Some people interview authors, motivational speakers, professors of creative writing. But what better way to showcase an author's writing than to interview one of their characters? Carly Ellen Kramer, author of 'How to Bake a Chocolate Souffle' let me get together with one of her characters.
Hello Audrey! Thanks so much for taking the time to meet with me. Could you tell us a little about yourself?I think of myself as a late bloomer, I suppose. When I look back on how things have turned out at this point in my life, and compare back to where I thought I was headed as a college student... [laughs] if only I knew then what I know now!
I'm a newish cook, a proud auntie, and a happy wife (never saw that one coming).
I've earned far less than I would have expected, but my relationships are far richer than I could have imagined. I love to travel, and consider myself to be well traveled. Then again, I've had more than a few 29th birthdays [laughs], so I should have seen a few places by now, right?
What motivated you to start travelling?
I started traveling by accident. :) My corporate career wasn't going as well as I had hoped... it was something of a disaster, really... and a mentor from my undergrad years contacted me with a proposal involving travel. It was supposed to be temporary. Funny how things work out.
That’s never a bad thing! One of my favourite parts about travelling is all the food. You said that you’re a newish cook. What is it about cooking that you enjoy?
I enjoy how cooking reminds me of places I've been, and connects me to the people I'm surrounded by. It's no secret that I have had a strained relationship with my parents for many years, so I don't really have a lot of fun cooking memories with my mother. I regret that. But my Gram... [smiles]... Gram and I used to cook together, and I'm trying to get some of that back.
Also, my adorable niece has me wrapped around her finger, and she knows it! Out of all of her aunties, she knows to bring her sweet tooth right to me.
That’s so lovely! And everyone needs an aunt like that. You’re part of a tradition. What’s your biggest culinary accomplishment to date?
Perfecting my recipe enough to convince Annie to stop BUYING cherry preserves for the Inn was an accomplishment. Buying all of those jars... [shakes head]... when cherries grow right in the orchard at the back of the lot! I also make a mean Sopas Do Espirito Santo - a stew I enjoyed while living in the Azores.
I completely know what you mean! Speaking of recipes, I hear you’ve brought one along to share! How did you come up with it?
I made the Sopas Do Espirito Santo for dinner when Dale came to visit. It must have been, gosh, fifteen years since we hung out together in Terciera, but he recognized that stew from the scent alone... he didn't even need to walk into the kitchen to know what I was making. Food memories are powerful that way.
They say that our scent memories are sometimes the most vivid! And what about your cherry preserve recipe? You mentioned you finally perfected it.
The preserves, you mean? That was trial and error... a LOT of trial and error... good thing the cherries are free! My niece gleefully helped taste test the first few batches. Once I had the ratio of cherries to sugar figured out, and the cooking time just right, I asked a few regular guests at the Inn to give me some honest feedback. I couldn't help feeling a little smug when they told me - in front of Annie - that the new preserves were better than the (purchased) preserves they remembered from their last visit.
I'm realizing how Middle Aged that sounds. [laughing] When Annie, Madeleine, and I were in college, we were lucky if we could figure out a frozen pizza between the three of us! Fast forward a few years, and I'm up to my ears in canning jars. Meanwhile, Madeleine has this thing with Chicken Strudel.
I don't understand what her thing is with Chicken Strudel - she's pretty tight lipped about it. All I know is, whenever she's in some sort of a funk, she tears up the kitchen making that recipe. It's delicious, but seriously, she's a slob. I'm cleaning up flour for weeks when that woman gets done.
[Laughs] You’ve definitely come a long way! You'd also hate sharing a kitchen with me. What would you tell people who get into cooking later, like you?
Just dive in headfirst and figure it out as you go! I don't understand emerging cooks who get all exact and precious about it, like they're designing the next space shuttle instead of cooking dinner. Also, cook what you love, not what you think other people will want. If you cook from the heart, the people who love you will love your cooking. (Or, at least they'll love your effort!)
Thanks so much for your time, Audrey. Now that you’ve made me unignorably hungry, I may just have to make some preserves!
Thanks for inviting me today! If you make the preserves, you won't be disappointed. They're seriously addictive.
Now, let’s get to know the author a little bit more! What gave you the idea to write a series like Cherry Harbour? (Yes, I added a 'u.' That's me being Canadian.)
[smiles] Reconnecting with a few girlfriends from my own undergrad days inspired me to begin this series. Life got busy, and I lost touch with a lot of people who were really important to me during those years. They're still important to me, and I shake my head at myself for allowing the slow drift apart for too many years. It's important for women to maintain lifelong friendships. Really important.
What's been your goal while writing? Was it just for yourself at first, or did you always know you wanted to share it?
Writing is a creative outlet for me; I never gave serious thought to writing a fiction novel for publication until I started working on this story.
