Favorite Fall Reading: Kelly O’Connor McNees

I’m in Bellevue, Washington for the weekend for the Emerald City Writer’s Conference and so I’ve asked the talented Kelly O’Connor McNees to be my featured author this week on my blog.

Kelly is an amazing writer.   As most of you know, I love historical settings, especially in the US.  Having majored in American Studies at UCLA, I fell in love with Kelly’s debut novel, The Lost Summer of Louisa May Alcott, and couldn’t wait to get my hands on her newest, In Need of a Good Wife.  I was so excited about Kelly’s October 2nd release that I begged my Penguin publicist to help me get an advanced copy so I could read it early, and she obliged.   I’m thrilled she did.  Kelly’s stories capture my imagination and sweep me away.

Here’s the back cover blurb from her new novel:

For Clara Bixby, brokering mail-order brides is a golden business opportunity—and a desperately needed chance to start again. If she can help New York women find husbands in a far-off Nebraska town, she can build an independent new life away from her own loss and grief. 

Clara’s ambitions are shared by two other women, who are also willing to take any risk. Quiet immigrant Elsa hopes to escape her life of servitude and at last shape her own destiny. And Rowena, the willful, impoverished heiress, jumps at the chance to marry a humble stranger and repay a heartbreaking debt. All three struggle to find their true place in the world, leaving behind who they were in order to lay claim to the person they want to be. Along the way, each must face unexpected obstacles and dangerous choices, but they also help to forge a nation unlike any that came before.

I loved it!!   So now, without further delay, help me welcome Kelly O’Connor McNees to the JaneBlog!

*Kelly, let’s talk writing.  I’m fascinated by a writer’s process and would love to know more about yours.  Do you consider yourself a pantser (go with the flow writer), or do you prefer to outline and plot extensively before you sit down to write?

I used to be a pantser, but now I am a dedicated outliner. I think a lot about what I want to write before I start, make lots of notes on the characters, and think about where I want each one to end up. The outline is loose–many times I end up deviating from my plan–but it really helps to have an idea of where I want to go when I sit down each day to write.

*Do you have a writing schedule or any writing rituals to help you achieve your daily writing quota?

I used to have a wonderful schedule that worked very well for me: Writing first thing in the morning with a big cup of coffee, staring out the window when I needed to, drifting through my day. And then I had a baby! So now my ritual looks more like a crazy person running back and forth between her desk and the crib, jotting things down while she plays on the floor, doing the dishes in an exhausted stupor and coming up with an idea, lying down in bed at night and drifting off before I can read a page… writing moms know what I’m talking about!

*What’s your take on writing in this genre as far as ebooks are concerned?  Have you taken to reading books on an eReader or do you mostly still prefer print books?

I have a Nook and I really like reading on it, especially when I am traveling. That said, I do love to hold a book in my hands and be able to flip back and forth easily among the pages. I think (hope) there will be a place for both formats going forward!

*Name five items sitting on your desk right now.

A stack of books about 19th century northern Michigan, my dictionary, my computer, a half-empty cup of coffee, and a box of cheez-its. I have a problem.

*What was your first job?

When I was 14 I worked in a bakery/candy store and learned how to make all sorts of delicious baked goods, how to work with chocolate, how to make eclairs. I think I made $3.35 per hour. But knowing how to make good custard is a serious life skill.

*Can you tell us the title of the last book you absolutely loved, loved, loved?

The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey


Thank you, Kelly, for talking to us today and I really appreciate your time as I know how busy you are!

Readers, you can learn more about Kelly at her website – www.kellyoconnormcnees.com and more great news, you have a chance to win Kelly’s brand new novel, In Need of a Good Wife, by commenting below.  Because I love this time of year and want to spoil one of you, along with Kelly’s novel, the winner shall also receive a signed copy of The Good Woman, a really cute apron, yummy Fall baking treats, some kitchen baking utensils, a Starbucks gift card and more, more, more!  For a chance to win, share with me in the comment section your Halloween plans and you’re entered.  Contest runs through Oct 31st and I’ll announce the winner of Thursday, Nov 1st.  Please check back to see if you won as two of my winners from my last contest never claimed their prize and I’d hate for you to win and not get something fun!!

Have a wonderful weekend and I’ll be back soon!



  1. Thank you Jane for the featuring Kelly. The books sound great and she will be another “new to me” author I will read. I think the mail order bride scenario sounds fascinating. One of the people in my paralegal school had an internship at a law office that dealt with mail order brides. I thought it sounded really interesting. Anyway, as for Halloween, we will pass out candy to the neighborhood kids, and I’ll try not to eat too much of it myself. Happy Halloween! I hope you have a great first Halloween in San Clemente.

