The Burning of Isobel Key

by: Jen McConnel

(check out my interview with Jen, here!)

Book Blurb

Lou is in the middle of a quarter-life crisis. Ever since college, she’s lacked direction, working as a clerk in a local bookstore. But when she quits her job just before the winter holidays, Lou must do some serious soul searching to overcome her fears of straying from the mainstream. On a whim, she accompanies her best friend, Tammy, to Scotland for the winter holidays, but the vacation soon turns into an emotional roller coaster.

When she becomes embroiled in a hunt for information about Isobel Key, a woman falsely accused of witchcraft in the seventeenth century, Lou opens up to her intuition and makes a startling discovery about her own heritage.

My Review

Owl Rating: 

The Burning of Isobel Key is the first “New Adult” book I’ve read (that was actually labeled so).  And as such I was very excited and at the same time putting on my “critical glasses” to see if books in the new genre would live up to all the praise they’ve received.  A few hours later with no recollection of any bathroom or food breaks, I had finished the book and…I LOVED IT!!!

The book follow’s, Lou, who is in a quarter life crisis:  at age 27 she has no job and has no idea what she wants to do with her life.  From the first few pages, I immediately connected with Lou.  She much like myself attended a prestigious university and although I am still in college and she is four years out of it, I identify completely with the problems she’s facing (especially the domineering mother :))

One of my favorite parts of the book was the flashbacks.  Transitioning smoothly between the past and present is often something most books with flashbacks  fail at doing, however McConnel excels at it.  The scenes from Isobel’s life intertwines with Lou’s made for a book that was not only thrilling in regards to the characters but the historical interludes as well.  Parts of the book reminded me of the First Blue Bloods book by Melissa de la Cruz,one of my favorite books and I am glad to add this book to that shelf.

Lastly the book was filled with mystery and suspense, from the moment Lou arrives in Scotland McConnel gets you guessing and hopefully you’re better at it than I am because almost all of my plot guesses were wrong.

The book comes out on October 1st!

Grab Your Copy Today!

Amazon (US) | Amazon (UK) | Goodreads

Barnes & Noble | Createspace

**This is a 100% honest review, I received the book from the author!!


If you wish to have me review your book, click here, to see my Review Policy.


Whimsically Yours,

Interview with Author Jen McConnel

Meet Jen!

She’s a fabulous author who’s dedication to the craft is shown in everything she does 🙂

Jen McConnel

(she also shares my love *cough*, obsession, of all things Ancient Egyptian!)

Check out my review of her fabulous book,

The Burning of Isobel Key

The Burning of Isobel Key

Hi Jen!  Can you introduce yourself  & your book?J…

Sure, Patrice!  Thanks for having me.  I’m a writer and teacher, and I live in North Carolina.  It’s beautiful here, and such a nice change from where I grew up in Michigan: I’m not a fan of snow.  My debut novel, The Burning of Isobel Key, tells the stories of two very different women: Isobel, who was accused of witchcraft in Scotland in 1667, and Lou, a modern woman in her twenties who’s going through a “quarter-life-crisis”.  Their stories converge when Lou travels to Scotland and starts searching for the truth behind the witch craze.

What is your favorite place to write?

I love my office (our guest bedroom), but my favorite place to write is across the country.  My husband’s grandfather built a cabin on a bluff overlooking Lake Coeur d’Alene, and I love writing there, staring out at the beautiful water.  We only get out there once a year at most, so it’s a good thing I like writing in my pretty blue office, too!

How did you get the idea for The Burning of Isobel Key?

I’m honestly not sure.  In 2009, I sat down on November 1st to participate in my first NaNoWriMo, and the words just poured out of me.  The first thing I wrote was the opening scene, where the witch is burning.  Everything else came from that moment, and I just went with it.

Are there parts of Lou’s life that you identify with?

There’s a piece of me in each of my characters.  In this book, I identify more with the best friend, Tammy, than I do with Lou, but Lou and I do share a faith.  I’ve also known the same confusion that she struggles with about her life and adulthood, but there isn’t much else that we have in common.  It was so fun getting to know her!

How did you choose the title and the main character’s name?

