Hi Jayne and welcome to HJ! We’re so excited to chat with you about your new release, Picture This!
Hi Sara and HJ readers! Thanks so much for having me on the blog. My fourth rom com, and the second in my Marsden series, Picture This, was published just last week. It’s the follow-up to Down on Love, although they can be read as standalones.
Picture This is the story of Celia Marshall, a small-town girl from the quaint village of Marsden, which is located in the Catskill Mountains in central New York. At the end of Down on Love, she decided to break out of her comfort zone and move to NYC. While she’s working as a photographer’s assistant, she meets the ridiculously goofy but charming and sexy movie star, Niall Crenshaw, who’s immediately smitten with her.
When Celia’s called back to Marsden by her parents to help with her ailing grandmother, Niall accepts a gig hosting a singing competition there so he can spend more time with her. He assures Celia he can handle Marsden and all its quirks. He’s very wrong.
And now…Five Random Facts About Picture This!
1. Marsden isn’t a fictionalized version of a real town with the name changed to protect the guilty; instead, it’s a mashup of several New York locations near and dear to my heart: Oneonta, my college town; Naples, in the Finger Lakes; Woodstock (Marsden was founded as an artists’ colony in the 1800s); Old Forge; and Saratoga Springs. Contrary to what my friends and neighbors suspect (!), I didn’t mine my own village in western NY for material…except for one character, who’s based on a real resident. Oh—and also some folks yarn bomb our commercial district once a year, which inspired Marsden’s group of guerilla yarn bombers to Picture This.
2. Zoë the police officer is another in a long line of minor-character Zoës in my books. They’re all named for my son’s first “girlfriend” in kindergarten and first grade. I always thought they were so cute together, and I love the name, so the parade of Zoës began. The real Zoë doesn’t know about it. Neither does her mother. I’ll tell them someday, I suppose. I hope they find it charming and complimentary (as intended) and not at all creepy.
3. The hero of Picture This, celebrity Niall Crenshaw, was inspired by a real actor, but I’d rather not say which one. Niall diverged from my role model pretty abruptly, becoming a “real” person in his own right after a couple of scenes, so I’d rather readers imagine a unique person instead of trying to picture a specific actor.
4. If you want quick insight into my characters, check their houses and cars. I adore old houses (I’ve renovated three in my adult life and it’s damned near killed me), and I’ve had to learn all about cars to keep up with my 10-year-old son, who lives and breathes autos (and we are not talking Ford vs. Chevy here—it goes so far beyond that, into obscure exotics territory). With all this knowledge stuffed into my cortex, willingly or unwillingly, I have become very particular about my characters’ choices of houses and cars. The homes they live in and the vehicles they drive always reflect their personalities. Niall refuses to be a Hollywood stereotype, so instead of a Porsche or a Lamborghini or even a Range Rover, he drives a cheesy 1980 Chevy Corvette Stingray. Subtext: It’s one of the most outrageous and dramatic car designs ever—one you either love or hate because it’s so “out there”…just like its owner. Celia’s grandmother, Holly, and her neighbors all have old houses with large front porches, reflecting their social nature, while Celia’s antisocial parents live out in the woods in a ranch-style home that has an enclosed porch at the back, which can be reached only by walking through the house. In other words, don’t drop by; if we want to socialize, we’ll invite you over.
5. I had a weird experience rereading Down on Love and Picture This, long after I sent the final version of Picture This to my editor: In Down on Love, George (Georgiana) Down isn’t close friends with Celia, who plays a smaller role in the first Marsden novel. George considers Celia a bit too conservative for her liking. Celia, on the other hand, has always admired George’s fearlessness and admits at one point that she wishes she were more like George. I wanted to illustrate the fact that they used to be friendly before the teenage years hit and their social circles diverged, so at the last minute I added a bit where George suddenly recalls an afternoon they spent together when they were around 11 or 12, hanging out in George’s yard, eating popsicles and talking about camp and boys. One detail I added at the very last minute was a throwaway line about how George did some skateboarding and eventually managed to get timid Celia to try it out.
