Monday, July 16, 2012

Old friends sharing stories - Emmie Dark

As anyone who admits to doing any kind of writing knows, the first question people ask you is “where do you get your ideas”? My ideas are never neat, easy-to-explain, one-off creative moments. I hate when people ask that question, because I either need to sit them down with a bottle of wine and tell a tale, or mumble something vague like “Oh, here and there”.

So today I want to tell you the tale of where the idea for my new SuperRomance, In His Eyes, came from. It’s the story of Zoe and Hugh, who have to face up to their tangled past after many years apart – and, while doing so, bottle an entire vintage of shiraz and sort out a messy property dispute. There’s a lot of winemaking details in there and I didn’t just get them from my enjoyment of a nice glass of wine after work. J But I’m getting ahead of myself . . .

Kim, a very good friend of mine (since high school days in fact!), started up her own vineyard and winery as a “hobby” some time ago. I put “hobby” in inverted commas, because anyone who knows anything about viticulture and winemaking will know that saying it’s a hobby is akin to saying lion taming is like puppy training.

Anyhow, a couple of years back, Kim, plus Kerryn, the third girl who’d made up our high school gang back in those days, were on our way to our school reunion in the country town where I grew up. Kim and Kerryn had basically kidnapped me and dragged me along with them – I was not keen to attend (to put it mildly). In deference to my distaste for the whole thing, we’d agreed to turn it into a “girls weekend” and so we’d hired a beach house and stocked up on chardonnay and chocolate and 80s music.

So I went to the reunion function, and it was okay – not as bad as I thought it would be, but not a highlight of my social life, either. Mostly I spent the time thinking about what it was like to return to a small town after many years away – my family no longer live there, so I haven’t had many reasons to go back. It’s like running headlong into a long-ago version of yourself without all that fiddly messing about with time travel. People remember the “you” from back then, and that “you” might be a very different “you” to the person you are today. At least, that’s how it felt for me.

This is a real photo from my reunion.
Don’t they all end up looking kind of the same? 
I’m pleased (and relieved!) to say that don’t have quite the tumultuous history that my heroine, Zoe, has, but when she goes back to the fictional wine-growing region of Tangawarra, her experiences are a little similar to mine from that weekend. There were the people who I remembered but who didn’t remember me (and vice versa), the strange anxiety of trying to describe the past twenty years of your life in fifty words or less, and that awkward interaction with the boy you had a crush on way back when.

Afterwards, as Kim and Kerryn and I sat around, chatting and reminiscing, the germ of a story idea began to grow in my mind. And while Kim talked about the vineyard, the two themes began to coalesce. A reunion story, set on a vineyard. And so Hugh and Zoe’s story started to take hold.

I owe Kim a debt of gratitude for the number of times I called her after that weekend to ask one question or another about winemaking. But then I have also helped out on the vineyard with pruning and picking, so perhaps the debt goes both ways?

I loved writing Hugh and Zoe’s story and I have to admit I had myself reaching for the tissues more than once. I’m hoping that’s a good sign.

Did you attend your high school reunion? Was it fun, boring, anxiety-inducing or forgettable? Leave a comment and I’ll pick the best story to receive a signed copy of In His Eyes. 

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***Emmie's winner is Michele L!  Please email with your mailing info!!***


Jo's Daughter said...

I never liked the kids in highschool, but did go to the reunion. I wanted to lay the past to rest & proof to myself that school was over and those people had changed. 10 years turned out to be too short for such a miracle. I still did not fit in, not even for a night. Got weird looks, little conversation and didn't dance with anyone. I left early as I saw no point in sticking round for more dissapointment.

Emmie said...

I was ready to leave the reunion about an hour after arriving, but my friends were having too much fun and I was the driver! Sounds like your reunion was pretty much as hellish as mine.

Maureen said...

I was pregnant with our second child when our class had the first reunion which was a ten year reunion. I had no interest in waddling around sober so I didn't go and heard that I didn't miss anything great.
mce1011 AT aol DOT com

Eli Yanti said...

i do attend reunion and enjoy that time, talking with my old friend and we are remember our old time when school time, what we like, what we hate, what crazing we do, so find can talk and remember that time :)

Laney4 said...

