Spotlight & Giveaway: Playing Dirty by Jennifer Echols

Posted October 30th, 2013 by in Blog, Spotlight / 57 comments

Today it is my pleasure to welcome romance author Jennifer Echols to HJ!

Hi Jennifer, Welcome to HJ!

Thanks for having me!

What would you say are the defining characteristic of your novels?

Jennifer EcholsThey’re fun and funny! I spent a long time studying ponderous tomes as a graduate student in English, but what I love to read is a romantic escape from reality, something too good to be true. And I try to write the book I want to read.

5 best things about being a writer?

The flexible schedule.
The free books my publishers sometimes send me.
Being asked to read other authors’ wonderful books before they come out.
Talking with other authors about writing.

If you were a heroine in a book, your character would be – The girl next door, the damsel in distress, Kick-butt take charge heroine or the aloof ice queen and why?

I may look to other people like the take-charge heroine (because I get stuff done) or the aloof ice queen (because I’m introverted), but I feel like the girl next door inside. In fact, my heroine who’s most like me is Lori in my YA romantic comedies The Boys Next Door and Endless Summer.

What are you currently working on? What other releases do you have planned for 2013 into 2014?

The Superlatives Series starts on May 20 with Biggest Flirts. These YA romantic comedies are about seniors at a Florida high school who are selected for their class’s superlative categories in the yearbook, and how the labels change the way they view themselves and alter the course of their lives. Perfect Couple will be published in December 2014, and Most Likely to Succeed will round out the series in August 2015.

Where can readers get in touch with you?

I’m on Twitter (@JenniferEchols) and Facebook ( Come say hi!

Let’s talk about your newest release: Playing Dirty

If you had to summarize the book for the readers here…

PDAs an expert in public relations crisis management—that is, babysitter to the stars—Sarah Seville just spent nine months in Rio trying to keep rock singer Nine Lives out of jail long enough to record his new album…and barely succeeded. Now she needs a triumphant success so she can keep the Manhattan-based job she loves. Trouble is, her new assignment is to travel to Birmingham to prevent the breakup of the raucous country band the Cheatin’ Hearts, headed by sexy Quentin Cox. As she edges closer to Quentin, she discovers layers of secrets. It seems Quentin is taking the spin doctor for a spin.

The Cheatin’ Hearts have stayed on top of the charts two years following three rules. Rule One, no drugs. Rule Two, no sex with other band members. Rule Three, no sex with record company spies. Quentin figures he’d better follow the rules, because he made them. And because if you break a rule, you’re out of the band. But he can’t resist the record company’s beautiful PR agent, and inevitably he breaks Rule Three with hot Sarah Seville. As he falls for her, he finds out that she has plenty of secrets of her own, and one of them comes knocking on her door: what really happened to her in Rio.

Please tell us about the characters in your book

What I love about Sarah and Quentin is that they’re both intellectuals with great senses of humor, and they’re good for each other. But they’ve each got so much riding on presenting a false front to the world that it takes them a long time to recognize that they’re a perfect match.

What scene did you have the most fun writing? Why?

Here’s Quentin explaining to Sarah what happens when he has an asthma attack, a problem he’s been hiding because he’s afraid it will ruin his career as a singer. This time it happened at his grandfather’s funeral. The scene was fun to write because FLYING GRANDPA.