Of your characters, who do you connect with the most?
Oh my - that depends upon the day and the phase of the moon! In my family life I connect somewhat with Annie. In my professional life I loosely connect with Madeleine - not with her actual life events, but with her frayed nerves beneath the calm exterior! In the kitchen, and particularly over a canning pot, I connect with Audrey.
[smiles] That's quite a mix! Throughout this process of writing and publishing, what's the one lesson learned you want to share with other authors?
Every step takes three times as long as you think it will. [laughs] In all seriousness, an important lesson to hold close is the reality that if you are going to publish a novel, you need to have a thick skin.
Look at authors like E. L. James. I'm not comparing myself to E. L. James (laughs) - what I mean is, she's an excellent example of needing a thick skin. In terms of drawing a wide (wide!) audience and attaining mainstream success - she's made it. But look at how polarizing her books and her very name have become! Millions of readers adore her - and tens of thousands of other readers have written scathing reviews of her work.
What’s next for you?
Now that I have the first book of the series complete, the series seems to be taking on a life of it's own! The characters in book 2 are misbehaving - they aren't following my original outline at all - but I'm giving them some creative license at this point.
Okay, now I have to ask: tell me about Crowded Earth Kitchen!
Crowded Earth Kitchen is my baby. [laughs] Along with a co-blogger, Betsy, I post a new recipe every 48 hours. I also post monthly reviews of a food-related book and offer free book giveaways. There is a Global Recipe Project link at Crowded Earth Kitchen for a charity cookbook Betsy and I are assembling. We are collecting recipes from around the world... one is more delicious than the next... and plan to make the cookbook available by October 1st. The best part? All profits from the sale of the Global Recipe Project cookbook will be donated to nonprofit organizations whose missions center on eliminating hunger.
It's a mission dear to both Betsy and myself. If we can put people on the moon... if we can send signals into outer space, bounce them off of satellites, and use those signals to chatter frivolously on cell phones, surely we can find a way for all global citizens to eat well.
That sounds amazing! Well, thank you so much for your time. I'm glad we were able to get together!
Thank you, Nichole. I appreciate it! Be Well.
You can buy Carly Ellen's book here
And now, because where would we be without food, here is Audrey's recipe for cherry preserves she went on about!
Audrey's Cherry Preserves
2 pounds dark, sweet pitted cherries (fresh or frozen)
1 heaping tablespoon lemon marmalade (or juice and zest from 1/2 lemon)
4 ounces liquid pectin
3 cups sugar
Add half of the pitted cherries to a large pot. Coarsely chop the other half of the cherries in a blender or food processor, and add to the pot with the whole cherries.
Simmer over low heat with stirring until cherries are soft and release a lot of liquid. Bring to a boil, stirring so that the cherries on the bottom of the pot don't burn! Add marmalade, pectin, and sugar. Stirring constantly, return mixture to a hard boil.
Boil for five minutes. Remove from heat, and allow to cool slightly before transferring to glass jars. If you are canning Audrey’s Cherry Preserves as gifts, process in a boiling water bath for 10 minutes. Makes approximately 6 half-pint jars.
Lost in her thoughts of how the last year had unfolded, Audrey went through the motions of filling hot, sterilized mason jars with a funnel and ladle, carefully wiping off the rims, centering flat sealing lids over the wide jar mouths and securing the lids in place with screw bands. When the first batch of twelve jars was full, Audrey used insulated jar tongs to carefully place the jars into the boiling water of the canning pot. Audrey was efficient, and had her workspace gleaming again before the twenty minute processing time in the water bath had elapsed.
The kitchen door flew open and slammed into the wall just as Audrey was attempting to gently transfer a sealed canning jar of cherry preserves from the water bath on the stove to the cooling rack on the counter.
“Auntie Au-rey! Auntie Au-rey!” The small, wide eyed girl implored. “Pease cherries?”
Any irritation Audrey may have felt over having to rid the counter of a broken jar and a ruby colored mess was washed away by the joyful plea of Arianna, who delighted in eating cherry preserves by the spoonful, and knew exactly whom to beg.
Mr. Anderson appeared in the doorway, looking winded and sheepish. “Sorry, Audrey. Miss Arianna and I were taking a walk in the leaves while her Mommy plays piano and she must have smelled the cherries from outside of the window. Her little hand slipped out of mine and she took off like a dart.” He went to scoop up the small child, who was busy frowning at the toes of her tiny red sneakers, her pigtails drooping forward across her ears.
“It’s OK, I’ve got her.” Audrey was rewarded with a bright smile and a hug around the tops of her knees. Mr. Anderson stifled a yawn and proceeded to make himself a cup of tea.
from How to Bake a Chocolate Soufflé, page 250