Rose Bennett, talented chef and English rose, trades her hometown of London for the sunny shores of Australia after a particularly devastating break-up. She finds herself a job as a nanny in the Shingle Valley, a picturesque yet rugged area full of vineyards, and tries to forget about romance.
As winter turns to spring, Rose starts to unlock the secrets of the Valley—the traditions, local secrets and delicious produce. And despite herself, Rose starts to fall in love: with the valley, the wines, the two children she’s helping to look after – and with their father, the handsome and brilliant Mark Cameron, owner of the troubled Kalkari Wines estate.
In the tradition of Under The Tuscan Sun, Rose’s Vintage boasts a lush setting reminiscent of Australia’s best wine-making regions, a feisty heroine in need of a big life change and a delicious line-up of food and wine. Best read with a glass of red!
Now, does that description get you as excited as I was when I read it? When author Kayte Nunn got in touch to ask me if I’d like to read and review Rose’s Vintage – published on 18th April by Nero Books, available for preorder via Amazon UK for Kindle or Book Depository for paperback – I knew I really had to.
I’ll be reviewing in May, and so looking forward to it, but I’m delighted to welcome author Kayte Nunn to Being Anne to tell us more…
Welcome to Being Anne, Kayte! Would you like to introduce yourself?
I am a writer, mother and wife – probably in that order! I am a former magazine editor and features writer and am originally from the UK, though I have lived in Sydney for the past 20 years. When I’m not writing, reading or ferrying my two girls around I can generally be found in the kitchen, procrasti-baking. Rose’s Vintage is my first novel.
I loved the look of Rose’s Vintage from the moment I saw it – who wouldn’t love the idea of “food, wine and falling in love”! Tell me what inspired the story…
I was sitting in a café in Bondi on a freezing, rainy winter’s day and the usually sparkling beachside suburb was looking very grim. I began to wonder what would happen if you turned up in Australia from the other side of the world, expecting sunshine and the general gorgeousness that’s depicted in tv shows such as Home & Away and Bondi Rescue, and found that it was nothing like you’d expected… as I sat there I could imagine the character of Rose, getting off a bus, severely jet-lagged and wondering where on earth she’d ended up.
Several years previously I had been editor of a wine magazine, and in the course of that job I was lucky enough to travel to many amazing vineyards in Australia and New Zealand. There, I often encountered a wonderful sense of community, which I wanted to explore in the novel. Added to this, wine and grapes are also very sensual things, so a vineyard setting seemed, naturally, to lend itself to a love story.
I’ve heard of the Hunter Valley, and New Zealand’s Shingle Peak, but not the Shingle Valley. Is it real?
No, it’s fictional – but based somewhat on a small part of the New South Wales Hunter Valley, called Broke, which is a gorgeous part of the country and home to some outstanding wineries.
I know you’re a food writer, and have written successful short fiction. Where did the urge to write a novel come from? And how different was the discipline involved?
Words have been a part of my life forever, as both a reader and a scribbler of childhood diaries and stories, bad teenage poetry and as part of a career as a features writer and magazine editor. I’d always had a secret dream to write novels, though never the gumption or the courage to actually do it.
The perfect storm of circumstances arose nearly three years ago when I had a break of a couple of months between work projects and my youngest daughter was in daycare three days a week. A friend had recently got a publishing contract (so I thought, well if she can do it why can’t you?), I’d read several fairly ordinary books and thought well, I can do better than that (little did I know just how difficult the process was going to be!) and, in my early 40s, it was a case of now or never.
Having only previously written stories of around 3,500 words, contemplating a novel of around 90,000 was incredibly daunting. As luck would have it, I was training for a marathon at the time, and the similarities between the two were not lost on me. I stuck to what I had to do that day, or that week and tried not to think too far ahead. It’s amazing to me what you can achieve if you just work away bit by bit at something.
Tell me a bit about your path to publication with Rose’s Vintage… how did you get together with Nero Books?
Getting a book written and accepted for publication is not for those with a lack of patience. The whole process has taken about three years. I spent about a year writing a first draft and then sent out my three chapters and synopsis to various agents and publishers. I got my fair share of rejections, but then my current agent read my submission and asked for a month to read the whole thing. After a month, she rang me and we had a long chat and she gave me lots of advice on changes. I was happy to take those on board (being a features writer meant that I wasn’t at all precious about my work and I knew that it was all part of a learning process) and resubmitted to her again with a revised version several months later. She was happy with my changes, and began the process of submissions.
Several publishers said they liked it, but that it was too close in tone or subject-matter to other writers in their stable. One publisher offered a great deal of good advice and so I went away again and rewrote (and had to ditch the first three chapters – gulp!) some more. Then, Black Inc had been sent a copy, as they were developing a contemporary fiction list – Nero – and they came back and offered for it, and the second book in the series, which I was by then half-way through writing. It’s been a great experience to be published by a smaller publisher who has really believed in and got behind the book. Rose’s Vintage has now also sold in Germany and Poland.
As if your life isn’t busy enough already, with your work and being a mum… how do you fit in the writing? What does a novel writing day look like?
Initially it was been a case of snatching time where I could, fitting it in between my job as a freelance writer and project editor. I would write for an hour before going to bed, snatch a few hours at the weekends by locking myself away in my bedroom or escaping to the library. I would take my laptop to my daughter’s swim training and write in the car during her soccer practice… at the moment I’m lucky enough to have time during the day to write on most weekdays, but it’s often the hour between 2 and 3pm before school pick up that is my most productive!
I’ve found that I have to prioritise my writing. I look at my diary a week in advance and work out when I can fit in some writing time and try and stick to it and not let anything else – groceries, catching up with friends, laundry – get in the way. My house isn’t very clean!
So planning, writing, editing, getting ready for the launch, kicking off the publicity – what’s been your favourite part of the whole process? And the most difficult?
The best part is the writing – when I’m in the flow and ideas are coming at me, when I’m on a morning walk and get back home knowing exactly what to write next. That incredible feeling of satisfaction after a good day’s writing, that a story is taking shape and that I’ve moved it along, even a little bit. The hardest part has been trying to ignore the little voice on my shoulder telling me what I’m writing is unconvincing, trite drivel… I do my best to ignore it and just keep writing. I also felt quite ill when I saw finished copies of Rose’s Vintage – I couldn’t even bear to open one up!
What writers do you admire? if someone said “your writing reminds me of…”, who would you like them to mention?
Oh I have so many! As a teenager I fell in love with HE Bates’ Darling Buds of May series and realised as I was writing Rose’s Vintage that I wanted to give readers that feeling of being in a wonderful world that you wish you lived in or could at least escape to. I am also a life-long, card-carrying fan of Jilly Cooper, Liane Moriarty and JoJo Moyes – I love the humour and heart in their work… would that I were ever good enough to even grovel at their feet.
And what’s next? Now Rose is ready to leave on her journey, are you writing again?
I’ve finished a second book set in the Shingle Valley, called The Angels’ Share (which is what the wine lost to evaporation when it’s in barrel is called), which will be published in 2017. It centres on some new characters to the valley as well as continuing the story of Rose and Mark – there are plenty more shenanigans! I’ve also written a synopsis for a third book in the series, but at the moment I am writing a historical mystery about a late-Victorian female plant hunter and botanical illustrator.
For more information about Kayte Nunn, visit her excellent website, where you can also read the first chapter of Rose’s Vintage. You can also follow Kayte on Twitter or via her Facebook author page.