Jo McNally is on the Steam Seat this week and we’re talking about her book When Sparks Fly, which is part of her Rendezvous Falls series. Jo and I discuss why it’s vital to write older characters finding love, why she enjoys writing the male POV, how Victoria Holt was her gateway to romance, and why writing kids into a story can sometimes take it to another level.
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Jo McNally writes the same kind of romances she likes to read stories about characters facing real life challenges with real life consequences. The stories are emotional, but still have humor. And love always finds a way to pull the characters through together. She lives in upstate New York with 100 pounds a dog and 200 pounds a husband. She says her slice of the bed is very small. When she's not writing or reading romance novels or clinging to the edge of her bed, she can be found on the back porch sipping wine with family and friends while listening to an eclectic playlist. If the weather is absolutely perfect, she might join her husband on the golf course, where she always feels far more competitive than our actual skill level would suggest. Welcome, Joe, I am thrilled to have you on Steam scenes.
Well, thanks so much for the invitation. I'm glad to be here.
This is gonna be awesome. So, so many questions. First of all, we, we have a scene we're going to be reading a steamy scene from when sparks fly rendezvous falls, book five, right, which is, I have an advanced copy, copy. It's coming out August 9, which is probably around the time this is going to release. I always have. I always record very, very early. So this is kind of perfect timing. And I I am like I was telling you in the in the virtual green room. I loved this book. I'm still like as I'm still reading through it, because I got stuck with work stuff. So I had to press pause. But I am enjoying it so much. I'm so glad. Yeah. So you know everybody listening like one click that sucker because it's a good one. Yes, please. So Joe, I'm going to ask you the question. I always ask everybody, when did you know you wanted to be a writer?
Oh, gosh, I like I'm one of those that as a young young child wanted to write books. I think part of it came from my fifth grade teacher. As far as really getting into creating rules. I always loved books, but she would put pictures from magazines. Remember those?
What are those? Yeah. Paper, hilariously, I work for one of those on my day job. Which is wild. Yeah.
And she would take pictures of like advertisements or whatever, but just a scene and tape them to the blackboard and give us like, half an hour to write a story about what was happening. And it was like writing prompts. Exactly. And it was like you learned how to look at a picture and say, Who is that woman? And why are they in a field? And where's the dog? And, you know, even as a kid, you started imagining stories about people. And I think that's really what gave me the seed to want to, it took me a long time to, like actually do it. It stayed a dream for a long time. But that was where the seeds were planted.
That is super interesting. I mean, I'm kind of curious, do you have any idea what her like why she did that? Because it's like, that's actually a very unusual thing to sort of give, you know, kids class time to, I don't know, like stretch their imaginations and be creative.
She was just Mrs. Williamson, who has since passed, but I did run into her in adulthood. And I recognized her right away and told her what a terrific teacher and what, like a lifelong effect. She was just very into creativity. She wanted people to think for themselves and imagine situations and she moved our desks around all the time. So we were never in the same spot or the same configuration. She just really inspired that. Think Differently think outside the box, as they say now. Is that still a thing anymore? I get corporate world for a while.
I think it's still if they will. I do want to ask you about that. So you your career took you down this sort of like corporate like zone, that corporate road and you know, you don't have to be specific, but I'm curious, like where you ended up, but what you ended up doing?
Well, everything that I did through the corporate world, I did a lot of customer service, training, customer service, which surprise I wrote training programs that other people use there was always writing in there. Okay. Yeah, I was the one that people would bring their stuff to and say, Can you proofread this? You know, can you change this? My last corporate job was for a furniture manufacturer but I ended up helping with marketing, as well as managing the customer service department.
Oh, wow. Okay. Hey, so so there was always some sort of writing woven into what you were doing. That's where you were gravitating to begin with, but when did you sit down and be like, I got a book in me, and I'm gonna write?
Well, it's a funny story. I was when I was at this furniture company, I was the international director of customer service. Oh, my God, that's a big title. I know. Isn't that fancy? Yeah. Are you impressed? Yeah. It was very long on my business card. But one of the other managers invited me to come speak to her daughter's Girl Scout class for career night, because she wanted them to see that it's nothing wrong with doctors and nurses and teachers, but she's like, I want them to see they can go into business, and that there's career paths there as well. So I was like, Sure. And they all you know, these girls were all broken up into little groups. And they had their questions that they asked everyone, you know, and plugged in whatever your job title was. And this little girl looked at me and said, when you were a little girl, did you dream of being an international director of customer service? When you? Yeah, like, what am I doing with my life? I need to go write a book.
I mean, don't we all dream about that now?
It was such a lightning bolt moment. Like, I can't even tell you it was? Of course, yeah. inside my head. My answer was, hell no.
Yeah. How do you respond to that? Yeah.
Well, I, I framed it around. You know, I always wanted to help people and in customer service, you help you know, blah, blah,
blah. No, no,
when I went home, and it just kept repeating and repeating and, you know, a couple of times through the years, I'd say, I'm going to write that book. I'm going to write that book. But that was a moment that I knew it was I was in my early 50s. Okay, and I had I just had to, If not now When? And I just decided now and started writing.
Oh my god. So that first story, was it a romance? Yes. Yeah. Okay, so you, you just knew that you were going to write romance? Yeah, I've
been a romance reader for years. And I mean, on and off, I, you know, I kind of went away from even reading for a while on the corporate world, you know how that goes. Like you were just saying with, with trying to finish the book, it gets tougher. But, you know, Romans kind of had its Renaissance, you know, 20 years or so ago, and not a renaissance, but it just kind of had like a rebound. And became more popular, I think, probably when Kindles became available. Yeah. And so I was drawn back into Oh, hey, people are still reading and writing romance, and fell in love with it all over again.
Right? When did you first start reading now? The Roman Romans was
probably in my teens, I had a friend that loaned me a Victoria Holt book. And, you know, that was it, that it was the king of the castle was the first book. And I just loved it. You know, it was, again, a new world a different, you know, I was reading. I read Lord of the Rings The trilogy very young, and loved the magic of world building. But then to get into the actual romance of relationships of the Oh, no, are they going to make it and oh, could they made it? It's like, that arc worked really well, for me.
