Honors Student Writes a Novel for Senior Honors Thesis

Connor Lillis Completes His Fantasy Novel and Gains New Confidence in His Writing Career

Connor Lillis wearing a mask in his home.
Connor Lillis has always aspired to be a creative writer, but he thought that his writing would remain a part-time hobby. However, Connor’s Senior Honors Thesis has since helped Connor decide to pursue a career as a novelist after graduation. A senior Honors College student from Green, Ohio, Connor is graduating this spring with a major in English and a minor in creative writing. Before graduating, Connor will also have completed a novel as his honors thesis project.

Currently in the last semester of his thesis project, Connor is making final revisions to his novel. Connor’s novel is in the fantasy genre, but he notes that it has a more “laid back, romantic approach to fantasy.” Rather than focusing on action scenes or other stereotypes of the genre, Connor calls his novel a road-trip fantasy novel, focusing on character development. Connor’s novel is titled A Land of Many, and he is excited to orally defend his manuscript before defense committee members in early April.

Reflecting on the beginning of his thesis, Connor notes, “I’ve always wanted to write a novel, but I didn’t think the university would have a supporting program for that.” Connor first realized that he could write a novel through the thesis program when he met with the late Dr. Kimberly Winebrenner, the former undergraduate advisor for Kent State’s Department of English. He explains, “She told me about a lot of experiences that I didn’t know about[, and she] recommended that I do a thesis.” In addition to Dr. Winebrenner’s guidance, Connor also notes that taking the special-topics course, Fantasy, with Dr. Susan Sainato helped him realize that he wanted to write a fantasy novel. With the advice he received from Dr. Winebrenner and the genre knowledge from Dr. Sainato’s class, Connor decided to enroll in the thesis program. After asking Dr. Sainato to be his thesis advisor, the two “worked together to get a solid idea for the novel,” and Connor began outlining and drafting the novel in his thesis preparation semester.

When asked about his research process for the novel, he says, “I did my research for the thesis by reading a lot of fantasy.” Connor acknowledges that reading works of fiction may not sound like traditional research, but he explains, “It’s the understanding of language . . . If you read into the language of a book, you learn a lot about the effective elements of writing.” In addition to his thesis reading list, Connor also prepared to write his novel by taking all of the creative writing classes he could. One class Connor highlights is Starting a Novel, which helped him learn the mechanics involved with writing an extended piece of fiction.

While Connor’s experiences and connections at Kent State prepared him to successfully complete this thesis project, he also notes the impact that writing a novel has had on him. Connor says, “I’ve always been a big creative writing person, but I didn’t think there were a lot of avenues for that . . . [Now I know] I’m going to keep writing novels for the rest of my career. The thesis showed me that I love [writing novels] and that I am capable of it.” With this accomplishment of writing a novel, Connor feels more certain of his career as a novelist.

When asked what advice he would offer fellow honors students, Connor encourages his peers to “find something they’re really passionate about” and structure their thesis around that passion. He adds, “People are afraid of failing, and I get that, but I’m so happy with what I’ve accomplished.” Connor acknowledges that the prospect of completing a self-directed research project can be intimidating, but he encourages his fellow honors students to look into the thesis program, arguing that a thesis is manageable when one is passionate about it.

Connor is grateful to all the faculty members who supported him throughout his thesis and is excited to keep writing novels after graduation.

For more information on the Senior Honors Thesis/Project, please contact Thesis Coordinator Lori Michael.


PHOTO CAPTION 1: Kent State University sign on front campus.

PHOTO CAPTION 2: Connor Lillis wearing a mask in his home.

Media Contact: Stephanie Moskal, smoskal@kent.edu, 330-672-2312

POSTED: Friday, April 2, 2021 02:22 PM
Updated: Friday, December 9, 2022 02:34 PM
Olivia Wachtel, Honors College Writing Intern