Friday, July 29, 2022



I want to thank McKenna Dean for taking the time for this interview!


McKenna Dean has been an actress, a vet tech, a singer, a teacher, a biologist, and a dog trainer. She’s worked in a genetics lab, at the stockyard, behind the scenes as a props manager, and at a pizza parlor slinging dough. Finally, she realized all these jobs were just a preparation for what she really wanted to be: a writer.

She lives on a small farm in North Carolina with her family, as well as the assorted dogs, cats, and various livestock.

She likes putting her characters in hot water to see how strong they are. Like tea bags, only sexier.

McKenna is the creator of the Redclaw Universe, which features paranormal romances set in both contemporary and historical times.

McKenna also writes cozy mysteries under the name M.K. Dean


When and how did you know you wanted to be a writer?

My mother was a reader and encouraged us to do the same. Writing my own stories was a natural outgrowth of that encouragement. By the time I was eight, I had a waiting list for a long-running serial about a bunch of horse-mad girls that solved mysteries, ala Scooby Doo. I wrote them in a grubby spiralbound notebook and my third-grade classmates stood in line for them.

Huh. Maybe I should revive that series…


Did you have any influencing writers growing up?

My mother was a big fan of the Golden Age of Mystery, so I leaned heavily into Agatha Christie, Dorothy L. Sayers, Margery Allingham, Josephine Tey and so on. 

I imprinted on Lord Peter Wimsey at an early age and feel a little bit sorry for those who fell in love with vampires instead. 😉


Are any of your characters based on people in real life?

Ha ha ha. Who me? Of course not. Never. *coughs*


Where do you draw your book inspirations from?

I love the “what if” questions. What if a down-on-her-luck socialite desperate for work accidentally got hired by a secret shifter agency? What if you got hit on the head and woke up being able to speak to animals?

I also liked the idea of having a veterinarian protagonist for my mystery series because in order to practice medicine, you must like solving puzzles, and the skill set between veterinarians and detectives seemed very similar to me!


Do you use have a basic outline when starting a new story or do you let the characters lead the way?

I used to be the worst kind of pantser, and I do love it when the characters surprise me. I’m still a pantser to a degree but would call myself more of a plotster now. Writing series, especially mysteries, requires a greater degree of plotting than I normally do. I have a rough idea where I’m going, but too much outlining is a story killer for me. It feels like I’ve already written the story and lose most of my desire to finish it.

In one of my recent stories, I got to the final scene, and my character took the EXACT OPPOSITE action that I’d planned for her. My crit group loved it, saying they didn’t see the ending coming. Well, neither did I! 😊


When you are picturing the characters in your book, do you have a cheater photo for inspiration?

Sometimes. I’ll often have specific actors or images in mind when creating the character at first, but then they quickly take on a life of their own.


Many people read as a form of escape and relaxation.  What is your favorite way to sit back and relax?

I still read 1-2 books a week, though I’ve become a much more critical reader now that I write myself. 

I love taking long walks in the woods with the dogs and taking photographs. 

I joined TikTok in January 2022 and entertain myself with making silly videos. 

I think adults in general don’t play enough—but play is especially important to fostering creativity. It’s one of the ways I refill my creativity well when the world drains it dry.


Who are your favorite current authors to read?

How much space do you have? 😉

I will read just about anything by Ilona Andrews, but I adore her Hidden Legacy series. I want to be adopted by the Baylor family (I’m pretty sure I’d be an animal mage…)!

J.D. Robb’s ongoing In Death Series.

I adore the Amelia Peabody books by Elizabeth Peters and will re-read them when life gets tough.

Dawn Dugle writes spicy, funny, mid-life crisis kinds of romance and mysteries, all set in small Florida towns.

Lucy Parker is a phenomenal writer and I love her London Celebrities series—she does Grumpy + Sunshine characters so well, and there’s always character growth over the series.

Olivia Dade writes the best romances about relatable characters—so much fun too!

Adele Buck handles the older heroine with such grace and style it makes me want to stand up and cheer!


What are your favorite books by others?

