The Golden Hour is a beautiful coming-of-age novel set in World War II Tuscany. From reading the description of the novel the time and place just sucked me in. I had the wonderful opportunity to interview the author, Margaret Wurtele, and gain some insight into this novel. Please join me in welcoming her and stay tuned at the end for a giveaway!
A vast number of books have been written about events around and during WWII. What sets your book apart? Why choose to set your story in Italy?
I am going to answer the first two questions together. I did not choose WWII or the setting in Italy in the abstract, but rather the whole thing was sparked by a specific incident. See question number 2!!
You have written two memoirs in the past – what led you to writing this novel? What is it about this period that led you to write about it?
In 2004 my husband and I traveled to Tuscany and rented a house with two other couples, friends from California’s wine country, where we live part time, grow grapes and make wine. One day we were invited to lunch at an estate near Lucca where one of the couples purchased olive trees for their Sonoma land. Our host spread a table out under a leafy shade tree near the stately old villa. After we finished eating, he began to reminisce about the last year of World War II.
He told us how the Nazis had taken over the great house next to us; how they had forced the family to live in a few small rooms at the back. After the armistice, he said, his mother – then only 17 – fell in love with the translator for the Allied troops who had liberated them – a much older Jewish man. Despite all the Nazis had put them through, her father still objected to the match on the grounds that he was Jewish. The irony of that – that someone who had been so persecuted would mirror the values of his tormentors onto his own daughter – stuck with me, and I left that day burning to write about it.
It was indeed a leap into writing fiction. Whereas in the memoirs I could rely on my own journals and personal experience, in the novel, it all had to come from my imagination. I took a fiction writing class, did a lot of research and then, for the first few chapters, worked with an experienced editor before I found my fiction legs!
I know that you and your husband own a winery and that your main character, Giovanna, has a winery in her family. Does your winery experience come into play in this novel at all – or is it used more as a setting?
I think part of the reason I was so attracted to Tuscany is its similarity to Napa. In writing about the landscape, I felt truly at home. There are several dynamics in the novel where our own winemaking experience came into play. The young Mario wants to impress Giovanna’s father, so he studies viticulture and makes suggestions on their winemaking techniques. Mostly, however, it is a backdrop for a coming-of-age and a love story.
Giovanna is 17 years old in this novel – would you say that this is a book that young adults could enjoy as well as adults?
I think young adults might enjoy the novel a lot. It was not written for them, but the coming-of-age kind of story always used to interest me when I was that age.
Do you have any other writing plans in the works? Is there a subject that you would just love to write about?
I am waiting for the inspiration for the next piece of fiction to strike – I know how much work and dedication it takes to complete a novel, so I know I need to feel the same kind of passion for my subject that I felt for The Golden Hour.
I would also like to return to the memoir mode, to write about our life in Napa – finding the land, renovating the old stone winery – and to reflect on the process of my own aging in the context of growing grapes and making wine.
Margaret Wurtele is the author of two memoirs. She and her husband split their time between Minnesota and Napa Valley, where they are owners of Terra Valentine Winery. Visit her online at www.margaretwurtele.com.
Now for the giveaway. I have one copy of The Golden Hour to offer for a giveaway thanks to Penguin Group. It is open to the US and Canada and the last day to enter is March 3rd. Good luck!
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