Vintage Attraction by Charles Blackstone comes out in October.
Next month, local author Charles Blackstone releases his latest novel, Vintage Attraction, a Chicago story in more ways than one. On the surface, it is the fictional tale of Peter Hapworth and celebrity sommelier Isabelle Conway, a couple in the midst of a whirlwind, wine-centric romance in the Windy City. The characters buy a condo in Pilsen, go on a date at The Tasting Room, and even buy groceries at Dominick’s, all while Conway hones Hapworth’s knowledge of wine.
On another level, it’s also the author’s semi-autobiographical story about his life with wife Alpana Singh, master sommelier, owner of The Boarding House (720 N. Wells St., 312-280-0720), and former host of Check, Please! With an official release date of October 22, Vintage Attraction is available now for pre-order at Barnes and Noble (1130 N. State St., 312-280-8155; barnesandnoble.com). Below, Blackstone gives us an insider’s perspective into a novel that’s as carefully crafted and complex as a good glass of wine.
How long was this novel in the making? CHARLES BLACKSTONE: I began [taking notes on a trip] for the parts about Greece in the spring of 2008; I had an idea that I was going to use them in something, but I didn’t know exactly what form or where. I took these notes and had these experiences and then didn’t look at them again for months. But from the idea to the finished product, about five years.
Being that Vintage Attraction tells such a personal narrative, what message do you hope readers take away from it? CB: I think all literature has the goal of being an experience of some sort; we read for some kind of information. [In Vintage Attraction], there are very specific things people could learn about wine or wine pairing, and maybe gain insight into that industry. I just like the idea: I think of it as a reader just being able to enter into that world and sort of follow the experience of this outsider, which is just [the] kind of thing I had done. More than eight years ago, I was introduced to the actual consuming of [wine]—like how to open sparkling wine without injuring anybody, [which] I mostly can do now without casualty.
You reference actual places in Chicago; are they your favorite spots, or how did you choose which places to use? CB: Certainly there are some places Alpana and I had gone—like the first night we met, we did end up at Bijan’s Bistro (663 N. State St., 312-202-1904). I’ve always liked to read and write [works] set in Chicago […] so it wasn’t too difficult to figure that stuff out as I went.
Who are your literary inspirations? CB: The major influences are Faulkner and Fitzgerald and Hemingway. Other influences [include] Richard Yates when it comes to the novel form, and Jay McInerney, who’s [work] was the first time I really started to notice wine in literature. The wine starts to become a character within the narrative, so I thought that was interesting.