Jacqueline Francis, aka jackiereadsromance, is one of the first friends I made in the romance reading corner of Instagram. I envy her job as a librarian and she’s one of the friends whose feeds I am constantly lurking on; whose stories I am constantly checking to see what romance has her up way past her bedtime.
Jackie was already a badass, but then one day it felt like out of nowhere, she authored and self-published a romance of her own, Returning His Favor. I recently finished it and loved it. I had to chat with Jackie about her writing experience and her romance reading life. Lucky for me, she agreed to answer my fangirl questions. Let’s not waste any more time. Here is the Q&A:
Bree: First and foremost, Congratulations on publishing not only one but now having two books out in the world authored by you! You were one of the first friends I made in the romance community on Instagram. Share with me all the details on you becoming a romance reader. When’d you pick up your first romance novel and do you remember what it was?
Jackie: I have always adored love stories. When I read These Happy Golden Years by Laura Ingalls Wilder (and Laura and Almanzo were on the cover HOLDING HANDS!!), I remember sitting in the corner of the library scandalously reading it. 😉 I was obsessed with the Avon True Romances and also the Christy and Todd series by Robin Jones Gunn. I was consistently shipping Nancy Drew and Ned Nickerson, too. In terms of “adult” romances, my first was when I was 16. My mom gave me a Harlequin for my birthday. It was The Desert Prince’s Proposal by Nicola Marsh. We started getting into reading romances together, actually, around that time. I think it was the first time in her life when she actually had a moment to sit down and even consider reading for pleasure! We read through all of Nora Roberts and then would have book club with each other. My Mom is still a huge romance reader and we are always talking about books. She is a huge historical romance fan. I used to be only interested in contemporary romance, but now there’s just something about historicals that make me swoon.
As time went on, I got more and more into the genre. I set aside reading for fun during college since I read so much for school as an English major! Ebooks made a huge difference for me. They were more affordable, and I didn’t have a lot of room for books in my studio apartment, so when I did read, it was usually on my Kindle. I discovered so many great authors: Tessa Bailey, Maya Banks, Bella Andre. These women (and so many more!) really changed everything for me and I realized how much I love the genre.
Bree: I think as romance readers we find authors we love. We have our favorite tropes. At what point did it become very real for you, that you wanted to write a story of your own?
Jackie: I have always loved to write stories and I realized that, even as a kid, the stories I wrote always had some sort of romance plot. When I was in middle school, I wrote a novel about a teen romance. My “book boyfriend” inspiration was a cute model that I ripped out of a JC Penney catalog! In college, all my friends knew that I wanted to write romance someday. It was just a matter of finding time! For a creative writing class in college, I wrote a short story (that I thought was very Kate Morton-esque) that had a romance in it. I was so nervous to share it with the class, but glad that I did. Anyway, time went on and I got busy with starting my career as a librarian. I spent long nights working my way up in the library world instead of writing. Oops!
Bree: Did the idea of wanting to write your own romance hit you first, or did the story itself come to you, or one of the characters?
Jackie: I was on the way to a librarian conference with a friend and we were talking about different story ideas that I should write. We were driving through Amish land and the idea suddenly hit me: a naughty Amish romance is needed in the world! It’s a big deal in libraries in Wisconsin (and I am sure elsewhere) to stock tons of Amish romances. These are gentle, tame, closed door romances that are between two Amish characters. They are very sweet and very popular with the elderly crowd, amongst others. I think people are really intrigued by the culture, especially since we are near so many Amish communities. It’s a very real fascination! I am finding that it may be location-specific, because I talked to a friend from the Nashville area and she was utterly confused at the obsession with the Amish, LOL.
Anyway, I really thought it would be fun to write an Amish romance but make it dirty, since the Amish romances that are on the market are so tame. Of course, having an actual Amish character who is unmarried and gets naughty would be unlikely, hence why Jakob is a former Amish. I wanted to be sure that I was not offending the culture–I would never forgive myself if I did! I think there is something so captivating about people who have grown up in such a traditional world who are trying to make it in contemporary civilization. What would it be like to date someone like that? I wanted to explore it further!
