It was a great chance to round out last month’s research for LET IT BREATHE by peppering wine industry experts with questions I neglected when I was too busy snickering over phrases like “bung hole” and “node pushing” and “head suckers.”
I’ve blogged before about my fondness for research, both the legitimate sort and the kind that requires my husband to have fake sex with me on the bathroom counter.
But there’s one tip I want to share with anyone doing field research for a book: learn when to shut up.
I know I’ve suggested formulating a list of questions and conducting interviews in a professional manner. But sometimes in the course of research, you’ll encounter someone so passionate about your subject that they’ll grab hold of the conversation and take off running in direction you didn’t anticipate.
And when that happens, be prepared to shut up and write. Fast. On the back of your notepad or your hand if you run out of blank pages.
|Forrest Schaad explains dirt to my dad.|
It lasted over two hours.
Cellar Hand/Tasting Room Associate Forrest Schaad was like a walking wine industry encyclopedia. I learned what a “Sasquatch Harvest” is and how weather conditions in 2006 created one. And I learned how the wine produced then differed from 2007.
I learned how to use insects and bluebirds and feral cats to control vineyard pests. And I learned that Oregon’s state soil is called jory.
Seriously – a state soil. Can you name yours?
We strolled the vineyards and cellars and tasted wines in the precise spots Forrest insisted would bring out each wine’s best characteristics. As we stood beside the vines with a cover crop of clover and sweet pea under our shoes and the smell of damp soil and spring onion in the air and the wine swirling in our glasses, I had to admit – it did taste different.
By the end of our tour, my head was brimming with ideas, my writing hand was cramping, and I’d discovered ways to fix every issue critique partner Cynthia Reese flagged in last week’s read-through of my first three chapters.
After explaining the environmental importance of soy-based ink on wine labels, Forrest smiled a little sheepishly. “That’s probably a lot more information than you wanted.”
I shook my head in vehement denial. “I could suck your brain dry all day – you have so much great information.”
(As a side-note, I don’t recommend beginning a sentence with those four words when speaking with a man you’ve just met. Judging from the look of alarm on his face – followed by relief when he realized what I was actually saying – I probably could have found a better way to express myself).
So I guess the take home message (aside from not accidentally propositioning strange men) is that research is about more than just gathering information. It’s about unearthing the passion and the personalities in the world you’re trying to capture in your novel.
And with that, I’m off to write about mealworms.
|Forrest shows us the bottling process at Sokol Blosser.|