Interview: Zanna MacKenzie, author of Murder on the Menu

A dead boss, a sexy spy living next door – Lizzie’s in BIG trouble!

After Lizzie’s new boss, celebrity chef Armand, is stabbed in his own kitchen, Lizzie finds herself at the top of the suspect list.

Determined to clear her name she’s forced to enlist the services of her new neighbour, Celebrity Crimes Investigation Agency (CCIA) special agent Jack Mathis, who’s been suspended from his duties for reasons unknown.

Can Lizzie save herself from getting arrested and manage to resist her special agent sidekick’s considerable charms and gorgeous smile? Will they solve the culinary murder mystery or will she end up in a prison cell?


Q: Zanna, thanks for stopping by! Tell us a little bit about your protagonist, Lizzie.

A:  In Murder On The Menu, Lizzie Carter thought she’d got her life all sorted – great job in the city, lovely boyfriend – but then her life is turned upside down. Desperate for a new start she finds herself living in the country and waitressing to make ends meet. Things are finally beginning to look up for her but then her celebrity chef boss is stabbed in his own kitchen and Lizzie finds herself at the top of the list of suspects. I’d describe Lizzie as resilient, nosy and stubborn. She’s determined to clear her name and catch the real killer even though she’s never sleuthed before in her life!

Q: How much of you is in Lizzie?  How would you feel about her if you met her in real life?

A:  Hmm, interesting question. Yes, I think Lizzie and I do share some traits, though she’s far more outgoing than me (I’m quite shy). I guess I can be stubborn too sometimes, as I’m sure my husband will agree! If I met Lizzie in real life then yes, I’d like her. I’d probably think she’s fun, friendly and easy to chat with.

Q: Do your characters change and evolve throughout consecutive books in the series?

A:  Absolutely. Lizzie’s life keeps changing and there are lots of challenges for her to face. From tracking down murderers through to battling to make a living and attempting to bake a cake that’s actually edible. She’s inherited a recipe book from her Aunt Molly and is keen to learn to bake to the same amazing standard as her beloved aunt but she has an awful lot to learn and the farmhouse has an Aga with a mind of its own which is her nemesis!

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Q: Have you ever thought of killing someone that you know in real life–on the pages of a murder mystery, I mean? 

A:  LOL! I can’t honestly say that I have. I’ve never based a character on a real life person so that helps. I tend to create my characters from star sign personalities and traits and build them up layer by layer – education, mannerisms, family background, looks, job etc. I usually pick a suitable celebrity to visually inspire the height/looks/clothing side of a character in a book using photos I find online or in films/TV shows, so nothing is based on people that I actually know in real life.

Q: How realistic is your setting? Do you take liberties, or are you true to life?

A:  I normally make up the actual village/town in my books but it is in a real life location and inspired by places I have visited or seen photos of online via sites like Pinterest. For example, in the Celebrity Mystery series, the books are all set in Cumbria’s Lake District in the UK, a place I love and have taken holidays in many a time. The actual village in the books is entirely fictitious though but very similar in looks to real villages in Cumbria.

Q: When the movie or TV series is made, who plays the major parts?

A:  Well, Jack (Lizzie’s love interest in the series) was visually inspired by the gorgeous actor Andrew W. Walker, so it would make sense for him to take on that role. As for Lizzie, she’s a mix of a few female actresses in my head, but I’d probably choose Jennifer Morrison, who stars in the fabulous Once Upon A Time TV series, to play her.

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Q: What’s the worst and best advice you’ve heard or received as an author?

A:  Oh, that’s tough. Best advice, I’d say, was write what you’d want to read yourself and in a genre you’re very familiar with. Worst advice, there has been lots! Probably to write in a way that ticks all of the ‘formula’ boxes, such as structuring sentences in specific ways – this totally stifled my own writing when I tried it back in the early days.


 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

I write romantic comedy mysteries and when I’m not writing I can be found gardening (trying to grow tomatoes in the British climate is a major challenge!) walking the dogs or reading.

I’m a former therapist, a fan of the great outdoors – especially Scotland, the Lake District and Derbyshire’s Peak district – and also something of a dreamer!

Home is a village on the Derbyshire / Leicestershire border in the UK with my husband, our 4 Labrador dogs, a vegetable patch that’s home to far too many weeds and an ever expanding library of books waiting to be read.

At every opportunity I can be found scribbling down notes on scenes for whatever novel I’m working on and I love it when the characters in my work in progress novels take on minds of their own and start deviating from the original plot!

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