Tuesday, December 17, 2013

20 Questions for Mara Jacobs: Getting to Know Your Favorite (or soon to be Favorite!) Writer. . .

One of the best things about the holidays are anthologies – those short reads that accommodate the reduced amount time available for reading while still infusing the joy and magic of the season. Even so, I rarely have time to get through all the different stories before it’s time to pack things up until next year. That’s what drew me to Mara Jacobs’ Totally Worth Christmas novella (other than the fact that it’s set in my home state!). The Worth Series Book 4.5 of her Copper Country titles is just right for a one night read with all the holiday feel goods of family, togetherness topped with a nice hint of spice.

The author warns that this shouldn’t be the first book you read of the series because it contains previous couples you haven’t met. I had no trouble following the story and actually felt their inclusion gave this holiday tale a warm sense of past and permanence to the characters which added depth to the shorter length and more satisfaction to the ending. And it did what any good author’s book should do – it had me One Clicking Book One of the series so I can get in on the ground floor to get to know them better.

So first, let me introduce you to New York Times and USA Today bestseller Mara Jacobs with my 20 Questions and then, let her entice you with a tasty slice of Totally Worth Christmas!

Getting to know you:

1. Party dress or blue jeans? Blue jeans. No question.

2. Spa day or gym workout? Spa day. In fact, that’s always my reward for finishing a book – a 90 minute massage.

3. Things that make you want to go “EEEEEEK!” Bats. Bats. And Bats.

4. If I had a free afternoon, I’d . . . Curl up with a book and drift off into a nap. Then feel guilty that I didn’t spend it writing. (but not so guilty that I wouldn’t do it again if given the chance.)

5. What music are you listening to? (While you write?) I do a different playlist for each book – totally mood based. For the latest holiday release I had some great Christmas tunes – Louis and Ella doing “Baby it’s Cold Outside”, stuff like that.

6. What’s on your Bucket List? Florence, Italy has been #1 on my bucket list forever. Gotta get there and cross that sucker off!

7. Gourmet cook or take out? Take out. Definitely. I can go months without turning my oven on.

8. Your first kiss . . . Was at summer camp. (Church camp, no less!)
The Written word:

9. Favorite genre to read? Romance for sure. Within that, I fluctuate back and forth between contemporary and historical.

10. What would you love to write that you haven’t? I’d love to write historical romance, but my voice doesn’t lend itself well to it. Not formal enough, I guess. Plus, too lazy to make sure I have all the details right with clothes and such.

11. What are you reading right now? The latest in the Maiden Lane series by Elizabeth Hoyt.

12. Paperback or e-book? E-book. Love my Kindle. (and I thought I wouldn’t)

A Writer’s Life:

13. OCD plotter or free range pantser? Plotter. Not quite to OCD level, but I work from a loose outline. I usually write the first couple of scenes, and then write the last scene because I know how it’s going to end. The middle part takes a few pantser turns.

14. Do you have a set writing schedule? I still have the day job, so I do stretches where I write from 5-7 am, and then, when that exhausts me, I try to switch it up and write later in the evening.

15. First publishing rejection (and getting back on that horse). Can’t even remember what was the first, but I have a kind of philosophy of wallow for one day, then get into that “I’ll show them!” mentality.

16. Solo muse or critique partner(s)? Having great critique partners has made me confident enough to pretty solo muse it now. They still read finished manuscripts, and give great feedback, but we don’t do chapter by chapter like we did when we started our critique group. We’ve morphed into a great group that does everything from critique to discussing the business of publishing and self publishing.

17. Biggest hurdle to getting words on the page and how you overcome it? Keeping my butt in the chair. I find if I stay in the chair, hands poised over the keyboard long enough the words will flow. It’s getting in the chair in the first place, then staying there, that’s the challenge.

18. How do you get in the mood to write ‘those’ scenes? Music. Relaxing. Then just try to get “in the mood.”

19. What’s on your desk? I’ve gone deskless! I write on a laptop and last year got a zero gravity recliner, which has been really good for my back. I do, however have a work station with my printer and such in it, and on that are matted and framed printouts of when I made the New York Times and USA Today bestseller lists this year—a gift from those aforementioned awesome critique partners.

20. When can we get your next book and what’s it all about? Totally Worth Christmas just came out. It’s a holiday novella featuring a new romance, but also showcasing the couples from the first 4 Worth books. Next up I’m going to try the New Adult subgenre. Then back to my Worth series peeps.

