I'm looking forward to seeing everyone at the RT Booklovers' Convention in Las Vegas in a couple of weeks! I won't be signing at the book fair this year (still a few months before the next book comes out), but I will be hanging out at the Interlude Press Publisher's Spotlight, the Small Press panel and around the convention in general. And if you haven't read Sotto Voce yet? IP will be giving away copies in the Goody Room and at its Publisher's Spotlight! Drop by, say hi, and I'll sign it for you!
Unfortunately, today's tour stop at Happily Ever After Book Blog got waylaid by a hacker who took the blog offline over the weekend. So I'm going to go ahead and post today's column on brooding heroes here...
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When I first started to draft Sotto Voce in the fan community, there was a lot of talk about the Greg Kennedy character, and how he was "dark, brooding and hot."
Dark. Brooding. Hot.
Two of those three make perfect sense when we're trying to sort out what we find attractive in a hero. But what is it about brooding men that we find so hot?
In concept, that shouldn't be an attractive character trait, not really. Because "brooding" is really just another word for "grumpy".
But here we are, time and time again, talking about "brooding heroes". And I won't lie—I fall for them like everyone else.
So what gives? How is it that a brooding man is hot, while a grumpy man is just annoying?
I suspect that a brooding hero suggests that there is something underneath that grumpy external layer—that there is depth to his concerns. And if it's a "brooding hero," it's likely that those layers will reveal something in his back story or in his priorities that make him complex, relatable and maybe even a bit vulnerable in ways we did not first suspect.
That's certainly the case with Greg Kennedy, the winemaker in Sotto Voce. When we first meet Greg, we know him to be smart, hard-working and a bit reclusive. We also discover that he is moody, somewhat volatile, and stand-offish. But we also discover that he is generous with his colleagues, protective of the people he cares about, and yes, a bit lonely.
"That day in the vineyard, when you asked about Rhapsody being isolated?...It is. It was, especially when I was first getting my footing here. I just really felt alone," Greg tells Tom, the wine critic to whom he is drawn, confessing a long-ago fling that haunts him. "He was someone I knew, someone familiar."
And eventually, we find that there are reasons why he has isolated himself from the world, and that vulnerability is what ultimately opens him up to love.
Ah. There it is. Peel back the layers, and underneath than moodiness we find a man we can love.
So for me, at least, it isn't necessarily a brooding nature that makes this character hot, but the suggestion created by his moodiness that there is something more to him that makes me want to know him more.
That, and maybe I have a thing for denim shirts, open-top trucks and dark aviator sunglasses.
The second of today's book tour stops is at the Untamed Spirit blog, where I was asked to comment on a description in the summary of Sotto Voce that appears in promotional material: Sotto Voce is the story of love and wine, and how both require patience, passion, an acceptance of change—and an understanding that sometimes, you have to let nature take its course.
Winemaking is not a craft for people looking for instant gratification.
From seedling planting to first harvest can take three years. The crop takes a year to grow, and months to ferment, then more months rack and bottle. After that, depending on the grape varietal, wine may need to rest in the bottle for years before it is ready to be enjoyed. And no matter how much cutting edge science is employed, winemaking is deeply influenced by nature itself: from weather trends to bug and bird damage to the chemical makeup in the vineyard soil.
The relationship at the heart of Sotto Voce is a reflection of this.
Greg and Tom both have to deal with the cards they are dealt, both individually and as they find themselves drawn to each other. Neither initially wants anything to do with the project dictated by Taste Magazine.
Tom enjoys a life that feels rooted in New York, although he rarely finds himself at home—and uprooting himself to live in an agricultural zone was not his idea. Greg, who is settled in a somewhat isolated life, doesn’t trust the corporate interests behind the Taste Challenge to have Sonoma’s best interests in mind, and isn’t interested in the attention that the New York-based periodical could focus on his very private life.
As they get to know each other and acknowledge an attraction, they have to accept the fact that they can’t rush into a relationship until after their responsibilities to the Napa versus Sonoma contest are completed. The nature of their responsibilities—Greg as a contestant and Tom as a columnist and sponsor of the competition—force them to take their time.
Like the winemaking process itself, Greg and Tom are forced to adapt to changing circumstances as they adjust to their attention that the event focuses on them and on Rhapsody Vineyards and Wine. If they find a way to successfully navigate the surprises life throws at them, they may find that relationships grow richer with age.
Thanks to the Untamed Spirit blog for hosting the stop today, and if you're interested in entering to win a free Sotto Voce multi--format eBook or your chance at a $25 B&N gift card, be sure to drop by there and enter the drawing!
On today's tour stop at Carly's Book Reviews, I was asked about wine and love...
Carly: Wine and love. They go hand in hand. Both can be dry and bitter or full bodied and rich. What are your thoughts on this comparison and how does it play into your story?
Erin: I fear that I'm going to end up sounding like a pretentious wine snob if I'm not careful, but I'm going to do my level best to answer this.
Here's the thing about wine, especially so-called "big" wines, the reds that are designed to be opened after they have some age on them: they change. They grow. They evolve. They become something they don't start out as.
So do relationships, or at least the ones that are destined to last.