That's okay. This is what's really, really interesting, because I'm kind of curious, like, for like, for me when I was young, like, I wasn't a big reader. And I know that a lot of like, very few authors have been on this podcast and say, I wasn't a big reader. I read a lot of plays. That was actually my jam. I really liked reading dialogue. And I also read a lot of what my mom called Trash, right?
Oh, yeah. Smart. Yeah, that's what my mother called. When I graduated into, like, Joanna Lindsay, and some of those, as a young adult, that's my mother tag that
I would use to I would sneak into like the Walden books near us and I would like sort of like cram myself like in a little corner and read like Sweet Valley High and all this, like teen young adult, you know, preaching, you know, kind of like, I don't know, romance light books, right. That I wasn't allowed to bring back home, you know, so, I just I like, although, you know, at the same time, like she would have welcomed a Lord of the Rings in the house and I was just like, no
you Yeah, that's an acquired taste.
Yeah, it really is. Although I love like, you know, I love I love fantasy and I love urban fantasy, but I don't know with Lord of the Rings I read The Hobbit, I loved it. I can't do Lord of the Rings. It's very strange. But I just think that that's really interesting that that you know that romance really did capture your imagination. I'm just kind of curious what it was about that about it. In particular,
I think a lot of it was, especially at that time in romance. Well, even now, it's like winning the reformed rake, you know, the man who can't be saved, or the, you know, the hero of the damaged hero, right? Something about that, talk to me, and I have no idea why. But it just like that, you know, that love can turn things around, and kind of going along that moment of wanting the hero to be saved. And now it's a little bit more, let's say more even, you know, with the heroes and heroines, if it's a male female book, I'll say main characters. But having either one of the main characters work through something and find their way through to the other side, right with love. And, you know, it's not a, we say love isn't a magic pill, it doesn't solve problems just because you fall in love. But that inspiration, too reform, because of love.
Yeah, can kind of be like a beacon, right? It should kind of be that guide, right? Just sort of guide you through this process of of change, or whatever that might be so. So to sort of go back to the first book that you wrote. Did you Okay, so what was it? Did you publish it? Is it like, was it the first
first one did not the second one did eventually but the first one was practice. And I loved it, I have, I've taken scenes out of it and plug them into books. So it lives on and parts, okay. It was just this story. They, and I have to watch this, even when I'm drafting is I want people to be in love, like right away. And so I have nothing against, you know, it's like they meet they hate each other. And by the fourth chapter, they're in love. And that was like the first book. And then other things happen to them. And I fortunately, submitted that one to Harlequin, among other places, and, and agents. But the harlequin editor took the time to write back and say, This is great, I loved this scene, this was fabulous. But they get together too soon, and stuff just happens to them as a couple. And so you're not seeing the arc or the romance. So that was a huge help. You know, that was great advice going into the next one.
What do you think you were sort of working through there? I don't know. I don't know what I'm trying to ask here. So forgive the clunkiness of this question. But I'm really kind of fascinated by this you brought you brought them together right away, and then things happen to them. So I'm kind of curious. Where because, you know, we do connect our characters at one point, they do get together and then there usually is something that splits them, right. Like that's kind of seems to be the pattern of the books, right? And then they come back together again at the end. Because you know, love is never easy and smooth. And kind of curious, like what, like, what were you what was sort of what were you sort of plotting out for them? I guess is the question. I'm not even sure that that's,
I think with the first book, that was what I was missing
plotting. I just dove in and because I I really didn't know what I was doing with you. Yeah, I knew what I liked. I knew what I read that I liked, but I threw everything in you know, it was a enemies to lovers. Intrigue, romantic suspense. All the tropes all they were in North Carolina, they were in Boston, they were you know, it's just I'll do this and then this will happen and then this land,
Just everything at once.
Jet you know, globe trotting.
It was a billionaire romance. It was.
Honestly, this actually sounds fabulous.
Well, and like I say, there were great scenes that I took and used because it's like, I love this scene, but just they were all together. They made no sense.
So you get this great feedback which I mean, God bless that was, you know, you don't get that kind of feedback. And it's really hard to, to have somebody give you such meaty feedback that you can use. And you can say, Oh, all right, I can take this and I can, I can do other things. But like, I can take this and I can shape the next book, or I can fix this one or whatever it is. And so then you went off and wrote your second one. So where were you at that point, we're in terms of like, in terms of like what you were thinking about with the writing?
Well, by that point, I was like, This is what I'm going to do. I loved writing that first book and finishing a book and polishing it and sending it out. So I knew this is what I'm going to do. By that point, we were moving, we moved to North Carolina for about 10 years. And we were in the process of moving and it's like, I'm going to write books. This is yeah, this is what I'm going to do. So when I went into it, I was a little bit more thoughtful about the process. You know, I read some books, and webinars and conventions and really started honing my skills. So it's like I, I had this story, but I was a little bit more prepared when I went into it. To write an actual book. Gotta have that plot figured out.
So in the first book, did you write steam? Did you wait till the second book?
No, no, yeah, no, I like steam.
You just went for it. You're like, yeah. Oh. And so how was that was that? How was that to write your first steamy moment?
You know, it's when I'm writing, I'm a very visual person. So I'm visualizing everything that happens. So you know, there's a lot of people that say, you know, I don't like writing love scenes, like I love right? It's, oh, this anymore? Well, to me, it's, it has to be in the right place. It has to move the story forward. But they are when the character is in love seeing especially the first love see, yeah, they're so naked emotionally. Even before they get naked, physically. And they're, they're at their most vulnerable. At least with most characters. It's not like they're virgins, racing, but they're, but in a relationship. You know, you're really completely vulnerable at that point. You know, it's that literal and figurative, nakedness. And I, I like to dive into that, you know, like, what is this character's insecurity? How's it going to feed into the love scene? What's this character's? You know? Well, emotional damage? And what's it? How's that going to affect them? Where are they at in their relationship? You know, do that? Is it an enemies, two lovers, so they're both thinking, this is a mistake. You know, where their heads are at? You know, once I figured that part out, then the love scene part just kind of flows for me, I just kind of get them started. I don't worry too much in the first draft about, you know, Tab A going into slot B, I'm not thinking about it, but I'm not that worried about, you know, how many hands do they have? And is that possible? Okay, I just, I just write it, and then I go back and revise it and make sure they're not, you know, three handed or anything.
