Interview with Rachel Mans McKenny, author of THE BUTTERFLY EFFECT

This week’s interview is with Rachel Mans McKenny, whose book THE BUTTERFLY EFFECT comes out on December 8th and tells the story of an entomology PhD during a year of family and romance-related drama. Read below about Rachel’s road to publication, her bucket list, the best money she’s spent as a writer, and more!



Rachel Mans McKenny is a writer, professor, and humorist from the Midwest. Her work has been recently featured in The New York Times, Electric Literature, The Rumpus, and other outlets. When not writing or teaching, she reads voraciously and belongs to at least four book clubs at any given moment.

Follow Rachel online on Facebook, Twitter, Bookbub, or her Website.



The road to publication is twisty at best–tell us about some of your twists.

Great question. I always think hearing people’s ‘road to publication’ stories are so interesting. This book was originally written in three perspectives, but after early agent feedback, I rewrote the whole thing from the bones up as a single perspective. Though a lot of this book is about her brother and her brother’s fiancee, the rewrite focused in on Greta, the ‘prickly’ sister, her research, and her journey. I am so much happier with this emphasis, and I think seeing a love story develop from an outside perspective is actually really intriguing.

Publishing a book is a bucket list dream for many people—are there any other accomplishments on your bucket list right now?

I would love to jump out of an airplane– with a parachute, of course! This is on a “before I turn 35” bucket list for me, and I hope to make it happen. I’m usually a person who craves control, and something about that complete loss of it is empowering to me. I also want to travel more after the pandemic is over! I’d like to visit every continent, and I only have South America, Australia, and Antarctica left. That one is a long term project, and one that will require some more saving and planning. Short term, since my kids are getting a bit older and easier to take longer trips with, and I’d love to go on a road trip together.

What does literary success look like to you?

Publishing has been such a surreal journey, and there have been moments of joy and terror throughout. Doing radio and podcast interviews has been exciting, but one of the absolute hallmarks of success has been to find out my book would be an audiobook. I get half of my reading done that way (usually I listen to about 70 books a year) and to have an actress read my words aloud is the highest compliment. I also can’t wait to see my book in the wild, and am hoping to get the chance to Zoom with book clubs. I think there are some interesting themes and characters that would be cool to hear reader reactions.

What was the best money you ever spent as a writer?

Three things: first, my copy of BEFORE AND AFTER THE BOOK DEAL by Courtney Maum, which is incredible and helps talk you through the craziest moments of publishing. Second, my old Gameboy color, which is a zillion years old but so much fun to relax on at the end of the day. I’ll upgrade to a switch eventually? Maybe? Third: My LibroFM subscription, which is how I feed my audiobook addiction every month. Hearing books helps me pay attention in a different way, and helps me develop my ear for my own writing voice. Plus, I love that LibroFM pays some of the cost of the membership to my local bookstore. It’s a total win-win.

What’s the strangest job you’ve ever had?

I once worked at a RennFest as a fairy! We dressed in costumes, complete with wings, and took people on a “magical tour,” with lots of storytelling involved. I have such fond memories of that summer– and some funny ones. We had more than a couple of people ask to take “private tours” into the woods alone and I’m sure they definitely weren’t planning anything ilicit from the nervous way they asked. We definitely caught people smoking back in the trees several times, and let’s just say that the substance they were smoking wasn’t legalized at the time. I have a whole draft in the drawer based on that summer. Needless to say, I loved it and can yell “Huzzah!” with the best of them!


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Is there such a thing as an anti-social butterfly? If there were, Greta Oto would know about it–and totally relate. An entomologist, Greta far prefers the company of bugs to humans, and that’s okay, because people don’t seem to like her all that much anyway, with the exception of her twin brother, Danny, though they’ve recently had a falling out. So when she lands a research gig in the rainforest, she leaves it all behind.

But when Greta learns that Danny has suffered an aneurysm and is now hospitalized, she abandons her research and hurries home to the middle of nowhere America to be there for her brother. But there’s only so much she can do, and unfortunately just like insects, humans don’t stay cooped up in their hives either–they buzz about and… socialize. Coming home means confronting all that she left behind, including her lousy soon-to-be sister-in-law, her estranged mother, and her ex-boyfriend Brandon who has conveniently found a new non-lab-exclusive partner with shiny hair, perfect teeth, and can actually remember the names of the people she meets right away. Being that Brandon runs the only butterfly conservatory in town, and her dissertation is now in jeopardy, taking that job, being back home, it’s all creating chaos of Greta’s perfectly catalogued and compartmentalized world. But real life is messy, and Greta will have to ask herself if she has the courage to open up for the people she loves, and for those who want to love her.

The Butterfly Effect is an unconventional tale of self-discovery, navigating relationships, and how sometimes it takes stepping outside of our comfort zone to find what we need the most.


Author: Ehsaneh

Ehsaneh Sadr is an Iranian-American novelist and activist with a PhD in International Relations. She has worked, in various capacities, on campaigns related to Palestinian human rights, Iranian sanctions, access to credit for rural villagers, and safe spaces for children in crisis. She currently works with the Silicon Valley Bicycle Coalition to create the cultural and infrastructure changes needed to support a shift away from carbon-based modes of transportation. Ehsaneh currently lives in Northern California with her husband and two children but also considers Washington DC, Salt Lake City, and Tehran to be home.

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