JEN MCCONNEL is the author of new adult fiction The Secret of Isobel Key and YA fiction Daughter of Chaos, as well as the modern magic guide Goddess Spells for Busy Girls: Get Rich, Get Happy, Get Lucky. Her words have appeared in a variety of magazines and journals, including Sagewoman, PanGaia, and The Storyteller. A Michigander by birth with a Masters in Library Science from Clarion University of Pennsylvania, she now lives and writes in 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. Today, she is talking with Charlotte Geeks about witchcraft, geeky goddesses, time travel and tips for aspiring authors.
1. Do all of your books feature witchcraft – either real or fantasy?
I guess I’ve always been drawn to magic. Whether I’m writing a paranormal story (like Daughter of Chaos), or a story about historical “witches” (like The Secret of Isobel Key), I’m constantly exploring the idea of magic in our world. The mundane can be as magical as a fantasy world, and that’s something that really shapes my writing.
Depending on the book, I do a moderate amount of research. ISOBEL required a lot of research about the history of witch trials in Scotland, while DAUGHTER depended on my life-long fascination with global mythology. I try not to do research in the middle of a writing session (because goodness knows once I’m on the internet, it’s hard to get off), but researching the topics and places that show up in my books is something I really enjoy.
That’s a fun question. I can think of a lot of geeky goddesses: Athena and her wisdom and Sarasvati and her creativity spring to mind, although I think Athena might win this one.
3. The Secret of Isobel Key features two time-lines, one in the past and one in the present. If you could, would you go back to Isobel’s time, or would you rather time travel to another period?
I’m a total history nut, and I loved writing the dual time-lines in ISOBEL. I think on the first draft, I enjoyed the historical timeline more, but the longer I worked on the book and the more I revised it, the more I came to love Lou’s contemporary storyline, too. They both required a very different writing voice for me, and it was fun putting the two together.
The idea of time travel is appealing, but since I probably would have been an easy target for the witch hunts in Isobel’s time (a literate woman who speaks her mind? DANGER!), I’d have to pass on the chance to visit the seventeenth century. If I had the time machine, though, and I knew I could get home at a moment’s notice, I’d love to travel to Egypt in the days of the last Cleopatra.
4. As a writing composition teacher and published author, do you have any tips for aspiring writers?
My biggest tip for anyone who wants to write is to drop the “aspiring” and just write. Whether it’s fiction, nonfiction, or poetry, writing will be your best teacher. One big thing I see my students do that I wish I could eliminate from all writer’s lives is this: they don’t trust themselves. Even near the end of a semester, I always have students who are surprised when they do well, and they approach every writing assignment like it might kill them. Whatever you write, believe in yourself and just keep writing.
5. Any new books coming out?
DAUGHTER OF CHAOS just released, and I’m gearing up for the release of the sequel to The Secret of Isobel Key in May. I’ve also got a lot of signings and conferences on my plate (YAY!), so if you want to find me, check the calendar on my website and come say hi.
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Your host for 5 Questions is J.L. Hilton, the author of the Stellarnet Series published by Carina Press, contributor to CharlotteGeeks.com and the Contact-Infinite Futures SF/SFR blog. She is the founder of Raleigh’s Can’t Stop the Serenity event, a CSTS global sponsor, and supporter of the Geek Gala. Her jewelry designs are featured in the books Steampunk Style Jewelry and 1000 Steampunk Creations. Visit her at JLHilton.com or follow her on Google+, Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Goodreads and deviantART.