Interview With Jennifer Wilck
If you’ve read Jennifer Wilck’s previous romance novels and have been hungry for more, you’re in luck. A Reckless Heart, the first book in her new series, Scarred Hearts, will be released by The Wild Rose Press on March 29. I’m pleased to host Jennifer on my blog today to discuss her new book and series, her writing process, her intriguing backlist, and more. Don’t miss the tantalizing excerpts from A Reckless Heart and the five-star review from Readers’ Favorite toward the bottom of the page!
Welcome, Jennifer—and congratulations on your upcoming release! Tell us about your new series.
First of all, thank you so much for hosting me today. I’m thrilled to be here and to talk about my latest series, Scarred Hearts. The first book, A Reckless Heart, releases on March 29, and the best way to sum it up is Beauty and the Beast meets the Kardashians. This is the premise for the series: Four college buddies have found financial success and risen to the top of their fields in media, architecture, landscape architecture, and computer security. All of the men are damaged in some way—physically, psychologically, emotionally—and all of them have resigned themselves to a life focused solely on their careers. Yet something is missing, and they seek fulfillment their careers can’t give them. They pool their extra money and form CAST, an investment group to help the less fortunate. They support coding for kids, therapy gardens, senior living facilities, and shelters for abused kids. And then they meet the women who draw them out of their shells, challenge them and turn their worlds upside down.
Ooh, that sounds intriguing—especially the “worlds upside down” part! So, who are Simon and Meg? What makes them tick?
Simon and Meg are two of my favorite characters that I’ve created. Simon is a renowned landscape architect who has secluded himself in his home on the coast of Maine after a fire burned his house, destroyed his family, and scarred him. He conducts his business remotely and has lost his inspiration. Meg is a former society girl who is trying to rebuild her life after a scandal cost her everything. She rents a house from Simon, and as the two grow closer, they are forced to confront their demons—Simon needs to stop hiding, and Meg needs to confront her past. When the local library wants to save open land from a developer, Meg and Simon work together to turn the space into a public park and therapy garden. Meg learns she can put her publicity talents to good use, and Simon learns to enter the world on his own terms. Developing these two damaged characters who want to do good was really enjoyable for me as an author. Plus, the research I was able to do into plants and therapy gardens was a lot of fun!
How did you get interested in the romance genre?
I’ve always loved reading romance and have been doing so since I was a teenager. When I graduated from college, I worked in PR and journalism, and wrote a lot for my clients and employers. But that was a very different type of writing, and I’ve always loved the “happily ever after/happily for now” that romance provides.
You have an impressive backlist. Can you tell us a little bit about those books?
Thank you! Some of my books are Jewish romance (#ownvoices) and some of them are mainstream romance. My Jewish books add a layer of texture to the typical romance—you don’t need to be Jewish to read them, understand them, or enjoy them. And whether they’re mainstream or Jewish, they all are emotionally driven stories that make the hero and heroine really have to work for their happily ever after. Plus, they all have lots of food, witty banter, and steamy chemistry.
Do you have a favorite among your books?
My favorite will always be my first book, A Heart of Little Faith. It’s the book I can’t stop dreaming about, and if there was one book I could enter and be part of, that would be it. Gideon is my favorite grumbly hero, and Lily is his perfect match.
How much time do you put into writing?
I try to put in at least 2-3 hours a day of writing or editing. During the pandemic, my creativity has been low, so I’ve focused more on editing—luckily I have a lot of manuscripts on the backburner that I’ve been able to work on, which is why it’s always important to keep writing!
Are you an outliner or a pantser?
I’m a pantser. I wish I could write to an outline—the one time I tried, I forgot to include the romance! So now I lean into my pantser style to write the first draft. Then, I outline what I have and base my editing off of that. It ensures my character’s physical traits remain the same, that the story arc progresses, and that the story comes together.
What comes first, character or plot?
One of two things happens. The first is a character will start talking to me in my head, and the only way to make him or her (usually him) stop is to write it down. The second is that the black moment—the crisis scene toward the end of the book—pops into my head and then I create the rest of the book from that. For A Reckless Heart, Simon started talking to me and after about 5,000 words, I realized I had a story.
What are you reading right now?
Right now, I’m reading The Red Notebook by Antoine Laurain. It’s a French romance (don’t worry, it’s written in English) and it’s different from any book I’ve ever read. It’s about a guy who finds a purse and tracks down the owner from its contents (wallet/ID not included). I’m really enjoying it.
