What were you like as a teenager?
Eager to get on with life! But I was also very shy. I enjoyed the academic side of school but disliked boarding. In my last year I shifted to a co-ed high school and found getting to know a wider range of kids very satisfying. I liked all of my subjects, some of my teachers, and at times my family (they probably felt the same way about me).
MEDIA LINKS AND CLIPS
- Anna Mackenzie's facebook page
- Anna Mackenzie's blog
- Anna Mackenzie’s website
- Interview with Anna Mackenzie for Christchurch City Libraries
- Interview with Anna Mackenzie for North and South
- Interview with Anna Mackenzie for Hooked on Books
- Review of Evie's War
Updated January 2017.