I'm happy to welcome Jennifer McQuiston back to The Romance Dish! I first met Jennifer at the 2011 RWA National Conference in New York City when Nicki Salcedo invited me to join a group of Georgia writers for dinner at the Carnegie Deli. Over dinner, as we chatted, it was clear to see that this was a woman brimming with wit, charm and intelligence - qualities that are on full display in the historical romances she writes. Jennifer's third book, MOONLIGHT ON MY MIND was released on March 25th and tells the story of Patrick and Julianne, intriguing characters readers first met in earlier books in McQuiston's "Second Sons" trilogy.
Jennifer recently answered some questions regarding her new book...and more. Please join me in giving her a warm welcome!
Thank you for visiting with us today, Jennifer. Congratulations on the release of your newest book, MOONLIGHT ON MY MIND. I’ve been looking forward to Patrick’s book since first “meeting” him in your debut, WHAT HAPPENS IN SCOTLAND. Please tell our readers what they can expect from MOONLIGHT ON MY MIND.
PJ, thank you so much for having me on. I always love visiting with The Romance Dish and engaging with such an active community of readers!
MOONLIGHT ON MY MIND is the third and final book in my debut “Second Sons” series. It is a mix of several different types of stories: there is a marriage of convenience lurking at the forefront, an enemies-to-lovers storyline, and a murder mystery to solve.
Julianne has no objection to the match. More and more she’s convinced of Patrick’s innocence, though when it comes to igniting her passions, the man is all too guilty. And if they can only clear his name, a marriage made in haste could bring about the most extraordinary pleasure…
But perhaps the best way to get a sense of the book is by watching the book trailer.
I was intrigued by Julianne while reading SUMMER IS FOR LOVERS. I thought she had potential but was still on the fence so I was happy when I heard she was slated to be Patrick’s heroine. Did you have her in mind for Patrick from the beginning or, like me, did she grow on you during Caroline and David’s story?
That is such a good question…no, I didn’t specifically have her in mind for Patrick at the beginning of book #2, but she grew on me quite rapidly, and quickly developed into a character I found intriguing. I love the challenge of taking someone who isn’t outwardly likeable and finding that one thing that makes them heroic as a story unfolds. I have to believe there is a hero lurking in all of us, and I think that is true for the characters we write as well. In SUMMER IS FOR LOVERS, the hero, David, is portrayed as a bit of a borderline villain in the first book, so it’s a challenge I embrace regularly. J In Julianne’s case, she can be vain and spoiled, but at her core, she is defined by loyalty. She is more complex than she seems at first blush, and that gives you a lot of material to work with as an author.
Patrick, the hero of MOONLIGHT ON MY MIND is a veterinarian, as are you. What challenges did writing a character with whom you share a profession present? Was it easy or did it put more pressure on you to make sure you didn’t miss any details?
I think the veterinary profession during the Victorian era was quite different than modern veterinary medicine. Historically, veterinarians worked more on horses and cattle than dogs. They would have used some of the same methods as doctors of the time period, including application of leeches and resorting to amputations
risking gangrene. Near the beginning of the book, I show Patrick amputating the
limb of a dog who’s been struck by a coach. The time period for MOONLIGHT ON MY
MIND is in the pre-anesthetic era, so the table-top surgery scene I crafted had
to happen very quickly without the crutch of ether. I recall initially writing
that scene using a crude form of anesthesia, and then cursing when I realized
it didn’t exist yet and had to rewrite it all.
|Photo Credit: Anita Jones|
But I did draw on SOME of my personal experiences in the writing process. Two of the dogs in the book are modelled after my own pets. J Gemmy, Patrick’s 3-legged terrier, is modelled after my family’s yellow mixed breed dog named Koda. And Skip, the Border Collie in the surgery scene, is physically modelled after our family’s dog Emma.
What do you want readers to understand about your main characters, Julianne and Patrick? What did you like best about them? What challenges did they give you as their creator?
One of the challenges (and most lovely parts!) of being an author is that we can do terrible, horrible, unconscionable things to our characters and then rub our hands in glee at the chaos that ensues. I confess, I’ve done a bit of that to Julianne and Patrick. Or rather, I’ve made them do it to each other. Julianne has—for better or worse—accused Patrick of murdering his brother. She’s the only witness to the purported crime, but now she is beginning to doubt what she saw that day, and is trying to make amends. But how do you apologize for ruining a man’s life? Saying “I’m sorry” isn’t going to come anywhere close.
And Patrick—for better or worse—marries Julianne for a pretty terrible reason. He doesn’t trust her. He doesn’t even like her. On the surface, he pretends to be heroic and save her tarnished reputation (after all, she’s come to Scotland without a chaperone. Oh, the scandal!) But in reality, he marries her to destroy her potential as a witness, because a wife can’t be compelled to testify against her husband.
Of course, he doesn’t tell her that.
These two levels of betrayal are pretty hard to overcome. Worse, their personalities really come out in the aftermath of their hasty wedding, and it was dreadful fun to write. He’s a total slob, dripping in manure most of the time (a hazard of being a veterinarian, as I can personally attest). She’s fastidious and fashionable and shudders at the thought of a little dirt.