I'm, I'm curious in terms of your process, because, you know, I tend to sort of go through the court, the choreography first, and then sort of layer in the emotions and like that sort of, like, you know, conversations and dialogue, inner conversations, whatever. Do you just are you just able to sort of, like splat it out all on the page at once? Or do you go back through and layer
I'll add more in the layering, but I pretty much do the emotion and the physical all at once. You know, then polish and go back and see what they need more of what they need less of, and, you know, build that in.
Right? Okay. All right. Cool. And Did did you feel like it just that was sort of like your natural process? Or is this something that you had to because you have a lot of books out like that? I was on your website? I was like, Holy shit, she's got a lot of books.
My 15th just came out this week, so yeah, oh
my God. Oh, like holy shit prolific. Like how, you know, I'm like, okay, so how long does it take you to write one because that's a lot of books. But this particular way of writing, you know, the intimate moment so was this something that took you time to sort of come to a offered that worked for you, or were you able to do it straightaway this this way, I was
pretty comfortable with writing those moments, regardless of what happened. And then kind of polishing and finishing them up afterwards to fill them out and see what it needs for the story. But yeah, I just kind of dive in and go with it. I make sure my frame of mind is in the right spot. I make sure I've got like a whole day, you know, today is the love scene. Oh, okay. You know, kind of really make sure I'm ready before I go into it. So I'm thinking about it. But once I start writing, it just goes,
Do you tend to find yourself like, I mean, because you're sort of saying, I give myself the day? Does that mean you tend to really slow yourself down in terms of just like, you know, like, I write 2000 words a day, but on logsene day, it might be a little less, you know, is that because you slow down a bit?
Yeah, I think so. I, it kind of depends on the book, you know, some books write themselves easier than others. I mean, honestly, on when sparks fly their love scene, just, like, you know, fingers flew. When I was typing it, just pour it out. But I've been thinking about it up until that point. Okay.
So I'm sort of curious about how you dig into their vulnerabilities because I think that was the one thing that really sort of hit me with reading their their love scene is that there is so there are their vulnerabilities are so stark is kind of the right the wrong word. Because it's such a fun and funny book, right. But but it really it is really like laid bare, you know, I mean, their vulnerabilities are right there. And I don't know if it's because you know, backstory, a little backstory, these two particular people have been friends for
how long? 2030 years? Yeah, since third grade.
Yeah. And they've been like, I mean, kind of best friends late, like she's best friends. With his sister with my sister, right, right, Mike has a twin. So that's the twin.
And the joke was that they were triplets whenever she was with them, because the three of them were inseparable.
Right? Right. So I'm just kind of curious if that gave the if that gave these characters, an additional layer of vulnerability that maybe you wouldn't necessarily have put in to characters that had just met or it was instilled love? Or, you know, because there's a history here, right? Yeah.
Oh, yeah. It. And that's what really made it interesting to write this scene. And when I knew I had to go with humor, you know, which isn't always fair. But you know, with these two, that's their stick, you know, they send jokes to each other, they've kept each other laughing through him losing his wife through her divorce, they've just kind of always been there for each other. In that way of, you know, I'm not going to let you be sad, because I'm going to make you laugh or something. Right. So it added that level, but at the same time, it couldn't all be funny, either. There still had to be the vulnerability of, you know, what are we doing to our friendship? You know, this, you know, it was after their first kiss, which happened right before the love scene. I don't always have those two things so close together. But after that first kiss, she looked at me, she said, everything has changed, or something to that, you know, will never be the same. Right? Right. Because we've been friends and we've just crossed a line, that there's no going back from. And then the Making love was the same way. I was like, they were laughing and joking, but they were still both very aware that this was changing everything in their relationship.
I'm curious, because I haven't made it to that point in the book. What What was the catalyst? Like, why? Why were they like, Fuck it, like, you know what? I mean? Like, what was that Fuckit moment where they were like, we're just gonna we're just gonna go have sex. You know?
He has. He's been thinking about it for he's Yes. attraction to her for a while. So he's been thinking about
buying the book, which is really kind of fun to sort of watch that evolution of come around.
Suddenly, he's like, Oh, she's got a nice ass
and never noticed or asked before but now.
Damn. Yeah, they're both so afraid of screwing up their friendship. But they've had a couple on awkward moments, there was a moment they get together in her workshop. She owns a fix it appliance repair business. And he comes over to the shop. And they got joking one night about something about her boobs, I can't remember no. And all of a sudden, there was a little something different in the atmosphere, and they both picked up on it like, oh, maybe boobs are the one thing we can can't
And they, they pulled back and kind of recovered from that. But that was probably the first catalyst that in Zoe's mind, huh. Something was different. And then they, the night that everything happens, there's a storm. Huge windstorm knocks a tree down over her driveway. So he's stuck there for the night, forest proximity. I love your troops. And they've both had a couple of these little moments where they brushed against each other or something, and they picked up on wanting more. And both of them are like, I can't do that this is my best friend. I can't do them. But now that they're together, and there's no power. What else her daughter was at her father's house. So you know, they were in the house on their own. But they still even after the first kiss, go to their separate rooms, and then start texting each other from their room. So they've had this kiss, but they've decided, okay, that was fine. But we can't do any more than that. You know, we need to think this through. And then she starts texting him in his lecture. Stop, go to sleep. Seriously, just go to sleep. Don't do this. And then during the joking, he says something like, you know, it's like, I'm, I'm glad the doors are closed, and she comes back with what my door is wide open. And that's a moment that like, Okay, this is gonna happen one way or another.
She like threw down that gauntlet. Exactly. Like, here we go, which is really kind of funny, because she was the one. Like I had mentioned that didn't get it. It took her a minute. You know, it really took her a minute to realize that there was something there between them. Right? And then she was kind of like, Oh, but I don't think that she was as eager as he was, you know, right? In the in the same way which because and it makes sense. She had just been through a divorce and treated. Her husband cheated. Okay, I have that. Right. Right. He did she Yeah,
she's got a 13 year old daughter, which, you know, yay, 13 year olds,
they have a great relationship though. I really love a relationship between things. It's actually very, very fun. And, and when I was I always go, I need to write more kids into my books. I have one kid written into one of the books and it was just such a well, no, it was second I have to and I just love writing the kids. And because it brings a different dynamic to the relationships that I exist.
