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Tuesday 15 April 2014

Falling in love with the great outdoors - a guest post by Zanna Mackenzie

Today I welcome fellow Crooked Cat author Zanna Mackenzie to my blog.  I had the pleasure of working with Zanna as editor of her recent novel If You Only Knew.  Here, she talks about her love of the great outdoors and how it has influenced her writing.

Welcome Zanna!  

Aside from relationships and characters trying to make sense of their lives and what they want from them, there’s another common theme which runs through each of my novels – the great outdoors.

Nowadays, every chance I get I love being out of doors – whether it’s in the countryside, woods, hills, mountains, coast, by a lake or just in the garden!

My husband and I have 4 dogs and they’re always keen to slip on a lead and head off for a walk no matter where, when or whatever the weather so walking plays a big part in our lives.

As a child my parents insisted we all go for a family walk on Sundays. This was – ahem – quite some time ago, well before the advent of Sunday opening for shops, supermarkets and garden centres! If you went out on a Sunday you had limited options back then so a family walk it was! Every week.  At the time I think my older sister and I grumbled loudly about donning boots and coats and traipsing through local woods and countryside with our parents.

It took quite a few years before spending time in the countryside finally became a pleasure for me. It happened on a holiday in Snowdonia about fifteen years ago when my hubbie and I started to explore the many forest and river walking trails in the area. We got a map and leaflet from the local information centre and set off. By the end of that week we were hooked on hiking. It probably helped that the weather was kind to us too!

After that we booked a cottage in the Lake District for our next holiday and, kitted out with proper boots and waterproofs this time, tackled some more ambitious routes and even a spot of fell walking.

Grasmere Lake

Every holiday after that became about walking and we discovered some of our favourite places in the UK – the Scottish Highlands, Dumfries & Galloway, North Yorkshire Moors and Coast, Derbyshire’s Peak District and Cumbria. These places have since inspired the locations in every book I have written. I love revisiting these areas in my head, looking at old holiday photos of the amazing scenery and trying to capture all of that in my books.

The Love Programme is set in the Scottish Highlands, a place I first fell in love with the scenery of via a BBC TV series Monarch of the Glen. A few years after watching the programme we stayed in a cottage in Newtonmore near the Aviemore ski area and explored the lochs, mountains and forests of ‘Monarch of the Glen’ country to our heart’s content.

Glenmore beach and Loch Morlich with a backdrop of the Cairngorm Mountains in the Scottish Highlands

In my second novel How Do You Spell Love it was North Yorkshire’s turn to inspire the setting. I love the wilderness feeling of the North Yorkshire Moors. They have a brooding quality and an emptiness which is both haunting and beautiful at the same time.

For my third novel If You Only Knew, the fictitious village which is home to the coffee shop and outdoor extreme sports centre in the book was inspired by the real life village of Castleton in Derbyshire’s Peak District. The pretty stone buildings nestle in the shadows of the surrounding hills which are home to impressive deep and dramatic caverns.

Dovedale, in the Derbyshire Peak District

I’ve had great fun putting together some mood boards for each of my books over on Pinterest, which include some holiday photos of the scenery in the area where each book is set – some of my favourite places in the great outdoors!

If you fancy a five minute escape to enjoy some beautiful scenery then please feel free to make yourself a cup of tea or coffee, put your feet up and head over to my boards on Pinterest -
Hope to see you there!

More about If You Only Knew:

Fear versus love
Happiness versus sadness
New love versus old flame…

Faith has a fear of falling in love again, but Zane persuades her to risk a relationship with him.

Maybe this time things will be OK.

Then she discovers who Zane’s business partner is - and her world is turned upside down.

Faith owns The Coffee Pot in the outdoor adventure sports mecca of Derbyshire’s Peak District. She hasn’t had a man in her life for a while, as she’s been too busy serving cakes to weary rock climbers and mountain bikers to find time for the complications of a relationship with the male of the species.

At least, that’s what she tells herself. The truth is that since she got her heart broken she’s had problems trusting men.

When she meets Zane, one of the new owners at the Carrdale Extreme Sports Centre, Faith finds herself enjoying his company even though part of her can’t help wondering why he’s so reluctant to talk about himself.

Then the past comes back to haunt her in the shape of Zane’s business partner Matt, who just happens to be the guy who broke Faith’s heart all those years ago.

With Matt out to cause trouble, and Zane keeping secrets, Faith’s life is about to get very complicated indeed…

If You Only Knew is available in paperback and ebook on Amazon:
*Amazon UK


  1. Thanks for letting me visit your blog and share my love of the great outdoors and some holiday pics as well!