I'm thrilled to have Jennifer McQuiston join us on the blog! I read her debut, What Happens in Scotland, and really enjoyed it. When I found out she was a scientist (like me!) my author-crush was solidified (in a totally non-creepy way, of course!). Today, she's here to talk about her third book, so let's get to the good stuff!
Moonlight On My Mind
The Story Blurb
To ruin a man’s life once takes a regrettable mistake.
To do so twice takes a woman like Julianne Baxter.
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…
Read an excerpt!
What Happens in Scotland and Summer is for Lovers. The third book in the series, Moonlight on My Mind, will be released March 25, 2014.
A veterinarian and infectious disease researcher by training, Jennifer has always preferred reading romance to scientific textbooks. She grew up in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia, but now lives in Atlanta, Georgia with her husband, two daughters (who got a pony out of mom’s book deal!), and a house full of pets.
Lara: How often to you get lost in a story?
Every. Single. Day.
I try to read amazing fiction every day, even if it’s only snatching a few minutes or so as I’m settling down for the nights. My e-reader is a fixture beside my bed, and if the unthinkable happens (i.e. I forgot to charge the battery), I’ve a handy stack of paperbacks waiting to fill in. I also snatch moments to read in all of life’s 5 minutes slots: doctor’s waiting rooms. Waiting on kids to finish riding lessons. The five minutes it takes to heat up a Lean Cuisine.
Lara: Is writing or story-telling easier for you?
Jennifer: It’s hard for me to consider separating these two things… in my head, they are completely linked. For me, the process of writing IS telling the story. I am a pantser (i.e. write by the seat of my pants without an outline), and rarely have any idea where my characters are taking me, so the story unfolds through the process of writing. I have been fortunate that this process comes easily to me. (And by easily, I mean been lucky enough to find a measure of success, and still enjoy the journey to The End.) I do get stuck sometimes, and that is when my reading saves me. I find great inspiration to write when I am also immersed in an excellent book.
Lara: What’s the first thing you do when you finish writing a book?
Jennifer: The first thing I do is sleep. I work a normal day job, so my usual writing schedule has me waking up at 4am and writing until 6, when my family starts to stir. When a deadline is looming, that alarm clock shifts to 3:30am, then 3am. (Don’t worry! I go to bed early. I do get some sleep, LOL!) When I’m tearing into the home stretch of a book, my characters often wake me up even earlier than that, messing with my head and my dreams, and I am driven to get it all out. So when I finally type The End, I am so exhausted I usually collapse in a puddle and let myself sleep.
Like, till AT LEAST 6am. [Lara: Yikes! As a true night owl, I can't imagine getting up so early to write! My brain just doesn't work right in the morning...]
Lara: What drew you to write historical romance, especially with your scientific background? Were you a history major/minor in college, or have you always been interested in history as a hobby?
Jennifer: My entire life (well, from the earliest time I could remember), I have wanted to be a veterinarian. I love animals and science, and so my entire college education was focused on the sciences, with a goal of getting into Veterinary School (which I did accomplish!) I didn’t have time for any history or writing classes beyond the pre-requisite ones I needed to graduate, and I regret that impatience now. How nice it would have been to relax into classes I know I would have enjoyed! Looking back though, in high school, I was equally strong in Science and English, and I’ve always enjoyed the process of putting words and stories together on paper, even when I’m writing scientific manuscripts. And I’ve always been an avid reader. So maybe writing fiction has always been in me, simmering along and waiting its turn. [Lara: My background is pretty similar. Oh, the benefits of hindsight! :)]
Historical romance was my landing spot when the writing bug hit because it is what I have always read. I LOVE being transported back in time, imagining how things worked back then, how different everyday life must have been without plumbing and antibiotics, but how similar the emotions that come with new love were.
Lara: What’s your favorite fairy tale?
Jennifer: I am going Disney on this one, even though I know those fairy tales aren’t truly authentic, in the literary sense. But as a girl, I NEVER liked the Snow White/Sleeping Beauty fairy tales. I grew up feisty, refusing to wear dresses, rough and tumble with farm life and horses, and I presumed those fairy tales didn’t apply to girls like me.
