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Julie Navickas

Julie Navickas is a bestselling and award-winning nationally recognized contemporary romance novelist, known for her keen ability to weave heart-wrenching, second-chance love stories through relatable characters with humility, humor, and heroism. She is also an award-winning university instructor and serves as the executive director of The Writing Champions Project. Julie earned master’s degrees in both organizational communication and English studies with an emphasis in book history, and a bachelor’s degree in public relations, graduating cum laude from Illinois State University.

For precisely $102 dollars, Mitch Benson and Lauren Templeton marry in a 15-minute ceremony inside a little Las Vegas chapel. Soulmates since elementary school, nothing makes more sense than eloping to Sin City for a secret wedding. 

But seven years later, the brilliant glare from the city of lights has faded. 

Scratch that. The bulbs are burnt out. 

In fact, the wiring may have been faulty all along. 

Bitterly accepting that their marriage is coming to an end, Mitch and Lauren stray further and further from the love that once blossomed on the playground of their youth. 

Lauren sells her soul to Pier Ninety-Two, her once-fabulous restaurant in downtown Los Angeles now a sad shadow in the Saturday night party scene. And Mitch falls into the arms—er, legs—of none other than childhood enemy, Tess Browning. 

Devastated by the direction their love has spiraled, Mitch and Lauren make one last trip to the city of second chances, hoping to turn their pennies into the million-dollar love they once shared.

Will their last roll be a miracle—or a mirage—in the desert? 

Excerpt from I'll Love You Tomorrow

Her eyes glimmered under the streetlights, their dark brown hue lit up by the dazzling glow of the city. She smiled, stepping closer to his body to allow a couple to pass behind her. The evening breeze caught in her hair, each of her dark strands dancing across her shoulders. 

His body warmed as she moved nearer, the smile on her lips squeezing his heartstrings with the ghosts of the past. Their spontaneous wedding day flashed before his eyes… the red eye flight to Vegas… the little white wedding chapel… and the celebratory… 

“Hot dogs,” he answered, gripping her hand and leading the way down the Strip. 

She snorted. “Well, tradition, I guess.” 

Wrapping his arm around her waist, he pointed to their right. “Come on, I think the food trucks are this way. At least they used to be.” 

Nodding, she fell in step with his long strides as they dodged and weaved in and out of the mob of tourists ready to experience the nightlife of the adult playground. On their right, the fountains of the Bellagio burst to life—swaying in synchronization—lit up by the golden lights reflected in the pool. 

“I think that’s where Austin wants to propose tomorrow.” Lauren pointed to the grand hotel and dancing fountains. 

Swarms of people lined the railing, ogling the show. 

“Why did he need us here then? He’ll have hundreds of people surrounding him.” 

She rolled her eyes. “Oh, come on. I think it’s kind of sweet that he wants to make it a big deal!”    

“And you think that’s what Casey wants? A spectacle?” 

Frowning, Lauren gripped his upper arm and squeezed as they crossed the street, leaving the magnificent fountains behind. 

His stomach dipped at the pinch of her fingers on his bare skin. 

“I think what Casey wants most… is just Austin. It doesn’t matter how.” 

The greasy scent of street food pummeled into his nostrils as a line of white trucks and picnic tables appeared down a side street. Mitch pointed at the second truck, the words ‘Hotdogs in a Hurry’ painted in big bold yellow letters. “And what is it that you want most?” 

What do you want? A divorce? Or…

She scrunched her nose and shrugged. “Chicago style, I guess?” 

I didn’t really mean hotdogs… 

Grinning, he gripped her hand and led her over to the truck to place their order. The desert wind picked up, ruffling through his hair as a chill tingled his skin. 

“Will you hold my purse for a second?” Pushing the bag toward his chest, she pulled her dark hair back into a ponytail, wrapping the long strands together with a pink tie from her wrist. Her high cheekbones stood out, complemented by the rosy hue growing on her skin. She grinned, dropping her gaze as her natural beauty punctured his heart, reminiscent of the first day they met. “What?” 

The words spilled from his lips, unfiltered. “You look really pretty tonight.” 

Q&A With Julie Navickas

I’ve never been much of a risk-taker. I’m the “play-it-safe” kind of girl, falling in line with the rules and pre-determined expectations… never having the courage to step beyond my comfort zone or do something unexpected. But then the pandemic hit, and my orderly life took a nose-dive.

