Talking about Wine and Writing with Jan Moran

Earlier in the week I reviewed Jan Moran’s The Winemakers and loved it! Now, Jan stopped by to visit with me over wine about her new book and all her research. Join us!


Hi, Jan! Welcome to Oh, for the Hook of a Book! I really enjoyed your book last year, Scent of Triumph, and am now enjoying your new April 5 release, The Winemakers. Two beautiful books, with beautiful covers, in two years from St. Martin’s Press. How has the launch of The Winemakers gone for you?

Jan: It’s going very well, thanks. Readers are really enjoying this story of a family of vintners in Napa and Tuscany, and the mystery of the family’s long-buried secrets. I’m delighted that you asked me to stop by today.

Erin: Come in and sit here at my table near the window, where if you look out there might be snow or sun on any given day this time of year, but behind you is a library full of books. I’d be happy to uncork the wine, but you have to let me know the vintage as I’m a wine newbie. Choose something that fits your book theme, while I serve up the cheesecake.

Jan: Thank you, Erin, what a lovely setting to talk about books. As for wine, my personal choices to go with The Winemakers would be a Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon, an Italian Brunello di Montalcino, or a Tuscan Sangiovese. Hmm, how about this Grgich Hills Cabernet Sauvignon? I met Mike (Miljenko) Grgich in Napa while I was doing research and celebrated his 90th birthday at a beautiful vintner’s dinner in a wine cave. He’s a highly talented winemaker; in fact, his 1974 Chardonnay for Chateau Montelena took the top award in the Paris Tasting in 1976 – quite a coup!


Caption: Author Jan Moran with Mike (Miljenko) Grgich. Photo provided by author.

Erin: That sounds lovely, I’ll pour. And how fabulous to meet him. 

Jan: Thank you, Erin, cheers.Your antique wine glasses also go very well with The Winemakers, since it takes place in the 1950s and the 1920s.

Erin: Ah, a breathtaking moment, like a step back in time. Let’s get to talking about your book! First of all, as I mentioned, your covers are gorgeous. One of the best things to sell a book this day is for them to be eye-candy and well-done. Did you have input on your covers?

Jan: When I first met my publisher I mentioned that I love vibrant colors and gorgeous images. Beyond that, not much input was needed because St. Martin’s created lovely covers.

Erin: Your last book and many of your other works have to do with scents and perfume and beauty. The Winemakers seems to be more about wine, romance, and mystery. Or is there an element of scent? What made you decide to change up your themes?

Jan: Wine and perfume are actually quite closely related. Both are luxury artisan creations derived from agricultural crops. When tasting a wine, aficionados look for a “good nose,” or bouquet. The scent of wine is quite important to the overall experience. In addition, Mother Nature can be vexing one year, or cause for celebration the next. I enjoy writing about creative, artistic pursuits, so wine making was a natural choice.

Erin: I love that this one has more secrets and mystery than the others, as I love a good mystery. Was it different in your writing of this to put in the mystery elements to create suspense? How did you achieve it?

Jan: The Winemakers evolved from situations I’ve witnessed where parents kept secrets from younger generations. When people moved from one country to another they could reinvent themselves and their family history. I found this fascinating, and have been amazed at the tales families have spun in order to preserve the reputation of the family. While society is generally more accepting of missteps today, this was not always the case. Constructing the story was much like researching genealogy in that I was peeling back a layer of knowledge at a time, and this added to the suspense.

Erin: Was there inspiration for the time, place, or characters that began your idea for this book?

Jan: When I visited Napa Valley, I learned that there had been exclusive premium winemakers before the 1960s, many of whom were immigrants and had brought wine making methods from Europe. For example, did you know that Inglenook used to produce fine wines before the winery was sold and new owners entered the lower-priced mass wine market? And, after visiting and falling in love with Tuscany, I wanted to set a story there as well.

Erin:  You live in California, which of course is a beautiful place for wine growing. I’ve read many books using the wine theme set in California in historical time periods, and it always seems like somewhere I’d love to tour. What’s it like from a resident’s eyes when you view the rolling hills and vineyards?

Jan: The beauty of the land never ceases to amaze me. Some vineyards blanket the valley, while others line the mountaintops. The view at harvest time in late summer and early fall is stunning – row upon row of well-tended grapevines are laden with the bounty of ripe, sun-warmed fruit. Spring is a season of fresh buds and new hope for a fine crop. In winter, the vineyards are dormant and snow covers those in the upper elevations. Each season has its own distinct beauty.

Erin:  Do you have first-hand knowledge of wine making or a wine making family, or were you able to create this all from research? Your details are vivid. How did you do your research for your locations?

Jan: I went to school with a friend who lives in Napa Valley, MaryAnn Tsai. She served as president of Beringer and Luna, and now she’s a partner in Moone-Tsai Wines, which is an amazing collection of small batch wines favored by serious collectors. She and her husband Larry took me through their wine cave, explaining the process of converting grapes to wine in great detail. From there, I visited the Hess Collection, Grgich Hills, Chimney Rock, and several other wineries. Each visit was a thorough, behind-the-scenes study, and people were incredibly helpful and happy to share their passion for wine making.

MaryAnn Tsai on left and Jan Moran on right

Caption: MaryAnn Tsai, left, and Author Jan Moran, right. Photo provided by author.

Erin: I really like how you write strong women as your protagonists. You’ve done it again in The Winemakers and Caterina. What types of traits did you want to give Caterina when you wrote it and do you feel you accomplished it? Also, what can women readers learn from your female characters?

