Rising Star Spotlight: Peggy McKenzie!


What inspired your love of romance and especially historical romance?
As a kid, I think watching westerns got me interested in reading romance novels. That seems like a stretch, but I was so enchanted by Miss Kitty and Marshal Dillion and the way they would look at each other, I couldn’t wait for the next week’s episode. I was too young to know at that time that Matt had commitment issues. I just knew watching them with each other made me happy and I wanted more of that.
What prompted you to sit down and write a book - then publish it?
I had been reading romance novels since I was fourteen, and probably read hundreds of them by the time I was an adult. At some point, I convinced myself that I could write my own romance stories, but with a full-time job, two kids, and a very serious rodeo habit on weekends, that dream got lost in an abundantly full life. And yet the notion of writing romance stories was always in the back of my mind, and while I was busy mucking horse stalls and carting kids to cheerleading practice, I was percolating stories inside my head, creating imaginary handsome cowboys and spitfire heroines who called their own shots.
Finally, the day came when I made up my mind it was time to change direction in my life and follow that long neglected dream. When I sat down to write that first book, I realized just how hard this job was and that I didn’t have a clue what I was doing. That was the first real insight into the writing world I had, and I knew I had to decide. This job wasn’t for the faint of heart, and if I wanted to be an author, I had a lot to learn. So, I dug in, and with the help of some good friends who just happened to be great writers who reached down to give me a hand up, I currently have eighteen books published and many more on the back burner.
How did your first publishing experience change the way to continue to write books?
Getting that first book finished was a challenge. I didn’t know come here from sic ‘em about writing or publishing. I had no idea what a pantser or a plotter was, or what the heck a turning point was. I just knew I had stories I wanted to tell, and it was up to me to figure it all out. I took classes on the craft and the business of writing. I learned by trial and error what to do, and more importantly, what not to do. Slowly my base of knowledge grew, and little by little I took the stories out of my head and put them on the page. I also learned to hire professionals and not try to do everything myself. I’m so grateful for my fabulous editor and my amazing cover artist. They are rock stars in their professions, and I’m lucky to have them on my team.
Do you or have you pursued any careers other than writing?

I retired from a government position in 2014. My husband and I decided to move to a part of the country we had always loved, so we left our home state of Oklahoma to live in the mountains in southwest Colorado. It was the perfect location to create beautiful romantic stories and it’s no surprise that some of my most popular series take place in historical Colorado towns.
I dabbled in rodeo for a time. I ran barrels for a while and then when my husband started team roping, I decided I wanted to give it a try. I wouldn’t say what I did was a career because most of the money involved was my money going out, but I did manage to win a little bit and I won a nice shiny belt buckle, every rodeo participants dream.
I’ve been a waitress, a dishwasher, a legal clerk, a secretary, a baby-sitter, a medical transcriptionist, and a couple dozen other positions in between, but I’ve never had a job I love more than being a writer. 
What keeps drawing you back to write another story?
I love the process of writing. Sitting down to my computer with a blank page is always intimidating at first. Every author feels as if they will never write another book as good as their last, but somehow it keeps happening. The excitement of seeing that next story slowly take shape and those characters come to life is what keeps me moving forward. A finished book holds a tremendous amount of satisfaction for me, and as soon as I finish that last book, I’m eager to start the next one. 
What is the very best thing about being an author?
My readers are the best thing. These loyal fans go out of their way to tell me that they can’t get enough of my stories and they can’t stop thinking about my characters long after they’ve finished the book. That means so much. It’s an awesome feeling to know that an idea, a story that came out of my head is interesting enough that people want to read it. It still amazes me.
Another great thing about being an author is being around other authors. There’s a sense of belonging I feel when I’m with other authors I can’t get anywhere else. Not with family. Not with friends. There’s a particular vibe that’s hard to explain, and I can’t imagine not being a part of it.  
What is the most challenging aspect?
The most challenging aspect for me is keeping up with all the responsibilities of the business side of writing. Currently, I’m in charge of just about everything. That makes me the department head of all the departments—production department, quality control department, marketing department, social media department, reader outreach department, and any other department required to make the business of writing successful. It can be a bit overwhelming at times, but it is a necessary part of selling books and can’t be ignored as much as I would like to sometimes.
What areas would you still like to explore in your books and in your writing?
I have a couple of women’s fiction stories I’d like to pursue. Sometimes life doesn’t always give us a happy ending, but I’d like to think there is a purpose and a reason for every hardship that comes our way. I’ve had a few personal tragedies in my lifetime that I think could make a good story that will touch someone else and show them that they are not alone in their experience.
What would you most like readers to know about you?
That I’m a multi-genre author. I write western historical romance that tends to be on the sweeter side. That’s what I’m primarily known for, but I also write western contemporary romance with a little more sizzle and a lot of snark. My heroes are sexy cowboys and my heroines are smart and sassy which makes for a fun time to be had by all.
I also want my readers to know how much I appreciate their support and encouragement. It is what keeps me hurrying to finish that next book.