Local writer Jennifer Marshall McIlquham

Local writer Jennifer Marshall McIlquham released her debut novel “Christmas Cookies on a Cruise Ship” under her pen name Parker Fairchild.

The COVID-19 pandemic opened up time for Jennifer Marshall McIlquham to work on writing her debut novel “Christmas Cookies on a Cruise Ship” under her pen name Parker Fairchild. 

The Peoria writer’s romantic comedy features the story of Olivia Chasen’s adventure on a cruise. Olivia took the cruise to avoid her sister and her new fiancé, who is Olivia’s ex.  

Some Christmas magic could lead Olivia to meeting a Navy SEAL on her cruise. 

“Christmas Cookies on a Cruise Ship” is available on Amazon, Apple Books, Barnes and Noble and elsewhere in print and digitally. 

As the pandemic slowed down the regular pace of Marshall Mcllquham’s work, her mother encouraged her to pull out a book that she started writing to have “something to look forward to.” 

When she heard 5 Prince Publishing began looking for authors who were hoping to be published, she prepared an excerpt and description. 

“I sent it in,” Marshall Mcllquham said. “And they asked for three more chapters. Then they asked for the entire book.” 

For many authors, getting their stories picked up by a publisher is a long process but because of the pandemic, Marshall Mcllquham was able to get her first book picked up and put through the editing process quickly, signing a contract as well as finishing all three edits of her book between September and October.

“The fiction business, just like movie and streaming has been through the roof with COVID because people are stuck inside,” Marshall  Mcllquham said. 

Marshall Mcllquham was told that the publisher did not have room to get her book published this Christmas season. But again, the pandemic brought positivity to Marshall Mcllquham when she found out that there was an opening for her book to come out this November. 

“When you’re doing a tight deadline, you’re living and breathing it every day,” Marshall Mcllquham said. “I literally pulled a few 24 hours. I’ve had a great support system.” 

Her mother, Jean Marshall, who encouraged her to start working on the novel again and her husband, Jason Mcllquham, were two of her biggest supporters while she worked on her book. Both Jean and Jason read early versions and gave her feedback.

 The two played key roles in how the book came about. 

“Christmas Cookies on a Cruise Ship” is connected to Marshall Mcllquham personally because a Hawaiian cruise is how she met Jason. 

Jennifer and Jason met on a small boat that would take them to the Star Princess.  

Marshall Mcllquham’s mother asked Jason if they could sit next to him on the tender, introducing Jennifer and Jason for the first time.  

Marshall Mcllquham’s mother likes to say her daughter  and Jason “have not stopped talking since they met.”

After that first cruise meeting in April, Jason proposed to Jennifer on Christmas of the same year. 

Her personal love story that started on a cruise ship helped inspire parts of Marshall Mcllquham’s debut romantic comedy. 

“There’s a lot going back to the cruise,” Marshall Mcllquham said. “I had started the book on a Caribbean cruise. But I met my husband on a Hawaiian cruise. So, when I was doing edits and finishing up stuff, I would put little tidbits in of ourselves.” 

Marshall Mcllquham has lived in the north Glendale-Peoria area since 2017; she moved here from Virginia where she attended the University of Richmond. She graduated with a history degree but has always loved reading. 

She also is a freelance writer, social media copywriter and model. 

Seeing the cover for her first book was a thrilling moment. 

“The cover made it real,” Marshall Mcllquham said. “I guess that’s what separates me and moving from a hobby to something that is more professional, it’s nice to know I have a good story and they are interested in publishing it.” 

The new author wants young girls to see her character, Olivia, as a “strong heroine” who shows “what girls can do and what you can accomplish.” 

“It’s fun to create stories, and this is definitely a romantic comedy, but I think it has a good message in there,” Marshall Mcllquham said. “It’s nice to tell a story that hopefully inspires people or says something good.”

For more information or to order “Christmas Cookies on a Cruise Ship,” visit parkerfairchild.com.