Lily Mackenzie is originally from Calgary, Alberta Canada but has lived in Northern California for most of her life. As a single mom, she worked at several jobs, including at a dance studio.
At one point she discovered that she wanted to be a writer. Part of that discovery was finding journaling and has done so since. Some of her novel ideas have come from writing her dreams in her diary.
One hundred years of solitude is one of her favorite books:
A local bookstore she loves:
Stephen: hey all. Welcome to another episode of Discovered Wordsmiths. This is episode 47, which seems impossible to me. I didn’t think we’d get this high this fast. It’s been really great. Meeting all these authors, finding out about all these great books, having some good discussions. So today I’ve got Lily McKenzie.
She is originally from Canada, uh, now lives in California and has written several books. Her latest one is called Free Fall and she’s had an interesting journey and the book sounds great. Her other books, uh, she includes some poetry. So she’s done a little bit of several things. So check out the interview, uh, hear about Lily and her book, and if you’ve been enjoying.
Discovered wordsmiths. If you’ve been finding some good authors, please go check the authors out. Go to the website discovered wordsmiths.com and look for the authors that you may like. Look for the genres you may like, uh, find some new authors, support these new authors as they try to, uh, grow into career authors.
And if you do like the podcast and you’ve been listening to, Several episodes, please give us a review. The more people that listen and give reviews, the more people that can discover this and the more authors we can help with their author career. So without me rambling anymore, here’s Lily. Alright, well Lily, welcome to Discovered Wordsmith.
It’s great to have you today. How are
Lily: you? Thank you. I’m in glorious, northern California where we’re having this 80 degree weather. On April, well,
Stephen: April Fools, I’m in Ohio and we had about an inch of snow this morning. Are are,
Lily: are you serious? Is that in fools?
Stephen: Yeah, it’s Mother Nature’s April Fool. Yeah.
It’s snowing again right now, in fact.
Lily: Oh, what a contrast.
Stephen: Yeah. Yeah. Very big difference. So where in, uh, California do you live? Uh, just
Lily: outside San Francisco.
Stephen: Okay. I’ve never been up that far. I used to live down by San Diego.
Lily: San Diego. Yeah, that’s, that’s a ways away
Stephen: for Ohio. It is like the distance of a whole country
Mentality in other ways too, I’m sure.
Stephen: Yeah, yeah. Very much so. You’re right, right. Um, alright, well, before we start talking about your book, uh, tell everybody a little bit about yourself. What are some of the things you like to do besides writing? What’s a little bit about your background, uh, where you come from, what you’ve done, et cetera.
Lily: Well, I’m originally from Canada. I, uh, grew up in Calgary, Alberta, and uh, when I was 23, I, uh, my adventure took over and I applied to Bechtel Corporation to try to sponsor me into the States because I’d worked for them in Canada and they had their head office in San Francisco, so they sponsored me and I ended up in San Francisco.
Totally culture shocked because, because at that time you couldn’t even, I mean, if you went to a cocktail lounge, you had to sit down with your drink. You could not stand up and hold a drink. So coming to San Francisco, to Broadway, to the whole crazy scene here, I was, it took me several months to really acclimate.
Uh, it was a whole new world, but, um, I was a single mom and raising, uh, raising my son without any help from his father. So I ended up, uh, I wasn’t able, I ended up working two jobs. I, at night, I’d work for Bechtel in the daytime in San Francisco, and then in the at night, I’d quickly drive over to the Fred Astaire dance studio in Oakland.
And no, I didn’t give dance lessons, but I, I, I was a receptionist and, and got a, a whole perspective on what happens in those places. Uh, so then I thought, you know, if I could just have one job where I could make enough money to support us, uh, that would be lovely. So I managed to get a job at the Fairmont Hotel in San Francisco.
Uh, you know, they had the crown room and they had all these wonderful mm-hmm. Lounges. So I worked there for five, two long years as a cocktail waitress and, uh, probably wrecked my knees and my whole body probably because it’s hard work. You couldn’t, we couldn’t sit down. We had to stand in our stations with this heavy tray in our arm.
Uh, so it was a, it was a, uh, it was a tough job, but. I was able to make enough money, uh, to support us at some point. Uh, in my late twenties, I, uh, had what they used to call a nervous breakdown, but I, uh, for me it was a breakthrough, uh, because it led me then into therapy and uh, and that’s when I discovered, Oh, there’s a writer in there that’s screaming to get out.
So, uh, so that’s sort of how I came to writing. And uh, and what actually led me to it was during this period of, you know, being in depression and therapy and so on, I started journaling and that’s become a lifelong obsession of mine is, you know, every day I, I write about what’s happening in my life and what I’m thinking and doing and so on.