Think of a bright white wine as being like a summer romance. It's light and lovely, full of grass and flowers—but it's short-lived. Sauvignon Blancs, Roussannes, Viogniers and the like are meant to be enjoyed young. You make them. You bottle them. You drink them. They don't age well. They are bright, joyous, summery flings that you enjoy for one season, and then move on to the next vintage.
But a big red—a Syrah, a Cabernet, a Malbec, a Meritage blend? These wines are meant to last, to age, to develop over time. Try to drink them right after bottling and you'll have a wine that may be drinkable, but feels tight, wound up, uncomfortable in the glass and on the palate. But let it rest for a while, let nature do its thing with that wine, and in time, the wine's edgy corners will smooth out. It will mellow. It will gain subtleties and nuance that it may have only hinted at in its youth.
To savor the wine at its peak, you have to pay attention to it, and make sure to time its opening well. Left too long in the bottle, wine can be compromised by outside influences and spoil, turning the wine to vinegar.
In Sotto Voce, Greg and Tom start out feeling a bit like one of those summery white wines. There's an undeniable spark—and a date stamp on the time they have together.
And though I prefer to compare their relationship to the growing seasons in the vineyard, they are much like that big, complex red wine that's meant to improve with time. Outside influences could have soured their relationship, but it becomes clear that they have something that's meant to reveal itself over time, rather than simply unravel.
The moment they begin to pay attention to the complexities and the potential of what they have together, it becomes clear they have a relationship that's meant to get better with time.
One in a series introducing the characters of Sotto Voce.
Thomas Baldwin wants you to know he's worldly. Or at least, he wants you to believe it.
As the wine editor for Taste Magazine, he has a global lifestyle a lot of people would envy: the New York apartment, the designer clothes, the open-door policy to some of the best wine cellars at some of the finest restaurants in the world.
But is it really him?
Before adopting Thomas as his professional monicker, Tom Baldwin was a strawberry blond Carolina transplant who had headed north for college. He had hoped to one day work for a major daily, maybe the New York Times, but stumbled into the wine business when the sommelier at a restaurant he worked at noticed that he had a natural knack for the nuances of wine. He climbed the ladder rapidly, and soon nabbed the job of wine critic at Taste, an up-and-coming style magazine.
He develops a reputation as a tough and influential critic, and he enjoys the trappings of his career—right up until the point where his boss informs him that he'll be relocating to California for a year.
While the California wine country might sound like a nice vacation, for Thomas Baldwin it means a year cast out to farmland, and an assignment to pull off a contest that he thinks his boss would happily rig if it meant new ad revenue for her fledgling publication. The fact that he almost has to beg the small, artisan winemakers of Sonoma to compete against the big brand name wineries of neighboring Napa—shouldn't they be begging him, really?—only makes it worse.
The immersion into this world—and a slowly-developing friendship with an enigmatic winemaker—forces him to take a different look at his life and his priorities. It also brings out some of his strongest qualities as he finds himself drawn to the lifestyle and to a relationship that may change his life.
Sotto Voce is available Tuesday from interludepress.com and book retailers everywhere.
Between now and its release date on October 21, Interlude Press is hosting two giveaways of Sotto Voce! (And because I have ZERO HTML SKILLS, I'll post pictures and links...)
On Goodreads, US readers can enter for one of five print editions being raffled off.
And on Rafflecopter, anyone can enter to win a free, multi-format eBook edition of Sotto Voce, ready to load on your computer, Kindle, Nook, iPad, phone or other mobile device!
And don't forget, I'm sponsoring my own giveaway! If you pre-order Sotto Voce from the IP Store, Amazon, or any other book retailer (here's one in Australia!), you can win a tour of the wineries, restaurants and locations of Sonoma and Napa that inspired Sotto Voce. You have to be 21 to enter and you will have to get yourself to California (sorry, airfare not included), but one you're here, you'll join me on a day of chauffeured wine tasting and site seeing in Sonoma and Napa.
When I sat down to think about Sotto Voce as a novel instead of a work of fan fiction, I had to ask myself some tough questions about what worked and what didn't in this little story about love and wine. Things were destined to be cut. Other details needed to be added. Others simply needed a rewrite, stat.
Sotto Voce was never a story that followed canon, so it made decisions about the plot easy. I was satisfied with the story, and its structure. If you know the story from its fan origins, then you pretty much know the story of the novel.
What needed work? The characters.
From the day I finished writing the original draft of Sotto Voce, I knew I wanted to do better by the characters by giving them more detail and reason for their actions, and by removing some cringe-worthy cliches. There were a couple of secondary characters, in particular, that I wanted a second crack at. And for the lovers, Tom and Greg, it was a chance to write more detail about who and why they are who they are, from the little physical characteristics like freckles and chest hair to memories of sweaty summer childhood afternoons watching minor league baseball.
Every little detail should say something new about them, and it was a joy to go back and fill in the blanks.
So in the weeks leading up to (and past) Sotto Voce's launch, I'll be posting a series of little character sketches to help you get acquainted with the Tom, Greg, Carmen, Brooke, Diego, Tate and their respective worlds.