Q&A with Author Jacquelyn Middleton

In my business, I get to work with and meet so many incredible people. It’s by far the best part of the job.

When I had the privilege of making pencils for award-winning author Jacquelyn Middleton‘s upcoming book release, I was ecstatic. (We all know how I feel about book-inspired pencils — especially romance-related.)

I loved working with Jacquelyn and knew I wanted to share more about her on the Longhand Pencils blog, and she kindly agreed to answer some questions for us! Today, we chat romance, the writing process, and the pop culture she’s loving right now.

Q: Describe your writing process.

A: My home doesn’t have a space for a desk or an office, so I write all my books on my dining room table. Heading to a coffee shop is tempting, but I know myself. I’d get too distracted by all the activity, noise, and baked goods—especially the baked goods! I like to snack while I write (hence all the M&Ms and Cadbury chocolate buttons that pop up in my Instagram stories), so being that close to warm, gooey cookies is probably not the best idea. 

When creating a new book, I usually start with the characters. I work on detailed profiles for each one using a lengthy questionnaire I’ve patched together. I have to know everything about their family life, romantic history, school experiences, hobbies, their flaws, quirks, what they like and dislike about the other characters. Even if I don’t end up using this stuff on the page, I still need to know my characters inside and out. But for me, the key to any character is always the inner wound that makes them behave the way they do and the lies they believe about themselves. Without that inner substance, they don’t feel like real people to me. And I guess I’m on the right path because one of the compliments I keep getting about my books is that the characters feel so real.

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I make extensive notes about the plot, too. I don’t wing it; everything is lined up. I need to know all the key moments and plot points from the very beginning, but I’m still open to change things up when necessary. 

Q: What inspires your stories?

A: So many things! Music, travel, even an article in a magazine can inspire a storyline or character. You never know where a new idea will come from. The setting of the opening scene of SAY HELLO, KISS GOODBYE was inspired by a conversation with my acupuncturist! The serendipitous meeting of Alex and Lucy in LONDON BELONGS TO ME is based on something that happened to me in New York, bumping into an old friend who lived in England. Inspiration is everywhere, you just have to be open to it.

Q: What do you love about the romance genre?

A: I adore how the romance genre embraces love so unapologetically. The world is a scary place right now and romance novels provide a wonderful, comforting escape where there is always a happily ever after. That said, my books aren’t all sunshine and roses. Romance is messy, angsty, and often painful, and my books show all that for better or for worse. I like to show love realistically, but always end with a HEA or a HFN. It’s not a romance if it doesn’t (sorry, Nicholas Sparks).

My favourite romances feature amazing friendships, interesting family dynamics, and characters who are striving to be better people while falling head over heels in lust and love. And let’s not forget that romance was the first genre to explore diversity and consent, and provide a platform for a range of own voices—including mine. As someone who has dealt with mental health challenges all my life, the genre has given me the opportunity to include characters with anxiety, depression, and PTSD in my books. The more we talk about these subjects, the less of a stigma there will be and it seems to be working. I’ve had readers email me and say, ‘me too – thank you for telling people how it really is.’ It’s the best feeling when readers see themselves represented. That’s the great thing about romance. Plus, who doesn’t want a little love and steamy sex in their lives? Just give me all the swoons!

Q: What inspired you to start Authors Celebrating Authors on your website?

A: I’m a total bookworm and fangirl. Too often I stay up super late to finish a great book and then I’m left with an epic book hangover. Ugh! All I want to do is talk about the characters, the plot—spend more time in that book’s world. I don’t want to leave the characters behind. 

Authors Celebrating Authors was my way to feed that need, and I knew if I felt that way about books, my fellow readers would, too. I’m not beyond gushing over people who inspire me, so I thought, why not use your author platform to shine the light on fellow authors? I think we are at our best when we look outward and applaud others. In this age, we can be so me, me, me with social media. It’s nice to celebrate someone other than ourselves and let them speak about their art and creative process. To date, I’ve featured Q&As with Jill Santopolo, Christina Lauren, Renée Carlino, Karen Swan, Karma Brown, Nicole Trilivas, and several others. I still have pinch me moments because I adore all of these women and it’s been such a treat speaking with them. If anyone wants to read the Q&As, just visit my website at www.JacquelynMiddleton.com and click on the blog link. Unfortunately, I haven’t added to my interviews as of late due to my own writing deadlines and well, life (shakes fist at Covid and all the angst it’s brought), but I hope to feature more authors in the future. 

Q: What advice would you give to aspiring writers?

A: Just do it. Not to sound like a famous running shoe ad, but I think you have to just go for it. That first leap might be scary but it’s so worth it and rewarding in ways you’ll never imagine. And I know…it’s easy to procrastinate. I did—for years! But if you want to be an author, you have to make time to write. Even a few minutes a day, just get some words down and you’ll be on your way.

I’d also recommend writing the story you want to read, not what’s hot in the industry. You will be spending a lot of time with the characters and plot—might as well make it enjoyable. It’s also important to realize there are many paths to publication these days (traditional, indie, hybrid, self-publishing) and readers want all sorts of stories, so believe in what you’re creating and don’t be afraid to do things differently. Trust your talent, persist, and forge your own path. I chose to go the indie/self-pub route because I like having control over my covers, release dates, book concepts, and marketing. It’s a ton of work—it’s not easy—but for me, it’s been completely worth it. The only other advice I have is to remember even if you don’t sell millions of copies (very few authors do), or end up on ‘best of the year’ lists (which, like reviews, are totally subjective), you will have created something special, something from the heart that’s unique to you, and that’s a major accomplishment! 

Q: What pop culture are you loving right now?

A: So many things! They always end up in my novels, too. With the pandemic, I’ve been binging old favourites: New Girl, Gavin & Stacey, Humans (Leo and Niska are the best!), Poldark, Sex and the City, a wonderful British series called Cold Feet as well as my usual Doctor Who and Sherlock. I’m also a big fan of Fleabag, Outlander, and This is Us.

Movie-wise, I tend to play my favourites to death, so I’ve been watching 500 Days of Summer, Love, Rosie, You’ve Got Mail, La La Land, Pride, Mahogany, Benjamin, Almost Famous, and Lost in Translation.

I listen to music every day and am constantly making playlists. The artists I’ve been playing a lot recently include Stars (the most brilliant Canadian band), Saint Etienne, The Magnetic North, Erland Cooper, Taylor Swift, Harry Styles, Diana Ross, and the Spice Girls (Leia in SAY HELLO, KISS GOODBYE is a huge fan—like me. I was lucky to see them twice in concert in 1998…just like Leia!). I also listen to a lot of old favourites such as the Divine Comedy, Duran Duran, Elton John, Blur, Oasis, Pulp, Dubstar, Gene, New Order, Depeche Mode…the list goes on and on, so I’ll spare you and cut it off here! 

Jacquelyn’s new book “Say Hello, Kiss Goodbye” comes out November 26th. Order now!

One comment

  1. […] and I got chatting and she asked me to participate in an author Q&A on her website and you can read the end result here. We talk all about writing processes, inspiration, celebrating fellow authors, and pop culture. It […]

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