Monday, July 13, 2015

The Jacks of Her Heart by Virginia McCullough: Interview & Excerpt


Welcome!  Thanks for visiting today! We’re excited to find out more about your work.  Tell us about your current release.

I’m thrilled about the book I just launched, The Jacks of Her Heart, a lighter side romance featuring Lorna and Jack, an unlikely pair who were wooed by moonlight and dancing and got married on a tropical cruise. But, now they’re back home and surely ending their impulsive marriage is the best solution. Lorna’s two kids and Jack’s daughter sure think so. But the kids’ meddling backfires, prompting Jack and Lorna to rethink their plan.
It was great fun to create Jack, an intuitive laidback kind of guy, who owns Both Sides Now, a ‘60s and ‘70s nostalgia café, and a dedicated dog rescuer, and then pair him with a woman who loves order and organization so much she created a business as a professional organizer/lifestyle coach called Your Sweet Life.  Lorna and Jack soon find themselves entangled in each other’s families, and the more I wrote about their journey, the more “heart” they revealed, even in the midst of what looks like hopeless conflict.

Tell us about your next release.

I became fond of Lorna’s friend June, so I knew I’d be writing a Capehart Bay series. In The Icing on Her Cake, June’s too predictable life starts to change when she dons a 1970s-era red evening gown at a vintage clothing tent taking place at Capehart Bay’s nostalgia music festival. Out of the blue, a good looking stranger surprises her with a tap her on the shoulder and asks her to dance. Then, before June has a chance to even learn his name, he says goodbye to the “lady in red,” and disappears into the crowd. But the experience makes June agree with Lorna’s long-standing advice—she needs some fun in her life. Maybe that will come in the form of celebrity pastry chef, Camp (Campbell) Swift. After his famous TV show is cancelled, through every fault of his own, Camp has moved to Capehart Bay to be closer to his daughter, Nina, who also happens to be one of June’s daughter’s best friends. No telling what will happen when June and Camp can’t avoid each other.

As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?

I was a lucky girl, in that I grew up in Chicago with access to all kinds of opportunities. That meant my dream of being a ballet dancer could be matched with a Russian-trained, very strict dance teacher, who turned out professional dancers. At one point, I took the train from my city neighborhood to the downtown studio several times a week in order to take five dance classes a week. Wow—it was all about discipline and practice. And I loved it. For various reasons, I decided not to become a professional dancer, but the discipline and focus I learned carried over to writing and was enormously beneficial. When I see young kids practicing their scales on the piano or devoting themselves to excelling in a sport, I think of the wonderful training they’re getting. My childhood ambition has served me well!  

At what point in your life did you realize you wanted to be a writer?

I know many writers start scribbling stories as little kids, but I didn’t start until my mid-twenties, when I was still home raising my two kids. After my family moved to Spruce Head Island, Maine, I listened to an inner voice nudging me in the direction of writing and publishing magazine articles, and everything else, including a long career as a ghostwriter and coauthor of nonfiction books, evolved from that. It’s a good thing writing worked out for me because I’m not trained to do anything else!

What would you consider to be the best book you have ever read?

I have to time travel all the way back to my trips to the library with my family when I was a little girl. At some point, the librarian, Esther Barlow—Miss Barlow, to me—showed me a row of books by a woman with three names: Laura Ingalls Wilder. A love affair began. I always trace that delicious feeling of losing myself in a book back to Little House in the Big Woods. Of course, I read the series many times, and even named my daughter Laura. The icing on that cake was taking my young daughter to story hour at the same library, and seeing Miss Barlow still inspiring young readers.

If you were to write a series of novels, what would it be about?

I have some series underway and they’re set in my favorite locales, Wisconsin and coastal Georgia and South Carolina. But, I also want to write a series that revolves around lighthouses—I never pass up a chance to visit a lighthouse and I have pictures of them up in my office. Maybe I’m drawn to them because I lived aboard a sailboat for many years, and lighthouses were nothing if not critical to our safety. Now, I have no idea what characters will show up to tell me their lighthouse story, but I’m confident they’ll come and talk to me eventually.

What was your first sale as an author?

I sold my first article to an old “doctor’s office” magazine called Baby Talk. It was called “Motherhood in Two Ways,” and was about the two stories I told my kids about their births. My daughter, my biological child, was born in January, and my son, born in late May, is adopted, so I had the contrast of the seasons, but the same joy in the two events. That 800 word piece sold on it thirteenth trip out. Yep, it had been rejected a dozen times before finding a home. I learned a thing or two about rejection—and revision—along the way to that first sale.

