is excited to welcome
Author Alison McQueen!
Under the Jeweled Sky
A breathtaking story of forbidden love and devastating consequences...
The moment Sophie steps onto India's burning soil, she realizes her return was inevitable. But this is not the India she fell in love with ten years before in a maharaja's palace. This is not the India that ripped her heart out as Partition tore the country in two. That India, a place of tigers, scorpions, and shimmering beauty, is long gone.
Drawing on her own family's heritage, acclaimed novelist Alison McQueen beautifully portrays the heart of a woman who must confront her past in order to fight for her future. Under the Jeweled Sky deftly explores the loss of innocence, the urgent connection in our stars, and how we'll go to find our hearts.
Grab your copy of UNDER THE JEWELED SKY here...
Researching the Historical Novel
by Alison McQueen!
The research for Under The Jeweled Sky took months. In the early stages of the first draft, I somehow had it in my head that the research wouldn’t take too long, which was akin to a form of writerly denial. I should have known better.
At the British National Archives, I unearthed declassified documents from the 1957 Macmillan government which would have caused a great deal of diplomatic embarrassment should they have been leaked at the time. Everything I read had been rubber-stamped Top Secret.
The archives catalogue a mire of political corruption and inaction, naming names and pointing fingers of accusation. I had started out without too much idea of what I was actually looking for, only to stumble across all manner of declassified secrets, some of which ran to hundreds of pages. Very little of it ended up in the final manuscript, but still, it is an absolutely necessary part of the process, serving as a solid foundation.
I sometimes liken the research to the making of a sculptor’s maquette, or to a frame of scaffolding around a building. Ultimately you won’t see any of it, but it has to be there in the first place, otherwise nothing will hold together. The story’s environment has to feel totally authentic, and the only way to achieve that is to do the legwork and to be completely sure of the ground you are walking on.
Part of the story is set in a maharaja’s palace in 1947. Although the fictional palace and its location are anonymous, I did have an inside track into life inside an Indian palace. In her twenties, my mother was hired as the private nurse to the Maharaja of Indore’s mother-in-law. She arrived there from Bombay and was shown to her quarters, an enormous suite in a grand building set across the grounds from the main palace.
A car was sent for her every morning, but she said that she preferred to walk. So off she would go, strolling through the grounds while the car followed along a few yards behind, driving at snail’s pace in case she should change her mind. Her breakfast would be served to her on a solid silver service, with a footman standing by should she want for anything.
From what she has told me, I am not sure that she handled it particularly well. She said that she didn’t want any fuss, which was quite the wrong way to go about things in a palace. There was also an incident when she was caught preparing her own boiled egg, which didn’t go down at all well. The cook was quite overcome with grief, and my mother never ventured to lift a finger again. I have to say, I rather like the thought of that.
Is there an author that makes you go all "fangirl?"
I have to confess that I descend into “fangirl” mode whenever I meet an author whose work I have read and admired. There are so many great writers out there.
If you could co-write with another author who would it be and why?
I don’t think there is a writer alive who would want to co-write with me. My approach to work is far too chaotic.
The world is under attack and you are forced to run for your life. You only have room for one book in your survival kit, what book do you take?
The complete works of Oscar Wilde.
Who are your favorite literary characters? (Yours or someone else's)
Mrs de Winter from Daphne du Maurier’s wonderful novel, Rebecca, and the sinister presence of the evil Mrs Danvers.
If your friends were asked to describe you in one word what would it be?
Where do you do your best work?
In my bedroom, overlooking the garden.
Do you find it harder to write a full-length novel or novellas?
I have yet to write a novella. The novel is the form I gravitate towards because it has a larger canvas for big, complex stories. I try not to think about the big picture too much when I start out, taking it one sentence at a time.
When did you fall in love...with writing?
I have always written, since childhood. It has been my stalwart friend for all these years.
Are you a plotter or fly by the seat of your pants writer?
I plot a little, pace around the house for three months, then fly by the seat.
What is the one story you wish you’d written? Why?
This question is impossible to answer. Every time I read a great story I find myself wishing I had written it.
What is your favorite thing to do outside of writing?
Please tell us a bit about your latest release.
Under The Jeweled Sky is a tragic tale of love and loss set in the dying embers of the British Raj. The story unravels the fragile construct of a severely dysfunctional British family and watches its slow disintegration in the wake of World War II, the subsequent partition of India, and a scandal with terrible consequences.
The tangle of politics and diplomacy during both periods seemed like a fitting backdrop to the disordered lives of the characters, with layers of deceit and half-truths and nothing being quite what it seems.
Under the Jeweled Sky is above all a love story, exploring the inevitability of lost innocence, the urgent connection in our stars, and how we'll go to pursue our destiny.
Will you be attending any conferences this year?
Yes. I will be coming to the US in March, visiting New York, Indiana, Illinois, Oregon, Miami, Phoenix and Denver for an exciting series of events. Full details will go up on my website any moment now.
All the things that I shouldn’t eat
Boots or heels
Boots with heels
eReader or Print
Social Media: Love it or Hate it?
Beer, Liquor or Wine
Favorite place to get it on besides the bedroom
I’m taking the fifth on that one.
Favorite TV Show
Gogglebox., a fly-on-the-wall reality show watching families watching TV. It’s a big hit over here and my family is addicted to it.
Favorite Book series (besides your own)
Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials
Pj’s or Lingerie
Vampires vs. Shifters
It has to be a great love story.
Born in the sixties to an Indian mother and an English jazz musician father, Alison McQueen grew up in London and worked in advertising for twenty-five years before retiring to write full time. Her 7th novel, Under The Jewelled Sky, is published by Orion in April 2013 (UK & Commonwealth) with the US edition following in 2014. Her acclaimed 2012 novel, The Secret Children, is now available in Orion paperback.
Alison is also the author of a popular series of British comedy novels written under her married name (published by Macmillan 2005-2011) and featured on Channel 4′s Richard & Judy Show. She lives in an untidy house in rural Northamptonshire with her husband and two daughters.
Learn more about Alison here...
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UNDER THE JEWELED SKY!