Persistence. It is the driving force that pushes many writers on, urging them to send one more query or write that next manuscript. In today’s W.O.W., Jen McConnel talks about how each “no” she received drove her to work her harder and fight for the ever elusive “yes” in publishing. It is that persistence that has brought Jen success and allowed her to have three novels published in the last two years!
Many thanks to Jen for sharing her writing odyssey…
Amy: When did you first know you wanted to be a writer?
Jen: I’ve been writing as long as I can remember! The first “novel” I remember attempting to write, however, was (get this!) a sequel to the sequel to GONE WITH THE WIND. I filled a lined notebook with my version of what happened next, and I had grand dreams of publication, even in middle school (yes, I read GWTW when I was way too young to understand it the first time!). It didn’t occur to me that I’d basically written fan fiction until years later.
Amy: You write both Young Adult and New Adult fiction. Do you prefer one over the other?
Jen: They’re both my babies, but there are things I enjoy about each. I love the YA voice, and maybe it’s just that I’m in touch with my inner teen, but I find YA characters easy to slip into. With NA, I enjoy the breadth of “what next” topics that exist in our twenties; I’ve written about love, travel, lies, betrayal, and work, and I’ve barely scratched the surface of what makes the New Adult experience so rich.
Amy: How many manuscripts had you completed prior to DAUGHTER OF CHAOS?
Jen: Let me see; there are three in a drawer that will never see the light of day, plus ISOBEL, so that makes DAUGHTER my fifth completed manuscript. I finished the first draft in 2011, and it came out this year. SO exciting to see this book on bookstore shelves!
Amy: You’ve had many jobs that involved books in one way or the other (middle school teacher, librarian, bookseller). How do you think those experiences affected your approach to writing?
Jen: I’m a writer because I’m a reader, and I think my reader-self has a lot of influence in my career choices. In one way or another, my work has revolved around promoting literacy and encouraging joy in reading, and I think that’s really what makes me want to write; I love getting lost in a good story, and I hope I can tell stories that someone can inhabit in the same way! I’d also say teaching both middle school and college have helped sharpen my narrative voice (and are probably why I gravitate toward either YA or NA, come to think of it!)
Amy: As many writers know the publishing world is very hard to break into. What was the one thing you did to help garner attention for your books?
Jen: I think the biggest thing that’s helped me is persistence. Maybe it was my experience in retail in college, but I’m dogged in pursuit of the things I want, and I firmly believe that each “no” you hear brings you one step closer to “yes”; you won’t get your book accepted (or that review request acknowledged, or the blurb request completed, or invited to speak at a school, or…) if you aren’t willing to keep asking. Rejection happens at every level of the publishing process, but I try to remember that every time I hear “no”, it means I’m increasing my chances of hearing that magical “yes”. Persistence pays off!
Amy: What advice did you get early on in your writing career that you still use today?
Jen: Keep writing. I don’t remember which teacher first told me that, but it’s my mantra. I wrote all the time as a kid, but I stopped in high school and college; I missed it, but I didn’t think I was good enough to be a “real” writer. But here’s a secret: you are a writer as soon as you say you are, but you have to keep writing. Even if it’s only ten minutes every day, even if you get bogged down with rejections or negativity, keep writing. Writing is more than telling stories for me; it’s a source of sanity.
Witches must choose the path they will follow, and Darlena Agara is no exception. She’s been putting it off long enough, and in her case, ignoring it has not made it go away. In a moment of frustration, Darlena chooses to follow Red Magic, figuring she had outsmarted the powers that be, since there’s no such thing as Red Magic. But alas, Darlena’s wrong (again) and she becomes a newly declared Red Witch.
Her friends are shocked and her parents horrified by the choice Darlena has made. As a Red Witch, she now governs one third of the world’s chaos. She is the walking personification of pandemonium, turmoil, and bedlam, just as the patrons of Red Magic would have it to be.
But Darlena believes there must be more to Red Magic than chaos and destruction, and she sets out on a journey to achieve balance. Only doing so puts her at odds with the dark goddess Hecate, who simply will not allow Darlena to quit. She encourages Darlena to embrace who and what she is and to leave good magic to the good witches. If only Darlena could, life would be simple, and she would not be the Daughter of Chaos.
Lou is in the middle of a quarter-life crisis. Fresh out of college, she’s unemployed and unsure of herself. But when she gets the chance to escape to Scotland with her best friend, it could be the answer to her quest for self-discovery. The trip is not at all what she expected, especially when her tour guide turns out to be the dreamy historian Brian, and together they embark on a hunt for information about Isobel Key, a woman accused of witchcraft in the seventeenth century.
They set out to learn the truth of the condemned witch, but Lou isn’t prepared for the knowledge that awaits her. She must face her own demons if she has any hope of righting the wrongs of the past.
Flashing between seventeenth century Scotland and a contemporary romance, THE SECRET OF ISOBEL KEY is a mystery that will please readers of all ages.
Five years ago, an impulsive trip to Scotland changed her life. Now Lou is back in the misty, magical country. But this time, she’s not on vacation.
When Brian, her old Highland fling, turns up at the scene of some depressing family business, tension mounts between the former lovers. But dealing with him is only part of the problem; something wicked is stirring in Scotland. Lou must use all her strength to handle the increasingly desperate situation, but will she be strong enough to battle both a vengeful ghost and her heart?
Lou may have thought that she was finished with the witch Isobel Key, but some secrets can’t stay buried forever.
Jen McConnel first began writing poetry as a child. A Michigander by birth, she now lives and writes in the beautiful state of North Carolina. A graduate of Western Michigan University, she also holds a MS in Library Science from Clarion University of Pennsylvania. When she isn’t crafting worlds of fiction, she teaches college writing composition and yoga. Once upon a time, she was a middle school teacher, a librarian, and a bookseller, but those are stories for another time. Her fiction titles include DAUGHTER OF CHAOS (YA), THE SECRET OF ISOBEL KEY (NA), and the recently released sequel, HER SECRET INHERITANCE. Visit http://www.jenmcconnel.com to learn more or connect with her on Twitter, Facebook, or Pinterest.