Right. Uh, and so, but it was a wonderful way for me to work my way out of that period. And, and then also was part of discovering the writer and myself when I was 13. I had kept a diary that I had a secret language that I used in this diary, and, uh, I have no idea what that language was, but I, you know, like coded words.
So that no one would be able to anyone, they wouldn’t be able to understand what was in it. So, you know, there was that impulse there, uh, at that point. But then life took over and it took me many years then to come back to the Lilly that was trying to express itself at 13. So, uh, so then, uh, you know, eventually I, I, I was a high school dropout and, uh, eventually I went, I took my general education.
Development test That was in lieu of a high school diploma. So I was able to go to community college here in Marin County, a wonderful community college. And then from there I went on to San Francisco State and majored in English with an emphasis on creative writing. And then I went on later and got two different master’s degrees.
One in the humanities because I thought if I’m wanting to be a writer, I need to have a good liberal arts background. So I did that, and then I took, uh, another, another master’s in English again with an emphasis on creative writing. So I write Wow. Yeah. I write in, in, in just about all the genres except for plays.
And, and I love, I love all of those modes of writing. But the books I’ve published have been poetry and novels. So three novels, one poetry collection, one chapbook of poetry. At the moment.
Stephen: Nice. Other novel in October, right? Yeah. Oh good. So you really kind of planned and wanted to be a writer. It wasn’t something you decided to do later or you fell into, uh, you really worked towards that goal?
Lily: Well, I did from the time. I, you know, went through that depression and everything, uh, right then I, then I became more focused. I started out, I certainly didn’t start out to write novels or even fiction. I started out poetry was my main focus. But then I thought, well, if I want to sell anything, uh, poetry isn’t a big seller.
And so I, um, so I thought, well, I’ll try see if I can write fiction. So I started. Uh, I took a, a few fiction workshops, uh, when I was, you know, doing my degrees and, uh, so I learned the basics of, of writing fiction. And then, uh, and then eventually I thought, well, I’ll try, I’ll try writing a novel. I, I, I don’t recommend doing that.
And determination because novels take a really long time to write.
Stephen: You said you, you’ve been journaling for years. Do you get a lot of ideas for your stories from your past journaling? Well,
Lily: you know, they may not be, uh, overt ideas. Uh, I, I also record my dreams every morning and they’re so rich in imagery and characters and.
Things that I know that those things bleed into my writing, whether it’s poetry or fiction, but I don’t necessarily, the idea doesn’t necessarily start with a dream, but I think that whole combination of my work with the unconscious, uh, seeps into the writing that I do, whatever genre it is. But in terms of, like, for example, uh, my, uh, the second novel I had published osa, it started with, um, an image from a newspaper article I read where a tornado had struck.
This, uh, small town just outside of Calgary where I grew up, and there was something about the image of that tornado going into that town and sort of uprooting people and turning things upside down. I couldn’t get rid of it, and I thought, Hmm, there’s a story here. And that story led to the novel, uh, of osa.
Uh, so, you know, another piece of short fiction of mine came from another newspaper article. I read about a snake appearing in a New York apartment house in the, in the toilet. And, and I thought, Hmm, I wonder what this is about. So, uh, so that led to my short story, Priscilla, the Python, so that, you know, the stories start from so many different places.
Stephen: you think though your journaling has helped you? Because you said you have a habit of writing every day and you’re used to writing. Do you think that habit has helped you produce? Absolutely.
Lily: Absolutely. I think if I were, I mean, I teach memoir workshops, uh, uh, at the Farm Institute in San Francisco. Uh, but if I were teaching, uh, you know, other classes, poetry or short fiction, I would really urge, uh, students to get into the habit of keeping a journal because not only are they, uh, you know, uh, priming their unconscious and keeping that connection going with their unconscious, but they’re also developing the practice of writing.
I mean, just being able to get down sentences and to get comfortable with your voice and. Uh, you know, learning, you know, trying out different things. So I think that, uh, I think that journaling is a really excellent foundation for all writers. Your
Stephen: first book, or actually your latest book, um, what, tell us a little bit about it, what it’s about.
Lily: Yeah. Free Fall, A Divine Comedy. It came out of I, my husband and I. Took a trip to Vancouver where I once lived actually, uh, is where my son was born. And, uh, I had a friend that I hung out with back in the late fifties. She had a place in Whistler, BC and she invited us, you know, to to visit there, which we did.
And during that visit we were reminiscing and this woman who owned the house in Whistle BC was part of this group of four. Young women, women that I was part of, and we called ourselves the Four Musketeers. Muskrats are Canada’s almost. Its national anthem. Uh, the beavers, the national anthem in Canada, but Muskrat’s close anyway, so Got it.
