Femme Stalking: Jennifer McQuiston

We’re introducing a new feature on the blog today. We’ve decided to stalk authors whose books we enjoy until they agree to stop by the blog and let us go all fan girl on them.femme stalking_n

Our Diana Quincy kicks us off by femme stalking New York Times bestselling author Jennifer McQuiston.   

It would be easy to hate Jennifer McQuiston.

As aspiring authors, Jennifer and I were finalists together in a number of contests for unpublished writers. Invariably, she would land the top spot and I would place second. Always a bridesmaid.

Then Jennifer scored a major publication deal with Avon and her debut novel, What Happens in Scotland, hit the New York Times bestseller list. See what I mean about how easy it would be to be annoyed? The problem is that Jennifer is just so darn down-to-earth, funny and charming, that you can’t help but be happy for her success. Jen McQu_2088.e1.lr

Funny and charming are two words I would also use to describe her latest book, Summer is for Lovers. There are a number of reasons I enjoyed this book, starting with the unique, lovable heroine who swims, isn’t a traditional beauty, and is a bit of an oddball. The story is set by the shore in Brighton and the unusual setting adds to its charm. If you’re looking for a delightful, lighthearted  romance, Summer is for Lovers is for you.

DQ: Jennifer was kind enough to overlook the whole weirdness about being stalked long enough to stop by and chat with us. Welcome Jennifer!  

JM: Thank you so much for having me on! I confess, I am thrilled to be Femme Stalked. I spend an inordinate amount of time stalking authors I love, and to be stalked in return is a true honor.

DQ: I absolutely adore your heroine. She’s tall, athletic, socially awkward and completely original. How did you come up with the idea of making her an accomplished swimmer?   

summer lovers High Res Cover and FINALJM: I am so pleased you like Caroline! Although it wasn’t my original intent, I suppose I *may* have reached down deep and yanked elements of my own insecurities up to the surface when her personality was taking shape. I was more socially gregarious than Caroline, although like her I was a tomboy who tended to float on the fringe of acceptance. Unlike Caroline, I am not a swimmer: I can manage a few laps, and can save myself from drowning as necessary, but any speed or finesse are beyond my athletic abilities. My critique partner, Romily Bernard, who is far more athletic than me, has accused me of patterning some parts of Caroline after her (think: loyal and brilliant, but socially awkward). I plead the Fifth.

I chose Brighton as the setting for the book before I’d sorted out what sort of person Caroline was going to be, and the idea to have her be a swimmer came as I researched what it was like for women at the beach in that era. Once I realized how impossible it would have been for a woman in the 1840’s to truly enjoy the ocean, it was clear to me that Caroline was going to have to swim in secret!

DQ: What is the strangest thing you learned about Brighton while doing research for the book?

JM: During the process of researching the book, I fell in love with the historical descriptions of Brighton in the 1840’s, with its boardwalk, promenade, and fashionable out-of-town visitors. To be honest, it sounded like a lot more fun than London! Thanks to the arrival of the new rail system, Brighton was shifting from a playground for the rich and famous to becoming more accessible to the middle classes. In Summer is for Lovers, I tried to capitalize on the cultural shift that was happening at the time with events of mixed classes, such as a brass band in a seaside pavilion, and inventing an annual swimming competition that pulled competitors and spectators from all social strata. I also have the town abuzz with a rumor that Queen Victoria might be visiting that summer. In truth, Queen Victoria was enormously unimpressed with Brighton as a result of an earlier visit, finding it crowded and vulgar. Though Brighton held out hope for several years, the Queen chose not to return again, crushing the town’s hopes for the future.

Two interesting natural facts I discovered while researching the book: this part of Britain boasts a shingle beach, rather than the sand beaches I am more familiar with in the United States. Shingle beaches are made of small, round pebbles, which I have to imagine is less comfortable for rolling with your lover in the surf! The chalk cliffs I describe in Summer is for Lovers are a famous natural feature of not only Brighton, but also that entire stretch of coast (think: the white cliffs of Dover). While to date I have only enjoyed pictures, I am determined to visit and see them for myself.

