Just Keep Writing

JennMcKinlayJenn 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.

Cloche and Dagger by Jenn McKinlay

Cloche and Dagger will be released August 2013

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 McKinlay

Skateboarding is part of Jenn’s recipe for joy.

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.”

You can follow Jenn by subscribing to her newsletter, in which you’ll be delighted with a tasty cupcake recipe in each issue. You can also find her on Facebook, and on Twitter at @jennmckinlay.

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2 Responses to Just Keep Writing

  1. Renee Targos says:

    I’m all about giving people something to laugh about, so I’m excited to read her books. Did she say how a writer gets on the New York Times bestselling list? Is it solely based off of the amount of books you sell? And if so, how does she think she got such a good response in sales…like was it her publishers or agents helping her market or did she do it on her own?

    • Karen Randau says:

      Thanks for stopping by, Renee! Jenn said that there are people who aren’t on the NW Times bestseller list who sell more books overall. It had to do with a lot of things coming together all at once, including a great cover, the timing of the release, and promotions.

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