drey: So, to jump right in, what prompted you to become a writer? Has this always been an ambition, or did you wake up one day & say, “Hey! Nobody’s writing what I want to read, so I guess I’ll just have to do it myself!”?
Louisa Edwards: I think all writers start out as readers. My love of romance novels began around age 11, when I started stealing Harlequins out of my grandma’s suitcase when she came to visit. Then, a year later, I found The Shadow & the Star by Laura Kinsale, and I was hooked. By the time I finished college, I knew I wanted to write. But I thought it might be smart to get a job in publishing and learn about the business from the inside first.
d: What’s different about being on the writer side of the industry, compared to being on the editor side? Which is easier? Which has better perks? *grin*
LE: I loved being an editor. Essentially, you’re paid to read! What could be more glorious? (d: ahh, my dream job!!) As a writer, though, I have more control over what I read, and I’ve been able to rediscover reading as a joy rather than as a work task, which has been wonderful.
d: Was Can’t Stand the Heat a story that was just waiting to come out? Can’t Stand the Heat pits a cook and a critic against each other. Where did you get the idea for that?
LE: Honestly, I came up with the idea for CStH because I read Kitchen Confidential by Anthony Bourdain, and just fell in love with him. As a writer, as a character, as a chef—I decided I wanted to write a chef hero. And who has the most obvious, immediate conflict with a chef? A food critic. So there was my heroine. It just kind of flowed from there.
d: How did you do research for what goes on in the kitchen? I imagine cooking in a restaurant is slightly (!) different than throwing together dinner in my kitchen! All the different stations, the role each person plays, to bring food to those on the other side of the doors...
LE: I read a lot of chef/kitchen memoirs, first-person accounts of working in professional kitchens from Heat by Bill Buford to The Making of a Chef and The Soul of a Chef by Michael Ruhlman. I’m also lucky enough to have several close friends who are chefs; I trailed them at their restaurants and bugged them with incessant questions.
d: The next few questions assume you like to cook, and I came up with “food groupie” from “food porn” on your blog... How much of a food groupie are you? Do you like to cook? Do you have one of those “cook’s kitchen’s” as HGTV calls ‘em? If so, how do you find your way around one of those? If you haven’t noticed already (from the questions), I’m not much of a cook...
LE: Food groupie—I like it! Foodie doesn’t work for me, as a term, because it implies I’m only interested in the food itself, not the cooking. For me, the cooking process is part of the fun! I love to cook—not to get all Julie Powell on you, but after I moved to Ohio I did, in fact, start cooking my way through Julia Child’s cookbook. Not with anything like the dedication of a Julia Powell, but still. The experience has been invaluable; I’ve learned so much technique just through trial and error. My kitchen might be classified as a “cook’s kitchen”—I’m not really sure! I find my way around easily, because it’s indisputably my domain. I placed every piece of equipment, every pot, every pan, every spatula, every whisk. I live in my kitchen.
d: Breakfast, lunch, dinner, or dessert?
LE: Breakfast, without a doubt. I could eat breakfast for every meal. We have omelettes for dinner all the time. And pancakes and waffles? They’re basically dessert, no matter when you serve them.
d: Follow-up to the previous question: What's your favorite dish? Do you like cooking it, eating it, or both? =)
LE: My favorite thing to cook is also one of my favorite things to eat—my mother’s recipe for buttermilk cornbread. You bake it in a cast-iron skillet and eat it with hot pepper jelly—honestly, it’s so damn good. You can’t even imagine.
And the 10-question Proust-lite:
- What is your idea of earthly happiness? A farmer’s market
- What do you regard as the lowest depth of misery? Frozen food
- Who is/are your favorite heroine(s) in fiction? Anne of Green Gables
- Who is/are your favorite heroine(s) in real life? Eleanor Roosevelt
- What sound do you love? My laptop waking up in the morning
- What sound do you hate? My dogs howling
- The quality you admire most in a man? Sense of humor
- The quality you admire most in a woman? Sense of humor
- If not a writer, you would be an Editor! Seriously, it was a great life. Either that, or I’d open a bakery.
- What is your favorite swear word? What I find myself actually using all the time is a phrase my mother says: “God bless America!” I know, doesn’t sound like a swear. It’s all in the tone, though. It’s more “God bless America!”
Louisa Edwards grew up in Virginia, surrounded by the beauty of the Blue Ridge Mountains. By age 11, she was sneaking Harlequins out of her visiting grandmother’s suitcase, making her parents nervous about what, precisely, their little girl was learning from those books. Naturally, they were relieved when Louisa decided to attend Bryn Mawr College, hoping the Seven Sisters vibe might instill the intellectual rigor she thus far seemed to lack.
To their dismay, however, even the ivy-covered halls of Bryn Mawr couldn’t distract Louisa from her addiction to romances. Instead, she traded in her Harlequins for longer, juicier single titles, reading everything from Laura Kinsale to Jennifer Cruisie. She also managed to graduate cum laude with a degree in Romance Languages (which is not as sexy as it sounds—mostly she studied Spanish, French, and Italian literature, although some of that French stuff did get fairly racy.)
After graduation, Louisa moved to Manhattan, landing a job as an editorial assistant at Penguin Group (USA), where she worked directly for the smart, savvy president of Mass Market Paperbacks, Leslie Gelbman, who guided Louisa as she built her own list.
Vindication! It was possible to make a living from reading romance novels. Louisa’s parents were equal parts surprised and thrilled. While at Berkley, Louisa was lucky enough to work with some great authors, assistant editing Leslie’s heavy hitters, Nora Roberts and Jayne Ann Krentz. Louisa’s own list included, among others, Lucy Monroe, Jennifer St. Giles, and Shelley Bradley. All of which led to Louisa being promoted to assistant editor.
Then real life romance ensued: Louisa married a journalist and was promptly exiled to Ohio so her husband could work for his family’s newspaper. There Louisa started reviewing romances for FreshFiction.com and took a part-time job at the Culinary Vegetable Institute. Personal interaction with chefs, plus the limited repertoire of local restaurants stoked Louisa’s interest in food. She began critiquing restaurants for the local newspaper, got sucked into Gordon Ramsay’s Hell’s Kitchen, trailed a chef friend at his restaurant in Raleigh, North Carolina, started cooking her way through Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking, and decided to bring it all together by writing CAN’T STAND THE HEAT.
Now she awaits the response of the masses to her foodie-inspired romance. Meanwhile, Louisa will continue to eat in as many wonderful restaurants as possible—purely for research, of course. Find Louisa online at her official website, www.louisaedwards.com, and her blog, Recipe for Love.
And, wait! There's more. To help celebrate in Louisa's new release, here's a chance for one of you to win a CStH apron and spatula set! Here's how:
-- Contest is open to US and Canada residents, no PO Boxes please!
-- To enter, comment and share: Are you a food groupie? Why or why not? =)
-- Follow for 1 extra entry.
-- Share for 2 extra entries (let me know what & where, please).
-- Do it all before 6:00 pm CST October 5th. Good luck!