Interview: Jen McConnel, YA Author

Jen McConnel-0034Jen 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.

The Secret of Isobel Key Comps_FINAL_RBGTHE SECRET OF ISOBEL KEY will be released by Bloomsbury Spark in December 2013.

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.

Keep up with Jen on her website and Twitter.

Let’s see how Jen answers the Proust Questionnaire!

What is your idea of happiness?
That particular golden sunlight that only seems to hit in the afternoon; it’s like basking in honey!  Also, walking along a beach with my feet in the sand in just about any weather is another way I find bliss.

What is your favorite song? When do you first remember hearing it?
Nothing brings a smile to my face quicker than Billy Joel’s “Only the Good Die Young”.  My mom loves his music, so I’m sure I heard the song somewhere in my childhood, but I don’t think I was aware of it until high school, when I was feeling rebellious but too scared to rebel.

Which talent would you most like to have?
I’ve always wanted to be able to play an instrument.  I kind of tried to learn the piano years ago, but I wasn’t patient or dexterous enough.  My mom and siblings each plays an instrument, and I love listening to their music.  I can sing, but it’s not quite the same thing.

On what occasion do you lie?
I like to think I don’t, but I do lie to myself about how much time I have in any given week.  I always tell myself I can do everything, but I keep learning that that’s not always true.  Sometimes I lie to myself about how many cookies I’ve had in an afternoon, too.

What is your present state of mind?
Right this moment? A little bit tired (I’m not a morning person by nature, although I am trying), but fairly optimistic and excited for my day.

What is your motto?
Life is beautiful.

What character trait do you most value in your friends?
Enthusiasm.  I’m a very enthusiastic person, and I love spending time with people who get excited about life. I’m lucky to know so many!

Which words or phrases do you most overuse?
I catch myself using “rather” in my writing a lot, but in my everyday speech?  I’m not sure.  Maybe “just”? That creeps into my writing, too.

Your favorite painting?
I have always, always, always loved Vincent van Gogh’s “Starry Night”.  The energy, the colors, the power of the painting captivated me a long time ago, and when I finally got the chance to see it at the MOMA in New York, I wasn’t disappointed.  I love the texture of it, the way the paint is layered, and the raw emotion of the image.

Starry Night by Vincent van Gogh, 1889

Starry Night by Vincent van Gogh, 1889

What is your favorite journey?
The journey I took to Egypt with my husband three years ago.  Something about that trip cracked me open and changed me, and the journey itself was amazing, populated by wonderful characters, beautiful places, and stark, raw emotion. Plus, traveling anywhere with him makes the journey worth taking (this applies to our adventures as well as our everyday!)

What is your favorite time of day?
The gloaming in the summertime.  I love the lavender light, the lingering warmth of the day, and the fireflies.  It’s magical fairy time!

With which literary hero or heroine would you most like to share a coffee?
I’ve always adored strong women, like Scarlet O’Hara and Jo March, but I worry that we might spend the miraculous coffee time arguing about something silly!

What do you need to achieve before you can die happy?
I hope I have a lot more time ahead of me, although I can’t think of any specific achievements that I HAVE to hit.  I want to keep writing, and I want to be happy.  I guess I hope that I manage to achieve a life that is, in the balance, one of joy.

Who or what is your first love?
Books.  I have always been in love with the pages of books.  When I was a kid, I aggressively collected old Nancy Drews, and I even “cataloged” my growing fiction collection.  I remember being over the moon when I counted the books on my shelf and realized I had acquired over a hundred.

What’s the last dream you remember?
A rather dark and scary one, actually.  I thought I saw a silhouette of a man walk by the window and stand at the front door, not knocking.  In my dream, my husband didn’t understand why I was panicked, but when he went to check the back door to make sure it was locked, it was wide open.  *Shivers*

What’s your madeleine?
Chicken rice casserole, fuzzy socks, and a cat curled up beside me as I lose myself in a book.  The comforts of my childhood are still the things that make me feel safe and warm.

Without thinking, in one word: what is life?
Bliss.

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