Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Interview with M J Pullen, Baggage Check

I knew I had to conduct this interview as soon as I saw the title and premise of this, the third in her The Marriage Pact series about thirty something Atlantan's.
I hope you enjoy the interview and then get the series!

ISBN-13: 9781250070951
Publisher: St. Martin's Press
Release Date: 07/12/2016
Length: 304pp
Buy It: B&N/Amazon/Kobo/IndieBound


Baggage Check is the third in a charming series about a group of thirty-somethings in Atlanta making surprising discoveries about friendship, love, and happily-ever-after.
At 35, Rebecca Williamson is surrounded by happy endings.
Her friends Suzanne and Marci are living out their own personal fairy tales in Atlanta. But despite Rebecca's best efforts four years ago, her adorable college friend Jake Stillwell has officially slipped through her fingers and broken her heart. When Rebecca gets a frantic phone call from her mother back in Alabama, Rebecca is pulled back to the tiny town she worked so hard to leave behind and forced to face the hard truths about her family and past. A past that includes Deputy Alex Chen, who thinks of Rebecca as more than just an old friend's kid sister. Can Rebecca navigate the chaos and get her life back to normal? Will Alex prove himself to be the friend she's always needed? Or will she discover that the door to Jake is not as tightly closed as she thought?
M.J. Pullen returns in this final installment to the same captivating group of lovelorn friends, this time following the girl group's frenemy, Rebecca, as she's forced to confront her past. Raising the stakes, Pullen delivers an absorbing, romantic novel that poses the question, what if everything you were looking for was right where you started?

Read an excerpt courtesy St. Martin's Press:

June 17, 2016

Rebecca Williamson picked up a smooth, rust-colored clay bowl for the fifth time in as many minutes. She ran her hand along the sloping curve from the base to the rim, and then bounced it lightly in her arms for heft. It was two pounds, she decided. Maybe two and a half once they wrapped it for the plane. She put it down again and stepped back to look at the rest of the artist’s display, dusting her hands together.

“Oh, just buy it already!” Valerie said from a few feet away. “I’ve gotten married after shorter courtships than you’re having with that bowl.”

“I don’t need it,” Rebecca said.

“It would look nice on your kitchen table. You never buy anything, Becky.” Valerie had been calling her “Becky” since she joined the airline three years before. For the first several months, Rebecca had corrected her. Now she just accepted it.

“What would I do with it?” Rebecca said. “I mean, you can’t serve food in it, not that I ever cook anyway. I don’t have anything to store in it. And I’m never home to look at how my apartment is decorated. How is a red clay bowl necessary?”

Valerie rolled her eyes and patted Rebecca’s shoulder with a veined hand. “Life needs beauty, doll. Every girl should have something beautiful and useless in her life. Like my first husband, for example. That man was pure eye candy; the poor idiot couldn’t change a lightbulb.”

Rebecca laughed. She had never asked outright how many husbands Valerie had been through, but her current guess was four, and at least two of them had been pilots. Valerie was in her late sixties, ancient by flight attendant standards, and a legend among all the younger women they worked with. Rebecca had been paired with her during the first week of training and they had flown together more often than not since then. At first, Rebecca had resisted becoming Valerie’s protégé, but through sheer force of will and nonstop chatter, Valerie had become Rebecca’s only real friend at work. Tonight, they were in an artists’ co-op in New Mexico, killing time during an overnight layover.

“Are you ready to go to the bar?” Rebecca asked her.

“What’s your hurry?” Valerie said. “You never take anything home from there, either.”

“Don’t start with that.”

“What? Come on, you know I’m right. And don’t use me for an excuse, either. I may be an old lady but I know how to make myself scarce when I see a brassiere on the doorknob.”

An aproned woman behind the counter looked up, smirking.

“Shh…,” Rebecca hushed. But even she could not help but smile at the way Valerie said “brassiere on the doorknob” in her New York accent. Rebecca herself had never used this signal, but it had been a frequent sight in her sorority house at the University of Georgia. She tried to imagine finding one of Valerie’s big beige contraptions hanging on their hotel room door.

“Ready to go?” she asked again.

“Oh, all right,” Valerie said. “Just let me add this to my collection.” She held up a blue-glazed mug that had been formed to look like the squished-down face of an old man.

