Friday, August 21, 2020

Jo McNally Interview - Barefoot on a Starlit Night

Photo Content from Jo McNally

Jo McNally is an award-winning author who writes contemporary romances with love, laughter and hard-won HEAs.

Jo 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 while listening to an eclectic playlist. If the weather is absolutely perfect, she might join her husband on the golf course, where she feels far more competitive than her actual skill-level would suggest.

What inspired you to pen your first novel?
I’ve been writing on and off for most of my life, but always gave up before actually finishing anything. I was in my 50s before I decided it was time to do it or give up for good. She’s Far From Hollywood was set on a farm in North Carolina. I was living there at the time, and had owned a farm years before, so the hot, sultry setting felt comfortable to me. I wanted to set the “celebrity running from a stalker” trope on end by breaking the reader’s expectation that the handsome hero would come to the rescue. Instead, it’s Bree who rescues Cole from his struggles with PTSD. 

Tell us your latest news.
Well, I just published my tenth Harlequin romance, Barefoot on a Starlit Night (Rendezvous Falls Book 3), and my eleventh will be released on August 25th: Changing His Plans (Gallant Lake Stories Book 4). In other words, I’ve been busy! And I’m very happy to say that Harlequin is continuing both series, so the deadlines will keep on coming. 

Who or what has influenced your writing, and in what way?
Writing, and trying to be published, is not for the faint of heart. But I come from a long line of strong, artistic women, and they have definitely influenced me. My mother was a “working mom” before that was all that common—definitely one of the first on our road. She started to help get my big brother through college, but she discovered she enjoyed working and contributing to the family income. She also made beautiful clothing...including my wedding dress (without a pattern!). Her mother was a hardworking Iowa farm wife and award-winning quilter. My dad’s mother was widowed at a very young age, and raised four small children on her own, plowing the fields behind a team of horses until my dad was old enough to do it. She was also a talented artist, painting on porcelain and hooking wool rugs and wall hangings. 

Not only did these women give me strength to keep pushing, but they also inspire the strong female characters I write, who rarely need rescuing by anyone, but are happy to fall in love with someone who appreciates them. 

Tell us your most rewarding experience since being published.
I was thrilled when Slow Dancing at Sunrise (Rendezvous Falls Book 1) recently won the GDRWA Booksellers Best Award for Long Contemporary Romance. It was especially exciting because it meant that a book from each of my series has now been recognized. It Started at Christmas… (Gallant Lake Stories Book 2) won the New England Readers Choice Grand Prize in April, and She’s Far From Hollywood (Lowery Women Book 1) won the GDRWA Booksellers Best Award for Best First Book a few years ago. 

What do you hope for readers to be thinking when they read your novel?
I want my books to be an escape, so I hope readers are so fully invested in the story that they aren’t thinking of anything other than whether or not this couple will make it. I hope they feel the characters and settings are realistic enough that they can imagine themselves in the same situations. 

In your new book; BAREFOOT ON A STARLIT NIGHT, can you tell my Book Nerd community a little about it 
Bridget McKinnon is trying to save the Irish pub she inherited from her father, as well as keep her extended family organized, and manage her grandmother’s cancer battle. Money is tight, so she rents an apartment in her Victorian house to a new professor at the local college. Sure, Finn O’Hearn has a sexy Irish brogue, but Bridget has enough on her plate without falling for her tenant...even when he gets her tangled up in a wild fake engagement scheme. She wants to tell him to forget it, but her grandmother, Maura, hears the story and it makes her so happy that Bridget begrudgingly goes along with it. They fool (almost) everyone with their “fake” sizzling kisses and heated looks, until the lines between real and fake get very fuzzy...and spicy. But Finn’s heart has been hurt badly, and he’s not sure he’ll ever be able to trust anyone with it again.

The Rendezvous Falls series is set in Upstate New York’s Finger Lakes region. Each book features three POVs (points of view), so in Barefoot we also see the story unfold through Maura’s eyes as she deals not only with cancer, but also with letting go of her role as family matriarch so Bridget can run the pub her way. Maura’s outspoken pals in the local book club keep her spirits up and team up to help save Finn and Bridget’s real romance. 

What part of Bridget and Finn did you enjoy writing the most?
Finn and Bridget are both very strong personalities, but in different ways. Bridget is outspoken and sassy. As she explains to Finn, it’s not that she’s always right—it’s just easier if people do things her way. Finn is more of a rock-steady type of strong. He’s a history professor, so he’s bookish, but he cares about Bridget and her family. It’s just that he’s been betrayed badly, so he doesn’t trust his judgement any more. But writing dialogue between two characters who have their acts together and a lot of fun. 

If you could introduce one of your characters to any character from another book, who would it be and why?
Another character from one of my books, or from any book? Hmm. In my books, I’d probably want Finn from Barefoot on a Starlit Night to go to Gallant Lake and meet Blake and Amanda Randall from It Started at Christmas… Blake owns Halcyon, a historic (and slightly haunted) American castle. With Finn’s love of history, I think they’d all hit it off really well. 