I can’t take credit for that: Isobel Key was a real woman who really was accused of witchcraft.  I found a great database of the Scottish witch trials and read through some of the cases.  Issobell Key stuck with me for some reason, even though her actual file only lists her name, the trial date, and the names of the judges.  I standardized the spelling of her name for the book, and spun a fictional world around her.  Since the first thing I wrote was the burning scene, The Burning of Isobel Key just made sense.

Are you a full time writer…why/why not?

I consider myself a full-time writer, despite the fact that I teach and earn income from things other than my writing.  For me, it’s an attitude choice.  If I consider my writing my full-time job, I am giving it the credit and value that it deserves.  When I was teaching full-time, I saw myself as a part-time writer, and my writing wasn’t my focus.  All that’s changed, and I am so thankful to be living the writing life.

What was your writing & publishing process for The Burning of Isobel Key like, from start to finish?

Long! *Laughs*  This was actually one of the longest start-to-finishes of anything I’ve ever written.  In 2009, I pounded out 50,000 words during NaNoWriMo.  I thought it was done.  I did some revisions, and started querying the book in 2010.  I had a full manuscript request, so I did some more revisions before I sent that.  I got a lot of positive rejections: the story was good, but agents weren’t sure how to market it.  So, I put it on the back burner and forgot about it for a few months.  In 2011, I attended a writing class at Duke University, and I used that class as an excuse to flush out and polish up the story.  It went from being 50K to 75K words, and again, I thought I was done.  Then I started writing YA, and I left this project alone.  In 2012, I revisited it and went through some MAJOR revisions, bringing the book down to 65k.  When I was finally satisfied with it, I found a copy editor and set out on my path towards publication.

I truly believe that we are never done with our writing, but that we can each reach a point where the story is as good as it can be in that moment.  I’ve reached that point with Isobel, and I’m ready to send the story into the world.  Could I keep tweaking it for years?  Yes.  Would that make me crazy?  Probably.

—(sub question)How did you find a publisher for your book, do you have a literary agent?

I had a literary agent for quite some time, but when she left the business, I was faced with a choice: find another agent, or consider an alternate path.  I decided to try going it on my own, and I am self-publishing this novel.  I’ve learned a lot about both traditional and indie publishing, and each day brings me a new adventure: it’s been hard, but a wonderful experience.

What is some advice you would impart to aspiring authors?

Just write.  Tell your stories, paint your worlds with words, weave magic into your life.  Writing is bliss.

If you could have breakfast with anyone dead or alive, who would it be and what would you eat?

Cleopatra.  We’d eat figs and honey, and I would pump her for information on her power and her life.

Last words???

Thanks so much for having me, Patrice!  Sorry if I talked your ear off, but this was a lot of fun!

Thank you as well, Jen!  My ear is still very much intact 🙂  I loved this interview…especially the wonderful, “just write it” advice!

Whimsically Yours,

The Burning of Isobel Key!

In celebration of the October 1st publication of fellow writer, Jen McConnel’s, debut The Burning of Isobel Key, I will be releasing a book review and author interview as part of her blog tour.   I will also be a part of the book’s promo blitz on October 1st!!!  And will be reposting links to the review and interview for the book tour next week 🙂  Get Ready!

The Burning of Isobel Key

By Jen McConnel
Genre: Contemporary, New Adult
Publisher: BrightFish Press
ISBN: 978-0615684680
Number of pages: 290
Word Count: 64k
Cover Artist: Heidi Sutherlin
Book Description: 
When Lou travels to Scotland, she’s a mess. She is twenty-six, unemployed, and unsure of herself. It doesn’t help that she’s traveling with Tammy, her best friend, who is everything Lou is not.

At first, the trip pushes Lou towards the brink of depression, but then she meets Brian, a handsome local tour guide. When Brian tells the tourists about the countless witches burned in Scotland, Lou starts to listen. And when she discovers information about Isobel Key, one of the victims of the seventeenth century, Lou finds renewed purpose.

She sets out to learn the truth of the condemned witch, but she isn’t prepared for the knowledge that waits for her. Lou must face her demons if she has any hope of righting the wrongs of the past.

Author Bio:

Jen McConnel first began writing poetry as a child.  Since then, her words have appeared in a variety of magazines and journals, including Sagewoman, PanGaia,and The Storyteller (where she won the people’s choice 3rd place award for her poem, “Luna”).

