One of the world’s foremost wine experts shares her experience, strength, and hope. Read more here;
Natalie MacLean isn’t sure how to classify her new book, Wine Witch on Fire: Rising from the Ashes of Divorce, Defamation, and Drinking Too Much.
“It is a memoir, certainly,” shares the Canadian wine expert over the phone with Celtic Life International. “But it is also a self-help book, with tips on how to enjoy drinking wine in moderation.”
MacLean is more than qualified to speak on the subject; along with an array of awards and accolades, she is the author of two previous bestselling books – Red, White and Drunk All Over: A Wine-Soaked Journey from Grape to Glass and Unquenchable: A Tipsy Quest for the World’s Best Bargain Wine. She also hosts the popular podcast Unreserved Wine Talk.
Her latest literary effort is a true coming-of-middle-age story that recounts her determination to rebuild both her personal and professional lives after divorcing her husband of twenty years, fighting for her son, and surviving a series of defamatory online attacks.
“It is a book that I never thought I would write,” MacLean admits candidly. “It took me ten years, and I had no intention of publishing it. When I started chronicling about that particular year – the year my world fell apart – it was a private exercise to make sense of what had happened.”
The process proved to be therapeutic.
“A memoir is processed through the lens of time and reflection. And my healing came when I completed the book. As I put the pieces together – pieces I had either blocked out or forgotten – it actually made sense how it all came to be.”
Writing the recollection was also an exercise in storytelling.
“A memoir needs character development. It needs scenes and setting and a plot and a narrative arc. I had to learn all that. One of my writing coaches told me to simply move from scene to scene, like I was writing a movie in my mind; give us a few details, but don’t overdo it; let us fill in our imagination and what that person might look like; give some telling characteristics and then say what happened and then close the door. That’s a scene.”
She adds that while the specifics of the story may be different to each reader, the feelings are universal.
“A lot of memoirists publish their stories so that others feel less alone. There is the potential for others not only to see themselves in your story, but also to heal. “People identify with feelings of loss or grief or depression or joy. It’s the feelings that connect, as they are so fundamental to human existence.”
The new book came as a bit of a shock to those in her inner circle.
“My friends have always seen me as upbeat and forever quipping and joking around – never a down moment. What I went through was a total surprise to many of them as I hadn’t shared what was happening with anyone, not even my family. When I did start to let people in, many wanted to help, but my hot-button issues weren’t their hot button issues. The irony, of course, is that as I started to share, they shared similar stories. Suddenly, we were having these deep, meaningful discussions that brought us even closer together.”
At one point during her time of duress, MacLean considered drastic measures.
“My father was an alcoholic, and there are many relatives on both sides of my family who have issues with drinking, so I was at risk. However, giving up wine meant walking away from my entire career and livelihood, and I had to ask myself do I want to forego something that brings me a lot of joy? Had it become a crutch of sorts, and should I abstain? Or can I drink in moderation?
“I am very cognizant of every glass I take now. I measure it all. I know my limits, and I stick to them. I don’t take it for granted that perhaps one day I may have to give it up completely. But for now, for today, I feel that I can manage it.”
So far, feedback for the new narrative has been extremely positive – both from those who have given up the bottle and, perhaps interestingly, from those who don’t drink.
“Some of these people never got into alcohol at all and they told me that they really enjoyed it and that it helped them in some way. That means a lot to me – like any author, I want to make a difference by sharing my experience, strength, and hope.”