Tag Archives: Anna Mackenzie

Interview with Anna Mackenzie

Today I have the pleasure of being joined by New Zealand author, Anna Mackenzie.  Anna is the author of the award-winning The Sea-wreck Stranger, and her latest book, Cattra’s Legacy tells of the journey of Risha, not only across the wild land in which she lives, but from timid young girl to fierce and powerful young woman. I love Cattra’s Legacy and I asked Anna a few questions about her fantastic new story and the life of a writer.

  • What inspired you to write Cattra’s Legacy?

The novel began with a single idea, a visual image initially, of a girl alone at a graveside. That idea could have gone many different ways, but my daughter had just begun to read fantasy novels, so I decided I would write one for her, from that starting point. That gave me the direction, and the story soon took over.

  • How did you build the world of the story? Did you know what it looked like and what the history of the world was before you started writing?

Elgard opened out before me just as it does for Risha. I was sometimes a step ahead, but a small one, and every now and then we would both be surprised. About six or seven chapters in I sketched a rough map which I added to as I wrote. The map on page 7 is a tidy version of that, created using computer software rather than a pen so that it’s more legible for readers. In terms of the history of Elgard, I had a broad sense of it as soon as I knew Pelon had been a scholar – about the time Risha began to read his manuscript – but some of the regional details became clear to me only after reaching LeMarc.

  • Did you get to do any fun or interesting research before you wrote the story, like weapons training or horse riding?

I rode farm horses when I was growing up, but it wasn’t really my thing. That said, my earliest memories include the creak of saddle leather and the smell of horse and hot summer: my father used to sit me in front of him on the saddle as he rode around the farm – I guess between the ages of 2 and 4.

As for weapons training, I’ve learned both martial arts and archery in the past. All knowledge is useful in writing!

  • The story is ultimately about the legacy that a mother leaves for her daughter.  What legacy would you like to leave for your daughter?

 My aim as a parent is to instil in my kids a confidence in themselves, the knowledge that they are loved and valued for who they are, and the bravery to fight for what they believe in.

  • Which of your own personality traits have you given Risha?

Determination. I don’t tend to give up (even when I probably should!). It’s an essential skill for a writer, and for many other things. Some people call it stubbornness.

  • Risha is a strong female character that teenage girls can look up to.  Do you feel that New Zealand young adult literature is lacking in these strong female characters?

No. Given the size of our market there is a fairly small crop of YA books published each year. Some years there will be more of one type of book than another, but feisty female characters are a feature of New Zealand’s YA literary landscape – and certainly of my work.

  • The advice that a lot of writer’s give is ‘write the sort of books that you would like to read.’  Is this the case with Cattra’s Legacy?  If so, what other books can you recommend to those who love Cattra’s Legacy?

I read very widely and this is a story I loved discovering as I wrote it. For readers who are looking for similar adventure fantasy, try Cynthia Voight’s Elske, Celine Kiernan’s Moorehawke trilogy, The Merlin Conspiracy and Dalemark quartet by Diana Wynne-Jones and Garth Nix’s Abhorsen trilogy.

  • What’s the best thing and the worst thing about being a writer?

The best thing is getting to live dozens of different lives through the experiences of my characters – writing a new story is just like that feeling when you are completely wrapped up in reading and have to be dragged reluctantly away.
The worst thing is far too much time spent sitting at a desk: it’s seriously bad for you, but sometimes I have to be dragged away from there too!

Check out my review of Cattra’s Legacy here on the blog and enter to win a copy.

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Cattra’s Legacy by Anna Mackenzie

Risha is strong and outspoken, and at 16 has developed into a leader of men, a strategic thinker, and a woman — one can imagine — who will assume the legacy left by her mother.

The story begins with 13-year-old Risha living a simple life in the mountains with her father. When her father suddenly dies, Risha is left alone, an outcast of her village. Disguised as a boy, Risha leaves the village with a group of traders, on a quest to find out the truth about her mother and her heritage.

