The DMS was lucky enough to interview C. Lee Mckenzie, author of the middle grade novel Alligators Overhead. Lizzy recently reviewed this exciting book, and it was great to share our thoughts about it and hear yours! We are excited to learn a little bit more about the story behind the story. So, without further ado... take it away, Lee!
What inspired you to write Alligators Overhead?
I needed a story to go with a title I'd been carrying around in my head for years. I used to stare up at my knotty pine ceiling and find all kinds of alligators staring down at me. Somehow, that didn't totally warp my young mind, but managed to stick a title into it. It took me quite a while to come up with a way to fly alligators, I can tell you that.
How long did it take you to write Alligators Overhead?
I'd have to add the time up from different writing spurts because I wrote this a while ago--at least a version of it--then I set it aside and wrote a young adult novel before going back to Alligators. If I'm counting right, I'd say about a year. Somehow it seems longer, but when I checked my research notes I saw that I started looking up alligators and swamps about this time in 2011.
What are some of your favorite books from childhood? Were there any specific authors who inspired you?
The books I loved were the pretty traditional ones for girls. Alice in Wonderland and Anne of Green Gables really stand out in my memory of that time. My earliest identification with an author was E.B. White. I fell in love with his stories, then later I read his essays. His style is so easy, and it communicates so directly to the heart that I still enjoy opening a collection of his essays and reading, even though I've read them before. I could keep writing about authors who inspire me, but let's talk about those another time.
Where did you come up with the characters Weasel and Pete?
Ah my rascal, Pete. He's as close to an "Everyboy" as I've ever written. I wanted a kid who was ordinary, that readers could identify with easily. I wanted him to be slightly bad and slightly damaged by life, even though only twelve, and highly redeemable. I also wanted him coming into maturity and being blindsided by his powers--sort of a "warlock unaware." Weasel had to be very different, so he became the brainiac, the logical kid who'd rather not be in trouble or danger. Their friendship had to be tight in the story, so I had Pete save Weasel from bullies before the real story began. I thought that would be the bond to keep them together no matter how bad the situation became.
If you could befriend a character from any of your books, who would you befriend? Why?
I've always really liked the grandmother in Sliding on the Edge, my first young adult novel. Her name was Kay and she was someone I identified with the moment I started writing her. As to why . . . I guess it's her toughness and determination that I admire, especially since it almost covers her vulnerability. I'd want her on my side in any battle because I know she'd stay with me. I like people who are loyal and don't give up when times are bad.
Where do you like to write? Do you listen to music while you are writing?
I usually write at my desk in my office. It's a room with lots of light from a wall of windows that lets me look out at that forest I love. I stare outside and daydream when I need to, which is whenever I can't make the words do what I want them to.
No music. I've just never been able to listen to music when I'm concentrating on something else, especially writing. I love music while cooking or eating, and of course dancing! Music helps a lot then.
If you could live anywhere in the world, where would it be? Why?
I'm very lucky. I've found the exact spot I want to live. It's on the edge of a forest in the Santa Cruz Mountains. I used to move a lot when I was a kid, so I thought that I'd always be here and there and everywhere, never in one place. When I married, we both had the travel bug, so we indulged that a lot before we settled here in California and built our home. Now we like to visit other places, but we have no desire to pack up and leave permanently. Kind of a huge change from my childhood!
Do you have a favorite animal or an animal that you would want as a familiar?
Oh, now you've touched a sore spot! I don't suppose you've read about the cat protests or you might have avoided this question. They're up in paws over my letting alligators be the familiars in this book. They've threatened to have my book banned unless I rewrite the story and reinstate them in their traditional role. They'll be returning to the negotiating table next week and I'm very worried that I may lose this battle. So about your question . . . I used to be very fond of cats, and I never considered having a familiar other than a feline, but I'm rethinking my position on that. Sorry to go on like this, but you can imagine the state I'm in. The Howl Ins alone are driving me crazy.
Where can we purchase your books?
So glad you asked THAT question!
Connect with C. Lee Mckenzie
Author Website ☞ Blog ☞ Facebook ☟
Read the Reviews!