And then came The Little Mermaid. That was a game changer for me… and not only because I was nearly an adult when it came out. A heroine who didn’t wait for the hero to rescue her, but went after him with claws out, forsaking everything she knew to have a chance at the future she wanted? That was MY kind of heroine. And it’s still my favorite “modern” fairy tale of all time.
But the original Little Mermaid story though, penned by Hans Christian Anderson? Tres depressing.
Lara: How is it working with hot guys and sexy women all day?
Jennifer: Ummm… I had to laugh over this question, because I only get to work with hot guys and sexy women for those crucial 2 hours in the morning, when I’m playing with my characters in my head!
Then I go to the Centers for Disease Control, where I work as a disease detective, specializing in zoonotic diseases (those swapped between animals and people). I love the CDC and the people I work with, but CDC’rs tend to be very intense and driven people, committed to making the world safer and healthier. They don’t tend to worry about hair, makeup, and how hot the guy or girl in the next office is. :) [Lara: Their loss, right? ;)]
Lara: Which of your characters would you most/least like to invite to dinner, and why?
Jennifer: I think I would invite Julianne Baxter, the heroine of my new book MOONLIGHT ON MY MIND. You see, Julianne is fun and vivacious and sharp-tongued, and above all else, she says what is on her mind. Makes for scintillating table conversation, as you can see from this excerpt where Julianne is forced to dine with her distrusting new relatives for the first time.
“Lady Haversham, I find myself curious about the circumstances of your arrival. Has the magistrate yet been informed of your arrival?” Mr. Blythe’s voice brimmed with faint hostility. “Given that you’ve been summoned to provide a statement at your husband’s inquest, I feel sure the man will want to know you have returned.”
Julianne examined her plate as she considered how to respond to Patrick’s cousin. “By all means, you should feel free to share the news with the magistrate,” she finally offered. “Although you should also tell him I will not be providing the statement he seeks. A wife cannot be compelled to testify against her husband.” She could hear the hushed whispers, flowing up and down the table in response to her announcement.
Mr. Blythe, however, appeared to have no use for whispers. “What vile subversion of justice is this?” he demanded. “You were happy enough to accuse the man of murder eleven months ago.” His venomous gaze darted to Patrick. “Has he forced you to it, then?”
“No one has been forced into anything,” Julianne retorted. “But if my decision makes you uncomfortable, you are welcome to leave.”
Aunt Margaret glared at Patrick. “Before he died, your father always welcomed us at Summersby. Are you implying that will now change, Haversham?”
Patrick’s expression remained difficult to read. “Nothing has changed in that regard, Aunt Margaret. You are of course welcome to stay here, as you always have been. My wife, I am sure, speaks only of wanting our guests to be comfortable.”
“I am glad to hear that,” Aunt Margaret said stiffly. “I’d hate to think you’d abandoned your family on account of your wife’s ill manners.”
Julianne gripped her fork, scarcely able to believe that not only had Patrick just openly contradicted her, but that Blythe’s mother, of all people, had accused her of being ill-mannered. And that was when Julianne realized that this was one of those times her mouth was going to quite run ahead of her good sense.
She offered her new aunt a tight smile, three Seasons’ worth of experience coalescing into the oft-practiced gesture. “Perhaps, if my manners are so ill, Aunt Margaret, you might feel more comfortable eating elsewhere. Your own dining room in London, perhaps?”
Aunt Margaret’s mouth opened wide enough to catch a three-tined fork. As it were, Julianne felt as though she were being quite magnanimous to hurl only a well-timed insult instead of the cutlery.
Lara: What one thing about your hero drives his heroine crazy? And what one thing about your heroine drives her hero nuts?
Jennifer: Oh, this is a fun one. In MOONLIGHT ON MY MIND, my hero is a veterinarian by trade, though he’s been unwillingly thrust into the role of the serving as the new Earl of Haversham, thanks to his father’s and older brother’s unfortunate (and mysterious) deaths. Having personal experience with this profession and the dirt that comes with it, it seemed a natural step to make my hero messy. Think: clothes strewn about. Mud on his boots. Sweaty and smelly at times.
