When a (Stabby) Hobby Becomes an Obsession…

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[Note from Frolic: Today, we welcome author Jo McNally to the site. She’s talking all about her favorite stabby hobby! Take it away, Jo!]

When you’re a romance author juggling deadlines, as well as an avid romance reader, it’s easy for your life to become a blur of letters, words, and lines of print. Nothing but pages and screens. For hours and hours.

Don’t get me wrong—reading romance is a most excellent hobby. But it’s healthy, especially for authors, to give our brains, eyes, and fingers a change of pace once in a while. Many romance authors knit, crochet, or do some type of needlework. Sadly, although my mom is still an amazing seamstress at 94 years of age, I did not inherit the patience for following patterns or counting stitches. I don’t have that kind of focus. You might say I’m more of an instant gratification hobbyist. 

I discovered needle felting last year. And I’m hooked, so to speak. I suspect it has something to do with the fact that the hobby involves repeatedly stabbing loose wool over and over again with a long, barbed needle. Eventually the wool becomes a solid form. Not by magic, but because the barbs on the needle grab the bits of the loose wool and essentially weaves them together, tighter and tighter, until you have a form so hard it can barely be squeezed between your fingers. That form takes whatever shape you set for it, and then the shapes can be stabbed together to form…anything. It’s like sculpting, but with wool. My current favorite is making sheep, but I’ve also done mice, hedgehogs, pins and holiday ornaments.

Did I mention the stabbing? Trust me, particularly in 2020, that part is highly cathartic. I counted my stabs for this article, and I stab approximately eighty times per minute. And yes, I’m saying “stab” a lot. I may be a bit obsessed with it. It’s fun to do something that is normally frowned upon (stabbing), and actually create something pretty (or at least…cute) by doing so. And it’s easy. You can add or remove wool to change a shape, and it’s just wool—if it doesn’t turn out, start over. 

Another benefit is that it’s something I can do while sitting with my husband in the evenings. Not stabbing him of course (why would you think that?), but making a simple wool form while watching television together. I set a thick pad on my lap and put leather finger cots on for protection, because the needle is extremely sharp. Trust me, I know this from painful experience.

Once I have protection on, it takes a while to get a shape hard enough to…oh, dear. This sounds a bit like a scene from a romance novel, doesn’t it? That’s okay—I often think about my novels as I needle felt. It’s one of those repetitive motions that makes it easy for the mind to wander (as long as you have protection, of course). Sometimes I work on scenes in my head. Sometimes I spend time getting to know my characters. Thinking about who they are. What they like, or don’t like. What hobbies they might have…

For example, I can totally see Bridget McKinnon in my upcoming release from Harlequin, Barefoot on a Starlit Night (Rendezvous Falls Book 3), enjoying needle felting. After all, she’s brandishing a carving knife when she meets Irish professor Finn O’Hearn, so she’s probably better with sharp objects than I am. It’s not that surprising that she’d wave a knife at Finn, since he’d just walked into her kitchen at the Purple Shamrock Pub and startled her. Bridget puts on a tough act, but I don’t doubt that she’d enjoy creating something funny and cute, perhaps as a gift for her ailing grandmother, Maura. 

But probably not so much for the heroine in my September release from Harlequin Special Edition, Changing His Plans (Gallant Lake Stories Book 4). Real estate developer Whitney Foster would definitely be a fan of stabbing things, but I don’t see her making cute crafts. Whitney would want a more active hobby, like hiking or kayaking. Or maybe crawling around old barns collecting antiques with that sexy hardware store owner, Nate Thomas.

If you think you might enjoy an inexpensive and relatively easy hobby, I highly recommend needle felting. It really is a great stress reliever (so much stabbing!), and the critters you create will make you smile.

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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