Do you have any suggestions for beginning writers? If so, what are they?

A few years ago, I was teaching a writing workshop and someone asked this very question, and the answer popped right out of my mouth: Discipline really is all it’s cracked up to be. That’s become one of my favorite sayings!
I believe in the “showing up” theory of writing. If we wait for inspiration we might wait a long time. I like the freedom and independence that a writing business allows, but I have to show up to work every day whether I feel like it or not. It’s the best advice I could give any new writer.

Who are your 10 favorite authors?

Only 10, huh? Well, if I must…all ten occupy special places on my bookshelves, and I not only enjoy their books, I admire their careers.

Nancy Thayer…her novels have kept me company for decades! Her current Nantucket beach novels are not to be missed.

Barbara O’Neal, aka Barbara Samuel…wonderful stories of women who have to fight for the happiness they deserve, and O’Neal shows deeply wounded women becoming whole again.

Erin Hilderbrand…another women’s fiction author who, like Nancy Thayer, “owns” Nantucket, and understands the risky business of family.

Barbara Delinsky…I started reading her a long time ago and it seems that she’s inspired many stories in me because she dealt with the family drama/love stories I like to read and write.

Rumer Godden…she wrote so many novels, but she’s one of my favorite authors because of her memoirs, A Time to Dance, No Time to Weep and A House with Four Rooms. I reread them often, because I like reading about the “writer’s life.”
Luanne Rice…I discovered her a long time ago, and she has a way of bringing variety and heart to family drama/love stories, with all the associated gains and losses.

 Mary Alice Monroe…she writes about wonderfully complex characters located on the South Carolina coast, one of my favorite places and a location I used myself in my fourth book, Amber Light.

Cassandra King…her lively novels feature complex southern women—and somehow, always add just the right amount of humor.

Vera Brittain…decades ago, her World War I memoir, Testament of Youth, a story of great love and loss, was a game-changer book for me and solidified my interest in that era and that war (and others) from the perspective of a woman.

Susan Howatch…she’s a master at long sagas, featuring many generations. I still reread, Penmarric and Cashelmara from time to time.


The Jacks of Her Heart
by Virginia McCullough


“A pure delight! I fell in love with Jack instantly—and the storybook town of Capehart Bay.”
—Lily Silver, Author of The Rock Star Next Door

Lorna Lindstrom and Jack Young just got married in the tropics—and their grownup kids don’t like it one bit...

Mere acquaintances in their hometown of Capehart Bay, Wisconsin, Jack and Lorna turn up on the same Caribbean cruise. They soon fall victim to moonlight, champagne, and dancing—and that leads to an impulsive wedding. But now they’re back home, feeling like a couple of fools. Both agree a quick divorce is their best way out of this embarrassing predicament. Lorna’s two kids and Jack’s daughter are all for that, but their meddling prompts the stubborn newlyweds to rethink their plan.

A professional organizer, Lorna is a little too proud of her spotless home. She fell in love with Jack’s generous heart, but must he rescue every abandoned dog in town? The owner of a popular ‘60s nostalgia café, Jack feels right at home in Lorna’s bedroom, but he might as well be a stranger everywhere else in her perfect house. Suspicions that Lorna’s up-and-coming professor son-in-law is a womanizer soon pushes Jack into a different kind of rescue mission. Meanwhile, Lorna steps up and organizes her elderly father-in-law’s move and offers her support to Jack’s daughter in a crisis with baby Joanie. Too bad those classic “irreconcilable differences” appear to doom the pair, even as their kids are beginning to warm to the marriage.

Maybe sharing a couple of romantic dances on the night Jack launches his Blue Sky Nostalgia Music Festival can bring this “opposites attract duo” together again. Will Jack and Lorna decide they can find a way to make peace with their dueling quirks and have some fun with their second-chance romance?


Lorna inched to the edge of her bed, but before sliding out, she glanced over her shoulder to watch the even rise and fall of Jack’s back under the sheet. If she rolled toward him she could reach out and rest her palm against his bare shoulder and soak up the warmth of his skin. No. The man’s warmth—on all levels—got her into this trouble in the first place. That and moonlight, and okay, since she’d started a list, she might as well add the long nights of delicious slow dancing.

