McNaught, Judith 1944-
McNAUGHT, Judith 1944-
PERSONAL: Born May 10, 1944, in San Luis Obispo, CA; daughter of Clifford Harris (a business executive) and Rosetta (a business executive; maiden name, Prince) Spath; married J. Michael McNaught (a business executive and entrepreneur), June 1, 1974 (died, June 19, 1983); married Don Smith (separated, 1993); children: (first marriage) Whitney, Clayton. Education: Northwestern University, B.S., 1966. Religion: Roman Catholic. Hobbies and other interests: Racquetball, skiing.
ADDRESSES: Home—P. O. Box 1547, Friendswood, TX 77546. Agent—Perry Knowlton, Curtis Brown Ltd., 10 Astor Pl., New York, NY 10003.
CAREER: United Airlines, Chicago, IL, personnel interviewer and flight attendant, 1966-67; KMOXCBS Radio, St. Louis, MO, executive producer, 1970-73; Communico (film producers), St. Louis, assistant director, 1973-75; Sommers Schwartz Inc, Detroit, MI, legal administrator, 1976-78; U.S. Transportation Company, Detroit, controller, 1978; Pro-Temps, St Louis, president, 1979-85; Eagle Syndication, St. Louis, president, 1987—; writer.
MEMBER: Romance Writers Association, Novelists, Inc.
AWARDS, HONORS: Critic's Choice Award for best Harlequin romance, 1983, for Tender Triumph; second place award for best Harlequin historical romance, 1984, for Double Standards; Critic's Choice Award for best historical romance, 1985, for Whitney, My Love, and 1988, for Something Wonderful; Golden Pen Certificate, Affaire de Coeur, and Reviewer's Choice Award for best historical romance, Romantic Times, both 1987, both for Once and Always; award for best historical novel, 1989, for A Kingdom of Dreams; Persie Award and Romantic Times Award, 1990, for Almost Heaven; award for best hardcover comtemporary romance, New York Times Bestseller, 1991, for Paradise.
Tender Triumph, Harlequin (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), 1983.
Double Standards, Harlequin (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), 1984.
Whitney, My Love (historical), Pocket Books (New York, NY), 1985.
Once and Always, Pocket Books (New York, NY), 1987.
Something Wonderful (historical), Pocket Books (New York, NY), 1988.
A Kingdom of Dreams (historical), Pocket Books (New York, NY), 1989.
Almost Heaven, Pocket Books (New York, NY), 1990.
Paradise, Pocket Books (New York, NY), 1991.
Perfect, Pocket Books (New York, NY), 1993.
Until You, Pocket Books (New York, NY), 1994.
A Gift of Love, Pocket Books (New York, NY), 1995.
Remember When, Pocket Books (New York, NY), 1996.
Night Whispers, Pocket Books (New York, NY), 1998.
Water's Edge, Pocket Books (New York, NY), 1999.
Someone To Watch Over Me, Atria Books, 2003.
SIDELIGHTS: Judith McNaught is an acclaimed author of contemporary and historical romance novels. According to Daisy Maryles in Publishers Weekly, McNaught's novels have sold some thirty million copies. "McNaught has a strong and well-deserved following among romance readers which increases with each new novel," concluded an essayist for Twentieth-Century Romance and Historical Writers. "Averaging a book a year, her total output of books is not great in comparison to many other writers, but her fans anticipate each new title impatiently. McNaught delivers a solid, well-crafted story, sympathetic, believable characters, and great chemistry between the hero and heroine. Moving easily between historical and contemporary romances, she seems to improve with each new book." "My characters confront adversity with positive action," McNaught told Kim Hubbard and Debbie Markley in People. "I think we women underrate ourselves when it comes to our courage and strength."
Among McNaught's more popular works—some of which have appeared on the New York Times's bestseller list—is Whitney, My Love, in which a beautiful young woman finds romantic intrigue in nineteenth-century England. The heroine, Whitney Stone, is in love with Paul, her childhood sweetheart. But after Paul proposes marriage, Whitney learns that she has already been claimed by Clayton, a handsome and wealthy duke who has paid off her father's debts. Various conflicts arise before the characters find true happiness. A Publishers Weekly reviewer called Whitney, My Love a "skillfully written romance," and a West Coast Review of Books critic pronounced the book "among the best in this class."
