Friday Five: Jacquie Underdown

1501Author: Jacquie Underdown
First published with Escape: December 2013 – The Paler Shade of Autumn
Favourite romance trope: The love triangle
Ideal hero (in three words): Handsome, intelligent, and dedicated
Ideal heroine (in three words): Funny, ambitious, and loving
Latest book: Bittersweet

What began your romance writing career? Why do you write romance?

I’ve always loved reading romance books or books with romantic themes, so it was a natural trajectory when the urge to write hit that I would write in this genre. When I wrote my first romance book ten years ago, it was with the strong purpose of wanting to show others how amazing love could be.

What kind of characters do you like reading about the most? What about the ones you enjoy writing?

I love reading about characters who are somewhat otherworldly—they possess magical/mythical qualities—yet have to navigate real life and romance with those inherent qualities.

I enjoy writing all types of characters from cowboys to multi-millionaires, florists to time-travellers, but my real passion is writing characters similar to those I like to read. I adored writing Autumn Leone, a girl who can see into people’s minds, in the Paler Shade of Autumn. Even with my most recent novel, Bittersweet (Brothers of the Vine #1), I couldn’t help but weave a subtle magical matchmaking thread through the story.


Which writers inspire you? Favourite books and authors? What makes them your favourite?

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This changes all the time, but, at the moment, my favourite authors are:

  • Alice Clayton—her books are funny and sexy (particularly the Hudson Valley series) and she writes super-hot heroes.
  • Maggie Stiefvater—I adored the Raven Cycle series so much it makes my heart race thinking about those books.
  • Liane Moriarty—her ability to observe everyday human behaviour is outstanding.
  • Sarah J. Maas and Karen Marie Moning—I adore books about Fae that are also a little sexy and where the female protagonist gets to kick arse.
  • Hannah Kent—her prose is meticulous and I couldn’t read The Good People fast enough.

As a writer, what would you choose as your mascot/avatar/familiar? Do you have one already?

I’m not sure I would call my Siamese cat, Bear, my familiar or even a mascot, but he is certainly a big supporter of my writing for no other reason than because he gets to sit on my lap while I write. In summer, especially since moving back to Queensland, that’s not the ideal scene.

Bear thinking he looks cute in yellow

But, in saying that, his spirit certainly makes its way into my stories. I named my male protagonist in Pieces of Me after him. And a female version of him appeared in Catch Me a Cowboy.

Bear 2 mins after wanting to be let out

Where is your favourite place to write?

I know authors generally have an office to write in, and I’ve tried that many times, but after a career as an accountant, stuck in an office day in day out, that’s the last place I want to be. So, I generally write while sitting on the lounge with my laptop on my lap.

And I have a standing desk, also in my lounge room, that I alternative between.


 

32702A vineyard, a family in pain, and the healing magic of cupcakes…

Amy Jenkins, a talented and ambitious chef, is left humiliated and debt-ridden, after her city restaurant fails. When her best friend calls asking for help in her small town cupcake shop, Amy jumps at the chance to hide out in the small town of Alpine Ridge while her shattered ego mends.

The youngest Mathews brother, Tom feels over-looked and under-appreciated. His brothers remember every mistake, but never give him the responsibility or opportunity to take his place in the family business. So, he spends three weeks out of every month working at a mine in the back-end of nowhere. But then Amy moves to town to help run his pregnant sister-in-law’s bakery, and suddenly home seems to be where his heart is.

Amy’s move was only ever meant to be temporary, but when tragedy strikes the Mathews family, Amy finds herself unable to move on. As she and Tom get closer, Amy finds every excuse to stay: first, she claims it’s for the family, then she claims it’s for the shop. But maybe, it’s for her own heart…

” I loved the way the story was woven and all its twists and turns. A box of tissues is a must!”  – Jeanne, NetGalley

“a lovely story of love, healing, and new beginnings.” – NetGalley Reviewer

“just gives you a huge happy sigh” – Becky, NetGalley

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Exclusive Excerpt 2: Bittersweet

32702

A vineyard, a family in pain, and the healing magic of cupcakes…

Tom dropped Amy home later that night. He walked her to the back door of Sugar Cakes and waited for her to open the lock and turn the inside light on.

