May 2010


Jennifer Ross released her debut novel The Icing on the Cupcake this year. She has worked as a journalist for the Wall Street Journal and is currently enrolled in an acupuncture school. She lives in Austin, Texas, with her husband and three children. (Interview by Angela Smith)

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  1. 1. Tell us about your book The Icing On The Cupcake.

    Ansley thought her fiance, Parish, loved her unconditionally until he dumps her. In order to escape the subsequent gossip and pity, she heads to New York City to visit her maternal grandmother, Vivian, whom she has never met. While Vivian is delighted to have the chance to reconnect with her family, she currently has problems of her own: her recently deceased husband’s creative tax shelters have brought down the wrath of the IRS, specifically agent 1432. As a way of coping, Ansley begins baking cupcakes, and as she mixes up batches of home-baked goodness, she realizes she may have stumbled on the answer to her and her grandmother’s problems.

  2. 2. Who or what inspired your characters?

    My grandmother was a big inspiration. She ran an illegal bake shop out of her kitchen. She sold cupcakes, cookies and cakes to other grandmothers who passed them off as their own. It was a secret operation. The other grandmothers would pull my Gran aside and whisper orders. I helped her in the kitchen and learned about baking.

  3. 3. Have you always wanted to be a writer?

    Yes, I remember in fifth grade we wrote a creative story a week with a broad topic assignment. I always went way overboard. One time I even brought in a doll house to illustrate the story.

  4. 4. Did you find the writing process to be challenging?

    Yes, I think anyone who says they love to write doesn't write often or as a career. Some days it's great but others you're not inspired or in the mood. You have to force yourself to sit down and do it. I do the whole 1000 words a day rule. I make myself write 1000 words before I can move on. Sometimes I delete half of those words the next day but I'm making progress.

  5. 5. Did you experience writers block? If so, what did you do to get rid of it?

    Sometimes I have a lack of inspiration or feel muddled. When that happens I usually try to read something completely different than what I'm writing or watch a really good movie or show. Those things will usually spark a new way of thinking.

  6. 6. What is your favourite thing about being a novelist?

    The creativity and the hours. It's really nice to be able to let your imagination go and to do it when you want. Plus when my kids get older I can show them what I did.

  7. 7. What is your favourite scene in your book?

    I really like any scene when Ansley puts herself out there - when she goes to the park to give away her cupcakes, when she kisses Thad, when she decides to open up a bakery. Risk is exhilarating. I also like when Vivian assesses herself and starts to think about dating. I find it really empowering when an older woman doesn't throw in the towel on life.

  8. 8. Why did you decide to include cupcake recipes at the end of each chapter? Are you an avid baker like Ansley?

    I am an avid baker - just ask my kids. Baking means love to me. It means sharing something very personal and special. I wanted to do that with the readers. I wanted to say (basically), 'Here are some recipes that I've tried and tweaked that have turned out pretty good. Please try them.'

  9. 9. In your book, Ansley is from Texas. How do you know so much about Texas society? Why did you choose for her to be from Dallas?

    I grew up in upstate New York but I was born in Houston. My father and stepfamily have always lived in Texas so I've picked up a lot from them. I lived in Dallas when I worked for the Wall Street Journal. It has a very unique character. Dallas is very done and proper. I think that's a nice juxtaposition with New York.

  10. 10. What is your greatest strength as a writer?

    I don't know. I think I am learning and developing as I go. I was a journalist so I think my observational skills are my strength.

  11. 11. How important do you think villains are in a story?

    I think a great well-rounded villain is essential as well as a great plot. These are the things I am really learning about. Audiences today are very sophisticated. You really have to focus on those details to make sure they are as strong as they can be.

  12. 12. What is your favourite and less favourite qualities about yourself?

    I work and work. I think I am addicted to work but it's a healthy addiction. So that's my favorite. My least favorite is my quick temper. I need to learn to take a breath before I speak or email.

  13. 13. What dreams have been realised as a result of your writing?

    Writing gives you such a fertile internal life, which I feel so blessed to have, and it gives you so much flexibility. I have three young children - 3,2 and 1 years old - and I can spend much more time with them as a writer than I could if I had to be in the office.

  14. 14. If you were stranded on a desert island, what are three material things you couldn't be without?

    Sunscreen - living in Texas I am a nut about it. My Kindle - so many books and so easy to carry while you travel. I am one of those people who always travel with at least three books in case I run out of something to read. The Kindle has made my luggage lighter. Pictures of my children. I love to look at them and laugh at their pictures and what they are doing.

  15. 15. What do you like to do when you're not writing?

    I spend time with the kids. I love to bake and cook. I am getting my masters in acupuncture and herbs. I am in the beginning stages of starting a co-op for babies and toddlers with a friend. I do yoga and run. I love books, movies, great television, newspapers, magazines and celebrity gossip.

  16. 16. Do you think your children will inherit the love of writing?

    Yes, they all already love books, which makes me so happy I can't even tell you.

  17. 17. What is your advice for aspiring writers?

    Write what you love, not what's "hot" at the moment. Chances are if it's hot when you're writing it, it won't be when it's published. Write a couple of novels before you try to get published. Try on your third. You learn so much in the process by the third you'll feel you have the hang of it.

  18. 18. If you could leave your readers with one bit of wisdom, what would you want it to be?

    You only go around once in life, don't put off something you dream about doing until "later". Later may be too late. Do it now. Oh and bake. Your family will love it.

  19. 19. When you have stopped writing and look back on your life, what thoughts would you like to have?

    I would like to be proud of my body of work and feel like I've created characters that have endured.

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