Jen: Today we welcome Maggie McGinnis to Romancing the Book. Maggie, will you share a short bio with us?
Maggie: Maggie McGinnis is a USA Today bestselling author and Golden Heart Finalist who lives in New England, vastly outnumbered by both children and cats. She writes sweet romances set in Montana and Vermont, and feels extremely fortunate that through her books, she gets to fall in love every single day. She’s a sucker for romantic comedies, popcorn, and the perfect green pen, and if she wasn’t an author, she’d totally be rocking a Nashville club in her pink cowgirl boots. It’s probably good that she embraced the author thing, because her singing skills are better suited to the shower, and really? Pink cowgirl boots?
Jen: Please tell us about your newest release and where the idea came from.
Maggie: My newest release, ONCE UPON A COWBOY, is the third book in my Whisper Creek series, which is set on a family-owned dude ranch in Montana. It features a cowboy trying to find his place, and a woman running from a past that has just recently caught up with her. She’s got secrets, and he’s the one man who can help her learn to trust again. My inspiration for the series as a whole was the power of forever-friendship. I wanted to take a trio of women and toss them so far out of their comfort zones that they couldn’t help but grow, change, and strengthen their already-steely bonds, plus—of course!—find their happily-ever-afters. Jess, the heroine of ONCE UPON A COWBOY, is really the most “broken” of the three, with a past she’s kept hidden from even her best friends. This book rips open her secrets, bringing her to her knees before she figures out that the bonds of friendship and love can heal even the worst of wounds.
“Okay, look to your left.” Kyla pointed toward the stable as she adjusted her camera later that afternoon. “And stop growling at me. Grumpy cowboys do not sell calendars, Cole.”
“Don’t they have models who do this kind of thing?”
“Yes, but they’re not authentic. You guys are the real deal.”
Cole raised his eyebrows. “The real deal is sweat and dirt and stink.”
“We’re going for pseudo real deal, then. Dirt and stink don’t sell calendars, either.” She motioned at him again. “Lift the brim of your hat up a little, okay? Your eyes are in shadow.”
He raised his hat the obligatory half-inch, and of course as he did, Decker strolled out of the barn.
“Lookin’ good, Cole. Gonna get a little scratchy with those buttons undone, though, don’t you think?”
“Shut up, Decker. Don’t get any horse shit on those fancy shoes.” He looked toward Kyla. “Are we done here yet?”
“I was actually hoping to get a few more in the—”
“Sorry. Union rules. I can only be photographed for an hour a day.”
“Just a few more?”
Cole started doing up his buttons. “I have work to do, Kyla. Go play shutterbug with somebody else for a while, wouldja?”
Christ. Stupid calendar. Real cowboys didn’t run around with their shirts open, aiming for the best light so their eyes wouldn’t be in—shadow. He shivered. At least she hadn’t suggested waxing.
“You could do worse, you know.” Decker grinned as he watched Kyla walk back up to the main lodge. “Maybe she can post those pics online or something. Might help you get a date for Daniel and Hayley’s wedding.”
Cole executed a middle-finger salute, then leaned down to pick up a rope Kyla’d insisted on using for a prop. “Don’t need a date. We have any early guests coming in today so I can be very, very busy next time she comes around with that damn camera?”
Cole stopped coiling the rope. “Oh. Right.”
“Trying to make like you forgot? I’ll pretend I haven’t seen you check your watch about eighty times today.” Decker laughed. “Gonna get up the nerve to actually take her out while she’s here this time?”
“I’ve got plenty of nerve.”
“Right. She’s been out here three times now, and every single time, you’re like a parched man looking at a desert mirage, but—”
“Shut up. I’m hardly—parched.”
Decker eyed him in that way he had, the look that stripped the lies right off your face and made you tell the truth whether you wanted to or not. “I don’t know. Word in the bunkhouse is that your rep in town is getting a little rusty.”
“I’m not—rusty. And we don’t have a damn bunkhouse.”
“Want to know what I think?”
“I think ever since you met Jess, you can’t help but compare everybody to her. And nobody quite measures up.”
Exactly. “Not true.”
“Well, true or not, she’ll be here by dinnertime. Kyla’s leaving for the airport in a while to get her.”
Cole rolled his eyes. It wasn’t like he’d been counting the days or anything. Not like he’d gotten a haircut yesterday or had thoroughly checked out Jess’s cabin this morning to be sure it was shipshape and ready for her.
He shook his head, trying to get visions of Jess’s long dark hair and deep brown eyes out of his brain. “I’m still trying to wrap my head around Daniel and Hayley getting married in a week. I feel like we live and breathe weddings around here these days.”
