Sunday, 1 October 2017

Julie Stock shares the inspiration behind her latest release, The Vineyard in Alsace

Today I am delighted to welcome my friend and fellow RNA member, Julie Stock to the blog to share with us the ideas and inspiration between her latest release, The Vineyard in Alsace.

With the two books I’ve published so far, and the ones that are in the pipeline, my inspiration has come in large part from a place or setting. Once I have that in my mind, that’s what usually gets me going with my story. Sometimes, it will be a flash of inspiration, as with my first book, From Here to Nashville, but when I came to sit down and write my current book, The Vineyard in Alsace, I realised I’d been drawing inspiration from this particular place for a very long time.

With a French family background, gained from my maternal grandfather, I grew up speaking French with him and was lucky enough to travel to France many times over the years. So once I started writing, it was a given that I would write a book set in France one day. I could have set my book in any of the usual places: Paris, the Riviera or Provence but instead I decided on Alsace because every time I’ve visited the region, I come away inspired by something new. And also, I felt it was time to show Alsace some love!

I first went to Alsace with my husband in 1993 just before I was about to start work for a mail-order wine merchant in the UK. We loved Alsace wine even then and so we were excited to go and try some in the actual place. On this trip, we went to visit one of the oldest wine producers in the area, Hugel et fils, who have been making their world-renowned wines in Riquewihr since 1639. Down in their cool cellars, we saw row after row of barrels of wine, ageing and developing. This would all come back to me when writing about Thierry, the winemaker in my book.

Riquewihr is a typical Alsatian village with cobbled streets and colourfully painted, timbered houses. It almost feels like stepping back in time. We also visited Colmar, one of the main towns in the region, and one that would feature heavily in my book when I eventually came to write it. Colmar has a network of canals, all bordered by pretty little houses decorated with window boxes. That’s why it’s also known as La Petite Venise.

The next time we went, we visited the spectacular Château de Haut-Koenigsbourg, part of the rich history of the region caused by its location on the border with Germany. It was so important to me when the time came, to find the right names for my characters. This is hard enough under normal circumstances but given the fact that so many Alsatian names have a German influence, it became even more important. My main female character ended up being called Fran, short for Françoise, named after my great-aunt. I gave her the surname Schell, after a teacher I became friends with during my year in France for my French degree.

We also went on a tour of another winery – this one a co-operative with the most enormous modern steel tanks on display for visitors to marvel at. Not only that but they had an amazing wine-tasting area and shop for visitors. This would inspire me to give Fran the job of managing a project at the vineyard to build a visitors’ centre and to model it on the ones I had seen during my visits.

On the next trip, which was just for a long weekend, we went to a Michelin starred restaurant to celebrate my husband’s birthday, and this became the inspiration for the one Didier takes Fran to when they first start getting to know each other again.

By the time I went for my most recent visit, I’d decided to write my book and set it in Alsace. We went to visit a beautiful medieval church in a little village called Hunawihr. We walked through vineyards up the hill to get there and looked down upon the beautiful little village from on high. When we came back down, I realised we had parked near the salle des fêtes and I knew that I had to have a wedding celebration in that village, involving both the church and the community hall that had so enchanted me on my visit.

Alsace is a truly magical place and if you haven’t yet discovered it, I would urge you to go and find out for yourself just how inspirational a place it is.

Is there really such a thing as a second chance at love?

Fran Schell has only just become engaged when she finds her fiancé in bed with another woman. She knows this is the push she needs to break free of him and to leave London. She applies for her dream job on a vineyard in Alsace, in France, not far from her family home, determined to concentrate on her work.

Didier Le Roy can hardly believe it when he sees that the only person to apply for the job on his vineyard is the same woman he once loved but let go because of his stupid pride. Now estranged from his wife, he longs for a second chance with Fran if only she will forgive him for not following her to London.

Working so closely together, Fran soon starts to fall in love with Didier all over again. Didier knows that it is now time for him to move on with his divorce if he and Fran are ever to have a future together. Can Fran and Didier make their second chance at love work despite all the obstacles in their way?

The Vineyard in Alsace is a contemporary romance set against the enticing backdrop of the vineyard harvest in Alsace in France.

Author Bio

Julie Stock is an author of contemporary romance from around the world: novels, novellas and short stories. She indie published her debut novel, From Here to Nashville, in February 2015 and has just published her second novel, The Vineyard in Alsace. A follow-up novella to From Here to Nashville is also in progress, as well as the next novel.

She blogs regularly on her
website, 'My Writing Life.' You can also connect with her on Twitter and via her Facebook Author Page.

She is a proud member of the Romantic Novelists' Association, The Society of Authors and The Alliance of Independent Authors.

When she is not writing, she works part-time for a charity as a communications officer, and freelance as a proofreader, web designer and supply teacher. She is married and lives with her family in Bedfordshire in the UK.

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