I think Gaudy Night by Dorothy L. Sayers is one of the most perfect books ever. It depicts the healthiest adult relationship I’ve ever seen. It also has one of the most powerful scenes of sexual awareness between two characters I’ve ever read, in which there is no sex at all.

Crocodile on the Sandbank by Elizabeth Peters will forever remain one of my favorite books. Amelia is so sure of herself, and her blindness to the things she says and does creates a delicious irony, especially when the other character do see them and try to hide it. When I created Rhett Bishop in the Redclaw Origins series, I wanted that same kind of brashness and cluelessness.


Do the locations in the stories have any meaning to you?

Yes and no. I am quite the armchair traveler, so I love reading books set in other countries. Sometimes the location is as much a part of the story as one of the characters—which is how I feel about the fictional town of Greenbrier in my Ginny Reese Mysteries.

I’m aware that Atlanta is the backdrop for many of the Ilona Andrews books, but it could just as easily be any big city in the South, as far as I am concerned.

Mostly I connect with the characters. I did have to laugh once when reading a story in which the MC decided at 8 am in the U.S. to drop everything to look for a relative, boarded a plane for the U.K. at ten am, and somehow still managed to arrive at her country residence (two hours outside London by hired car) while it was still daylight. Um, logistics aside, there is a five-hour time difference as well (depending on the time of year). Having attempted to set stories in locations I’ve never seen, I wouldn’t recommend it.

And there’s nothing like actually seeing a place to influence your writing. The ground in the U.K is so spongy, it’s amazing to walk across. It’s not grass. It’s turf. Small wonder the British Isles are known for their ground sports, like football (soccer to you and me) and horseback riding. That’s the kind of detail that’s hard to pick up without experiencing it firsthand.


Do you write in single or multiple POV?

Mostly single. I’ve done multiple for some of the romances, but I prefer a limited third or first person because I like for the MC to have the story unfold for them at the same time it does for the reader.


What do you find to be your best research tool?

Google is my friend. But I also tap experts for their opinions and input.


Do you write under a pen name?  Also, do you write under more than one name?

I write under multiple (yet similar) pen names mostly to distinguish the genres from each other for the reader. Barbara Louise Gross wrote romantic mysteries under the name Elizabeth Peters and gothic romances under the name Barbara Michaels. I love the EP books and don’t care for the BM books. If she’d written under one pen name, I would have been disappointed in her stories half the time.

So, I write paranormal romance under the name McKenna Dean and cozy mysteries as M.K. Dean. If you like both, yay! But if you prefer one over the other, you can easily find the genre you want.


What genre do you write and why is this your preference?

I enjoy the “what if” moments paranormal romance provides. So much scope for storytelling! 

But I cut my reading teeth on the great mysteries of the 1930s, 40s, and 50s and I love the fun of telling a story that also presents a puzzle to solve.


What advice would you give to an aspiring writer?

There are a lot of services out there happy to take your money to teach you how to market, run ads, do social media, etc. I’m not saying these courses aren’t valuable—they are. 

But if you’re starting out, it’s much easier to plunk down money for a course you hope will grant you success than it is to put your butt in the chair and write. And THAT is your primary goal at first. Yes, you need the other things too, but not at the expense of the writing itself.

Also, if you have the money to spend on courses, it’s best to invest it in good covers and quality editing first.


How do you deal and process negative book reviews?

The difficult thing about negative reviews is that one bad review somehow has the power to negate 50 good ones (at least in my mind)!

I’ve learned two things over the years:

A “meh” review usually means it wasn’t the reader’s cup of tea. That’s fair. You can’t expect every reader to adore your work. A hundred dedicated fans are more valuable than 1000 “meh” readers.

If, however, you get enough readers complaining about the same thing, you’ve made a mistake somewhere that needs to be addressed: poor editing, insensitive language or characterization, uninteresting characters, whatever. If there’s a theme to the negative reviews, then you should pay attention.

A truly nasty review only has two purposes. Either the reviewer has a following, and is feeding an audience by being scathing, or the reviewer wants to inflict so much pain that you give up writing altogether. Rarely have I seen a truly mean review have any other purpose. So, I ignore those completely.


What is the most difficult part of your writing process?

