Dark Wine at Midnight by Jenna Barwin will keep you up all night – reading, not hiding under the bed in fright. It’s Book I of A Hill Vampire Novel, and I can’t wait till Book II is available.
Murderous attacks on prominent vampires unsettle everyone who must adhere to the rigid rules of living on the Hill of Sierra Escondida. We meet Cerissa Patel, a medical scientist from New York and member of the mysterious Lux, and Henry Bautista, a successful vineyard owner on the Hill. A host of other vampires compete to attract the attention of the intelligent and beautiful Patel, some for love, or friendship, or business prospects – or to ban her from their protected enclave.
Pursuit by two of the town’s most eligible vampire bachelors complicates things. Has Cerissa been sent to spy on the residents, to kill them, or only to open the research lab she claims is her goal? Is the danger to her or because of her? And just what is the research she wants to pursue?
Barwin’s intelligence shows in her authentic rendering of blackjack, wine making, horseback riding, vampires, business politics, and a complex plot that never wanders off track. It leaves plenty of suspects about who might hold a grudge big enough to kill, and who is a spy or a loyal friend. One of the most rewarding aspects of the book is the characterization of every person – each is believable and has depth, no matter how much or little their presence in the book. The story is paced just right as Barwin lingers over some scenes and plows through others, leaving the reader breathless at every turn. Did I mention the sexy romance? Oh yeah, that too.
Vampire stories aren’t something I usually seek out but I do look for excellent writing, a compelling story line, and characters who are interesting and unique. Dark Wine fulfilled all my hopes for a story that would keep me engaged, and it did that with aplomb and sparkles. Barwin is a talented writer who tops out on all the markers that identify really good writing.
If you like fantasy romance, you’ll love this book.
That’s what I wrote for my review of Barwin’s book on the Amazon site. As a writer, I’m interested in finding out about the journey of other writers, both in creating and marketing their stories. So you’ll appreciate my excitement when I had a chance to interview the author.
May I now introduce you to Jenna Barwin.
S: Jenna, thank you for agreeing to this interview.
J: Thanks for asking, Shari. I’m very happy to talk with you about my writing.
S: What’s the “elevator pitch” for Dark Wine at Midnight?
J: Dark Wine at Midnight, the first book in my urban fantasy Hill Vampire series, is equal parts mystery, political intrigue, and love story. It’s also a little bit Dr. Frankenstein meets Shark Tank, but with vampire entrepreneurs.
Here’s the elevator pitch: A research scientist is forced by her people to spy on the vampires she’s trying to help. One of those vampires is an expert winemaker with eyes the color of dark bourbon—and just as intoxicating. To succeed, she must convince him to trust her, despite the dark secrets each carries, and the mutual attraction they can’t resist.
S: What did you enjoy most about writing this book?
J: Escaping into the fantasy and watching the story unfold. I particularly enjoyed discovering the chemistry between the lovers, Henry and Cerissa, and learning who they are as people.
S: Escaping into fantasy sounds like a fun adventure. What inspired you to write about vampires?
J: I’ve always been fascinated by vampires. I read Dracula as a young teen, and watched all the horror movies. And something in me wanted the vampire, the tragic hero, to get the girl.
I’m also fascinated by what the vampire represents in society. I saw Dracula as the clash between modern science and superstition. But over one family dinner, I listened to a relative argue that the 19th century vampire tale represented the Englishman’s fear of losing his “women” to Eastern European immigrants.
The more you dig, the more there is to see. In some ways, I think the vampire story parallels substance addiction—the vampire is addicted to drinking a substance that, by drinking it, hurts the one he/she loves.
S: Addiction is a very interesting metaphor I’d never considered before in relationship to vampires, but I see your point. It makes the theme of your book a current topic, something on everyone’s mind, as many of us confront addiction in the people we love or in ourselves.
J: There are so many interesting themes to play with when it comes to vampires. I enjoyed flipping some of them around. For example, I got tired of reading about white European vampires. The vampire community in Dark Wine at Midnight is multicultural, with residents from places like Mexico and Kenya. They are immigrants who came to California, and made their home here.
S: Are you married to a vampire?
J: LOL, no, I’m happily married to a mortal. Although he’ll tell you he’s a superhuman ninja.
S: OK, I didn’t really think so, but you probably wouldn’t admit if you were. So tell me one quirky thing about your writing process.
J: I see the movie in my head before I write a scene. I’ll hear the characters speaking, and see them move in their environment. Because of that, my first draft reads like a movie script. Then I have to go back and ask myself, what is the point-of-view character thinking about? What are they feeling? And I have to try to show that, too.
S: By the way, the book cover is gorgeous.
J: Why, thank you. I’m glad you like it.
S: Aside from vampires, what inspires your writing?
J: Relationships. I think relationships change people. They call us to be our best selves, to have insight into who we are, and why we do what we do.
In addition to relationships, I get some of my most creative spurts after long hours spent applying analytical and logic skills to a task. Too much left brain work will cause my right brain to jump up and down and scream “Let me out! I wanna play, I wanna play.”
S: Do you have any favorite books about writing?
J: It’s a toss-up. Lisa Cron’s Wired for Story is at the top of my list, but Debra Dixon’s GMC: Goal, Motivation, and Conflict follows as a close second. At this year’s California Dreamin’ Conference, both authors gave presentations on writing, and I was taking notes as fast as I could type.
S: What’s next on your writing agenda?
J: Dark Wine at Sunrise is book 2 in the Hill Vampire series, and I’m currently editing it.
S: I’m happy to know that as I’m looking forward to reading the next book soon. Where can we find your current book?
J: Dark Wine at Midnight is currently free in Kindle Unlimited. The eBook and paperback are also available for purchase on Amazon. Here is the link:
S: Where can we find out more about you and what you write?
J: For the latest news and special offers, sign up to be a VIP Reader at: https://jennabarwin.com/jenna-barwins-newsletter/
Or find me on social media and join the conversation:
Twitter: https://twitter.com/JennaBarwin (@JennaBarwin)
S: Thanks for the information, Jenna. I wish you well on your writing career.
My dear Ink Flare Readers, I hope you find this interview illuminating, and I bet you’ll love Barwin’s book.
Cover image courtesy: Author