RHYS BOWEN: I am often told that I am driving myself into the ground for writing two books a year. But I've come up with someone who is even crazier than I. Jenn McKinlay is my good friend and neighbor when I spend my winters in Phoenix and we've done some fun events together. But I am in awe of her writing schedule. Beside her, I'm a slacker. And she'll tell you why. Take it away, Jenn.
Jenn McKinlay: Who do I want to be today? No, really, I have a variety of names to choose from. Some people have a tough time choosing what to wear, I have a hard time choosing who to be. Just kidding, mostly.
So far in my mystery writing career, I’ve written under three different names for five different series. I am Lucy Lawrence, Josie Belle and Jenn McKinlay, the latter being my actual name. People often ask me why I write under different names. I tell them it’s because I don’t want to hog too much shelf space, but the truth is that I want to have multiple aliases in case I am ever in trouble with the law and have to flee the country. Yes, that’s a lie. Clearly, fiction writers are not to be trusted even with their own backstory.
The truth, so boring, is that because I kept submitting new and different ideas to my publisher, all of which were rejected, I think they finally had a meeting, which no one will confirm or deny, and decided that if they offered me a book to write, I would, please god, go away.
So, they asked me to be a writer for hire and pen a series about a woman who works in a paper shop and does decoupage for a hobby. I became Lucy Lawrence and took on the job. Knowing decoupage was about as timely as macramé, I quickly offered up more series ideas so that I would not find myself out of work before the ink dried on book three. I sold a series about cupcakes, thought the fad would be quickly over, and another about libraries, also thought they were going the way of the dinosaur, both under my name Jenn McKinlay.
Convinced I would fail with these series, yes, I was having some confidence issues, I took on another writer for hire work and wrote a bargain hunter mystery series under the name Josie Belle. Then I got a wild hair to write a book set in London, I really needed a vacation, and sold another series set in a hat shop in Notting Hill as Jenn McKinlay.
Now with three different author names and five distinct series, one might wonder if I suffer from multiple personality disorder, a split personality or just a general identity crisis. I do. Oh dear, another lie! Seriously, I don’t. Not really. My author names don’t define me any more than my married name does, yes, that’s yet another name. See? I really could flee the country if I had to -- just sayin’.
When I was new at this writing game, I used to roll my eyes when I’d hear writers talk about the world they had created as if it was real. What a rude newb I was! Now that I have had to develop some multiple book story arcs, I get it. I have caused great pain and suffering to some of my characters, I have shattered dreams and occasionally killed off people I didn’t want to die which caused some tears of my own. For real.
For me, being an author is a lot like being a reader. When I was a kid, my first out of body experiences happened while sitting under a big dogwood tree in our yard where I went sleuthing with my two besties in my blue roadster and when I fell through the back of a wardrobe during a game of hide and seek and found myself in Narnia.
Writing is a similar experience for me. It really is like falling down a rabbit hole, observing what is happening around me and trying to put it into words so that someone else can share the adventure. The wonderful thing about being both a writer and a reader is that I get to live all sorts of lives and have endless adventures. I wouldn’t change my job for anything.
How about you? If you’re a writer, how does it work for you? Is it like taking notes while visiting a new world? If you’re a reader, how do you feel when you are immersed in a great story? How far do you wander from your actual surroundings into the world the author has crafted?
Thanks for inviting me to visit, Rhys. It’s always a pleasure to visit the ladies at Jungle Red.
RHYS: Thank you, Jenn. Fun post. And Jenn will be giving away a copy of her latest hat shop mystery, DEATH OF A MAD HATTER for the best comment of the day.