Catherine MacDonald is the author of Romancing the Vines; here is a link to her website:
Q: What is Romancing the Vines about?
A: Francesca Bernard is a vintner in the Sonoma Valley who just can’t seem to perfect her wine, her finances, and her love life. She finds herself torn between the man she lives with and the man she loves. A letter arrives from a long-lost cousin encouraging her to travel to Italy to uncover the secret to her wine and her heart. Tension is tight around the vineyard, so she leaps at the chance. Once in Italy, her cousin notices Francesca’s torment and convinces her to visit the local seer, who is known to help lost souls. The old woman propels her back through time on a heart-pounding quest where she visits three lives where her survival was in jeopardy. Armed with the secrets and truths, she finally understands how the love, lust, and revenge they have endured for centuries holds the answers to their present survival.
Q: What personal experiences inspired you to write it?
A: At one time I thought I wanted to run a vineyard, so I researched and visited vineyards and I found that running an RV dealership is easier. I’ve traveled to Italy, France, and of course, the Sonoma Valley many times. The story grew out of my travels and my love for wine. I’ve also experienced visions from past lives, which prompted me to include them in this story.
Q: What makes Francesca Bernard a unique character?
A: Francesca is stubborn and not a very good business woman. She refuses to listen to her heart. She refuses to acknowledge her own wine-making abilities, and she has a door open to the occult. But on the other hand she is a naughty girl and resorts to things she shouldn’t do in order to raise some money for the vineyard.
Q: Who are some of your literary influences?
A: Literary: Hmm. I’ve read everything May Sarton ever wrote, Anne Morrow Lindbergh, Ayn Rand, Virginia Woolf, Ernest Hemingway, and F.Scott Fitzgerald. I enjoyed these authors because of the complexities of their work. I’ve tromped around through Key West and Hemingway’s old haunts and been to his place in Idaho. A current writer I’ve enjoyed is Deborah Harkness who wrote the All Souls Trilogy because I love historical fiction complemented with the occult.
Q: What kind of day job do you have and how does it affect your creative work?
A: I own and operate an RV dealership with my husband. We have thirty-two employees and so far we’ve sold 487 units this year. Daily, I meet amazing people with fascinating stories. (I also was a teacher for 25 years.) I was given a plaque on my desk that reads: Careful…or you’ll be in my novel.
Q: What kind of research did you do for The Divorce Ranch?
A: I read extensively about the time period and visited what are the remains of several ranches in the area. This was how Nevada struggled through The Great Depression. We legalized gambling and made divorce a six week process; hence, people traveled from all over the country and Europe to receive “the cure” and throw their rings off the Bridge of Sighs and into the Truckee River. One of my characters was designed after my great-aunt who was a secretary on a Hollywood studio lot in the 1930s. She used to tell me some stories!
Q: What do you think the main difference is between what men and women want to read about?
A: I’ve found men are more action driven. My husband reads a great deal, but he likes books where things are blown up or someone is shot on the first page. I am interested in the human experience and like character-driven plots. I’m not a huge romance reader, but I used to be vice president of the romance writers in my area and I discovered many women who liked to escape read those fantasy books.
Q: Do you think people find physically attractive characters more sympathetic than those who are not?
A: I think people find unattractive characters more sympathetic because they have a harder time than the “beautiful” people in life. Doors open slower. You have to depend on your strengths and talents, and not your image in the mirror. Beauty fades like a blooming rose.
Q: What is the most unusual thing you have done to promote your book?
A: Nothing unusual. The typical book signings, radio talks, and TV appearances. In my youth I was wild and crazy, but now that I’m matured I am a mellow girl.
Q: If you were to write fan fiction about any character in literary history, who would you pick and why?
A: I’ve always been a fan of Scarlett O”Hara from Gone with the Wind. Given the time period and the shackles placed on women, she was strong and determined and did what was necessary. Of course, she was in love with the weak Ashley and doesn’t realize who she truly loves until it’s too late. I can’t image wearing those corsets and all those clothes in the hot, sticky south.
Please note; Eliza’s interviews are done by email. All answers are unedited and come right from the lovely fingertips of her subjects:)