It’s a marriage bound for failure.
And that’s even before I throw a killer in their midst.
Here’s a bit of their wedding night scene to give you a flavor of the conflict these two face:
Patrick set the lamp he had carried from the kitchen on the top of his bureau, then shrugged out of his coat. He tossed it over a chair littered with open books and periodicals, causing a small army of paper to slide onto the floor in an ungracious heap—not that a few more made much difference on his hazard-strewn floor. The brewing altercation made the blood in his veins contract. “I asked you to wait in the hallway for your safety, Julianne.”
“You didn’t ask me to wait.” She smiled, and he was struck again by the sense that despite the graciousness of the gesture, she was merely baring her teeth. “You ordered me to. And I confess some surprise to hear you care about my safety,” she continued, “given that you derided Gemmy for greeting me with any measure of affection.”
Christ. Is that was this was about? There was no denying she was a bloody, beautiful mess when she was angry. Indeed, she appeared nigh on luminous in her nightclothes, her unbound curls twitching about her shoulders. But there was nothing of affection in his reaction to such a sight. Did she expect platitudes and whispers of love?
Because if she did, she had sorely overestimated his esteem.
“I like you well enough, Julianne,” he replied, his voice a cautious drawl. And he did. Or rather, he liked her as a solution to his problem. He supposed he should soften his tone, but the woman brought something out in him. It seemed they were always sliding on the razor’s edge of a row, her words as sharp and cutting as any knife.
She stared down at his unmade sheets, and her brow pinched in thought. “When was the last time your bed linens were changed?”
“Are you offering to wash them for me?” He began to work the buttons of his shirt. “Because you might want to wait until after we’ve soiled them properly.”
Her eyes met his in an ominous flash of green heat. “I’ve seen stables with cleaner floors than yours. For heaven’s sake, you’re likely to give Gemmy fleas. You need a housekeeper.”
“I’ve a wife now.” He shrugged out of his shirt and tossed it away, perversely enjoying the way her eyes widened to follow the article’s deliberate, ceremonious path to the floor. “I’ve been told they are nearly one in the same.”
Now that you have three books under your publishing belt, how has the experience of writing and releasing a book changed, both personally and professionally?
It is such an evolution, when I think back on it. I naively thought being an author was just a whole lot of writing when I started on this journey, but the amount of work it takes is far more complicated than that. You have to be a business woman first, strategic and social, and that is an aspect of the profession no one teaches you! It is a trial-by-fire sort of learning process, and it leaves you bruised and exhausted.
Writing is a more agonizing process for me now that I write under deadline and know that I have people waiting for me to do a good job. Before I sold, I breezed through books because I didn’t know any better. Now I find myself more consciously agonizing over words. Sometimes I think back to how much I enjoyed blundering my way through a story and want to go back there.
But no one would want to read it. J
And personally? I am now heading into two solid years of lost sleep, getting up at 4am to write. But I still wouldn’t go back, because when I hear from readers they’ve loved a story, I can’t help but want to do it again.
Where can readers connect with you online?
I love hearing from readers! I am on Facebook (www.facebook.com/jennifermcquistonauthor) and Twitter (@jenmcqwrites). I also have a website (www.jenmcquiston.com), and regularly send out a newsletter with sneak peeks and contest information (https://www.facebook.com/jennifermcquistonauthor/app_208195102528120).
What’s next? Will we be visiting the characters from your first three books again or is it time to bid them farewell and move on to something new?
I am incredibly fortunate that I have signed a contract with Avon for another 3-book series, and I believe the first book, DIARY OF AN ACCIDENTAL WALLFLOWER, will be out in early 2015. Briefly, London’s reigning “It” girl sprains her ankle on the evening of the biggest ball of the year and is relegated to the wallflower line—only to discover that there is more to life than dukes and dancing. It is a brand new series, but the hero of the first book is Dr. Daniel Merial, who made a brief appearance in MOONLIGHT ON MY MIND.
I am also toying with the idea of writing a novella to revisit two characters whom readers have vociferously demanded have their own stories… William MacKenzie (the hero’s brother in WHAT HAPPENS IN SCOTLAND) and Penelope Tolberton (the stammering sister in SUMMER IS FOR LOVERS) seem like they might make a good match… but that will depend on my time and sanity!
Where will readers be able to meet you this year? Will you be attending any conferences or book signings?
I will be at the RT Book Lovers Convention in New Orleans, attending May 15-17, 2014. I won't be at the literacy signing, but will be at all the Avon sponsored events, and would love to see you there!
I will be attending the Romance Writers of America conference in San Antonio, July 23-26th, 2014. There is a large book signing open to the public, and it is always a fun time!
And on August 27, 2014, I will participate in my very first Lady Jane's Salon in Raleigh-Durham NC.
Thank you, Jennifer! Would you like to ask our readers a question today?
Question: MOONLIGHT ON MY MIND features a heroine who many see as spoiled and vain, but who is fiercely defined by loyalty. What qualities do you find most admirable in a romance hero or heroine?
One person leaving a comment on today's blog will receive a signed print copy of either WHAT HAPPENS IN SCOTLAND or SUMMER IS FOR LOVERS (winner's choice). (U.S. addresses only)