From any book? I’d love to see Bree (a former reality TV star) from She’s Far From Hollywood meet any of the characters from Lucy Parker’s London Celebrities series. They’re all sassy and snarky and the conversations would be fabulous! 

  • I wrote this book while packing up and moving from North Carolina to New York (not easy to do!). 
  • I did the revisions in March. Yup...pandemic time. It’s a wonder I was able to finish it! 
  • Rendezvous Falls is a fictional town, but it’s set on Seneca Lake, which is a very real place in New York’s Finger Lakes. 
  • Just like Finn in his opening scene, the Irish generally find the idea of drinking green beer appalling. That’s very much an American thing. 
  • Finn and Bridget go on a date at one of my favorite real places—Kitty Hoynes Irish Pub in Syracuse. My husband and I have been going to Kitty Hoynes for authentic (the owner is from Ireland) Irish food and entertainment for twenty years. 
  • Bridget’s grandmother Maura joins her book club pals at a meeting held at Falls Legend Winery, which was the setting for the first Rendezvous Falls book, Slow Dancing at Sunrise. 
  • New York’s Finger Lakes region is world famous for producing award-winning wines. In fact, New York is the third-largest wine producing state in the US. 
  • Finn educates Bridget on some things that some Americans think are Irish, but actually aren’t (like green beer…). Many popular “Irish” songs, like “The Unicorn Song” or “When Irish Eyes Are Smiling” were written by Americans. 
  • The epilogue scene takes place on the cliffs of Kilkee, Ireland. This is a lovely spot my husband and I found completely by accident when we took a wrong turn on one of our visits to see his family in Ireland years ago. 
  • Maura is going through treatment for breast cancer throughout the book. I know a number of amazing survivors, and met others while researching the book. They leave me in awe. A portion of the proceeds from Barefoot on a Starlit Night will be donated to the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure.
What’s the most ridiculous fact you know?
For some reason, I still know all the words to the title song from Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. Don’t ask me why, but they’ve always stuck in my head! Chitty Chitty Bang Bang we love you...

What according to you is your most treasured possession?
Probably my late father’s ebony ring, which belonged to his father, who died when my dad was a small boy. It’s like having Dad with me when I wear it.

Best date you've ever had?
That’s easy—the night I met my husband. It was a blind date (I know, right?), and I was being very cautious so I met him at the restaurant. We talked non-stop through drinks and dinner, then he took me to a popular spot in Syracuse to listen to a live blues band. The music was great, the drinks went down smoothly, and he still tells everyone I “purred” when he ran his fingers down my back. That was twenty-six years ago this month...we’ve been married for twenty-four. 

If you could go back in time to one point in your life, where would you go?
I know many people answer this type of question with what they’d go back and change, but I’m a believer in letting life play out the way it does. All the missteps we take lead us to where we are, and I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else. So I’d like to go back and relive my wedding again. We were (and are) so much in love. Our friends and family were there with us. We had a live Irish band playing our favorite songs. I’d spend a little more time with those who are no longer with us, and let them know how much I loved them.

What is something you think everyone should do at least once in their lives? 
Stand on top of a mountain! My mountain wasn’t in the Alps or anything, but I climbed a mountain in the Adirondacks on a backpacking trip. It was a scorching hot day and I almost gave up more than once. But when I reached the summit and stood looking out over Raquette Lake and ranges of mountain peaks in the distance, I felt like a superhero. It was one of the most empowering moments in my life. 

What event in your life would make a good movie?
Something we just did last year would make a great comedy and/or travel movie. We took a bucket list trip to Iceland with my brother and sister-in-law. It was an organized tour, so we were on a bus with the same people for a week. There were laughs and tears (one guy was battling cancer but determined to have a good time with his wife). All the travel drama of people claiming “their” seats on the bus, joking, singing and arguing. Our tour director was fabulous, but also funny with her non-stop enthusiasm and love for her country and how she kept us all in line. And of course, the movie would be shot against the backdrop of breathtaking Iceland, with its geysers, volcanoes, and black sand beaches.

What was the best memory you ever had as a writer?
I think it was getting that call from Harlequin that they were going to publish my first book, She’s Far From Hollywood. I was at my day job at the time, and was actually alone in the office, manning the front desk when my cell phone lit up with a call from Toronto. I knew it had to be the editor who’d requested the manuscript, but I was on the business line and couldn’t answer the call. By the time I was able to return the call, after my coworker was back and could cover for me, I was in tears before she even said “you’re going to write for Harlequin.” Now I’m finishing up book twelve for them and starting the next soon. It’s been a wild ride, and I’m grateful.

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 fiancĂ©e, 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…

You can purchase Barefoot on a Starlit Night at the following Retailers:

And now, The Giveaways.
Thank you JO MCNALLY for making this giveaway possible.
1 Winner will receive a Copy of Barefoot on a Starlit Night (Rendezvous Falls #3) by Jo McNally.


  1. I miss playing in the woods building forts, etc.

  2. I miss having any contact with my parents as they passed away.

  3. I miss playing with toys, like I did when I was a kid.

  4. I miss not having to worry and being cared for.

  5. I miss playing outside in the summer til the streetlights came on