Sunday, 6 December 2015
not just the wine guy
“So, it’s another wine book, right?”
“Nope, it’s a novel.”
“Oh. So not another wine book?”
“No, really, it’s a novel.”
“Oh. But you’re the wine guy. So why not another wine book?”
There are so many different reasons why not another wine book. There are so many different reasons I wanted In Cathedral’s Shadow to be my next book. Laziness, for one, as I’d already written it.
“Because I told that story. I’ve a different story to tell now. So, um… y’know… pledge for the new one.”
I’ve always written, as long as I’ve been able to write. Stories compel me, as does the desire to share them. In Cathedral’s Shadow came to me early one afternoon in 1999. I was crossing a street at a mini roundabout. It wasn’t fully formed yet; hell, it wasn’t a story, it was just the beginning of the beginning of the story. But I was excited. I knew that it was the start of something that would be a story, and that I would write it. It cut through the haze (I was a little hungover) of the day and I knew then that it was a tale that I needed to tell. To create from nothing something that no one had written or read before.
At no point along the way did I stop to really consider what genre it was. Nor did I, when I signed the contract to write Salt & Old Vines, ponder whether writing about wine would prohibit me from writing anything else, or in any other genre. For me it was simply one story being told before the other. The taxonomy of writers seems to be far more in the interest of those selling the work than those writing it.
I remember sipping a pint outside the Dog & Duck with Xander, the bearded chap that brought me into the Unbound fold, and breaking down the books I’d sketched out; projects for the future, ideas that had come to me on those rare moments that I had the good sense to scribble them down. The whisky book, the spy book, the noir book, the mafia book, the redemption book, the sherry book, the adventure book. No two the same (though some may wind up being more than one book); some non-fiction and some fiction. At no point did any of the stories have a common theme or genre of any sort other than they were all stories that I wanted to tell.
Xander chuckled, sipped his pint, and nodded. “Well, it’s just as well you’ve wound up with us then.”
I shrugged and took a larger slug of my own ale and asked why.
“Are you kidding? You’ve just described literary fiction, historical adventure, something bordering on fantasy, and two non-fiction booze books. And some other things that don’t really fit. Publishers don’t do that sort of thing with writers. Even writers who sell hundreds of thousands of books. Maybe if you sold millions…”
“Really?” I pondered that for a moment, before realising I forgot to mention the Red Sox book. I decided to keep that to myself.
It sank in, sort of, but only recently have I accepted the full truth of that beery chat. Folks think of me as the wine guy. Whether it’s the making wine guy or the buying wine guy or the writing about making wine guy, my classification has been set. Hell, when I’m at an Unbound do, I introduce myself as the wine guy.
And I like being the wine guy, because the wine guy has wine, and everybody loves the wine. But with In Cathedral’s Shadow, it’s worthless. An itchy jumper I forgot to wear something under. I’m not a winemaker who writes books, I’m a writer who makes wine. And convincing people that’s the case is essential for the book to get funded. Unbound gave it the big thumbs up. This book is good enough to publish, whether it’s written by a brewer, a baker, a candlestick maker, or, indeed, a wine guy.
The task now is to convince people that the wine guy can write about whatever he wants to. That it’s worth funding him, because it’s a book worth reading. That, in fact, he’s more of a writer guy.