This is one reason why I don’t write historicals. I didn’t enjoy research in college, and I’d rather write books than research details.
Then I realize the only thing I know about wine is how to get the cork out, and even then, I’m not always 100% at removal techniques.
So, I’m rather screwed, as the WHOLE book takes place at a winery where the heroine is a winemaker. Hmm, you think that wine stuff might just come up in the book at some point?
Cue images of Kimberly banging her head against her desk because ugh, I’m going to have to do massive research just to figure out what I need to know for the small bit of realistic detail this book is going to need. ~whines and wails, gnashing of teeth, rending of garments~
Fabu CP to the rescue!! Pamela lives in a wine region within driving distance. She knows a guy who grows grapes. He, in turn, calls one of his friends at the local winery, and next thing I know, I’m headed up to Illinois for the weekend for a crash course in Winemaking For Romance Novels.
Have I mentioned how fabu my Fabu CP is?
This is Frank LaFoon of LaFoon Vinyards in Anna, Illinois. He grows grapes for Owl Creek Vineyard (they sent wine to the Presidential Inauguration!). He was my tour guide and info man – and he certainly has the info!
Frank set me up with a personal tour of Blue Sky Vinyard by their winemaker Karen Hand. (No picture of me and Karen to share– I was too busy taking notes and asking questions and I forgot. Sorry Karen!) Instead, I have a picture of me and Pamela in front of the building.
There’s a lot more to growing grapes and making wine than I ever expected. My brain was exploding from information overload after just a couple of hours. There’s a lot of science and a lot of art (and I suspect just a smidge of voodoo as well) that goes into growing good grapes and making good wine. I’ll never just casually open a bottle of wine ever again, that’s for sure!
What really blew me away – beyond the *really* unbelievably cold temps possible in Illinois – was how wonderful everyone was. How generous they were with their time and their knowledge, and how willing they were to answer my questions, no matter how stupid or strange they were. (And I don’t want to give away a major plot point to my book and spoil the surprise, but let’s just say I asked a couple of questions no vintner or viticulturist would ever want to even think about, much less answer.) And when I finally left them, I had email addresses and an open invitation to email them if any questions came up later on.
That’s so awesome. It’s times like this I really love my job.
Thanks to Frank and Karen, I spent the rest of the afternoon in deep huddle with my CP reworking all the things that were WRONG in my book – like timelines , yikes! – and hopefully this means I won’t get irate emails from readers telling me how wrong I was about just about everything. I now know what the inside of a fermentation room smells like, how tall grape vines actually are, and most importantly, how passionate the people who make wine are about their craft.
(That's Karen in the fermentation room.)
Thank you, thank you, Karen and Frank (and Pamela and Hubby) for a great research trip…
Oh, and that “deep huddle?” We were in the hot tub, so that didn’t exactly suck either. Did I mention how much I love my job?
So, do little mistakes pull you completely out of a book? Would you email the author and let her know she’d messed something up? How much factual detail do you like in your books? Just a flavor, or do you want to really learn something?