MarcyKate Connolly: Every Book Is a Learning Experience

In this post, bestselling author MarcyKate Connolly shares how Shakespeare helped her figure out her most recent novel, why it took longer than she expected to write it, how she steps outside herself, and more!
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MarcyKate Connolly is a New York Times bestselling children's book author and nonprofit marketing professional living in New England with her family and a grumble of pugs. She can be lured out from her writing cave with the promise of caffeine and new books.

MarcyKate Connolly

MarcyKate Connolly

(21 authors share one piece of advice for writers.)

Twin Daggers is her debut young adult novel, and she's also the author of several middle grade novels, including Monstrous and Ravenous, and the Shadow Weaver series. Learn more at

In this post, bestselling author MarcyKate Connolly shares how Shakespeare helped her figure out her most recent novel, why it took longer than she expected to write it, how she steps outside herself, and more!



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Name: MarcyKate Connolly
Literary agent: Suzie Townsend of New Leaf Literary & Media
Book title: Twin Daggers
Publisher: Blink YA/HarperCollins
Release date: August 25, 2020
Genre: Young Adult Fantasy
Previous titles: Monstrous (2015), Ravenous (2016) from HarperCollins; Shadow Weaver (2018), Comet Rising (2019), The Star Shepherd (2019, co-authored with Dan Haring), Hollow Dolls (2020) from Sourcebooks Young Readers

Twin Daggers cover

Elevator pitch for the book: Twin Daggers is a fantasy spin on Romeo + Juliet, if Juliet and her twin sister were magic wielding spies out for revenge in a world of magic versus machines.

What prompted you to write this book?

I've long loved Shakespeare's plays, and I'd had this idea tucked away about a fantasy world of magic users fighting against those with technology. It took me a while to put the two together but one day while I was looking through my folder of ideas, and the inspiration to combine that with a Romeo + Juliet-style romance captured my imagination and quickly became an obsession.

How long did it take to go from idea to publication?

Eight years! I began writing Twin Daggers in 2012, and it's been the project I go back to work on between contracted books ever since. The basic concept, star-crossed lovers in a world of magic set against machines, has remained the same since the very beginning, but it's evolved in many ways since its inception. 

(Writing tips for retelling Shakespeare.)

Initially, it wasn't a direct retelling of Shakespeare's Romeo + Juliet, more inspired by it. But eventually I got some editorial feedback (before it sold) that making it more definitively a retelling might strengthen the narrative, and I realized they were right. 

From there, I went back through the story and revamped the plot and some of the characters to make those connections clearer and made the romance plot line much more prominent.


Were there any surprises or learning moments in the publishing process for this title?

Different editors have different approaches. Which actually should not have been a surprise at all. 

Before Twin Daggers officially sold, I did a revision for the acquiring editor that, among other things, involved moving up the timeline of the romance in the story. However, by the time we sent the revision back, that editor had left the publisher. Fortunately, the new one loved it and acquired it. 

Then when it came time to work on developmental edits, one of the notes was that the love story unfolded a little too quickly and my editor suggesting moving the first kiss back to about where it was originally. But, the edits I'd made before still worked in the progression of the romance subplot, they just had to be turned into "near-misses" instead (I actually like them best that way). 

(The 7 deadly sins of editors according to novelists.)

Generally, developmental edits can take a fair amount of trial and error, so when a book gets a new editor part of the way through the process it can increase that.

Were there any surprises in the writing process for this book?

How long it took to write! 

When I first started this book I never would have expected it to take me so many years to get it to a point where it was ready to go out on submission to editors. But contracted books must come first, so this one had to come last for quite a while. 

Now that Twin Daggers is about to be published, I have other stories in that position (but hopefully they won't take *quite* as long to finish!).

What do you hope readers will get out of your book?

Honestly, the main thing I hope they get out of my book is a fun escape from the real world. Fantasy novels were a lifeline for me when I was growing up. 

They're one of the best ways I know to step outside myself for a bit, especially when the world seems overwhelming. Hopefully my book can give readers a temporary reprieve too.

If you could share one piece of advice with other authors, what would it be?

Keep writing! Even when it’s difficult, and even when you think no one will ever want to publish your stories. The only way to ensure failure is to stop. 

And if that book you're working on right now doesn't get picked up by a publisher, that's OK! Those words and the blood, sweat, and tears you put into it are all worth it because every book is a learning experience and you can take what you gained with you into the next story.

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