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Author C. Lee McKenzie (DOUBLE NEGATIVE) Answers the Ubiquitous Question “Where Do Stories Come From?” (with a giveaway!)

A new YA contemporary!


Where Do Stories Come From?
C. Lee McKenzie


Someone at a book signing recently asked me where I came up with the stories I’ve written and what my process was for getting those stories out of my head and onto the page. The short answer would have been, “Don’t ask me.” But I’m not into short answers, so I gave the question some thought and here’s what I’ve come up with.

Stories come like clouds, usually when I least expect them and usually when I’m attending to other things, like brushing burrs out of my cat’s fur. Some of these clouds are dark and filled with the promise of a storm; others are those lovely white ones that come in spring and mist the air before scudding out of sight. Some look like mythological creatures or rabbits or faces that shift expressions while I watch. Once a cloud has settled in my brain it pretty much stays there until I do something about it.

The problem is it stays day and night, mostly night, so when I’m trying to sleep it’s shifting around in my brain, storming or misting or behaving like a unicorn or a satyr. Then my bed starts to fill with characters. They talk to me and to each other. Locations like cities or forests or horse ranches pop up like movie sets and suddenly those characters are in a place, their place, the one they expect me to create on a page, so they’ll be able to have somewhere to live.

Then the question of “What’s this story about?” starts nagging at me. Who are these people yammering at me, and what do they want or need? I usually wrestle that down in a one or two sentence premise. Once I have that I can start entering the words into a file. I do almost all of my writing on my computer, but during the early “wrestling” stages I’ll make notes on just about anything, including the back of my hand–really.

The rest of the process is daily grind or euphoria, depending on how the writing goes. I look forward to plowing through to the end, so I can start the real delving and expanding. Rewriting is my all time favorite job, and I’m not being sarcastic. I have the main threads woven from beginning to end; next it’s all about embroidery and texture. It’s at this stage I really feel free from the mechanics of who, where, when, how, and why. I don’t know if that makes sense, but this is the closest I can come to explaining how I feel.

While this topic of “where do you get your stories” keeps coming up, I don’t think readers or writers tire of hearing about the creative “process.” Each writer is unique and that’s what makes books the treasures they are. We can enter those writers’ worlds, look at life from a different perspective, and learn or enjoy so much every time we turn a page.

I love to hear how other writers “find” their stories and what their process is, so if you’re one of those writer types, please share.

Thanks for this opportunity to appear on your blog. It’s been great to be here.

Thank you for coming! I always have wondered where the ideas for my favorite books come from–it’s always great to hear a fresh perspective 🙂



In my other life–the one before I began writing for teens and younger readers–I was a teacher and administrator at California State University, San Jose. My field of Linguistics and Inter-cultural Communication has carried me to a lot of places in the world to explore different cultures and languages. I can say, “Where’s the toilet?” and “I’m lost!” in at least five languages and two dialects. Go ahead. Pat me on the back.My idea of a perfect day is one or all of the following: starting a new novel, finishing writing a blockbuster novel, hiking on a misty morning trail in the Santa Cruz Mountains, saying Namaste after a great yoga practice, sipping a cappuccino topped at a bustling café, reading in front of a fire with snow outside, swimming in an ocean someplace.

I’ve just set out my perfect life. Day after day after day.

Author links:

Double Negative
by C. Lee McKenzie
Published by: Evernight Teen
Publication date: July 25th 2014
Genres: Contemporary, Young Adult


“My life was going, going, gone, and I hadn’t been laid yet. I couldn’t go into the slammer before that happened.” Hutch McQueen.

Sixteen-year-old Hutchinson McQueen is trapped between an abusive mother and an absentee father. Shackled by poor vision and poor reading skills, he squeaks through classes with his talent for eavesdropping and memorizing what he hears. After another suspension from school and suffering through one of his mother’s violent attacks, he escapes to a friend’s house that turns out to be a meth lab. The lab is raided and Hutch lands in juvenile detention. When the court sentences him to six months in a new juvenile program, he meets a teacher with Alzheimer’s who will change his life and hers.




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  1. I definitely won’t argue that reading books is a whole lot easier than writing them! Thanks for sharing, and good luck 🙂

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