Totally Worth Christmas

(The Worth Series Book 4.5: A Copper Country Novella)

Charlie Simpson was nursing a broken heart. Phoebe Robbins was just waiting tables. 
Fate brought them together for one night.

Now, amidst the original Worth couples (Lizzie and Finn, Katie and Darío, Alison and Petey, and Deni and Sawyer), and a holiday party with lots of surprises, can Charlie and Phoebe find each other again?

A holiday novella, featuring the Copper Country couples of the Worth Series.


The people at the table next to him cleared out, and there was only one other booth on Charlie's side of the diner with customers. He couldn’t see around the corner of the L-shaped counter to know if there were other people still left or not. He sipped from his coffee cup, taking only the smallest amount, willing the cute waitress to come out from behind the swinging kitchen doors and notice him.

As if the gods had heard him, the door swung in Charlie's direction. He held his breath, praying it was the young waitress. It was. And she was heading in his direction. But then she stopped when she saw him sitting in the booth. She turned around and headed away from him and Charlie almost screamed in frustration. But no, she was only going to the coffee maker and grabbing a pot of the blessed brew and bringing it…yes, she was…bringing it to him.

“Care for a refill?” she asked as she reached him.

“Hmm-mmm,” he mumbled, holding his cup out to her. God, had the words “care for a refill” ever sounded so sexy? Her voice was light, airy and had a familiarity to it that went right to his gut. Up close she was even more angelic looking. Her face was heart-shaped, and her eyes were a deep brown that seemed a stark contrast to her light blonde hair.

“There you go,” she said, filling his cup. She turned to walk away, to leave him, and he blurted out, “I didn't go with them.”

She turned back to face him. “Excuse me?”

He put his cup on the table and motioned to the empty seats in his booth. “My friends. I didn't go with them.”

“Oh-kaaay,” she said in a be-nice-to-the-mental-patient kind of way.

“I know you heard them talking about going to a strip club.”

She shrugged noncommittally, and he wondered if maybe she hadn't caught as much of their conversation as he thought. And, more importantly, why did he care one way or another?

But he did. Suddenly it seemed so…

“Important,” he said. “It's important to me that you know I didn't go with them.”

“Listen, it's none of my business if you—”

“But I didn't. Not that I haven't ever gone to one. And I might have even gone tonight, just…because… But then I saw you.”


“Yes. I saw you, and it was much more important that I stay right here and hope you walked by than to go out with my buddies.”

The coffee pot in her hand dipped a couple of inches, but she didn't drop it. She did, however, take a much closer look at Charlie. Her scrutiny should have made him squirm, but he held her gaze, didn't look away.

“You would have had better luck at the strip club,” she finally said, then turned and walked away. When she reached the counter, she put the coffee pot back on the burner and went through the swinging doors.

What the hell had he just done? Totally uncool. She was probably hustling out the back door. Or getting a big, beefy short-order cook to come out and kick Charlie's ass.

The door swung again and Charlie braced his hands on the edge of the table, fearing the worst. But no burly cook came out with the waitress. She was alone, carrying a tray. She made her way over to the only other table with diners—a couple in their twenties who sat on the same side of the booth together. She took the bill and cash that they held out to her, and she said something Charlie didn't hear. She made her way over to him as the couple left the booth, put on their jackets and left the diner.

Leaving Charlie alone with his dream girl. And potentially a kitchen full of people.

She made her way to Charlie, putting the money the couple had left her in her apron pocket, still balancing the smallish tray on the open palm of her right hand.

“Hey, I didn't mean to freak you out or anything,” he said to her as she stopped in front of him. “I just…” He couldn't finish. She'd turned those rich brown eyes on him, and he lost all thought.

“You didn't freak me out,” she said, as she pulled a plate from her tray and set it in front of him.

He stared down at the plate, which was covered with a very generous helping of pie.

“Banana cream,” she said. “Gladdie makes the most amazing banana cream pie you've ever tasted.”

He took his eyes from the enormous confection and looked up at her. She was so close to him that if he moved his elbow, it would graze her nicely-curved hip. Much as he wanted to, he didn't move his elbow, but instead picked up his fork and took a bite of pie.

Rich, creamy and yet light-as-air taste exploded in his mouth. “Oh my God,” he said, his mouth still full.

A bright smile crossed her face. It was sweeter than the pie. “I know, right? To die for isn't it?”

