Chicklit Club
 

INTERVIEW

October 2015
 

DANA BATE

 

Dana Bate is an award-winning journalist and author of the novels Too Many Cooks, A Second Bite at the Apple and The Secret Supper Club. She lives outside Philadelphia with her family. (Interview by Jade Craddock)

  1. If Too Many Cooks was a dish, how would you describe it?

    Juicy, enticing, and satisfying.

  2. I loved Kelly’s immersion into British life – as an American author is there anything you particularly struggled with about Britain?

    I did have a few issues with my UK copy editor when it came to the names of certain ingredients. For example, to welcome Kelly to London, Natasha makes a dish using what Americans call Cornish hens (or Cornish game hens), but apparently that name isn’t used at all in England! Brits call them poussins. And though I’m fairly familiar with the way British people speak (my husband is English), there were certain places in dialogue where I needed my UK copy editor to help me hone the way a Brit would say something.

  3. Why did you choose London as a setting?

    London is one of my favourite cities in the world! My husband was born and raised there, so we used to visit fairly often and even lived there for a few months at the end of 2009. Now that we have a toddler, we visit only about once a year and spend most of our time in Hampshire visiting family. Since I wanted to set the story in a foreign location to make Kelly a “fish out of water,” I thought it would be fun to set the book in a city that holds a special place in my heart.

  4. Kelly tests out recipes for Natasha. Did you test out these recipes too, if so which was your favourite and most importantly, did you manage to produce the perfect kale burger?

    I did test some of the recipes, but not the dreaded kale burger! I’ll leave that one to Kelly – or a competent chef :). My favourite was probably the banana bread. It took me a few attempts to get the texture just right, but I think I achieved banana bread perfection!

  5. I loved the characters, especially your celeb characters actress Natasha and MP Hugh. Did you model them on any real-life celebs?

    Yes and no. Natasha is sort of a mishmash of lots of different celebrities – or, rather, the public personae of lots of different celebrities. I didn’t model her after a single person because, honestly, I don’t know what any of those people are like in private, and it’s much more fun to create a character who has her own motivations. And Hugh isn’t modelled on anyone famous. He is purely a figment of my imagination!

  6. Natasha is a piece of work, but as your character, do you understand her and feel any empathy towards her?

    I do, actually, at least a little bit. We live in a culture that puts celebrities on pedestals but then often can’t wait to tear them down. Celebrities are surrounded by lots of friends and fans when their star is rising, but as soon as their star falls, they find their circle is much smaller. I remember one friend in Hollywood telling me that top movie stars keep their inner circle as small as possible because each additional person is another person you have to trust not to betray you to the tabloids. That seems like a really sad way to live, even if most celebrities chose that lifestyle.

  7. The main relationship in the novel is potentially a bit of a tightrope to walk with trying to make it acceptable without compromising the characters. Did you have any worries about this relationship or about how it or the characters would be perceived?

    Yes! I worried about it a lot, actually. Infidelity isn’t a subject I take lightly, so it was important to me that I make the motivations plausible and the characters and situation sympathetic.

  8. I love the fact that the ending remains open but it does make me wonder if there’s a sequel? And if so do you already know how that will end?

    I hadn’t planned on a sequel, but that doesn’t mean one isn’t possible! You never know…

  9. Your novels all have a foodie theme, at what point in the writing process does this come about?

    The very beginning. I always start with some foodie element – the character’s job (or dream job), the setting – and the rest of the story tends to blossom from there.

  10. What are the pros and cons of writing a food-based narrative?

    Pros: I get to write and think about food all day! I love to cook and eat, so being able to incorporate one of my passions into writing is a treat.

    Cons: Writing about food all day makes me HUNGRY. I probably end up taking more snack breaks than I should.

  11. What similarities are there between writing and cooking?

    Both require you to be creative but focused. You can take a story or a recipe in any direction you like – A dark and racy twist! A dash of garlic! – but you also have to respect the process and understand that not every risk or creative leap will work. Sometimes, an extra clove of garlic is one clove too many, and sometimes you will make characters do things that don’t quite make sense. In both cases, you have to acknowledge your successes as well as your failures and be willing to go back and try again.

  12. Why do you think these food-based romances have been so successful in recent years?

    I think food and love are two subjects that are almost universally understood. Everyone eats. Even if you don’t consider yourself a “foodie,” food plays a role in your life. You have to eat to survive. And similarly, almost everyone knows what it’s like to love someone, whether or not that love is reciprocated. Pairing the two themes together means readers can immediately relate to a story, even if the setting and specific story is foreign to them.

  13. How much did you know about the world of ghostwriting prior to the novel and was there anything you discovered about it that surprised you?

    I didn’t know much about it, so I interviewed a few ghostwriters to get a better sense of the process. One thing that surprised me wasn’t so much ghostwriting-related as it was cookbook-related. I hadn’t realized that recipe development and photography happened at different points in the process, sometimes with little to no communication between the person who developed the recipe and the people preparing it and photographing it for the cookbook. So if you’ve ever seen a cookbook where the photograph looks very different than what’s described in the accompanying recipe, that’s why!

  14. Would you ever consider ghostwriting a book – either fiction or food?

    I’d consider it, but my decision would depend on the specific project – the celebrity or ostensible author, the subject matter, the timeline. If the person for whom I’d be working was anything like Natasha … I think I’d pass.

  15. And finally, if you could invite three fellow authors to a dinner party who would you choose and what would you serve?

    Liane Moriarty, Madeleine Wickham (aka Sophie Kinsella), and Jennifer Weiner – because I know they’d have me laughing the whole time (and isn’t that what a good dinner party is all about?). I’d make it a Mexican fiesta – lots of margaritas and sangria, guacamole and tortilla chips, queso fundido with wild mushrooms, build-your-own tacos with fillings like carnitas, grilled halibut, grilled shrimp, and chicken tinga, and toppings like roasted corn and tomato salsa, pickled red onions, avocado, rajas, queso fresco, and lime crema. And for dessert, I’d make a tres leches cake – either that, or churros and hot chocolate. Come to think of it, that’s a lot of food. Maybe I should invite Jojo Moyes and Marian Keyes, too?

 


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