I had the pleasure of meeting Kristen Harnisch two years ago on a frigid New York morning at the Writers Digest Conference in Times Square. She struck me as one of those writers who dug into her work without complaint and endeavored to write the best book she could. I’m pleased to say she has gifted us with The Vintner’s Daughter, a marvelous journey into the life of a French born vintner who makes her way to California to avenge the death of a loved one in the late 19th century. I live just thirty minutes south of Napa and Sonoma counties and was delighted to learn about the fascinating history of the wine industry. Thank you, Kristen, for such a captivating read and for taking the time to chat.
- What are you working on?
Currently, I’m awaiting my editor’s review of The California Wife–the sequel to The Vintner’s Daughter—scheduled for publication in late 2015. From October 10-12, I’ll be visiting the San Francisco Bay Area to take part in Litquake, the area’s annual literary festival, and to continue The Vintner’s Daughter book tour in Napa and Marin counties. I’m also beginning my research for the third book of the series, and I plan to start writing the manuscript this November. I’m busy, but having fun!
How does your work differ from others of its genre?
My historical fiction debut differs from other works because, although the novel is character-driven with romantic elements, it explores the business of French and Californian winemaking in the late nineteenth century. In each scene, I want the reader to see, hear, feel, smell and taste the world as these vintners did in 1896. Over the last 150 years, the whims of Mother Nature, the politics of the temperance movement, and the economic perils of wine price wars have all brought winemakers to their knees. How did they persevere and prevail over these obstacles and their own human frailties? I strive to answer this question in this series of novels.
Why do you write what you do?
Writing historical fiction allows me to explore and to share my discoveries with readers. It also gives me free license to create an imaginary world in which readers can immerse themselves and hopefully learn a few things. The inspiration for The Vintner’s Daughter came to me in a flash. In 2000, I was standing on the edge of a Vouvray vineyard in the Loire Valley, marveling at the whitewashed winery, the rows of pristine chenin blanc grapevines, and the centuries-old limestone cellars. I knew a vineyard would be the perfect setting for the novel that I’d always hoped to write. Yet, I had so many questions. Who were these families who’d made wine for generations? How did they choose the grapes they grew? What challenges did they face? When I returned to the States, I researched the history of winemaking—and it fascinated me. I wrote The Vintner’s Daughter to share my fascination with the world.
How does your writing process work?
As the mother of three young children, “sporadic” is the best word to describe my writing process! Generally, I craft a two-page novel summary, a descriptive list of scenes, and I complete a fair amount of research before I begin. However, once I begin, I don’t write the scenes in any particular order. I usually write in three-hour blocks and I tackle the scenes that I’m excited to create on that day. This strategy keeps me invested in the process, and helps stave off writer’s block. At the end of each chapter, I also ask four questions of my reader-self:
1) Does this scene move the plot forward?
2) Do the descriptions create vivid pictures in my mind?
3) Is the dialogue crisp and fast-paced?
4) Am I dying to turn the page and read on?
Until I can honestly answer “yes” to these questions, I revise, revise, revise!
About Kristen: Kristen Harnisch drew upon her extensive research and experiences living in the San Francisco Bay Area and visiting the Loire Valley to create the story for The Vintner’s Daughter. When she’s not writing, Kristen is chef, chauffeur, laundress, nurse, shrink, shopper and maidservant to three young children and one terrific husband. She loves vanilla skim lattes, dark chocolate, all wine, and inspirational stories. She has a degree in economics from Villanova University and currently resides in Connecticut. To meet Kristen, click here for a listing of her upcoming events in the San Francisco Bay Area. Find her on Facebook and Twitter @KristenHarnisch.