Thursday, June 12, 2014

How Authors Write- Jen McConnel

Today I'm excited to welcome Jen McConnel to the blog. I met Jen through BookFish Books when she signed up to help us spread the word about our upcoming releases. If you don't follow her already, you can find her blog HERE.

Now, a little about Jen.

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. 

Visit to learn more.

Welcome,  Jen. Please tell us what you write.
I write Young Adult and New Adult fiction, and I also write a bit of nonfiction. My YA tends to be paranormal, while my NA is mostly contemporary. [I love paranormal!]

Do you use 1st person, 3rd person, multiple POVs?
It depends on the story, although I’m most comfortable writing in 1st person. In BEAUTIFUL CURSE, my upcoming YA retelling of Cupid and Psyche, I went from 3rd person on the first draft to 1st person, which is the first (and hopefully only) time I’ve ever made a complete change like that in the middle of a project. My NA series, Isobel Key, is written in 3rd person, and I’ve learned that every project will be different. Flexibility and trusting the story is key! [So true! I never know what POV I'll be in until I start writing, and like you, have switched in the middle of a project because the voice felt wrong in the POV I was in.]

How do you get started with a book- is it an idea, a character, vary from story to story?
Sometimes, it’s the character, while other times it’s an image or an idea that I can’t quite let go of. I’ve found that even when I get an idea for a fun story or a character I’d like to explore, that doesn’t always translate to writing it down immediately. Some ideas need a longer gestation period, while others seem to spring into my mind Athena-like, nearly fully formed. It’s never boring, that’s for sure! [I totally get this. I let my mind play out story lines with the characters until I find something that gels. Not always, but usually ;-)]

Do you draft quickly or are you more detailed in your draft?
Yes. I’m a sloppy, speedy drafter (I love both Anne Lamott and NaNoWriMo), and if I’ve got enough caffeine, I can pound out the first draft of a book in one to two months. My revision process is picky and precise, however, so it usually takes me at least a year before a book is “done”. [Nice! I'm working at learning to draft quicker and a bit cleaner so my revisions don't look like completely different tales.]

Do you do research before your first draft, during?
I try not to slow down my drafting with research, although for some stories (like the Isobel Key series), I couldn’t help it. If I don’t complete the research before I start drafting, I’ll try to wait until I have the rough bones of the story down before I fall down any rabbit holes, but again, each story is different, and I’ve learned not to get stuck in my process. [This is a great piece of advice. Not every story is approached the same way, and we do need to be flexible about this.]

Do you outline? How?
Not in the traditional sense; I tend to be a pantser when it comes to drafting, but once the first draft is done, then I’ll often outline to see where my story peaks and falls. When I’m writing YA paranormal, I’ll take this opportunity to apply Joseph Campbell’s hero’s journey to the plot, which helps me clarify areas that still need work or components that are missing. It’s a messy, wonderful process, but the analytical part of me really enjoys some structured outlining...after I get the story down. [Hmm. I've never heard of the Hero Journey before. Jotting down notes here.]

Do you name everything up front when you are drafting or do you leave comments for yourself to go back and fill in later so you don't lose the flow of what you are working on?
I tend to write straight through, and that means there’s a lot of filling in that comes in the later drafts. For the first draft, though, I just let the flow of the story take me, and I don’t make notes to myself in the text at this stage.

Do you work with CP's or Beta's? How soon into your draft do you let them see your work?
Yes! My CPs and Betas are amazing, and I’m so thankful to have their support (and their eyes). I usually wait to send the draft out to anyone until I’ve finished the first draft and gone through at least one round of revisions (sometimes more). I wait until I feel solid about the story and the world before sending it out (which means some projects have still never had anybody’s eyes but mine on them). [I don't know what I'd do without my CP's and Beta's either!]

What books/websites have you found most helpful to helping you write your best?
I love Anne Lamott’s BIRD BY BIRD, and Stephen King’s ON WRITING is a fabulous resource, too. I’m always looking for writing resources and memoirs, and I think reading about writing and connecting with other writers is a powerful part of the creative process.

What do you know now that you wish you knew when you started writing?
I wish I’d realized how much more there is to being an author than just writing. The writing (and even the revising) are the fun parts, but making this my career has been a lot of work, and sometimes I get bogged down with all the “other” parts of it. As long as I keep coming back to the writing, however, I’m happy and whole.

What do you have out now, or coming out? Any upcoming events? A website we can find you and your books at? An author photo? A booktrailer? Anything else you want to share?
I’ve got a busy year ahead of me! The sequel to ISOBEL KEY, HER SECRET INHERITANCE, just released this June from Bloomsbury Spark. I’m also working on the rest of the RED MAGIC series, my YA paranormal trilogy from Month9Books that kicked off with DAUGHTER OF CHAOS in March, and I’m also gearing up for the release of BEAUTIFUL CURSE, a YA retelling of Cupid and Psyche, coming in December from Swoon Romance. So many books; I’m so happy to keep doing what I love! [That is a busy year.]


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.

Learn More
Bloomsbury | Website| Goodreads | Bloomsbury Spark |

Amazon | B&N | Google | iTunes | Kobo | Audible |


Five years after the trip to Scotland that changed her life, 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 Brian 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.

Learn More

Bloomsbury | Website| Goodreads | Bloomsbury Spark |


Amazon | B&N | Kobo |

Connect With Jen

| Twitter | Goodreads | Pinterest | Facebook | Blog | Website |


  1. Thanks so much for hosting me! I had a great time answering your questions! :)

  2. Great interview and responses, Mary and Jen. I too wish I'd understood all the other pieces of the business. It can be...overwhelming!

    1. Thanks Johanna! It can be overwhelming, but knowing others have traveled the same path, or a slightly different one, helps.

  3. Great questions Mare with equally great answers. Wish I was a speedy drafter or speedy at anything really. LOL. So appreciate your help with BookFish Jen!! The Secret of Isobel Key sounds right up my alley. My husband is Scottish by heritage so there's something just wonderfully alluring about the whole area for me. I wonder why that is??? ;)

    1. Thanks, Tam! Glad you enjoyed.

      And Jen has been a totally AWESOME help with BFB!

  4. Wonderful interview! Jen does have quite a busy, and awesome, year ahead of her! :)

    1. Thanks, Meradeth! It does look quite busy, but something tells me she's gonna enjoy it!

  5. I alternate between third person and first person, as well. Some stories just beg to be told in first person--likewise for third person.

    1. Exactly! Some stories work better from 1st, some from 3rd. Or, some work with both. My Faery series has 1st and 3rd POV within the same book.


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