Today’s romance-loving guest, joining me to chat all things love and literature is author, Jacquelyn Middleton.
Tell me a bit about the type of books you write and where you are in your publishing journey.
Thank you for asking! My books are character- and relationship-driven stories about people dealing with the triumphs and disasters we all experience. They’re also love stories for hopeful romantics—I say hopeful because my novels are always optimistic and ‘happily ever afters’ are more important now than ever before. But life is messy, relationships are messy, and my books aren’t afraid to go there too.
I’m also an own voices author—I’ve had anxiety, panic attacks, and depression all my life, and I include mental health in my books. I’ve always felt that there should be more representation of mental health in novels. And by more representation, I mean realistically and empathetically portrayed mental health. I’ve seen many novels where mental health issues are treated like a character trait and nothing appears on the page to show its reality. Anxiety and depression aren’t disorders you can try on like a trendy pair of jeans. My goal is to entertain AND bust the stigma—one book at a time. If one person with anxiety or depression comes away after reading my books and feels understood and not alone, I’ve done my job.
I’ve written and self-published five books to date, and several have won awards including the Best Canadian Author award from the then-Canadian chapter of RWA in 2019 for my third book, Until the Last Star Fades. My most recent book, The Certainty of Chance, is a Christmas love story set in London and it releases on October 14.
To quote Madeleine in my book, The Certainty of Chance, “I love love.” There’s nothing better than an amazing love story with a happy ending. Love IS everything. Can you imagine a world without it? With all the awfulness out in the world, we need stories that celebrate love and hope more than ever before, and romance does that and more.
There are some folks in the book world who think romance novels aren’t as difficult to write as other genres and they couldn’t be so wrong. Writing emotional and heartbreaking scenes (not to mention realistic and heartfelt sex scenes) takes talent and lots of practice. Love is one of the most complex emotions we have. Many of us aren’t great at communicating love or other associated emotions, so it makes sense that it’s also very difficult to write. I think since most romance authors are female, there is a tendency to pass the genre off as fluffy, socially unimportant, and easy to write. Wrong, wrong, wrong.
It’s also worth pointing out that the romance genre was one of the first to showcase diverse characters and provide a platform for own voices authors to explore different races, religions, abilities, health challenges, and more. Consent and birth control are regularly featured. Today’s romance is very progressive, and has moved on considerably from the novels with Fabio on the cover that our parents and grandparents read years ago. And for the most part, women have lead this charge towards change.
What inspires your stories?
So many things! Basically, I write what I want to read, so my ideas usually come from what interests me: travel, songs, magazine articles, even real life experiences. I enjoy writing stories set in places I love and have visited. London, New York, Dublin, Manchester, the Orkney Islands—they’ve all shown up in my books.
Who are your favourite romance authors, past and/or present?
I have so many! Emily Henry, Abby Jimenez, Zoë Folbigg, Mhairi McFarlane, Sally Thorne, Mia Sheridan, Christina Lauren, Karen Swan, and Renée Carlino.
If you had to pick one romance novel for me to read, which one would you recommend?
This is such a tough question! I think I’ll go with my all-time favourites, which I keep coming back to: Christmas at Tiffany’s by Karen Swan, You Had Me at Hello by Mhairi McFarlane, and if I can sneak in another, I’d say Love and Other Words by Christina Lauren. It’s more of a women’s fiction/romance hybrid, but it’s SO GOOD! I own multiple copies from multiple countries. It’s beautiful. Okay, I know I cheated here, but picking one was impossible.
Cassie settled down too young, marrying her first serious boyfriend. Now, ten years later, she is betrayed and broken. With her marriage in tatters and no career or home of her own, she needs to work out where she belongs in the world and who she really is.
So begins a year-long trial as Cassie leaves her sheltered life in rural Scotland to stay with each of her best friends in the most glamorous cities in the world: New York, Paris and London. Exchanging grouse moor and mousy hair for low-carb diets and high-end highlights, Cassie tries on each city for size as she attempts to track down the life she was supposed to have been leading, and with it, the man who was supposed to love her all along.
Which romantic hero or heroine would you choose to spend your perfect romantic weekend with? Where would you go and what would you do?