  2. I’ll be passing out candy if I have any left….. I’ve already purchased my 2nd batch consisting of candy bars that I don’t care for! 🙂

  3. We’ll be at church Halloween night so before Bible study we are going to Chick-fil-a to eat dinner in our costumes. Then the Sat after Halloween we are having a Hallowenn party with friends.

  4. We don’t get many kids stopping, so we don’t hand out treats. At other houses, we used to have tons of kids and it was a lot of fun seeing the costumes! Usually we attend a local movie showing a silent era film with music by an organist.. So much fun!! It was last night, so I guess we’ll just camp out at home and view a movie with popcorn!

  5. We have decorated the house and are waiting to buy candy for the kids until later – otherwise it might all be gone before they get here as I have a major sweet tooth!
    Kelly’s book sounds good. Seattle had the “Mercer GIrls” in its history that inspired the musical “Seven Brides for Seven Brothers” so a book about mail order brides would be a fun read to me!

  6. I’ll probably stay in on Halloween and help my mother unpack from her vacation. Right now we’re preparing for Sandy and hoping for the best.

  7. Thanks for introducing us to Kelly ~ I love author interviews, especially hearing about their writing process. Kelly’s book sounds really good! Happy Halloween ~ I hope you’ll post some pictures of Mr. Mac!

  8. Jane, it is so incredibly generous on your part to introduce us to these fantastic writers. Thank you so much. Kelly’s books sound like great reads. I actually attended Louisa May Alcott elementary school, so LMA has a special place in my heart. Thanks again and Happy Halloween! Hope your boys have a good holiday.

  9. I like the sound of Kelly’s book and I will definitely put it on my list. I will be babysitting during the day on Halloween while my daughter is at school with her two oldest at their Halloween parties. She’s room mother for my granddaughter in the 2nd grade. I will be taking it easy in the evening while they take the kids trick-or-treating. The weather here is hot one day and cold the next so my RA is acting up a little so I take it easy when I can. I will be getting a lot of reading done this week while it’s cold. I hope all the East coasters keep safe from Sandy and maybe it won’t be as bad as they think.

  10. Will dress up for badminton – and leave after finished dishing out at the house (as my husband has to work that night).
    Last year I wore blue cream on my face, a towel over my hair, and a robe over my badminton clothes (etc.) to be what some perceive as a housewife. Another year I wore a towel around my badminton clothes, a shower curtain as a cape, and a styrofoam cup as a shower nozzle stuck to a hanger placed like a halo over my head (which made it really tricky to play – had to play recreationally rather than competitively that night). One year I drove to my mom’s half an hour away, wearing green garbage bags duct taped together to make a Christmas tree, complete with decorations stuck everywhere and dark green socks; my brother was having a party and borrowed my costume to wear to his own party, and he and the others had a hoot, as nobody could figure out who he was when he was wearing “unknown” socks. Another year I wore my yellow sleepers and attached a tissue cotton tail on the butt, forgetting that I had to stop at McDonald’s for supper along the way (oops; got some strange looks there). I’ve been a maid, a witch, a clown, etc. too. But what to do this year? Better give that some thought. Thanks for the reminder!

  11. I love Halloween.
    Since both my kids are grown now It will just be me probably light up my Jack- o- lantern watch some TV or either a DVD and eat candy corn.
    I live so far out in the country we never have trick-or-treaters.

  12. Lovely post and interview. For Halloween I am ready to give out all the candy to the neighborhood kids. I will dress up as a cowgirl.

  13. I can’t wait to check our her books. They sound wonderful.

    I’m actually heading out soon to meet up with friends for a Halloween celebration. We might be getting hit with Hurricane Sandy on Halloween and will be rained in 🙁

  14. Another fun author to look forward to reading! Thanks Jane! I am going to have a Halloween themed dinner with my mom and son here at home.

  15. I enjoyed learning about Kelly’s novel. A wonderful interview. I will be the official candy giver and in an outfit too.

  16. I’m always looking for new authors (I’ve already read all of your books!) and I appreciate that you feature other authors on your blog.
    For Halloween we are going to our friend’s house to hang out with them while they give out candy, since we don’t get many trick-or-treaters here.

