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Summer of Two Wishes by Julia London

Summer of Two Wishes by Julia London

Texas is home to many romance novelists, but not many of them take the kind of leap that Austin’s Julia London has just made.

Julia’s best known for her historical romances, but her new novel, Summer of Two Wishes (Pocket Books, $7.99), is a contemporary. And not just any contemporary, but one dealing with a very serious issue: the effects of the current war in Afghanistan on one returning veteran, as well as on the folks back in his Hill Country hometown.

The story centers around Macy, a young war widow in the small Texas town of Cedar Springs, who suffers through two years of grief and loneliness after her cowboy husband, Finn, is reported killed in Afghanistan. But after she finally recovers enough to marry again — this time to a wealthy land broker, Wyatt — Macy is stunned by the news that Finn has been found alive after all. He comes home to Cedar Springs, and Macy finds herself torn between loyalties to her two husbands. Which one will she choose?

There are plenty of hot, steamy love scenes, of course — but Summer of Two Wishes also tackles difficult issues such as Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), the stresses of military family life, and even the thorny legalities that ensue when a person declared dead is found in fact to be alive.

Julia London

Julia London

Here is Julia London talking about Summer of Two Wishes:  

Hello, Julia! This is the first book of yours that I’ve read. I was interested in it not only because you’re a Texan, but because you set your story in a part of Texas that we all know and love, the Hill Country.

Another Hill Country lover—that’s great.  Although at this time of year, I wish I was anything but a Texan.  It’s too hot in August for sane people, isn’t it?

You have written a lot of historical romances before now. What made you decide to write a contemporary? And why take on a subject as intense as the emotional fallout from a war that is still ongoing?

It was a need to stretch my creative wings, I think.  I love the historical romance novels I write; it’s like living in a Jane Austen period film.  They are definitely flights of fancy, and they are fun.  But I also had this compelling need to write stories that are grounded more in reality and about people who could be our neighbors. As for the subject matter—what better way to ground the story in reality?  The war is something we’ve all experienced.  In fact, this idea came about because my nephew had served in Iraq with the Marines.  He’s out now and on to a new life, but every year, our local paper prints the faces and names of all the men and women from Central Texas who have been lost to the war.  I couldn’t look at those pictures without thinking of my nephew.  And I thought about all the families who were seeing their loved ones there and who would give anything if they came back. I started thinking, what if one of them did come back?  What would they come home to?  How would life have changed?  The story built from there.

What kind of research was necessary to get the details right about the lives of servicemen and military families?

It was an education for me.  There are several sites and organizations that are dedicated to the families of servicemen and women, but one in particular, the www.americanwidowproject.org gave me insight into what it must be like to be left behind.  I also spoke with people from the military who had been to Iraq.  Interestingly, I never met anyone who had been to Afghanistan.  I read a lot of news items to form that part of the story. 

By an odd coincidence, Tom Batiuk’s syndicated comic strip “Funky Winkerbean” also just featured a very topical storyline about a serviceman believed dead for years who is found alive through an Iraqi prisoner exchange. He suffers from a loss of memory, but he does remember his wife. However, he comes home to find his wife has remarried.

Really!  That is an odd coincidence. 

One big difference: The wife in the comic strip chooses a different husband than the wife chooses in Summer of Two Wishes. 

I honestly didn’t know which husband my wife was going to end up with until near the end.  I went through the process of deciding with her.  I can’t imagine how painful it would be to make that decision in real life.  And it could honestly have gone either way.  She loved two men, and two men loved her.

The other major difference: In the comic strip, there’s no apparent media fanfare over the “dead” soldier’s miraculous return.  However, I think your portrayal of the media frenzy surrounding Finn seemed far more likely to be what happens in such a case. Did you feel it was important to show what sort of public pressure is placed upon returning veterans, from the media and from their family, friends and fellow citizens?

I think in this particular case, it would certainly be a big part of the story.  I can’t imagine that happening today without a lot of fanfare, and probably a lot more than I portrayed.  And it seemed to me that the intense media spotlight would add so much more stress to the situation, which, as an author, I liked.  I also read a lot about the return home, and I tried to put myself in the shoes of returning soldiers.  For some, the adjustment to civilian life seems so drastic, and I guessed that people run out of patience when a soldier doesn’t adjust as quickly as they would like.  I thought it was important to show how that would affect someone who essentially has been living as a captive in the desert the last few years.

Thanks so much, Julia!

Thank you!  I am very happy to have shared some time with you and your readers. 

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Quinn Cummings at 10, backstage in a dressing room, 1977.

Quinn Cummings at 10, backstage in a dressing room, 1977.

