Author Spotlight: Gigi Templeton
Growing up with unofficial grill masters in my family, I swoon over the scent of BBQ chicken, smoked brisket, and marbled rib eyes wafting under my nose. Especially when they all have a little extra kick to them. At a holiday feast a couple of years ago, I was struck with the idea of two social media (rising) stars colliding in a spectacular way—long-lost lovers who unexpectedly reunite over food and spices.
Jack, a Texas rancher and the wildly charismatic host of his own BBQ YouTube channel, Rub It In, was incredibly easy to breathe life into. As was the rest of his sometimes boisterous, though mostly affectionately witty family. In fact, they did most of the work for me. I let them ebb and flow with the ever-changing environment, the good times and the bad.
For Jillian, hybrid chili pepper horticulturist and the owner of a hot sauce and spicy dry rub company called Hotter Than Habas, I wanted a unique scenario that created drama and trauma she had to overcome. In addition, making her a recluse was cathartic for me because I’ve suffered through that myself, as a germaphobe in a global pandemic, and then long after. When everyone else was chomping at the bit to get out and about I was like… “Meh… I’m okay inside my house.” But similar to Jillian, I forced myself into a recovery process and reclaimed that social aspect.
Little rescue pup Ollie was inspired by the Maltese we adopted in January of 2022, Gracie Faith. What a rock star! Well trained, super sweet, and totally attached to us (and vice versa). A true blessing, a gift… And highly entertaining!
When Ollie came into the picture, I had an entire world built around barbecue, family, and the TRIPLE R Ranch.
I couldn’t get this book onto paper fast enough! I always work out the full story in my head before I start to write it—playing the scenes like a movie, over and over, until they gel. I don’t write out a synopsis unless I absolutely have to (for a formal proposal). Rather, I find that letting the scenes change in my mind leads me to different outcomes I wouldn’t have considered if I’d committed it all to paper.
For this story, I found myself typing out scenes on my phone. They were so fresh when I woke up at any given hour or when traveling, I just reached for my cell and created drafts in my Notes app. Easy to simply email them to myself and add to the pages on my computer. There are times when I’m mentally blocked and that’s normal. I find ways to coax my muse to come out and play. At other times, she’s totally on fire, and I have to keep up with
her—as was the case with Spiced Right. I didn’t worry about self-editing in the drafting phase, as I typically do. I just let the words flow. I heard these voices so clearly in my head that I felt wholly immersed in their conversations, and their ruminations. My personal advice is to capture all the thoughts that are hitting you hard and fast. They might not fit the story in their raw form; however, as you write, revise, and retell the story, you might find some gems you hadn’t expected!
The main characters were vivid enough, with unique backgrounds, to emerge quite easily when I started my drafts and worked through revisions. My surprises came with the secondary characters. One of my favorites is Jillian’s producer, Mindy. Her voice in my head reminded me of Rosie O’Donnell’s as the sidekick to Meg Ryan in Sleepless in Seattle—very clipped and direct, with a sardonic edge. At the end of the day, Mindy is a great friend to Jillian, encouraging her to grow, to branch out, to embrace her reclamation process. Initially, I didn’t think I needed to build in the emotional aspects with these two because they weren’t supposed to bond as tightly as they did. Yet when they both realized they were destined to be besties, I felt it deep in my
heart and wanted to express that unwavering connection.
I experienced this with Jack’s older sister, Wyatt, as well. She’s not meant to be a scene-stealer, but she’s so genuine—and really acknowledges highs and lows with such clarity—that she became a standout character without being overpowering.
Then there are the twins, Hunter and Alejandro. I just want to hug them both! Truly, the family traits of warmth, sensibility, dedication, and love are the foundation of the ranch. Which is basically its own character.
