A young witch emerges from a curse to find her world upended in this gripping fantasy of betrayal, vengeance, and self-discovery set in turn-of-the-century France. For centuries, the vineyards at Château Renard have depended on the talent of their vine witches, whose spells help create the world-renowned wine of the Chanceaux Valley. Then the skill of divining harvests fell into ruin when sorcière Elena Boureanu was blindsided by a curse. Now, after breaking the spell that confined her to the shallows of a marshland and weakened her magic, Elena is struggling to return to her former life. And the vineyard she was destined to inherit is now in the possession of a handsome stranger. Vigneron Jean-Paul Martel naively favors science over superstition, and he certainly doesn’t endorse the locals’ belief in witches. But Elena knows a hex when she sees one, and the vineyard is covered in them. To stay on and help the vines recover,she’ll have to hide her true identity, along with her plans for revenge against whoever stole seven winters of her life. And she won’t rest until she can defy the evil powers that are still a threat to herself, Jean-Paul, and the ancient vine-witch legacy in the rolling hills of the Chanceaux Valley
What made you choose turn of the century France, and what research went into that decision?
It may be more accurate to say that turn-of-the-century France chose me. I had an idea for a story about a witch out for revenge. At the time I thought she wanted vengeance against a village that exiled her or an ex-lover who’d cursed her. In my mind the story was going to take place in a typical medieval fairy-tale setting. I wrote the first chapter about Elena’s transformation, but then quickly stalled out. The story just wouldn’t go anywhere exciting. So, I put the novel away and wrote something else.
And, of course, that novel got rejected everywhere, as had my two other previous unpublished novels.
So, wallowing in a funk, I did some Netflix binge-watching and stumbled across a documentary on winemaking in France. I was enthralled by the way one of the women talked about the process compared to the men. She was much more intuitive, mentioning the phases of the moon and the importance of nurturing the vines as they spread over the trellises. It sounded very Wiccan-ish to me. Well, I sat up and grabbed my notebook. I’d found the angle I needed to write my witch book
But now the original medieval setting felt wrong. I had other options, though. I might have gone contemporary, but considering the influence of machinery in modern winemaking it didn’t feel right for what I had in mind. The era of WWII would have worked, but that seemed like a crowded field already in historical fiction. So, knowing I wanted to play up the idea of science vs magic in the story, it became obvious the age that birthed the airplane, electric lights, movies, cars, and even moving sidewalks and elevators was the perfect set-up for conflict with old world magic. The setting of the late Belle Époque worked for the winemaking too, because they were still using old-fashioned wooden presses and handmade oak barrels for storage at that time.
As for the research, I rather stumbled into historical fiction with this novel. In my other fantasy stories, I’d had the luxury of just making stuff up, but setting the novel in an obvious and popular time period meant nailing down the specifics of the period. The fashion, the food, the cars, the prevailing architectural styles—it all had to be accurate. Or I should say accurate enough. I still maintain The Vine Witch is a fantasy novel first, but I hope it is imbued with enough details to make it feel as though it takes place in that sparkling era of excess and innovation.
I mean, on one hand I need to find that Netflix documentary and on the other I need to pick up this book ASAP. I was already intrigued, but after hearing about the process that Luanne went through I am much more eager to dive into this magical story? Does this make you want to pick up the book? Let me know in the comments.