What kinds of books do you like to read?
I read a little bit of everything. Romance, of course, especially historical, but also mysteries and thrillers and women’s fiction.
What was your favorite childhood book?
I have a lot of authors in my family, so reading was always a big deal. My great uncle used to send me books for every holiday, and my dad would read them to me at bedtime. So my favorite was the Wizard of Oz series.
What’s your favorite book of all time?
Jane Eyre, hands down.
What superpower would you like to have?
I’d love to be able to fly.
It’s karaoke night, and your friends just dragged you to the mic. What will you sing?
“I Will Survive,” by Gloria Gaynor.
If people came with warning labels, what would yours say?
Underestimate her at your own risk.
Are you closer to being a hoarder or a minimalist?
Definitely a minimalist.
What’s one thing you want to be remembered for?
Being kind. We need more of that in the world.
Would you rather…
Travel back in time or visit a far-off planet of highly intelligent, benevolent beings?
Travel back in time. I could have so much fun with that!
Be able to teleport or read minds?
Lie on a beach or hike in the woods?
Hike in the woods. My husband and I have done a lot of that this year.
Be able to fly or able to breathe underwater?
Be forced to eat nothing but spicy food or nothing but bland food for the rest of your life?
Oh, spicy food, definitely!
Free from junk mail or free from email spam for the rest of your life?
Oh, this is great! I’m going to say junk mail—think of all the trees we’d save.
Never have to clean a bathroom again or never have to do dishes again?
Ha! This would alleviate so many arguments. My husband does the dishes, so I’ll say never having to clean the bathroom.
Jennifer started telling herself stories as a little girl when she couldn’t fall asleep at night. Pretty soon, her head was filled with these stories and the characters that populated them. Even as an adult, she thinks about the characters and stories at night before she falls asleep or walking the dog. Eventually, she started writing them down. Her favorite stories to write are those with smart, sassy, independent heroines; handsome, strong and slightly vulnerable heroes; and her stories always end with happily ever after.
In the real world, she’s the mother of two amazing daughters and wife of one of the smartest men she knows. When she’s not writing, she loves to laugh with her family and friends, is a pro at finding whatever her kids lost in plain sight, and spends way too much time closing doors that should never have been left open in the first place. She believes humor is the only way to get through the day and does not believe in sharing her chocolate.
She writes contemporary romance, some of which are mainstream and some of which involve Jewish characters. She’s published with The Wild Rose Press, and all her books are available through Amazon and Barnes & Noble.
Blurb for A Reckless Heart
Meg Thurgood, former society girl, took the blame for her friend and paid a steep price. Now all she wants is solitude and a chance to rebuild her life. She thinks she's found that in an isolated house she rents from a mysterious stranger. Simon McAlter has hidden in his house on the coast of Maine since a fire left him scarred. A successful landscape architect who conducts his business and teaches his classes remotely, he's lost his inspiration and is trying to pretend he's not lonely. Simon's new neighbor is more than he bargained for. When he learns Meg's secret, will he retreat into the shadows or will he learn to see past the surface and trust in Meg's love?
Nervous laughter bubbled in her chest. They’d been close before and held hands. Granted, he’d covered hers on the ladder, but still. It wasn’t the first time they touched. Why was this different? She remembered the sensations when he’d covered her hand on the roof—warmth and roughness and safety. And she wanted it. She bumped her hand against his, on purpose, to feel his skin. It wasn’t smooth like hers. Its texture, unique to him, fascinated her. A moment later, he rubbed his arm against her.
Was it accidental, too? She snuck a glance at his profile. Although his hair blocked most of his face, she’d swear when the wind blew it, a ghost of a smile hovered, like they shared a private joke. Her belly warmed, and the air between their knuckles, where they almost touched, crackled with electricity.
The next time their bodies touched, she slipped her hand through his elbow. His body jolted before he pressed her arm against his side, and they walked to the curve of the shore connected.
When they stopped, they watched the waves lap over the rocks, their froth sputtering into the cracks.
“This is the only place I’ve ever not felt alone,” he whispered.
“How long have you been alone?”
“Too long,” he replied. “This is the only place I’ve ever felt seen.”
“I can’t imagine you invisible,” he said.
“When “It Girls” and camera bulbs surround you, it’s easy to fade into the background.”