Our high school holds a reunion every 10 years for all of its graduates. The most recent one I did not attend, as they changed the format to one of paying $100 each to attend any or all events. Too steep for our liking....

Ten years previous to that, my husband and I attended a dance at the reunion ($25 each at the time). I wore a dress emphasizing my endowments, let's say, which I'd never done in high school (as I was too flat). In high school, I was a wallflower and didn't talk much, but times change. I was talkative; I told jokes; I laughed a lot; I got others to talk/come out of their shells. People stared at me as if to say, "Who are you?"

Our next reunion is in 2015. There were so many complaints and low attendance during the past reunion that I am sure they will offer separate costs for each event this time. My husband and I plan on attending. Unfortunately, I gained a ton of weight after the last reunion I attended (ever since my mom died), so there will be lots of comments made about that, I'm sure. At least the music should be good for dancing (and the hell with them all, LOL)!

Pat Cochran said...

Like Maureen, I was pregnant at our first
reunion but it was early days for me. I
joined our reunion committee that evening
and stayed through the 50th anniversary,
which I chaired. We met every 5 years and
served as the contact center for our class.
We are now meeting every couple of years
because we are losing so many members so
rapidly. We just met in May for our 58th
anniversary gathering, which some 70 people
attended and that's pretty good for folks
our age! LOL. We even had several persons
there who hadn't ever attended any of our
reunions. We enjoyed seeing those who
attended, missed all those who couldn't be
there and are looking forward to the next
gathering! Go, Panthers!

Pat C.

Shelley B said...

My husband and I graduated together in 1978. We have attended every reunion we've had. We have a blast!

Emmie said...

I think the whole issue of being sober is an interesting one. I was the driver for my reunion, and therefore taking it very easy. My friends, who had a great time, also had more than a few drinkies... Hmm, maybe we've discovered the secrete to enjoying your reunion here!

Emmie said...

I'm glad to hear you had a nice time. I don't want to be too negative about the whole thing -- there were definitely people at my reunion (including my friends) who had a fantastic time.

Emmie said...

I agree -- some good school-years music and put your dancing shoes on and to hell with them! Sounds like your school has quite the process in place -- I think that's really nice. The reunion I talked about is the one and only, to my knowledge, that's ever been organised.

Emmie said...

That's pretty fabulous Pat! I love that you've been able to make a lovely group out of reunion activities and all stay in touch!

Emmie said...

It's so lovely that you're able to go back to reunions with your husband and you both know everyone who is there! I think that would make a big difference.

Michele L. said...

I graduated with a colorful class of students. From the reunions I have helped out on and attended, I learned the following about my classmates.
One guy was arrested for murder, spent time in jail, got out, and attended our last class reunion in 2010. He was very nice to everyone and many of us talked to him. He said he is moving on and putting his life back together after 10 years in prison.
A male classmate was a stunt double in a Nicolas Cage movie. Many of the girls were anxious to see him, giggled nervously when he came in. He was surrounded by a throng of us girls wanting to talk to him and see what he looked like now. He is very tall and handsome!
One male classmate showed up in a limo and was dressed to the nines in a classy suit, big diamond ring on his finger, and told everyone that he had a fancy job and had lots of money. The girl handling the money the night of the reunion, said later his check bounced. We all groaned and gossiped about how he made himself look like a fool.
We found out that one of our male classmates has a job on an oil rig in the middle of the ocean. He loves his job and gets paid big bucks but it is pretty dangerous.
One girl we all knew in high school has never attended any of our reunions. Here we find out she is now a doctor in New York and appears on a CBS morning show as one of the featured doctors. She isn't on anymore, but for a while there she was on all the time. Her name is Emily Senay.
One guy and his wife had 10 kids together. They joke that they can now buy food in bulk at Sam's Club.
One guy became a professional brewmaster and is a partner in a brewpub/restaurant in Chicago.
One girl was a nun for years but now she is a pastor at a church in Michigan City, Indiana.
These are the most memorable classmates but there are many others who have wonderful jobs and families.
It sure is fun learning about your fellow classmates!

Emmie said...

Wow, if I thought half my classmates were anywhere near as interesting as that, I'd definitely be lining up for the next reunion! That sounds like the plot of a movie -- especially the guy who pimped himself up and it all turned out to be a lie -- that's really kind of sad. Thanks so much for sharing your story!