Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Zanna Mackenzie: Writing a Magickal Novel

Have you met British author Zanna Mackenzie yet? Oh, you must let me introduce you! She's all about light-hearted romance, comedy, and a twist of magic! She's also a trained therapist, with qualifications in clinical aromatherapy, crystal healing, naturopathic nutrition and herbalism.

My novel How Do You Spell Love? (or HDYSL, for short) was recently published by UK publisher Crooked Cat and is a romcom [that’s a romantic comedy, for the uninitiated--*mps] with a magical theme. Now, I love writing, no matter what it is about, but I particularly enjoyed putting this book together because it was so much fun to research and create. 

In my book Kat is trying to get over the end of her relationship with Nathan, even though part of her still believes they were meant to be together. Summer is trying to find ways to keep her relationship with Rob on track. Then Kat meets Alex, and Summer meets Tom, and for a whole tangle of reasons Kat shouldn’t be with Alex, and Summer shouldn’t be with Tom, but the attraction and chemistry is instant and causes everyone involved to start questioning their lives and their behaviour.

I love books with a magical theme to them so I decided I wanted to make the character of Summer into a white witch – a person using her abilities to try to help others. She is someone who (mostly!) abides by three strict rules passed down by her gran, whom she inherited her ‘gift’ from. Rule number 1 – only cast spells for good and never wish anyone harm. Rule number 2 – never accept money for casting spells and trying to help people. Rule number 3 – never cast spells for yourself. Unfortunately in HDYSL Summer ends up bending rule number 3 slightly but I think she can be forgiven in the circumstances!

I loved researching the uses of herbs, essential oils and crystals for the spells Summer uses in the book. Of course, all the spells are fictitious and I’ve used artistic licence with them but the meanings mentioned for the herbs and crystals are true to what you will find in reality in old herb craft and magic-with-nature books.

For example, in the ‘old days’ the garden herb rosemary was widely used at weddings, with pieces being tucked into the bride’s bouquet and used by the groom as a boutonniere (button hole). Springs of the herb were also given out to guests attending the ceremony as a kind of wedding favour, tied with gold ribbon. It was believed that the herb would ‘grant sweet memories’ of the happy day.

During the course of my research for HDYSL, I found out the significance of colours when it comes to spell casting. Often coloured rather than white candles are used, with the colour chosen relating to what the spell is for. I was surprised that black is actually a colour to ‘remove negativity’ – you tend to think of black as doing the opposite, I think! Blue is for healing energies, orange for warmth and energising energy, red for love and lust, and gold for wealth.

As well as using herbs, candles and aromatherapy oils Summer also has a collection of crystals she incorporates into spells as well. I used to think that a crystal was just a lump of rock but soon found out that is far from the case. When you learn how different crystals are formed and what from, and how they are structured, it is totally fascinating stuff and you can truly start to appreciate the amazing properties these stones are credited with.

At times during How Do You Spell Love? Summer seriously doubts if she should continue spell casting, doubting her abilities and feeling discouraged as boyfriend Rob heartily disapproves of her ‘meddling’ in other people’s business, but at the same time she feels compelled to continue the traditions of the craft which has been in her family for generations. The way things are going in her life she begins to think that magic is failing her but maybe, just maybe, magic knows the way of things better than she does! 

An excerpt from

How Do You Spell Love?

Kat pushed the last of the cottage cheese and shrimp sandwiches into the cool box and slammed the van door shut. As if her life wasn’t enough of a disaster zone as it was – no money, lousy job, losing Nathan, having to move back home to live with her parents – now this had to go and happen. Plus, of course, it didn’t help that today she was feeling shattered after spending half the night chanting some ridiculous protection spell in the middle of the allotments with Summer. 

Cringing as a van full of builders stopped at the nearby traffic lights, Kat braced herself for the inevitable. After the standard-issue wolf whistles had drifted across from their van, next came the leered, “Wouldn’t argue with that, love!” as one of them nodded towards her sparkling clean van, parked neatly at the curb. The words “A Bit of Crumpet on the Road” emblazoned down the side in deep purple, glittery lettering. Not for the first time Kat cursed her boss Janice for calling her bakery-cum-deli that name.

