Interview with Jennifer McQuiston, Author of What Happens in Scotland

Jennifer McQuiston is visiting the virtual offices today to talk about her book What Happens in Scotland.  Please give her a warm welcome!

[Manga Maniac Cafe] Describe yourself in 140 characters or less.

[Jennifer McQuiston] I am a newbie romance author/mom/scientist/veterinarian/wife/critique partner/Girl Scout troop leader. Not necessarily in that order.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] Can you tell us a little about What Happens in Scotland?

[Jennifer McQuiston]   What happens in Scotland is your typical "she woke up married" Vegas story… only based in Scotland. In 1842, no less. Which made it loads of fun to write, and hopefully loads of fun to read.

Lady Georgette Thorold is a widow who survived a disastrous first marriage, and who is determined to enjoy her life now that her self-imposed period of mourning is over. James MacKenzie is a miscreant second son who is starting to build a better life with his own two hands. When the pair wake up in bed together surrounded by the evidence of a night gone wrong, each thinks the worst of the other. The truth is bound to be something unpalatable… especially as the clues start to trickle in. But was it a night worth remembering? Or a mistake they would rather forget?

[Manga Maniac Cafe] How did you come up with the concept and the characters for the story?

[Jennifer McQuiston]  I decided to turn the big 4-0 in Vegas, with my husband and some close friends. As I started planning the trip in November of 2011, I was also trying to plot out a new story idea. It occurred to me in a flash of insight that modern-day Vegas was not that different from Regency and early Victorian-era Scotland, at least in terms of quickie weddings. Scotland at the time was the go-to destination for young lovers looking to elope, and more often than not they were married by a blacksmith (yup. I said blacksmith). Preacher dressed like Elvis, anyone? The two life-altering events–birthday and book proposal–merged into an indistinguishable mess in my mind, and the result was What Happens in Scotland.

The main characters spilled out of me from places unknown. I would like to say the yummy bearded hero, James MacKenzie is based on my husband… alas, while yummy, my husband cannot grow a decent beard to save his life.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What three words best describe Georgette?

[Jennifer McQuiston] I’ll describe them in order, as she discovers herself in the book.

Panicked. Resilient. Passionate.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] If James had a theme song, what would it be?

[Jennifer McQuiston] Oh, it would definitely be "Viva Las Vegas". And Georgette’s would be Carrie Underwood’s country tune "I Don’t Even Know My Last Name".

[Manga Maniac Cafe] Name one thing Georgette is never without.

[Jennifer McQuiston] Shoes that would never be described as sensible.

She is always, however, losing her corset.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What three things will you never find in James’ pocket?

[Jennifer McQuiston] 1) Enough money

2) Stolen goods

3) Rope (I don’t know why, I just made this one up. But I am guessing he is not into that.)

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What is Georgette’s greatest regret?

[Jennifer McQuiston] Georgette’s current panic upon discovering she may have gotten hitched during a forgotten night of debauchery is based on the fact that her first marriage (a well-planned affair) was absolutely disastrous, with a philandering, drunkard husband. She regrets having given up so much of herself, and not being the sort of wife she thought she ought to be.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What are your greatest creative influences?

[Jennifer McQuiston] I am a scientist by training, so I need all the creative help I can get to avoid spitting out stilted dialogue and backstory that reads like Wikipedia. I love reading excellent authors, and I count Joanna Bourne, Meredith Duran, Cecilia Grant, and Ken Follet among my favorites (that last one is weird, I know. But I swear the man writes Romance).

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What three things do you need in order to write?

[Jennifer McQuiston] I get very cranky in the winter when the days get short, and I swear by my Happy Light. I spend two hours every morning writing in its warm glow, and I swear it’s like an IV drip for productivity. Well, that plus the pot of tea I drink every morning. Who isn’t creative on caffeine? Finally, in order to write, I need complete quiet in my busy house, and because I am a morning person, I need that time to be on the early side of the day. Believe it or not, I set my alarm for 4am and write from 4-6 every morning. Which makes me crazy. And more than a little tired come 9pm. But this is the process that works for me, and I am sticking to it!

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What is the last book that you read that knocked your socks off?

[Jennifer McQuiston] I am going with Winter’s Bone by Daniel Woodrell. I was blown away by its incredible toughness, its no-holds-barred and unsentimental look at the heroine’s struggle. Not very romantic, of course, but it left an indelible impression on my brain. I wonder if I could work a meth lab into a historical romance… will have to give that some thought.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] If you had to pick one book that turned you on to reading, which would it be?

[Jennifer McQuiston] Without a doubt, it was Ken Follet’s Lie Down with Lions. I was traveling in Ghana, West Africa working on the polio eradication program, and had stupidly only brought 5 books to last 3 months… I ran through those books in less than a week. Luckily, I discovered a used bookstore in Accra, and this book was one of the first I bought there. I was enthralled by the gut-wrenching description of the conflict in 1980’s Pakistan, and the beautiful love story the author had crafted. I then sought out everything Follet had ever written (and his early WWII spy novels feature the most amazing, tough female leads and love stories you could ever want). But Lie Down With Lions is hands-down my favorite book of all time – if only because it saved my sanity during those long, lonely nights in Africa.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What do you like to do when you aren’t writing?

[Jennifer McQuiston] Sometimes I can’t believe how busy I am. Writing is my escape, what I do when I am not working at my day job as an infectious disease researcher or yelling at my girls to clean up their messes. My family loves to travel, and during 2012 we visited Mexico, Belize, the Outer Banks, upstate New York, Virginia, and New York City. If I have even a few free hours, my favorite thing to do is take my girls to ride their pony, Mr. Beaux Regard. (ED – Oh, my gosh! I love his name!)

[Manga Maniac Cafe] How can readers connect with you?

[Jennifer McQuiston] I love hearing from readers on Twitter (@jenmcqwrites) and Facebook (www.facebook.com/jennifermcquistonauthor) . They can also email me via my website, www.jenmcquiston.com .

[Manga Maniac Cafe] Thank you!

You can purchase What Happens in Scotland from your favorite bookseller or by clicking the links below. Available in print and digital.

About the book:

She Woke Up Married

When Lady Georgette Thorold awoke she saw . . . her corset hanging from the armoire . . . a very handsome, very naked Scotsman lying beside her . . . and a wedding ring on her finger!

Before the attractive stranger can tell her his name, Georgette does the only sensible thing—she runs for it.

Little does she know, James MacKenzie isn’t clear on what happened the night before either. All he knows is that his money is missing and the stunning woman who just ran from the room is either his wife or a thief . . . or possibly both.

What happens in Scotland when two complete strangers fall madly, deeply in love?


About the author:

Jennifer McQuiston lives in Atlanta, Georgia with her husband, two daughters (who got a pony out of mom’s book deal!) and a house full of mostly mammalian pets. A veterinarian and infectious disease researcher by training, Jennifer has always preferred reading romance to scientific textbooks. Jennifer was a 2011 and a 2012 Golden Heart® finalist with two previous novels. She is signed with literary agent Kevan Lyon, and works with Esi Sogah, Tessa Woodward, and the amazing team at Avon.