As part of the Winc Book Club's July feature, we sat down with Eight Hundred Grapes author Laura Dave for an exclusive interview on everything from her writing process to her favorite novel to her next book. Read it below, and don't forget to check out the custom pairing guide she made for us, featuring Winc wines!
(Photo courtesy of lauradave.com)
Tell us a little bit about your history: where are you from? When did you start writing? Did you always know you wanted to be an author?
You could certainly say that. I have always loved reading and storytelling. My father used to read me a story every night when he'd get home from work; my love of writing grew out of that, and I started writing my own stories as a little girl.
Your fourth novel, Eight Hundred Grapes, takes place in California wine country — specifically Sonoma — and it's clear throughout that you know a great deal about winemaking. Was that always the case, or did you acquire your wine knowledge during the writing process?
I loved wine but knew very little about the process of making it. While writing Eight Hundred Grapes, I did extensive research and learned about winemaking from some of the best winemakers in the world. I spent a lot of time up in Sonoma County, bending the ear of every winemaker who would talk with me. It was great to learn from local winemakers about what makes the Russian River such a special place to make wine, as well as learning about Sebastopol from the people who grew up there.
In the book, you paint a desperately beautiful, honest picture of family, aging, work, and loss (among other things). What's your own family like? Is there anything in Eight Hundred Grapes that's directly inspired by them?
I have a small and very loving family, though I’ve always dreamed of a big family like the Fords — lots of people running around causing all kinds of trouble. So, in the book, I created that messy, wonderful family — who, despite their shortcomings, are defined by how they love each other.
Strong female characters are at the heart of all your work (thank you for that!). When you're bringing these women to life, where are you drawing from? Friends? Favorite literary characters? What advice do you have for aspiring writers when it comes to character development?
Thank you! I draw from all sorts of things: people, music, literature, stories, movies. My primary advice to new writers would be to let your characters have room to become who they are — to surprise you. I adore the Ford women and like that they all feel like wildcards. Especially as I moved deeper into the writing, the Fords were doing things I wouldn’t normally do, and I felt myself holding my breath that each of them would find their way through. My heart breaks for all of them, and I’m rooting for all of them.
In terms of drawing from real life, I guess (surprisingly) I see myself most in Jen Ford, the mother character, who just wants her children to come through for one another and for themselves.
What's your writing process like? Do you have any interesting routines, habits, or quirks? What's your least favorite part about writing a novel?
I listen to music while I write — often the same song on repeat. Rhythmically, listening to the same song on repeat keeps storytelling in check. And it helps accomplish pacing. Some writers talk about how they love the final product of what they've written. But I love writing — and music is a great part of that process.
What's your favorite book?
Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen.
Do you have a favorite wine or style or wine?
I love a Sonoma County Pinot, especially Lynmar Estates Quail Hill Pinot Noir.
Eight Hundred Grapes was optioned by Fox 2000, and you wrote the script. What was different about writing a screenplay as opposed to a novel? Did you learn any valuable writing lessons you'll transfer to your book process?
The novel has taken on a different life as we turn it into a movie. The first thing you learn is that the novel and the movie are two different things — and they should be two different things. It’s challenging in a great way to tell the Fords’ story on the big screen.
We know you're at work on a new novel. Anything you can tell us about the plot? So excited to read it when it comes out!
It's a lot of fun. The protagonist is unlike any protagonist I’ve ever written about before. She’s a pretty awful person — or at least she appears to be upon meeting her. At the same time, she would be the first to say that about herself, which automatically makes you root for her probably more than you should. Without spilling too many of the beans, I will say it’s a redemption story about the power of lying and the power of finding something like the truth.
And now for Laura's custom Eight Hundred Grapes pairing guide, featuring Winc wines!
The secrets you share, the secrets you hide. A week before her wedding, Georgia Ford discovers her beloved fiancé has been keeping a secret so explosive, it will change their lives forever.
A vibrant palate opener with a perfect amount of bite, Più Gioia offers vivid fruit and bright acidity. A refreshing wine that pulls you in with its drinkability and great minerality.
Perfect for a warm summer evening; a wedding ceremony; a quiet night on a porch with the sun starting to go down, your favorite book in hand.
Fighting. Lies. And maybe a new love. Georgia starts to understand the cost of leaving Sebastopol behind. And what she may have to do to save her family.
This part of Georgia’s journey requires a strong and satisfying white wine. Juicy and fresh on the tongue. Look for seductive hints of stone fruit and spice as the wine opens up and starts to reveal itself.
Great for a decadent cheese plate; a rainstorm; the end of a long day.
Le Fermier offers yummy fruit and freshness.
Simply stated: it’s delectable. Lush. And it only gets better with age. As Georgia moves toward creating a home and building a life that matters, we wish the same for her.
Ideal for a luxurious culinary experience; a romantic night at home; sharing a story about a vineyard in Sonoma.