If the name “Quinn Cummings” sounds vaguely familiar to you, it’s probably because in the back of your mind, you have a memory of a precocious child who played Marsha Mason’s daughter, Lucy McFadden, in 1977’s The Goodbye Girl. She got an Academy Award nomination for that role, in which her comic timing rivaled that of Richard Dreyfuss. Quinn also was the girl who in 1978 joined the Aaron Spelling drama Family in its third season, playing Annie, the adopted daughter of Sada Thompson and James Broderick.

Quinn Cummings (Photo by Donald DiPietro)

Quinn Cummings (Photo by Donald DiPietro)

That child grew up a long time ago. Thirty years have passed; she’s almost 42 now, and she has acted only occasionally since her teens. Now Quinn’s a businesswoman with her own company (she invented the HipHugger baby sling), and she’s a mother. She always loved to write, and for the past several years she has been blogging on The QC Report

Notes from the Underwire

Notes from the Underwire

The success of her blog led to Quinn’s first book, the just-published Notes from the Underwire: Adventures from My Awkward and Lovely Life (Hyperion, $14.99). Technically speaking, it’s a collection of first-person essays, a sort of episodic memoir, although that description makes the book sound way more serious than it really is.

In fact, while there are some serious moments in it, this is one very funny book.

Notes from the Underwire covers everything from Quinn’s acting career to her stint as an AIDS hotline volunteer, from her Significant Other (known here as Consort) and their daughter (known here as Alice) to the perils of homeownership and the bloodthirsty habits of their cat, Lulubelle, a nonpareil predator who is supposed to be catching only mice and rats:

I measure the advent of spring not with the first crocus but the first bird skull. I long to explain to Lu that we only wanted the ugly and verminous eaten, but that would have been like asking Godzilla to stomp only Tokyo’s less popular neighborhoods.

Quinn tells us why she never got to go to her prom, how she spent a couple of years as a talent agent, and how she realized she was not meant to be a sitcom writer. She also opens up candidly about the most terrifying time of her adolescent life, when she feared losing her only surviving parent to cancer.

Here’s Quinn Cummings on Notes from the Underwire.

* * *   

Hi Quinn: Unlike some of your blog-tour reviewers, I’m coming to Notes from the Underwire as a newbie to your blog. So please forgive me if some of these questions would have obvious answers for a longtime reader of The QC Report.

How much of the book came directly from the blog? Did you do much rewriting of original blog posts for book publication?

Very little is from the blog. This annoys me tremendously, as I am lazy and hoped to cut-and-paste my way to being a published author. Mercifully, my editor had other plans. What little was originally in the blog has been edited and, one can only hope, improved to a fare-thee-well.

As a cat lover, I nearly laughed myself sick over “A Nice Big Fat One.” Is Lulubelle still living with you and paying her rent on time?

Lulabelle appreciates your interest but isn’t surprised by it; without ever understanding the idea of the Internet, she’s always assumed she’s world-famous for her beauty, charm and killing skills. Just last month, I was outside watering the plants when she trotted by me in a casual yet purposeful gait. A second later, she leapt into a bush and emerged with something wiggling in her jaws. I shouted “LU!” impotently, and she sneered at me before snapping the neck of the mouse. I think I was to understand that’s what would happen to me if I continued to be a buzzkill.

How grateful are you that so very little of your “child star” past is readily available on YouTube?

I don’t know how much of my earlier life is on YouTube because I’m too fearful to look, so I’m going to say that if very little is on there I am VERY GRATEFUL and yet wish there was a little less.

“Like a Tattoo on Your Butt” was a heartbreaking chapter, especially because I lost a brother (at age 34) to non-Hodgkins lymphoma. He left behind two very young daughters whose whole lives thereafter were changed by his death in 1995. I couldn’t help wanting to know: What happened to your mom? What happened to you?

I’m so sorry about your brother; I’m so sorry for his kids. My mother defied the odds and was able to recover from Lymphoma with only a single round of chemo. She’s here in Los Angeles, still leading an interesting life and adoring her granddaughter. What happened to me? I got over it.

At the end of that chapter, you say you told your vice principal  that you didn’t “plan on getting close to anyone.” But now, of course, you have Consort and Alice. When did you dare to let yourself hope that you could, in fact, be close to someone again?

As I said, I got over it. I didn’t go through Sarajevo; I had a sick parent who then got better. Eventually, I defrosted enough to realize that caring for other people might put you as risk of loss, but not caring for other people sapped most of the color and the flavor out of the world. It’s frightening to imagine losing either one of them, but choosing to participate in the world is infinitely better than sitting in the bleachers.

Quinn, I enjoyed the book tremendously, and you have made a new fan. Thanks so much!

Thank you for such thoughtful questions. Let me know when it’s up and I’ll link to it.