Julie Stock - Contemporary Feel-Good Romance From Around the World
Julie Stock writes contemporary feel-good romance from around the world: novels, novellas and short stories. She published her debut novel, From Here to Nashville, in 2015, after starting to write as an escape from the demands of her day job as a teacher. Starting Over at the Vineyard in Alsace is her latest book, and the second in the Domaine des Montagnes series set on a vineyard. As our Author of the Day, Stock tells us all about her book, Starting Over at the Vineyard in Alsace.
Please give us a short introduction to what Starting Over at the Vineyard in Alsace is about.
Starting Over at the Vineyard in Alsace tells the story of Lottie and Thierry who met towards the end of book one in this series. Lottie’s about to become a single mum and is trying to get over having been abandoned by the father of her baby. Thierry’s wife died nearly two years ago and he’s still struggling to deal with his grief. They love each other but they’re both wary of trusting someone new with their heart.
Was there anything in particular that made you want to write this story?
I wanted to tell Lottie’s story in particular because she’s always been a bit of a wild child, unlike her sister, Fran, and I wanted to explore how she would deal with this massive change in her life. Inevitably, she struggles to come to terms with facing life with a baby without the father, and it makes her determined to be independent which is what brings her into conflict with Thierry, who only wants to protect her.
What makes Thierry Bernard tick?
Having lost his wife in a tragic accident, Thierry is full of guilt, and he spends a large part of this story over-compensating for what happened and being over-protective towards Lottie to try and make up for it.
As the winemaker on the estate, Thierry is deeply involved with the day-to-day running of the vineyard. He is dedicated to his job and Didier’s family who own the estate.
This is book 2 of a series. Can it be read as a standalone? How do the other books in the series tie in with this one?
Although this is book two in the series and set on the same vineyard, it can be read as a standalone story in its own right. Lottie’s sister, Fran and her partner, Didier, were the main characters in the first story and they do feature in this second book as well, but not as prominently. Similarly, Ellie and Henri are in both the first and second books, but the final book in the series, which I’ll be writing next, will tell their story.
Why did you pick springtime in Alsace as a backdrop for this story?
I wanted to focus on a different season of the year for each book so that I could show what’s happening in the vineyard throughout the year. Book one, The Vineyard in Alsace, was set in the summer/autumn and this one is set in the spring of the following year. I also liked the idea of spring representing new growth and new life, which ties in well with Lottie being about to give birth.
Is there an underlying message you wish to relay about basic human nature through your characters?
I wanted to convey Lottie’s desire for independence and her determination not to rely on anyone else to support her after what has happened in her past. I think that’s a genuine reaction to the betrayal she felt after being abandoned by the father of her baby.
At the same time, I wanted to show how Thierry is over-protective towards her as a result of his past, and how naturally, that will bring them into conflict. It takes a while for them both to compromise and to make the decision to take another chance with each other. I wanted to show how hard it is to trust others again when we’ve had our hearts broken, but that at the same time, we have to take that risk if we want to find love.
Your supporting characters are individuals that the reader genuinely cares about. How did you pull this off?
Thank you! I think all authors work hard to make their characters believable, and it doesn’t always go according to plan. But giving characters emotions and experiences that readers can relate to helps, and that’s what we all try to do to the best of our ability. With Fran and Didier’s struggle to have another child in this story, I was drawing on some of my own personal experience, which adds another layer of authenticity when you write what you know. I hope that I can also bring depth to Ellie’s and Henri’s story when I start writing that one soon.
Tell us more about the book cover and how it came about.
Well, the cover for the first book was done by one designer but when it came to the second book, she wasn’t available to work to my time schedule. As it was three years since the first book came out, I’d started working with another designer on my book covers anyway and I asked her if she could do something for me that was similar to the first one. And I have to say that I was delighted with the job she did. I took one look at it and loved it straight away. I think it captures the essence of spring and the mountains beautifully.
Do you have any interesting writing habits? What is an average writing day like for you?
When I’m writing, I like to get my words done first thing so that I don’t have to worry all day about it! I tend to use the Pomodoro Technique, writing for 25 minutes and then taking a 5-10 minute break. I just keep going until I finish, and then I can relax after that. I don’t do any editing until the first draft is completed. I’m planning my novels more and more now, and so when I come to write into Scrivener each day, I have my notes by my side and it makes writing easier knowing what I’ve planned beforehand.
Besides writing, what other secret skills do you have?
I like to think I’m a pretty good cook! I love food and I enjoy nothing more than cooking a good meal and then enjoying it with a nice glass of wine accompanied by my family.
Blurb for Starting Over at the Vineyard in Alsace
"She’s proud, independent and about to be a single mum. Since his wife died, he’s become fiercely protective. Can they take another chance on love?
After being abandoned by her partner when she falls pregnant, Lottie Schell goes home to live on The Vineyard in Alsace determined to raise her child and to provide for them both without having to depend on anyone else. Thierry Bernard is still dealing with his grief and guilt following the death of his wife two years earlier. He needs to move on from the tragedy of his past and to accept the truth of what happened.
When circumstances force Lottie and Thierry closer together and their attraction deepens, they both find it hard to compromise – and they’re both wary about trusting someone new with their heart.
Can Lottie and Thierry move on from their pasts, find a new beginning together and start over? Escape to The Vineyard in Alsace with this romantic read set in springtime in the heart of this picturesque French wine region."