A Vineyard For Two
‘My Grape’ Queen has a new novel out!
[See what I did there…?]
Okay, so Laura Bradbury’s not just my queen, but she is the queen of the ‘My Grape’ series of autobiographies. And this year Laura, who has recently come through a life-saving liver transplant, continues full-speed ahead, with all flags flying. An internationally best-selling author with her Burgundy-set series, she’s decided to branch out and has written her very first novel. A VINEYARD FOR TWO may have a familiar setting — vineyards are, after all, what Laura knows best, but eveything else about the process has been new to her — and I was lucky enough to have a chance to sit down for a chat. Care to listen in?
kc: Welcome, welcome, Laura! I’m so excited to have you here. Let’s jump right in, shall we? You, my dear, have had a series of best sellers in nonfiction memoir — more about those in a minute. What was it like writing A VINEYARD FOR TWO, your first novel? How did the experience compare?
LB: This was my first novel, and my first romance, and the learning curve was STEEP. With my memoirs I was in a groove and it would have been easy for me to write one of those (there are still at least three in the series I haven’t written yet). Still, I wanted to do something different and learn something new, plus I had the characters in AVFT nagging at me to write their story, so I pivoted towards what scared me.
I’ll go back to my memoirs of course, as the Grape Series is far from finished, but I yearned for a palate cleanser to keep my writing fresh.
I don’t want to undersell just how messy and at times disheartening it was to teach myself how to write a novel WHILE I wrote that novel. There were many times I was ready to bin the entire project, but my writerly tribe kept encouraging me and I kept learning and kept improving. There were also times though were I was encouraged by finally getting a line right or a scene right or understanding the true motivation of a character. That kept me going. I think one of the most important traits an author can possess is tenacity.
kc: AGREED! I’m excited to hear there are more books to come in the Grape series. Tell me, how fun was the experience of inventing a romance? Did you know where the story was headed when you began?
LB: It was so much fun! It was far freer than my memoirs as nobody was going to come back at me later and say “hey, I never said that!”. The endless possibilities made me feel giddy. However, I’m the type of person who learns best by doing something (a kinesthetic learner – who else out there is like this?), so I learned about the romance beats and storytelling craft as I wrote. I’m also an incorrigible “panster” meaning I pretty much don’t plot anything out before I put my fingers on the keyboard. I had a clear idea of who Cerise and Clovis were, and could hear them talking to me, but not much else.
As a result, A Vineyard for Two required several rounds of ruthless editing and rewrites. I’m hoping that for the next romance in my Winemakers Trilogy I’ll know a bit more what I’m doing, so the editing won’t be quite so arduous. Fingers crossed!
kc: Heh. I’m a pantser, too. I guess you don’t want to hear that it never gets easier…? Okay, so who was your favourite character to write in this story? Did anyone surprise you, and go their own way?
LB: Hands down it was Cerise. Living in Burgundy I was privileged to become friends with several female winemakers and I was always fascinated by their artistry and stoicism. Each one had a different way of navigating their way through an extremely traditional, macho world. I was just in awe of their creative powers and their grit. I could write a hundred books about women winemakers and never get bored.
The character of Clovis surprised me. I didn’t know about his crappy childhood when I started writing and his deep need for a family of his own. He was far more vulnerable than I thought he was when I first “met” him in my imagination.
Also, I fell in love with the characters of Jean the régisseur and Geneviève, Cerise’s snotty aunt. I hadn’t foreseen either of them yet they popped up out of the ether, almost fully formed. Jean is an incredibly important character in my next book in the Winemakers’ Trilogy, and Geneviève will be around too, giving much unsolicited advice as usual.
kc: Can’t wait! Okay, you know I have to ask. How much of your own life experience do you bring into the story? Did you get to do any interesting research before writing this book?
LB: LOL. Well, a lot of people have been asking about the sex scenes and how much of that is *ahem* drawn from personal experience. I don’t want to send my children to therapy for the rest of their lives, so I am refraining from answering that question.
I completely brought my experience of living in Burgundy into the story. The friends and family I have in Burgundy are the absolute inspirations for this book. Also, the rhythm of the winemaking year and a winemaker’s life is a big part of the background of the books, and something I know intimately. I would constantly be sending my winemaker friends in Burgundy random and bizarre texts asking about specific timing of the harvest, the maceration, etc… They all started saying “OMG, it’s you again.” Luckily they are very good friends! I spend a lot of time in Burgundy as we still have three vacation rentals in Villers-la-Faye so I was lucky I didn’t have to research an area I know so well.
kc: Let’s talk about the food in this story. I know you’re also in the middle of writing a cookbook, based on your ‘My Grape Adventure’ series. How does the French love of food and eating come into this story?
