We are thrilled to have Jennifer McGowan join us today for our Visiting Author Series! Jennifer is the author of the Maid of Honor Series, which currently includes Maid of Secrets (2013), A Thief Before Christmas (2013), Maid of Deception (2014) and Maid of Wonder (2015).
Darcy: Hey, Jennifer! Thanks so much for taking the time to chat with me today.
Jennifer: Thank you, Darcy! I appreciate the opportunity.
Darcy: Can I get you anything to sip or munch on while we chat?
Jennifer: Yaknow, I better stick with my water. ~hefts 20 oz. bottle~ I’m on this insane kick to try to drink 100 ounces a day, and let me tell you…that’s a lot. But thank you!
Darcy: I’m in a buoyant state of H2O rapture! Okay, so since we’re a debut group, we want to hear about the beginning of your writing career. Now think back to then … what was the querying/submission process like for you?
Jennifer: Ha! What a great question. Let me turn back the Wheel of Time… and there I was! It was at the very end of 2010, and I’d written an Elizabethan spy story eventually called MAID OF SECRETS. I decided that I’d start querying agents on Dec. 17…because then, if no one responded, I’d not be super embarrassed, because it was almost Christmas! I sent out nine query emails and by the end of that 90 minute period… I already had my first rejection. Fortunately, I also got my first partial request within a day. And then others followed, much to my surprise. In the end, I had perhaps seven or eight requests for full manuscripts and a total of five agents ask to represent me, which was a complete and utter shock and blessing. Later, when I went on submission, I ended up having an auction which was terrifying and amazing all at once, but not as scary as the agent search was.
Darcy: Ah, a Wheel of Time…how I’d love to borrow that and weave more of it! So did you have a “day” job before you became a full-time author?
Jennifer: Yes! At that point I was working as a communications manager at a university leadership program, as well as working freelance as a copywriter. I’ve worked in marketing, branding and communications since graduating college.
Darcy: No doubt all things that have served you well in the writing world! How did you react to the success of MAID OF SECRETS?
Jennifer: Well, the book itself was a bit of a hard sell to teen readers, because it’s Elizabethan, and that sometimes seems like a history lesson waiting to happen. But I was blessed to have a three book series with the books, including MAID OF DECEPTION and this past year’s MAID OF WONDER, and I’ve learned so much about publishing and writing that it’s all been worth it!
Darcy: As someone who’s had the immense pleasure of reading all three of your books, I can say that my history lessons were NEVER that enthralling! Tell me about your writing routine. Has it changed over the years?
Jennifer: Oh, gosh, yes. It took me years to get published – I probably started writing seriously in 2000, and sold in 2011. My first book came out in 2013, and since then I’ve published under three different pen names, in three different genres. I’ve even tried Indie publishing, which has been both exhausting and a blast. Since my first book came out in May, 2013, I’ve published 3 YA novels and one YA novella, 5 romance novels, and 3 urban fantasy novels and a UF novella. (whew!) As a result, I’ve learned to write a LOT faster.
My favorite time to write is in the morning, and I generally like to get all my writing done FIRST before any other work. That doesn’t always happen, but that’s my goal! I write or edit (or both!) just about every day.
Darcy: Whoa! I feel like I need a triple shot of espresso just hearing about your writing practice and publications!!! So, any roadblocks all the way?
Jennifer: Well, the biggest was probably one of the most unexpected: in the months leading up to my debut launch, my publisher got in an enormous fight with Barnes & Noble. That fight meant…my book wasn’t shelved in B&N. The resulting lack of sales pretty much spelled the end of the series before it began! That was a big disappointment, but it taught me a lot about what we can and cannot manage as authors.
Darcy: *faints* OMG, that’s got to be every author’s worst nightmare! Yet here you are, persevering and thriving. Any advice to those going the traditional publishing route?
Jennifer: Yes! Keep writing—no matter what you do, keep writing! It’s so easy to get caught up in the delays of a traditional career…it seems to take so long for anything to happen, and then it all happens at once. But the only thing you can truly control is how many words you put on the page. If you want to be a professional, published author, you have to keep at it, day after day.
Darcy: Were you a member of any debut groups?
Jennifer: Yup! I was delighted to be a member of the Lucky 13s, as well as the 2k13s, and I blogged with a group of lovely YA historical authors at the website Corsets, Cutlasses and Candlesticks. It was a great experience!
Awesome! And now I have a few lightning-round questions for you. Answer as quickly as possible. Let’s see some smoke rollin’ off those fingertips!
- Your favorite time to write? MORNING!
- Favorite place to write? On my couch! lol
- Favorite writing snack? Almonds!
- Last book you read? SUMMER OF SUPERNOVAS by the incomparable Darcy Woods!
- Favorite book? Man, that’s tough. Probably The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe… C.S. Lewis’s series was my first paranormal series when I was a kid, and it’s always stuck with me.
- If you could live in a fictional world, what world would it be? The Star Wars universe! But only if I had an awesome ship. Some of those planets look like no fun at all.
- If you could be a character from a book for a day, who would you be? Actually, it would be my Tarot-reading artifact hunter Sara Wilde, from my urban fantasy Immortal Vegas series. Maybe then I’d be able to write the books more quickly! But either way, it would certainly be a grand adventure.
Great! Again, Jennifer, thanks so much for taking the time to chat with me and the Sixteen to Read gals!
Jennifer McGowan was born in Ohio, grew up in Montana, and studied in Paris. She has held numerous writing jobs over the years, but author is by far her favorite. A past Romance Writers of America Golden Heart winner, Jenn lives and writes in Ohio, and you can connect with her online at JenniferMcGowan.com, find her on twitter via @Jenn_McGowan, or visit her Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/AuthorJenniferMcGowan