Oh my goodness, there are SO many! Ahh, I’d love to have a weekend with Henry from Christmas at Tiffany’s, but he’s quite adventurous which isn’t really my thing at all! I like my comforts, so I’d probably prefer to hang with out with Ben from You Had Me at Hello. This story takes place in Manchester, so I think Ben and I would indulge in the best of the city. We’d go for a meal at San Carlo and then to see a play at the Royal Exchange. If we scored tickets, perhaps we’d go see Man United play at Old Trafford. I’d love a weekend full of theatre, food, and football!
What is your favourite thing about being a member of the RNA? What do you think you have gained from membership?
I’m an overseas member living in Toronto, so I haven’t been able to take part in any in-person events, but I enjoy the emails and discussions online. It’s wonderful just to associate with fellow romance authors. Many literary folk don’t ‘get’ romance, so to have that shorthand with my colleagues is invaluable. Pre-pandemic, I travelled to the UK at least twice a year, so I’m hoping down the road I might be able to engage more in-person.
What one piece of advice or tip would you give to new writers starting out in the romance genre?
Write! I know everyone says that, but for a good reason—it’s true! It’s also important to read a lot. It’s the best way to learn. There are also some great books for writers that get into structure, plot points, character goals.
Tell us about your most recent novel.
My most recent novel, The Certainty of Chance, releases October 14 in ebook and paperback. It’s a beautiful, poignant Christmas love story about Madeleine Joy, an American woman, who becomes stranded in London when an Icelandic volcano erupts and its hazardous ash closes European airspace indefinitely (this really happened back in 2010!). She gets picked up by a London cab driver named Julian Halliwell and fate throws them together the week before Christmas. Madeleine is dealing with the upcoming one-year anniversary of her best friend’s death and isn’t feeling very Christmassy, while Julian is all about the holly and lights much to Madeleine’s dismay. It’s a heartwarming story of love, loss, serendipity, and the belief that what’s meant for you won’t pass you by. You can pre-order it here.
THERE’S SOMETHING ABOUT DECEMBER…
Madeleine Joy is feeling more meh than merry. When an Icelandic volcano erupts six days before Christmas, hazardous ash congests European airspace, canceling flights indefinitely—including the thirtysomething’s connection to Paris. Stranded alone in London, separated from her sister, and with the devastating one-year anniversary of her best friend’s tragic death just days away, Madeleine has never felt less festive. And as if things couldn’t get worse, the cute guy driving the cab to her hotel won’t shut up about carolers and tinsel…
Julian Halliwell is one of life’s sunny optimists. A former music journalist, he’s embraced his love for London by starting his own black cab business, enthusiastically ferrying passengers from one historic landmark to another. But life hasn’t always been easy for Julian. Having navigated several life-changing setbacks including a cruel betrayal by his former fiancée, Julian remains hopeful that he’ll meet somebody kind, who shares his love of music, his corgi named Winnie, and of course, the magic of Christmas time in London.
Despite being an unlikely match, fate seems determined to throw them together. But can the grieving American find joy again in a world where the lights have all but dimmed?
About the Author
Jacquelyn Middleton is a multi-award-winning author of love stories for hopeful romantics–‘hopeful’ because her novels are always optimistic and she believes ‘happily ever afters’ are more important now than ever before. But life is messy, relationships are messy, and her books aren’t afraid to go there, too. If you enjoy character and relationship-driven stories about people dealing with the triumphs and disasters we all face, Jacquelyn’s books are for you.
In 2019, she was named BEST CANADIAN AUTHOR at the RWA’s Toronto Romance Writers ‘Northern Hearts’ Awards for UNTIL THE LAST STAR FADES. She is also the author of LONDON BELONGS TO ME, LONDON, CAN YOU WAIT? and SAY HELLO, KISS GOODBYE.
An own voices author, Jacquelyn has dealt with anxiety, panic attacks, and depression all her life, and is dedicated to depicting mental health challenges realistically and empathetically in her novels.
Jacquelyn’s books have been featured by The Hollywood Reporter, NBC News, The Los Angeles Times, The New York Daily News, USA Today, Cosmopolitan, Redbook, Hypable, and the Huffington Post.
A life-long Maple Leafs fan and Anglophile, Jacquelyn previously worked in television broadcasting and as an award-winning freelance writer. She loves comic cons, London, and theatre, and lives in Toronto with her British husband and Japanese Spitz.
Connect with Jacquelyn:
Facebook: Jacquelyn Middleton