Saturday, February 01, 2014

Jenn McKinlay, Honored Guest

Type M is so pleased to welcome our weekend guest blogger, the inimitable Jenn McKinlay. Jenn is the author of several New York Times best selling mystery series, including the Cupcake Mysteries, the London Hat Shop Mysteries and the Library Lover's Mysteries.  Her witty humor makes her mysteries a delight to read. She lives in sunny Arizona, in a house overrun with kids, pets and her husband's guitars, and yet produces four or five books a year! How does she do it, you ask? Let her tell you all about it... Take it away, Jenn.

The Hows and Whys of It

How do you manage to write so many books? I get this question A LOT, probably, because I write four to five books per year. Yeah, it sounds impressive until people get to know me and realize that I exist in an overtired highly caffeinated haze that feeds my pet dragons – Self doubt and Paranoia. Not the greatest critters to have, I assure you. Oh, and my house, yeah, it’s a mess.

So, why do I do it? Well, it took me a really long time to get published. Reeeeally long! So, when I finally sold my first mystery I was convinced it would all go up in smoke (not the good kind) and I was right. My first series was shelved, no, not in libraries or bookstores more like in the netherworld, before the third book even came out. Luckily, in a rare moment of clarity, I’d had the wisdom to pitch two more series. I got incredibly lucky and both series did, and thankfully are still doing, okay. Still nervous, however, I took on two more series. See a pattern here?

It’s been four years since my first book, in the series that tanked, came out and I am making an effort to calm down and take the occasional nap. It’s not easy. So many things are changing in the publishing industry and at the speed of sound, I’d say the speed of light but rumors operate on volume. It used to be I obsessed about my query letter and font size, now I obsess about whether I should be self-pubbing or am I doing enough social media. You’ll note none of my obsessions are about whether my writing is quality or not. Note to self, adjust your priorities. Ha! I’m kidding about that. The bogeyman that keeps me up at night is the one that whispers in my ear while I’m sleeping, making me worry whether I have told my story in the best possible way. He’s a hook-nosed, warted-up, halitosis inflicted bogeyman, indeed.

But it seems I’ve answered why I write so much but not how. Well, deadlines help. I am a motivated soul when it comes to reaching the two greatest words in the English language – THE END. I have all sorts of motivational tricks to get me there. I strive to write between five to ten pages every day, so if I am interested in a knitting project, I don’t let myself knit a stitch until I’ve written my pages for the day. Same goes for watching television or reading a favorite author’s book, it’s not allowed until the writing goal is met even if it takes until midnight. When it’s really bad and I am distracted by everything, gee, that oven needs to be cleaned, then I bust open the bag of coconut M&Ms and I ration out a handful for each page done. I tried to be healthier and use raisins and cranberries instead but, no, just no.

Will I continue to write this many books? Yes. Despite all the dangling carrots I use to get myself to focus, nothing truly motivates me as much as the story. I genuinely love my characters, the ridiculous things they say and do, and I like nothing better than spending time with them. When I’m writing and I feel as if I have fallen down the rabbit hole and am just a vessel for the words to get to the page, then I know I’m in the zone and closure will come faster than I want it to so I savor each scene and bit of word play until I type THE END.
Look for Jenn's newest Cupcake Bakery book, Sugar and Iced, this April. Coming in May 2014, Death of a Mad Hatter, the third installment in her Hat Shop Mystery series. Jenn's web site address is


Hank Phillippi Ryan said...

I'm so sorry to ask the least important thing first--but coconut M &Ms? Really? YUMMY! but I have never heard of them.

And now--I so agree about giving ourselves little inducements to continue wiring. I have exactly the same formula--I cannot do whatever it is I really want to do until I do my words for the day. And I keep track of them on a little chart, like getting a gold star.
Whatever works, right?

Congratulations on your wild success! You are an inspiration!

Donis Casey said...

Hank and Jenn, you are both my heroines. Of course you also make me want to shoot myself.

Diane Vallere said...

I'm totally impressed with your dedication and work ethic. You and Hank are both my heroes!

Cindy Sample said...

Jenn, I am so impressed with your dedication and it shows in the quality of your work. I've been a fan of the Cupcake series since book one. I also find that chocolate is a great motivator. The only problem is that far too frequently my carb count exceeds my word count!

Carolyn Greene said...

Thanks for sharing your process. I'm taking notes. :-)

Jenn McKinlay said...

Thanks so much for the invite, Donis! I really appreciate it.

Hank - LOL! YOU are the inspiration, truly, I am in awe of you and just giddy that you commented. Thank you! But more importantly, coconut M&Ms, yes, they are real and they are spectacular :)

Diane, thanks so much!

Cindy, you're a sweetheart to be so kind!

Carolyn - it's so nice to see you here! You're amazing -- you don't need to take notes!

Hannah Dennison said...

Welcome to Type M Jenn! I was so happy to see your smiling face today. Your workload utterly terrifies me but you are a true inspiration. You have tremendous self-discipline. I mean ... just a handful of M & M"s? I couldn't do it.
I LOVE all your books.