“I was a pallbearer, which was somebody else’s mistake, because I was pretty devastated when he died . . .”
As Quentin trailed off, Sarah nodded sympathetically. She knew how he’d felt.
“After we got our shoulders under the casket, the closer we got to the church, the more upset I got. I guess I could pretend it wasn’t happening before that, and I was at just another family reunion, but this was final.
“Well, somebody was smoking outside the church, and as we were crossing the threshold, I got a lungful. I couldn’t reach for my inhaler in my pocket because, hello, I was carrying a casket. Normally I could have made it all the way down the aisle without it, but I was so upset already. On top of that, I was terrified of passing out in front of all those people. A lot of them were friends of my granddad’s from Nashville, country music insiders. None of them could have gotten the Cheatin’ Hearts a contract, but I didn’t know that at the time. I was as tense as I’ve ever been, and that’s when I”—he clapped his hands, one on top of the other—“hit the aisle.”
“Oh!” Sarah gasped.
“And then the casket”—he clapped his hands again—“hit the aisle, tumbled end over end, and landed upside down.”
“Oh my God!” Sarah squealed. “Why couldn’t the other five guys hold it up?”
“That’s what I said at the emergency room later!” Quentin exclaimed. “They’re all like, ‘Give a dude a nudge when you’re about to faint like a girl, Q,’ and I’m like, ‘There are six pallbearers. I was holding up the whole thing myself? You can’t hold it up yourselves if a guy has to pass out?’ Jesus.” He paused. “My granddad would have loved it, though.”
“No!” Sarah covered her mouth again to hold her laughter in.
“Oh, yes. The casket was closed, thank God, and they did not open it after that to see what had happened to him. But he would have said, ‘You should have left it open, and I would have gone flying! That’s showmanship.’”

What scene was the hardest to write? Why?

This is after Quentin, not usually a drinker, has gotten drunk playing strip poker. It was hard to write because my editor asked me to add it, which always elicits from me a “Grrrrrrrrrrr I don’t wanna! My book is perfect like it is! I DON’T WANNA. Grrrrrrrrrr okay.”

“Sit down,” he told Sarah, taking his hand off the high end of the keyboard to pat the piano bench beside him. When he felt her warmth at his elbow, he played and sang what was in his head, a simple progression of one-chord, four, five, one, repeat, with pretty fills between the lines.
I lost my shirt.
You ain’t lost nothing.
I lost my shoes.
You ain’t lost a thing.
He glanced at her. She watched him with serious eyes. Serious called for replacing the major ones in the middle with minor sixes, so sad.
I want to go
Up into my bedroom.
You had to choose.
We ain’t had a fling.
Now a money note in the melody, up to the higher G.
I want to know
Why I can’t get lucky.
Need the queen of hearts
Always draw a king.
Now the end. The first line repeated the melody he’d established, but the other three lines took a detour into quiet darkness, stopping on a question mark of a major four that made audiences uncomfortable and won Grammys.
I lost my heart
To a lady from the city.
I asked you to dance.
You asked me to sing.
The vibration of the piano strings lifted, leaving him and Sarah alone together.
“I love the way it ends, down low,” she said softly, sexily, nearly a whisper. “I didn’t expect it to go there.”
“Yeah. You try not to get too repetitive. Go in the opposite direction from what your instincts tell you, to shake it up. Martin taught me that.” Martin had taught him a lot in the twelve years they’d been friends. And now that Martin really needed him, Quentin hadn’t been able to do shit.
“Is it on the new album?” Sarah asked.
“This song? I doubt I’ll remember it in the morning.” That said, Quentin started through the chord progression again. If he could commit it to his sloshed memory, maybe Martin could do something with it.
“You mean you made that up while we’ve been sitting here?”
“Sure, can’t you tell?” he asked over the chords.
“In retrospect, yes. As I was hearing it, I was just thinking it was very appropriate to the situation.”
“Very appropriate, and it sounds super drunk. ‘Strip Poker Blues’ ought to be a jaunty two-step. This is a melancholy ballad.” He looked over at her. Her brown eyes were huge, and her hair in every color fell soft around her heart-shaped face. “Because you turned me down.”

Who would you cast in the role of your characters if your book was optioned for a movie?

I honestly can’t say because I don’t watch enough movies or TV. I’m reading!

Thank you for stopping by HJ!

It was my pleasure.

GIVEAWAY: 3 print copies of PLAYING DIRTY!