She had a feeling he didn’t want the night to end. If she were to be honest, she’d admit she felt the exact same.

Thank you so much for today,’ she said as they lingered on the doorstep under the filmy light that spilled over them. ‘I really appreciate your help. And for tonight too. I had a great time.’ And she truly did. She enjoyed Tom’s company a great deal.

Even now, as she looked up into his face, she ignored the buzz of anticipation that tingled through her body.

I’m glad you enjoyed yourself.’

I did. I needed it.’ She had needed to do something just for the hell of it. Not out of obligation or duty, but just for fun. She had already dedicated so much to her career, she’d forgotten what that was like.

Tom looked into her eyes as he smiled; Amy melted just a little. How could she not. This man was incredible—warm, compassionate, and as sexy as sin. And he was completely respecting the boundaries she had delineated. No pressure.

But, the worst thing they could have done was sleep together because now that she had had a taste of him, she knew how great it could be, and she wanted more. So much more.

Could she take it there again? Would it really be so bad if they were to let this attraction play out physically for the duration they had left together?

There was no denying that Tom was becoming a huge part of her life.

There was no denying that she was developing real emotions for him.

Her breaths grew thinner, louder, as much as she tried to hide it. But there was nowhere to hide, for in this silence was only their breaths and beating hearts.

So, I guess I’ll see you later in the week?’ he asked, but his words were thin. He was obviously on the same train of thought she had stumbled onto. But how could he not be when all the space between them was becoming charged with their need to touch one another.

Before she could think of all the reasons why she shouldn’t, Amy reached for his hand. A warm current coursed through her arm. She needed his touch so much she ached.

His gaze met hers.

Her thumb moved over the back of his hand and that small gesture stole her breath. His eyelids dipped a little, and his next intake of air was rushed.

Still his eyes held hers.

She took a step closer. His warmth reached across the space between them and caressed her, urged her to come even closer. Could she?

Amidst all the pain and the uncertainty of the future, could she let Tom in? Even if only for a short while?

Her breaths were making her chest rise and fall. Her heart sped up pace.

Amy?’ asked Tom, a deep whisper.

For a long moment, she didn’t answer, still indecisive. No-one but themselves could get hurt here.

Was he worth that risk?

He reached for her, his hand cupping her jaw, thumb smoothing over her cheek. She nestled into his touch. ‘Amy?’

Was it really so wrong when everything inside her was screaming at her to take the leap, to fall into him.

Will you catch me?’ she whispered.

His gaze flickered from her eyes to her lips, then he nodded. ‘And I won’t let go.’

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Feed Your Reader: A vineyard, three brothers, and the magic of cupcakes.

32702

A vineyard, a family in pain, and the healing magic of cupcakes…

Amy Jenkins, a talented and ambitious chef, is left humiliated and debt-ridden, after her city restaurant fails. When her best friend calls asking for help in her small town cupcake shop, Amy jumps at the chance to hide out in the small town of Alpine Ridge while her shattered ego mends.

The youngest Mathews brother, Tom feels over-looked and under-appreciated. His brothers remember every mistake, but never give him the responsibility or opportunity to take his place in the family business. So, he spends three weeks out of every month working at a mine in the back-end of nowhere. But then Amy moves to town to help run his pregnant sister-in-law’s bakery, and suddenly home seems to be where his heart is.

Amy’s move was only ever meant to be temporary, but when tragedy strikes the Mathews family, Amy finds herself unable to move on. As she and Tom get closer, Amy finds every excuse to stay: first, she claims it’s for the family, then she claims it’s for the shop. But maybe, it’s for her own heart…

” I loved the way the story was woven and all its twists and turns. A box of tissues is a must!”  – Jeanne, NetGalley

“a lovely story of love, healing, and new beginnings.” – NetGalley Reviewer

“just gives you a huge happy sigh” – Becky, NetGalley

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Where Love & Cupcakes Meet

by Jacquie Underdown

Food is almost a dirty word these days. It is wrapped up in so much confusion. It can be prescriptive, healthy, poisonous, toxic, or super.

