I recently connected online with author Jen McConnel and she was gracious enough to do an interview. Her new adult novel, The Burning of Isobel Key, releases today! Congrats, Jen!
When Lou travels to Scotland, she’s a mess. She’s twenty-six, unemployed, and unsure of herself. It doesn’t help that she’s traveling with Tammy, her best friend, who is everything Lou is not.
At first, the trip pushes Lou towards the brink of depression, but then she meets Brian, a handsome local tour guide. When Brian tells the tourists about the countless witches burned in Scotland, Lou starts to listen. And when she discovers information about Isobel Key, one of the victims of the seventeenth century, Lou finds renewed purpose.
She sets out to learn the truth of the condemned witch, but she isn’t prepared for the knowledge that waits for her. Lou must face her demons if she has any hope of righting the wrongs of the past.
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I love the premise of the book! And now let’s move on to our interview questions.
Q: Where were you born? Are you the kind of person who likes to move around a lot, or do you prefer to live in one place?
A: I was born in Michigan, and while I love to travel any chance I get, it’s always good to come back home (which is now North Carolina).
Q: What sparked your interest in writing? How long have you been writing?
A: I’ve always wanted to be a writer, but I think a huge influence is the fact that my mom wrote freelance work when I was a child. She also co-wrote a history book for young children, and that made it seem possible for me. I’ve been seriously writing fiction for the past four years.
Q: What provided the inspiration for your novel, The Burning of Isobel Key?
A: I sat down in 2009 to participate in my first NaNoWriMo, and the story just poured out of me. I’ve traveled to Scotland, and I love history, so I think those things played a huge role in the story itself, but some stories just want to be told.
Q: How long did it take you to finish it? How many drafts did you write before you were satisfied?
A: I “finished” the first draft at the end of that same November. A year later, I revised and expanded the novel. In 2011, I worked through an intensive writing class, focusing on Isobel, and in 2012, I finally reached a point where I knew I had to either be satisfied or I would go insane.
Q: How would you describe your path toward publication?
A: I sought traditional publication, querying as many agents as I could find. I actually did sign with an agent for my YA, but she had a career change, and I decided to try my hand at indie publishing. So, I guess I’d describe my path as long, curving, and surprising!
Q: Do you have any advice for aspiring writers?
A: Write every day. Don’t question the words that flow out of you: you will have plenty of time to revise later. Also, read books about writing by other writers: you will find amazing inspiration and comfort there! If you can, attend writing conferences. They are a great way to connect with authors and other industry professionals; community is important!
Q: Name a few authors who have inspired you and describe why.
A: Susan Cooper and Neil Gaiman are two of my biggest inspirations, both because of the way they manipulate mythic stories to create something new. I’d also say that Anne Lamott plays a huge part in my writing process: if you haven’t read BIRD BY BIRD, you need to!
Q: What are you currently writing?
A: I’m working on a novella as a follow-up to The Burning of Isobel Key. I thought I was done with this story, but the characters had other ideas!
Q: Coffee, tea, or hard liquor? (or all three?)
A: All three, but not all at once! 😉
Q: What books are you currently reading or on your to-be-read list?
A: Too many!! The coffee table is overflowing. I am working on HAPPIER AT HOME, the sequel to the amazing HAPPINESS PROJECT.
Q: And now for the bonus fluff question: If you could be a character in your one of your favorite novels, which character would you be and why?
A: That’s a tough fluff question! I can only pick one? Okay. (Pause). If I could only be one, I guess I’d want to be Morgan in THE MISTS OF AVALON, because I would love to live the life of a priestess (although I’d rather be her for the first half of the book, when things are going well!)
Thanks so much for having me! This has been so much fun.
Thanks for sharing a bit of your writing life with us! Best of luck with your book!
Jen McConnel first began writing poetry as a child. Since then, her words have appeared in a variety of magazines and journals, including Sagewoman, PanGaia, and The Storyteller (where she won the people’s choice 3rd place award for her poem, “Luna”).
She is also an active reviewer for Voices of Youth Advocates (VOYA), and proud member of SCBWI, NCWN, and SCWW.
A Michigander by birth, she now lives and writes in the beautiful state of North Carolina. When she isn’t crafting worlds of fiction, she teaches writing composition at a community college. Once upon a time, she was a middle school teacher, a librarian, and a bookseller, but those are stories for another time.
Check out Jen’s blog at http://jennifermcconnel.wordpress.com/.