He nodded, stunned by her thousand-watt smile. She left him again, but this time she didn't return to the kitchen, but instead, locked the front door, turning the “open” sign around. Then she flipped a switch, turning the outside sign light off.

“Are you closing?” he said.

Idiot. Of course she was closing. “I mean, do you need me—”

She held up a hand as she walked to the wall at the far side of the room and turned off some of the lights. Most of them, really, except for the one nearest Charlie and the ones over the counter.

“You're fine. I've got lots more to do yet. It’s my night to do all the post-close stuff. Enjoy your pie.”

He enjoyed the view more. Watching her turn off things, and cleaning others. Charlie had never eaten more slowly in his life. His forkfuls barely held any of the voluminous pie, trying to make it last as long as possible, while she finished the business of closing up.

Finally, he’d finished the pie and it seemed she’d finished her tasks. She made her way over to his booth. “So, was the pie better than going to a strip club?”

“Definitely,” he said, smiling at her, waving at his empty plate. “Thanks.”

“No problem,” she said. He expected her to walk away, or hand him his coat, but she just stood there, watching him.

“You’re probably in a rush to get out of here, to get home.” He tried to put some questioning in his voice, and tried not to look too pathetic… or too hopeful.

She shrugged, leaning her hip against the back of the booth facing him. “Umm, well, I have finished up all the stuff I’m supposed to…” He sat quietly, not moving a muscle, hoping there was a “but” at the end of that trail off. “But,” (Thank you, God!) “there are always more things that can be done.”

“Before you start those, do you want to sit down? Would you like to talk a little? I’m Charlie, by the way.” He looked at her nametag pinned above the pocket on her uniform. “Phee,” he said.

Phee. Short for Fiona? Not that it mattered to him, he liked the sound “Phee” made as it rolled off his tongue.

She looked closely at him. Charlie tried to look as harmless as possible. Just someone to share a cup of coffee with at the end of a long day. Certainly not some guy who believes you just may be the cutest thing he’s ever seen.

She took a deep breath and let it out, like she’d just made a big decision. To Charlie it felt like it may very well be one of life’s turning points, but he didn’t want to put that pressure on her.

She slid into the seat across from him and said, “Yes, I’d like that.” She smiled brightly at him and then put her head down as if shy. “I think I’d really like that,” she said so quietly Charlie almost didn’t hear her.

But he did.

And he knew that somehow his life had totally changed in this retro diner, nearing midnight, as he sat alone with a waitress.

*Although Totally Worth Christmas has its own start-to-finish romance, about 40% of the story is revisiting the couples of the first 4 Worth books. If you haven’t read those books, this one may not be the best place to start. (Note from Nancy: Yes, it is!)


Mara Jacobs is the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of the Worth Series.

After graduating from Michigan State University with a degree in advertising, Mara spent several years working at daily newspapers in advertising sales and production. This certainly prepared her for the world of deadlines!

Most authors say they’ve been writing forever. Not so with Mara. She always had the stories, but they played like movies in her head. A few years ago she began transferring the movies to pages. She writes mysteries with romance, thrillers with romance, and romances with…well, you get it.

Forever a Yooper (someone who hails from Michigan's glorious Upper Peninsula), Mara now resides in the East Lansing, Michigan, area where she is better able to root on her beloved Spartans.


  1. Thanks for having me here today, Nancy. I'm glad you enjoyed Totally Worth Christmas - and enough to start the series from the beginning...makes my day!

    1. Thank YOU for being my guest . . . and providing me with entertainment when it's 6-degrees outside!

  2. I've enjoyed all of the Worth Series. ("Fall" being my favorite so far.) I enjoy the Christmas Novella and being part of that really cool "first meet/falling in love" time frame. How did you decide to tell that "night" throughout the story, instead of all at once, first up? How do you decide story telling strategy?

    1. It was originally supposed to be all up front, but then I thought it would serve the story better to dole it out in doses. The hard part was coming up with the items that triggered the flashbacks for both characters. A challenge, but a fun one.

      Thanks for reading, Kelly!

  3. Great interview, ladies. Mara, I'm still waiting for another Blackbird book. Hint, hint.

    1. Thanks, Diane. Blackbird's on the docket for 2014 But it's a looooong docket!

  4. It's great to meet you Mara. I loved the excerpt and the cover. Your series sounds great! All the best!