Madeleine LaBlange, Annie Anderson, and Audrey Navarro shared formative years as roommates at Chicago’s Catholic haven for women, the historic Abbott College. If only they could have predicted the collisions between their carefully crafted life plans and the realities they discover beyond campus...
Madeleine harbors dreams of becoming a concert pianist while Dr. Reynold Fenwick, her mercurial graduate school mentor, harbors fantasies of Madeleine. Will pursuing her dreams be worth the cost? Will an evening in Budapest change her life forever?
Annie plans to build a perfect family with her perfect husband in the cutthroat news media industry, until an abrupt tragedy shakes the foundations of her marriage. What happens when she feels pulled between the two men she loves most, her husband and her father?
Audrey leaves her religious, restrictive parents behind and aims for Chicago’s downtown skyline, dating recklessly and staring down each grueling workday one Chicago Dog at a time. Will an island respite lure her away from her corporate future? When she finds herself in the arms of an unexpected lover, will she have the courage to stand up for her own evolving sense of self?
Follow the journeys of these remarkable women, and cheer them on as they navigate life, love, and chocolate soufflé.
Includes over a dozen decadent new recipes from Crowded Earth Kitchen!
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Crowded Earth Kitchen: http://crowdedearthkitchen.com/
1. If you could work with any other author, who would it be and why?
That's easy - Barbara O'Neal! I'm a huge Barbara O'Neal fan. The Lost Recipe for Happiness was my introduction to O'Neal's books, and I was completely hooked. I have now read every book she's ever written! I love to read food fiction novels (and ALWAYS try at least one recipe from every book I read), and particularly love how Ms. O'Neal blends serious story lines and edgy prose with decadent recipes. Her recipes are fantastic (those tamales, Oh My!), and her plot lines are sometimes edgy. I think many cooks can relate to this.
2. What would be a typical working day for you? When and where do you write?
Is there a typical working day? In all seriousness, I don't have a steadfast daily routine. I set monthly goals and deadlines for myself, and am pretty serious about meeting them. Some months I write for the same few hours every day, usually after dinner and late into the evenings. Other months I take more of a sprint-and-rest approach, writing practically around the clock for a few days until I crash and need a few days away.
Where I write depends upon what I'm writing. If I'm sketching, meaning I'm just setting scenes, working out mannerisms of characters, those sorts of things, I work in the quiet of my home office. If I'm writing dialogue, I like to be surrounded by dialogue, and prefer to work in public places such as coffee shops.
3. What is the hardest part of the writing for you?
Honoring my characters is very important to me. If a character is flat or (worse) stereotyped, then I haven't done my duty as a fiction author. I am particularly careful when writing characters whose traits are very different from my own - characters with ethnic backgrounds different from my own, characters who serve in the military, characters who are gay... I need to conduct a lot of research to maintain authenticity. For me, this is the hardest part of writing.
4. When and why did you first start writing?
When it comes to writing novels, I was a bit of a late bloomer! I have an established career in another field, and sometimes that work gets a little intense (I'm really Batgirl, but don't tell anyone). As much as I love, er, being Batgirl, I found that I needed a creative outlet to help take the edge off. On a last minute whim, I participated in a NaNoWriMo challenge several years ago. I thought it would just be a fun, goofy way to try something a little different for a month. Instead, I was sucked into the vortex of novel writing. The rest is history!
5. How did you come up with the idea for your book?
I help write and maintain a food blog, Crowded Earth Kitchen, which is a lot of fun - I love creating new recipes and networking with blog followers. I added a "freebies" feature to the blog, where I give away a different food fiction novel once per month. Every time I reviewed and posted a new food fiction book on my "freebies" page, I considered what a fun challenge it might be to write and share my OWN food fiction novel.
Around the same time as I was contemplating this idea, I found myself reconnecting with girlfriends from my undergraduate college days. It's been pretty fabulous, being able to pick up where we left off and rekindle old friendships. It's also been a bit bittersweet, as reconnecting meant learning about tragic events that had struck a few classmates. At risk of sounding terribly cliché, those events brought many of us closer together.
The combination of these experiences, however unrelated they might seem at a glance, formed the inspiration behind How to Bake a Chocolate Soufflé.
6. Are you a big reader? If so, what are you reading now?
I was reading between 200 and 300 books per year before I started actively writing; now I aim for about 50 books per year. It's a bit ironic, how writing books cuts into the time I have for actually reading books! Right now, I am quite infatuated with Paullina Simons. Oh my goodness, she is such a talented and inspiring author. Her lengthy historical fiction novels are outside of the sorts of books I usually read, and yet I can't seem to set them down. On the recommendation of a Goodreads friend, I picked up a copy of The Bronze Horseman. I don't say this lightly... The Bronze Horseman is the best book I've ever read. I'm now reading the sequel, Tatiana and Alexander, and am finding this book equally captivating.
7. Do you have any advice for other aspiring writers?
Yes. Write your first draft with reckless abandon! No matter how terrible you think parts of that first draft may be, just FINISH the draft. You can't edit what you don't finish! Once you have a complete first draft, put it away for a few weeks. When you return to your draft, your editing eye will be a bit more objective. Read it and edit it yourself... but you're not finished! Now is the time for beta readers, who may advise you to revisit entire sections. The decision is all yours, of course, but if you trust your beta readers you should give their suggestions serious consideration. Finally, when you think your editing is complete, hire a professional editor. In my opinion, there's no getting around this - hiring a professional editor separates novice writing from professional writing. Perhaps you can get creative - beg an English teacher to serve as your editor and "pay" them with homemade cookies - but you NEED an editor.