Eat this. Eat that. Don’t eat this. Don’t eat that.

My latest contemporary small town romance, Bittersweet, is a book primarily about finding love amidst the turmoil of grief, but food, specifically cupcakes and sweet desserts, is featured heavily.

But the story doesn’t focus on anything restrictive. It doesn’t mention weight or calories or shame.

Cupcake decorated with a heart shaped cake pick

One cannot live well, love well, sleep well, if one has not dined well.

~ Virginia Woolf

This book only speaks of the pleasure food can bring in both the eating and the cooking.

The pleasure of sharing food with the people you love—family and friends.

The emotional balm a red velvet cupcake with sweet cream-cheese frosting can provide.

Eating is so intimate. When you invite someone to sit at your table and you want to cook for them, you are inviting a person into your life.

~Maya Angelou

Bittersweet demonstrates how food and love are a powerful partnership.

How sharing of food can bring people closer together, can forge friendships, and foster deep relationships.

Mother And Small Child In The Kitchen At Home Beautiful And Happ

If more of us valued food and cheer and song above hoarded gold, it would be a merrier world.

~ J. R. R. Tolkien

Bittersweet is a celebration of love and cupcakes and the undeniable joy the combination these two items can bring to a person’s soul.


32702A vineyard, a family in pain, and the healing magic of cupcakes…

Amy Jenkins, a talented and ambitious chef, is left humiliated and debt-ridden, after her city restaurant fails. When her best friend calls asking for help in her small town cupcake shop, Amy jumps at the chance to hide out in the small town of Alpine Ridge while her shattered ego mends.

The youngest Mathews brother, Tom feels over-looked and under-appreciated. His brothers remember every mistake, but never give him the responsibility or opportunity to take his place in the family business. So, he spends three weeks out of every month working at a mine in the back-end of nowhere. But then Amy moves to town to help run his pregnant sister-in-law’s bakery, and suddenly home seems to be where his heart is.

Amy’s move was only ever meant to be temporary, but when tragedy strikes the Mathews family, Amy finds herself unable to move on. As she and Tom get closer, Amy finds every excuse to stay: first, she claims it’s for the family, then she claims it’s for the shop. But maybe, it’s for her own heart…

“I couldn’t put this book down from the first pages. Even when I had to get up to find some Kleenex, I didn’t want to stop reading. I can’t wait to read the stories of Tom’s older brothers.”  –  Betsy N., Reviewer

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Exclusive Excerpt: Bittersweet

32702

A vineyard, a family in pain, and the healing magic of cupcakes…

The two old timber doors of the cellar, which sat under the high point of the curved overpass, were painted with the same green paint Dad had chosen when he first bought this place. Though it was flaking with age.

Amy narrowed her eyes at Tom, then peered back at the doors. ‘Is that a cellar in there?’

Yep.’

Does it go underground?’

He nodded. ‘Best way to achieve the perfect temperatures, which is essential to storing wine for long periods. How good a cellar is, determines the quality of a winery.’

Tom unlocked the big metal padlocks, pushed the heavy doors open, and they went inside. The familiar scent of earth and must, a little like mushrooms, hit him.

The cellar was darker than black. He felt along the cold wall for the switch and turned the lights on. They flickered to life, dimly illuminating the giant space, which possessed more qualities of a cave than a room, though the floor and the walls were made of stone.

Amy followed closely by Tom’s side as he led her through the short maze of rooms connected by archways, passing rows of barrels and a tasting room.

Deep into the cellar, where the air grew still and cool, their surroundings dim, was an enormous room lined with big wire racks filled with bottle after bottle of wine, all sitting on their side. Black cellar mould coated the layers of bottles and walls. A wet-rock smell was thick in the air.

Amy narrowed her eyes at Tom, grinning sceptically. ‘What the …?’

Tom laughed. ‘That’s most peoples’ first reaction.’ He went to a rather thick mound of fungus and smelled it. Best scent in the world, like a bag of mushrooms. ‘Touch it,’ he said.

Amy pressed her finger to the spongy substance.