To enter Giveaway: Please complete the Rafflecopter form and post a comment to this Q: Playing Dirty is set in my hometown of Birmingham. Do you like novels set in your hometown, or do they drive you crazy? Do you have a favorite?

a Rafflecopter giveaway


He shut and locked the door behind him, tossed her onto the leather armchair by the window, and pushed the chair over to the door with her in it.
“I thought we agreed that we’re not going to do this,” she said, sitting up.
“We’re not.” He noted with supreme interest that she looked disappointed. “But we want Erin to think we are. Right?”
“Right,” she said uncertainly.
“So make it sound like we are.” He folded his arms. “Show me what you’ve got.”
She looked at him dubiously, then laughed, nervous. Her cheeks had turned bright pink, the same shade as a wayward lock of hair that half-hid one of her big, dark eyes.
“Come on now,” he scolded her. “This is for your job security.”
She got serious, squaring her shoulders. “Don’t watch me.”
He looked away while she uttered a pitiful imitation.
Turning back to her, he shook his head. “Every fake orgasm from now until the end of time is going to sound like When Harry Met Sally.” He picked her up, sat down in the leather chair himself, and settled her in his lap with her back to him. After cranking up the footrest so they reclined comfortably together, he deftly unbuttoned and unzipped her pants and slipped his hand inside, past the delicate lace of her panties.
“This isn’t a good idea,” she said in warning, clutching his hand. “I have to go to the office tonight to get some more work done, and I don’t want my clothes to be all wrinkled.”
He laughed shortly. “I’ve never heard that one before. And that’s the worst excuse I’ve heard in probably a decade.” He removed his hand from her panties and pulled down on the waistband of her pants.
“Quentin,” she scolded him, slapping his hands. “My trousers are headed in the wrong direction.”
“Relax.” He slipped out from under her and stood up so he could get more leverage on the pants leg. “Are your clothes always this hard to get off?”
“When my shoes are on.”
“I don’t want you to take your shoes off. I really like you in those shoes. Oh!” he exclaimed in relief, finally coming away with the pants. He made a great show of smoothing them and folding them carefully before dropping them in a heap on the carpet. Now that she was cooperating, he handled her shirt with one good tug. He crumpled it on the floor beside the pants. Then he sat on the footrest to look at her.
Red lace bra. Red lace panties, some stylish kind that sat low on her hips and cut straight across her ass in back. Underneath, creamy skin stretched taut over the hard muscles of an athlete.
He said sincerely, “You are so beautiful.”
“Thank you!” She smiled, brown eyes big.
“I really like being in cahoots with you.”
“Me, too.”
He moved to the chair and pulled her back against him again, positioning her so she could feel his erection. This time when he pushed his hand into her panties and she began to protest, he was ready. He clamped his other hand over her mouth. She’d been talking like she wanted to stay in control. But instinct told him if she thought she wanted control in the bedroom, nobody had ever shown her what she really wanted.

57 Responses to “Spotlight & Giveaway: Playing Dirty by Jennifer Echols”

  1. Marcy Meyer

    I’m from a small town in Missouri, so I’ve never experienced that. But, I do love small town stories.

  2. Margaret

    Since I life in the middle of nowhere I don’t think there will ever be a novel set in my town! I do like when a town like mine is used in a book though – it can make the story more relatable!

  3. Marcy Shuler

    I live in a smaller town so I have never seen a book set here. LOL I’d actually love to see what an author could come up with here.

  4. Debra A.

    The closest I have come to see a story about my “home town” was a cowboy rodeo story that mentioned my town where I grew up. I have moved so much that was “neat” to read. Now that I have been in the town I am in now almost 15 yrs it would seem surreal to read. Even though there was a song written about it in the 60’s.

  5. ndluebke

    I love reading books about where I live. So Far, I’ve only read one, and it was historical, so it was hard figuring out where the places were.

  6. Jesica F

    Haha my hometown is in Athens, Greece so I’ve never actually come across a book that was set there but I think the reason something like that would bother a person is if the author did a bad job of representing their town.

  7. Allison W

    There aren’t a lot of books from my hometown that I know of (Lexington, KY) but I think its fun!

  8. Inga

    I don’t like when books are set in my town. It’s much more fun to read about a place I’ve never been. Makes it easier to visualize about the location and want to visit.

  9. kp

    I’ve never seen a book set in my hometown! But as I live near Boston there are plenty of books I can’t relate to!

  10. Leanna

    Just moved to Austin, TX a year ago. There are a lot of books set in Texas. One of my favorites is Already Home by Susan Mallery set in Georgetown which is close to Austin. I love reading books set here.

  11. Kai W.

    I do like stories set in my hometown but then again, I live in a city that is the size of 7 major cities. So much is happening from good to bad to quiet to being noisy 24/7 to urban to rural.

