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Today I’m very lucky to be interviewing Peggy Lampman, author of Simmer and Smoke: A Southern Tale of Grit and Spice. Hi Peggy, thank you for agreeing to this interview. What were you like at school?
It depended on the minute, on the hour, on the year. In general, I was always an affable person and wanted to be liked in grade school and in high school. I grew up in the sixties and seventies in Birmingham, Alabama. It was an era of tumultuous social change that influenced what I was like, most certainly; an old-fashioned “hippy”. I couldn’t wait to escape “Bombingham” and went to college in Ann Arbor at the University of Michigan.
Were you good at English?
That was my favorite subject so, yes, I did well in English.
What are your ambitions for your writing career?
To continue with my series, and to continue with my food blog: www.dinnerfeed.com. I am negotiating a contract with Lake Union Publishing at the moment to purchase Simmer and Smoke. They are giving me an advance on the second book to be completed within the year so I expect I will be writing many novels in the future.
Which writers inspire you?
So many writers have influenced me through the years. John Fowles is a brilliant writer, and his book, “The Magus”, inspired my epigram: “If reality is an illusion, then is self-perception a deceit?” In his book, the protagonist, Nicolas, loses his ability to determine what is real and what is artifice. I work on this notion with one of my protagonists, Mallory. It’s bold to compare my work with his masterpiece, acknowledged, but his writing did influence me. Sue Monk Kidd is also an influence; the “The Secret Life of Bees” inspired my vision of the women of Squash Blossom Farms. My favorite piece of historical literary fiction, to date, is Kidd’s “The Invention of Wings”.
Give us an insight into your main character. What does he/she do that is so special?
Shelby is my most remarkable character. Life dealt her a cruddy deck of cards, yet she had the guts to change her destiny.
What are you working on at the minute?
I’m hoping it will be the second book in this series but Lake Union may have other ideas for the book. I should know soon.
Which actor/actress would you like to see playing the lead character from your most recent book?
I’ve two leading protagonists. Jennifer Lawrence (with brown contacts) would play Shelby and Julia Roberts would play Mallory.
What made you decide to sit down and actually start something?
One December afternoon in 2010, I was visiting my ancestral graveyard in Stewartville, a back-woods, Confederate flag-waving town in Alabama. As I watched a young woman and child wander down the road, I wondered how a young mother could escape a town of racism, poverty and crack houses. I had my story; that evening I wrote the first page of Simmer and Smoke.
Do you have a special time to write or how is your day structured?
My best writing is in the morning; my brain is tired by mid-afternoon. Since I’m receiving an advance for my next novel that must be written within the year, I’m under the gun; 5-6 hours of writing a day—3 in the morning and 2-3 in the evening.
Where do your ideas come from?
I’ve lived a colorful life and have worn many hats. Therefore most of my ideas come from life’s experiences, albeit twisted, tortured and exaggerated.
Do you work to an outline or plot or do you prefer just see where an idea takes you?
I work from an outline that is continuously improvising. I prefer a road map but sometimes I push it aside and let the ride rip, seat belt unfastened.
What is the hardest thing about writing?
Working under a deadline.
Do you read much and if so who are your favorite authors.
I read as much as possible; well-written books are the greatest learning tools out there. I prefer literary fiction set in the American South; think Sue Monk Kidd and Pat Conroy. I also love Ann Patchett and Donna Tart. My favorite memoir is Patti Smith’s Just Kids.
For your own reading, do you prefer eBooks or traditional paper/hard back books?
Ebooks are convenient but I prefer traditional hardbacks.
What book/s are you reading at present?
I’m currently reading Patti Smith’s Woolgatherers. Before that I read Purity by Jonathan Franzen.
Tell us about the cover/s and how it/they came about.
I originally found my cover designer on The Book Designer blog. I wanted it to reflect the content and I think it does the job. Lake Union has plans to redesign the cover before re-publishing the book in August.
Who designed your book cover/s?
I chose the award-winning Derek Murphy to design my cover, however I photographed the skillet.
Do you have a trailer or do you intend to create one for your own book/s?
I have a photographic slide-show trailer at the current time on my author page: http://dinnerfeed.com/simmer-and-smoke-a-culinary-tale/
Do you think that giving books away free works and why?
I don’t think it would work for my particular project. Perhaps if a freebie was linked to another book in a series, that might work, but I don’t want to go this route.
How do you relax?
Reading is my favorite way to relax. Also hiking and biking. Certainly an adult beverage with my husband at day’s end does the trick (-:
What is your favorite quote?
“You have to go through chaos to get to a better place.”
What is your favorite movie?
“Meet me in St. Louis”. My kids and I watch it every year during the holiday season. “Forest Gump” is another favorite. I’m a fan of the dark side of cinema, movies with a poignant social message––I loved “Boy in the Striped Pajamas”–– but as far as favorite re-watches, I stick to what brings happy memories.
How can readers discover more about you and you work?
On my website: www.dinnerfeed.com. This food blog links to my author page, and it links to a page about myself and family.
Any final words?
If you enjoy stories filled with eccentric characters set in the American South, I think you will enjoy this story. If you enjoy cooking and food-talk, it’s a good bet you will love it.
Thank you very much for taking the time out of your busy schedule to take part in this interview.
Thank YOU very much for taking time out of your busy schedule to “chat”.
A food writer who just lost the love of her life.
Two women discover what's worth fighting for in this deliciously rendered novel that illuminates the power of food, love, friendship and family on the human heart
1. ASSEMBLE INGREDIENTS:
Shelby Preston--a young, single mother trapped in a hardscrabble life in rural Georgia--escapes her reality as she fantasizes herself a respected chef in a kitchen of gleaming stainless steel and pans shimmering with heat. Mallory Lakes--an Atlanta newspaper food writer--may lose her job, and searches for her muse in a shot glass of illusion.
Mallory secures her job by crafting a zealous doppelgänger to satisfy the expectations of an illusive cyber audience. This also mollifies the memories of her lover who recently bolted; no warning. Shelby persuades her mother to take care of her daughter so she can pursue her dream of going to chef school in Atlanta. She cooks them a special dinner said to bring good luck; Lord knows her family could use a pot of something good.
Chasing desires and ambitions, the women's lives unravel down a path beyond the kitchen, then weave together in an unsettling culinary landscape of organic farms and shadowy borders--some borders not meant to be crossed. As Mallory combats her demons with booze and pills, and Shelby battles the odds stacked against her for becoming a chef, the women discover what's really worth fighting for.
Ashes in a box vanished into the ground. All my life I’ve yearned for something more, something I struggle to define. An image lies in wait, appears in a flash, then gone. It’s in the brushed edge of a dream that leaves behind no memory, only a warming prickle of joy. It’s in the smell of fresh-turned soil after a frost, ancient and newborn. It’s in the taste of honeysuckle nectar—what the wood nymphs drink, I tell my child—that we dot onto our tongues every spring.
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