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Friday, December 14, 2012

The Burning of Isobel Key Tour: An Interview with Jen McConnel

author How long have you been writing?
All my life.  I used to write a lot of poetry and stories as a child, and I've written here and there for years.  I started treating my writing more seriously five years ago, though, and I became a full-time writer in 2011.

What inspired you to write The Burning of Isobel Key?
Honestly, I'm not sure.  I took a trip to Scotland a few years before I began writing, and the place worked its way inside my head.  But the story really came out of nowhere: in 2009 I sat down to do my first NaNoWriMo, and Isobel's story just sort of poured out of me.  Of course, then I had to go back and edit, but the first draft was really spontaneous.

Which of your characters do you relate to most and why?
[Laughs] People always ask me that!  I'd say that I don't actually relate to any of the characters that well, but there's a piece of me inside of each.  I share a faith with Lou, and when I was younger, I had a lot of Tammy's brash and bluster.  Isobel and I aren't really similar, except we are both trying to make an unconventional life for ourselves in our own ways.

What is a secret about you that nobody else knows?
I love to sing, but I can't read music.

If your real life as a teenager was a Young Adult book, what would you, the main character, be like?
Oh, gosh.  I often joke that if Glee had been out when I was a teen, I would have wanted to be on it.  I was theatrical and loud, and I acted like I loved the spotlight (even though I was actually incredibly shy and self-conscious).  My teen YA novel self would pretty much be a less on pitch Rachel Barry with blonde, curly hair and divorced parents.

What book have you read too many times to count?
Outlander by Diana Gabaldon.  LOVE that story!

What is the best piece of writing advice you ever received?
Although I didn't receive this advice in person, Anne Lamott's directive to write "$h*tty first drafts" has changed the way I write.  If you haven't read Bird by Bird, add it to your list!

If you could hop into the life of any fictional character, who would it be and why?
Hmm.  It would be fun to be Professor McGonagall: I would love to have her magic, wisdom, and, of course, to be played by Maggie Smith.

What was one of the most surprising things you learned in creating your books?
I learned to love revisions, and I learned how to develop my own revision process that seems to really suit my style.  It was a great moment: I used to just love drafting, but writing Isobel helped me polish my craft in so many ways.

What do you like to do when you're not writing?
I love to read (no surprise there), and travel.  Whether I'm climbing a pyramid in Egypt with my husband (true story!) or inhabiting steampunk England through the pages of a book, there's nothing I like better than

Are any of the things in your books based on real life experiences or purely all imagination?
There are a lot of pieces of reality in my books.  For example, I have traveled to Scotland in the winter, like Lou does in The Burning of Isobel Key.  Other things, like her research and her interesting relationship with Brian, came out of my imagination.  I love writing fiction, because I can break the rules of reality and tell my own story, even when I'm writing realistic fiction.  It's so fun to be able to weave my experiences with my imagination with the bizarre things I overhear in coffee shops.  And the end product becomes its own reality, something that I never would have predicted when I started the process.
About the Author:
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.

To learn more about  Jen McConnel and her books, visit her website.You can also find her on Facebook and Twitter.

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