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10 Questions for Jenn McKinlay

New York Times-bestselling author Jenn McKinlay made her name writing cozy mysteries, including A Library Lover’s Mystery Series. Recently, she turned her attention back to romance. This spring, she published About a Dog, the first book in her Bluff Point Romance series, with Barking Up the Wrong Tree following quickly on its heels. We talked with Jenn about writing, pets, and crème brûlée.


JOHN CHARLES: Who is Jenn McKinlay?

JENN MCKINLAY: A sugar-motivated wordsmith who consumes copious amounts of baked goods, which she tries to work off by skateboarding and playing volleyball. She loves being a writer and can not believe that after so many years of working at her craft, the dream finally came true. After many years, she learned the secret to being published is. . . persistence. Never quit your daydream!


Tell us about your new book, Barking Up the Wrong Tree.

Carly Decusati is one of my favorite heroines! A feisty, curvaceous Italian girl, she is unapologetically single and on the prowl, not looking for anything more than a one night stand of which she is in control. Unfortunately, she picks James Sinclair as her playmate for the evening, and James has no intention of letting the spark between them be extinguished after just one night.


Pets—dogs in particular—play an important role in your Bluff Point books. What can you tell us about your own pets?

The fur people who run my life in no particular order: We have Otto the schnauzer with the best self-esteem of anyone I’ve ever known. He is my familiar and follows me everywhere. Yes, even into the bathroom. Next we have our rescue, Annie, the uber-sensitive pit bull mutt who cowers if anyone raises their voice; she does not like conflict. Subsequently, there have been no arguments in our house because no one wants to upset the dog. Then we have the escape artist Loretta, our black cat, who has disappeared numerous times only to return days later with a mysterious look on her face, making us all wonder what sort of adventure she had while away. Patsy, Loretta’s sister, is our big-boned feline, who loves her food and everyone else’s food and is the one who is actually in charge of the house. All the pets run away from Patsy when she is in a mood. Lastly, we have Kevin, the fish who won’t die. Ten years ago, we took him in for our neighbor while he painted his living room, but Kevin never left. Meanwhile the neighbor has moved away, left the state actually. We are thinking we will have to put Kevin in our will.


What made you decide to write romances after writing mysteries for so long?

Honestly, my editor suggested it when I was feeling a bit burned out from killing characters. She felt that most of my mysteries had romantic comedy subplots, so why not try to write books that were just romantic comedies. (Um, because romance is really hard!) I love writing both genres, but there is no denying that killing characters conveniently moves a plot along.


Describe your writing style in three words.

Fast. Funny. Fearless.


What is the best piece of advice you have ever received?

Write the book you want to read. I know everyone says that, but it’s true! The first book I sold was the one I wrote just to make myself laugh.


What one romance novel should everyone read and why?

Pride and Prejudice. It always comes back to the that one novel for me. I think Austen perfectly captures the complexity of writing about relationships in that novel, from Elizabeth and Darcy to the entertaining subplots around her parents, her sisters, and society at large. It’s just a brilliant novel.


You are throwing a dinner party and can invite any three authors (alive or dead) you wish. Who would you invite, why, and more importantly what would you serve?

Mark Twain, because I think he’d make me laugh and I like his mustache. Plus, I’ve always been very curious about him. Victoria Holt (aka Jean Plaidy, Philippa Carr, and other pen names—her real name is Eleanor Hibbert) because Mistress of Mellyn was the first grown-up novel I read as a kid, and I loved it and went on to read every book she wrote. L. M. Montgomery because Anne of Green Gables is likely the reason I became a writer. As Anne would say, I feel like Lucy and I would be “kindred spirits”.

What to serve? Prime rib, mashed potatoes with garlic, asparagus, and a strawberry-walnut salad. For dessert, really strong coffee and crème brûlée. And now I’m hungry.


What is next for you as an author?

Word from my publisher is that I will continue to write my Cupcake Bakery and Library Lovers mysteries, as well as a new romantic comedy series! Basically, I remain employed for the next few years—for which I am ever-grateful!


How can readers learn more about your books and contact you?

It’s actually hard to escape me! But I am most easily found at:

Twitter: @jennmckinlay

Instagram: @mckinlayjenn


About the Author:

The Romance Writers of America 2002 Librarian of the Year, Charles has been reviewing romances for Booklist since 1999 and is the author of Romance Today: An A to Z Guide to Contemporary American Romance. After working for the Scottsdale Public Library System for 30 years, Charles retired and went to work for Scottsdale's independent bookstore the Poisoned Pen, where he still gets to push books but has to deal with far fewer computer questions.

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