Nathalie has been running from grief for the last thirteen years since her sister’s death, but a trip to her family’s failing winery plants her past in her present once again. Can Nathalie face the truth about her sister’s death and will Tanner Collins, the winery’s charming vintner, be the one to guide her? Catherine West crafts an elegant tale of grief and healing in her latest release, The Memory of You (Thomas Nelson).
Where did the inspiration for this novel come from?
My husband and I celebrated our 25th wedding anniversary several years ago with a trip to California, where we explored wine country, specifically the Sonoma/Napa area. I was enchanted and fell in love with the place! I knew I wanted to set a story there and I wanted it to take place on a vineyard. From there, the characters started to take shape and I was able to work out a plot. I loved writing this book and learning about the winemaking process.
Are any parts of the plot or characters pulled from real life?
No. The only ‘real life’ parts would be the information about growing grapes and winemaking. The family relationships and events that take place in the novel are purely fictional.
What influences your writing the most?
I’d have to say the desire to create a relatable story with realistic characters and situations. While I write from a Christian worldview, I tend to keep that general market audience in mind as well. My books will always deal with forgiveness, restoration and the ultimate hope we have in Jesus, but I don’t ever want a reader to feel like they being ‘preached to’. Life is messy and complicated and we all need a little grace to get through. I try to keep it real. I read a lot of literary fiction, both in ABA (general market) and CBA (Christian market), and I’m influenced by some great authors who are writing the books I love to read. I’m so grateful that I can write about real life, real faith, and pull back the curtain on subjects that sometimes we tend to not want to discuss.
Can you describe your plot in one sentence?
Thirteen years ago, Natalie lost a part of herself when her twin sister died. Will traveling back to the family winery finally put the memory to rest, or will it completely destroy her?
Who is your favorite character in the book?
I think my favorite character in this story is Tanner Collins. He’s an all-around good guy who knows he’s not perfect, but he’s trying his best. I love how he struggles with the events life throws at him, and while he questions God’s purpose in everything that’s going on, and he’s angry, he never loses his faith completely. I love the way he protects his family, and his willingness to do what it takes to make them happy.
Can you tell us about your writing process?
First of all, I’m a horrible plotter. I’ve read multiple books on plotting, attended workshops and been coached by excellent author friends, and I still can’t master it. It’s just not in my nature to plot out an entire story from start to finish before I’ve written anything. So what I try to do is a rough sketch at least, some kind of outline to work with, but once I start writing, the story starts to play like a movie in my mind. I’ll often ‘see’ that new scene while I’m walking or doing dishes or staring at the ceiling late at night, then I’ll write it in the next day. I edit as I go, which is time-consuming, but a habit I can’t break, but while it takes longer, I have a cleaner manuscript at the end.
If I’m writing a story that requires a large amount of research, I’ll set aside certain days for that or work it in at a later date. Sometimes I just need to write until it’s all out, and then I’ll go back in and fill holes and clean up a bit. I do hit writer’s block at least once or twice with every book, and in that case, unless I’m on deadline, I will take a bit of a break, do some reading, just spend a couple days away from the manuscript. And usually, that helps.
What are you currently reading?
I’m reading A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman, and I just finished One More Song to Sing, by Lindsey Harrell, which was a very sweet novel. Over the holidays I read all of Mary Weber’s Storm Siren series, and highly recommend it, even if you’re not a YA fan!