Q: When did you begin writing your novel, When Sparks Fly?
This book had a more interesting writing timeline than usual! I began writing it in the spring of 2021 for a late winter release. Then my 95-year-old mom fell ill, and after a brief illness, passed away last June. My writing ground to a halt, so we rescheduled the book for this summer, and I dove back into writing it last fall.
Q: Where do you find inspiration for your writing?
Oh, gosh—I find inspiration literally everywhere! I’m always watching and listening wherever I am (including listening to music). Phrases, funny situations, tender moments…my writer’s eyes and ears are capturing them all. And then I expand on those moments and imagine how they would fit in a story.
Q: Tell us, readers, what your novel, When Sparks Fly, is about.
When Sparks Fly is a best-friends-to-lovers romance. Mike and Zoey have been very best friends since third grade. Now they’re both approaching forty. Mike is a widower, and Zoey is recently divorced, starting over as a single mom in her late father’s old house. Through all the ups and downs of their lives, they’ve been there for each other, making each other laugh over silly jokes and hanging out in Zoey’s repair shop in the evenings. After all these years, they both feel something changing in their friendship, but they’re afraid of ruining things by exploring those new feelings. It doesn’t help that Zoey’s teenage daughter does not want her dating. At all. Then a summer storm rolls through and everything changes. With a little help from Zoey’s godmother (who welcomes a romance of her own in this book), Mike’s big Irish family, and the meddling senior book club, Mike and Zoey figure out how to navigate the move from life-long friendship to a forever love.
Q: How would you describe your writing style?
I would say my writing style leans heavily on emotion and dialogue. I put characters into situations and let their hearts lead them forward as realistically and authentically as possible. I like dialogue that’s crisp, genuine and often snarky. Even in my most emotional books, there’s always humor. People use humor to cope with stress and resisting the urge to fall in love is pretty stressful. The humor gives the characters—and the readers—a little break from the tension. I also think it makes the characters more relatable.
Q: What themes will readers find in your new release?
The themes in When Sparks Fly include the idea that life is full of surprises. The things we assume are static—like a strictly platonic friendship—can change over time, and it’s okay to embrace those changes. It’s okay to be a mom and still find love. And it’s never too late! Zoey’s godmother, Vickie, is seventy when she decides to rekindle a high school crush. As in all of my books, I lean hard into the idea that love is not a magical unicorn that solves all problems. In real life, issues don’t vanish when you fall in love. But falling in love can inspire the characters to make changes and become better people.
Q: What other projects are you currently working on?
I’m currently writing the eighth book in my Gallant Lake Stories mini-series with Harlequin Special Edition. It’s untitled, but it will be an opposites attract romance between a rough city steelworker and a quiet woman running an animal rescue farm. Gallant Lake is a fictional town in the Catskills that’s been on hard times, but it is making a comeback. I just finished edits on Book 7 of that series, Expecting His Holiday Surprise. It’s a surprise-baby holiday romance coming in December. As for what’s next? I’m working on a few ideas for a new series, but it’s still in what I call the “amoeba phase”—it has no real shape yet. But I did just take a trip to Cape Cod for research…
Q: How did you get into the romance genre?
I fell in love with reading at a very young age, and devoured books as a kid. I discovered JRR Tolkein when I was ten, and I was captivated with the world-building and the epic love stories within it. I devoured Victoria Holt’s romances as a young teen. I was very into the “reformed rake” trope! As an adult, Jude Deveraux’s Knight in Shining Armor was my gateway book into contemporary romance, and I was hooked. As much as I enjoyed reading them, I dreamed of writing them, too. That just took a little bit longer…like three or four decades longer! But I always knew I wanted to write romance. I’m a big believer in happy endings.
Q: What main advice would you give to aspiring writers?
Finish. The. Book. Too many authors—my younger self included—get bogged down in rewriting what they’ve already written instead of pushing through the writing slumps and finishing the book. You can’t submit an unfinished book. You can’t efficiently edit an unfinished book. Every author wants the best book possible, but if you keep going back and rewriting and rewriting without making forward progress, you won’t have a book at all.
Q: Using three words, how would you describe your hero, Mike?
Sincere. Loyal. Funny.
Q: Where can readers find you and your book online?
The easiest spot for all things Jo McNally is my website: www.JoMcNallyRomance.com. You can find purchase links for all of my books there, as well as news and my contact information. I have author pages on Amazon, Goodreads, and Bookbub. On social media, I’m on Facebook and Twitter as @JoMcNallyAuthor, and Instagram and Pinterest as Jo.McNally.