"Gift of the Realm is a contemporary fantasy, for lack of a better term. Personally, I consider it a love story with mystical elements," Mackenzie told me. "Keely O’Brian is a modern day woman, haunted by dreams of an ancient stone ring and Colin Quinn, the handsome Irishman she’s loved since a trip to visit her grandmother when she was seventeen. Returning to Ireland, Keely is determined to discover the source behind the dreams and end them once and for all. What she finds is a fairie heritage, a three hundred year-old curse, and a love for the charming Halfling whose denial of their combined fate threatens to doom her for eternity."
Mackenzie's second book, scheduled for release this summer, is a far different book than Gift of the Realm. That Dating Thing is a fun contemporary.
The daughter of Wall Street’s most notorious stock swindler, dog trainer, Rylee Pierce has perfected the art of flying beneath society’s radar. Prosecutor, Cooper Reed is a threat to her carefully hidden truths, but how is a woman supposed to resist a man capable of handling a psychotic Great Dane while charming her out of her panties before she has the chance to blink?Mackenzie wrote her first book when she was ten, "bowing to the pressure from the voices in my head," she said.
"Do you still have your first story?" I wondered.
"I have no idea where that first attempt to put the voices on paper went. I’m not that organized. Heck, I can’t find my cell phone most of the time," she confessed.
For Mackenzie, the most important element is story, story, story.
"There are a gazillion books out there for a voracious reader to choose from, some exceptional, some horrible! For me, exceptional means the story itself keeps me turning pages. Anyone can write a love/sex scene," she said, then paused. "Okay, that’s not quite true, but you know what I mean. If all I wanted in my reading experience was steamy sex, I’d pick up a porn magazine. I want the meat. I want to be taken on an adventure of the heart. Give me a heroine with whom I’d like to have a martini. Make me care where she’s heading, laughing while she muddles her way to happily-ever-after, and crying over the scars on her heart. Do that and you have yourself a fan."
Although she's a pantser at heart, the plot comes first. She considers herself a storyteller first and a romance author second. Once she has the basic story solid in her head, the characters jump in and take it from there.
"How do you come up with the titles to your books?" I asked.
"You know, that’s a really good question and one I’m not really sure how to answer. Sometimes the title just jumps out at me. Bam, here I am! Other times I’m putting the finishing touches on a story and still referring to it by my working title, which inevitably is the heroine’s name. The title is important, however. Like a three or four word tag line, the title should convey the theme to the reader. I often pick up a book because the title snags my attention or whimsy."
She will also choose anything by Susan Elizabeth Phillips, because when she finds the time to sit back and read, Mackenzie wants to be entertained.
"While a historical adventure or a romantic suspense will keep my interest, I’m a romantic comedy kind of girl. SEP never fails to make me laugh amid the sighs," she said.
Mackenzie admitted that while, in her head, she knows publishing two titles qualifies her to claim the title of "writer," she's still working on considering herself one.
"When you jump into a pool of talented swimmers, while still wearing floaties, it’s impossible to claim victory with a straight face. Don’t get me wrong. I am a writer, but I’m also a work in progress, and consider that a good thing. I want to be on par with all those talented authors I love. So, I’ll continue to write and keep my eye on the prize," she told me.
"What did you want to be when you grew up?" I asked.
"Oh, you know, the typical things little girls dream of. Zookeeper, writer, Grammy award winning singer, writer, supermodel (Hah!), writer, international spy…writer. "
Growing up was in a small town just north of Boston. She loved the history of the area, and she and her dad would haunt all the historical sites throughout her growing up years. However, when she was eighteen, she and her boyfriend at the time (now her husband) took a trip to Arizona.
"I took one look out the window when we landed in Phoenix and I knew I was home. The southwestern desert feeds my soul," she told me. "Hubby and I have lived here, raising our two sons, for 23 years now. I can’t imagine living anywhere else."
"Speaking of growing up," I said, "what is the most embarrassing thing your mother ever did to you?"
"Ugh. Sorry, Mom, but it has to be said. I have really thick, curly hair. My wild hair bugged the hell out of my mother when I was growing up and she used to instruct the hairdresser to ‘thin’ it out with thinning shears. Like a sheep, I tell you! The last time it happened, I was sixteen. Hello, high school! When I got home from the appointment, my siblings got a good laugh out of my ‘see-through’ hair, but I was horrified. I promptly found my own hairdresser and cut my hair boy-short. And mom never mentioned my wild hair again."
She and her four sisters are all hair-twirlers.
"My best friend’s daughter used to stop by my house occasionally when she was a young girl," she remembered, "and when she went home and my friend asked her what I was doing, she’d say, ‘Twirling her hair and reading, of course.’"
"Have you ever eaten a crayon?" I asked.
" I…plead the fifth."
If Mackenzie had to start her journey to getting published all over again, she would begin learning the ins and outs of digital promotion as soon as possible—long before signing her first contract.
"As a technically challenged author, I am scrambling to earn an education in the world of e-books, facebook and twitter, which takes time away from what I want to be doing - writing."
"What was the scariest moment of your life?"
"I am a four year breast cancer survivor. To beat this cruel disease, I faced double mastectomies, chemotherapy, and radiation, along with several other forms of treatment. I would have to say the scariest moment I have ever faced happened four days after my first chemo treatment. I can’t tell you how incredibly horrible I felt that morning - it’s indescribable. Because I had only endured one treatment so far, I didn’t know if I’d reached the extent of discomfort or if I would continue to spiral downward until I lost my mind. I finally picked up the phone and called one of my sisters. I was so distraught, I couldn’t speak. She understood without my having to say a word. We prayed together that morning, and I survived that and seven more debilitating visits to toxic hell, but that lowest point of my life is something I will never forget."
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After a decade of trying to outrun her debilitating dreams, Keely returns to Ireland to face the ancient ring of stones and the man haunting them. Within the stones, she embraces her fairie heritage and her mystical gifts. But can she trust the handsome Halfling who shares her dreams and holds her heart?
When Keely reappears in his life, Colin’s fairie blood threatens to gain the upper hand. Compelled to assist the lovely Halfling, he agrees to help her break the three-hundred-year-old curse on their families, but he'll do it on his terms—as a black wolf.
Together, two Halflings can stand against any power, but only love can break the bonds of bitterness. Will Colin’s arrogant plan to outwit the King of the Fairies doom Keely for eternity? Or is their love enough to break the curse?