Learning as We Go: An Interview with Diana and Michele of Wine, Women & Words

I am thrilled to have Diana Giovinazzo and Michele Leivas from the podcast Wine, Women & Words here today. This dynamic duo (I’m so lucky to know another one) was gracious enough to have me and my debut novel on their podcast in February, and I knew instantly that I wanted to interview them for this series. They ask interesting questions and have a rapport that showcases genuine fondness for each other. That rapport helps make their podcast stand out, and I’d recommend it it anyone. Six years after the first episode, they are still going strong, and some recent episodes include return guests like Brandie June, Stacy Murphy, and Kim Taylor Blakemore (all such wonderful authors!). Diana writes that she is a “self-proclaimed history nerd with an insatiable wanderlust,” and Michele is a “book and chocolate junkie.” Who could go wrong talking with people like that? Both writers, Diana is the author of The Woman in Red and Antoinette’s Sister, while Michele is still honing her debut while she serves as a journalist. These folks, like everyone else on my list, have to-do lists at least a mile long, so I truly appreciate that they took some time to answer a few of my questions.

Christina: You say on your website that “Wine, Women & Words was born out of a mutual love of books and wine.” Who had the idea first? Did you have any struggles in moving from idea to execution? Any reservations?

Diana: Often times when a best friend comes up to you with an idea, its really easy to say yes, even without much information. Michele had reached out to me one day and simply said “We’re doing a podcast. It’s going to be called Wine, Women & Words.” When I told her that I didn’t know a thing about doing a podcast she said, “That’s ok. Neither do I.” It’s been a wonderful six years of experimenting and learning as we go.

Michele: The show has definitely evolved over the years. It started out with just us creating a theme for each episode and just chatting with each other about books. Once we came up with the idea of interviewing authors and doing a book of the month, I think we really hit our stride.

Christina: How did you settle on the title for the podcast? Were any other names in the running?

Michele: I don’t think there were any other names in the running. Diana and I once started a book club with one of our other friends and we called it “Bound by Books” so I think we’re just naturally drawn to alliterations. 🙂

Christina: Your camaraderie during recording relaxes the guest. How long have you known each other? What do you admire about each other? Do your reading tastes differ?

Diana: Gosh, we’ve been friends for a good fourteen years. We worked at a crappy travel agency and immediately bonded over our shared love of books. Michele is an incredible mother; she is super creative and has a keen eye for detail.

Michele: Diana is one of those friends who will tell you what you need to hear rather than what you want to hear, and that is an invaluable quality to have in a friend. I don’t actually think she’s afraid of anything, and I admire how fearless she is. Our reading tastes do differ: I tend to pick up YA fantasy and thrillers when I’m reading outside of the podcast, although Diana and I are constantly recommending books in any genre to each other that we think the other would love.

Diana: We definitely have different tastes in books. We have such a wide range of books that we like to read that there is definitely a lot of overlap in our taste. I have a tendency to lean toward historical fiction, romance, and urban fantasy.

Christina: Guests have the ability to contact you right on your site. Do you each have a wish list of authors you’d like to interview?

Diana: We have been so lucky to get so many authors on the show, many of whom have been our literary idols and influences. I think the only ones I have left that I want are Kristen Hannah, Neil Gaiman, Diana Galbadon, and Ann Goldstein, the translator for Elena Ferrante, Paula McLain. Though this list can certainly grow . . .

Michele: We really have been so fortunate to interview so many incredible authors, including several authors I’ve read and admired for years. The podcast has also introduced me to so many new authors I continue to read after our interview with them. My author wish list includes Ruth Ware, P. Djéli Clark, and TJ Klune.

Christina: What’s the most unexpected thing that’s happened on your podcast?

Diana: Speaking for the both of us, I think the most unexpected thing that happened is that the show has turned into a masterclass for writing. We learn so much from our fellow writers about craft, marketing, and the literary life that it often feels like our own MFA.

Michele: Diana definitely speaks for both of us on that. I have learned so much from the authors we’ve interviewed.

Christina: Can you give us a little insight into the process of podcasting? The finished file sounds seamless, but how much work goes into preparation? Editing? How much of an interview actually gets edited out?

Michele: It really is a pretty simple process. Whoever has read that week’s book makes the questions list before the show and e-mails it over. That’s really it as far as pre-show prep. When I edit the show, I listen through it again and cut out any audio issues, excessive “um’s” (a habit I’m trying to break). There really isn’t a ton that gets cut out for the episode unless I’m trying to trim down for time because we went off on too many off-topic tangents (which definitely happens sometimes).

Christina: When you first heard yourself on audio, were you surprised at what you sounded like? Do you have any tendencies that grate on you when you listen to the files? Does anything that the other person does grate on you?

Michele: I used to cringe whenever I heard my voice recorded, but now it doesn’t really bother me. The only thing that really bugs me now is if I say “um” too many times or if I stumble over my words in the process of asking a question.

Christina: You’ve been at it since 2016! Congratulations! When you first started, did you think you’d still be doing this in 2022? Do you have goals for the podcast going forward?

Diana: You know, I can’t say I would know whether we would be doing this for this long. Given that Michele has moved to the other side of the country, the podcast has kept us close. I can see us continuing until we are at least in our eighties—that’s assuming Michele can put up with me for that long. I think moving forward I would like to create a book club around the podcast so that we have more of an interactive community.

Michele: I don’t think I ever really anticipated the show evolving into what it’s become today, and I am so thrilled with what we have now. I get to see one of my best friends every week despite the fact that we now live across the country from each other while meeting and interviewing incredibly talented, wonderful writers. I love Diana’s idea about creating an interactive community.

Christina: Pets are always fair game in these interviews! Diana, you have “a small menagerie,” while Michele has her own too. Can you tell us a little bit about your pets, past and present? How do they come into play in podcasting?

Diana: We’re always sharing stories about our families, which include our pets. I have two tortoises named Zippy and Charle, a bearded dragon named Thrax, and two miniature dachshunds named Lilo and Fizzgig. The dogs are six and nine, so I guess they were trained for the podcast. Lilo is usually on my lap and will pop up from time to time to make sure everyone knows she is there.

Michele: Now that my littles are not so little anymore (*sob*), we don’t get that many special guest appearances from them during the show, but my animals—cats especially—aren’t camera shy. We have two cats: Fish and Chips. Fish was a rescue we adopted in Chicago, and Chips literally stumbled out of the woods behind our house here in Florida, followed me straight into our house, and never left. We also have a dog named Addy, who thinks she’s a little bigger than she actually is.

Christina: Anything else you’d like to share with the readers?

Diana: When people ask me for writing advice I tell them to read everything, from the back of shampoo bottles to the greats. Reading is your best teacher, but at the same time don’t forget to have fun with that. There are great novels out there written by amazing authors that deserve to be read, regardless of their genre.

Diana and Michele and the Wine, Women & Words podcast can be found in multiple places!
Website: https://www.winewomenwordspodcast.com/
Instagram: winewomenwords
Facebook: @winewomenandwords
Linktree (with ways to listen and more): https://linktr.ee/winewomenwords

Thanks to Diana and Michele for agreeing to this interview! If you know of an artist, author, or podcaster who’d like to be featured in an interview (or you are an author who would like to be featured), feel free to leave a comment or email me via my contact page.

Leave a Comment