Thursday, October 24, 2013

A Conversation with Jen McConnel, author of Daughter of Chaos

Hi Jen! I'm so happy to have you here for a conversation about books and writing. Your upcoming debut, Daughter of Chaos (Month 9 Books), is about a rather witchy girl. Of course, as you know, I'm lucky enough to have read your book, but for the readers out there, tell us, what three words would you use to describe Darlena. Of course, since you're a writer, feel free to expound on why you chose those words. :0)
Darlena is definitely a Red Witch in this photo!

Thanks for having me, Jaye! I'm excited to be here. 

Three words to describe Darlena, hmm?  I'd say headstrong, powerful, and passionate.  She makes her declaration to follow Red Magic on an impulse (and because she's sick of being told what to do), but she's really a perfect fit for Red Magic; she's fierce and passionate, and her energy is more than a little chaotic.  And she's clearly powerful; otherwise, all the Red gods and goddesses wouldn't be after her!

Impulsive, huh? So, what would you tell your readers is the most impulsive thing you've ever done in your writing career? How'd it work out for you?

Well, it's impulsive on the surface: in 2011, I quit my full-time teaching job to devote more energy to my writing.  Although I didn't really have a clear plan, I'd been thinking long and hard about the decision for close to two years before I took the plunge.  It was the most AMAZING risk, and I'm so glad I did it; even though I still work (I teach part-time at a community college now), from that point forward I considered myself a full-time writer, and that mental shift has made a huge difference.  I started taking my work more seriously, and I began taking other risks, putting myself out there in ways that had previously terrified me.  I'd say the impulse paid off: I've written so much more in the past two years than I had previously, and I've been able to find homes for a number of the titles I've written since becoming a "full-time" writer.  

I really admire that. I think it would be great to have that kind of time to pour into story. Was there ever a time when you were scared to call yourself a writer? Did you worry about what other people might think? If yes, how'd you get past it? (And I'm not ignoring those other titles, we'll get to those at the close :0))
You know, I was apologetic about my writing for a long time, even after I made the shift to full-time.  When I'd meet new people, I would usually answer the dreaded "What do you do?" question with "I'm a writer, but I also teach." I was terrified to stand there and say "I'm a writer. Period."  I don't know quite what got me over that, but as I creep closer to my release, I've found the confidence to really own my identity as a writer.  Of course, I've also re-learned how much I like teaching writing, and I'm learning which identity to put forward first when I meet new people.  Primarily, I think I was afraid to talk about my work (what if they don't like it?), but I am slowly becoming more comfortable with owning the "I'm a writer, hear me roar!" feeling.  Still, it's intimidating to tell people in person that I'm a writer; I don't know why I keep expecting people to judge me for choosing a creative career, but I do.  Meeting other writers and beginning to feel at home in this wonderful creative community have both really helped me embrace this identity, but I'm still learning how to be brave in face-to-face interactions with people who don't know about my writing.

Yay, Jen! So glad you rose to that challenge. I understand you taught your first group of teens recently. I'm not going to ask you to go into that since you wrote a blog post about it, but what I will ask is how it was to talk to a group of teens about YOUR book? 

It was SO different from the years of teaching middle school! I loved every minute of it; the high school writing group I met with was filled with passionate readers and writers, and they seemed so excited to hear about DAUGHTER.  It really rejuvenated me and reminded me of one of the major reasons I write; I tell my stories because I love them, but I am also writing for my (future) readers.  I love the energy teens have (downs as well as ups), and it was so great to spend the afternoon with such a fun, friendly batch.  It was my first school visit, but I hope it won't be my last!

I hope not, too, for the teen readers' sake! Okay so two things. First, tell us about those other books. Then you have to add to our Exquisite Corpse writing below (1st sentence by a teen writer). And thank you so much for stopping by to chat!

Happily! Although DAUGHTER is m YA Debut, I also write NA, and I'm thrilled to be coming closer to the Winter 2013 release of THE SECRET OF ISOBEL KEY (Bloomsbury Spark).  In a nutshell, it's a story about a 21 year old girl, Lou, who's dazed and confused and has no idea what to do after college.  She travels to Scotland, falls for a hunky tour guide, and uncovers a mystery about a woman who was accused of witchcraft in the seventeenth century.   I'm so excited to share it with readers, and I have some other fabulous NA projects under wraps, too.


Yesterday, at the asylum, Johnny got lost in a hole. One moment he was occupying stall #6 of the third floor boy's restroom, the next he was gone, nothing but a flush and a startled scream in his wake.  Briefly, he wondered how he'd talk himself out of this mess when they found him...if they found him.

Thanks Jen! And be sure and stop by next week when we'll be talking to Bethany Crandell, author of Summer on the Short Bus!


  1. Nice to meet ya, Jen! Plus, I love your scarf. And your books sound wonderful! =)

    1. Thanks, Leandra! I'm a total scarf addict; my students have started asking me how many I own! :)

  2. Thanks so much for inviting me over! :)

    1. I love seeing that gorgeous smile on my blog. (Trapezoid or not!)

  3. Great interview! I can't wait to read all your books. Well, the hunky tour guide sounds particularly hard to resist :)

  4. Great interview! I can't wait to read all your books. Well, the hunky tour guide is pretty much impossible to resist :)

  5. What a fun interview! I'm definitely looking forward to DoC.

    And wait, what's that first sentence from? Because I really want to read more!

  6. I really enjoyed this interview. I'm looking forward to reading your books. What a leap of faith to be writing full time!


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