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Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Today's Special - - Jennifer McQuiston


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. 

Eleven months ago, Julianne’s statement to the authorities wrongly implicated Patrick, the new Earl of Haversham, in his older brother’s death. The chit is as much trouble as her red hair suggests, and just as captivating. Now she has impetuously tracked him to the wilds of Scotland, insisting that he return home to face a murder charge and save his family from ruin. A clandestine wedding may be the only way to save her reputation—and his neck from the hangman’s noose.

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
Photo Credit:  Anita Jones
rather than 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.


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)


46 comments:

  1. PJ, thanks so much for having me on today! I can't wait to hear what qualities readers love to see in a romance hero/heroine!

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  2. Thanks for being here, Jennifer!

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  3. That was s great interview, pj. Moonlight sounds. As funny as What. Stsys.

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    1. Moonlight is wonderful. Hope you give it a try!

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  4. I love when they have the secret side that no one knows of. When everyone thinks the hero is a rake, but that is more for show . I also like the rakes that change when they fall in love. When the heroine seems a shy spinster or feather-brained debutante, but is really an intelligent woman that is self-sufficient.

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    1. I agree, those are amazing character traits!

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  5. Loyalty is certainly one of my necessary qualities. Also a sense of humor.

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    1. Julianne may not be the most sympathetic of heroines, but she does have loyalty in spades! :)

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  6. Hi Jennifer! I've just discovered you, my online library book club was featuring your book and when I read the the first few pages I was hooked. I am more of a Cont Romance reader, but I like your voice, so here I am following you around. I've added you to my list and will be listening to your on audiobook from my library for the first time. Great interview PJ! Thanks for the chance to win, ladies!

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    1. Welcome! Jennifer hooked me with her debut too. I enjoy her voice so much. Hope you enjoy books 2 and 3!

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    2. Hi Lorelei! It is wonderful to meet you!

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  7. Sounds like a great new book! I can't wait to see how they overcome all their differences. I like it when the hero or heroine stands up for what they believe, even though society may shun them. I guess that makes them both loyal and brave.

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    1. Loyal and brave are good traits. I enjoyed this story a lot.

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    2. Hi Mary, thanks for commenting! I would agree! Love characters who go against the fray, no matter the cost, if it is the right thing to do.

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  8. Morning all.. I just read your blog and question and would like to say Congrats on your books. It reminds me of one I read several years ago. I love the feisty heroines in book . They make so much havoc and have such character appeal. Th best stories are the ones that the Hero and Heroine have these energetic, electric, and heated discussions that you just want to say "Hey would you keep it down, I'm trying to read here" that you just can't help but love them.

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    1. Hi Tina, havoc is definitely in Moonlight on My Mind. And it was fun to make! I also love witty banter, even when it gets a bit heated. Not sure what that says about me, except I am not a "conflict avoider". :)

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  9. Congratulations! A heroine with strength of character and whose loyalty is without doubt.

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    1. Hi Traveler! I love these as well... I think in Julianne's case, her trustworthiness is in doubt, and it takes the hero a while to realize her actions were defined (and executed) out of loyalty. Once her loyalty is focused on him, it is unswerving. :)

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  10. “All this she must possess...and to all this she must yet add something more substantial, in the improvement of her mind by extensive reading.” ... and of course I'm stealing that quote ;) Honesty. A true heroine must be honest to herself. As, other have already said, she needs to have a sense of humor. She has to have wit, audacity and spunk. I think one of the reason I'm so attracted to Historical Rom is the fact that even though women live in a men-ruled world, they always manage to find their HEA. Of course, only in fiction, because we all know the unfortunate reality. And if one had to be vain and spoiled to survive, then so be it. As long as one is true to oneself, I don't blame the woman that had to do what had to be done.

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    1. Love this! And your handle, btw. Can Julianne borrow it?

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  11. I've just found you as an author and got the 1st book in the series for my summer trip! It's killing me holding back from reading, just trying to store up for a long drive! Congrats on the 3rd book in the trilogy!

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    1. You don't have to wait! There are two more books that could keep you company on your trip, lol!

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  12. It's nice to read about lesser known authors. Thank you.

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  13. Please don't enter me in today's contest. I just wanted to let Jennifer know how much I've enjoyed this trilogy. It's a wonderful blend of great characters and story, wit and spark. I look forward to reading about Dr. Merial in 2015.

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    1. Hi there, I am so glad you are enjoying it! I am about to embark on a 4 day writing frenzy heading into deadline, so I am about to get VERY friendly with one Dr. Merial.

      And possibly his unutterables.

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  14. I am a new reader to Jennifer's books, introduced to them by Eloisa James, and loving each one. I hope to be able to say hello at RT in New Orleans.