  17. How good to meet another Author. I thought the interview was done very creatively Jane! Your questions are perfect! Thank you for the chance to win a copy and it will be on my list of must reads 🙂 Halloween will be spent watching Holiday movies or Charlie Brown’s cartoons.We never have any children to give candy out to anymore..they all grew up.

  18. Was I one of those missing winners from your last giveaway? Is it too late to claim? My Sister’s Birthday and one of my Cousin have birthdays the day you published my name:( We had fun and thank you! A great book!!

  19. I hope you’re having a good time back in Washington. I’m sure everyone was glad to see you back for the weekend. I used to love giving out candy and seeing all the kids in their cute costumes. But, the last few years it seems less and less kids in our neighborhood. So, we just stopped buying the candy because I end up eating all the leftovers. I think the new neighborhood across from us is where they all go now. I know if I were a kid, I would be going to the big expensive homes instead of these tiny older ones.

  20. Jane,

    Hi, This sounds like another book I need to add to my TBR pile! Thanks for always sharing such wonderful books and authors!

    We are not allowed to wear costumes at work this year. I will be hanging at home. We get a ton of tricker or treaters in my neighborhood, and I love seeing all the kids in costumes. We already have a stockpile of candy, because our neighbors sometimes do a haunted house in their garage, we get extra kids. Since we never know how many we will get we always have to be prepared with lots of candy. The leftovers have to go to work though!

  21. Aside from trick or treating with the children, we went to a Halloween party tonight and that is the extent of our plans. The husband and I went as Hall and Oates and we were a huge hit! Everyone loved my mustache (because Oates had one rockin’ mustache!). Hoping the storm doesn’t make its way up to NH and spoil trick or treating for the kids. Last year it snowed!

  22. Hopefully we will have electricity after the hurricane so the kids can come out to get candy that I will be giving out.

  23. oooooooo it sounds like I am going to like her books!! I just finished The Sweetness Of Forgetting and LOVED it so I am all in when you recommend an author! 😉

  24. Hi Jan, I too love love this time of year! It makes me miss Washington and the season change.
    This Halloween I will spend with my Mom after work. She LOVES Halloween and decorates everything and enjoys seeing all the kids dressed up. It makes me feel like a kid again. She makes her traditional dinner of “flying saucers”‘ , which are so yummy. Just spending the evening with her is worth the long drive.

  25. Thank you Kelly for your time, I enjoyed learning more about you.

    The last several years I’ve handed out more candy than kids in subdivision, teenagers with young kids getting candy right along with child. This year I am going to treat me and probably go out to Logan’s.

  26. All the kids are grown ups, so they think, and so I will be at home passing out candy. At least this way I can enjoy the pleasure the kids get when you give them a fun size candy and tell them how good their costumes are. I don’t have to cook either, my husband has promised me a jack o lantern pizza. : )

  27. Will be staying in with the boys: hoping the cold weather predicted doesn’t keep all the monsters and goblins away. We will watch “The great pumpkin ” on Dvd as we always do :eat our pizza :and make sure our jacko ‘lantern doesn’t get taken…lol
    Thanks for recommending a “new to me ” author.

  28. Hi Jane,
    I hope you enjoyed your stay back in the Pacific NW. I don’t have ant big Halloween plans. I teach 5th grade and we will have some snacks and play games at the end of the day. Then I will just hand out candy. Last year I only had about 4 trick or treaters come. We shall see what this year brings.

  29. Congrats to Kelly on her novels. Every year for Halloween I stay home and pass out candy. Some years I hardly have any kids, and other years bunches of them. So, I never know how much candy I should buy. I love seeing the costumes, especially on the really young ones. Happy Halloween to you and your family Jane.

  30. our plan ? it’s my DH working’s day, so no plan to got out so far. only stay at home. and play with the kids 🙂

    crossing my fingers and toes for this week goodies. Yum 😀

  31. Another fun interview and great sounding read. Living in the mountains of the Shenandoah Valley, we don’t get any visitors for Halloween so it’s very quiet at my house. With the storms hitting the East Coast, I’m just hoping that everyone has power and such so the children won’t be dissappointed on their very sweet and spooky day.

  32. I’m going out with my daughter and grandchildren..then coming home to watch horror movies with my younger daughter. We love Halloween.

  33. Hi Jane,
    Happy Halloween! I am planning to stay home and pass out candy to the ghouls and goblins who venture to our street. I hope we have lots of kids as I need to get rid of the candy temptation! Thanks for the new author to read too!