Kat sighed, well it certainly drew comments from the public and from their customers, not always welcome ones, but as Janice was always keen to point out, any kind of publicity and attention was, in her eyes, good publicity and attention.

Pulling her navy and white striped apron more tightly around her T-shirt and shorts, Kat ignored the builders and climbed into her van to begin that morning’s deliveries. As she indicated to pull out into the busy street in Luisborough, she mulled over the bad news – that she was to add the controversial Netherton Meadows housing development to her daily sandwich round.

Netherton Meadows. Yippee. If Summer found out, she’d surely be ostracised for fraternising with the environmental enemy. This was a development that pretty much everyone in Luisborough had fought against for getting on towards a year. It had been the focus of STW campaigns. It went against everything that Kat believed in environmental-wise. Everyone hated the Netherton Meadows developers. Except, it seemed, Janice, who was perfectly happy to, in her words, ‘supply yummy builders with yummy sandwiches.’

Lost in thought, Kat just managed to spot the approaching traffic lights had turned to red and hastily slammed a foot on the brake. The van lurched to a halt and several boxes of crisps and one of the cool boxes in the back tipped over. Damn. It was shaping up to be one of those days.

Two hours later Kat had visited all her usual drops, was extremely hot and bothered, and could put off going to Netherton Meadows no longer.

Driving through the assorted vans, machinery and portacabins Kat parked next to a building marked as being the Site Office and hit the button on the dashboard. Tinkling chimes filled the air as Kat climbed from the driver’s seat and made to open the back doors of the vehicle. It was embarrassing enough that the van had the company name in large lettering along its side but, just to make sure that it received maximum exposure – and achieved maximum embarrassment – Janice had had some irritating chimes fitted to the vehicle too. Kat was under strict instructions to sound the chimes when she called at all of the sites where people came out to the van; such as they were about to at Netherton Meadows.

A man came down the steps of the office with a grin on his face and walked towards her. “Hi, you must be Kat.” He wedged a clipboard under his left arm and offered a hand to shake. “I’m Alex. Project manager for the site.”

“Hi,” mumbled Kat, spotting a group of hard-hat-clad builders advancing towards her with hungry expressions on their faces.

“Right, lads,” Alex turned towards the men. “This is Kat and she’s very kindly agreed to venture onto this site to bring you all your lunch. Don’t give her any hassle, OK?”

The men laughed and then nodded. “Sure, Alex. You’re the boss.”

Fifteen minutes later it seemed that all of the team at the development had made their sandwich, crisp and drink selections and sloped off to devour them in the sunshine. Only one of the builders, a portly man who must have been twenty years Kat’s senior, had pushed the boundaries a little, despite Alex’s earlier warning. As he’d selected a smoked salmon and cream cheese roll – a choice that had surprised Kat somewhat, having pegged him as a ham and cheese kind of guy – he’d asked Kat if she’d fancy joining him for a drink sometime. She’d politely declined his offer, saying that she had a boyfriend. No need to tell him that, technically, she and Nathan were no longer an item. No need to tell him why either. 

About Zanna Mackenzie

Zanna lives in the UK with her husband, 4 dogs, a vegetable patch that’s home to far too many weeds and an ever expanding library of books waiting to be read.

Being a freelance writer and editor of business publications is her ‘day job’ but, at every opportunity, she can be found scribbling down notes on scenes for whatever novel she’s working on. She loves it when the characters in her novels take on minds of their own and start deviating from the original plot!

Formerly a travel agent and therapist (she has qualifications in clinical aromatherapy, crystal healing, naturopathic nutrition and herbalism) she loves walking the dogs and gardening – that’s when she’s not writing or reading!

Zanna has written two novels, The Love Programme (Astraea Press) and How Do You Spell Love? (Crooked Cat Publishing) and both were published in early 2013.
Find out more about Zanna at:
Twitter: @ZannaMacKenzie
Facebook: www.facebook.com/zanna. mackenzie

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