In an interview posted at the All About Romance Web site, McNaught explained her late husband Mike's role in the creation of that novel: "For five long years, he watched me labor over the manuscript for Whitney. He brought me coffee in my office while I worked, he hugged me when the manuscript came back with yet another rejection letter." Mike was to die accidentally in June of 1983 while cleaning one of his hunting rifles. "The gun went off. He was hit just below the collarbone and died in my arms, without a word or a whimper," McNaught revealed to Hubbard and Markley. After moving with her children to Dallas, where she had friends, McNaught continued writing. Whitney, My Love was eventually published in 1985.
Something Wonderful is McNaught's second historical romance novel. The book's heroine, Alexandra Lawrence, is forced to marry Jordan Townsende, a handsome, but heartless, aristocrat whose life she saved during an attempted robbery. Mistaking his rescuer for a young boy, Townsende brings the girl to his room to await a doctor. Alexandra is seen entering Jordan's room and a scandal results. Jordan subsequently marries Alexandra to save her reputation. Alexandra eventually falls in love with her husband, but he disappears at sea and is presumed drowned. She eventually learns that Jordan had many mistresses and a sullied name. Later in the story, Alexandra becomes involved with Townsende's cousin, and just as she is about to marry the man, Jordan reappears. Despite the fact that his wife now scorns him, Townsende falls in love with her. Her husband's latent affections spawn conflicting emotions in Alexandra that she must resolve to attain happiness. "This novel is rare and beautiful, a true classic," wrote Kathe Robin in a review posted at the Romantic Times Web site. "Judith McNaught not only spins dreams, but she makes them come true, which is why she's one of the premier authors of the genre."
A Kingdom of Dreams, McNaught's popular 1989 publication, serves as a prequel to Whitney, My Love. A Kingdom of Dreams is set in fifteenth-century Scotland, where a countess engages in a problematic romance with an English earl. A clash of wills is related in McNaught's Paradise, a contemporary novel about a long time conflict between ex-spouses who become business rivals—only to learn that, through an error, they are still married. McNaught revealed in her interview posted at the All About Romance Web site, "Of all my novels, I am in many ways, proudest of A Kingdom of Dreams. . . . I loved its medieval setting—the history, the pageantry. I loved the scope of the plot, but most of all, I loved the main characters. They had so much heart, so much depth, and the secondary characters seemed to leap to life in my imagination as soon as I gave them an identity. They made me laugh, and they made me feel."
In Someone to Watch Over Me, Broadway actress Leigh Kendall is happily married to architect Logan Manning. But when she suffers a near-fatal car crash, Logan goes missing, Leigh begins an investigation, and she learns hidden secrets about her husband. "McNaught weaves a complex plot, intriguing and unforgettable characters and not one but two ahhh-inspiring romances into one delectable story," Lezlie Patterson explained in the State. Harriet Klausner, in a review posted at the ParaNormal Romance Reviews Web site, believed that "fans of romantic suspense will enjoy this delightful tale."
"Much of [McNaught's] appeal can be traced to the realistic bases she gives to her stories," according to an essayist for Twentieth-Century Romance and Historical Writers. "Her couples think and act much more like real individuals than do the more fantasy-based couples in many other romances. Her novels provide support and reaffirmation of the existence of passion, tenderness, and love rather than simple escapism. At the same time she can be counted on to provide a fast-paced story with well-developed engaging characters, written with elegance and imbued with great emotional energy."
McNaught once told CA: "While I was growing up, my father's business interests required that we move to a different city every year. By the time I was fourteen, I had lived in fourteen states and I knew one thing for certain: Someday, I was going to have a quiet, settled life in one place.
"At twenty-two, I graduated from college with a degree in business administration, my career objective clearly in mind—a serene job with no traveling, no adventure, no 'glamour.' Accordingly, I answered a blind ad for a personnel interviewer. The company running the ad turned out to be a major airline. Almost immediately after I went to work they decided they needed additional stewardesses, and they recruited me. It took only a few weeks for the company and me to reach the conclusion that I was probably not good stewardess material. Besides having a tendency to get airsick, I was petrified of flying.
"Two years later I met a tall, dark, handsome man whom I married and by whom I had two children. I liked being a wife and a mother, and I definitely liked my children; unfortunately, I did not like my husband. I gave up my husband and kept the children.
"Once again I needed a job. Accordingly, I answered a blind ad for an executive secretary. What could be more peaceful and serene than that? The company turned out to be a CBS radio station. In a horrifyingly short time I was promoted to an administrative assistant, and a year after that to producer of live programming. My dreams of peace and serenity gave way to a reality of frenetic responsibility and an eighteen-hour work day that left little time for anything, including my children. After three years I decided to resign and try to find a position that would not require so much of my life.
