Where Characters Come From by Cortney Roudebush
After moving to Napa Valley in 2009, I started a wine blog to keep track of wines I enjoyed and the wineries I liked visiting. With wine-tasting being my favorite activity at the time, I had plenty to write about. But when I became consumed with family obligations in early 2011, the blog posts went by the wayside.
Once the family issues were resolved I lost my job, so suddenly I had a lot of free time on my hands. I sat down at my desk and started blogging again.
What began as a blog post about a recent date, during which the only positive aspect was the wine I ordered, eventually turned into a collection of stories about my many bad dates in Napa Valley. Before long, I realized I had enough content to write a full-length novel about dating, dining, and drinking wine. Not wanting this to be my autobiography, I set to work on developing a few main characters. (Side note: if you plan to write a novel someday, develop your characters before you begin your manuscript. My novel went through many, many drafts because I kept redefining my characters and changing their names as I went along.)
Finally I settled on the name Olivia for my main character. She and I have one huge thing in common—our passion for wine, but beyond that she is not a reflection of me in any other way. Olivia is almost six feet tall (I’m nearly 5’4”); she is shy and reserved (I’m quite social); and she has limited experience with dating before she moves to Wine Country (this was not my problem). I created a character that I could relate to, but who was quite different from me because it’s fun to make stuff up!
Flexing my creative muscle and inventing characters using only my imagination is what being a novelist is all about. I’ll admit that using the 100 character-building questions from the gather.com website was a great way to begin defining each character. The idea was to create four diverse female characters who work in different aspects of the wine industry. And these characters are unique! If Where I Want to Be were a movie, I would want Zooey Deschanel to play Olivia; Lauren Conrad to play McKayla, the writer; Isla Fisher to play Charlie, the winemaker; and Sara Shahi as Grace, the Sommelier-in-training.
It may be hard for some people to understand that my characters are fictional and not inspired by real people. That being said, I do refer to a few celebrities, real wineries, and specific people who influenced my life when I lived in Napa Valley, blending a little truth with my fiction. But I don’t take it personally when people tell me that my novel sounds autobiographical.
“Read it and find out,” I say.
Cortney Roudebush grew up in Sausalito, California with her parents and younger sister. As a child, she was an avid reader and always knew she wanted to be a writer. After graduating with a degree in Creative Writing from the University of Southern California, Cortney moved to San Francisco. One of her first jobs after college was a position in the advertising department at Wine Spectator Magazine. She already had an interest in wine, which only continued to develop as she learned more about the wine industry. In 2009, Cortney’s passion for wine encouraged her to move to Napa Valley. She began a wine blog called Sip, Swirl, Savor and wrote about her wine tasting experiences. She also held hospitality positions at various wineries. Inspired by her Wine Country experiences, she started her first novel in 2012.
Where I Want to Be: A Wine Country Novel is the first of four in the Wine Country Series about four women who live in Napa Valley. You don’t have to know anything about wine (or even drink it!) to enjoy this story about finding happiness, making new friends, and looking for love while having fun in the process. Learn more and order your own copy here.
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