I was just gonna say the same thing. Yeah, there's a third party there, whether you want them to be or not, there's, uh, you know, and so he has promised that this is going to be Hazel's year, you know? Yes, the focus is on Hazel. And everything is going to be you know, they've moved into this big old house that needs all this work and her life's been uprooted because of the divorce. And her focus is supposed to be on her daughter, but she needs a little self care. And her best friend provides it.
And I do think, you know, I this is something that I wanted to talk to you about in particular because you know, you write romance for grown ups like grown ass women. Yep. And, and so no to all of your books focus on you know, season drama. I actually hate that because it sounds like we're so well salted at the
covers such a huge
span. Yeah, because that's right, like season Romans 35 to 80 Yeah.
What, we need a middle, something there because it my characters tend to be 35 to early 40s. That got some life experience, which definitely changes writing the love scenes and so on.
In terms of because they do have a little bit more experience, or, or, like, you know, sex or, or, like the sexual experience or the intimate experience, I guess I'm kind of wondering.
Yeah, I think the intimate experience I think that's where some of the laughs can come in and And you know, they've been through stuff, you know, when, when he has to pull out the box of colored condoms, dresser, you know, and it's just like, okay, yeah, they used to work?
Well, we got some news. Yeah, that'll do.
I think there's maybe less angst about some things because I mean, not it's, I think when you're younger, you may be more self conscious. But as I'm saying that I realized that Vicki, my older character was more self conscious at 70. about making love than Zoe was so good question. You know,
I think that, um, I mean, I think it just, it's so character dependent, right, like, like, some characters are, like, completely happy to like, I mean, some people I know, are completely happy to, like, strip down in the middle of town square, and be like, you know, and then I have other characters and people too, who are just like, you know, prefer to wear the bulky sweater, because that's just where they feel more comfortable. And that sort of exposure is just like, terrifying, right. But yeah, but I think that we all have, I think, I think maybe our vulnerabilities change, maybe that's it.
Yeah, it could be your thinking about different things. And I think as you're older, too, you may be a little bit more. A little more concerned about cellulite. And all those things. It's like, you're, it's not that easy at 40 to get naked in front of somebody for the first time.
Right? No, it was never that easy, though. Oh, you know, like that sort of way. You know, like, what are my boobs doing? You know? And I have that, that sort of, like, you know, I don't know, it's, it's petrifying? Yeah, it is.
Yeah. Well, and that's why I say that's why I always dive into that vulnerability. But I try to look at each characters. You know, each book is different. Right? As far as how they approach it. Yeah, I I wrote a special edition for mountainside Haven, where she's has extreme anxiety, agoraphobic, he's already seen her have a panic attack wants. So they're taking things very slow because of that. So when they're first love saying, yeah, he's been very patient and very good. And you know, they've kissed but he doesn't want to push it. When she finally literally takes him by the hand and takes him upstairs. And he's, all of a sudden, he's the one who has a panic attack, because he's a full pound panic attack. But he kind of stands there, like, Are you sure? What if something happens? What do I do? If you have a panic attack? How are we going to, and she has to reassure him, you know, so that whole, that's a completely different type of love scene, then Mike and Zoey in riot. And when sparks fly, because they were completely the characters were coming at it from totally different places,
right? I'm kind of curious why. I mean, do you do you feel like seasoned has always been there been here and now we've it's like, you know, kind of like new adult became a thing because marketers wanted it to be a thing. And now maybe like, they need seasoned romance? Because I do feel like there have been plenty of romance books that have had older characters, but maybe, maybe I just maybe not as many.
Yeah, I mean, I think they've been they're really, you know, going like way back old school. But you know, you think Danielle Steel and yeah, you know, some of those books. Those were women in their 30s 40s sometimes. But I think a lot of it was marketing, not thinking they would sell. You know, if you don't think something's going to sell you don't market it that way, and you don't buy it. Yeah, I think five years ago, publishers were more reluctant than they are now. Yeah, now we're hearing Hey, send us your characters in their 40s. That wasn't what you were hearing 567 years ago.
What do you think shifted?
I think they noticed. I think that indie publish romances certainly prove that, you know, they can kind of jump on trends that traditional publishing may not be as fast to move on. Right. And when they start seeing that, oh, there is a market for those books. That market that some publishers assumed wasn't there is They're, now they're going to go for it. Well, now that they're going for it, you hear more about it, you're seeing more books, people are talking about it. It's kind of like once a momentum is going one thing leads to another.
No. Did you always write older characters? Or do you have a smattering of 20 Somethings thrown at?
Most, I think one of the youngest I wrote of, like, my own stories, which I'll explain that in a minute, but I've been either, like, early 30s, but most have been 35 ish and older. I did you just do a book for special edition for the fortunes of Texas. And in those books, they, you know, Harlequin kind of comes up with the overarching theme every year for those fortunes of Texas books. So your, you know, your give, given the characters that fit this overarching theme, which is not a complaint because I had a blast with that it was my first time writing 2425 year old characters. So it was, it was kind of fun to go at it from a little differently than I usually do.
Oh, very cool. So So is that what you meant by your stories versus
right. And it's like a gotcha is still my story. But I was given the characters and given the character ages, and then had to build that story around to them. But if I'm choosing, I'm going with a little bit more mature character, just, yeah, I think I just relate more myself. So I think I can get a little deeper into it.
Yeah. What a wild way to work, though. You're giving us sort of like you're given these parameters. And it's like, okay, now go ahead and write this story.
Right. And that was cool. Yeah. And it was more fun than I thought it would be. Yeah. I mean, I was excited to do it, because it's a huge thing. I mean, the fortunes of Texas have been going on for 20 some years. But to be able to just dive in, and but you have these certain beats that have to happen. But other than that, you can just, you know, write this whatever story you need for these characters. And that was a lot of fun. Yeah, it was a fun. Yeah, she was. She was a really fun, female main character for me to write. I had a good time with her.
So you are, you're published by heart. Harlequin, would you ever consider independent? I'm sure. Okay.
Yeah, it's I think there's opportunities out there. I'm one of those people that goes, I'm scared. Yeah, so yeah. But yeah, I would definitely, you know, it's, there's a couple of stories bouncing around in my head that probably wouldn't be a fit, you know, for established publishing. So, you know, that might be something that I would look at.