But we were, you know, we were full of ourselves and we moved to Toronto and et cetera, but then we broke up and there were some bad feelings between some of us and we never, some of us never saw each other ever again. So, you know, we, in, in that visit to Whistler, I started thinking, well, what if the four, these four women were to get together now, uh, what would that be like?
And so that led to then Free Fall, a Divine Comedy, uh, which was published just in, um, uh, 2019. And, uh, and it’s, it’s the main character. Tilly Bloom is a wacky installation artist. And, uh, and so she’s sort of the focal character of the story. And, uh, and so these women all end up in Whistler, BC for, uh, a reunion of four days while they’re there, uh, Tilly discovers that one of her friends actually has a place in Venice, and Tilley also knows that Venice has ale an art.
And it’s happening that year. And Tilly, uh, still hasn’t quite made it as an artist. You know, she has to apply for grants and she does, uh, waitressing work and so on to support herself. So, uh, she’s, she’s never quite cracked, open that door, but she thinks she could get to Venice. Maybe she could crash the Biennale.
So she manages to manipulate things during the reunion in Whistler, BC so that, uh, they all agree to get together for a three week extension of their reunion in Venice, where, um, they have that free flat to stand and they’ll be celebrating their 60th Thursdays. So, uh, so that’s how, that’s how the, the novel starts.
And, uh, Uh, and, and so over the, over the course of the novel, there’s a new intimacy that happens between these women and, and, uh, uh, and they have some very strange experiences, uh, especially in Venice. And, uh, and it’s, it’s a, there’s a lot of humor in the narrative, but it’s also a serious, uh, look at. Uh, death, the end game, and, you know, that comes in and chili does a lot of thinking about, uh, life and et cetera.
So, um, uh, so, so free fall. Um, uh, uh, what more to say about it? It’s kind of a, a magical mystery tour through, uh, uh, you know, with these women that, uh, There are a lot of surprises and laughs. Uh, and you know, I’m, I’m exploring aging, I’m exploring art in it. I’m exploring feminism. I’m exploring motherhood and, and life itself.
Uh, so yeah.
Stephen: Nice. Uh, and did you self-publish this or is it published traditionally?
Lily: No, none of my novels are self-published. I think I have a little bias. I, I admit to having a little bias. Against self-publishing because I know how much work it takes, uh, not only for the author alone to uh, get through numerous drafts and bring it to a point where an editor, you know, or a publisher, uh, or an agent might be interested in it, but then it goes through a whole other process.
So, uh, if you, if you’re self-publishing, you’re missing out on that whole other process, the dynamic between you and an editor, uh, you know, in a publishing house and the input that they then have into the narrative, that helps to bring it to a whole other level. So, um, no, all of my novels, my, uh, the publisher free Fall.
Is Pinnell Publishing and they published my first novel, they published Tree Fall and they’ll be publishing, uh, this other novel that will be coming out in October. Confessions of a Canadian girl in training. And, uh, uh, and then, uh, Regal House Publishing published my, uh, other novel
Stephen: osa. So what type of feedback have you been getting from readers?
I mean, I, I don’t
Lily: get a lot of direct feedback except from friends, uh, who look at me quizzically and, and, uh, who discovered that there’s a lot more going on in my mind than what they ever suspect. So, so that’s kind of fun, uh, to be exposed in that way. And all writers, you know, uh, take that on. If they start to publish their work, you know, it’s kind of like a dance of the seven veils you can’t avoid, but expose yourself.
Uh, even though, right. Even though Tilly Bloom the main character in freefall, you know, I’m not an installation artist. But there are aspects of me, you know, that come up in her character. Uh, just aspects of me come up in all of my characters can’t
Stephen: hide. Let, let me ask if, uh, if you had a choice, uh, would you rather have this book made into a movie or into a TV series?
Well, I’d be
Lily: happy with both. I wouldn’t, I wouldn’t turn down either one of them. Right? Would
Stephen: you? No. No. Probably not. Uh, it’s just interesting the different answers, different people get. Uh, some people prefer having a movie and some people would prefer having a TV series. I guess it just depends on the, the person.
Well, it’s interesting.
Lily: Yeah. I mean, I’m not, I mean, uh, why would I, why wouldn’t I want both? Right. You know what I mean? Really? Um, that I would refuse. Oh, I’m sorry, but I don’t do TV or No, I’m sorry, but I, I, I.
Stephen: Right. Right. Um, and you mentioned your next book coming out in October, so it’s all written, it’s just waiting with the
Lily: publisher? It’s with the publisher going through an editing process right now.
Stephen: Yeah. Got it. Yeah.
Lily: Okay. The features, actually, it is a sequel to Free Fall in the sense that it, uh, the main character in Confessions of a Canadian girl in training.
Tilly at a young age. So it follows her from about four years until about 18 years. It’s a coming of age, uh, novel.
Stephen: Where can you, uh, get your book?
