We’re so pleased to welcome first time visitor Jon McDonald to TNA today, on the tour to celebrate the release of his latest novel Spritzer: A Sparkling Gay Romance. Enjoy his guest post and then be sure to check out the NineStar Press giveaway below.
How I Developed the Characters and Plot for Spritzer
I have always had an interest in the making of champagne, or as it is known outside of the Champagne region of France—sparkling wine. A sparkling wine vineyard and winery seemed to be the perfect setting for a romantic comedy, and when I wanted to write a rom-com screenplay (later to be turned into a novel), that was where I decided to set the story.
I wanted two principal characters that would be very different, yet who could fall in love. So I started with Spritzer—a heterosexual bad boy who was raised in the business of making cheap commercial wine. It was his family business and he gave no thought to quality or refinement in wine making. All he was interested in was making the wine fast, easy, and then get it shipped out, and eventually take home the profits.
His great-aunt, Del, however, had other ideas, and when her brother, Spritzer’s great-uncle, and the owner of the vineyard, died she invited Spritzer to visit with her to discuss the future of the vineyard after she became the heir and new owner of the business.
Del had lived many years in France and, as a world-class potter, she had a love for the finer things of life. Her desire was to make a fine champagne and insisted that is what she wanted to do, even though Spritzer knew nothing about the process for making sparkling wine. Spritzer resisted the idea, but she insisted his employment depended on him getting on-board with the idea.
For that to be successful, it would be necessary to hire a champagne master from France to direct the operation. And the person chosen was Michel. Now, he was a handsome, sophisticated man with European sensibilities and education—the complete opposite of the rough-around-the-edges Spritzer.
Spritzer came across to Michel as impetuous, vulgar and disrespectful. And Michel came across to Spritzer as arrogant, pushy, and inflexible. And that was the set-up of the two characters in conflict.
Added to that was the fact that Spritzer was heterosexual and Michel was gay. How could these two ever find common ground?
Del became the arbitrating factor in this equation. She employed them both and they were answerable to her. When they became inexorably at odds with each other, she became the referee. But she always kept the goal in mind—to make the best sparkling wine possible.
So we have two main characters at odds who are complete opposites. What was interesting for me was to develop the characters in such a way that this opposition could turn into attraction and eventually love.
A major sub-plot is Spritzer’s relationship to his childhood friend, and now girlfriend, Kan. Although they saw their romance as the basis of their relationship, it was really their friendship that went deeper. So Spritzer must eventually deal with his relationship with Kan when his attraction for Michel develops.
What was also very interesting to me was to develop that steps that Spritzer had to go through from being an unconscious heterosexual to an open and accepting gay man. There were many more steps needed for him to accept his relationship with Michel than if he was already gay or if Michel was a woman.
As the plot developed there needed to be an obstacle and a threat. Nelson, Spritzer’s cousin, became a wonderful vehicle for that, as he controlled a lot of the winery’s debt and he later became a crucial investor in the project. Without his consent the project could fail. Also he had a romantic interest in Michel that complicated the whole scenario. At several junctions in the story Nelson could have pulled the plug, so Michel needed to calm Nelson and use Nelson’s attraction to Michel as a way to control him.
One of the major plot twists was at the end when Michel would need to leave when his contract was up and return to France. It was one of those classic situations where both lovers had responsible lives that would take them in different directions. It looked to be impossible for them to be together. And not to spoil the plot I’ll just say that question needed to be answered by the plot ending.
About the Book
Title: Spritzer: A Sparkling Gay Romance
Author: Jon McDonald
Publisher: NineStar Press
Release Date: March 27
Heat Level: 1 – No Sex
Genre: Romance, LGBT, gay, bisexual, contemporary, enemies to lovers, humorous, romance
Blurb: Spritzer Vallier is the manager of a large commercial jug winery in Northern California. The new owner, Spritzer’s great-aunt Del, wants to make a quality champagne as well as the cheap wine that is the bedrock of their business. Being a down-to-earth, no-nonsense guy, Spritzer resists Del’s fantastic idea. However, she insists and hires Michel, a French champagne master, to direct the setup of the new venture for four years until Spritzer can take over the running of the winery by himself.
Spritzer and Michel must work closely together and right from the beginning it is clear there will be fireworks. Michel tends towards arrogance and control. Spritzer resents Michel’s authority and demands, and is a bit of a stubborn hot-head.
Keeping the two in check is Del—steady, caring, and wise, she directs the two toward the accomplishment of her dream.
Storms, accidents, and money problems plague the progress of the new winery, but eventually Michel and Spritzer work their way towards a successful conclusion to their efforts. But fate seems to have another destination for them as well, as they begin to fall in love with each other.
Spritzer Vallier stood in contemplation, gazing at the strange sight before him—a couple of dozen or more folks, dressed mostly in black, standing at the crest of a hill overlooking a Sonoma vineyard. It stretched out below them as far as one could see in every direction; rows and rows of cultivated grape vines, marching neatly in their straight lines. The early morning mists slowly evaporated in the warmth of the climbing morning sun.
Spritzer ran a hand through his dark, curly, unkempt hair, distracted from the immediacy of the memorial service for his recently departed great-uncle Tom, as his mind wandered to the urgent need to be harvesting the glowing, ripe grapes spread out before him. There is a moment when the grapes’ sugars are at their peak, and any delay might harm a season’s harvest. Spritzer had checked the sugar levels in the grapes just yesterday afternoon and decided that they should start the harvest today. But Aunt Del, Tom’s sister, had already arranged for the memorial service to be held this very morning.
He shook himself free from those thoughts, and turned his attention back to the droning priest. Spritzer was standing between his great-aunt Del—short for Deloris—and his childhood buddy, and occasional girlfriend, Kan. He turned to his aunt and squeezed her arm, as the priest extolled her brother’s many virtues.
“Are you holding up all right?” Spritzer asked gently.
Del looked over and smiled. “It’s still hard to believe he’s gone.”
Kan—blonde, lean, and tomboyish—leaned into Spritzer and whispered, “Nice service, don’t you think?”
Spritzer turned to her and said, “Yeah, yeah. But look at all those fuckin’ grapes. The old man would kick off just when I need to start the harvest, right?”
Just then, a biplane approached from behind the gathering, flew low over the heads of the crowd, and began to spray the vineyard.
Kan looked puzzled. “Isn’t this an odd time to be spraying insecticide, for Christ’s sake?”
“That’s not insecticide, that’s Uncle Tom,” Spritzer answered, with a flash of his quirky grin. Kan looked at him questioningly. “Some people want their ashes at sea. Uncle Tom…” He gestured toward the vineyard.
“Yuck. It’s going all over the grapes. What’s that going to do to the wine?”
Spritzer thought about that for a moment, then answered. “Probably make the horrid supermarket plonk we produce a hell of a lot better than it was when he was alive.”
Kan laughed and turned back to the service.
About the Author
Jon McDonald lives in Santa Fe, New Mexico. He has seven published novels, a memoir, and three children’s books. His short stories have appeared in a number of prestigious publications. He considers himself a genre-bending author—he loves to take an established literary genre, play with it, and turn it on its head. He has lived abroad and traveled extensively.
Follow the Tour
3/27: Hoards Jumble
3/27: Molly Lolly; Reader, Reviewer, Lover of Words
3/28: The Novel Approach
3/28: Zipper Rippers
3/28: Happily Ever Chapter
3/29: Wicked Faerie’s Tales and Reviews
3/29: Stories That Make You Smile
3/30: Fangirl Moments and My Two Cents
3/30: Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words
3/31: Bayou Book Junkie
3/31: MM Good Book Reviews