That's really kind of fun, but you have 15 out with, is it all with Harlequin?
I'm sorry. Do you have 15 books?
Are they all out with Harlequin? Yes. Wow, they're
between special edition, the gallant like series and then rendezvous falls with HQ when I started with super romance, but they're not around anymore.
Wow. That's like that's like the that is some longevity with like one publisher? That's a little unusual, I think.
Yeah. It's once you start working with an editor and really start getting a report. Right, it helps as you're going forward, because you bounce things off each other and, and work back and forth. And I'm, I think, because of my corporate background, I'm very into that. Team. Effort. Yeah. So I like getting the feedback and jumping back in. You know, there's some people it's, you know, you'll see on Facebook groups, they don't let them tell you how to write your book can be valuable. You know, it's like, yes, my book is my precious. You know, I want it to find an audience. And I want it to be the best that it can be. I had the best example on that I ever had my previous agent. We were texting back and forth, and an idea for a story. And I was struggling with something. And I can't even remember what it was now. But it was something like well, why don't you have him be next door and you know, like, they talk over the fence or something like that. And I texted her back as well. Yeah, but that couldn't happen because his house is on the other side of town. And there isn't a sidewalk there and you know, blah, blah, blah. It took for a second. And then she texted back and said, but it could happen because it's fiction, and you're the author. And, you know, that's another one of those lightbulb moments. Just because we create this world in our head That doesn't mean it can't be erased and recreated. Because I'm the author and anything.
I think sometimes we forget that, right? Like, we're just like, oh, no, no, no, that can't happen. Because it's like, well, no, if you wrote it that way it could happen.
Yeah. Yeah. Just a few little adjustments here and there.
Before we get into the steamy sandwich, I want to talk about Mike for a minute, because this is the main character, and I just thought he was so Sunni, like, I really loved him. And he wasn't that sort of overbearing Alpha hole that I think a lot of readers gravitate towards. And I tend, I can read both, but I really kind of like the ones that are a little bit more beta. They're a little bit more
No, yeah, it feels a little like, you know, but yeah. But I just think that there is really something to be said about a guy who is probably so secure In his masculinity that he doesn't need to pop out his chest. Yeah, I said it there. I
Because that's all I think about when I read those sort of like, you know, preening alcohols is like, wow, what's your insecurity? Dude?
You know, and a lot of that goes back to that reformed rake, you know, that I can take this man and soften his edges. And that's a fun book to write and read too. But sometimes I just want to read about a grown up guy.
Yeah, a grown up guy doing grown up adult things, right. Like, what a concept, you know, and I'm not gonna say that he doesn't fuck up. But, you know, like, I think that just, you know, pointedly not being a jerk is kind of
nice. Yeah, I don't think there's a moment in the book where he does anything jerky. It's, you know, he fumbles a couple times on decisions or things but never to the point of like, he's not overbearing in any situation he wants. He sincerely wants the best for everybody. Yeah, he wants the best for Zoey. He wants the best for her daughter. He loves his family. You know, it's a big Irish family. You know, some of them have been in previous random who falls books. He's just kind of that steady guy.
Yeah, I think I think maybe like the closest he came to being a jerk was in the bar when Zoey has that sort of date with the salesperson. And he's late. He's pissed. You know, I can't quite like work out his anger, because he's not supposed to have these feelings. So he's a little bit more bumbling and kind of like, you look at him and you're like, why are you on the rag dude, like, you know, he's just kind of, you know, he's kind of grumpy. More than like, jerk, you know, which is
so out of character for him. Yeah, first time we see him just like, what is that?
And it was so funny. I thought it was so fun.
And she's looking at him like, what is wrong?
Because she doesn't know he has these feel. And she's like, texting him. She's like, bro, what's going on? You know? And he's just like, and he's like, nothing. I'm fine. It's fine. Everything's fine. Great, and meanwhile, she's having this awful date with this guy.
Yeah. That guy isn't a bad guy. You know? It's just
for her. Yeah, yeah. And even he reads it. He's like, yes, it's just the last date. And she's like, yes, it is. Yeah. Yeah, it's me. Yeah. It's the European level where it was just like, such a great like that whole, that bar scene was fantastic. Thank you very much. And so super fun to read. And just like such a great pivot for this character who is being so supportive and ultra cinnamon, rolly and just like a really great friend, to kind of see that pivot where he's, like, grumpy, and he's like, Oh, I don't like this at all.
Because nobody is, you know, sunshine all the time. You know? And I think he's struggles with that. As much as she was surprised. I think he was just a surprise. Like, I am agitated, and I don't know why.
Right, right. Right. Or even more, like, I think he knew. I mean, you wrote the book. So like to me, like, I think no, you wrote the book, you know? But like, to me it was sort of like he kind of knows but he I think he's like more agitated that like he's agitated, right? Yeah.
Yeah, cuz he's Mr. Cool. Yeah. So yeah, I think there is a lot of that, like, why am I I know why, but I don't know why. I I don't know why, but why? I'm normally in control of myself. And all of a sudden I'm not, you know, so maybe that. Yeah, that may have been his first indication that it's more than just, hey, my best friend has a nice ass. Yeah, it was like, oh, you know, wait a minute, I don't want anyone else to be with her. Right? That kind of, you know, that may have been a little bit of one of those tipping points in the relationship of him realizing that.
And I think that's one of the things that I like, loved so much about this book is that there it's like, layer on top of layer on top of layer with a lot to sort of chip away out with these two characters. And, you know, and that is because of their life experience. His wife has passed away it was cancer. Correct. She had cancer. I know she was in an accident accident. Sorry. So Oh, yeah, of course, it was the accident. So like, on top of it, it was like that sudden loss. And, you know, meanwhile, you know, Zoe's marriage is just like falling apart, I guess, probably in a slower way. But, you know, also pretty devastating. Because, you know, he had an affair, and now he's got this new family and, you know, and so and she's kind of on her own. Yeah.
And I think that layering is a good word for it. They're both they're both grownups and and grown up life. There's we're always dealing with multiple things at the same time. You know, are the kids okay? Is that you know, you're worried about so many things at
times. Yeah, I thought it was. I was fantastic. I really love this story.
It makes me so happy.