Here begins a grand sweeping adventure as Risha is caught up in dangerous pursuits, intrigue, trickery and betrayal. She is left for dead, confused by the actions of many, and is made to hide from those who wish her harm.

She finds out by chance that she is Cattra’s daughter. Who is Cattra — and why do so many wish Risha harm?

Cattra’s Legacy tells of the journey of Risha, not only across the wild land in which she lives, but from timid young girl to fierce and powerful young woman.  Risha’s world is full of secrets, lies, promises, danger, strategy, rescue missions, and plenty of fighting.  Anna has created Elgard, a world that is both beautiful and harsh, and she takes Risha from one corner of the land to another.  From her rocky mountain home of Torfell where she has grown up, Risha travels through the busy city of Caledon, the Lacstone Marshes and the Citadel at LeMarc.  As you delve further into the story you discover the politics of Elgard, the struggle for power between the various rulers, and the enormity of the task that Risha has ahead of her.  There was one particular part of the story, when Risha and Torfell are going through the marshes, that reminded me of the Swamps of Sadness scene from one of my favourite movies, The Neverending Story.  It’s a heart-breaking part of both the movie and Anna’s book, and I’d love to know if this part of the story is a tribute to that movie or just a coincidence.

Risha is a wonderful character who grows so much throughout the story, and she grew on me more and more as the story progressed.  She starts off as a timid young girl who lives a quiet life with her father in the mountains of Torfell, but the events of the story mean she has to grow up fast.  She grows in to a fierce and powerful young woman, who is very self-assured and you wouldn’t want to cross her.  You know that she is going to become a strong, but kind leader of her people and will do everything in her power to unite the people of Elgard.  One thing I really like about her is that she’s really focused on her duties.  Even though she could have her pick of the males around her, romance isn’t her number one priority.  I’m sure that romance will come in to the other books that are to follow in the series.

Between Cattra’s Legacy and R.L. Stedman’s A Necklace of Souls, there certainly isn’t going to be a shortage of strong female main characters for the New Zealand Post Children’s Book Awards next year.  I can’t wait to read the next book in the series and see how Risha develops even further.  I certainly know that Risha is ready for the challenges that lie ahead.

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Fast Five with Anna Mackenzie

  • Why did you want to be a writer?

I have always loved writing. I wrote my first book when I was seven – I have it still; it’s called ‘Stories of the Little Elf’ – but it still took me quite a long time to get around to writing fiction as a job. Instead I had a range of jobs that involved editing or non-fiction writing. It wasn’t until I left full-time work to raise my kids that I really found the right space and time for writing fiction. From that moment, there was no looking back!

  • What’s the best thing about being a writer?

The very best thing is being able to spend not just hours but weeks and months following your characters through the twists and turns of their lives. It’s almost like living lots of different lives yourself.

  • What’s your favourite New Zealand book?

‘The Changeover’ by Margaret Mahy. This is a perfect book: it captures the challenge and discovery of negotiating adolescence; it was one of the first novels I read set in my own country, which is highly affirming of your place in the world; and the writing is absolutely flawless.

  • What do you love most about New Zealand?

I’ve lived in various places around the world but always knew I’d come back to New Zealand. We have beautiful and varied landscapes, we have clear air and a great climate, but we also have our own way of being. I fit in here! For better or worse, New Zealanders are outspoken, hard working, down to earth, determined. We believe anything is possible – and so we make the world that way.

  • What do you love most about libraries?

The limitless possibility that lies on the shelves! I remember a moment of sorrowful realisation when I was about ten and it struck me that I would never have time to read every book in the library. I love that libraries make so much available to anyone who walks through the doors.

Anna Mackenzie is a full-time writer who writes young adult fiction.  Her first novel, High Tide, was published in 2003 and her third novel, Sea-wreck Stranger, won the Young Adult Fiction Honour Award at the 2008 New Zealand Post Book Awards for Children and Young AdultsAnna’s latest book, Cattra’s Legacy, is published in April by Random House New Zealand.

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