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Q&A with Jenn McKinlay - Love at First Book

By Elle Summers

We are thrilled to welcome Jenn McKinlay to The Reading Corner to talk about her new release, Love at First Book,  released in paperback on the 16th May 2024.

When a librarian moves to a quaint Irish village where her favourite novelist lives, the last thing she expects is to fall for the author’s prickly son… until their story becomes one for the books, from the New York Times bestselling author of Summer Reading .

Emily Allen, a librarian on Martha’s Vineyard, has always dreamed of a life of travel and adventure. So when her favourite author, Siobhan Riordan, offers her a job in the Emerald Isle, Emily jumps at the opportunity. After all, Siobhan’s novels got Em through some of the darkest days of her existence.

Helping Siobhan write the final book in her acclaimed series—after a ten-year hiatus due to a scorching case of writer’s block—is a dream come true for Emily. If only she didn’t have to deal with Siobhan’s son, Kieran Murphy. He manages Siobhan’s bookstore, and the grouchy bookworm clearly doesn’t want Em around.

When Siobhan’s health takes a bad turn, she’s more determined than ever to finish her novel, while Kieran tries every trick in the book to get his mother to rest. Thrown into the role of peacemaker, Emily begins to see that Kieran's heart is in the right place. Torn between helping Siobhan find closure with her series and her own growing feelings for the mercurial Irishman, Emily will have to decide if she’s truly ready to turn a new page and figure out what lies in the next chapter.

Hi Jenn, thank you so much for taking the time to speak with us here at The Reading Corner. I was thrilled to read Love at First Book - I felt so immersed in the storyline, and literally could not put it down! 

Thank you, Elle, for inviting me. I’m delighted that you enjoyed Love at First Book.

Please can you tell us a little about your publishing journey and how Love at First Book came to be. 

My journey was a very long one! I started writing romcoms for Harlequin in the early 2000’s and got sacked – they don’t actually tell you you’re fired, they just stop publishing you – so I pivoted to mysteries, writing primarily cosies, which were wonderful, especially while my sons were young. I had a lot of angst to work through. LOL. But then, I circled back to romantic comedies (even my mysteries are comedies) and after a few mass market romances, I moved into the larger single title trade paperbacks with Love at First Book being my fourth. You can probably see my restless writer’s soul in all of these changes. I am very fortunate to have a publisher that encourages me to write in multiple genres. I can honestly say, I’m never bored.

I also love to travel so I used Love at First Book to go to Ireland and visit my cousins and drive the Ring of Kerry with my mom and two girlfriends. So much of what happens to the heroine Emily happened to us, I swear, it’s almost a memoir.

From the very beginning I was as intrigued as Em was about the quaint little village of Finn’s

Hollow. What places inspired you for this setting? 

Kenmare, Ireland was one of the many villages we stayed in while driving (yes, I drove!) and it was just perfect. It even had an adorable bookshop, where I picked up Sally Rooney’s latest at the time – Beautiful World, Where Are You. It was a very small bookshop, so I turned it into a bigger one with a café, because I do love to write about food as well. Other towns and villages that inspired Finn’s Hollow were Killarney and Waterville and Dingle (although, it’s not on the Ring of Kerry).

Em moves to Finn’s Hollow in order to pursue a job as an author’s assistant - and not any author, but her childhood favourite! Who is your favourite author of all time? Is there anyone in the literary world that you would love to work with? 

Great question! I’ve been so fortunate to have met and formed friendships with so many of my author idols over the past two decades that they’ve been demystified and I now know them as people who bang their heads on their desks when their deadline is looming just like me. That being said, if I could go back in time, I’d have loved to have met Daphne du Maurier or Dorothy Sayers and Agatha Christie. Of course, my childhood favourite was Lucy M. Montgomery and Anne with an “E” will forever have a special place in my heart.

Without wanting to give away any spoilers, this story includes some highly emotional topics. What did you do to look after yourself when writing emotional scenes for your characters? 

I have read those scenes you mention probably fifteen times in the course writing, revising, and editing again and again and I cry every time. I think my self care is actually that. To let myself cry it out and really feel all the feels. Then I find solace in a pastry of some sort. Baked goods make everything better.

Of course we MUST talk about the romance hero that is Kieran Murphy! I have to say I didn’t know how to feel about him when we first meet him, but naturally couldn’t help falling head over heels the more we learn about Kier/Murphy! Who was your inspiration for his character? And did you fall for him, just as I’m sure all your readers will? 

I’ve always loved the brooding romantic hero (see du Maurier reference above) but I don’t care for alpha males. To me, Kier is the perfect combination of an alpha male exterior with his dark good looks and glowering temperament but underneath he is a complete smoosh. He has a very tender heart, which is why he’s so prickly to begin with. I absolutely adored writing him. I have several men in my life – husband, sons, etc – who are very loud, boisterous, manly men who can be completely undone by a kitten. I love that.

I loved how this narrative was bound so much to that of Tig McMorrow. How difficult was it to

weave a story within a story? Did you always know how Tig’s story was going to impact Em and Kier? 

Oh, I’m so glad you liked that. I keep thinking I need to actually write the Tig McMorrow series now. I didn’t know how much Tig’s story would weave itself into Kier’s. It wasn’t planned. It was just the series that Siobhan needed help with and then it took on a life of its own as all stories do. I really should have been more prepared!

Have you got any new projects you are currently working on? Can readers hope to see Em and Kier again in the future?

I do hope we get to see Em and Kier again. I never know where my characters will pop up. Maybe if I write the Tig McMorrow series…hmm.

As for current projects, my itchy brain has me writing my very first fantasy novel (a cosy fantasy) about a librarian who is bequeathed her family’s grimoire and discovers she can raise the dead. Books of Dubious Origin is set to release in 2025. I’m having an absolute blast writing it and, yes, it includes a mystery and romance!

Thank you so much Jenn for taking the time to speak with us! Where can The Reading Corner

community get themselves a copy of Love at First Book?

Thank you so much for having me. It’s been delightful. Love at First Book should be available

wherever books or ebooks are sold—but being a recovering librarian myself, I must encourage you to check at your local library, too!

Jenn is the New York Times, USA Today, and Publishers Weekly bestselling author of several mystery and romance series. She is also the winner of the RT Reviewers’ Choice Award for romantic comedy and the Fresh Fiction award for best cozy mystery. A TEDx speaker, she is always happy to talk books, writing, reading, and the creative process to anyone who cares to listen. She lives in sunny Arizona in a house that is overrun with books, pets, and her husband’s guitars.


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