Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Two reasons today means something special

This morning I sat in bed with a chipped gray mug in my palms as I watched the sun rising pink and orange over a Marlborough vineyard bursting with wine grapes.

For the record, there was tea in my mug, not Sauv Blanc.

It’s March 23 here in New Zealand, but March 22 back home in the U.S., and there’s something very special about each of those dates.
Researching Let It Breathe six years ago.

March 22 is release day for Let It Breathe, my brand new romantic comedy. Actually, “brand new” isn’t the right word choice at all. Those of you who’ve followed this blog since the beginning might remember that. The whole thing began more than six years ago before I even had a book deal. The book deal came a few weeks later in February 2010, and Let It Breathe was slated to be the third book in the contract.

I got to work researching in March 2010, touring vineyards in Oregon’s lush Willamette Valley during this exact same week six years ago. I figured if I was going to write the story of a divorced vineyard owner falling in love with her ex-husband’s best friend when he shows up to build the winery’s new tasting room, I wanted to really understand my book’s setting.

But it turned out I got to understand the divorce part, too.

Because while all that research was going on, my marriage of 13 years unraveled like a snagged sweater. It transpired over the course of nine months or so, which happened to be the same nine months I was writing for Let It Breathe.

As you might imagine, the story took a melancholy turn. It was still romantic comedy, of course, but with a sadness to it. Years later, Publishers Weekly would write a starred review of About That Fling (my runaway bestseller from last year) and would use the phrase, “heartache and humor go hand in hand.” It was high praise, probably some of the best I’ve ever earned, and that’s the same sort of story I wrote with Let It Breathe.

But back in 2011, the timing wasn’t right for that kind of book. Not yet anyway.

First, I had to get through the hell of divorce. Then I had to shake off the crumbled debris and take those first, terrifying, exhilarating steps into new love. Then I had to write About That Fling from the ashes of that process.

And then I had to go back to Let It Breathe with fresh eyes, and discover that what I wrote all those years ago was actually pretty damn good. My amazing editor at Montlake saw exactly what I was trying to do with my story of a woman working to take her family’s vineyard to the next level while struggling with her private fears that her failed first marriage means she’s not cut out for relationships at all. With my editor’s help, we shaped that story into something I’m tearfully proud of. Maybe more proud than I was with About That Fling.

Sitting here now with my chipped mug of tea in a hotel bed in the heart of New Zealand’s Marlborough wine country, I’m staggered to look back on all that. Part of me still reels a bit from the losses—a marriage, a home, a writing career that didn’t follow the trajectory I expected at the start.

But most of me just feels deliriously happy about all the gains. A writing career I enjoy, a new home, a rich life filled with friends and family and readers I adore with the fierceness of a thousand blazing suns.

But I’m also grateful for the guy whose hip I just bumped under the covers. At least I think it was his hip.

He’s the other reason this date is significant. Because on March 23, 2011, we had our first “date.” I put the word in quotes because the impetus for it was actually me reaching out to him (then a distant acquaintance) asking for tips on surviving divorce. I might have also been hoping to take his clothes off. The details are hazy.

Things bloomed from there into friendship, then attraction, then love.

Cycling with my sweetie in New Zealand wine country yesterday,
the day before the release of Let It Breathe.
We got married in September 2014, and this trip to New Zealand is something we’ve both dreamed about since long before we met each other. Being here now—the mothership of the Sauvignon Blanc we’ve enjoyed over so many dinners together—feels like the achievement of a longtime goal. It’s not where I imagined myself when this whole thing started six years ago, but it’s so clearly where I’m meant to be that I’m swooning with the certainty.

Or maybe I’m swooning over whatever I just bumped under the covers.

In any case, as Let It Breathe  finds its way into the hands of readers today, I’m hoping it will touch you in some small way. Maybe it’ll make you laugh, maybe it’ll make you cry, maybe it'll make you tingly in the swimsuit area. Hopefully it’ll give you a little of all three.

Thank you for being part of this journey with me. Cheers.