Meet USA Today Best-Selling Author Lee Tobin McClain

I’m so delighted to feature best-selling author Lee Tobin McClain as my guest today. Lee was one of my mentors in grad school. She is not only a multi-published successful author but a superb teacher and an inspiring role model for her students– including me!

Below are her responses to my interview questions followed by her bio, a buy link, and contact information.

First off, congratulations! You are celebrating a book birthday this week, the release of HOME TO THE HARBOR. Can you tell us a little about the book and what inspired you to write it?

Thank you! Home to the Harbor features a strong heroine—she’s a single mom and a commercial fisherman. I come from a long line of strong, hardworking women. My paternal grandmother, who was the first woman to work in the factory in her town, was one influence. My maternal grandmother, who taught in a two-room schoolhouse in Kentucky before moving north to work for General Electric, was another. 

What books especially inspired you as a child? Did you always know you wanted to write yourself?

When I was a kid, I always had a book in my hand. Little Women and The Secret Garden were two favorites. But since I didn’t know any writers, I didn’t think I could become one myself. I wrote and submitted my first novel in my 20s.

Can you tell us about your path to publication for your first book?

I hate to say it, but my path to my first book was pretty easy. It was the heyday of category romance, and I submitted my MS to all the houses that were currently publishing them, then when I was rejected from all, I started over! Not a strategy I’d recommend, but it worked for me: my manuscript was purchased on the second try.

Do you consider yourself a plotter, pantser, or something in-between?

I’m a plotter, but it’s not an exact science. I do some preliminary work on characters and plot and then write an outline with a sentence or two summarizing each chapter. When I start writing the actual book, I plan each scene before I draft it. And then once the first draft is done, I revise… a lot!

As a USA Today best-selling author of more than thirty romances, many of your fans may not know that you also earned your PhD in English literature and are a fulltime professor at Seton Hill University. How do you manage to balance your teaching, writing, and family life?

It’s so important to have a schedule and stick to it, and to include your writing time in that schedule. Even if you can only write an hour a day, put it into your planner and commit to it as if it were a meeting with a client or a class you’re teaching. On the home front, lower your standards! It’s important to spend time with your loved ones, but it’s not important to have a spotless house or home-cooked meals. That’s my philosophy, at least!

You were one of the key founders of the MFA program in Writing Popular Fiction at Seton Hill. Creating a new program is a huge investment of time and energy. What motivated you to want to start the program?

I’ve always thought it a shame that universities didn’t value popular fiction as much as they valued highbrow, literary fiction. There were almost no graduate programs that would allow a student to write a romance novel or cozy mystery back when Seton Hill’s program got started, and I just thought that was wrong—a gap that needed to be filled. The reward is when students tell me they’re so grateful to have been able to pursue both a graduate degree and their genre-writing dreams… or when a student achieves publishing success, like you have, Lynn!

You currently traditionally publish your books as well as independently publish some of your titles. What made you decide to pursue both paths to publication?

I prefer being traditionally published because I don’t have to make all the decisions, tend to the details, and assume all the risk myself. My traditionally-published books get much wider distribution, too, at places like Walmart, which gets them into more readers’ hands. But I learned so much publishing my indie books: marketing and advertising and connecting with readers. Best of all was the wonderful indie community, many of whom remain dear friends.


Lee Tobin McClain is the New York Times bestselling author of more than thirty emotional, small-town romances described by readers as enthralling, intense, and heartfelt. A dog lover and proud mom, she often includes kids and animals in her books.

Lee grew up in Ohio and now lives in Western Pennsylvania, where she teaches creative writing in Seton Hill University’s MFA program. When she’s not reading or writing, she enjoys hiking with her goofy goldendoodle, chatting online with her writer friends, and admiring her daughter’s mastery of the latest TikTok dances. Learn more about her books at

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