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


  1. Thanks so much for having me on your blog, Patty!

    1. My pleasure. It was fun to learn more about you and ISOBEL--and congratulations on tomorrow's release!

  2. Great interview, ladies! Congrats on your encore debut, Jen!

  3. Thanks for stopping buy, Suzanne. I want to see the kitchens at St. Andrews now :)

  4. I recently did a Dream Destination blog-hop and my choice was Scotland (as was several other people's too)! We all put up lovely pictures of castles, moors, and lochs. I'm not surprised the setting inspired your book, which sounds awesome! Your interview was great, and now I really want to know how someone could find love in a kitchen. (Not in mine, believe me. Mine is home to too much cursing and complaining! lol) Wishing Jen much success!