Lily: Well, guess what? Amazon, you know, got it. Or, you know, but it’s, it’s difficult to get, uh, if you, unless you’re really famous, uh, it’s difficult to get novels.
Bookstores and what happens if you, if you go to a bookstore and order a book, they can order it because it’s part of that system, but they won’t have it in their store. So you could go to your bookstore and say, gee, I’d like to get one of the Ion Mackenzie’s novels. And they can look up the novels and the bookstore could order it for them.
But if they, and if so, they can do that. If they can’t stand Amazon and what it stands for, Um, but Amazon, Barnes and Noble. Do you,
Stephen: yeah. Do you offer the book for sale on your own website? I
Lily: don’t, no. It’s too, it’s too comp. Okay. I mean, I have enough to take care of at the moment.
Stephen: Got it. Okay. Okay. Uh, a couple other questions.
Um, who are some of your favorite authors and what’s some of your favorite books? Well, you know,
Lily: I have an eclectic, uh, taste in authors and, uh, uh, it’ll come as no surprise that Gabrielle Garcia Marquez is, is a favorite because magical realism, uh, which he, he didn’t start but was a major, uh, genre that he wrote in.
Uh, and he really inspired me, especially his book, 100 Years of Solitude. But I, uh, I love Anne Enright. She’s an an Irish author, and she’s so witty and she’s such an excellent writer, uh, that I’ll read anything that she wrote. And the same thing, Pison, who’s a Norwegian writer, I, he’s just so lyrical, his prose, and he’s so thoughtful.
Again, I’ve read everything that he’s written. W b C Ball who initiated this whole other style of novel. It’s kind of a hybrid novel. Um, and, uh, I read everything he’s written. So, and these are all really, really different, uh, writers. So I have, uh, and, and I recently gotten interested. I thought I’d never read mysteries, but I’ve discovered two wonderful mystery writers, uh, Louise, uh, Who’s Canadian?
A fellow Canadian. Hooray, hooray. Uh, and she just writes brilliant mystery novels. Again. I’ve read them all. And Peter May, who’s Scottish, which Mackenzie has a little Scottish in her. Uh, so I’ve read all of his mystery novels and I can really recommend them. They’re, they’re fabulous. So my, my, my reading habits are vast.
Stephen: Right. And, um, where do you live? Do you have a favorite bookstore that you get to go to when you can? Yeah, well,
Lily: book Passage, uh, in Corra is a wonderful bookstore. And, uh, I’ve done, uh, the readings, the book launches for all of my books there too. So they’ve been, they’ve been splendid to work with. Um, and there have been some, uh, stores in the city too, in San Francisco.
Um, that I’ve, that I’ve, uh, enjoyed working with as
Stephen: well. And one last thing before we go, uh, at least for the first half of this podcast, uh, tell everybody why they should go get your book and read it.
Lily: Well, if they’re interested in, uh, uh, women’s relationships, which isn’t to say that I don’t have any male characters because I have some wonderful male characters in all of my books.
But, um, but primarily, you know, I look, I, I I spend a lot of time, uh, thinking about and writing about relationships between women, but also between women and men. But one of the underlying questions that motivate me as a writer is what is reality? I mean, that sounds like what was talking about science fiction.
It does, but that isn’t what I’m, what I’m after I’m, I’m in all of my novels. It’s, it’s a question that I’m exploring and, uh, and so I’m, uh, So magical realism is a way for me to, um, to do that because you can, you know, the, uh, reality of the everyday reality is really important. But then there are the strange things that happen and strange things do happen, and even stranger things happen in magical realism, novels.
So, but it’s, so, it’s a way for me to explore that question, you know, what is reality? What, what are we doing here? And, and, uh, you know, the things that we see, are they really, uh, are they really real? So that’s, that’s, that comes up a lot in my work. Also, if you like humor, uh, I do have, uh, I do have a sense of humor that comes out.
In these narratives too. So there’s lots of reasons, uh, uh, to read them. Um, they’re thoughtful and, uh, And I, I have. Interesting.
Stephen: Yeah. Great. Well that sounds like a good enough reason for people to go check it out. Pick it up. Yes. Yeah. Well, Lily, I appreciate you talking to me about your books today. Uh, they sound great.
I can’t wait to hear about the next one. Maybe we could touch base, uh, sometime after it comes out.
Lily: That comes out in October. So
Stephen: October. Great. Alright, well, um, thank you for being on the podcast and we’ll have a second half in just a moment, uh, where we’re going to talk about, uh, uh, the, the, uh, demystifying the publication right the past to publication.
Yes. Alright. Thank. Thank you.
Lily: Yes, thank you.
Thank you for listening to Discovered Wordsmiths. Come back next week and listen to another author, discuss the road they’ve traveled, and maybe sometime in the near future it might be you.