Wednesday, November 13, 2013

An Interview with Jen McConnel, author of The Secret of Isobel Key

Disclosure / Disclaimer:  I received this interview, from the author directly No compensation,  monetary or in kind, has been received or implied for its' post.

the secret of isobel key cover

Last year I reviewed this wonderful book (reviewed it under the original title of The Burning of Isobel Key ), and I am thrilled to announce that is being re-released next month, with a new cover and some new revisions, to make the book even better! 

In honor of the re-release, I was recently able to speak with Jen McConnel, about writing the book!

What inspired you for the bewitching tale?
As my sister recently pointed out to me, I like writing stories that take place “somewhere else”.  Sometimes, this means a paranormal setting, where things are not as they seem, or, as in the case of THE SECRET OF ISOBEL KEY, I choose a setting removed in both time and place.  This novel possesses two kinds of “somewhere else”: a historical setting, which I crafted through research and imagination, and a contemporary setting in Scotland, a country that is not my home.  Because of the duality of the settings in ISOBEL KEY, my research for this book took two forms.

Did you do a lot of historical research?
I’m doubly lucky when it comes to history; I was a history minor in college (so was I- I knew I liked Jen for a reason, besides her excellent book! LOL) , and my husband has made his profession studying and interpreting the works of the far past, so I know a lot of tricks for historical research.  When it came to researching the historical aspects of ISOBEL KEY, I relied on a variety of sources.  Tourism websites gave me the initial information about some aspects of Scottish history, and I also read a handful of nonfiction books about Scotland and European witch trials. 

Additionally, I pursued a few primary sources; King James wrote the gruesome yet informative DAEMONOLOGIE, setting down his views of “witchcraft” as well as punishments and interrogation methods, and this source can be found online in full-text through the Guttenberg project (a haven for history nerds of all eras, hands up- been there- LOVE IT).  I also discovered a wealth of knowledge from a full-text database compiled by the University of Edinburgh; this database, found at, offers transcribed testimonies, accusations, and trial proceedings.  However, like any fiction writer, I took some liberties with the historical information I found, using it to root me in the era, but filling in gaps or leaving blanks to suit the purposes of my story.

Did you do any traveling research?

As you’ve probably realized, if you’ve been following my blog for any length of time, I love 
to travel. New places captivate me, and more often than not, I find myself using my travel 
experiences to craft stories. Usually, I don’t travel with the intention of picking up details for
future novels, but the sights, sounds, and smells of foreign places saturate my brain and resurface
once I’m home, spinning themselves out as settings for my stories. Even though I didn’t plan to 
revisit Scotland in my work, I kept a travel journal while I was there, and I also have the added 
advantage of being quite the shutterbug: I love taking photos, and usually have thousands after 
a trip. Between my travel journal and my photos, I was able to give myself a pretty solid place 
to start when I began telling this tale. I also relied on my husband’s memory (he’s traveled to 
Scotland a few more times than me, and could fill in some of the gaps), and I spent a lot of time 
on various tourism websites while I was crafting ISOBEL KEY.

Jen McConnel

About Jen:

Jen 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. Her debut NA novel, THE SECRET OF ISOBEL KEY, is coming December 2013 from Bloomsbury Spark . Visit her at:


Book Synopsis: 

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 
Flashing between seventeenth century Scotland and a contemporary romance, THE SECRET OF 
ISOBEL KEY is a mystery that will please readers of all ages.

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