Once out of bed, Lorna tiptoed to her reading chair in the corner, retrieving her bra and panties from the floor along the way. Then she pulled the throw off the back of the chair and wrapped it around herself like a towel. Only dim light seeped through the closed blinds, but she felt around the floor and came up with the silk shirt and slacks she’d worn on the flight home the night before. With her clothes draped over her arm, she stepped around the open suitcase blocking the way to her bedroom door. She reached for the doorknob, ready to escape, but took a last look at the scene she was about to leave behind.   

A trail of jeans, a sport jacket, and a dark blue shirt led straight to the mound in the bed named Jack Young, age fifty-two, noteworthy only because, by coincidence, she and Jack were mere months apart in age.   

Loathing messes as she did, it took all Lorna’s strength not to grab the two half-empty glasses and the champagne bottle that sat as accusers on her nightstand. She slipped into the hallway and shut the door behind her. Home free—more or less. Leaning against the wall, she closed her eyes and exhaled a long breath to quiet her jittery stomach. It worked for a second or two. Next step, get to June’s house as fast as her legs would carry her there.

Lorna brushed her teeth and dressed quickly in her guest bathroom before grabbing her winter jacket off the hook in the kitchen. She escaped through her back door and jogged down the slope of her yard that led to the footpath bordering the lake, the fastest route to June’s house.

She maneuvered around the muddy patches and pools of water left behind from last night’s rain. The dampness left the April morning air fragrant with the promise of spring. Lacking a breeze to disturb it, the lake perfectly mirrored the trees and houses lining the water’s edge. In the stillness, the sounds of a barking dog and children’s voices carried across the water from the opposite shore. A mere day ago, she’d been more than a thousand miles away, tilting her face toward the sun and sighing from happiness as sultry tropical air caressed her skin. She and Jack had made love to the nearly imperceptible rhythm of the cruise ship, dodging any talk of what they’d do when they arrived back home in Wisconsin. 

What a disaster. Maybe she’d try to make light of their escapade. After all, Jack was a decent man, a really great guy, if also thoroughly unsuitable for her. He also had a terrific sense of humor. Maybe they could have a good hoot over their silly mistake. “Isn’t this the funniest thing?” she could say while trilling in a charming sort of way. Ha ha, titter titter. She could hold out her hand in a gesture of friendship. “What do you say? We figure out the easiest way to put this embarrassing little episode behind us?” More light-hearted laughter.

At last June’s white frame cottage came into view. Lorna hurried up the stone path and through the picture window spotted her friend standing at her kitchen table with a tall pile of laundry in front of her. Lorna waved to get her attention and when June looked up her face broke into a welcoming smile.

“Come in, come in,” June said after she’d opened the door and with a sweeping gesture invited Lorna inside. “I hoped you’d come over this morning. Help yourself to coffee and tell me all about your exciting cruise while I make my way through my boring laundry basket.”

Shrugging out of her jacket, Lorna peered around the corner of the kitchen into the hallway looking for any sign of June’s nine-year-old. “Is Bonnie gone?”

“The school bus picked her up a little while ago. Why?”

“I want to be sure we’re alone.” Lorna surveyed the table, with the laptop and a pile of fat file folders and legal pads at one end and the heap of laundry at the other. A full basket of clothes sat on the floor. “You’re really busy. I could come back later.”

“Don’t be silly,” June said, shaking out a crumpled bath towel. “This is laundry, not legal analysis.” 

Lorna filled a mug from the carafe and went back to the table. Then she drew in a breath. “I’ve done something really stupid.”

June’s eyes narrowed. “Sit down and tell me about it.”

Lorna made a fast decision to blurt it out. “I got married. To Jack Young. In the Dominican Republic…”

AUTHOR Bio and Links:

A lifelong writer, Virginia McCullough has coauthored or ghostwritten over 100 books for doctors, therapists, lawyers, professional speakers, and many others. Her other award-winning novels include Amber Light, Greta’s Grace, The Chapels on the Hill, and Island Healing. The Jacks of her Heart is Book 1 of her Capehart Bay series. Asked to sum up the themes of her fiction, she says her books are all about hope, healing, and plenty of second chances.

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Virginia will be awarding a $25 Amazon or B/N GC to a randomly drawn winner via rafflecopter during the tour.

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