Today I am interviewing Jennifer Chastain, author of the Christian novella, The Mistletoe Contract. Jennifer, thank you for joining me today. Tell us a little bit about yourself.
Ever since I was a little girl, living in my small town in New York State, I have been a voracious reader. During the summer months, I would ride my bike to our library and return with a basketful of books. My dad’s job moved our family to Charlotte, NC in my teen years, but the memories of growing up in a small community have stayed with me. A Yankee transplant, I’ve grown to love the grace and charm of the South. In fact, I even married a native Charlottean.
For the past five years, my husband and I have been host parents to several international high school students. We have experienced the joy of seeing these students blossom into young adulthood. I am a hopeful romantic and love dark chocolate, Diet Coke and good romantic movie, whether it’s new release or a classic. My husband and I have been married for over twenty-five years and are permitted to coexist with our black rescue cat.
What is The Mistletoe Contract about?
Nathan Rutledge is acting CEO of his family’s company, Tar Heel Enterprises, and his grandfather’s will states that he must be married before he assumes the CEO position. However, someone is embezzling funds from his company which adds another level of stress. Meredith Mitchell is the forensic accountant sent to investigate Nate’s company’s finances. He desperately needs a wife, and she needs fund to pay for her mother’s life-saving transplant. Nate proposes a modern-day marriage of convenience, but old hurts and wounds stand in the way of their happily ever after.
What is the inspiration behind The Mistletoe Contract?
The inspiration for my story came from a combination of watching Hallmark Christmas movies and Married at First Sight (a reality show where couples are matched and they don’t meet until their wedding day). I’ve also read a lot of fake fiancé and fake boyfriend/girlfriend books and I thought what if my two main characters actually did get married? But with all their history/backstory, it wasn’t going to be an easy path to their happily ever after. Christmas is my favorite holiday so I thought what better way to combine the things I love than a story that takes place during Christmas?
What was the catalyst for your interest in writing?
I’ve always been a voracious reader. When I was younger, I would ride my bike down to our small town’s library, browse the shelves and then come home with a basketful of books. I loved to make up stories for my Barbie and Ken dolls too. Within the past ten years, God has placed the desire to write on my heart. Six years ago, I signed up for the Story Crafter Program with Novel Academy and led by Susan May Warren. It took me three years to finish that first novel but after finishing the course work
Do you have a day job? If so, how do you find time in your day to write?
Finding time to write, to carve out those blocks of time that are so needed for a writing career has been one of my biggest challenges. I have a demanding job, but I knew that if God called me to write, then I would need to make time. I typically write 1-2 hours a night, Monday through Thursday and then 4-5 hours on Saturdays and Sundays.
Are you a night owl or morning person?
I am a night owl, which is not a good thing since I work a full-time job outside the home. I normally get my second wind around 8 at night. I could sit and write (or read!) another 2-3 hours. And if I do this, then I’m dragging the next day.
Are you a plotter or a panster?
Oh, I am definitely a plotter! I have to have a roadmap of where the story is headed. Sometimes, the characters take a detour, but that’s okay, that only makes the story more interesting.
What’s next for you as an author?
Right now, I have several stories I’m working on. First, I’m trying to finish edits on another completed manuscript. This one is a longer novel and I hope to send it off to the acquisitions editor in the next couple of weeks. This story is also set in the small fictional town of Providence, NC and is part of a trilogy – The Jamison family. I would like to finish another story I’ve been working on. It kind of stalled out and I need to go back and look at what I’ve written. I only have 7 more chapters to write, so I’m very close to finishing. And finally, I’m planning on writing 50,000 words for NaNoWriMo in November. But first, I need to plot it out. Once that is done and I know where the story is going, I can crank out a first draft.
Excerpt from The Mistletoe Contract:
Meredith closed the door with a soft click and propped herself against the wall. Tilting her head up, she released a huge sigh. She hated lying to her mother. Weariness settled deep in her bones. Her to-do list for the wedding grew with each passing hour. She had a lot to accomplish between now and Friday morning.
“Penny for your thoughts?”
Meredith’s eyes popped open. “Nate! You scared me!” Facing off with her fiancé, she straightened her spine. “What’re you doing here?”
His back against the wall, he crossed his ankles. Even after working all day, Nate still appeared fresh. When she glanced at her gray dress pants, the red sauce stain from her rushed dinner glared at her. She was wrinkly… and frumpy.
Nate frowned, his gaze roving over her.
Meredith moved her purse from her shoulder and held it in front of the stain. “I’m sorry. That was unkind.”
“I didn’t mean to intrude.”
She pulled herself up to her full height. “You didn’t. It’s… I didn’t expect to see you.”
At least, not until their wedding day, giving her a couple of days to steel her emotions against his all-American boy-next-door charm. Why did he have to ruin her well-thought out plan? His nearness sent her pulse into overdrive.
Nate turned toward her and rested one hand on the wall above her head. He was so close she saw the golden flecks ringing his pupils. “Can’t a guy see his fiancée before the wedding?” The low timbre of Nate’s voice raised goose bumps on her arms, and her heart rate kicked up another notch.
Butterflies fluttered in her stomach, and she licked her dry lips before her gaze settled on his mouth. “Yeah, sure.”
Nate’s free hand came up and traced a line down her cheek. Meredith closed her eyes. She had to stop this flood of emotion. Why was he doing this to her? His spicy cologne wafted between them. Comforted her. Shoot. Nate smelled good.
“Nate… please… someone will see us.” Meredith swallowed hard, and her breaths came in short gasps.
“This is supposed to be a business relationship. No funny business. You promised.” Meredith scooted out from under his arm and hurried down the tiled hallway, her steps echoing in the empty space. She needed air. And personal space. “Is there a reason you stopped by?”
Nate fell in step beside Meredith. She scampered down the hall to the elevator bank. Nate touched her arm, and they stood facing each other in front of the elevator. “Have a cup of coffee with me?” His blue eyes held a glimmer of amusement.
Shock or maybe desire rooted Meredith’s feet to the floor.
The elevator door opened, and two nurses in scrubs emerged. Meredith entered and jabbed the first-floor button. When she looked up into the polished steel doors, she met Nate’s steady gaze. Turning to face him, she crossed her arms. “Why, Nate? What are you trying to do to me? We have an agreement.”
Nate matched her stance, a smirk on his face. “I have no clue what you’re talking
Meredith snorted, and her lips stretched into a sneer. “Oh, come on. You cannot
seriously be this clueless.”
He stepped closer, his hands in his pockets, causing her to back up a couple of steps. “This attraction—you’re not immune to it, either, are you?”
Shaking her head, Meredith braced her back against the elevator car. “No, you’re
wrong. This isn’t the type of relationship you’re thinking about.” She bit her lower lip.
Nate’s warm breath whispered against her ear, and chill bumps raced up and down her arms. “But it could be. Think of how much fun we’d have.”
His nearness muddled her mind. But she was older now. Wiser. Fool me once and all that. She’d be doggoned if he’d fool her again with his sweet talk. Before she answered, the elevator doors opened with a whoosh. Saved by the bell.
Meredith darted into the parking deck. “I don’t think so,” she said over her shoulder. “I’ll see you tomorrow at 4:00 to finalize the details.”
Coming November 6 from