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Debut Author Interview: Nancy McConnell and Into the Lion’s Mouth Giveaway

Happy Monday Everyone! Today I’m excited to have debut author Nancy McConnell here to share about her historical MG fantasy Into the Lion’s Mouth. It sounds like a fast-paced story with compelling characters that make me really excited to read it. It’s gotten great reviews.

Here’s a blurb from Goodreads:

In 1498, an orphan can’t expect much out of life. But the Renaissance is burgeoning, and Venice ripe with infinite possibilities. Nico is a child of the city, and his veins run with canal water.

He’s determined to use his wit and wile to become something more than another errand boy. But his hopes come crashing down when he witnesses a crime that puts a target on his back.

To escape the vengeance of the corrupt Lord Foscari, Nico travels half a world away to safety. But danger follows him to the streets of Constantinople where he discovers a peril looms over Venice. Now he’s forced to make a choice: stay safe in a foreign land and let his beloved birthplace fall or risk his life to save everything he loves.

 Hi Nancy! Thanks so much for joining us. 

Thank you for having me, Natalie. I am super excited to be here! Your blog played a big part in my journey to publication, so having an interview is another dream come true for me.

1. I'm so glad to hear that Literary Rambles was a help in your journey. Tell us about yourself and how you became a writer.

Besides being a writer, I teach preschool, am an amateur photographer, and a passionate baker and cook.  I am mom to three adult children, an uber cute doggo and wife of 32 years to my amazing husband. I have always wanted to be a writer.  I think that’s because I have always been an avid reader. But it took me quite a long time to get there. I spent too much time not believing it was possible for me. When my children were small, I revisited my old book friends with them and remembered how much those books had filled my life as I child. I just knew I wanted to write books that would enhance other children’s lives too. So I took the plunge and I joined writer’s groups, made writer friends, attended conferences, took classes, wrote, edited, submitted and after fifteen years (yes fifteen!) I finally achieved the cherry on the top of my writer dream – a published book!

2. That’s great that you decided to take the plunge. Where did you get the idea for Into the Lion’s Mouth?

I got the idea on a family trip we took to Italy. Italy is an amazing country full of good food, beautiful scenery and so much history. We were taking a tour through the Doge’s Palace in Venice, and I was just overwhelmed by the history that must have taken place in between those walls. I could almost feel stories crowding around me begging to be told. But of course, I didn’t know any of those stories. When I got back home I spent some time reading the history of Venice and it was even more fascinating that I had imagined, I knew I could write an exciting story set there, but it had to be kid friendly. When I came across the details about the orphan hospitals I knew my story would start there.

3. How cool that your story idea came to you from a family trip. People who have reviewed your book have commented on how detailed you were in describing Venice and its historical places and that you made them want to visit Venice. What research did you do into the time period and Venice? How did you organize all that you learned to create such an interesting, vivid setting?

I spend a lot of time reading about the history of Venice and lucky for me it is truly fascinating. Last count I read over eleven different books about Venice and the time period I was interested in. I did a lot of Google searching which is hit or miss in terms of good research. Whenever I would come across a detail that I loved, or thought I could use, I would keep a note of it. And when it came to writing the book, I would skim my notes often to remind me what I wanted to include. I also relied on my own experience in Venice, because luckily the city has retained its flavor for the last thousand years. Art from the period was a great help when writing description of events or people. Wherever I have a real person or a real event in the book I would try to find art pieces relevant to who or what I was writing about. Descriptions of Doge Mocenigo and Queen Catarina come directly from portraits painted during their lifetime.

4. It sounds like Into the Lion’s Mouth is very fast-paced and a real page turner. What was your plotting process like and how did you keep the plot constantly moving forward? What tips do you have for other writers?

It’s good to hear that, because typically I am seat of my pants girl when it comes to plotting my novels. But for this book I really wanted to have a direction. I laid out all the big events I needed to include in the book and gave myself a timeline. I used sticky notes for this because it’s easy to move them around when you need to change the timing of events in the story. That really helped. There was one thing I did with this story that I had never done before and maybe that’s what contributed to the fast-paced page turner feeling of the book. Whenever I was writing I would stop writing before I was finished. What I mean is that I would end my writing day in the very middle of a chapter or event so when I picked it up the next day, I knew exactly what was going to happen and I hit the ground running when I sat down to work.  It made it much easier to keep going and to get over the difficult saggy middle sections that often trip me up. It also gave me more incentive to write because I wanted to finish what I had started. I write sparingly anyway, so my editing process often means adding rather than taking away text. I think that worked to my advantage with this type of action and adventure story.

