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SunLit Interviews

How a rejected short story propelled Lauren Connolly to self-publish a novel — and embrace the romance genre

"The sentiment that not everyone will love your book, but someone will, was never clearer to me than after I put Fenella and Graham out into the world all on my own."

Author Lauren Connolly.

Lauren Connolly crafts love stories set in the contemporary world. Some are grounded in reality, while others play with the mystical and magical. Her writing normally happens in the evening because she spends her days as an academic librarian helping students research all sorts of odd topics. Lauren lives in southern Colorado, outnumbered by animals. Luckily, they are all prone to napping and only rarely step on her keyboard while she’s writing.

The following is an interview with Lauren Connolly.

UNDERWRITTEN BY

Each week, The Colorado Sun and Colorado Humanities & Center For The Book feature an excerpt from a Colorado book and an interview with the author. Explore the SunLit archives at coloradosun.com/sunlit.


What inspired you to write this book?

Early in 2019, I saw a call put out for a romance anthology. The description asked for stories about witches and the woods, all to be published for the autumn equinox. This sparked a story idea, and I sat down to write it. However, I struggled with the requested word count. Even though I was able to stay under the designated number, the final piece I turned in was not as rich and detailed as I wanted it to be. When the editor of the anthology declined my entry, I wasn’t entirely surprised. Instead of throwing out my hard work, I decided to edit it, filling the story out the way I originally wanted to, and then self-publish the book.

Place this excerpt in context. How does it fit into the book as a whole and why did you select it?

This excerpt comes just before my characters set out on a journey of discovery. They care for each other, but secrets create a distance between them. I picked this section because it conveys the tone of my book: a mixture of hope and foreboding. 

Tell us about creating this book: any research and travel you might have done, any other influences on which you drew?

In my office, I have a framed photo of my older brother and me sitting on McAfee Knob after hiking the same route I had my characters take. The magical woods that Fenella and Graham find their answers in is one I’ve walked through myself.

This book takes place in and around Roanoke, Virginia. My mother’s side of the family lives near this city, and I’ve been to visit throughout my life. I lost my grandmother, who lived not too far from Roanoke, around the time I wrote “Remembering a Witch,” so I think that’s why my mind was drawn to the setting. Actually, I named a character after my grandmother in tribute: Virginia.

My heroine’s name also had outside influence. There is a wildly popular romance podcast called Heaving Bosoms, and the hosts have a running joke about how poorly a character named Fenella was treated in a book they reviewed. When I was deciding what to call my heroine, that was the name that came to mind, and it felt right. I like to think that my story, one about a strong woman choosing her own way and setting past wrongs right, would somehow give that original Fenella justice.

What were the biggest challenges you faced, or surprises you encountered in completing this book?

A big challenge was that initial anthology rejection. There was no indication as to why my story was turned away, so I could have easily believed every bit of it was bad. But I loved the characters and the ethereal feel of the story. I didn’t want to let it go, so I didn’t. My biggest surprise was all of the positive feedback I received once I published it. The sentiment that not everyone will love your book, but someone will, was never clearer to me than after I put Fenella and Graham out into the world all on my own.

Walk us through your writing process: Where and when do you write? What time of day? Do you listen to music, need quiet? 

I write every day. Even if it’s only a few hundred words, I can’t go to bed without putting something on a page. Writing is a habit, a daily routine for me, and I never want to break it. On the weekdays, I write in the evening after I get off work and walk my dog. I’ll curl up on my couch with my laptop and a glass of wine and pray for inspiration. On the weekends, I go to one of my favorite coffee shops in Durango (which has plenty to choose from) and write for a few hours. I like the ambient noise of people chattering as my background music. Sometimes my friends join me, but they’ll bring work or hobbies of their own, knowing that I’m not there to sip my mocha and chat. Having that silent support means more than I ever expected.

What’s your next project?

This summer my next novel will be published by City Owl Press. The contemporary romance follows Paige, an out-of-work book editor, and Dash, a reformed car thief, as they bond over a rescue pit bull. Rescue animals, especially pit bulls because they get such a bad rap, often pop up in my stories. As this novel is nearing publication, I’m finishing the draft for the sequel.

— Buy “Remembering a Witch” at BookBar.
— Read an excerpt from “Remembering a Witch.”

Rising Sun