DQ: You have a great scene in a bathing hut, which emphasizes how ridiculous and hilarious these contraptions were. For readers who don’t know, can you fill us in on what a bathing hut was? Bathing Machine

JM: Oh, the horror of those bathing houses! Basically small huts on wheels that were dragged out into the surf, they were intended to allow women to experience the “natural ocean” in safety and modesty (I use both of those terms loosely, believe me). Though men could splash about with abandon in the open waves, for women, bathing houses were the feminine staple of most Regency and Victorian seaside resorts. The idea of “swimming” in and immediately outside a wooden hut while the waves pound against it makes the concept of safety somewhat laughable to me. And who can be modest when you are expected to strip down to a flannel robe while everyone tries to catch a peek through the knotholes? I found the idea of bathing houses so outrageous I knew I had to write about them. In fact, that is the only thing I knew with certainty about the plot when I started out writing Summer is for Lovers: no matter what, my hero and heroine were going to have a kiss in one of those contraptions.

Everything else was completely by the seat of my pants.

DQ: Let’s get a little personal, shall we? Does your background as an infectious disease specialist make reading historicals more difficult, given how unsanitary and disease ridden people and practices could be back then? 

JM: While I admit it is sometimes difficult to balance an authentically dirty history with modern notions of romance, I still find historicals fascinating to read, although I am a loud, proud (and somewhat lonely) proponent of authors discussing things like chamber pots and nit combs more often. In general, I think the challenge of the historical romance author is to try to balance the gritty reality of life without tooth brushes with contemporary expectations for sanitation. When an author writes about a typhus outbreak or provides inglorious details about a character who is languishing from consumption (i.e. tuberculosis), I fully admit it makes me happier than it ought to.

Given my day-job preventing disease outbreaks, it may surprise people to hear me say I think we are an over-sanitized society. I have travelled a lot internationally, and I have seen first-hand that people can be perfectly happy and healthy without a battery-powered ionic toothbrush or antibacterial soap. We are so fortunate to live in the post-antibiotic era, but I think as a result we have lost a bit of common sense along the way. We know more about germ theory than our historical cousins, but do we actively respect it?

Nope. We still eat just as much shite as our ancestors. I humbly point to the latest multi-state Salmonella outbreak as exhibit A.

DQ: As I mentioned earlier, and without any jealousy, your very first book, What Happens in Scotland, hit the New York Times bestseller list. What does one do for an encore after that?

JM: Well, if my experience is the norm, you panic over the fact that you might now be expected to do it again, but you have no idea why or how it happened. How does one replicate a random lightning strike like that? If I were to make an educated guess, What Happens in Scotland was nothing more than a Happy Accident enhanced by a series of fortuitous marketing decisions by my publisher (they put it on sale and advertised it on Bookbub). No one was more stunned than me when I made the list, nearly six months after the book was released. Of course, I immediately teased my husband that he can now say he has slept with a NYT bestselling author…WhatHappens-FINAL

The truth is, like most authors, I don’t have time to contemplate the gob-smacking mystery of those lists … I’ve got more books to write! I just finished copyedits on Moonlight on My Mind, the last book in my debut series. To be released in April 2014, this book features Patrick Channing from What Happens in Scotland as the hero, and Julianne Baxter, a sharp-tongued society beauty from Summer is for Lovers as the heroine. Moonlight on My Mind is a twist on the classic “marriage of convenience” plot: the hero marries the heroine to keep her from testifying against him on a murder charge.

Also, I have just signed on for a new 3-book series with Avon, and the first book, Diary of an Accidental Wallflower, is already spinning circles in my head. It has a “Mean Girls” flavor set in Victorian ballrooms, so you can expect lots of fun backstabbing and fighting over the wrong man.

DQ: Oh, those books sound intriguing! I wish you much luck with both of them. Thanks for stopping by today!  

JM: Thank you so much for having me on Diana! It was a pleasure visiting the Violet Femmes, and I wish everyone much writing joy and Happy Accidents!

summer lovers High Res Cover and FINALAmazon *  B&N * iBookstore * Kobo  

Find Jennifer McQuiston online at http://www.jenmcquiston.com.

Find Diana Quincy online at http://www.dianaquincy.com.