Several of Rebecca’s coworkers kept little collections from places they visited—postcards, spoons, shot glasses, snow globes, you name it. There was a sort of unspoken code that it was only acceptable to collect items from cities you had truly visited, meaning you had to leave the airport for more than a couple of hours. Even so, Rebecca could not understand this tradition. Yes, it was cute in the moment, but they went so many places. What did you do with all that crap? Put it in a box so you could relive your glory days of passing out peanuts? Have it gather dust on the shelves while other people pretended to be interested at parties?

Once or twice, something had caught Rebecca’s eye, particularly when they flew to exotic locations. A tiny but exquisite crystal vase from Waterford in Ireland. Hand-carved candlesticks painted black and inlaid with gold in Toledo, Spain. A set of Russian dolls in Moscow. Each time, she had stood paralyzed in the gift shop, debating why she needed this thing and where she would put it and how often she would really look at it. Then she would sigh, and, to the dismay of each patient shop owner, return the item to the shelf, and walk out. Except for an irresistible silk scarf from Milan and an emergency T-shirt she’d been forced to buy in New York, Rebecca had not bought souvenirs anywhere. Once in a while she regretted this, but never for long. She would deposit the amount of the foregone purchase into her savings account with satisfaction and move on. Always move on.

A short cab ride later, they found the rest of the flight crew exactly where they expected: gathered in the small bar off the hotel lobby, all in their civilian clothing. The two pilots, both middle-aged family men, sat nursing beers at the bar, watching the broadcast of a local rodeo on the TV overhead and chatting with the bartender. Shanna and Lizzie, the other two attendants, were playing darts in a corner with some guys still wearing name tags from a convention. They waved when Valerie and Rebecca walked in. A couple of the conventioneers smiled hopefully at Rebecca.

“I think I’m just going to go up to bed,” she said.

“What?” Valerie said. “No. If I can stay for a pint of beer and some darts, so can you. Maybe we can even hustle them for a few bucks.”

“I’m terrible at darts,” Rebecca complained.

“Perfect,” said Valerie, hoisting up the support hose she still wore from the flight, beneath her elastic-waist jeans and bright-white tennis shoes. “That will make it more believable. Then I swoop in and kick their asses.”

It was hard not to smile at Valerie, and even harder to argue with her. Rebecca followed her to the booth by the dartboard. She pulled a packet of wipes from her purse and wiped the table and vinyl seat before sliding in. She managed a tired smile as the perplexed-looking convention guys introduced themselves. I should try to learn their names, she thought. But even that was more effort than she wanted to invest tonight.

Two hours later, Shanna and Lizzie had allowed themselves to be led away by a pair of the more attractive conventioneers, and Valerie grinned as she collected more than fifty dollars from three sheepish others, tucking it victoriously in her “brassiere.” Rebecca leaned her head back against the wall of the booth and stirred a watery rum and Coke, wondering at exactly what point it would be okay to insist that Val come up to the room with her so they could sleep for a few hours before tomorrow’s flight to San Francisco.

One of the dart players sat down next to her. He had dark skin, neatly trimmed black hair, and wore a light-blue Oxford shirt open at the collar. Rebecca was not good at identifying ethnicity: Indian, maybe? Or Hispanic? His speech was smooth and without accent. “So, you’re leaving tomorrow, too?”


“That’s too bad. I would have liked to have seen more of you,” he purred. He placed a hand on her arm.

Rebecca sighed. She was too tired to be flattered. “Um, that would be a ‘no thank you.’”

His grin slowly faded. “Hey, I was just trying to be nice, sweetheart.”

“I’m not your sweetheart, sweetheart.”

Something flashed across his eyes and he slid out of the booth. “Okay, then, goodnight.”

“Goodnight,” she said, with a flick of the wrist and her best airline smile.

He muttered something to his companions and they looked at her appraisingly. Then one of them shrugged, and they nodded at Valerie as they made their way back to the bar.

“What the hell was that?” Valerie asked, sliding in across from her. “He was a nice-looking kid. You don’t like foreign guys?”

“That’s not it,” Rebecca said.

“Well, I had that one primed for you. Such a waste.”