“We’re gonna have a lot more if Kyla’s Bridal Bliss package thing works out.”
“I suppose that means we’d better finish the spa so she can start selling the packages.” Cole shook his head. How in the world had their working ranch become a wedding-slash-spa-slash- getaway place? “Your woman makes a hell of a lot of work for us, you know.”
Decker laughed. “She makes a hell of a lot of money for us, too. I think the only reason she’s not haranguing us to get the spa done is she’s hoping Jess will help with the design. I have a feeling she’s going to dangle it out as a carrot to get Jess to stay out here.”
“Out here out here? Like, for good?”
“Yep.” Decker nodded. “She’s been planting seeds for months. Getting Hayley to move to Montana got her all puffed up about her abilities. Now she’s turned her sights on Jess.”
“Poor Jess.” Cole shook his head.
“Pretty sure she can handle herself.” Decker tossed a beaten-up leather briefcase into the cab of his truck. “I gotta go charm the home buyers. Hold down the fort.”
As Decker headed out the driveway, Cole turned up the hill toward the new lodge, half of which was Whisper Creek’s new childcare facility and petting zoo. The other half was still rough-framed inside, but by fall was supposed to be ready for duty as a full-service spa.
He strolled toward the building, letting himself in the spa door. He inhaled, loving the scent of fresh lumber and drywall putty. Decker was the acknowledged brainiac of the family, working with his design software for half the night, but Cole preferred to be the guy with his hands right in the mud—literally.
Morning sun came through the east-facing windows and skylights, and he tried to picture what the spa would look like once it was finished. They had fifteen hundred square feet to work with, which might be an architect’s dream—if the architect was ever at the ranch long enough to figure out what to do with all this emptiness. Cole sure didn’t have a clue.
But then he pictured Jess in the warmly lit space, gliding around with one of her yoga outfits on, flashing her warm smile his way, tying up that long, long dark hair into a ponytail he’d just itch to take back down.
He shook his head, trying to erase the vision. Fantasizing about Jess before she even got here was only going to torture him more.
And her kind of torture was the kind that only left a man wanting what he could not have.
Jen: Do you have a writing routine?
Maggie: I wish I did! But I have children who aren’t yet convinced that writing stories constitutes a real job, so they firmly believe their needs come first. Funny how that works. At this point, I do my best to squeeze in hours anytime I can, in hopes that someday it’ll turn into a routine!
Jen: How do you remember ideas that come to you at odd times?
Maggie: I am the undisputed queen of the random-notebook-in-every-bag-and-room-and-purse. Coupled with my impressive (read: ridiculous) pen collection, I can usually capture random ideas on the fly. The challenge is remembering which notebook I actually wrote them in!
Jen: Who has influenced you as a writer?
Maggie: Ooh—this one’s easy. Every single author I’ve ever read has influenced my writing in some way. I’ve learned so much about language, emotion, and storytelling by reading authors like Maya Angelou, Kristan Higgins, John Steinbeck, Hank Phillippi Ryan, Tom Rob Smith, Christie Craig … the list never, ever ends. My best advice for any aspiring writer is to read, read, read. Those words will spin around in your brain for years to come, and eventually, your own voice will emerge.
Jen: How do you come up with characters names?
Maggie: Honestly, a lot of them just come to me, but I definitely use some of them as a little shout-out to my favorite people. As a former teacher, it’s sometimes hard to find names that aren’t already attached to a personality for me, but at times, that’s half the fun. Being married to another former teacher, naming my characters is certainly easier than naming my children was!
Jen: What’s been the highlight of you career to this point?
Maggie: One of the most fabulous things about this career is that it becomes a series of highlights, and once you hit one, there’s always the possibility of another one peeking around the corner. For me, there are concrete ones like being nominated for a Golden Heart award and hitting the USA TODAY bestseller list, but sometimes it’s the quieter highlights that touch down deep—first 5-star reviews, e-mails from readers, and that first person who thanks you for writing a story that kept her up past her bedtime. That’s the good stuff.
Jen: What’s next for you?
Maggie: So much! I’m thrilled to say that there will be three more Whisper Creek books coming in 2016-2017, with more swoon-worthy heroes and happily-ever-afters. I also have a new series that will start releasing in print this fall. It’s set in Vermont, and captures the magic of second chances and forever love. SNOWFLAKE WISHES, a novella, releases in October, and FOREVER THIS TIME, the first full-length novel in the series, will be out in November. I’m thrilled and excited to have two different series for readers to fall in love with!
Thank you so much for hosting me today!!