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15 Comments

  1. Mia

     /  November 4, 2013

    Hello Diana and Jennifer,

    Wow, Jennifer’s books sound amazing. Great idea to bring other authors on your site. Diana, this interview rocks. I love seeing what the author was thinking while they went through their research. Which facts intrigued them and how a juicy idea clicked in their head. Absolutely brilliant interview! You both have enticed me to try another author. But I doubt my bookboyfriend for 2013 will change. I adore Sebastian from Diana’s Tempting Bella. Wishing both of you much success in all your book releases and life in general.
    Mia

    Reply
  2. Hi Mia! Thanks for stopping by. I think you will enjoy Summer is for Lovers. Let me know what you think if you do have a chance to read it! Although, I must admit, I am glad you are remaining faithful to Sebastian. I have it on good authority that he appreciates it!

    Reply
  3. Jenna Blue

     /  November 4, 2013

    Jennifer, ALL your books sound fantastic! I love when a regency adds a little twist, or something new–still possible, maybe even factual, but not something written about constantly…come to think of it, I can see now why you and Diana get along–she does the same. Thinking of the manufacturing rebellion, Diana! And it’s why I first fell in love with Eloisa James’s books too. The heroine that was an artist when it wasn’t acceptable, the hero who’d been injured and as a result couldn’t have sex without a debilitating migraine?
    : ) Like Mia, I’ve found a new author to try!
    Thanks, Jennifer, for gamely being our first Stalk! And thank you, Diana, for kicking us off! I know I’m going to love this new feature!

    Reply
  4. Thanks everyone, it is a pleasure to be hear and meet new readers and potential stalkers. And by the way… I hate you right back, Diana! *winks*

    Reply
  5. RoseAnn DeFranco

     /  November 4, 2013

    Jennifer, you books sound amazing. I’m going to have to pick up Summer is for Lovers to check out this bathing hut scene. I can tell just from the flavor of this interview that I will like your writing style and voice.

    DQ – Fabulous kick off to the Femme Stalking! I too am going to love this new feature. I suspect my TBR pile will grow with each stalking.

    Reply
  6. Great interview, ladies! As someone who is thrilled to be one of Jennifer’s critique partners, I can tell you, it’s both easy and difficult as heck to “hate” her 🙂 But all of these books are amazing. And yes, I think the bathing hut scene might be my favorite in Summer is for Lovers!

    Reply
  7. Hi Kimberly – I’m glad to see you empathize with my feelings about Jennifer!

    Reply
  8. Wonderful blog post! I really enjoyed it!

    Reply
  9. Welcome, Jennifer! What a lovely first stalking post by Miss Diana.

    I also admit to being a McQuiston Stalker. I love Jennifer’s website, which is so different and unique to HER. It’s a great lesson on how to show your brand with your site. And her books are clever and witty, much as she is in real life.

    And for anyone who doesn’t know, Jennifer presented the Historical Golden Heart award to me this past summer. She’ll always have a special place in my overwhelmed-and-totally-shocked heart.

    When I grow up, I hope to be Jennifer McQuiston!

    Reply
    • Y’all make me sound WAAAAYYY cooler than I am. Trust me, I question any supposition that I am stalking material, lol! And Joanna, it was an utter pleasure to present you with the incredibly well-deserved Golden Heart! You made my night, too!

      Reply
  10. Welcome, Jennifer! Your explanation of the bathing hut definitely sounds intriguing. I love finding new authors to read and can’t wait to pick up your books. Congratulations on the new series. I look forward to joining my fellow Femmes stalking you!

    Reply
  11. Jaye Marie Rome

     /  November 5, 2013

    Great intro to Femme Stalking, Diana!

    And wow…I have to add more books to my TBR pile. These books sound absolutely amazing! What great twists on a sometimes overdone era…not including our own Joanna and Diana, who also have amazing voices and incredible creativity when writing Regency.

    By the tone of this interview, I’m going to LOVE your writing style, Jennifer. Congratulations on your success. Well-deserved, I’m sure!

    Jaye

    Reply
  12. Hi Jennifer, I can’t tell you how excited I am to read Summer Is For Lovers. What a great heroine–a swimmer, of all things! And, congratulations for hitting the best-sellers list, too!

    Great post – you are such an interesting person! Which is why your characters are so terrific.

    Thanks for being our first Femme Stalking author.

    Cheers, VF – Michele

    Reply

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