“Thanks, Val, but I don’t need you to find guys for me. And I’m sure he won’t go to waste. Look, he’s talking to that girl at the bar already.”

“I didn’t mean him,” Val said. “I meant you. You’re such a beautiful girl: educated, nice nose, and that pretty brown hair is your real color as far as I can tell. We’ve flown together three years and I never hear about you dating anyone.”

“Well, maybe I—”

Valerie leaned across the table with a loud whisper. “Are you a lesbian?”

“What? No!”

“Because I’m okay with it, really. I’m very hip about this stuff. I even have a lesbian niece. Very attractive, if she would just let her hair grow out. Of course, she’s younger than you, but—”

“Valerie!” Rebecca said too loudly. Then softer, “I am not a lesbian. I used to date men all the time. I just haven’t lately.”

“Why not?”

“I don’t know. The hours?”


“Come on, Val. Why the sudden interest in my love life? Can we talk about something else?”


Rebecca knew from experience Valerie had no intention of letting up. She took a sip of her drink, which was not terribly helpful since it was mostly melted ice. A long sigh under Valerie’s unwavering stare. “I guess you could say I got my heart broken a few years ago, and I just haven’t gotten over it yet.”

“Really? Who was this? How come I haven’t heard about him?”

Rebecca sighed. In for a penny … “You have heard of him. It was my friend Jake.”

“Jake?” Valerie furrowed her brow. “You mean … your friend, the girl with the blog, what’s her name—Marci? That Jake?”

“Yes. That Jake.”

Valerie whistled. “So how long ago was this?”

“How long ago was what? They got married four years ago. And they have Bonnie now.”

“Yeah, but when did you stop…” Valerie trailed off.

Rebecca shook her head. “I don’t think I have stopped. I know that’s ridiculous, but I—I loved him for so long. It’s like I don’t know any other way to be.”

Val looked down at the table for a minute, and slid the rest of her neat Scotch across to Rebecca. “Here, kid. I think you need this a hell of a lot more than I do.”

Copyright © 2016 by Amanda Pullen Turetsky

Hi M.J. welcome to The Reading Frenzy.
Thanks for having me! It’s nice to be here.

Tell my readers about Baggage Check.
Baggage Check is the third novel in The Marriage Pact trilogy, centering on main character Rebecca Williamson. Rebecca is a lonely flight attendant who spends her life making things perfect for others in the air, while watching her friends live out their happy endings on earth. When it comes to her own love life, she’s both paralyzed by her own selectivity and tethered to a hopeless love for a man she can never have (who happens to be married to one of her best friends – talk about complicated). But a family crisis forces her return to the small Alabama town she swore to leave behind; and Rebecca must face her history, her grief, and the terrifying possibility of real love.

This is book three in your Marriage Pact series.
How are the books related?
The Marriage Pact books all take place within the same group of close friends, and each one has a different main character within the friend group. The threads of all three stories run throughout.

Should they be read in order?
Not necessarily. Well, maybe. ;) They are in chronological order, so some readers prefer to start at the beginning with The Marriage Pact so that no surprises are ruined. On the other hand, each book stands well on its own, and you don’t have to have read the first two books to follow Baggage Check and its characters. All three books are romantic chick-lit, but Baggage Check is definitely the most women’s fiction-y of the three, if that matters.

M.J. on your “about” thread it says-
No matter what she’s writing, M.J. believes that love is the greatest adventure there is, and that hopeless romantics are never really hopeless.”)
This sounds like a perfect byline for a romance author, what led it to being yours?
I’m totally a relationship junkie. I write and read love stories, I binge-watch romantic comedies and series romances. Even when I was a practicing mental health therapist, my favorite work revolved around couples and relationships. Sometimes romance gets a bad rap in literary circles: the struggle to find and keep love is not always viewed as seriously as some of life’s other struggles. And yet, our relationship with other human beings is central to who we are as individuals and communities. It’s a vital part of who we are, and it makes all the other struggles worthwhile.

