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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