    Have a fun Halloween!
    Michelle in Denver

  34. I am waiting until the very last minute on the 31st to buy any more candy. My crew has gone through 2 bags of Snickers, 2 bags of mini Hersey bars and 1 bag of mini Kit-Kats. so much for trying to be ready early.

  35. Ready and stocked up with candy for the trick or treaters. We usually get around 200. Fun! My dogs have costumes so that is always fun too. I was a cat on Saturday for a party so I think Wednesday I will be a witch. A witch with purple hair! HAPPY HALLOWEEN!!

  36. Jane,
    Thank you for having Kelly on your blog. She is a new to me writer and I think I will have to go and get her book.
    Right now in NJ, we are under Hurricane Sandy watch. We are getting high winds and rain and the storm hasn’t even made landfall yet. Hoping we don’t lose power as the trees are bending like crazy.

  37. Its going to be cold and rainy here but I will be giving out candy. I have to get it bagged up today because they are having trick or treat Tuesday night because of church on Wed. I love giving out candy and usually set outside but not sure I will be able to because of it being so cold.

  38. Hola Jane! Hope you are doing well. This Halloween we will be going to a friends house. I am baking cupcakes tonight so that I can frost tomorrow and have ready for Wednesday. Hope you and all your readers have a safe Halloween!

  39. I LOVE this contest…baking and books…my favorite! 🙂 Halloween night we are taking the kids trick or treating and then enjoying somescary movies after we put the kids to bed.

  40. Halloween…awww my favorite holiday..I will be handing out candy and watching all my favorite scary movies..which is hilarious because I’m such a big baby..maybe I’ll stick to twilight and sexy vampires *winks*

  41. We’ll be freezing our butts off out trick-or-treating with the little men this year. We already have a huge dump of snow and it’s forecasted to be only a high of minus 15 Celsius on the 31st…brrr. The kids will have to be so bundled up that no one will see their costumes! They are still vibrating with excitement with only 1 day to go!

  42. Good morning, Jane. I will be spending Halloween handing out candy to the millions of kids that live in my neighborhood. I love seeing all the costumes and how creative some are. I’m just hoping that I don’t eat all of the candy before tomorrow 🙂

  43. Sadly, we have no Halloween plans. All of the kids in our neighborhood are grown now, so we don’t get any trick-or-treaters.

  44. Kelly’s book sounds great. I love the cover. We don’t have any Halloween plans. We usually watch creepy movies.

  45. Halloween is supposed to be pretty wet this year. We were lucky that hurricane Sandy did not do too much damage in Ontario, but the effects are going to linger for a few more days. My girls can’t miss trick or treating with Daddy. Nobody does trick or treating as well as him. Will try to contain the sugar consumption as well. This year we still have not bought the treats to hand out. Having them in the house before the day is very dangerous!
    Happy Halloween to everybody!

  46. Pumpkin cookies baked for us and candies ready! I just plan on staying home and giving out candies! Love the costumes and kids. Happy Halloween!

  47. I’m planning to stay indoors, hand out candies and watch scary movies. I like seeing all the creative costumes wandering around on Halloween.

  48. for halloween we will be handing out candy to the trick or treaters at home and I’ll probably be handing out treats for a while at work.

    Hubby is still putting up and stocking our tarp shed that was destroyed in a bad wind a couple of weeks ago.

    Have fun Mac on Halloween night.

  49. Kelly’s book sounds fantastic! The title has now been added to my “to buy” list. Thank you Jane for the intro to a new author for myself. Halloween will be relaxing this year in front of tv watching old scary movies, stuffing face with popcorn, and if I’m lucky and can remember where I hid that bag of candy, I shall have a bit of sweets.

  50. Here in Brooklyn and it’s not going to be much of a Halloween for me. Made it thru Hurrican Sandy, but it is a mess here. Can’t complain because I’m safe…but there is so much work to be done. Thankful for all of the police, firefighters, and hospital staff for keeping everyone safe! Looking forward to returning home to OR this December. I will take the pouring down rain over this any day!! Happy Halloween everyone!

  51. Good morning everyone! And Happy Nov 1st!

    I have come to announce the winner(s) for the contest….I have 1 prize winner, and 3 bonus prize winners. Everyone MUST get me their names and addresses by November 7th or I’m drawing new winners because I can’t handle boxes piling up in my office. 🙂

    But now, on to the winners!

    The winner of Kelly’s book and goodies:

    #58 Becky

    The bonus prize winners are:

    #4 Cate S

    #43 Lesli

    #59 JN in NY

    Congrats to the four of you and please send me your address pronto so you can receive something fun in the mail!!

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