Finding the time and energy to write after working an emotionally, mentally, and physically demanding job. 

I have so many ideas, and by the end of the day, I’m too fried to write. Getting up earlier works for some but not me. 

I already have to be at work by 7 am as it is. I’m up doing chores well before that.


What do you need in your writer’s space to keep you focused?

Relative quiet and few distractions. Sometimes I think our smartphones are giving us less attention span than a goldfish. I keep thinking of other things that need doing, and I have so little time to get everything done that I sometimes just spin my wheels in circles…

What is your naughty indulgence as you are writing?

I love a glass of wine while writing, but I have a skin condition that is triggered by many things, especially spicy food, cheese, chocolate, and wine. It makes life… very bland. I can’t have any caffeine anymore, either. 

If I do, my heart wants to explode out of my chest like the creature in Aliens. *sad little sigh*

If you could spend a day with another popular author, whom would you choose?  And why?

Probably Laurie R. King. Her Mary Russell and Sherlock Holmes books are brilliant, and she’s the current president of the Mystery Writers Association of America. I’d love to pick her brains!

I’d name Nora Roberts, only I’d probably just stare at her worshipfully, and that would be embarrassing for both of us.

What is your schedule like when you are writing?  Do you have a favorite writing snack or drink?

No set schedule, sadly. Whenever possible. These days I prefer cold Hint flavored water (especially the watermelon or blackberry flavors). I’m also partial to raspberry lemonade.

Do you listen to music when you write – what kind of music is your favorite?

I don’t usually listen to music when writing. If I do, I use instrumentals or New Age/Nature sounds as background noise that won’t distract or influence me. My husband gave me 9 hours of starship engine noise to listen to, and it amuses me when I look up and think, “Huh, I’m on Enterprise NCC-1701 D now…”

I listen to music when I brainstorm writing. Favorite tracks, pounding beats, anything to get the blood pumping as I walk the dogs and daydream about what’s coming next.

Have pets ever gotten in the way of your writing?

Yes and no. Most of the time when my animals start bugging me, it’s because I’ve been at the keyboard (or worse, scrolling social media) for hours and they need attention.

One of the hardest things for me right now is the realization of how much I’m shutting out the things I care about in an effort to wear All The Hats as a writer. There’s never enough time, but we have to make time for the really important things. The truth is, no matter how much I push and hustle, I’m probably never going to be a household name as a writer. But I’m a household name to my family, and I need to remember that more often.


What is your kryptonite as a writer?  What totally puts you off your game?

Detailing/outlining too much of my story in advance is one I’ve mentioned before. 

I also can’t do NaNoWriMo. I obsessively reread and revise my material as I write. It slows me down, but it’s part of the writing process for me. It helps me see where the threads of the story lie and pick out themes that need to be woven in or deepened. 

I can’t just bang out the words as expected in NaNo. The one time I tried, I got the worst case of writer’s block.

Have you ever killed off a character that your readers loved?

No. Not permanently. I’m not sure I ever will. I have an emotionally demanding day job and both my reading and writing must end well. That doesn’t mean there isn’t angst and things to overcome along the way. But in the end, justice will prevail and there will be a happy ending.

How do you celebrate after typing THE END?

I’m not sure I do, really. I usually tell my crit group, and then put it in a metaphoric drawer for couple of weeks before reading it again with fresher eyes.

I hope you enjoyed this interview!

Check out all my interviews/reviews for McKenna Dean!

Make sure to give McKenna Dean a shout out and FOLLOW her on all her social media!

Connect with McKenna:


(all links in one place, including links for M.K. Dean)



M K Dean Amazon Page:
McKenna Dean Amazon Page:

MK Dean Goodreads:

MK Dean Bookbub:

M K Dean Facebook page:






  1. I LOVE the English mystery writers too--the writing is spare (not Hemingway spare, but you know what I mean) yet provides such rich complexity and rounded characters. I also adore Eliz. Peters books. Also totally agree about Nanowrimo--# of words written is the least impressive thing about writing.

    1. Right? Somehow those writers manage to draft a single sentence that makes the whole of the previous two pages come to vivid life... and yet it never feels like it's fluff or filler.