DEB: Beth, can you tell us a little bit about yourself?
BETH: I’m just another good English major gone bad. I’ve been writing stories since I was in grade school, and although I went to grad school for psychology, I always dreamed of being a novelist. I sold my first book, My Favorite Mistake, right before I defended my dissertation, decided to take a leap of faith and write fiction full-time, and never looked back. The Bake-Off is my seventh women’s fiction novel.
DEB: Tell us a little about your new book, The Bake-Off?
BETH: Here’s the thirty-second summary:
Suburban soccer mom Amy has always wanted to stand out from the crowd. Former child prodigy Linnie just wants to fit in. The two sisters have been estranged for years, but thanks to a series of personal crises and their wily grandmother, they've teamed up to enter a national bake-off in the hopes of winning some serious cash. Armed with the top-secret recipe for Grammy's apple pie, they should be unstoppable. Sure, neither one of them has ever baked anything more complicated than brownie mix, but it's just pie-how hard could it be?
When the competition heats up, what began as a straightforward pact for victory deteriorates into a sugarcoated free-for-all. Amy and Linnie struggle to rebuild their relationship as family secrets, old betrayals and new romances arise. Given the right recipe and an unexpected blend of bitter and sweet, even the oddest pairings can produce something delicious.
DEB: What was your inspiration for this book? Are you an avid cook yourself?
BETH: I got the idea for this book at two a.m. the night before my toddler’s birthday party. I was trying—and failing—to decorate a sheet cake with a tiny red lawnmower and piped green icing to look like grass. The Cake Boss I am not, and I was tired and frustrated and thinking: I can’t do this—I quit. Kid won’t remember it anyway. But then I thought, You know, if someone offered me a million dollars, I would figure out a way to make this cake beautiful. And I was off and running with the idea of two estranged sisters who can’t bake at all, but are desperate for money and recognition. So they enter a family recipe and go for the gold at a national, high-stakes dessert championship, even though they’ve been feuding for years and can barely boil water.
DEB: What type of research did you do for your book?
BETH: Well, any experienced baker can tell you that pie crust is no joke—it’s the culinary equivalent of a triple black belt. So while I was writing the first draft of The Bake-Off, I enrolled in a two-day “Intensive Baking Workshop” at a local culinary school. I was definitely the problem child in that class, but I did learn a lot.
I also interviewed a woman in my city who’s won several national cooking competitions, Turns out, competitive baking is a vibrant subculture unto itself, like beauty pageants or dog shows. Bursting with potential for scandal, rivalry and drama--like “Melrose Place” with muffin tins…or at least, that’s how it is in my book. I have a wild imagination!
DEB: What is your normal writing day like? Do you have things that have to be in place to write comfortably?
BETH: I like to be in my own office and I have to drink room-temperature water the entire time I’m working. I cannot write if I don’t have a huge, full glass of water right next to my keyboard. Apparently, my muse is in a state of perpetual dehydration.
I write whenever my child is sleeping or at preschool. As you might imagine, this means I have a spotty social life and a filthy house, but, uh, that’s good for building my kid’s immune system, right?
DEB: What was it like when you got the word that your first novel would be published?
BETH: My agent called my squalid grad school apartment on a Tuesday at around 5:30 EST and she said:
“Great news! An editor at Pocket wants to buy your book. She’s putting together some numbers right now, and I expect the final offer tomorrow.”
This is the part where a normal human being would whoop for joy and/or shed a solitary, poignant tear and/or throw up in a wastebasket. But here is what I said:
“Tomorrow!?! But what if she changes her mind overnight? What if she gets fired first thing in the morning? What if she gets hit by a bus?”
There ensued a long pause on the other end of the connection, and then my agent sighed and said, “Oh Beth, you’re such a writer.”
DEB: Do you have any advice for new writers?
BETH: Put your head down, start writing, and don’t look up until you’ve completed your first draft. It’s easy to get sidetracked with concerns about finding an agent and the current state of the publishing market, etc., etc., but none of that matters unless you have an actual manuscript to sell. Write now, worry later.
Oh, and don’t get sucked into epic, three-day online Scrabble games with other writers shirking their deadlines. Trust me.
DEB: When you’re not writing, what kinds of books do you like to read? Do you have a favorite author?
BETH: I read it all, baby—fiction, non-fiction, cereal boxes, comic books. Right now, I’m plowing through The Hunger Games trilogy. I thought it would be too dark for me, but I’m loving it!
DEB: What are you working on right now?
BETH: I’m finishing up a draft of a manuscript tentatively titled The Lucky Dog Matchmaking Service, about a woman who has a gift for finding people’s soulmates—their canine soulmates, that is. The research for this book has been a blast; I’ve gone to dog shows and chatted with lots of behaviorists, trainers, and rescue groups.
DEB: Tell us one thing that people may not know about you?
BETH: I’d love to spend a year living in Alaska. (It’s possible I watched too many episodes of “Northern Exposure” in high school.)
The publisher is sponsoring a giveaway for two copies of The Bake-Off. There are a few simple rules:
~ You must be a Google Friend Connect follower to participate.
~ US Addresses only (Publisher Request)
~ The deadline to enter this giveaway is Midnight EST May 17th.
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