Alright, we're gonna dig into when Spock sparks fly. Um, so you did a great job sort of setting this up while we were talking. So this is there. The stormy night, forests proximity. They have done the text, they have the kiss. Now they're doing the texting back and forth and Zoey sends this flirtatious my doors wide open text basically inviting him to come into her room. Oh, okay. Total silence. We're in Zoe's point of view right now, by the way. Total silence his doors slowly open, showing him in silhouette against the lantern light behind him. He taken his shirt off and a solid chest had a shadow of dark hair across it. His jeans one buttoned and hung low on his hips. He looked like some hot men calendar model like that. Or a movie star. His hair was a tussled mess. He'd clearly been running his fingers through it the way he did. His eyes were darkened, smoother, smoldering firm fixed firmly on her. She was sure she did not look like a movie star despite her pose against the doorframe and the short night gown. But she did her best lifting her chin and mock confidence, waiting for him to make the next move. Each step might took seem to take an eternity. She wanted his hands on her, but she forced herself to wait. He stopped in front of her and let his gaze move lazily down her body. She felt its path as surely as if you'd touched her. His eyes met hers and his mouth slid into the sexiest smile she'd ever seen on a man. He kept his cheek, her cheek with his hand brushing his thumb against her skin. So we're doing this yes, she caught just enough air in her lungs to let out a soft laugh. If we don't do this, I swear I'll never speak to you again. Well, he can't have that. Can we? His smile faltered. This is one night out of a lifetime of knowing each other one night doesn't get to ruin that. She nodded, showing her lower lip. Were two people agreeing to spend the night together with no expectations of more. We have chemistry, we're going to enjoy that chemistry. And we're going to remain friends with benefits. He winked. And she finally relaxed. This was her friend. And they were about to benefit. Younger people did that all the time. So why shouldn't they kind of love that? Okay, this was so great. I like barked out laughing at that, at the end where it was like we were about to benefit. Yes, we are. I thought she was such a great character to I mean, I'm like, you know, going on and on about how fabulous Mike is. But I think like we've got to give Zoey some credit here. You know, she's a great person. Like she's just working so hard to sort of, you know, rebuild her life. And I think we should also what we didn't mention either is her dad passed away too, right? And so she's living in his house, which is kind of falling apart. And you know, she's got a 13 year old who is, you know, pretty sulky, oh, and hilarious sidenote, I just read something on like, I think it's like NPR or something like that. There was that scientist finally did like this research that says, at 13 years of age children no longer hear their Mother's Voices.
I saw that head Did you see that?
And I was just thinking then that just popped into my head with hazel. And I was like, Oh, it all makes sense. Now, you know. So there is actually like, I guess a scientific thing. This is when the bond that sort of like Mother Child bond breaks at 13. And kids kind of tune out, they like literally turn out, tune out their moms like it's a biological imperative,
right? Like, they're kicking themselves out of the nest, or
I was like, Oh, that makes a lot of sense. So yeah, Zoey is actually kind of dealing with a lot. She's trying to make a go for your repair business. And, uh, you know, and she's, she's kind of holding it together, too.
Right. And she's had, she's always been that a little bit different all her life, you know, so that kind of feeds into a little bit of insecurity, too. She doesn't come across as insecure necessarily, but, you know, she's always been the jeans and flannel shirts helped her dad with his business. You know, she's not to the, you know, a girly girl. Right? Yeah. Well,
you know, and she was a holdout at the, at the start of this, like, he was the one going nice. So, you know, like, he's the one kind of figuring it out before she did.
Yeah, she was kind of going like doodoo. Yeah, I'm
kind of curious. What Why did you hold her back? What, what was the purpose that like, I mean, maybe you didn't even cognitive, you know, you're like, I don't know why I did it. But it's really interesting.
Some of that is just that conflict and remember their first book where they fall in love right away.
Don't let that happen again,
do so, you know, there had to be that one of them had to kind of be the hold out as they were doing this. And I think in that case, she had the most reason. Okay, you know, she she has been going through them. She lost her dad, she went through the, you know, not a not nice divorce, even though she anoraks are okay, now, but, you know, she's gone through this. She had to move it. She's dealing with a 13 year old daughter who doesn't hear her voice anymore. So she's just got like, a lot. And the one the one constant is Mike being her friend. Yeah. And she liked and she's, that's kind of a lifeline for her. So I think she is more nervous about losing that relationship even than Mike is he's afraid of hurting the friendship too. But she's more at the point of I need this and I don't want to risk it. So it takes her a while before she decided to it's worth the risk.
Right. Okay, I'm keep I'm gonna keep going. We're still on that. We're still we're still Zoey here. Yeah. So it gave us off gasp and trembled as he moved against her using his fingers from behind as well as rubbing his still enclosed direction against her stomach. Her head fell back fell back, giving him easy access to trail kisses down her jaw and then her neck. He flicked his tongue against the spot at her throat where her pulse raced. The move made her legs wobble, but he had a firm grip. He moved her to the bat and lowered her she lay there staring up at him with unfocused eyes before She blinked and reached for his jeans. He didn't move as she lowered the zipper pushed down his briefs and freed him. She sat up and ran her fingers up and down his length and he thought he might burst right there. He squeezed his eyes closed and brought himself under control as much as he could. Which wasn't much damnit woman. He pushed her back onto the bed and kicked off his jeans. You're gonna finish me before I even get started. He stopped struck with a horrifying thought. Shit. I don't have any condoms. Do you? I'm sorry. We're in Mike's had not always. She looked panicked for a moment then side and relief. Yes. Vicki gave me a box as a gag gift when the divorce was finalized. Now where did I? Her forehead furrowed. Then she gave him a bright smile. Smile. tall dresser top drawer way in the back. He was already on the move. I love that she saved them. He was already on the move reaching into the drawer which he suddenly realized was full of brightly colored lacy lingerie. Was this what Zoe wore under her flannel shirts? could think he'd never known that before his fingers found the small box your Rika he laughed when he read the package. Multicolored. Really? Zoe left to I told you it was gag gift, but they're still real condoms. Right? He read the box again. Thank Christ. Yes. She was still splayed out on the bed night gown bunched at her waist casually revealing herself. He wiggled his eyebrows at her orange or blue. She squirmed on the bed, whichever is on top in a harissa blue it is to match his balls if you didn't get inside her as soon as possible. He tossed the packet on the bed then followed it crawling over her and sliding her nightgown up as he did Zoey shrugged it over her head and tossed it on the floor. I know it wasn't very sexy, but it's the fanciest one I own. Mike settled over her tracing kisses from our ear down her neck. It was the sexiest damn thing I've ever seen, because it was on you. He kissed her skin again. Then nipped her lightly smiling when she gasped. We need to talk about that underwear drawer later. Have you been hiding a lace undie fetish for me all these years, she ran her fingers up his spine tapping as a playing a keyboard. Just because I wear jeans doesn't mean I don't like feeling. She paused. You know girly underneath. Like I said about the 90. You make anything sexy just by wearing it. Oh, please. She sounded annoyed. And he lifted his head and surprise. We don't need to do that silly banter stuff. This is me remember, we can be honest. Oh. I mean, I have like a lot more of this like bit like, because it was so good. Go, like highlighted. But I wanted to pause here because they're so funny with each other. And they're so comfortable with each other. But there is this sort of layer of discomfort going on like this, just like the hint of it, you know? And I'm kind of curious, at what point did they realize like they were in love. Right? Like, like they like. And I kind of felt like, this is where it happened.