You run two blogs, wow! I have trouble keeping up with one and I’m retired.
On your readers/regular blog your post from May 30th stands out when you said that the biggest obstacle to writing your first novel, The Marriage Pact was you.
I’m betting many novelists feel that way, what were your reasons?
Well, sometimes I manage two blogs, and sometimes I just manage, but thanks! Actually, I’ve mostly moved my writing blog over to my main website under the “Distracted Writer” label so that I can work more centrally on both. I do blog somewhat regularly for The Draft House as well, so there’s always something in the oven.
For me, the obstacles to writing have almost always been about having the confidence to push myself. Becoming a writer is a scary proposition that requires discipline and commitment. If your confidence fails you when you need to push through a sagging middle of a story or get up to blog at 4:30 in the morning, your motivation will fail as well. Overcoming my own negative voices telling me that I couldn’t do it (or that it wasn’t worthwhile) has been the hardest and most important thing in my writing career.

M.J. it sounds like you’re living your own HEA.
Do you think that helps when you write about it?
Definitely. Some writers work better when they’re in emotional turmoil, but I have learned I am not one of those. I’ve experienced a lot of chaos and drama in my life, and I certainly try to use that in my writing, but the unconditional love and support from my husband and family has been one of my greatest assets. It’s the safe space I need to write.

You also have a thread for book clubs.
Why do you think your books are a good choice for them?
I love visiting with book clubs! I think my books are a nice choice for groups because they are light without being shallow; and there’s always some element of interest or surprise beneath the main storyline. My books tend to be popular in the summer when folks are reading by the pool or at the beach!

M.J. you have a thread dedicated to helping authors called The Distracted Writer.
Was there someone who helped you when you began?
Definitely. Too many to count. I’ve been fortunate to have many encouraging teachers (English and otherwise), and creative writing professors including the incomparable Coleman Barks at the University of Georgia. I’ve had support from writing groups from Portland to Austin to the Atlanta Writers Club, and that has been invaluable. When I first began in self-publishing, I got some great advice from speculative fiction author J.L. Bryan, who happens to be a friend of mine. He pointed me in the right direction and I’ve been learning by trial and error ever since!

You’re a very busy person.
Do you have time to read, if so what’s your favorite genre?
I am busy, but I do everything I can to make time to read. Audiobooks have been a friend to me for years since I can listen to them on my commute and while working out or doing housework. [Insert my husband laughing here because I never do housework]. I read in the bathtub and everywhere else I can snatch a few minutes. I read all genres, and while I obviously love chick lit and romance, I’ve found I develop my writing skills just as much from reading adventure stories, women’s fiction, classics and mysteries. My philosophy is that if read what that appeals to me, I’ll find something in it that will appeal to my readers as well.

M.J. Thank you so much for taking the time to answer these questions, good luck with the new release.
Thanks so much for having me!

Will you be attending any author/signing events and if so are they listed on your website?
I do have some signings and events scheduled in the Atlanta area, which are listed on my website, and I’ll be participating in the Decatur Book Festival on Labor Day weekend as well. I do sometimes travel for signings if there’s enough interest, and I am happy to attend book club meetings in person or via Skype.

Books in the Marriage Pact Series

 Connect with MJ - Website - Facebook - Twitter

MANDA (M.J.) PULLEN is the author of complex, funny contemporary romances including The Marriage Pact (Thomas Dunne Books, November 2015). She was raised in the suburbs of Atlanta by a physicist and a flower child, who taught her that life is tragic and funny, and real love is anything but simple. After traveling around Europe and living in cities like Austin and Portland, she returned to Atlanta where she lives with her husband and two sons.

Today's Gonereading item is:
a Books tote bag perfect for
summer. Click HERE for the buy page


  1. How does one become a hopeful romantic? Lol

    I love love too. I think that's why romances will never go out of style

    1. I don't know Braine maybe there's a YouTube intro video for us to learn LOL

  2. Wonderful review as always Debbie!

  3. Thanks for introducing me to a different author and the books sound really like they might be up my alley. Will be certainly checking them out. Great interview.

    1. Hey Kathryn I've got to return the favor after all my tbr pile is loaded with your recommends!! :)

  4. Well, sometimes I manage two blogs, and sometimes I just manage <---- snort that's me with pretty much everything lol

  5. Love that this features a thirtysomething group of friends. Great interview Debbie!

    1. Thanks Kim, and yes I like it when the stars have a bit of tread on their tires ;-)