Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Interview With Jen McConnel Author of THE SECRET OF ISOBEL KEY

Welcome Jen!  I’m thrilled that you agreed to let me interview you--and congratulation on THE SECRET OF ISOBEL KEY being one of the seven books to be included on Bloomsbury Sparks launch list. This one book I’m definitely looking forward to reading. And, since it's coming out tomorrow, I don't have long to wait.

First can you tell us what THE SECRET OF ISOBEL KEY is about and what inspired you to write it?

Thanks so much for having me, Patty! ISOBEL is the story of a young woman, Lou, who’s completely lost after college. A trip to Scotland throws her into the search for information about Isobel Key, a woman accused of witchcraft in the sixteen hundreds. She might also fall into a little Highland fling with her tour guide, Brian. ;)

I traveled to Scotland a few years ago, and it was cold and miserable the entire trip.  Even though I thought I hated that vacation, the misty got into my blood, and in 2009 I sat down to write and found myself telling this story. The beautiful (albeit wet) setting and rich history inspired me so much!

ISOBEL KEY has an interesting publication history.  Originally you self-published it, and then you accepted an offer from Bloomsbury Spark. Can you talk a little more about these two experiences and how one led to the other?

I feel so lucky; I get to live my debut twice! Self-publishing was a great choice, and one I plan to revisit with future works at some point, but it’s darn hard work. To be fair, writing and publishing in any form is darn hard work, but I learned so much from my self-pub experience that I’ve been able to apply to the re-release. I never planned for ISOBEL to make this leap, but I am so happy it did.  I actually subbed a completely different manuscript to Bloomsbury Spark, and it was rejected.  The editor and I started talking about my other work, however, and I was thrilled when ISOBEL was accepted.

The story takes place in Scotland both in modern times and the 17th century.  What sort of research did you do to preparing to write and did the dual time lines cause any special issues? Did you visit any of the places in your story?

I love history (I’ve actually got a history minor), so the historical research for this story was a lot of fun. The travel research was even better; with the exception of Edinburgh castle, I visited every site that worked its way into the book.  The dual time lines were really fun to play with, but the biggest challenge came in figuring out where to place the historical scenes. I moved them around a lot until I found a good fit, but it took a lot of tweaking!

James VI of Scotland is a fascinating historical figure, particularly his trip to fetch his bride from Denmark. Does James VI make an appearance in the novel? No, don’t tell me. It might spoil the story. But can you give us some background into the attitudes toward witchcraft and surrounding events in 17th century Scotland?

Scotland actually came really late to the witch mania of Europe; in fact, is wasn’t until the 1590s that the first people were accused of witchcraft in Scotland, and the accusations continued far after many other places had stopped, well into the eighteenth century (the early 1700s). It was a pretty gruesome time, and no one is entirely sure how many people were accused in those two centuries.

Scottish guys? Any thoughts on what makes some of them so irresistible? (For your information, I’m married to one--well, at least, a large part of my husband’s blood is Scottish.)

I’m married to one, too! :) From a writing standpoint, I think it’s the burr of the accent that makes readers (and, ahem, authors) swoon. There’s just something about a guy with an accent...and the kilts don’t hurt, either!

What spot in Scotland would each of your main characters view as the most romantic?

I think Lou would find the beach at St. Andrews to be the most romantic spot (for reasons you’ll discover when you read the book!), while Brian loves the misty Isle of Skye. Tammy likes the bustle and history in Edinburgh, and Isobel Key found romance in the kitchens of the University of St. Andrews (which has been around since her time and longer!).

Where can people order THE SECRET OF ISOBEL KEY?

The book will be available on all eBook platforms, but right now it’s up for pre-order a few places.
Purchase : Amazon | B&N | Google | iTunes | Kobo |
It’s also available as an audiobook! Audible |

Thanks so much for inviting me to stop by! :)

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. 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.  She is the author of The Secret of Isobel Key (NA 2013) and Daughter of Chaos (YA 2014).  Visit www.jenmcconnel.com to learn more.

Twitter: @Jen_McConnel

Friday, December 13, 2013

Interview with Lexa Cain & Chance to Win a Copy of YA novel SOUL CUTTER


Welcome Lexa!  I’m thrilled that you agreed to let me interview you--and congratulations on the publication of your YA horror novel SOUL CUTTER. It sounds like a fantastic read.
First can you tell us what SOUL CUTTER is about and what inspired you to write it?

Soul Cutter is sort of about being a fish out of water, and you can’t get more out of water than being stranded in a desert. My heroine, √Član, goes to Egypt to search for her mother but finds the supernatural, a killer, and an unexpected romance. And a sewer -- which she ends up in. They didn’t include any of that in the travel brochures! The idea for the novel came to me after reading stories about haunted hotels in the US. Procrastination and web-surfing sometimes pay off!

Many people who write stories that are set in Egypt have very little or no direct knowledge of the setting. This is not true in your case.  Can you tell us a little about your personal knowledge of Egypt?

