Elizabeth McKenzie is the senior editor of the Chicago Quarterly Review and the managing editor of Catamaran. Her novel The Portable Veblen was longlisted for the 2016 National Book Award for fiction, winner of the California Book Award, and a finalist for the Women’s Prize for Fiction. Her collection Stop That Girl was shortlisted for The Story Prize, and her novel MacGregor Tells the World was a Chicago TribuneSan Francisco Chronicle and Library Journal Best Book of the Year, and her work has appeared in The New YorkerAtlantic MonthlyBest American Nonrequired Reading and the Pushcart Prize Anthology, and recorded for NPR’s Selected Shorts. Her latest novel is The Dog of the North.

Where are you now? 

At home in Santa Cruz, California.

Where would you like to be? 

For today, at home in Santa Cruz, California.

Where and when do you do most of your writing? 

Morning, afternoon and evening, in a small room overlooking the front porch.

If you have one, what is your pre-writing ritual? 

Making lots of strong coffee.

Pen or keyboard? 


Who do you write for? 

In high school I saw a boy I didn’t know reading my column in the school paper and laughing. I’m still writing for him.

How do you relax when you’re writing?  

Taking walks or thrashing brush in the yard. 

How would you pitch your latest book in up to 50 words? 

The Dog of the North concerns an awkward woman trying to move on after a failed marriage and soon stumbling into mystery, an investigating detective, imposters and other misadventures that befall someone who seems to misunderstand people even when they’re trying to get close to her.

What would a fresh start for you look and feel like?  

Perhaps I’d be dressed in skins and have a dogsled.

Who do you share your work in progress with? 

My husband Steve and my writing group.

Which literary character do you most identify with? 

Edward Prendick in The Island of Dr. Moreau.

Share with us your favourite line/s of dialogue, poetry or prose. 

“Human speech is like a cracked kettle on which we tap crude rhythms for bears to dance to, while we long to make music that will melt the stars.” 
Gustave Flaubert, Madame Bovary (Steegmuller translation)

What’s the last book, film, TV show or podcast that made you laugh? 

Doc Martin and The Detectorists.

Which book/s have you most recently read and want to talk about? 

Same Bed, Different Dreams by Ed Park (coming in October) and Booth by Karen Joy Fowler.

What’s on your bedside table or e-reader? 

Escape Velocity: A Charles Portis Miscellany, edited by Jay Jennings and The Other House by Henry James.

Which books do you feel you ought to have read but haven’t yet? 

The Makioka Sisters by Junichiro Tanizaki and many others in great stacks around the house.

Which book/s do you treasure the most? 

My dog-eared Volumes I and 2 of The Complete Sherlock Holmes and even more dog-eared The Beatles by Hunter Davies, acquired when I was 13.

What is the last work you read in translation? 

Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead by Olga Tokarczuk, translated by Antonia Lloyd-Jones.

What will you read next?   

Second Place by Rachel Cusk.

What are you working on next? 

A story collection possibly titled Savage Breast and a translation, with Michela Martini, of Anatomia della battaglia by Giacomo Sartori.

Imagine you’re the host of a literary supper, who would your dinner guests be (living or dead, real or fictional)?  

Bob Dylan, Captain Ahab, Shirley Hazzard.

If TED came calling, what would be the topic of your talk?  

Life’s awkward moments as productive stimuli.

What’s the first thing you would do if you ruled the world?  

Replace cars with horses and buggies.

If you were the last person on Earth, what would you write? 

Brutal limericks mocking all who turned a blind eye.

How can we make peace with our planet? 

It’s hard to know where to start.

The Dog of the North is published by Fourth Estate in hardback, eBook and audio download, and is longlisted for the 2023 Women’s Prize for Fiction.
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Author photo by Poppy de Garmo