BookEnds Talks to Sally MacKenzie

  • By: Jessica Faust | Date: Apr 20 2007

Sally MacKenzie
Book: The Naked Earl
Publisher: Kensington Zebra
Pub date: April 2007
Agent: Jessica Faust

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Sally MacKenzie was born in Washington, D.C., and still lives in the Maryland suburbs with her transplanted upstate New Yorker husband. After years driving her four sons around, she wrote and sold her first Naked book, mortifying them and giving her youngest son the perfect college application essay.

Awards: The Naked Duke: finalist in the Romance Writers of America Golden Heart contest; winner, 2005 New Jersey Romance Writers Golden Leaf award for Best First Book; nominee, Romantic Times BOOKreviews 2005 Reviewers’ Choice Award for “Best First Historical Romance.” The Naked Marquis: recipient, Road to Romance Reviewers’ Choice Award (December 2005). The Naked Earl: Romantic Times BOOKreviews K.I.S.S. for April.

The Naked Earl recently hit #10 on the Borders bestseller list for Romance. And just announced! A USA Today Bestseller!;

Author Web site:

BookEnds: Describe your book in 50 words or less.
Sally: When a naked Earl climbs through her bedchamber window, Lady Elizabeth does the proper thing: She screams. And then . . . well, Lizzie has had enough of being proper. She wishes to be bold. Wanton, even. She won’t be commanded to put on her nightgown. Just this once, she will be absolutely daring. . . .

BookEnds: What do you think distinguishes your work from that of other authors of this genre?
Sally: There are many, many Regency-set historicals on bookstore shelves, ranging from serious and emotional to light and funny. I consider my Naked books to be primarily funny, but with serious—and, I hope, touching—moments. I was a reader long before I was a writer, so I try to cut out of my books the parts I used to skip when I read Regencies. You won’t find many details on dresses or furnishings or politics in a Naked book. Instead I have a lot of dialogue, short paragraphs, and situational humor, sometimes bordering on the slapstick. While I try not to get any historical points wrong and to keep a Regency “feel,” I focus more on the romance than the history.

BookEnds: Where do you get your ideas?
Sally: Some ideas arise naturally from the societal structure of early-19th-century England and the plot conventions of the Regency genre. Then my characters supply the details. I put them together and see what they say and do. When everything is going well, they take charge and lead me where they want to go.

BookEnds: What is your writing process like?
Sally: Messy. Since my books are related, I usually know whom my story will be about, but not what will happen. I spend pre-writing time thinking about my characters, their histories, families, relationships, what happened to them in my earlier books. I jot ideas in a notebook and write character descriptions and other musings on note cards. I might have a few scenes I know I want to get to. Then I start. I try to write five pages a day, seven days a week. I like to have about a month between finishing the book and turning it in to revise and polish.

BookEnds: How do you spend your time when not writing?
Sally: Next fall when my “baby” goes to college, things will change, but now I’m still very busy with his school and sports. I proofread the parents’ club monthly newsletter and am vice president of the local summer swim league—and chair of the Rules Committee. I spend huge chunks of my life at swimming pools, timing swimmers or chatting with other spectating parents. (For my birthday one year, my husband gave me a T-shirt with the “Swim Parents’ Creed”: “If I have but one day to live, let me spend it at a swim meet . . . they last forever!”) I’m also in a constant battle with age and gravity, trying to get to the gym three mornings a week to keep everything in semi-working order.

BookEnds: What one thing do your readers not know about you?
Sally: Hmm . . . how about three things? I was admitted to the University of Notre Dame’s first class of women. I’m a law school dropout. And I wrote regulations for the U.S. federal school nutrition programs. (Anyone remember ketchup as a vegetable?) Oh, and one more. I hadn’t realized until I started doing these interviews that, except for college, law school, and my first year of marriage, I’ve lived my whole life within ten miles of where I grew up!

Feel free to ask Sally questions in the comments section. She’ll pop in during the day to answer them.

10 responses to “BookEnds Talks to Sally MacKenzie”

  1. Sally, I love your Naked series and after reading the first chapter of The Naked Earl, I can’t wait to read the rest!

    I noticed you said you emphasise the relationships rather than the history in your stories, yet I don’t think they could be set in another time. Why did you choose Regency England as a setting?

  2. Avatar jfaust says:


    Congratulations on hitting the USA Today bestseller list this week! We’re all so proud of you!

    — Jessica, Jacky and Kim

  3. Hi, Christine! Thanks for the good words on the Earl. I’m looking forward to seeing Scandal’s Daughter on the shelves in September!

    You’re right, my stories have to be set in Regency England, even though history–political history, at least–isn’t a focus. The plots and character interactions demand the social constraints of that time period. In a way, society becomes another character.

    I first fell in love with the regency as a genre when I read Georgette Heyer’s books back when I was a preteen. I loved her wit, her sometimes laugh-out-loud humor, and her use of language. I suppose one of my secret goals–shh, don’t tell anyone–is to write sexy Georgette Heyers, LOL.

    And thanks for the congrats, Jessica, Jacky, and Kim. I’m still walking on air!

  4. Avatar Jolie Mathis says:

    Sally –

    I don’t have a question (yet!) but CONGRATULATIONS on hitting the USA Today Bestseller list!! I’m looking forward to more Naked (or nonNaked) books from you!

  5. Thanks, Jolie!

    I’m off to a Ladies’ Regency Weekend–I kid you not! I’ll check back Sunday in case anyone looks in here while I’m gone.

    Have a great weekend all!

  6. Avatar dssknight says:

    Sally, congratulations on making the USA Today bestseller list!!

    You sound like a wonderful and fun woman. No wonder your books are so great. Wishing you much further success!

  7. Avatar Kate Douglas says:

    Sally, congratulations on making USA Today! Wow! That is just too cool. Your books sound like so much fun–I definitely need to take a look.

  8. Sally, Georgette Heyer must be one of my all-time favourite authors. I love the idea of sexy GHs! Congratulations on hitting the USA Today bestseller list–I congratulated you on one of the loops but it bears repeating. Fantastic!

  9. Congratulations on bestsellerdom, Sally! Terrific news :-)!

  10. Thanks for the congratulations, everyone. I’m still pinching myself.