It’s been a week since I released Quartz in the wee hours of the morning. This story and these characters have been in my brain and on my hard drive for years, so it feels really good to let them out into the world.
Behind every story of mine is a messy mashup of random inspirations, abandoned plot threads, deleted scenes, re-reworked outlines, and more. Quartz is no different.
So I thought I’d pull back the curtains and share with you some behind-the-scenes trivia about the writing of Quartz.
Rafe and Isabella are named after video game characters.
The game is Soul Calibur (and its many sequels) and the characters are the rapier-twirling Raphael and the whip-sword-wielding Ivy (Isabella is her real name). Note: My Isabella is not that well-endowed nor that scantily-dressed. And my Rafe is not vampiric.
Neither of the Soul Calibur characters are favorites of mine (I always liked playing Seong Mi-na, because whacking people with a big stick appeals to me… I guess ;)). I just liked the names Rafe and Isabella a lot.
I do confess that I imagine Isabella with anime-silver hair, though.
The Marquis of Rocquespur’s placeholder name was that of a smelly food.
Yes, Rocquespur spent almost two drafts being called Rocquefort [sic]. Yes, the cheese. Just because.
Coop did not exist in the first draft of Quartz.
While pounding my head against the wall (don’t worry, my cell is nicely padded) during the big revision of Quartz, I decided that Rafe needed a personal connection to Ironheart. Hence, Coop, his Ironheart friend was born. He’s currently playing a significant role in Flare. I just left Rafe and Coop arguing over suspension systems, actually. Yes, this makes sense in the context of the story.
One of the major inspirations behind Quartz did not make it into the book.
Before I committed words to paper, one of the plot elements I was really excited to write featured an ancestor of one of the MCs who was trapped in a set of paintings. This poor guy could travel between paintings, but never get out. I can thank Roald Dahl’s The Witches for the inspiration.
However, as the book went on, that sort of creepy supernatural element didn’t fit either plot or tone. So, sadly, I dropped it back into the Ideas file. Maybe it’ll make an occurrence in another form in another story.
You can still see the vestiges of the paintings idea in Quartz. One scene between Rafe and his uncle takes place in an art gallery, with commentary on the pieces. Several characters are art collectors.
My favorite scene in Quartz is what I fondly refer to as Banter over Stuffed Mushrooms.
Here’s an excerpt. Context is that Rafe just spotted the maddeningly mysterious Isabella, pretending to be a server at a party he’s attending:
Isabella’s next stop was near the doorway. The elderly gentleman took his time choosing, his fingers hovering over first one, then another of the treats. Rafe stationed himself in a nook, sharing the space with a bright blue urn sprouting an enormous bouquet of fake scented flowers. When the gentleman had made his pick and turned back to the ball, Rafe stepped out from the shadows.
“Aren’t you going to stop and wave that platter of delicacies under my nose?”
Isabella’s back was to him; he saw the merest stiffening of her shoulders before she turned in one smooth movement and held out the platter. “Forgive me, sir. I had not seen you. Would you like to try some of these delightful little stuffed mushrooms?” Her face and voice were expressionless.
The mushrooms were in varying shades of black and brown, some smooth and uniform, others white-flecked and cracking. Their fillings oozed out the sides. Rafe pursed his lips, and, like the elderly gentleman, let his fingers hover above them
“Lady Brenwood is known for her attention to little details. Look at this one with the bright blue filling. It precisely matches the hue of that urn behind me. I wonder what gives it that peculiar shade?”
“I don’t know, sir. I can ask in the kitchens, if you like.”
“No, I don’t like, actually. I want this platter right in front of me for now.” It was nice to have her be at a disadvantage for once. Rafe stood between her and the exit, and the ballroom and corridor were full of people. Even if she threw the platter at him and ran, she wouldn’t make it far. Running through crowds was about as effective as swimming in syrup, unless you had someone go in front of you shouting “Leper!’
“Do you think this stuffing is made of silverfin guts? They make me nauseous. I would hate to lose the contents of my stomach all over this polished floor—and your lovely borrowed costume.”
“Floors can be cleaned. So can clothes.” Her extended arm still held steady at both wrist and elbow, the platter was exactly where she had first raised it.
Rafe selected a mushroom with spiced bread and onion stuffing, and popped it into his mouth. He took his time chewing and swallowing, then proclaimed. “Superb. My compliments to the cook.”
“I’ll be sure to tell him,” she said, oversweet, with a touch of bared fangs in her false smile. “Would you like to try the one with the diamonddust on it? I believe it’s freshly scraped off a tunnel wall. Or are you finished, sir?” The platter was motionless as she waited for his reply, as though it were a point of pride with her to be the best servitor she could be.
“With the platter, yes.” Rafe lowered his voice. “With you, no.”
Isabella raked him over with a smoldering-coal gaze. “You mistake my role, sir. I only serve food on platters at parties. Nothing more.”
Sel! Did she actually think that he would have indecent designs on her? Besides the wanting-to-shake-her-at-times kind of designs, that is. He would’ve laughed, if he weren’t so incensed with her taking that tone of moral outrage. After all, she was the party-crasher, not him. And he did not for a moment think that she was here for a night of honest work for once.
“I imagine that it is strange for you to be here as a servitor,” he said, still low, almost growling, “when you could’ve been here as a Marchioness.”
The platter dipped alarmingly, and both Rafe and Isabella put out their hands to steady it. His hand caught hers; her cold fingers cradled briefly in the warmth of his palm. Rafe pulled back as if burnt just as Isabella shook his hand off. He settled for grasping the nearest edge of the platter.
A couple strolling in, the girl’s hand chastely on the youth’s arm, glanced at them. Rafe said, “Be careful, miss, you nearly tipped the mushrooms onto my breeches. I never thought the help here would be so careless,” for their benefit—and his own.
“Sorry, sir.” Isabella snatched the platter from his fingers, then added in a fierce whisper. “I wish I had dropped it on your foot. Why can’t you learn to leave well alone? I suppose you’ll shadow me all night?”
Rafe shrugged. “It could be worse. I could have you arrested for unauthorized interactions with Blackstone and drugging government agents. Or you could just talk to me. Even my irksome company would be better than that of the intelligence officers.”
“Lovely. You’ve set the ministry dogs on me. Went straight to Uncle Leo, I bet.” Louder, she added, “There are more pastries out in the smaller supper room. Sugared violets, honeyed cakes, berry tarts. This way, sir.” She spoke loud enough so that several pairs of eyes looked over briefly to see who the glutton with the sweet tooth was, and stepped out into the foyer.
Rafe smiled ruefully at her back. She gave as good as she got, and he probably deserved that after his own remarks.
Does this pique your interest? Then check Quartz out, now on sale at Amazon.