This cellar has its own climate. Eleven degrees in the summer or winter. The bottles of wine let out vapours and this mould forms keeping the air clean. We are so proud of it.’

Amy giggled. ‘I never could have believed this would be a source of pride.’

Tom chuckled. ‘I know. But it’s so very important. And it changes depending on the time of year. Sometimes it’s white like a cotton ball. If you’ve got a cellar with this,’ he said touching the black mould again, ‘you’ve got perfect conditions for storing wine.’

He went to a stack of bottles and pulled out a dusty one from on top, turning it upright and rubbing the muck from the label. A long slender mushroom grew out from the cork. ‘This was from the very first year at the vineyard. The year Mitch was born.’

And it tastes good?’

His grin was smug. ‘Unbelievable flavour profile. But this wine was intended to be aged. A dream my dad had over thirty years ago.’

This is all so incredible.’ She gestured to the rows of bottles. ‘Magical almost.’

Magical was the perfect description. When he was a child, he always volunteered to come here with Dad, and they’d spend hours turning each bottle a quarter of a turn. He’d never known why he’d loved it so much, but Amy was right.

He peered around at all the years of hard work. ‘Dad was so proud of this cellar. I am too. This is Dad’s legacy. This is where it all began. And it’s his gift to my brothers and me …’ he trailed off and stared at his feet as an unexpected lump of emotion formed in his throat.

What?’ she asked.

He shook his head, but sadness was brimming in his eyes. He could not believe how emotional this was making him. But the sentimentality in this place was overflowing, especially after a day like today.

What is it?’ she persisted.

Why would I ever want to distance myself from this legacy?’

Amy shook her head, almost imperceptibly.

What an idiot I’ve been. I was given the biggest gift, a gift people would kill for, and I’m throwing it away. God, how egotistical … selfish …’

Emotions brewed in his heart—for the decisions he’d made, for the time he wasted, and for being so damn complacent—painful as it worked through him and exposed him for the fool he’d been.

Just because he hadn’t birthed this dream, instead inherited it, didn’t make it any less special. It didn’t mean he couldn’t make this dream his own.

Bittersweet is coming in January 2018. Pre-order your copy now!

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That’s a Wrap! GenreCon 2017

by Jacquie Underdown

As the attendees streamed from the State Library of Queensland at the close of the 2017 GenreCon held from Friday to Sunday last week in Brisbane, the overarching take-home message was that in Australia, there is a thriving, supportive community of genre writers who are passionate about writing, live and breathe inclusivity, and really know their craft.

In not-so typical Brisvegas fashion, the weather welcomed this numerous cohort of genre-fiction writers and readers by lowering the average temperature seven degrees. This made the simple act of wearing clothes and participating in activities like standing and sitting possible.

But the agreeable weather can’t take home all the accolades. Many of the weekend’s big moments were associated with the attending big names like best-selling Australian author Garth Nix who, during Friday night’s opening address, gave his writing advice ‘tell a story’ to an eager audience in a manner expected from a prolific writer, which was by telling a bloody good story.

garth

Garth Nix – Opening Night speech

The teary-eyed crowd may have, at first, felt shocked when after hearing Nix’s heartfelt story about meeting his 95-year-old writing hero days before he died, he then admitted that this story was, in fact, fictional. But who better to give a masterclass on the art of ‘show don’t tell’ than one of Australia’s top genre authors.

Nix continued with his stellar advice to attendees throughout the weekend.

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And provided his blanket solution to nearly every problem a writer will encounter no matter where they are in their career.

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International guest author Delilah S. Dawson took the floor among an audience dressed to the mods and monster’s costume theme at the Saturday night Speakeasy to give a rousing speech on how to ‘not give up’.

delilah

Delilah S. Dawson – Speakeasy speech

Dawson spoke about the trajectory of her career from her unsellable first story—which had all the rookie mistakes including an opening line from hell (that mentioned white Capri pants, Greek street food and the unmentionable side effect of said street food while wearing white Capri pants)—to her eventual, hard-earned successes.

But where the real gems of wisdom were uncovered was during the weekend’s workshops, panels and morning plenary sessions that took place in packed auditoriums and rooms throughout the State Library of Queensland.