"This time I applied for, and got, a job as personnel interviewer. For six months I interviewed and tested job applicants. At last, I had found what I always wanted—a sensible, predictable, serene job. I hated it within weeks.
"One day the vice president of the company's motion picture division descended in a rage on the personnel department because we still hadn't filled an assistant director position. The personnel director chose that moment to remember my radio background and said, 'Judy could handle that job!'
"My first assignment as assistant director was on a remake of a film my company had bungled badly for their largest client. I was warned that an outraged executive from that client was flying in to make certain that we didn't mess it up again. The executive's name was Michael McNaught. No romance ever written will match the turbulence that ensued. I will never forget the sudden warming in his piercing blue eyes—or the alarm that screamed through my entire nervous system—when he politely shook my hand. I knew exactly what that look in his eyes meant.
"My first experience with marriage had been disastrous, but marriage to Michael was glorious. He filled my life with laughter, joy, and love. We had promised ourselves to keep the romance in our marriage, and we did. We stayed up after the children went to bed and we drank brandy in front of the fireplace; we treated each other with gentleness. And as Michael was permanently based in Detroit, there was no more moving around the country for me. At last I had realized my childhood goals of peace, serenity, and total security.
"But on our fifth anniversary Michael announced his intentions of opening his own business in St. Louis. I started reading romances to keep from worrying myself into an asylum. Then I started writing them because I felt so guilty about looking lazy. During the next three years I wrote and wrote and wrote. I had found my real goal in life: I wanted to write romances filled with humor and tenderness, romances that would make a reader smile and laugh aloud, then feel the ache of tears from the sheer joy of the story.
"Michael was killed in an accident in 1983. In the months that followed I spent my time either dealing with the endless complexities of Michael's business or traveling. But I found no solace in Spain or Mexico or Canada or England or California. I found it in my heart, in the memories of laughter and love that are stored there. I began to write again, and to my joy and relief I discovered that writing is still what it always was before—a wonderful obsession.
"And when the story is finished, I want the memory of it to linger in my readers' hearts and make them smile. Because that is the real reason I write—to make people smile. As long as I can create the sort of story I want to create I'll continue to write. The day that I can't, I'll stop. Even if it's tomorrow."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Twentieth-Century Romance and Historical Writers, 3rd edition, St. James Press (Detroit, MI), 1994.
Dallas Times Herald, January 10, 1985.
Dayton Daily News, March 2, 2003, Laura Dempsey, "Music to Her Readers' Eyes; Judith McNaught's Fans Are Happy She Gave Up Trying to Learn the Piano ... and That Her New Book Is Coming Out," p. C3.
Detroit Free Press, January 28, 1987.
Houston Chronicle, March 16, 2003, Fritz Lanham, review of Someone to Watch Over Me, p. 20.
Library Journal, April 1, 1999, Danna Bell-Russel, review of Night Whispers audiocassette, p. 146.
People, December 9, 1996, Kim Hubbard and Debbie Markley, "Queen of Hearts: Romance Novelist Judith McNaught Knows Plenty about Love—and Loss," p. 83.
Publishers Weekly, November 30, 1984, p. 87; April, 12, 1993, p. 46; March 3, 2003, Daisy Maryles, "Broadway Lights," p. 29.
St. Louis Globe-Democrat, December 20, 1984.
State (Columbia, SC), March 19, 2003, Lezlie Patterson, "Even a Fickle Heroine Can't Reduce the Swoon Factor of 'Someone.'"
West Coast Review of Books, March, 1985, p. 41; September, 1985, p. 48.
All About Romance Web site,http://www.likesbooks.com/mcnaught.html/ (October 7, 1999), "A Little Judith at a Time: A Q and A with Judith McNaught in Serialized Form."
Judith McNaught Home Page,http://www.judithmcnaught.com (January 14, 2004).
ParaNormal Romance Reviews Web site,http://pnr.thebestreviews.com/author2873/ (January 31, 2003), Harriet Klausner, review of Someone to Watch Over Me.
Romantic Times Web site, http://www.romantictimes.com/data/books/ (March 27, 2003), Kathe Robin, review of Something Wonderful.
Slake Web site,http://www.slake.com/ (March 27, 2003).*