At first, this book was meant to be a fun rom-com. And while I do love the banter and the way the characters play off each other, there are many underlying stressors to overcome. The generational ranch takes money to run and that weighs heavy on Jack’s shoulders and prohibits him from having much of a social life. Jillian’s tragic past hinders her recovery process, but she ironically finds strength in numbers at the ranch. The balance I attempted to create is that you don’t just snap your fingers and roses and rainbows immediately appear. It takes time and effort to hurdle obstacles and heal hearts. Being open to the process is what this story is truly about.
Jillian Parks doesn’t need her hybrid scorpion pepper to set her pulse racing. Wildly charismatic rancher, Jack Reed, does that all on his own in this scorcher from Gigi
“Don’t ever think I didn’t want more time with you, darlin’.”
Those were her college boyfriend’s last words to her after a phone call summoned him home to Texas. In the ten years since, Jack Reed has taken over his family’s ranch, and Jillian Parks has experienced devastating losses with traumatic repercussions.
Now a reclusive insomniac, she podcasts about the specialty hybrid chili peppers she grows in her Seattle greenhouse, keeping a closed door between her and the past. But when Jillian’s producer coaxes her to make a surprise call-in to Jack’s YouTube BBQ channel, their chemistry still sizzles!
An invite to the ranch for a follow-up collab is a scary proposal for Jillian. But forward movement is key to her recovery, and it’s time to take the bull by the horns. With Jack’s commanding yet soothing presence, maybe this charismatic cowboy is just the right ingredient to help her heal—while adding a different kind of spice to her life!
“If you were a soccer shoe, where would you be?” asked eleven-year-old Hunter the following morning.
Jack glanced up from the baker’s rack sitting on the enormous kitchen island, where his chorizo-and-cheese corn bread biscuits were cooling. He squeezed a dollop of his cilantro-lime crema on their tops as his nephew hobbled farther into the room, wearing only the one cleat.
“Preferably on your other foot?”
“Right?” Hunter quipped, his hands in the air to accompany a shrug.
Jack took advantage and placed the rack on a sheet pan that he balanced on the boy’s upturned palms. “Take these to the table,” he instructed. “Be careful.”
Hunter’s fraternal twin, Alejandro, raced in a heartbeat later, nearly slamming into his brother, who called out, “Hey, watch it!” Hunter kept his eye on the prize, though, and made it to his destination, not dropping a single biscuit.
Maintaining his own trajectory, Alejandro declared, “Uncle Jack, you have to see this comment about your last show!”
For the moment, Jack ignored the mini tablet he waved in the air and said, “No running in the house, junior. Your nana catches you—or you knock over one of her vases—there’s gonna be hell to pay.”
“I know, I know!” Alejandro took a breath, then proclaimed on the exhale, “Uncle Jack, you’re not supposed to swear, but look!” He shook his hand to indicate the electronic device he clutched.
“Hold it still, or I can’t read it, Ale,” Jack told him as he reached for a plate lined with paper towels to drain the hash browns once removed from the skillets. The thinly sliced potatoes, edges perfectly golden and crisp, snapped in the oil.
With notable exasperation, Ale twisted his wrist so the screen faced him, and he announced, “‘Texas rancher and award-winning grill master Jack Reed should be nominated for a YouTube award in a new category, Most Charismatic.’” He stumbled over the last word. But he eagerly resumed. “‘Can’t stop watching him! Totally addictive!’” Alejandro, whose dark hair and deep blue eyes ran in the family, said, “She writes for BBQ Weekly magazine, Uncle Jack! BBQ Weekly!”
“Lemme see that.” Jack’s curiosity soared. He was secretly devouring reviews of his and Jillian’s unexpected mash-up. So far, responses were positive because they’d sparked from the get-go.
He took the tablet from his nephew and finished the statement. Almost. “‘Displaying his wit and wisdom every week on his YouTube channel, Rub It In, Rancher Reed is the ultimate in BBQ mastery and visual stimula—’ Oh, good grief.” He rolled his eyes. So. Not about Jillian. He passed the device back to his nephew. Who rounded out the online post with, “‘PS, ladies, he’s single!’”