She is also an active reviewer for Voices of Youth Advocates (VOYA), and proud member of SCBWI, NCWN, and SCWW.  She lives in North Carolina, where she teaches writing at a community college.

Whimsically Yours,

Author Interview with YA Author Lisa Orchard

Meet Lisa Orchard!

Author of YA Series: The Super Spies

Hi! Can you introduce yourself & your book?

Hello! I’m Lisa Orchard and I’m the Young Adult Author of the Super Spies series. The second book in the series is titled “The Super Spies and the High School Bomber” and it starts with a bang and doesn’t let up. Currently, I’m working on the third book in the series and another coming of age Young Adult novel.

What is your favorite place to write?

I have a spot in our family room where I love to write. I’m able to hang with the kids when they’re watching TV and I’m able to work at the same time. I usually start working when they turn on one of the Transformer Movies. LOL!

What is the first story you remember writing?

I don’t remember the title, but the first story that I can remember writing was when my friends and I wanted to be detectives one summer. Yes, we even formed our own detective squad! Anyway, one of my neighbors had been vandalized and we were on the case! We never solved the crime, but I did write a story about it.  That summer was one of my best memories!

When did you first consider yourself a writer?

Hmmm…when my first manuscript, “The Super Spies and the Cat Lady Killer”, was accepted by Astraea Press, that’s when I considered myself a writer.  It was an exciting moment.

What is the best piece of constructive criticism you ever received?

The best constructive criticism that I’ve received was from an agent who rejected my manuscript.  I asked her what she didn’t like and she told me that she thought the story would be better if it were written in third person. I had originally written it in first person. So, you guessed it, I rewrote the story and the first publisher that I sent it to accepted it. She was right and I’ll always be grateful for that rejection, because it pointed me in the right direction.

How do you overcome “writer’s block” ? 

Well, the first thing I do is reach for the chocolate! LOL!  And if that doesn’t work, I go for a walk or a run. The exercise seems to get my creative juices flowing again and I usually work out the issue in my story by the time I’m done.

Are you a full time writer…why/why not?

Yes, right now I’m a full time writer.  I’m hoping to generate enough income so that I can stay home with my kids. I love being able to volunteer in their classrooms and go on field trips with them.

What is some advice you would impart to writers who wish to be published (indie or traditionally)?

The advice that I would offer, is don’t get bogged down by rejection letters and don’t be afraid to ask an agent/publisher what they didn’t like about your story. You just might get that golden nugget you need to turn that “no” into a “yes”.

If you could have breakfast with anyone dead or alive, who would it be and what would you eat?

I would love to eat breakfast with Harper Lee so that I could find out why she only published one book. Then I would invite Stephen King because I would love to find out where he gets his ideas.

If you had/have an animal spirit which animal(s) would it be…why?

Hmmm….good question. I would have to pick a Dolphin; because they’re so smart…they can learn to communicate with humans. And they’re very social, so I think of them as being fun. And they’re very strong. I love it that such a “nice” animal can take on a shark and win.  They’re very versatile!

What is your favorite childhood book and/or author?

My favorite childhood book is “To Kill a Mockingbird”. I loved that story, probably because I could see a little of myself in Scout. I was a tomboy just like her.

What is the next book you want to write?

I’m working on the third Super Spies book and a young adult coming of age novel. I really want to get both of these finished.   I’m excited about both of them.

Imagine you are writing your memoir…what is its title?

LOL! This is a good one! My title would be, “All the things I’ve learned but still don’t’ know.”

Last words???

I guess my last words would be…to tell people to check out my stories. They’re a great way to get a tween/teen interested in reading.  And as we all know reading improves analytical and social skills, along with building self-esteem. My stories have life lessons embedded in them that the reader can learn right along with the characters. So give them a try and let me know what you think! I’d love to hear from you!

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Whimsically Yours,



For more information on my interview policy, click here.


I’m Back!

Hi Everyone,

Just in case any of you noticed, my posting schedule has been quite off or nonexistent for the past few days/week.  I’ve been sick and on top of that my laptop has been having issues connecting to the internet.  But I will resume regular schedule/try to make up for lost posts  starting today at 5pm EST with an Interview with YA Author Lisa Orchard.

Whimsically Yours,