Enter Julianne Baxter, my uptight heroine. She’s a fashion goddess with a bit of the OCD in her. Think: clothes always neat and pressed. Things in order. She’d take a bath twice a day if she could.
And then I just threw them together in a fast marriage of inconvenience and let all hell break loose. Here’s an excerpt from MOONLIGHT ON MY MIND, when they first move in together.
What few choice words Patrick might have managed became even more muddled as he considered whether he was even in the correct room.
It was neat as a pin, for one thing. His clothing had been picked up from the floor and was folded neatly on his reading chair. The bed where he had awakened this morning was now made up with military precision. The squared edges of the coverlet sneered at him, proclaiming that any further mischief on its pristine surface would be ruthlessly denied. The various medical supplies that usually stood atop his bureau had been removed, and now small crystal bottles and ivory-inlaid brushes and an entire army of hairpins lay scattered across the top.
“Did you do something to my room?” he asked tersely.
“Our room, I should think. I straightened a few things,” Julianne answered. “And I may have asked the maid to unpack my bag.”
An awful suspicion took root.
Patrick strode over to his wardrobe, the one that held his jackets and riding boots and such, and threw open the doors. A cloud of sachet-scented air puffed out at him, generated, no doubt, by the sea of gowns that now hung there, glittering like jewels in what heretofore had been an incontrovertibly masculine domain. There had to be at least a half dozen or more, in varied rainbow hues, with lace and ribbons sprouting like weeds from every crevice.
“What have you done with my clothes?” he demanded.
“I am sure the maid folded them away in one of the drawers. I shouldn’t think it would matter. It is not as though you ever hang anything up.”
Damn it to hell and back. She had invaded his thoughts and his life, like a miasma on the wind, and now she had taken over his bloody room. He turned from the travesty of his repurposed wardrobe, prepared to argue for a return of his space and his things, only to discover that his wife was now working to reach the buttons on the back of her dress.
Well. She’d certainly become more … comfortable around him. Perhaps there were some benefits to the intrusion he had not considered.
And the prolific nature of her clothing and the loss of his personal space aside, he couldn’t deny she looked so bright and tempting and unexpectedly right undressing in his room, his bones hurt at the sight of her.
Lara’s GOTTA ASK: What is your biggest vice?
Jennifer’s GOTTA ANSWER: It seems like you have excellent intuition, framing this question like you know I probably have several, and you are forcing me to pick the BIGGEST.
I am a bourbon drinker, and I like to put it in my Diet Coke (if you’re wondering, it’s the Diet Coke I consider the vice here, because I am supposed to have given it up. Which I have. Except in bourbon, of course). But this tends to be an occasional thing, once a week for social and rare stress-reducing reasons. Not sure that such reasonable consumption qualifies as a vice.
So if by “vice” you mean that thing I can’t help myself around, that thing I will do even though I know it isn’t good for me, even though I know that overindulgence is almost certainly going to make me sick, why then that would be Krispy Kreme donuts, the ones with the raspberry filling. Those are my crack. If I buy a six-pack box of them, my family gets one each, and I shove three down my throat. [Lara: Sounds completely fair to me!]
Where can you find Jennifer?
Find her on Facebook
Tweet with her
Check out her blog
Her GoodReads page
My upcoming book, MOONLIGHT ON MY MIND, releases March 25th! I am both excited as all get out and sad, because it is the last book in my debut series, and I am already hard at work on a completely different set of characters.
Tell us about your previous releases
They are on sale now! WHAT HAPPENS IN SCOTLAND is a wild romp of a ride (think: the Hangover, set in Victorian Scotland). SUMMER IS FOR LOVERS is a breezy beach read and a poignant unrequited love story, now on sale for $1.99. Get’ it now, though…I hear the price goes back up before the end of March.
Got a question for our readers?
Clearly, given my dueling work personas, my life reads like a “don’t try this at home” warning, but I have to think lots of people *think* their lives are going to go in one direction, and are pleasantly surprised by some professional detours.
What did YOU want to be when you grew up? And what has surprised you about the journey?
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Thanks for stopping by today, Jennifer! And thanks for sharing those fabulous excerpts!