Grab a Snifter with Debut Author Jennifer McQuiston!
Posted by Elisa Beatty Mar 1 2013, 12:04 am
Today we’re delighted to welcome Jennifer McQuiston, Golden Heart finalist in both 2011 and 2012, who’s been a friend of the Rubies for a long time now. (You may also know her as a Starcatcher, a Firebird, and also one of the Dashing Duchesses….and you should track her down at the next RWA convention because she’s one of the nicest, funniest people you’ll ever meet.) Her witty and wonderful debut novel, WHAT HAPPENS IN SCOTLAND, has just come out this week, and she’s here to tell us about a certain libation that helped smooth her road to publication! You can learn more about her at jenmcquiston.com.
Take it away, Jen!
I am so grateful for the chance to be here on the Rubies. A big thank-you to the awesome Elisa for hosting me!
It’s a big week for me. Not as big as, say, a bus-sized meteor exploding spectacularly over a Russian sky. Or as big as marrying the love of your life and living out your happily-ever-after, one goodnight kiss at a time. In truth, no one’s earth will shatter this week (except, maybe, mine.)
But isn’t it fun to pretend?
I am in the throes of celebrating my release week for my debut Victorian-set historical, WHAT HAPPENS IN SCOTLAND, and the Rubies are a stop I didn’t want to miss. After all, you are the site I discovered that fateful day in 2011 when I was nervous about the upcoming Golden Heart finalist announcements and discovered there were other people out there biting their nails to oblivion, just like me. And when—to my stunned surprise—I found myself a finalist that year, you offered an introductory guest spot, leading to my very first blog post ever. I am incredibly grateful for all those things the Rubies embody: you are a community of writers who share the pain of rejection, share the joy of small wins, and share the celebration of each big success.
And what better thing to bring to a celebration than brandy?
That’s right…. Brandy.
Now, I completely understand that this drink is traditionally considered a gentleman’s libation, meant to be sipped out of large snifters while cigar smoke curls around and talk turns to things of a ribald nature. Technically a distillate of wine (and therefore, concentrated in both flavor and alcoholic content), brandy is not my favorite drink. For me, it lacks the wonderful sweet flavor of a good bourbon. I can enjoy it in brownies or truffles, but sip it straight?
No thank you.
But despite its lack of appeal for my palate, I tend to look upon it fondly. You see, it plays a starring role in WHAT HAPPENS IN SCOTLAND, and in some ways it’s the magic ingredient that turned my clumsy attempts at writing into a bona fide book contract.
Brandy, therefore, rocks.
My heroine, however, would not agree…
Excerpt from WHAT HAPPENS IN SCOTLAND
Though she would never admit it to polite Society, Lady Georgette Thorold hated brandy almost as much as she hated husbands. So it was the cruelest of jokes when she awoke with nary a clue to her surroundings, smelling like one and pressed up against the other.
As she reluctantly came to her senses, unwelcome scents and fears crowded out lucid thought. In all her twenty-six years, Georgette had never even raised a glass of the amber liquid, much less slept in sheets that smelled as if they had been washed in a distillery. She was used to a feeling of comfort on waking, or at least familiarity. But judging by the stained wallpaper in her bleary line of vision, she was not in her bedroom, and there was nothing of comfort in the pounding of her head.
And, more to the point, her husband had been dead for two years.
A man’s warm body was stretched against her back, and she could feel the telltale press of an erection knocking against the base of her spine. She stared down at the muscled forearm that lay across her shoulders, noting its possessive, sinewy strength. For the briefest of moments she considered closing her eyes and going back to sleep in the appealing cage of this man’s arms. But clarity punched its way through her murky confusion.
She was in bed. With a stranger.
Heart pounding, she wiggled her way free and leaped from the tangled covers, dodging a gauntlet of broken glass and articles of clothing as she scrambled for safety. She sucked in a roomful of air, trying to escape the panic perched on her shoulders.
There were feathers everywhere. On the floor. On the ceiling. On her. Horrified by her lack of hygiene and the fear that somewhere in this room there might be a slaughtered goose, she closed her eyes, praying that when she opened them again it would all disappear. But the lack of eyesight proved ill-advised in the mess of the place. She tripped and stumbled against a wardrobe that looked to have survived the Jacobite Risings only to now sit ruined, one door hanging off its hinge.
Despite her graceless clattering, the man in the bed snored through it all. Georgette scrubbed a fist across her eyes, as if she could banish the sight of him, then lowered her hand to cover her mouth. The smell of brandy hovered there on her skin. Had she bathed in the vile stuff? What on earth had she done?
Dear God, she was in a strange room with a strange man, smelling of the same spirits her former husband had consumed to lethal outcome—what hadn’t she done?
Bile, thick and bitter, rose in the back of her throat. This could not be happening. This was not who she was. Her now-dead husband had been the rake and libertine. She had been the wife who turned a blind, tortured eye. She abhorred the thought that in one night, she appeared to have sunk to the level of debauchery her husband had embraced during their brief marriage.
Nay, she had sunk below it. Because while such behavior was permitted among the men of the ton, she was a lady. And ladies did not wake up in strangers’ beds, without a clue of how they had come to be there.
Good gracious… it’s so much FUN to mess with prudish heroines…even imaginary ones.
Before I wrote this opening scene for WHAT HAPPENS IN SCOTLAND, I had been writing mainly darker, dramatic historicals, although always with a sharp edge of humor running just below the surface. Brandy changed all that. With this book, I just turned myself over to the crazy and let my quirky voice and my admittedly lascivious imagination have free rein. The result, I hope, is a laugh-out-loud romp that many reviewers have described as a Victorian version of the Hangover (hint: the hero doesn’t have a clue what went down, either).
I’ll take that, thank you! With a cherry on top!
So Rubies, I raise a snifter for you, and toast you for your enthusiasm, your wisdom, and most of all, your encouragement. I didn’t win that first Golden Heart contest in 2011. I didn’t win the second one in 2012, either. The advice offered by the Rubies assured me it wasn’t about winning… it was about writing. The best book you can, the next book you can.
And, as per usual, you guys are oh-so-right. Because for me, it was the next book that shattered my world.
So let’s liven up this party! (Although, for the sake of aesthetics and hygiene, we’ll leave the naked stranger and the goose feathers out of it). I will offer to a randomly selected commenter some of these highly potent brandy-filled chocolates (sooooo good), along with a signed copy of WHAT HAPPENS IN SCOTLAND.
Not to be taken together…. At least not if you want to remember the good parts.
Jennifer McQuiston writes lively historical romance. An infectious disease researcher and veterinarian by training, she prefers reading romance over scientific textbooks. She lives in Atlanta with her husband, her two children, and the pony she promised to buy her kids when mommy finally got a book deal.