  12. Jennifer F

    I like stories that are set in other locations than where I am from. I do appreciate stories from my hometown as well though.

  13. Jenn McElroy

    I’m from NYC, so I enjoy stories set in NYC. I like the local references, etc. I don’t read things that are set solely in NY, though. I live here! I’d like an escape, too! 😉 Thanks for the giveaway!

  14. Josette Schaber

    I have never read a book set completely in my home town. I don’t live there now, but I was born in Columbus, Ohio and it has been mentioned in a few books. It’s pretty strange to read about places and know exactly what the author is talking about. Most of the time the locations could be completely made up and I wouldn’t even know.

  15. Mary Preston

    I seriously doubt anyone has, or ever will, set a book in this town. I’d be curious though.

  16. beckymmoe

    I can’t think of a book set in my hometown (Buffalo, NY), but it’s been in movies and TV. If they get it “right”, it’s cool–but super annoying when they get stuff really wrong! (FYI, Syracuse, NY is the snowiest non-Alaskan US city, NOT Buffalo!) I always love hearing/seeing it mentioned, though. Like when a character mentions having a relative “from Buffalo” or similar 🙂

  17. Erika

    I love reading books set in or near Chicago! I once read a book with the suburb right next to my own in it and thought that was so great! Thanks!

  18. Chanpreet

    I was born in San Antonio and when I was three we moved to Atlanta. I have absolutely no memories of Texas, so I consider Atlanta to be my home town. I love it when books are set here. I love it when book are set elsewhere too because I get to see a small glimpse of them.

  19. Lori Meehan

    I love small town romance and I’ve read several written about places in Ohio wear I live. It’s fun to think about the that imaginary town and or its residents.

  20. Kim Pinch

    I am from a small town so nothing has been written about it. I have been to several major cities and enjoy reading books that reference places I have visited.

  21. martha lawson

    My hometown has never been written about, it’s just really small. I do love to read about small towns, though.

  22. Anita H.

    I don’t really have issues with wherever novels are set since most novels don’t feature Canadian cities. As long as they get factual things right, it’s all good

  23. Ada

    My hometown is never a setting. I’d love to see it as one though! I usually have no preferences whatsoever though, it’s like getting to visit different places without leaving my home!

  24. Aline

    I don’t think there will be novels set in my hometown but if there is I don’t think I’ll have a problem with that except if they got some things totally wrong..

  25. Texas Book Lover

    No books will ever be set in my actually city it is too tiny but there are several set in Dallas which is very close by. They don’t bother me at all, although I have yet to read about anything that is actually here.

  26. Krysten M

    I can read anything and everything. Doesn’t matter to me as long a the story is good 🙂

  27. Carrie Stevens

    i live in a town of 131 people in arkansas i would be thrilled to see one set in my place but there is obviously nothing to do here lol not even a stop light

  28. Justine

    I like stories set in my hometown because it’s fun to read what the author has chosen to highlight and sometimes I also find out about things I didn’t know!

  29. Jennifer Zorko-Legan

    I have never read a book set in my hometown, but I love books that are based on real places. It makes the story that much more real.

  30. Sue G.

    I think it would be fun to have one based in my hometown but I have yet to have heard of any based in the Cleveland, OH area.

  31. Lori P

    I love stories from all over. I don’t think that I’ve read one set in my hometown, yet 🙂

  32. Beth Re

    My hometown is so small I don’t think it’s ever been written about.
    I enjoy hometown settings

  33. Claira Pam

    I’ve yet to read a story set in my hometown, but I wouldn’t mind it – it’d be kind of neat to see all the references that only we would get!

  34. veRONIca

    I’ve only ever read one book where they visited my hometown. And they mentioned this “cool” place to hang out but in reality that neighbourhood is super sketch and most people avoid it. So I thought that was hilarious that the main characters were dying to go there!

  35. Andra Dalton

    Have yet to run across any books written about or based on my hometown but don’t think it would bother me. Closest one that I know of that isn’t far though is Elmore Leonard’s which is based on county that isn’t far from us. Thanks for giveaway & good luck to all!!☺



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