Friday, December 11, 2020

Rachel Mans McKenny

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.

My Q&A with the author:

What's in a name?

This is the only novel I've ever written where the character's name came first. While reading about butterflies, I came across a beautiful insect called the glasswing with the scientific name Greta oto. "That sounds like a person's name," I thought. And now it is.

How surprised would your teenage reader self be by your new novel?

Teenage me would be surprised that my debut novel centered around science, when that was objectively not 'my thing' in high school. My oldest brother is a particle physicist, and my other brother dissected computers for fun, so I always liked to set myself apart by being the theatrical child.

Do you find it harder to write beginnings or endings? Which do you change more?

Endings! The expectation level is so high by the end of the novel. They end up changing much less, though, once I've figured out how the puzzle pieces fit together. For The Butterfly Effect, my beginning changed six significant and separate times through drafting and final edits, but those changes felt natural and I was glad for the editorial guidance.

Do you see much of yourself in your characters? Do they have any connection to your personality, or are they a world apart?

Greta is very different than I am-- she is brusque, where I am 'Midwest nice.' She is rooted in science; I thrive in the arts. She doesn't want to have children; I am a mom of three little kids. For me, part of the pleasure of writing Greta was inhabiting someone who thought so differently than I did for a while. We both love our brothers, though, and this book is dedicated to the memory of mine.

What non-literary inspirations have influenced your writing?

For this book: Star Trek, for sure. There's a lot of Easter eggs for Trekkies in this novel, but if you're not a fan, you'll still enjoy it. Midwestern culture is also a touchstone for me, as is, of course, the world of entomology. I loved doing interviews with entomologists to help inform this work.
Visit Rachel Mans McKenny's website.

The Page 69 Test: The Butterfly Effect.

--Marshal Zeringue