Ask the Author: Rachel Mans McKenny
What would you like readers to know about you?
I’m a debut author from the Midwest. I’m in four book clubs and love reading even more than writing. I also teach at a university and am a mom– three kids under ten! Much of this book was written right after bedtime with a bottle of beer and a stack of research books next to me.
What is your book about for those who haven’t read it?
My novel is about an anti-social butterfly. The heroine, Greta studies butterflies and prefers them to people. When her twin has a health emergency, she has to rush home from a research trip. While taking care of him, she has to rebuild the bridges she burnt in her family– and with her ex-boyfriend. It’s a good fit for lovers of a grumpy hero, like in A Man Called Ove.
What has been your inspiration for writing it?
Visiting the botanical garden near me planted the idea. I wondered what it would be like to be able to study butterflies in a conservatory for a job. Soon after, I fell in love with researching bugs and latched onto the idea of writing a heroine who didn’t believe in Midwest friendliness.
What was your favorite scene or part of your book to write?
Greta and her brother’s fiancee do not get along, but are forced into close proximity while caregiving. My favorite scenes in the book are between Meg (sweet, loves musicals, teaches middle school math) and Greta (who doesn’t like much of anything). I’ll let you know there’s a scene in which Greta moves one of Meg’s personal items that was awfully fun to write.
What books or authors inspired you to become a writer?
Wonderful question! There are so many. When I was a kid, Beverly Cleary was an absolute role model– I wanted to write fierce, funny characters like hers. There are definite hints of Ramona in Greta. As an adult, I read really broadly– scifi, fantasy, contemporary, classics, romance— if it has words, I’ll read it. A few current writers who make me want to write better are J. Courtney Sullivan, Brit Bennett, and J. Ryan Stradal. I love Fredrick Backman, of course, and a ton of romance writers– Jasmine Guillory, Helen Hoang, Jen DeLuca, and others. Reading outside of my genre always inspires me, too. When I feel stuck creatively, I usually reread The Broken Earth Trilogy by NK Jemison.
What advice would you give to aspiring authors who want to write a book?
Do not edit your first draft! I never finished a novel draft until I learned to leave it alone until I had written “The End.” I’m so type A that I would redo the first fifty pages a thousand times and never finish. You don’t ice a cake that’s not fully baked, so stop perfecting those first few chapters! Once I learned to stop editing something that wasn’t done, I wrote much better work. Also, surround yourself with people in the similar boat that you are. Find those who are drafting when you’re drafting, querying when you’re querying, etc. Those friendships help sustain you in the hard days. You can do it!
Rachel Mans McKenny is a writer and humorist from the Midwest, recently published in McSweeney’s Internet Tendency, Electric Lit, The Rumpus, and The New York Times. The Butterfly Effect is her first novel. You can find more about her on Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads, or her website (including a way to contact for book club visits!)