Yeah. And it takes them a while to fully realized. Because they still it's like, they don't want anything to change. And I think as a reader, you can see, oh, everything just changed him. Oh, everything just changed again. Right. But they are a little oblivious to it as they're going on. It's they're so comfortable with each other, but they've always been comfortable with each other. And even when I think as you say a little bit of that vulnerability, comes back into it, they're still very, very focused on being friends. Yeah, preserving that. So it's like, they're always kind of backtracking. Mentally, even when they're not thinking it or when you don't see it on the page. I see them as people just kind of always going three steps forward, two steps back, and to really face up to their feelings,
right. And one of the things that we're sort of talking about is like how well they know each other because they're such good friends and sort of like, you know, riding that relationship, because, I mean, they, they the you are writing a relationship that's been years in the making. Right. But you're also but there's also bits of that themselves that they must have been holding back because they never had intimate moments with each other.
Right. So there is just sort of Yeah, go ahead. I'm sorry. No, that's okay. They're they're still discovering this.
Yeah. Together. Yeah. discovery was exactly what I was about to say.
It's when even when they talk like, she thought she knew everything about his, his marriage. And is they talk she finds out a little bit more about what had you know, like, there was a struggle, an argument over whether they'd have children or not. And you know, that something that she didn't know. So they kind of realized there were a few intimate things they hadn't shared. Yeah, it's like, I know everything about you. But I didn't know that. Right. And they find some of those moments as their relationship gets deeper.
Yeah, yeah. So I think it's kind of I think it's really cool to sort of have these characters that already start from an established place. And this is where I think it would be so easy to do and still love. Right, like, because they know each other, you know, because instinct, you know, usually people are against Hello, they just met and it's like, wow, they didn't just mean they've known each other for 30 years, like, you could almost forgive and, and still have moments, and you don't give them to give that to them, which I think is really kind of cool.
Yeah, it kind of just holds there. You know, it's what I wanted it to be so that the reader sees what's happening, but the characters don't. So the reader it's, you know, I imagine at some point, you know, the reader might be going, Oh, my God, you're in love with a child and get ready, and you just keep pulling back. All that yeah, they just had that little emotional. What if it doesn't work, you know, and step back.
Right, right. I guess how do you have patience with
it? It wasn't easy. I mean, this book was I've wanted to do with friends to lovers, you know, in in an enemies to lovers, you kind of automatically have you know, there's all that snarky banter and right I hate you until, you know, it's you Know the old movie, you know, crabs are for a fervent kiss, and oh. But you kind of know that's coming. Whereas having these to be such best friends I wanted it to, I wanted them to be oblivious, really. And that was kind of the idea that they just, they're so close to each other, they don't even see that things are changing between them. I, one of the things and I mentioned it and acknowledgments is, you know, I, I'm a firm believer in male female friendships that don't have to be and that don't have to become anything other than actual friendships. I'm, I'm a firm believer, men and women can be good friends, best friends, and not have that, which of course, doesn't make a romance novel. So I couldn't have these two, right. They had to fall in love. But I, I wanted it to take that length of time before they both see the changes that are happening, even after they have sex for the first time and the second time and the third. There's they're still just thinking we're friends with benefits, right? added something to the friendship, but it's still just a friendship. And then they realize it's like, I can't live without this person in my life.
Oh, I love that. Okay. Keep going. Mike shifted, staring straight into her eyes to avoid any doubts about his sincerity. This isn't me asking you what your sign is Zoe, I'm not trying to butter you up. You have always been honest. I have always been honest with you. And that doesn't change just because we're naked in your bed. He chuckled. I never thought I'd be saying those words. But seriously, when I tell you you're sexy, I mean it. Your brains are sexy. Your strength is sexy. Even your sassy mouth is sexy. You're in his hand down her side to her hip, watching its progress before looking back into her eyes. And this body. This body is on fire sexy. I want to take my time and cover every single fraction of it with touches and kisses but I also want to be inside you so much. It literally hurts. She relaxed under him. Eyes softening. Maybe this is the trouble with the whole Friends with Benefits concept. Friends talk too much. She kissed her softly so maybe we should both zip at huh? Her smile deepened. Exactly. Let's talk more action. Yes, ma'am. He had all night to slowly explore the wonder of Zoey. But right now he just wanted her urgently. He kept her breasts in his hands and massage them pinching the peaks until she was writhing beneath him. He took one Rosi tip into his mouth, his heart pounding as she groaned up his name and the sexiest damn voice he'd ever heard. He didn't release her but kept caressing and kissing and nipping until she was trembling in his arms. His free hand found his free hand, found that sweet spot between her legs again. And he worked her harder and faster. She arched her back and gave the tiniest of gasps. It was a gasp of surprise of pleasure. She'd just come from nothing more. She'd just come from nothing more than his fingers in his mouth. hottest thing ever. I need to be a new he said hoarsely reaching for the condom. Hurry. She was as desperate as he was reaching to help open the wrapper. Neither of them cared what color the condom was. They just wanted it on. He sank into her closing his eyes tightly to let the pleasure roll over him. But so he wasn't waiting. She moved her hips nearly undoing his control. His eyes snapped open no way Was she taking over maybe later but not now. Now when he was finally where he'd dreamed of being he rocked against her kissing her mouth hard as they melted together. Oh my god. I also want to just throw out the last like line here. The next line it didn't last as long as he wanted but good lord it was so good. I love that you threw that in there it didn't last as long as he wanted it's always like the guy thing like Judo last long and and I love that you like threw that in there and that in that particular moment to just after you know the melded together and then it was like okay, well I didn't last as long as I want
but I think it worked
because Lord it was good you know because that was I you know I just really liked the way that you are able to sort of like capture him and I struggled writing man I really really struggle writing then it is not. So I tend to write single point of point of view so like hats off to people that can do dual because I struggle with it and you So I sent a book to my editor, my last book, I had dual point of view. And she was like, yeah, now this doesn't work. I was like, Yeah, I don't think so. And I was like, remove, remove, remove. Right, right, right. That was a bit of a pain in the last experiment. So I'm kind of in awe of this. And I'm wondering, like, you know, how do you how do you get there, and his head is so different from hers?
