A Decade in the Making
Claire: Jacqueline, you’ve been working on this novel for over a decade. How do you feel now that you finally get to see your work published?
Jacqueline: I couldn’t be more thrilled. I didn’t realize how exciting it would be to hold my book in my own hands, see it in bookstores, or have my friends and family read it. I thought just writing the book would be enough—that was the goal: to learn how one writes a novel—but now to have it published, too. I am both awed and honored.
Advice on Research
Claire: You had to research different technical aspects of winemaking and vineyards. What advice would you give a new author about doing research for a book?
Jacqueline: The research is the fun part! Learning one thing leads to wondering about other things, which leads to more research. I often had to remind myself to finish writing the story, a more challenging task. Key advice to new writers: Everyone I called or wrote to was open to talking to me. All I had to say was that I was writing a book, and they eagerly helped me.
Maintaining Historical Accuracy
Claire: Harvest Dreams is set in the early eighties, particularly relevant to the AIDS crisis and homophobia discussed in the story. As you were writing, did you need to remind yourself to incorporate anachronistic references and language to tether the story to that time?
Jacqueline: Yes, I was very aware that I was writing a story that took place in the 80s and had to be careful about everything from language (like certain phrases that were used back then or would NOT have been used yet) to clothes to music, to food to hairstyles, to machines (no cell phones, for example). That part was fun, too. It was essential to be accurate so the reader would not be pulled out of the story.
Writing Tips from Lisa Tener
Claire: You mention that Lisa Tener was one of your writing coaches. What was the best advice Lisa gave you that helped you with Harvest Dreams?
Jacqueline: Two key things: One, to take myself seriously as a writer, and Two, to schedule my writing every day. If something came up and I could not write when I had planned, I had to reschedule the time. And stick to it.
Jacqueline’s Publishing Decision
Claire: You mention that you were “ecstatic” when you found out your book was going to be published by Bold Strokes, a company that focuses on LGBTQ literature. Can you tell us more about your publishing journey and why you were excited to work with Bold Strokes in particular?
Jacqueline: My novel was accepted by one company that wanted to publish it “as is.” I declined their offer because I thought the story would benefit from being edited by a professional. I also sent query letters to other publishers who did not get back to me, or I was told that my novel did not “fit” what they were publishing. I didn’t know if that was code for them not wanting to publish a lesbian love story. The content was not the issue with Bold Strokes, but they wanted quality writing and a good story. So when they wanted my story, I was thrilled.
Choosing a Narration Style
Claire: I love how the reader gets little glimpses into Kate and Sydney’s minds through their thoughts and the bits of their inner monologues interspersed with the dialogue. It really helps the reader understand their emotions as they fall in love but can’t yet vocalize it. How did you decide on the style of narration for the novel?
Jacqueline: I didn’t decide on that style in advance. It came to me as I was writing—and then editing—the story, and I wanted to make sure the characters’ actions were clear. As I wrote, I put myself in the shoes of both Kate and Sydney, imagining what they would be thinking or feeling in each scene.
Writing Multiple Perspectives
Claire: Kate and Sydney have their own believable motivations and backstories that prevent them from being together, despite their initial attraction. Since Harvest Dreams is written from two characters’ alternating perspectives, whose point of view did you start with? Was there one character whose perspective or voice came to you more easily than the other?
Jacqueline: I knew I wanted the two points of view from the beginning. I had a couple of early drafts showing Kate and Sydney as teenagers. I cut those chapters, but getting to know their voices and backstories was important to me. From the beginning, Sydney’s personality and character came to me more easily. I think I was intimidated by Kate growing up a farmer since I’d had no similar experiences whatsoever growing up.
Traveling to Locations in Harvest Dreams
Claire: I’m from California so I’m familiar with all the wine country locations in the book, but you were raised in Virginia and live in Boston! Did you have to take any research trips to work out the timing of drives and all the other specific details you mentioned?
Jacqueline: Yes, I did those drives myself and spent time in Napa, Sonoma, San Francisco, Paris, etc. But, lucky me, my editor lives in Sacramento and knows the wine country and San Francisco area. She also had a daughter who went to UC Davis.
LGBTQ Representation in Romance
Claire: You have a very sweet dedication to your wife at the beginning of the book. While writing this book, were you inspired at all by your own love story? Or do you have any other sources of writing inspiration you’d like to share (books, music, movies, etc)?
Jacqueline: My wife is an extraordinary woman; ours is a great love story. She also read and offered comments on every chapter of every draft over the many years of writing. I may not have kept writing if it weren’t for her patience and support.
But I also believe all the great stories are love stories, and certainly all the stories I like to read. I remember as a teen seeing Dr. Zhivago six times and Gone with the Wind countless times. I still love romantic comedies and love a good love story. My frustration was, back then and now, that all the stories or films out there were/are heterosexual. It was as if our stories (LGBT) did not exist.
Claire: I saw on your Instagram that Harvest Dreams is already on the shelves at your local bookshop! What are some other ways you are promoting your book?
Jacqueline: I had a book launch at Trident Book Store in Boston and at Truro Vineyards on the Cape. I had a book party at one of my friend’s homes in West Hartford (where I taught) and have been doing lots of social media. I am just beginning to add to my website again actively and in the fall, I plan to promote the book both on Long Island and in Western MA. Next December I plan to go out to CA and take my book back up to wine country. I hope to visit the vineyards mentioned in the book and others in the area.
About the Author
Jacqueline Fein-Zachary, feminist, foodie, educator, and activist, is thrilled with her debut novel, Harvest Dreams. She lives in Boston and Cape Cod with her beloved wife, Valerie, and has more books than she has time to read.