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    1. Hi Sharlene! I am so fortunate that Eloisa has given me a warm shoutout, I think I owe her a few drinks now. I will be looking for you in RT, just found out I am at the Avon Pub Crawl, assigned the 7:30-7:50 slot (Saints & Sinners - 627 Bourbon St, New Orleans, LA)

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  15. I haven't read your books yet, but I did enjoy the excerpt. Do animals play a major role in each of your novels?

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    1. Hi Kim, animals do play a central role in What Happens in Scotland and Moonlight on My Mind, but they just sort of evolved that way without conscious thought. And the excerpt? I totally promise there's more where that came from. :)

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  16. Hi, Jennifer! Congrats on another release! You're a pro now. *g* Can't wait to read this one...especially after watching that book trailer.

    Ah, qualities in a hero and heroine...honesty (I can get past little white lies if they're necessary), loyalty,and fidelity are definite musts. Plus, a sense of humor is always great. ;-)

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    1. *waves to Andrea* What about a really big lie? 'Cause I am afraid that's what you've got in this heroine. She feels terrible about it, of course, and is now out to set things right, no matter the cost to her personally... but yeah. Total whopper.

      I am so glad you like the trailer! I can claim I put this one together all by myself, no help at all from my husband, who suffers from a different directorial vision than I do (mainly trying to find stock video footage of couples groping each other). I like the kiss I found much better.

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  17. WHAT HAPPENS IN SCOTLAND was such a fabulous book; and SUMMER IS FOR LOVERS was also a very enjoyable read (and I loved all the history involved in sea bathing, et al--so cool! And the race! Loved it!) I think you have very larger than life characters but still keep it grounded in history enough to seem possible. (I prefer plausible fantasy in my historical fiction, not just a good funny romp.) I can imagine a heroine who loved to swim even though it wouldn't be The Thing to be doing.

    Qualities. I prefer them to be flawed on the humble side. (I don't relate well to heroines, in particular, who know they are beautiful and use it to string men where they will. Even though that's probably what they've been taught. And if they're smart as well as that kind of vain beautiful, they're dangerous and unlikable to me.) I prefer the beautiful and kind version--so you can really hate to hate her. *LOL* Therefore, I prefer heroines who are booksmart, curious, quietly passionate, and reluctantly daring (and rewarded well for the effort.) So your basic wallflower. Heroes--I like them charming. Especially the kind of charming where they're taken for granted for having to do anything. Witty. Constantly on their toes with the heroine, but amused (good sense of humor) and daring.

    So basically I like my men beautiful, charming, and smart--and the heroines just charming and smart. *LOL* And beautiful to the hero.

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    1. Thank you so much for saying such kind things about WHIS and SIFL! I am so glad you liked the swimming aspects of Summer. I always felt bad it was released in October--it would have been such a perfect July release.

      Oh man. I never thought I would say this... but...ummm....you might want to self-medicate with some bourbon before reading Moonlight. Just trust me on this. Julianne is going to set you on edge! But... if you can suspend some initial dislike, I think she grows on most people. :)

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    2. I'm reading (for the first time) Nora Roberts' Heart of the Sea, which has a heroine who is vain beautiful and smart manipulative. While Nora does a good job of making me see Darcy's side of things, she does set my teeth on edge. Fortunately she's paired with someone as obnoxious as she is, so it's like watching a pair of mules court. So...yes, while not my favorite, I can see on the writing side of this that this puts in instant and sustainable conflict and character growth--and we all read for to watch people grow and overcome.

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  18. I've been hearing such good things about these stories. I want loyalty, empathy and a sense of humor. Although I wouldn't turn down a hunk too lol.

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  19. Congrats to Jennifer on the newest release!!! I just got your first book and I'm sooo excited to get started :) Umm... I like a strong sense of self... there's a fine line between that and arrogance, so I love it when an author hits just the right chord with me.

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    1. I totally agree... I love it when heroes that smack of initial arrogance turn out to be...well... heroes.

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  20. Congrats.. I must admit that a sense of humor, maybe black.. is important... I also think that most of my favorite authors do have a little sadistic side in torturing their heros..

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    1. As an author, I do cringe sometimes with what I put my characters through. If you haven't read What Happens in Scotland, it's basically the Hangover set in Victorian Scotland... and hooboy does the hero get pummeled, physically AND emotionally.

      Luckily, he can handle it.

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  21. Hi Jennifer! As you know, I already have the books, so don't enter me in the drawing! Loved the books & hope to get started on Moonlight shortly. Great interview! I already like Patrick from the first book, and I am interested in seeing how you make me like Julianne!

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  22. I like my heroines to be intelligent, quick-witted, and kind.

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  23. The quality I love in a romance hero is loyalty to the heroine, and patience, with a sense of humor. In a heroine I like to see kindness, loyalty, and gentleness, with a bit of sauciness! I also love it when the hero is protective of the heroine, whether she wants it or not!

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  24. I like my heroes to be kind, loyal, protective, forgiving, and have a sense of humor. I like my heroines to be kind, loyal, forgiving, have a sense of humor, and be feisty.

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