“How on earth would she know that?” Jack asked as he started huevos rancheros in a few cast irons already heating up on the combination stove/griddle/grill.
“I included it in your bio on your website.” Wyatt Martinez, Jack’s eldest sister, flashed him a sassy look as she breezed in and went straight to the refrigerator to collect the pitchers of orange juice and milk. She gave them to Ale to take to the breakfast table that sat twelve, then began brewing coffee for the freestanding urn.
“I have a website?” Jack inquired with a crooked brow.
“You do now. Ale and I developed the pages that went live last week,” she informed him.
“Your inaugural Memorial Day Weekend BBQ Bash will put you on the map, Jack. Push you beyond grassroots fame, even more so than your two-minute cooking segment every week on the local network.”
“Do I want to be on the map?” he countered as he cracked eggs.
“You want more viewers and subscribers, right? That equates to greater monetization.”
“True fact,” he conceded. “Though . . .” Glancing at Wyatt over his shoulder, Jack further questioned, “What does my marital status have to do with . . . anything?”
“Oh, please.” Wyatt gave a feisty sigh.
She and Hunter were the blonds of the family. Wyatt was thirty-one, two years older than Jack. She possessed enough energy to account for rambunctious twins, a husband who spent time on the road for auctions and other ranch business, a part-time marketing career, co-coaching
Hunter’s team, and helping to manage the organized chaos around the house. Which exhausted Jack, just thinking about it all.
Before she could answer, their mother, Brett Reed, marched into the room. A full head shorter than Wyatt but also a dynamo.
“Never hurts to advertise the goods,” she told Jack with a mischievous smile. She tousled Ale’s thick strands, though Jack was certain his nephew had no clue as to his nana’s insinuation.
“It’s not a dating app, Mom,” Jack grumbled, not even wanting to go in that direction, in theory or in reality. He also had way too much on his hands. The TRIPLE R was his coveted legacy and always a top priority—as was his family.
“You joined a dating app?” asked Garrett as he entered from the garage door on the far side of the room, two boxes stacked in his arms.
He was a lifelong family friend, and the younger boys considered him an uncle. He met up with everyone at the island as Jack transferred pancakes to a platter.
“Don’t we wish,” Wyatt teased as she set the table with an eclectic assortment of mismatched dishes. She’d leave extras on the counter, along with to-go containers, for those who came and went in the morning, like Chance Reed, their cousin and the foreman of the ranch. Chance could smell a home-cooked meal from a thousand paces.
“Who signed up for a dating app?” He kept the inquisition going as he came through the opened doors off the courtyard and patio. “Aunt Brett?”
She swatted Chance’s arm. “Never, ever would I.”
Despite her levity, they all knew that answer was set in stone. She’d given her heart to one man and one man only. Unfortunately, that man’s heart had given out on him. The very reason Jack had left college after his first year and returned to the ranch.
Tragically ironic. He’d gone to Seattle Pacific University on a football scholarship, dreaming of playing pro for a few years to build a nest egg for the ranch and relieve some of the fiscal burden on his dad.
In that vein, he’d also wanted a degree in economics, knowing the TRIPLE R would be his responsibility someday. That day came much quicker than anticipated, and he’d fumbled through the early years until he’d discovered that his YouTube channel, other multimedia platforms, and the associated affiliate programs rapidly filled in gaps better than any drawn-out “budget reforecasting.”
So . . . yeah. Maybe he did want to be on the map.
“I’m not claimin’ you’re a lonesome dove,” his sister told him. “But ya kinda are.”
He smirked. “How can I be a lonesome anything with all these mouths to feed?”
Though there was no denying his love life was lackluster—and speaking of the lust part, there’d not been much of that going on either. He was more focused on finances than flirting.
With the exception of . . .
“I don’t suppose anybody’s gonna mention the fire in Jack’s eyes when Miss Jillian Parks called into his show,” Garrett said.
Published by Amazon/Montlake—Now Available!
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