5. That’s a great tip to wait until the next day to finish the chapter so you know where the chapter is headed. Nico sounds like a complex, loveable character. What are some things that you love most about him?

I love that Nico always ends up doing the right thing, even when he really doesn’t want to. I was inspired by the contrast in the character of Venice itself, a supposedly very mercenary city but also a very religious city. The citizens strove to be wealthy and powerful, but they provided free care for orphans and widows, and they insisted on non-hereditary succession to avoid any one family from becoming too powerful. I wanted to put that dichotomy into Nico. He wants to be rich and powerful, but he ultimately does things that will jeopardize his chances because he knows it’s the right thing to do.

6. Share about what your road to publication was like.

Like pretty much all writers my road was a long and winding one. I got a lot of rejections. I have three other novels and a graphic novel that I submitted to editors and agents over a ten-year period. I did secure an agent for another middle grade novel which ultimately was not picked up by any publishing companies. I just had a gut feeling that INTO THE LION’S MOUTH was going to be my debut, and I ended up parting ways with my agent because she didn’t share that vision. Historical fiction for middle grade was not trending at the time, but recently I believe there is a renewed interest in getting kids into history. After submitting it to quite a few agents and not progressing I happened to read a Literary Rambles blog with a debut author (Karen Biggs) who had published with Immortal Works Press. I did some research and thought my book sounded like a good fit for the company. I submitted and a few months later and I got an offer. I was elated! The timeline was faster than with a bigger company, so it was just over year from when I signed the contract until my book was available!

7. So happy to hear that my interview with Karen helped you so much. Your book released on 9/7/2021. What did you do to promote your book? In retrospect, was there anything you would have done differently?

I did a lot of social media and reaching out to reviewers. I requested my reviewers to post their reviews on publication day which really help get a boost in sales. My book even sat at number one in a category on Amazon for a day! That was fun! Because my book is set in Venice, I used that as well as other fun history facts to create excitement about what was in the book. Looking back, I found it hard to promote something that didn’t exist yet, in the future I would try harder to find materials related to my book to promote it pre-publication. The other thing I didn’t find out about until later was that there are groups for authors debuting each year that you can join and brainstorm together, I didn’t find out about this until my book was almost out and I probably missed some opportunities there. But the good news is that it is never too late to promote your book, and a slow and steady sales are even better for your book’s life!

8. What advice do you have for other writers about what they should do in the year leading up to their release to build a social network platform and connect with librarians, teachers, and other readers of their book?

I am not the best person to ask about promotion. As an introvert it is super hard to push myself forward. That said, I am very grateful to social media for offering many opportunities to promote my work that I am comfortable with. I found the Instagram community very helpful. There are people there excited about books and wanting to promote good ones just for the love of books. Finding a hashtag that relates to your book and then reaching out to followers of that is a great place to start. For example, I looked for people who used #mgbooks and #historicalficion as starting points to find people who might like to read and promote my book.  Honestly, I think the best thing I did was to reach out to get reviews for my book before it was published. Those reviews really help to get the word out.

Family and friends are great resources as well. We can all tap into a much wider audience than we ever could before. I have sold books because someone else posted it on their social media page. Having a street team who are willing to talk about your book to other people is such a benefit. I know an author who’s organized a whole campaign of friends, family and fellow authors to get the word out on the street about her book!

Promotion is an ongoing thing and it’s never too late to start or try something new!

9. That’s great advice that it’s never too late to market your book or try a new approach to it. What are you working on now?

I probably have too many irons in the fire right now! I have a contemporary middle grade about a girl who inherits a mysterious house I currently editing , I also have a complete graphic novel that is illustrated by my daughter which we are currently looking for an agent for, that’s called THINGS YOU NEVER KNEW EXISTED, and it’s a story about two sisters who discover a real rocket ship that sends one into outer space. And lastly, I have two other books that are still percolating mostly in my brain, and one involves a well-loved character from INTO THE LION’S MOUTH.

Thanks for sharing all your advice, Nancy. You can find Nancy at

Website: Nancymcconnell.com

Instagram – nancyemcc66
FaceBook - @nancywritesforkids

Twitter - @nancyemcc

Giveaway Details

Nancy has generously offered a paperback of Into the Lion’s Mouth for a giveaway. To enter, all you need to do is be a follower of my blog (via the follower gadget, email, or bloglovin’ on the right sidebar) and leave a comment by December 11th. If your e-mail is not on your Google Profile, you must leave it in the comments to enter the contest. Please be sure I have your email address.

If you mention this contest on Twitter, Facebook, or your blog and/or follow me on Twitter, mention this in the comments and I'll give you an extra entry for each. You must be 13 years old or older to enter. This giveaway is U.S. and Canada.

