Please welcome Margaret Wurtele, author of the new historical novel, The Golden Hour!

by Margaret Wurtele

When I tell people I have written a historical novel that is set in Italy during World War II, I often get a confused (or bemused) look in return. “Italy?” they say. “Why Italy? Have you spent a lot of time there?”

Write what you know. That is one of the first pieces of advice one gets in a writing class. But it’s also true that the author doesn’t always get to choose the subject. In my case, a little fragment of story I heard on a visit to Tuscany insinuated itself into my brain and would not let go. I left there knowing I had to write about it, but I also knew it would be a bit of a leap: World War II; Italian life in 1944; the vineyards of Tuscany? But I was burning to write, and I knew I could wait a long, long time before another subject captured my creative attention with enough strength to carry me through the daunting process of writing a first novel.

As it turns out, there were aspects of my subject that were not so random. A young woman’s coming-of-age? A love story? Those things were not beyond my experience. Moreover, I felt at home in the Tuscan landscape. Here’s why:

I was born and raised in Minnesota, as was my husband Angus. When we got married 34 years ago, he told me he wanted to own a vineyard in California. I thought that was a bit odd, and I assumed the urge would go away. He began taking me to the Napa Valley any time we had a chance, and soon I fell in love with it too.

The urge did not go away, so in 1995 – after ten years of looking at real estate and dreaming – we purchased a piece of property near St Helena, California with mature cabernet vineyards on it. We built a house there and began spending about four months a year in Napa. A couple of years later, we bought an old winery nearby so we could harvest our grapes and make our own estate wine. That is how Terra Valentine was born, and we now have more than fifteen vintages of cabernet under our belt. We also grow and buy other varieties of grapes and make pinot noir, sauvignon blanc, Riesling, and – guess what – even a Tuscan blend we call Amore.

The Golden Hour is set on an estate near Lucca, Italy that cultivates vineyards and olive groves. My heroine Giovanna’s family produces olive oil and wine. Even though the war is on, the novel moves through the rhythm of the agricultural year and reflects seasonal changes in the landscape that is so like our own. I couldn’t resist making frequent references to both food and wine.

So…write what you know. Sometimes it’s possible to make a leap in time and place and still manage to do that.
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.

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