Whispers in the Vineyard - An Interview with Author Justin Kojok


Whispers In The Vineyard is a romance set in Ghana, and was a runner-up in the Romance category of the 2024 Los Angeles Book Festival. Author Justin Kojok answers some questions on his work, which explores a return to a time-honored way of family life in Africa.

Does Romance get the respect as a genre that it deserves?

JUSTIN KOJOK: Romance novels delve into profound, universal emotions and frequently tackle significant social issues, lending the genre both impact and relevance. Despite the perception that romance might not receive the respect it deserves, a broader perspective reveals a promising future. The genre is experiencing resurgence, marked by a vibrant and expanding readership eager for stories that combine emotional depth with critical societal themes. This upward trend highlights a renewed appreciation for romance narratives, suggesting a dynamic and flourishing future for the genre as it continues to evolve and resonate with contemporary audiences.

Why did you set the story where you did?

JK: I chose Ghana, specifically the vineyard setting in Domeabra, to provide a rich cultural backdrop that beautifully complements the universal themes of love and rivalry. This choice offers a distinctive platform for exploring the enduring traditions and the contemporary challenges the community faces, thereby infusing the narrative with a profound sense of authenticity and depth. This setting not only enriches the story but also allows for a deeper engagement with the complex dynamics of personal and communal growth within a culturally vibrant context.

What role did wine play in your storytelling? Would you have a glass while writing?

JK: Wine plays a pivotal role in the novel, knottily woven into its themes to symbolize the complex layers of relationships and the nurturing of love and community. While the romantic notion of sipping a glass of wine during the writing process is appealing to help connect with the characters' sensory experiences, my storytelling is most lucid and authentic when I am fully present, seated at my desk. This disciplined approach allows me to delve deeply into the narrative, ensuring every detail is crafted precisely and empathetically.

What does Domeabra represent to you?

JK: Domeabra epitomizes the essence of community and the beauty of unity amidst diversity. It stands as a witness to the harmonious blending of heritage with progress, embodying the resilience and collective strength of its people. In Domeabra, deeply rooted traditions and forward-thinking innovations converge, creating a dynamic environment where differences and unity are acknowledged and celebrated. This unique fusion makes Domeabra a symbol of how communities can thrive through collaboration and mutual respect.

Have you ever fostered a cat? A rooster?

JK: Although I have not personally owned a cat but hard so many roosters back in the days, incorporating these characters was essential to authentically portray the intimate bond with nature inherent in rural life, a core element of Domeabra's setting. These animals symbolize the village's deep connection to the natural world, enriching the narrative and grounding the story in a setting that truly reflects the rhythms and daily interactions of rural existence.

What was your background in vineyards?

JK: While not based on personal experience, my background in vineyards is founded on extensive research to bring an authentic touch to the narrative. I delved deeply into the winemaking world, visiting numerous vineyards, engaging in wine-tasting events, and engaging with vintners to ask detailed questions about the winemaking process. This meticulous approach was crucial to ensure that every aspect of vineyard life depicted in the novel resonates with true-to-life accuracy, enriching the story's realism and adding significant depth to the setting and experiences of the characters.

The ending seems to promise a return to this setting. Is that your intention?

JK: The ending of "Whispers In The Vineyard" intentionally leaves the narrative arc unfinished, paving the way for probably a sequel that promises to delve deeper into the evolving narrative of Loom, Feika, their daughter Loombik, and the vibrant community of Domeabra. This open-ended climax is crafted to stoke readers' curiosity, setting the stage for exploring how these well-loved characters confront new challenges and seize emerging opportunities. The story, if pursued, will be poised to expand on their personal growth, the dynamics of their relationships, and their continuing efforts to blend their legacies within the rich textile of their community.

The allusions to Romeo & Juliet are strong. Was that your inspiration?

JK: I first encountered "Romeo and Juliet" during my teenage years, and the timeless narrative deeply resonated with me. However, my novel "Whispers in the Vineyard" encompasses the themes of star-crossed lovers and deep-seated familial discord, and it introduces a hopeful divergence that emphasizes reconciliation and the building of bridges. This approach transforms the traditional narrative of doomed love into a narrative of hope, highlighting the possibility of unity and healing even in the face of deep-rooted rivalry and divisions.