In Conversation with Jo McNally

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The third book in Jo McNally’s Rendezvous Falls series, Barefoot on a Starlit Night releases on July 28th. This fake engagement story hit me right in the feels with my personal catnip of a sexy dark-haired professor with a thick Irish brogue. I’ve been a fan of this series since it started. Her generational mix of characters adds to the enjoyment of her stories. Jo took some time to chat with me, I hope you enjoy our conversation.

Tell me about Rendezvous Falls. Is it a real place with a new name? An amalgamation of places? Or just a place your brain thought up?

Rendezvous Falls is a fictional town on a real lake. Looking at a map, I imagine it about halfway down the western shore of Seneca Lake in the Finger Lakes in New York. The town itself is a mix of several upstate New York lakeside towns with their beautiful Victorian homes. I just decided to put all the Victorian houses together in Rendezvous Falls. 

The Purple Shamrock is based on a real pub you visited once, correct? Do you have any funny stories you can share from that trip?

The Purple Shamrock is a combination of a few pubs—some in Ireland and some in the States. My funniest pub story is from my first visit there with my husband (he has family there). It was winter and bitter cold, so we stopped at a pub in the ancient town of Cashel to warm up with some hot port. Himself asked for a privy (bathroom), and the bartender gestured to a side door. When Himself opened the door, he found himself back outside in the cold, looking at a cement trough to…go…in. I almost fell off my barstool laughing!  

I am a huge fan of romance stories that detail the journey of main characters over the age of 35…truth be told, as a new member of the 50 club, I like reading about folks my age falling in love. You manage to write stories that include all age groups. How do you do that and do you find it easier to write a certain age group over the other?

Welcome to the over-50 club! I love writing seasoned characters in their 50s and older. I managed to do that consistently with the Rendezvous Falls series by including three POVs in each book—the main characters and a different member of the senior book club. It was important to me that the book club members are seen in their own right as multi-dimensional characters, not just viewed as “cute old people” through the lens of younger characters. My main romantic characters are usually between 35 and 40-ish. I think that age range allows them to have some life behind them, so I have more depth to work with as a writer.  

 

What’s the biggest myth you’d like to dispel about women (and/or men, and relationships) over the age of 40?

I think people over 40, and especially over 50, are too often viewed as finished. We’re perceived as having achieved what we’re going to achieve, doing what we’re meant to do, and simply waiting to retire and play golf or whatever. In reality, we’re often jumping into new careers (like quitting a corporate job to write romance novels, like I did at 52!). We’re politically active, and we care about our communities. We’re sexually active (surprise!). We’re fully capable of falling in love, or of walking away from relationships that don’t fulfill us. And we’re often doing all of that while caring for elderly parents and/or having our adult children living with us. We have so many stories to tell.

You’ve been writing for a while, has your definition of success changed over the years?

Barefoot on a Starlit Night is my tenth Harlequin. In the beginning, those number milestones were more important, but now I’m focused on producing consistently, finding my readers, and also managing to have a life. Writing my first book took over a year, because it could take that long. Now I’m writing to contracted deadlines, and it took me a while to find a pace that balances my best writing against meeting deadlines without creating too much stress. Hitting that sweet spot is success! 

Has your writing changed since we’ve entered this new and strange Covid time? Do you find it easier or harder to get in the mood? To write, or anything else for that matter?

Honestly, Barefoot on a Starlit Night was probably the hardest book I’ve written. Not because of the story itself, but because I was writing it during a chaotic move from North Carolina home to New York…at holiday time. And I did my revisions at the beginning of the Covid pandemic. I had to force myself to put blinders up in my mind and just focus on the story, which is much easier said than done. In 2020? It feels like physical labor.

It definitely takes me longer to get in the writing groove these days. But once I get rolling, I’m able to get lost in the story. It helps to know that people need happy endings now more than ever, so what I’m creating is important.

When you’re stressed out, what is your comfort food, read, habit?

I take our rescue dog, Tully, for a walk. She’s happy to accommodate, unless it’s too hot. My comfort food is always carbs—usually a big bowl of pasta (my husband makes the best sauce). My de-stress reads during the pandemic have been all over the map–rereads of favorite series, like Christie Ridgway’s Almost series, and reading different genres than what I write, like Alyssa Cole’s The AI Who Loved Me and Nalini Singh’s Guild Hunter books. 

If we were to look in your purse, on your desk, in your bag or car right now, what is the most shocking thing we’d discover?

Ha–it wouldn’t be one specific thing, but the sheer volume of things! I’m a clutterbug. When we travel, I refer to my purse as my “Mary Poppins” bag, because it has everything in it except her hatstand. Wallet, sunglasses, Kindle, band-aids, lipstick, Tylenol, 3 or 4 pens, a notebook, maybe a hat, a bottle of water, a book for my husband to read, chewing gum, mini-umbrella, mints, multiple protein bars, a bag of almonds, swag (just in case) like bookmarks or coasters, maybe an extra pair of socks….well, you get the idea. It’s a lot!   

About the Author:

Jo McNally lives in upstate New York with 100 pounds of dog and 200 pounds of husband – her slice of the bed is very small. When she’s not writing or reading romance novels (or clinging to the edge of the bed…), she can often be found on the back porch sipping wine with friends, listening to an eclectic playlist. If the weather is perfect, she might join her husband on the golf course, where she always feels far more competitive than her actual skill-level would suggest.

Barefoot on a Starlit Night, by Jo McNally, out now!

With a little luck, this fake engagement just might become the real deal…

Bridget McKinnon would do anything for her feisty ailing grandma Maura. She’ll even stay close to home and serve up green beer in the Purple Shamrock instead of pursuing her own culinary dreams. But money’s tight. So when a stranger with a sexy brogue asks about the apartment she’s renting out, Bridget hopes she’s landed a little piece of Irish luck…only to find she’s knee-deep in a crazy plan that’s turning her life upside down.

 

College professor Finn O’Hearn needs this job in Rendezvous Falls—his visa may depend on it. If he can convince his beautiful but tightly wound landlord to be his pretend fiancée, his boss will be happy—as will Bridget’s matchmaking grandma and her meddling book club. Finn and Bridget fool (almost) everyone with their sizzling glances and toe-curling kisses…even as they tell themselves it’s only make-believe.

Playing a part has never been so easy. But when love is real, it’s time to find the courage to start playing by heart…   

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