Jan: Thank you, Erin, I love to write about strong women—and those who discover their strength. In this saga, Caterina reaches deep inside to find her strength, first for her child’s sake and then for her own. Although she has made mistakes (aren’t we all a little flawed?), she becomes confident in her decisions and transforms her life. I believe we all have this ability.

Erin: And now for the romance! I don’t generally read a lot of romance, but I love a good one that has intelligent women or a good mystery and setting. Yours absorb me. How do you feel your romances differ from other mainstream fare?

Jan: In my stories, smart women drive the action as well as the romance. There is usually a seemingly insurmountable issue at stake: the potential loss of family, dreams, love, or livelihoods. In addition, my work often features hardworking, multigenerational families, so both younger and older women might have romantic relationships. I love beautiful settings and I love to travel, so readers will discover plenty of interesting locations, too. I also do a lot of research into whatever business my characters are in, because I like to pass along interesting knowledge of different industries. I love to learn something new when I read, as well as when I write.

Erin: You are also a beauty expert and successful business woman. I highly admire you. Tell me about your work, your passion, and some things you do that you feel help make you so successful in the business world?

Jan: I’m always looking for a project or story that ignites my interest, because when passion fuels your work it ceases to be work—it becomes a mission. That said, I write to entertain, but I want to tell stories that immerse the reader in a different world.

As to success, I think vision, creativity, and perseverance can help us imagine our future and achieve our dreams. And always keep an eye on the financials.

Erin: Tell us about some of your other books you’ve written if you’d like and who are the best readers for those and why?

Jan: My 20th century historical novels, The Winemakers and Scent of Triumph, are dramatic sagas for people who’ve enjoyed books such as The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah, or those by Barbara Taylor Bradford. On the other hand, my contemporary Love, California series is stylish, fun, and aspirational. This west coast, Sex and the City-styled series is about four best friends who pursue creative businesses and find love along the way. Whether historical or contemporary, readers will travel to various international locations – Paris, London, Tuscany, Spain, Ireland – and overcome great challenges. I believe in emotionally satisfying endings, though the stories often end with a little twist.

Erin: What’s in store for you for the future in business as well as in upcoming books? I hope you have more books in the works!

Jan: I sure do. I’m working on my next historical novel, as well as another book in the Love, California series.

Erin: I can’t have you leave my home until you tell me some top beauty products or tips I must use today. My biggest issue is always wanting to look put together but having a busy job I work from home and three busy kids, I’m afraid it’s hard to always be as on style as I’d like.

Jan: I understand, Erin. Many of my days are spent in yoga pants in front of a computer, but I do have a few tips I learned from traveling in Europe – especially in France, where women seem effortlessly stylish. First, good, regular skin care is important, and needn’t be expensive. Next, a quick application of lipstick and perfume, along with sunglasses and a scarf, creates instant style. Channel your inner Audrey Hepburn for this easy look! And to reduce puffy eyes due to air flight or 2:00 am feedings, place a cold washcloth or cold tea bags on closed eyes for a couple of minutes.

Erin: Thank you so much for stopping by my site today! It was such a pleasure to have you here and please stay in touch. You’re a marvelous writer, so I’ll be looking for another book!

Jan: Thank you, Erin. It’s always so nice to stop by and chat with you and your readers. Cheers!

02_The-WinemakersThe Winemakers: A Novel of Wine and Secrets by Jan Moran

Publication Date: April 5, 2016
St. Martin’s Griffin
Hardcover, Paperback, eBook; 368 Pages
ISBN: 9781250091185

Genre: Historical Fiction/Romance

1956: When Caterina Rosetta inherits a cottage in the countryside of Italy from a grandmother she’s never known, she discovers a long-buried family secret — a secret so devastating, it threatens the future of everything her mother has worked for. Many years before, her mother’s hard-won dreams of staking her family’s claim in the vineyards of California came to fruition; but as an old murder comes to light, and Caterina uncovers a tragic secret that may destroy the man she loves, she realizes her happiness will depend on revealing the truth of her mother’s buried past.

From author Jan Moran comes The Winemakers, a sweeping, romantic novel that will hold you in its grasp until the last delicious sip.

Absolutely adored THE WINEMAKERS. Beautifully layered and utterly compelling. Intriguing from start to finish. A story not to be missed.” –Jane Porter, USA Today and NYT Bestselling author of It’s You and The Good Woman

Wildly romantic and utterly compelling, THE WINEMAKERS is full of family secrets and gorgeous descriptions of the Italian countryside and the vineyards of the Napa Valley. I was completely swept away!”  – Anita Hughes, author of Rome In Love

Told with exquisite elegance and style, THE WINEMAKERS is a dazzling tale rich with family secrets, fine wine, and romance that will leave you breathless.”  – Juliette Sobanet, author of Sleeping with Paris

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million | IndieBound | Kobo

Jan Moran, Biography

03_Jan-Moran-188x300JAN MORAN is the author of the novel Scent of Triumph, and Fabulous Fragrances I and II, which earned spots on the Rizzoli Bookstore bestseller list.

A fragrance and beauty expert, she has been featured in numerous publications and on television and radio, including CNN, Instyle, and O Magazine, and has spoken before prestigious organizations, including The American Society of Perfumers.

She earned her MBA from Harvard Business school and attended the University of California at Los Angeles Extension Writers’ Program.

For more information visit Jan’s website. You can also find her on FacebookTwitterPinterest and Goodreads.


Direct Link:

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