I came to Egypt twenty years ago and worked as a singer/dancer in resorts in every major city. I’ve visited amazing sites like the Valley of the Kings and the pyramids and learned a lot about Egypt and Egyptians. I’ve also met tourists from all over the world. I couldn’t help but notice each nationality has their own quirks, like how they hold their liquor. For instance, the more the Dutch drink, the happier they get -- and they’re very happy a lot of the time. Koreans only like tea and will profusely thank anyone who passes in their vicinity, whether it’s a waiter or not. Egyptians don’t drink (it’s against their religion), but there are some Christian Egyptians who partake occasionally. Being unused to drinking, they end up on their faces so fast you’d think the floor was greased.

What sort of research did you do to prepare to write SOUL CUTTER?

Haha! I have the best research help there is -- I’m married to an Egyptian!

Your website is not only a great source for information on Egyptian wildlife and mythology, but you also have writing tips.  What do you think are the most important keys to writing a successful horror novel?

Writing a horror novel isn’t much different from writing any speculative fiction novel. It’s important to keep the setting and the characters’ reactions realistic and logical. If everything makes sense to the reader, they’ll believe in the story you’re telling. Then when you insert supernatural elements or big plot twists later on, they’re invested enough to accept them. Also, it’s imperative for a writer to get quality feedback, whether from an editor, agent, or CPs. We can get too close to our own work to see it properly and need fresh perspectives from those we trust.

It sounds like there is a romantic element to your novel.  If they could go anywhere in the world, where would each of your main characters take someone on a date?

I think Ramsey (the hero) would like to take √Član (the heroine) on a ski vacation in the mountains of his homeland, Lebanon. Knowing her, she’d be determined to conquer every slope and bravely follow him off ski jumps even if she landed on her face. Knowing him, he’d help her up while trying desperately not to laugh. And who wouldn’t enjoy snuggling in front of the lodge’s fireplace at the end of the day?

Can you tell us a little about your publisher MuseItUp and about where people can order SOUL CUTTER?

I’m so lucky to have published with MuseItUp. Everyone there has been kind, supportive, and  always willing to answer questions. The content and copy editors helped me a lot in making Soul Cutter the best book possible. It’s been such a wonderful experience, and I’d encourage anyone to consider publishing with a small press or e-book publisher -- the personal attention you get is well worth it.

Buy Links:

Thank you so much, Lexa. I’m looking forward to reading SOUL CUTTER and so excited that you were willing to stop by and answer a few questions for us.

Leave a comment below and be entered to win a copy of SOUL CUTTER.  The drawing will end next Thursday Dec 19th.  Every time you share this post on Twitter, Facebook or other media will count as an additional entry. Be sure to mention where you shared and leave your email in your comment.


Official Bio:

Lexa Cain can be found lounging beneath a palm tree, sipping mango juice, and gazing at the glorious turquoise waters of the Red Sea… Ha! In reality, she’s glued to her computer, typing away on new projects, including a sequel to Soul Cutter. Once a week, she does manage to pry butt from chair long enough to go out for pizza and to watch delighted tourists ride camels (which are way bigger up close than you’d imagine).

Feel free to stalk her here:

Sunday, December 8, 2013

About to Come Up for Air

I’ve had my head down working on revisions for the last couple of months. But I'll be coming up for air at the end of this week, starting with a great writer interview. Actually, I have three fantastic interviews and giveaways in line for the next several weeks.

So, keep an eye out. The first interview takes us to Egypt for a debut YA horror novel, the next is a NA set in Scotland, and then back to the U.S. for a YA romance.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Don't miss this! TYGER TYGER free this week!

One of my all time favorite books, TYGER TYGER,  by Kersten Hamilton is free this week! 

If you'd like to know more about the books and series, here are a couple interviews I did with Kersten:

IN THE FORESTS OF THE NIGHT Interview with Kersten

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Montreat Reteat 2013 and a give-away!

As many of you know, last week I was away at a writing retreat in North Carolina with Juliana L Brandt, Robin Constantine, Kip Wilson Rechea, M.A. Scott, Lauren SpiellerJen McConnel and the mastermind behind the whole thing, Jaye Robin Brown

It was beyond inspiring and fun. I did a mind map and loose outline for an upcoming project, and revised a synopsis for Devil’s Orchid. But most of all I got the chance to brainstorm and talk shop with a bunch of extremely talented and inspiring writers.  It was a blast. 

If you’d like to enter for a chance to win a Kill Your Darlings Montreat 2013 t-shirt, hop over to Jen's blog and enter.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Finally a New Blog Post: The Great Conversion

What have I been doing besides working on revision of Devil’s Orchid?

Well, I’ve been busy converting the florist part of my shop into just antiques.  It’s been a blast dragging stuff we've had stashed at home and in the attic to the shop and setting it up on the main floor.  Here’s a peek at how things are coming along. 

Our goal is to close the florist end of the business on Halloween Eve and it looks like we’re going be done ahead of time. So, yay!


No, I don’t have a hearse at the store.  We went to the Shelburne Museum recently and I snapped this photo.  Inside you can just make out a wicker casket. We actually sold it to the museum. Somewhere around here, I have a photo of my husband laying in it.  Cheerful, huh? The baskets weren't used for burials. The funeral homes used them to pick the body up and transport it to the funeral home--pretty much the predecessor to the body bag.