Monday, December 11, 2017

Interview with Maggie McConnon, Author of Bel, Book, and Scandal + Giveaway (US/Can)

I'd like to welcome Maggie McConnon to the blog today to celebrate the exciting release of Bel, Book, and Scandal from St. Martin's Press!

Welcome to Books à la Mode, Maggie! Let's get this interview started.

Will you please share a brief introduction with us?

Maggie McConnon grew up in New York immersed in Irish culture and tradition. A former Irish stepdancer, she was surrounded by a family of Irish musicians who still play at family gatherings. She credits her Irish grandparents with providing the stories of their homeland and their extended families as the basis for the stories she tells in her Belfast McGrath novels.

It's amazing to get to feature you today! Readers, here's a bit about the book, which just hit shelves last week:

Maggie McConnon rings in Christmas in Bel, Book, and Scandal, the third adventure for everybody’s favorite Irish-American culinary artist turned amateur sleuth.

Bel McGrath tries her best to keep herself on the straight and narrow but she just has a taste for trouble. This time danger arrives in the form of a newspaper left behind by visitors to Shamrock Manor—and a photograph that jolts Bel out of the present and back into a dark chapter from her past. The person in the photo is Bel’s best friend Amy Mitchell, long gone from Foster’s Landing, at a commune in upstate New York shortly after her disappearance. The picture, and Bel’s burning desire to find out what happened to Amy—and whether she may still be alive—is the catalyst for a story in which old secrets are revealed, little by little…and certain characters are shown to not be as genuine as Bel once thought.

As a huge fan of first lines, I’d love to hear the first line of Bel, Book, and Scandal. Could you give us a brief commentary on it?
I was wet, cold, and tired, but despite the fact that she was ready to kill me with her bare hands for staying out all night, my mother addressed all three of my immediate needs before saying anything else.
This book starts with a flashback to a time when Bel was a teenager; it is the night her best friend disappeared from Foster’s Landing and was never seen again. The two other books in this series start as flashbacks as well; I wanted the reader to understand Bel’s motives as an adult, what shaped her thoughts and actions in present day. In Bel, Book, and Scandal, we pick up with Bel sitting in the local police department, awaiting word on Amy, not realizing that no one knows where Amy is and that she will be questioned as to her last moments with her best friend.

Tell us about your road to publication, such as how you first queried, unexpected challenges, and things you picked up along the way.

I used various web sites to track down agents, see how a query letter was written, and to research the process in general. I queried about twenty or so agents until I received word that my current agent wanted to represent me. That process took about a year. It was another year or so until we found a publisher. Not being a patient person, I found the process protracted and stressful but now that I have been doing this for a dozen or more years, I understand the timing better. I tell writers to be patient, keep at it, and never give up. The road to publication is long and bumpy—reading rejection letters isn’t for the faint of heart!—but if you keep working at it, you’ll reach your goal.

Are the characters from your book based off anyone you know in real life? How much else of your actual life gets written into your fiction?

There are no true McGraths in my real life. However, having grown up Irish in the New York area, there are definitely aspects of my childhood that come through: the Irish music, the storytelling, the big family dinners. I have always loved weddings so putting Bel back into the family business allows me to imagine the worst “bridezilla,” the most cold-footed groom. And being able to write about food makes my heart sing. If anything comes from real life into the Bel series, it’s the experimentation in the kitchen and the joy of researching a new, complicated recipe.


Out of all the fantastic books out there, what makes Bel, Book, and Scandal stand out from the rest?

I would have to say the characters. I think that the McGrath family (Bel’s brothers, her parents) are what round out the story and give it a bit of heart. I also think that anyone who grew up with siblings will recognize at least one person they know in one of Bel’s brothers, be it the responsible one or the one who continually gets into trouble, even as an adult.

Blog babes, click "Read more" to find out Maggie's best personal and professional advice. We're also hosting a giveaway for a finished copy of Bel, Book, and Scandal, so you don't want to miss that either!
Give aspiring writers a piece of advice you wish you had known before getting published.

As I said above, keep at it and never give up. Good storytelling is good storytelling and although it is subjective, there is someone out there who will like your writing and your narrative. Most importantly, try to write every day. By day, I am a textbook editor, so I am writing all day long. It’s not necessarily the most creative writing, but trying to encourage an author to go in a certain direction definitely takes creativity and persuasion, two things you need to write a good story. Also, if you haven’t already, pick up a copy of On Writing by Stephen King. I found King’s advice invaluable.

Now give us your best personal advice—something you wish you had known when you were younger and would offer to your own kids.

Don’t sweat the small stuff... or even the big stuff. Everything has a way of working out, even if you don’t see it at the time. In hindsight, you’ll wonder why you were ever stressed in the first place!

Where can you be found on the web?


It was a pleasure to be able to get to know you better today, Maggie! Thank you again for dropping by, and best of luck with future endeavors!

Giveaway!


Books à la Mode is giving away one print copy of Bel, Book, and Scandal—woohoo! To enter, all you have to do is tell me in the comments below:
Have you or anyone you know been involved in a scandal?
Please make your comment MEANINGFUL. Comments solely consisting of stock responses or irrelevant fluff like "Thanks for the giveaway!" will not be considered for entry. Maggie and I really want to hear your thoughts! :)


Beyond the petty high school things, I can't think of anything major. But you bet in high school I've seen it all: teachers doing unseedy things, people being caught cheating, getting in trouble for forging notes, etc. At Berkeley, the political climate was always on the news, especially in the past few years... if that counts.


Don't forget the entry eligibility terms and conditions!
Sponsored wholly by the publisher—a huge thank you to the lovely folks over at St. Martin's Press!
Giveaway ends December 25th at 11.59 PM (your time).
Open to US and Canada residents only. Sorry, everyone else! Please check my sidebar on the right for a list of currently running giveaways that are open worldwide—there are plenty to choose from!
Void where prohibited.
Winners have 48 hours to claim their prize once they are chosen, or else their winnings will be forfeited.
Although I do randomly select winners, I am in no way responsible for prizes, nor for shipping and handling.
As a reminder, you do not have to follow my blog to enter, though it is always very much appreciated ❤
Good luck!