Jenn McKinlay couldn’t believe her ears on her first day of work as a librarian. She listened politely as her new employer proudly outlined the perks of working in that library. But Jenn knew she had way too much to do for only two weeks of vacation!
As a young 20-something, she enjoyed her job and being immersed in books, but, “I felt unfulfilled,” she said. “I wasn’t being creative.”
She needed to find a way to put more joy into her life!
Figuring it would cost less to live close to relatives in Arizona, she packed her bags and hightailed it out of New England. Since then, she has worked part-time as a librarian. That gives her the time – and inspiration – to pursue other important aspects of her life … like reading, writing, baking, knitting, and skateboarding. Oh! And loving and raising a family consisting of a musician husband (aka “the Hub”), two boys (aka “the hooligans”), and various pets.
Writing four books a year, Jenn has twice landed on the coveted New York Times bestseller list, once for a book in her Cupcake Bakery mystery series, and once for a book in her Library Lover’s mystery series. She also writes the Decoupage mystery series under the name Lucy Lawrence and the Good Buy Girls mystery series under the name Josie Belle. The debut book in her new London Hat Shop mystery series, Cloche and Dagger, is due out in August.
It was a long haul getting to the New York Times bestseller list.
“It took forever to get published,” she said. She wrote five novels – historical romance and contemporary romance, thinking it would be easy to break into that market. “It’s a lot harder than you think. I crashed and burned as a romance writer. I was young and didn’t have my voice developed. The hardest thing to do as a writer is to find your voice.”
While still searching for the elusive voice that was hers, Jenn eventually realized that she was looking in the wrong place.
“I kept writing what I thought other people wanted to read,” she said. “When I started writing what I wanted to read, I started selling books. Writing what you want to read is the clearest possible way to connect to your voice.”
She calls her voice an Agatha Christie/I Love Lucy mashup.
Jenn chooses a word to live by each year. For 2013, the word is ENJOY. And that’s exactly what she’s doing, in her job as a librarian, her career as an author, and in her family.
“I want to help lighten people’s load,” she said of her writing. “I want to laugh with the characters I want to spend time with.”
She describes herself as an optimistic person and believes that comes out in her writing.
“I didn’t have a perfect childhood by any means,” she said. “Both my parents loved me, but it was a volatile house to grow up in. The one thing I learned is that humor will get you through anything. I will always look for the good, the happily every after, and the easy joke.”
Her best advice to new authors is to keep writing. She suggests that you begin your next book immediately after finishing the first book.
“You should be as passionate about the second book as the first,” she said. “If you sell the first, the others generally will go too. Just keep going. Go to conferences. Send queries. Meet people. It’s amazing how people come forward with help and information.”