Bree: It’s very apparent early on in this story, that Jakob King, our hero, is totally smitten with Melissa, our heroine but Melissa has kissed some frogs, dated some creeps and has her guard up for a while. When writing her, what did you want your readers to finish your book and think about her?
Jackie: I wanted Melissa to be an entirely realistic character. I think sometimes in romances, the characters are living in a fantasy world where online dating and creepy dudes don’t exist. I wanted people to be able to completely relate to her and what she went through! One reader told me that she liked Melissa so much that she got the sense that she wanted to be friends with her–that’s exactly what I was going for. I don’t want my characters to be perfect or to be in a fantasy world where real problems don’t exist. I want my readers to be able to say, “that could be me!”
Bree: While reading Returning His Favor, you write Madeline, Melissa’s younger sister, in a way that we keep our focus on Melissa, yet am totally intrigued with Maddie! She is a librarian. She cuddles up on her couch reading romance novels and has this amazing bond with her sister. Then the epilogue comes, letting us know Maddy’s story is coming! Why was it important to you to give Maddie a book of her own?
Jackie: When I started writing Returning His Favor, I had no plans for future books. As I wrote further and became more attached to the characters, I thought it would be so fun to write Maddie’s story! I had such a great time writing the first book that I knew I wanted to do more, and Maddie is such a sweetie and so deserving of love. I really think that, while this story is a romance, it is also a story of sisterhood, and Maddie was such an integral character. She is in many ways similar to Melissa, but also INCREDIBLY different. It was fun to write Maddie’s story and realize how differently the sisters would act in certain situations. How fascinating it is to know fictional characters so well!
Bree: Returning His Love, which is Maddie’s story released at the end of June 2019. What lessons did you learn from writing your first book that helped ease the crafting of the second one?
Jackie: When I sat down to write Returning His Favor, it was a spur-of-the-moment decision. I had time off of work for the holidays, and finally told myself to stop stalling and WRITE THE BOOK. I tried writing other stories first, but Jakob and Melissa wouldn’t leave my mind. I ended up writing the book in four days. It was a marathon. I don’t think I slept or ate! The second book did not come so easily. I realized that I thrive with marathon writing sessions where I dedicate a few days to do nothing else in the world but write. Trying to get the words in before or after work didn’t spark the same joy as getting so immersed into a world. I also learned that it is important to have multiple sets of eyes to proofread. I didn’t write these stories to become famous or make millions of dollars, but because I wanted to prove to myself that I could actually do it!
I am gearing up to write the third book, which is about a character I adore as she appears in both book one and two. This one is going to be a little different. The first book was FULL of steamy scenes and I loved it. The second book had less steamy scenes, mostly due to the timing of their relationship but also because I think couples all express their love differently. Some relationships are more physical than others. I can assure you that my third couple DEFINITELY have touch as a love language. I hope to have the third and final book in the series out by Christmas!
Bree: Lastly, I have to know. What are you currently reading? What was the last book you read that completely blew your mind and can you share one self-care recommendation with us?
Jackie: I am reading One Fine Duke by Lenora Bell. She is one of my new favorite historical romance authors–there’s always intrigue and lady spies and secrets, oh my! It is so good and I can’t put it down. I also stayed up all night reading Strangers She Knows by Christina Dodd (releases in October). I never used to like thrillers, but now I am all about the action and love how my heart races during scary scenes. I also really enjoy Eva Leigh for historical romances, and her new book, My Fake Rake, has a hero WITH GLASSES! I can’t wait! In terms of contemporary, Get a Life, Chloe Brown by Talia Hibbert was very cute and if you are in the mood for a billionaire romance, J.S. Scott has you covered with her huge list of billionaire books. Her newest, Enamored, which releases later this year, is delicious!
Self-care is so important. It may seem that I have all the solitude a gal could want–I am unmarried and have no kids! That said, I find that taking time for a peaceful moment each day is so important. I get up about 45 minutes earlier than I need to just to have a cup of coffee and start my day with reflection and thinking. It has really been a game-changer.
I hope you enjoyed this chat between Jackie and I, and I hope if you’re an aspiring writer at home you found the inspiration you may need to start the process of bringing your romance to life. Until next time, take care of yourselves ya’ll!