Archive | September, 2012

Interview with Jen McConnel

11 Sep

I’m so excited to introduce you folks to Jen McConnel and her work. Her debut novel The Burning of Isobel Key is out in October. I was sucked in from the first paragraph. I’ll have a review soon but in the meantime, here’s Jen talking about her work.

1.     When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer?

Honestly, I don’t know!  I know it’s an old dream of mine: I remember writing “books” with my best friend in first grade.  Mom helped us use contact paper and cardboard to make hard-bound books.  It was so much fun!  That’s my first memory of wanting to write a book, so I can say for sure that I’ve wanted this since I was six years old.  (I honestly think I was born wanting to tell stories).

2. How long does it take you to write a book?
I have a really fast rough draft time, but that’s because I subscribe whole-heartedly to Anne Lamott’s “shitty first draft” style: just get it down and worry about revisions later.  I can write a full-length novel (60k-70k is where I usually fall on the first draft) in a little over a month.  But then the revision process kicks in.  I always have multiple projects at multiple phases, so it’s hard to tell for sure, but I’d say I work on most books over the span of two years before I am satisfied. My books are never done, though: I have learned that I can ALWAYS keep tweaking.  For me, I try to reach a point where the book is the best incarnation of the story that I am capable of producing at that time.  When I’m satisfied, it’s time to set the book free into the world.

3. What is your work schedule like when you’re writing?

I write every day, even if it’s just for fifteen minutes.  Usually, if I’m drafting, my goal is at least a thousand words a day.  Depending on my teaching schedule (I teach part-time at the community college), I put in two to three hours each day on my books.  That can be divided up a number of ways, but I try to keep myself balanced between drafting one project and revising another.  It’s busy, but I love it, and I thrive with deadlines.

4. Tell us about your current novel:

My debut novel, The Burning of Isobel Key, is about a 26-year-old.  Lou is adrift, suffering her own version of the quarter-life crisis, but a trip to Scotland changes all that.  When she learns about the countless numbers of victims accused of witchcraft in seventeenth and eighteenth century Scotland, Lou starts to pay attention.  And when she finds the trial record for Isobel Key, she tumbles into a tale of murder and intrigue that is centuries old.  Scotland will transform Lou.

I had so much fun writing this story!  The topic of witch trials has always interested me, and Scotland has an untapped wealth of stories waiting to be told.

5. What’s the best writing advice you ever received?

Just keep doing it.  No matter what.  (I’ve heard that from various writers, and it is always, always true).

6. Where do you get your ideas?

Honestly, I’m not sure.  I love mythology and magic, and these two things tend to creep into my writing without my conscious thought.  Maybe that’s it: I steal my ideas from the shared subconscious that Jung talked about!

7. If you had to go back and do it all over again is there any aspect of your novel (or publishing) that you would change?

Not a thing.  Every step of this journey has been unexpected, but every step has led me to where I am today.  It’s all been good.

Thanks so much for having me, Ally!  This has been a blast.

Thanks Jen! Can’t wait to finish Isobel’s story. Visit Jen’s blog to learn more at

Another Day

10 Sep

Good morning.

It’s early, yet again and after a lovely vacation from my life, I’m up and back at it with Jeff Spurgeon’s dulcet tones and fantastic musical choices with me. And of course, June.

I’m been really really lucky lately and got a few poems picked up in a few different places. They’re all in the Pocketful of Posey section of this ol blog but here’s the latest at Negative Suck and Underground Voices.

Some of those poems I read while I was in Pittsburgh, which if I haven’t said enough, was a really great visit. Also had a chance to pop in on my folks while traveling (someone had to watch the beastly JuneCat) which was also great and included a facetime visit with my nearly three year old neice who told me that “Daddy said I couldda go to da zoo but I hava be-have.” It was so cute.

As this morning is rapidly slipping away, I’m going to get to work on the short story I should have been writing this whole time instead of messing around with this blog -but what is a blog for if not a massive time suck?

I’ve got some stuff to do – some Shakespeare to read, some new music to listen to. I am all ready – eagerly awaiting the fall. This morning when I opened the window across from this little closet a burst of cool air came in and with it some hope. Here’s to a new season.

Oh wait! Real quick – I’m reading Cloud Atlas and the whole thing is blowing my mind. I’ve never read a book constructed like this. I need to write a whole post just dedicated to that. The Wachowski siblings are making a movie out of it. Basically they took a more subtle theme and teased it out, spinning it into something more complex. Here’s the preview.

Okay, back to work.

Lord, what fools these Mortals be. – Midsummer Night’s Dream. Act 3, Scene 2

Some Poems, Some Travels, Some Dead Butterflies

8 Sep

Hello folks. I’ve got some poetry for ya, dirt cheap right here.

My many many thanks to the always dashing Jonathan at Unlikely Stories for accepting them.

And also thanks to the always eloquent Jack at Gutter Eloquence for accepting these little poems for publication.

I just returned from Pittsburgh where I was lucky enough to stand in a room full of far more talented writers and read some of these poems. It was a fantastic experience even if the folks in the back row could see me shaking like a leaf. My sincere thanks to the old friends who came out and to the new friends I made that night. I hope every trip in can be so inspiring and so filled with oolong tea.

On the ride home there was a flurry of butterflies all over Pennsylvania and I when I got back to New York I had to pull their little broken wings from the grill of my rented car. A good image, I suppose for my complicated tattered feelings about leaving Pittsburgh.

I’ll have to think on that. But now back to work – back to my little closet to plot the second Lizzy book (the first one will be out SOON!). In the meantime here’s a chat I had with Jen about writing over at her blog.

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