Marvelous Middle Grade Monday is hosted by Greg Pattridge. You can find the participating blogs on his blog.

Upcoming Interviews and Giveaways

Wednesday, December 1st I’m participating in the December Is Coming Giveaway Hop. I also have a guest post by debut author Claire Winn and a giveaway of her YA fantasy City of Shattered Light and my IWSG post

Monday, December 6th I have a guest post by debut author Karen Pokras and a giveaway of her MG historical The Backyard Secrets of Danny Wexler

Monday, December 13th I have an agent spotlight interview with Jemma Cooper and a query critique giveaway

Wednesday, December 15th I have an agent spotlight interview with Stacey Kondla and a query critique giveaway

Thursday, December 16th I’m participating in the Dashing December Giveaway Hop

Hope to see you on Wednesday!

 

 

24 comments:

Stephanie Owen said...

Congratulations on your book! I love historical pieces!
owens@wsd3.org

Randomly Reading said...

Great interview, thank you for sharing it. And Into the Lion's Mouth sounds like a fascinating novel.

Sandra Cox said...

This sounds like an intriguing read with a great story line. Kudos.
'Lo, Natalie;)

Weaver said...

Congrats to Nancy. Cool cover.

Danielle H. said...

I have never been to Venice so this book sounds really exciting! Thank you for the interview and sharing about your writing and road to publication. I shared on tumblr: https://yesreaderwriterpoetmusician.tumblr.com/post/669212659718193153/debut-author-interview-nancy-mcconnell-and-into

Valinora Troy said...

Very interesting interview, and some good tips too! Writing an historical MG is on my bucket list (I normally write fantasy), and great to hear there is so much interest in it!

Patricia T. said...

Congratulations on your new book! I know so very little about Venice. Was intrigued with information that was both dark and light. Nico sounds like an empathetic character. Can't imagine a city taking care of it children and women and limiting the length of succession on the throne. Fascinating. I really can't wait to read your book. Love historical fiction!

Nancy said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Greg Pattridge said...

Your book sounds wonderful and so well researched. I'm a big fan of Historical Fiction and am always glad to see new titles. Best of luck as you continue your writing journey.

Sue Heavenrich said...

What a wonderful interview. I have never been to Venice, so I am intrigued about how real places fit into fiction.

Library Laura said...

I’m excited that you got to talk to Nancy! She’ll be on the Library Laura podcast this month too.

Library.Laura.Miller (at) gmail (dot) com

tetewa said...

Enjoyed the post today, another new author for me! Sounds like a good one! tWarner419@aol.com

Liz A. said...

Very interesting time period. Sounds like a fun read.

Jennifer P. said...

Congratulations, Nancy, on your book. It sounds like a fascinating read. And thanks for sharing about your persistence with your publishing journey. Always helpful to learn from other authors.

Eileen said...

Loved this interview! thank you for giving this busy mom hope w/ my own novel. I've worked on it for years & am finally querying. Your book sounds wonderful! I plan to read it & pass it on to my MG daughter.

Kim A. Larson said...

Congratulations, Nancy! What an interesting book concept. Thanks for sharing our wisdom, too. I follow you on Twitter and quote retweeted. Thanks!

Tonja Drecker said...

Congratulations! This sounds like a great read (and I'm a sucker for historical). Every journey is so interesting!

Sandra Cox said...

Very cool that Literary Rambles helped pave the way toward publication.
I was pleased to hear you had a good Thanksgiving:)

Mary B said...

I read Nancy's book and was so pulled in by Nico and his love for Venice! Poetic prose! I highly recommend it for middle grade and up.

Max @ Completely Full Bookshelf said...

Wow—Nancy's book sounds like a wonderful read! I really enjoyed reading this interview—the strategy of ending chapters in the middle until the next day sounds really effective, although it would probably drive me a little insane because I'd want to finish before the ideas flew right out of my head! Also, it's wonderful that Nancy found her publisher through this website! I'll pass on the giveaway, but thanks so much for the great interview, Natalie!

Rosi said...

I do love historical fiction. I've been to Venice, and Nancy is right, it is steeped in history. I can imagine how it might have sparked an idea for a book. Thanks for an interesting interview and a chance to win what sounds like a fascinating book.

LindaG said...

I am so delighted that you choose to focus and feature writers for middle grade (and oftentimes middle-aged) readers.

Nancy P said...

Powerful cover Bloglovin follower positive.ideas.4youATgmail.com

Judith L. Roth said...

An MG novel set in Venice!! I'm in!!