LB: I think my love of food and wine comes out in everything I write. It’s a huge part of Burgundian life – that reverence for the pleasure good food and wine can bring – and it is a huge part of me. As you can read in A Vineyard for Two, food and wine is also a crucial aspect of falling in love. It was like this for me…when Franck (my Burgundian husband) cooked me a wonderful meal shortly after we met with complete confidence and expertise, I was pretty much a goner.
I don’t really see myself as a chef – I’m a writer of books first and foremost – but the cookbook with recipes from and inspired by my Grape Series memoirs is something readers have been asking for since I published my first Grape Series book. I use all these dynamite French recipes I learned from friends and family over in France and I am so happy to pass them on. I always include one in every “Grapevine” newsletter I send out. It’s the perfect complement to my books. My co-author Rebecca Wellman is an incredible photographer and cookbook writer, so I think we’re going to create something truly beautiful, fun, and useful.
kc: A VINEYARD FOR TWO is the first in a planned trilogy. Tell us a bit about the process of writing something so ambitious. Will each of the stories revolve around Clovis and Cerise?
LB: I love book series where I as the reader really feel like part of a new community. That is my plan for my Winemakers’ Trilogy – the same characters will keep coming back. The second book is the story of Luc and Sadie, and the third is the story of Amandine and Gaspard. The friend circle will always be part of the story though. I have the plot of Luc and Sadie in my head and I really love it. I’ve sketched it out on paper and cannot wait to start writing, although I’m want to at least try to be a wee bit more disciplined about having a plot framework before I plunge in this time though. We’ll see how that goes!
I’m even starting to get flashes of a new Trilogy that would be a spin off on The Winemakers’ Trilogy…writing project ideas are never something I’m lacking. Time to write, on the other hand…
kc: Hahaha! I know all about that! Now, this story is about love, family, ambition and — of course — wine. What was your favourite part to write?
LB: I loved many different aspects. I loved the family element and the idea that someone who has been through as much as Cerise could find a transformative new love again, if she could be brave enough to claim it. I loved the romance and the longing…I am SUCH an unabashed romantic.
I also loved the challenges of a strong, talented woman trying to make her mark (and ultimately succeeding) in a profession completely dominated for centuries by men. And THE WINE. I am endlessly fascinated by wine. I truly believe fine wine is one of the most sublime art forms in existence, and good winemakers are artists. At the same time they are farmers and subject to incredibly difficult vicissitudes such as hail and drought. I find it fascinating how winemakers reconcile that earthy pragmatism they need to have and that ethereal creativity.
kc: We spoke earlier of the way you have famously mined your own family story for the Grape Adventure books. We know there’s a cookbook on the way. When can your fans expect more episodes in your true-life story?
LB: The cookbook will be published by Touchwood Editions in Fall 2020. Right now I’m writing a short memoir about how we created our 13th Century wine Cellar under the streets of Beaune, and there are at least three Grape Series books still to come – My Grape Québec, My Grape Town, and My Grape Baby. The Grape Series is far from over.
Laura in 2017, receiving a brand-new liver.
I also received a liver transplant in March 2017 (from a rare auto-immune disease, NOT from wine!) and I know eventually I’ll need to write about that too. Writing is not only for entertainment, but it is how I process life. However, I won’t be calling it “My Grape Liver” as some readers have suggested!
kc: I don’t know — that’s kind of catchy! Okay, to wrap up, what’s got you excited right now? Can you tell us something about your next project?
LB: The cookbook is extremely exciting, and it is incredibly fun to be collaborating with Rebecca instead of working on my own. Our skill sets complement each other so nicely. I’m also chomping at the bit to finish My Grape Cellar and begin writing Luc and Sadie’s story.
I’ve also started the process to create audiobooks of all my books with Findaway Voices. This is super awesome as I have so many friends who read via audiobooks these days. I am a huge listener of podcasts when I walk our rescue dog Pepper, so I think there is so much potential is audio. I’ve found a really awesome narrator who sounds exactly like the voice in my head.
kc: Oh, that’s so exciting! I loved the process of creating the audiobook for FINDING FRASER. It’s really so much fun. Where can readers find you online?
LB: I love connecting with my readers, so I’m in a few different places:
My website is www.laurabradbury.com and I host my blog on there at https://www.laurabradbury.com/blog
You can also sign up to be part of my Grapevine community of readers and get free recipes, free books, insider news, special contests and so many more goodies. We would love you to join in on our fun! Just go here: www.bit.ly/LauraBradburyNewsletter
This is wonderful, Laura! Thank you so much for sharing your time with us today. And fans of our Grape Queen, let’s do a book giveaway, shall we? To enter, leave your name and your fave variety of wine in the comments below [or in FB or Twitter.] We’ll do a draw in a week or so for the winners!
And, as for me, I’m heading off to research my next grand adventure. Stay tuned, because, as always, there’ll be