Claire G. Coleman, black&write 2016 Indigenous writing fellow, gave an inspirational speech on how she wrote through her fear.

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Anne Gracie, Australian romance writing royalty, thrilled her workshop audience with tried and true writing advice along with practical methods on how to dig deeper into character.

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Fellow Escape Publishing multi-award-winning author Amy Andrews gave a truthful account of author earnings by providing her writing income from her last fifteen tax returns. And, on top of this, read a sex scene from her novel Numbered in front of a large audience at the Author Salon on opening night. One word that could describe Andrews: COURAGEOUS!

AA

Amy Andrews talks author earnings

In one panel, attendees were able to pull back the curtain and look into the world of the publishing houses. Escape Publishing’s Managing Editor, Kate Cuthbert, joined a panel of industry experts who offered insight into the process at their end once they received an author’s submission.

industry

Panel of industry professionals

To accept or reject an author’s work for publication isn’t a simple case of ‘this book isn’t good enough’. Meetings are had, discussions are entered into, and many factors are taken into account before the final decision is made.

And those writers in the audience dealing with idea-hopping were able to hear international best-selling author Nalini Singh not only give permission to pursue those ‘squirrel’ ideas but also a practical way to manage those ‘squirrels’.

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So many fabulous panellists appeared at this year’s GenreCon. They wrestled with messy questions on the writing craft, spoke about the real-world implications of writing imaginary worlds and characters, and offered advice on how to deal with introversion, failure, fear, success, and many of the gritty nuances of being an author.

Over the course of the weekend, the attendees were schooled, reassured and inspired. GenreCon was a celebration of genre fiction but not once did it ask its audience to believe that being an author is easy or that a writing career should be perfect, and that’s what made the event an enjoyable, relatable success.

Top 3 highlights

  1. GenreCon convenor Peter Ball’s T-Shirt

pete

Peter Ball – 2017 GenreCon Convenor

  1. So many incredible authors and industry experts in the one place, unafraid to drop the F* bomb, unapologetic about what they write and who they are, and willing to share their expertise.

all panelists

Last chance Q & A panel of authors

  1. So many amazing authors and readers in the one place, each unashamedly in love with writing, reading and talking about genre fiction.

attendees

2017 GenreCon attendees

Top 3 take-away messages

  1. Readers, your reading future is in incredibly safe hands. Australia has many dedicated, helpful, and passionate writers producing fantastic titles each and every year.
  1. Writers, no one writing career is the same. You don’t know the bigger picture yet or what the future holds, so you may be exactly where you need to be in your career, even if it doesn’t feel that way.
  1. Persistence is key. Write the next book. And as Emma Viskic, award-winning Australian crime writer would say, fill those blank pages with ‘words of liquid gold’ even if it takes many redrafts to achieve it.

Final note

Don’t underestimate the cathartic consequences of stepping away from the keyboard, talking with fellow authors, readers and editors, and donning a good costume.

jacquie

Liz McKewin, Jacquie Underdown (me), and Meg Vann


32702A vineyard, a family in pain, and the healing magic of cupcakes…

Amy Jenkins, a talented and ambitious chef, is left humiliated and debt-ridden, after her city restaurant fails. When her best friend calls asking for help in her small town cupcake shop, Amy jumps at the chance to hide out in the small town of Alpine Ridge while her shattered ego mends.

The youngest Mathews brother, Tom feels over-looked and under-appreciated. His brothers remember every mistake, but never give him the responsibility or opportunity to take his place in the family business. So, he spends three weeks out of every month working at a mine in the back-end of nowhere. But then Amy moves to town to help run his pregnant sister-in-law’s bakery, and suddenly home seems to be where his heart is.

Amy’s move was only ever meant to be temporary, but when tragedy strikes the Mathews family, Amy finds herself unable to move on. As she and Tom get closer, Amy finds every excuse to stay: first, she claims it’s for the family, then she claims it’s for the shop. But maybe, it’s for her own heart…

Bittersweet, the first book in the Brothers of the Vine trilogy, is available for pre-order now!