COVID-19 has impacted the globe in more ways than words can define. I live in Illinois and our state was effectively shut down from about mid-March to mid-June 2020. Like many, I was asked to work remotely — which meant quickly learning how to adapt to teach and advise college students online. The learning curve was tough, but seemingly doable. But here’s what made it impossible.

Daycare closed and I was left with a one-year-old, a two-year-old, and a three-year-old to care for at home… while simultaneously moving my full-time job entirely online. I struggled — a lot. But from that struggle, I found a new part of myself — a piece of my heart that I hadn’t tapped into. And after months of tears and pent-up frustration, I learned a valuable lesson. I learned to give myself permission.

I gave myself permission to step away from the expectations. I gave myself permission to prioritize my needs — and my desires. And most importantly, I gave myself permission to take a risk.

I discovered an outlet to channel my anger, displacing my ‘this isn’t fair attitude’ into something meaningful. I found storytelling. So, in the middle of lockdown, I took a risk on myself and laid my heart bare to the blank pages in front of me. Every night, I plotted and planned — created and developed characters — and told their story. I’ve never been so bold in my life, trying something new and putting myself out into the world in a new capacity. And within about ten months I found that I had written a 75,000-word contemporary romance novel, signed a contract with Inkspell Publishing, and won an award for my debut novel, I Loved You Yesterday. 

Talk about a whirlwind author journey! Now I’ve completed four books! 

It’s changed over time! I just penned my fourth novel and can truly say I’ve found my groove and know what works best for me. I always start with a copy of Romancing the Beat by Gwen Hayes in my hand. From there, I plot out each beat in a Google doc and use this as my roadmap. 

I’m big on setting small, manageable goals for myself and like to finetune each chapter as I move along. Typically, I spend 1-2 hours in my manuscript every day—and before I know it, I have a working first draft!

I work a fill time job in the School of Communication at Illinois State University. I serve as the director of student success & recruitment and teach a variety or coursework in writing. When I’m not in the classroom, I’m home with my husband, three kiddos, and two fur babies!

This is such a timely question because I ironically just typed “THE END” on my fourth novel no more than 24 hours ago! I celebrated by excitedly sending off a copy to my publisher and then enjoyed a large glass of wine!

I love a good party! And I have a great relationship with my local indie bookstore. For every book I released, I host a party filled with friends, laughter, treats, and goodies!

In 2008, while enrolled in an advanced writing for mass media course in graduate school, I was asked to write a full-length film script as my final project. The work I completed was a total trash fire, but the characters and their stories stayed with me for well over a decade. And when the moment came and I spoke the words, “I’m going to write a book”, the first thing I did was return to this same story because the characters never truly left my heart.

I still have the film script I wrote and credit the Trading Heartbeats trilogy to this initial assignment. Without it, I’m unsure what my life would look like right now!

I think it’s difficult for any writer to not lean on their own personal and professional life experiences. While my characters are not based off anyone in particular, I will definitely admit to borrowing characteristics, traits, and flaws from friends and acquaintances!

I’ll Love You Tomorrow is the third book in a trilogy. So, the most difficult part of writing this one was not just telling a story with a fulfilling arc for the two main protagonists, but also concluding the overall character arcs and storyline that have been at play since book one! It’s not easy!

Mitch and Lauren are the main characters in I’ll Love You Tomorrow and they are relatable AF. I really enjoyed taking everyday marriage problems and developing a story that eventually leads to a HEA. It gives me hope.

Even though I write contemporary romance, my heart has always been drawn to fantasy. J.R.R. Tolkien has earned the title of father of modern fantasy for a reason. There truly is not a day that passes where I’m not in some way absorbed in the lore of Middle Earth.

Since I was a child, I’ve immersed myself in the fandom — everything from college-level coursework to fan-girling over the Peter Jackson films, to studying abroad in London (just so I could spend time at Oxford!), to now being an avid weekly listener of The Friendship Onion podcast. It’s all magic — and Tolkien’s literature helps me fuel my passion for storytelling.

It’s so hard to choose! But I think my favorite part of this book is the parallel at play with a difference of seven years. Back-to-back chapters share the story of Lauren and Mitch’s relationship from a shotgun wedding in Vegas to their current lives. Again, it’s designed to be quite relatable!

Without a doubt, I’d choose Mitch Benson. And I’d probably grip him by the shoulders, shake him, and scream in his fact to get his act together, LOL!