Who are you and what do you do?
Hi, I am Catherine Mackenzie and I am the Children’s Editor at Christian Focus Publications. I oversee the editorial and illustrations for the children’s books, while also doing some editorial occasionally for the women’s list and biography.
What is your favourite thing about what you do?
I love the freedom this job gives me for creativity. I think one of the best things in life alongside reading a good book is making one.
What is one thing about you that other people think is unusual?
Well, I think some people think that I’m just unusual – they just find it a bit hard to put their finger on exactly why that is. I personally think that the strangest thing about me is my habit for random conversation topics. I am a bit like a human wikipedia – you’ll never know what I’ll bring up next, or if it’s 100% accurate.
What are your three favourite CFP books?
That’s a difficult question to answer – if you’d asked me what are your 33 favourite CFP books I might still have had to think about it but for now here we go…. Actually it will have to be four.
The Parables of Jesus by Terry L. Johnson
Unafraid of the Sacred Forest by Ronaldo Lidorio
Daily Prayers by F. B. Meyer
Effective Christian Living by Jack Selfridge
Do you have any interesting tales to tell about your time at CFP?
I’ve grown up with the business. Mum and Dad started publishing when I was about seven or eight years old. Early family holidays involved going in a caravan to the Frankfurt bookfair. That was probably one of the places I first caught the publishing bug. As a teenager I would do a few weeks here and there packing books, or doing admin. And I always had a dream that one day I would write a book. That dream was finally realised in my twenties when I wrote one of the first Trailblazer books for Christian Focus on Richard Wurmbrand. It’s really encouraging to see that that series now has over 50 titles.
When you work in publishing and particularly the international side you meet so many interesting people. The books we do go into many different languages. We’ve been involved in the rights and co–edition world since the very beginning of Christian Focus. Back in the day you couldn’t afford to publish colour books without joining forces with other European publishers. But some of our books were published in other languages without our knowledge… two of the most interesting stories involved Christians simply responding to a deep hunger for God’s word:–
After the fall of the Berlin wall Eastern Europe began to open up extensively. It was only then that we discovered the interesting fact that some of our children’s books had been published illegally on the government printing presses in Poland.
Then in the 1990s a Christian friend of ours was regularly going to Thailand and Burma as part of a medical mission programme. He would perform eye surgery on many of the refugees in a Karen camp which actually had its own seminary. Frank would bring Christian books in English in his luggage and at the end of his stay would leave them with the seminary. One of these books was a Christian focus title called Effective Christian Living by Jack Selfridge – one of my personal favourites. A teacher at the seminary realised that this book was exactly what his students needed, but none of them could read English. So he translated it himself. Once that was done the problem remained of how to get it printed and into the hands of his students. There was no printing facility near the refugee camp, in fact to get the material printed he would have to walk miles through the jungle, crossing the boarder into India. This is exactly what he did – then hiring several porters to carry the hundreds of printed copies back to the refugee camp. It’s humbling to hear stories like this where Christians are so hungry for good biblical Christian teaching that they will sacrifice not only their time and strength to get good books but also potentially sacrifice their own safety to do this.
Is there something you wish people would stop asking you?
How did you loose weight? Because I didn’t really follow a diet. I did some basic rules – ate less, walked more. But I still love chocolate.
What is your favourite verse?
These two are very similar. I like them for the same reason: because I am a believer after the resurrection I can make a unique claim on these scriptures. I have been given faith by God through Christ – even though I have not physically seen the events of the crucifixion and resurrection I believe in them, and in the power of Christ and my Father God that they demonstrate to me.
John 20:29 – Then Jesus told him, “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”
1 Peter 1:8 – Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy
What was the last book you read for fun?
I am reading several at the moment. One of which is called The Secret Lives of Colour by Kassia St. Clair. The other book that I’ve just finished reading is When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi. I have just discovered the French detective Maigret. I like reading children’s books for fun because mostly they are simply that – fun. I got a sample copy of a rather strange children’s book sent to me the other week by a printer it was called Dave’s Cave. It made me laugh.
What is the best thing about working in the Highlands of Scotland?
I have two things: the seasons and my heritage.
Seasons – we can have several different seasons in one day. I love the fact that we can have glorious sunshine and howling snow storms within just a few weeks of each other. This year I almost got stuck in a blizzard driving to work – and did lose my mobile phone in a drift for two weeks. A couple of months later we were at the start of one of the longest heat waves I’ve ever experienced. I can’t believe that I’m saying that this is something I love, but I suppose the variety of the climate is what I’m referring to. We have seascapes and mountain sides. I live at sea level but a short drive can take me into the Cairngorms. If anyone asks me when a good time to visit Scotland is I recommend the months of May, June or September. You’re more likely to have sunny, dry–ish, midge–free conditions. But Scotland is usually a country where you need to be prepared for wet weather.
My heritage is the other reason I love the Highlands. On both sides of my family we can trace our line back with no surprises. My mum and dad got a family tree made up a few months ago. Our family life would not make a interesting t.v. programme. You know the kind of thing – someone looks into their lineage and finds out that they’ve got a south–sea pirate as a great great great uncle. We’re from a looong line of potato growing crofters. Throw in a few fishermen for good measure and that’s the Mackenzies. But my heritage is richer than that, simply because I can look back at a people who loved God, cherished his Word and respected the church. My great aunt was born just at the end of the 1800s. I remember her telling me of one of her earliest memories – looking at the long line of people going to her village church. There were so many people the whole road way was black with people in their Sunday best. It’s a privilege to have a heritage like this but a heart ache to see it dissolving … where people don’t make the effort to listen to the truth, yet thousands leave their homes to celebrate sin.
Is there anything we should know about you that hasn’t already been asked?
I love a bargain. Charity shops are my go to retail experience.
Back to that question about my favourite Christian Focus books … Can I have five?!
I’m really excited about God’s Timeline by Linda Finlayson – that one is F A B!