I think. I mean, part of it is, I kind of, even as a kid I was, I was gravitated to the guys, you know, when right to add was, you know, I went snowmobiling with dad and change spark plugs. And, you know, I'm, there's a lot of me in
so. Yeah, it was about that. I was thinking that, yeah,
you know, I'm, you know, I even in high school, I would, you know, have lunch with a group of guys, because I wasn't into what the girls were into, you know, I just didn't care about that stuff. And I think even now, I just, men fascinate me. The way they communicate, and the whole, you know, the whole ball busting, you know, where they just like, well, that's how I that's how he knows I like them as because I'd call him an asshole, every other word. But that's how they communicate, you know, the whole Women are from Venus men are from Mars thing is really so accurate. And I like delving into that. A lot of it gets refined and revisions. Because I have to kind of remind myself, when I'm in the male point of view, or the male dialogue, they don't want to make them sound like Neanderthals. But they don't necessarily think is deep, a lot of times, you know, and they're, their thoughts are shorter, they view the world more as a black and white. You know, it's like, you know, you try to tell them a problem. They say, well just do this. Well, it's not that simple. But men have a tendency to overthink things men have a tendency to underthings right. So, you know, as I'm writing, I'm watching length of sentences, you know, types of thoughts. You know, like, even the Yeah, it was it didn't last as long as he wanted, but it was good. Yeah, that's, that's a guy thing. To think, you know, and not necessarily fret about it, you know, because they also kind of have that bravado. And they don't have to be alpha holes to have that, you know, guys are, you know, I'm a manly man. And kind of approaching things from that point of view when I right,
right, right. Gosh, this is that's, that's actually very helpful. That's one day someday I'm Friday, I will write a write the dude's point of view someday.
A lot of it is I say that it's, you know, keeping the sentences shorter, keeping the thought shorter, keeping things a little bit more direct.
Yeah, I know, some, some authors, right. And I like this I'd like this they write their male point of view and a real staccato like, it gets very staccato like super short sentences. And I you know, and and it does I don't think it fits with all it like it wouldn't that wouldn't fit with Mike I think, Mike right. In terms of like him as evolved man, like he he seems to be a bit more of a thinker. Right. Like,
I mean, he's an attorney. You know, he's Yeah, you know, he can logic things out in his head. Yeah.
Right. But he logics, I mean, I think that is the key right? He logics, and I don't want to say women are illogical, but I think that it's like, like, I think I mean, logic and not necessarily a good way.
Yeah, yeah. Cuz he can, he can overthink things, which isn't necessarily you don't necessarily see that and male characters.
Right. Right. Right. But it worked. Like it completely worked for him. And, and, you know, made me fall a little bit in love with him. Like, good. It was definitely like these two characters. You are like rooting from them from the beginning. Like, you just want them to be happy. And, and and like you were talking about, like, you want the reader to see it. We totally do. From like, you know, like, just about immediately, like, you two are perfect together. Why are you together? So happy. Come on. Let's go. Yeah, so so it's like, you know, we're really cheering and like, you know, when they when they when the feelings start to happen. There's this kind of sense when you're reading it up. Yes, yes.
Yeah. Oh no, no, no,
no. Yeah. Which is just so damn fun to read like that as a reader. Like, it's like it's such a great journey to go on with these two. So thank you for that. Yeah. Loved it. In case you couldn't tell. I love Joe, um, Where do you hang out on the internet? Where's the best place to connect with you online? Probably Facebook
is where I'm the most active. I've got my author page, I have readers group, which you can connect to from my author page. It just seems to be more of a conversation and I'm a conversational person. And I'm also on Instagram. I've got Pinterest where you'll see a lot of the inspiration boards for different stories. So if you want to, like, see who they look like, you can go there. Oh, super fun. Yeah. And I've got most of them labeled. I'll have to go in and check. I haven't looked to see sometimes they're just still labeled. It's the working title, but I'll make sure they're up to date.
Yeah, I'm never on top of my Pinterest. I don't think I've looked at it in three years.
I go in streaks, you know, because I get there. And it's like the ultimate rabbit hole. Yeah. And then all of a sudden, three hours later, you're still there.
Yeah, you live looking at pictures.
There's a recipe I'm gonna make.
Let me save that pen. Yeah, yeah, yeah, Pinterest is definitely dangerous. So she's, you can find Joe at Joe McNally romance.com. I will have all of the links in the show notes as well. And I should also add, I just found this out last night, don't I both are going to be at fall in love New England, which is in October, I don't even remember the dates. Now. It's like
20/21 I think right around there. Right around the
Yeah. So later, later side of October, we're both going to be at fall in love New England, which is a wonderful author, conference author reader conference that happens over like a Friday night and a Saturday just outside of Boston. And it's a beautiful time to be in New England and come up and do some tree peeping and hang out with us. And I'm excited because I finally get to meet somebody.
I don't have a problem. Looking forward to it. That'll be great.
Awesome. Good. Somebody to hang out with. Joe, thank you so much for being here. It's been so great to have you.
Well, I appreciate it. And I'm so glad that you know sometimes when you write a book, you're you're hoping that the readers get what you were going for. If you did so. Like you know, I'm doing a little fist pump on this side. I'm like,
Thank you so much. I really appreciate it. It was a fun conversation went fast.
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