From critically acclaimed author Laura Dave, in her new novel Eight Hundred Grapes? comes a charming story set in Sonoma’s wine country about family, love, the complexity of relationships and the secrets that bring a family together or tears them apart. SheKnows got to sit down with the storyteller to discuss her latest novel.
SheKnows: What inspired you to write Eight Hundred Grapes?
Laura Dave: For Eight Hundred Grapes, I was playing with an image for a long time of a woman showing up at her hometown bar on what should have been her wedding day. I didn’t know who she was talking to, and I didn’t know why she had come home, but that woman stayed with me. After visiting a biodynamic vineyard in Sonoma County, I also started thinking about winemaking — how it was such an expression of faith and patience, how it required you to give it everything you had — which seemed to me a metaphor for marriage and family and building a life that matters. Suddenly, I knew where the woman in the wedding dress was going. And this novel was born.
SK: What’s the biggest challenge you’ve faced in your career as a writer?
LD: After finishing work on my first novel, I spilled water on my computer and lost the entire thing. I had just finished graduate school, and thought I was close to sending it off into the world. Instead, I started over. It was a challenge. It was also pretty great as it taught me, early on, how much I wanted to write. And also that I had to properly save my files!
SK: Were there any obstacles you faced because you’re a woman? Are there any roadblocks women unfairly encounter in the book world?
LD: It’s unnerving that the way women’s novels get discussed is so different from how men’s novels get discussed, even when the novels tread in the same familial and domestic territory. At the same time, there is a special relationship between women writers and readers — at least in my experience — so, like everything, I think there are pluses and minuses.
SK: Do you have any strange writing habits or routines when you write?
LD: I listen to music while I write — often the same song on repeat. I’m guessing that could drive a lot of people crazy. For me, though, it creates a great rhythm to the work and helps drown out the world.
SK: What is the worst writing advice you’ve ever received?
LD: You have to finish everything you start. In my experience, that isn’t always true. And sometimes throwing things out (a short novel, an article, an entire novel) is the best way to get to a story you really want to tell.
SK: What advice would you give up-and-coming women authors?
LD: Write what you want. The more sincere you are, the more people will respond to what you’re doing.
SK: Which authors and/or books inspire your writing most?
LD: Everyone from Stephen King to Joan Didion. I’m a junkie for books, and will read anything and everything.
SK: What’s one characteristic the main character in your book possesses that you wish you had?
LD: Georgia is bossy! We are similar in that we each try to take care of the people we love, but she’s very effective at it primarily because she won’t give up any ground. Bossiness, sometimes, rules.
SK: Describe your book in three words.
LD: Heartbreaking, funny, evocative. (Some of my favorite ways Eight Hundred Grapes has been described; is that cheating?)
SK: If Eight Hundred Grapes were made into a movie, who would you like to play your main character(s) and why?
LD: I hope it will be! Fox2000 and Temple Hill (the people behind Twilight and The Fault in Our Stars) are developing it. And I’m writing the screenplay. There are so many actresses I think would be great for Georgia, though Emma Stone looms large in my mind when I think of her.
SK: Is there any particular scene in Eight Hundred Grapes that stands out to you or has special meaning — and why?
LD: I like the flashback scenes that show us the history of the vineyard, the history of the Ford family. And I like the last scene, which I’m going to have to let you read for yourselves.
SK: In your opinion, what are the book’s most important themes?
LD: Love, marriage, family, wine and the treacherous terrain in which they all intersect.
SK: What is the best thing about writing about relationships and family?
LD: Discovering what matters to my characters, which is always different than I first expected.
SK: What are you currently reading?
LD: I’m reading The Rocks [by Peter Nichols], which is gorgeous and compelling.
SK: When you’re not writing, what do you like to do?
LD: I love to cook and watch the Food Network — and cook while I watch the Food Network. And I pretty much always want to be with my husband.
SK: What projects will you be working on next?
LD: I’m writing the screenplay for Eight Hundred Grapes and working on a new novel. And I’m having some fun, especially with the new novel. The main character is a piece of work!
SK: Who’s your favorite female character ever, and why?
LD: Daisy Buchanan. The Great Gatsby. She’s a badass.
SK: What kind of stereotypes do you see in women’s fiction that frustrate you?
LD: There is a huge emphasis on protagonists being likable — especially when they’re women. I like to read about a woman with a little edge who becomes the hero of her own life.
SK: What type of characters do you want to see more of in your genre?
LD: Women who make me laugh!