Whether she’s lining up another one of her popular Library Lover’s mysteries or dreaming up another charming romcom or cooking up another delicious Cupcake Bakery whodunnit, JENN MCKINLAY is one career author who’s mastered the art of winning readers. McKinlay is a triple threat, turning out series and stand-alones in different genres–even a cookbook!–with  her signature light touch. Her novels are funny, smart, and irresistible–and her versatility is unmatched. In this exclusive Career Authors 11 interview, Jenn reveals some of her writerly secrets with her trademark wit and wisdom.

1. What book changed your life? 

ONE FOR THE MONEY by Janet Evanovich. I found it in 1998 and I realized THAT’S WHAT I WANT TO WRITE! Of course, no one is JE but still it showed me humor in a mystery that could also be a caper and I have loved that series ever since. 

2. Was your first published book the first manuscript you ever wrote? 

No. It was the second or third book I completed and probably the sixth that I had a lengthy proposal for as well. It was a romcom entitled TO CATCH A LATTE that also had a mystery in it (go figure). 

3. Stephen King says, “The hardest part is just before you start.” What’s the hardest part of writing for you?

The Dead Marshes (to borrow a location from Tolkien) for me is always, always, always the boggy soggy middle of any book I’m writing. I always feel as if I’ve come so far and yet have so far to go. I usually have to murder a character or write a smokin’ hot love scene to get through it. 

4. Do you know the story’s ending before you start? 

Yes. I’m a plotter with pantsing tendencies but I usually have the particulars worked out before I start writing.


5. When you’re having a difficult writing day, what do you tell yourself to get through it? 

There’s always tomorrow! I have written enough books to know that the first draft is seldom as bad as you fear but rarely as good as you hope. Carry on. 

6. Do you read your reviews? 

Never. Unless it is something my agent or publicist hands me and says, “Read this.” Otherwise, nope, nope, nope. There’s no point. I’m not going to rewrite the book for the haters or the lovers. Hopefully, when the reviews come out, I’m already fully immersed in the next project and my emotional investment is the former project is low.

7. Besides being persistent and correcting your spelling errors, what’s your best advice for a new author? 

It’s a cliche but it true. Write the book you want to read. The first book I sold, I wrote just for myself to make myself laugh and it was the one that started my career. 

8. What’s your definition of writer misery? 

The blank page. When the words won’t come, the story has gone off the rails, and you have no idea what happened or how to fix it. It doesn’t happen often but it’s the depths of despair when it does. 

9. What’s your definition of writer happiness? 

Reading a line that you forgot you wrote and marveling that it came out of your own spongey brain. Total dopamine to love your own work!

10. What’s your favorite book on writing? 

BIRD BY BIRD by Anne Lamott. It’s not just about writing but about life and the creative journey. I found it very relatable.

11.  What book are you reading right now?

I am obsessed with Heather Fawcett’s Emily Wilde’s Encyclopaedia of Faeries and the follow up Emily Wilde’s Map of Otherlands. Brilliant heroine, charming hero, set in 1910 at Cambridge in a fictional Dryadology department in charge of studying The Folk (faeries, etc.). It’s just charming – sort of a Lessons in Chemistry and the original Grimm Fairy Tales mashup, if that can even come close to describing it. 
 Jenn McKinlay is the New York Times, USA Today, and Publisher’s Weekly bestselling author of several mystery and romance series. She is also the winner of the RT Reviewer’s Choice Award for romantic comedy and the Fresh Fiction award for best cozy mystery. A TEDx speaker, she is always happy to talk books, writing, reading, and the creative process to anyone who cares to listen. She lives in sunny Arizona in a house that is overrun with books, pets, and her husband’s guitars.