So What’s Your Book About Anyway?

Ever since I typed those two little words back in late February, the ones that every novelist can’t wait for after months and months of hard work, namely THE END, the weeks following have been basically consumed with one task.

As I began reaching out to agents and various publishers, I answered some version of the following question: so what’s your book about?

Some agents want it summed up in one tidy sentence like a movie’s logline, while others allow a luxurious paragraph or two. In a few instances, a synopsis was requested, and now I finally know why my fellow writers complain so much about this particular exercise. It’s a beast, and you have to reveal your story’s ending to boot. It just seems like all kinds of wrong, but nonetheless, I persevered. It was probably good for me to have to condense a 260-page book into five pages of delicious summary, but I can’t say I’m looking forward to the next one. It’s basically the writer-y equivalent of a root canal.

And now for all of you who’ve asked the same question, here’s a little about my novel that’s tentatively titled Spaghetti in Exile. If you haven’t guessed yet from the picture on the left, Italian food definitely plays a starring role. Back when I lived in St. Paul, I enrolled in several cooking classes at Cooks of Crocus Hill. It was during my very first course, a homemade pasta-making workshop, when the idea for a new story took shape. I was stirring a Bolognese with a couple of ladies I’d never met before, and as women often do, we started talking. We probably wouldn’t have met if it hadn’t been for this class, and as we worked toward a common goal, the perfect spaghetti sauce to accompany the fettuccine we’d just cut, we were talking about our lives.

The idea of unexpected community through cooking and eating together really stuck with me, and I began to sketch out ideas for several different characters of varying ages and backgrounds who unexpectedly connect while learning to cook Italian cuisine. And when you live somewhere like Minnesota, the land of seemingly eternal winter, cooking and eating the food from a place as beautiful and exotic as Italy, was a welcome escape from life as usual.

Throw in a cocky cooking instructor with quite a backstory of his own (Francisco has more secrets than a husband in a Liane Moriarty novel), and I had the framework for a story I thoroughly enjoyed writing and researching. Not only did I learn to make everything from fresh mozzarella to chocolate chip-studded cannoli to pillow-soft gnocchi with brown butter and sage so I could write about it convincingly, but I visited a handful of cities in Italy to make sure the details were right. If that doesn’t sound like back-bending work, you’re absolutely right, but writing the novel itself was proof positive that the best things in life often take much longer than you’d like.

In the coming weeks I plan to reveal a little more about the motley crew of characters whose lives often intersect in the manner of Love Actually. For whatever reason all of my novels have featured an ensemble cast, so it’ll be fun to see who y’all like best. In the meantime, I’ll definitely keep you posted on where my book lands and when you can read it. To say I can’t wait is quite an understatement. :)

 

 

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