The sky and water darkened as the light faded, and she shivered in the chill air. Her hand grew icy as he pulled away from her. As she was about to complain, a weight landed on her shoulders. His arm drew her close. He remained still, as if he waited to see if she’d object. Instead, she leaned against his side. Heat emanated from him, and tingles ran through her body. A desire to turn into him, to press her body against his, to kiss him, overwhelmed her. He positioned her in front of him and rested his chin on the top of her head. His heart beat against her back. A soft moan escaped her lips, and they both froze. All of a sudden, she was aware of how close she was. His jacket was warm from his body and smelled like him.
“Let’s watch a horror movie.” Meg flopped on the couch and wiggled into the soft cushions.
There was a beat of silence before Simon turned away from her and poked at the logs in the fireplace, sending sparks up the chimney. “I’m not a big fan of horror movies.”
She liked horror movies because the monsters were obviously fake. You didn’t have to dig deep, to wonder about anything. It was black and white. Meg’s heart constricted. She hadn’t thought about it from Simon’s perspective. Did he consider himself a monster? Could this amazing man see himself in those movies? Her throat thickened. She wanted to run away and cry. But he’d think she ran from him. With a deep breath, she sorted through the list of her favorites in her mind and threw away several until she thought of the perfect one.
“How about Dracula?” Her voice rasped past the emotion, but she forged ahead. “The old one. It’s totally cheesy, which makes it funny. ‘I vant to suck your blood!’ ” she said with a fake accent.
“Do you?” he asked.
Returning the poker to the rack, he walked toward her, and held out his arm, wrist up. She took it in her hand. His skin was warm beneath her fingers, his pulse steady, and the hair on the other side of his arm was wiry. She stroked her thumb along the inside of his wrist. His breath stuttered. She wondered what he’d do if she kissed him. Desire flooded through her. Never mind him, what would she do?
“Next time,” she said. She was brave, but maybe not that brave, at least not yet.
Slowly, he lowered his arm to his side, but remained close enough his knees brushed hers. His skin was flushed, his eyes ablaze. Heat pulsed between them. After a moment, he stepped away, as if he wasn’t brave enough either. “Do you want popcorn?”
Meg walked with Simon on the rocky beach, waves on her right, cliffs on her left, and seagulls overhead. This time, her lungs expanded, her respiration slowed, and she became hyper aware of him. He took longer strides than she did, but after they’d gone a few feet, he shortened his.
She appreciated the consideration. It only made her more aware of his muscular thighs. Their arms brushed as they walked, and tingles shot up her neck. It was an accident, wasn’t it? He stepped away, but a few strides later the uneven ground pushed them together, and their bodies brushed against each other. She listened to his breath hitch at the contact, and he didn’t move away.
Nervous laughter bubbled in her chest. They’d been close before and held hands. Granted, he’d covered hers on the ladder, but still. It wasn’t the first time they touched. Why was this different? She remembered the sensations when he’d covered her hand on the roof— warmth and roughness and safety. And she wanted it. She bumped her hand against his, on purpose, to feel his skin. It wasn’t smooth like hers. Its texture, unique to him, fascinated her. A moment later, he rubbed his arm against her.
Reviewed By Jennifer Ibiam for Readers’ Favorite, 5 stars
A Reckless Heart by Jennifer Wilck is a contemporary romance novel that will appeal to almost anyone. Meghan had just finished serving her prison sentence and left California for Gull’s Point for some quiet. She also needed to get away from her old life. Meg rented a home from the elusive Simon, a renowned landscape architect, who hid from the world because of his scars from an accident that took his entire family. Two people with battered hearts, who were paying for sins that they didn’t commit, stumbled on each other, and sparks were ignited. They were on their way to love but Meghan held back because she was keeping a secret; one that could destroy them if it got out. Can Meghan and Simon’s love surmount the consequences of this secret? A Reckless Heart by Jennifer Wilck is a fantastic book that I thoroughly enjoyed reading. As much as it was a romance novel, it had depth and delivered salient messages. These lessons bordered on empathy, integrity, love, trust, sacrifice, courage, loyalty, and compromise. It also reminded me that humans are naturally selfish and will always put themselves first. Hence, I should make sacrifices within reason and know when to put my foot down and say NO! The storyline was of a high quality, and the pacing was consistent. Character development was superb. The writing style was simple, making the dialogue easy to follow. My favorite character was Simon, as he never gave up on himself, even in difficulty. If you’re suppressed by those you love, battling with low self-esteem, or physical and emotional scars, this book is for you.