When Niall and Celia drive to Marsden in Picture This, they spend some time trading deep, dark secrets to get to know each other better. One of the things Celia tells Niall is that when she was around 11, she tried to burn her entire wardrobe. “I was going through this rebellious phase where I didn’t want to be the girly-girl my parents had groomed me to be. I had some notion of being a skateboard punk or something,” she says. It occurred to me waaay later that this probably happened right after the afternoon George and Celia spent together that was mentioned in Down on Love, when timid Celia started wishing she were more like George. I. Did. Not. Plan. That. Cue Twilight Zone music.
This is from the opening scene, the photo shoot where Celia’s feeling incredibly uncomfortable because her boss the photographer wants her take her pants off in front of everyone and pose in her underwear, her roommate is teasing her, everyone’s waiting not very patiently…then Niall Crenshaw arrives, and not in the way you’d expect a celebrity to enter a room.
“Come on, you’ve gotta admit this is just a tiny bit hilarious.”
“Keep it up and I’m using all the hot water before you even manage to find your way out of bed tomorrow morning.”
“And how would that make tomorrow different from any other day? Between you and my sister, it’s a miracle I get five minutes in the bathroom most mornings.”
“You snooze, you lose—in this case, literally. Ice bath for you tomorrow, for sure.”
“Look here, missy,” her roommate drawled. “You don’t scare me. I once went four weeks with no hot water—in winter—thanks to that good-for-nothing super. Just do what the man says, all right? The faster we get this done, the sooner we can all go home. And I’m making paella tonight.”
With a sly wink at her, Danny gave Victor the high sign and drifted away, making Celia feel even more guilty for keeping everyone waiting. But no. This was not on her. Why should she—
Then, suddenly…hands. On her leg. The little “Yip!” that escaped her was absolutely mortifying. She had no reason to flinch. This happened all the time in photo shoots—people took liberties, didn’t ask before they manhandled you. They didn’t have to. Then again, she was never the one being manhandled. She took a steadying breath. It was just Jeannie, the makeup and wardrobe lady, about to apply the temporary tattoo to the back of her leg. Right?
“Oh, sorry. Are my hands cold?”
Then again, Jeannie’s touch was never that intimate. Also, she wasn’t a tenor.
Celia glanced down, and her stomach clenched. Dammit. “The talent” had arrived—and she’d been so preoccupied trying to figure out how not to strip that she hadn’t noticed the ripple of excitement pass through everyone in the room. She heard it now, though. Or, rather, felt it—like the level of energy was ratcheted just a little bit higher because Niall Crenshaw, comedic movie star and man of the hour, the celebrity endorsing McManus scotch, was present. Lounging at her feet.
“I couldn’t help overhearing, and I get it. The hesitation, I mean,” he said, then stage-whispered, holding the back of his hand alongside his mouth, “Commando, am I right?”
“What? No!” It came out as an indignant squeak.
He flashed his famous lopsided grin at her, and her world listed sideways, just a little. It was disconcerting to see such a familiar face in her everyday life. She was used to it being two-dimensional and several feet high on a movie screen.
Celia faltered. She got the sneaking suspicion he was expecting her to respond a certain way—gush, perhaps? Squeal? Giggle? She didn’t have that in her. Instead, she crossed her arms and huffed, “Do I look like the commando type to you?”
Niall’s assessing gaze traveled up and down her body. Slowly. Very slowly. “Oh, absolutely,” he murmured. “At least, a guy can hope.”
GIVEAWAY: Digital copy of PICTURE THIS (Winner’s choice of ebook retailer)
To enter Giveaway: Please complete the Rafflecopter form and post a comment to this Q: A blogger friend said she’d love to see Picture This as a movie. Do you mentally cast actors as you read a book and plan what it would look like on the big screen (or even the small screen)? Or do you prefer your romances acted out only in your head?
Jayne Denker divides her time between working hard to bring the funny in her romantic comedies and raising a young son who’s way too clever for his own good. She lives in a small village in western New York that is in no way, shape, or form related to the small village in her Marsden novels Down on Love and Picture This. When she’s not hard at work on another novel, the social media addict can usually be found frittering away startling amounts of time on Facebook (Jayne Denker Author) and Twitter (@JDenkerAuthor).