Monday, May 19, 2008

A chat with Kate Jacobs: Comfort Food


"Comfort Food"----- by Kate Jacobs----- finished finito pau done. The "pithy" down and dirty? I liked it-- a lot!

As always, Kate Jacobs not only writes well, but her characters are inviting, interesting, entertaining and her sense of humor shines through. I have to say that I found her latest character Gus especially appealing because she is facing the big 5-0. Gulp. Add to that the fact that I adore cooking shows (and food!!!) and admit that I'm hopelessly addicted to the food shows that have those wonderfully entertaining challenges and competitions. The only problem of course is that a girl gets mighty hungry knitting while viewing them! The cast of characters in "Comfort Food" is funny, bright and enjoyable as well, the pages flew by. "Comfort Food" is a wonderfully addicting read in just the same way---- two big chocolate covered thumbs up!

Recently I had the opportunity not only to review "Comfort Food" but to ask the author some questions. Having met Kate last year while she was on tour for "The Friday Night Knitting Club" I found it easy to ask questions imagining her quick smile and easy laugh. NOT, mind you, that I'm saying you are easy Kate! That just flat falls outside the area of my jurisdiction!

Hopefully you will enjoy hearing a bit from Kate and run out and pick up "Comfort Food"---- it may not have my first prerequisite (a shiny red cover) for a great summer read, but getting past that it fits the bill perfectly!!

On the wonderful marketing front, Kate has a great website that mirrors the "Cooking Channel" in "Comfort Food", plus recipes for Cake of the Month.

KnittingContessa: Kate, how has your life changed since you are on the doorstep of having your second novel on the shelves of bookstores everywhere? Allow me a vicarious thrill!

KateJacobs: There’s no question that lots of exciting stuff has happened. But my life is totally the same as it has always been. Always lots on my to-do list, never enough time in the day, and my greatest pleasure comes from hanging out with my husband Jon and our Springer Baxter. The highlight of my afternoon is throwing tennis balls for the dog while calling my sister-in-law for our daily chat. (If my brother is reading this, then it’s a typo that we talk that often. And no, definitely do not check your phone bill.) Of course, there are these divinely wonderful extras – supportive readers, bestseller lists, a full-time fiction career – and those are things I’ve dreamed about since wanting to be a writer from when I was a young kid. I am very, very lucky and I never forget it. Plus I can enjoy my new novel, Comfort Food, in a way that I didn’t with the first hardcover, because the joyful shock of being published is starting to sink in. I come from a small town and had this not-so-secret dream but didn't really know how or if I could make it come true. There were no writers in my family; it wasn’t an obvious career choice. I was lucky because I had some great educational opportunities. I went to boarding school, journalism school, and grad school. I worked in the magazine industry in New York. I kept believing even when it was hard. And I held out hope for myself. You know, I entered a short story contest when I was thirteen and I didn’t even place. And the story came back with a post-it note that said: “Do keep writing.” That was some of the best advice I ever received – and I say that knowing full well now that the judge wrote the same thing to all the young girls and boys who sent in stories. But I kept that little post-it for years. Life is all about the trying. I’m still trying. To write a better book, and then a better one after that. The one thing I know now that I didn’t know before I was published, however, is that I wasted a lot of energy on “what ifs.” Fulfilling a dream is wonderful but the learning comes through the work to get there. Life can be very good and it has nothing to do with being published or not being published. It’s about the day-to-day. And that is the beautiful thing.

KC: Do Keep Writing....... great advice and taken to heart! Thank you for sharing your dream and keeping it so real, honest and humble, I respect that tremendously! I'll also take to heart your wisdom about "what if's"---- thanks!

I have finished reading “Comfort Food” and I love it! Your characters are so compelling! As I read "Friday Night Knitting Club" I thought much more about custom knitting---- personalized patterns because of the storyline. Now in "Comfort Food" I find myself thinking more about, well food and cooking and how they meld with a busy life, one with meaning! Do you take on the lifestyle/hobbies of your characters?

KJ: I certainly do. Though I hope I never write a story about a rock climber because I’m afraid of heights! Seriously, I find it can be helpful to spend a little time doing what my characters are doing, and get into their heads. So when Hannah eats all that candy, I made sure to do the same! All in the name of research…

KC: Oh yes, research, absolutely! On the subject of food----- everyone knows that my best trick when you are really busy and have to make it appear that you are working on a lovely meal is to toss some onions in a pan and do a slow sauté while you have a glass of wine and get yourself together! Illusion is everything! What is YOUR favorite food trick?

KJ: I love that! I don’t know if it’s a trick but I’m in love with herbes de provence. I sprinkle on everything – veggies I’m roasting, meats, you name it. And the aroma when it’s cooking! Divine. My other go-to is high-quality balsamic vinegar. A drizzle just adds that little something something.

KC: I love herbes de provence, I love to sprinkle a bit over chicken breasts that have had a light brushing with olive oil and toss them on the grill.......... delish! Great---- now I'm hungry!

We all know that being an author is exercising creativity in the written word. In addition to being creative with your writing, what else do you do to express yourself creatively?

KJ: Well, I knit. But I’m just a hobby knitter, so I’m not skilled like my grandmother. I like to cook but I have this terrible tendency to want to eat the same foods over and over again, especially if it turns out well, which is somewhat the opposite of creative! Maybe I express myself a little in my home décor? I have some strong color choices in our home. But mixed with neutrals. Balance is important. Though now you’ve got me thinking…when I was a kid, I very much wanted to express myself through my appearance. I liked to wear things that were a little off-the-beaten path and unconventional, and I had some really crazy haircuts. Not just my ill-advised Orphan Annie-style perm but I also had all my hair cut off, spiked in front, and shaved in back. I saw that in a magazine and thought it was so cool. The photos now prove it was terrible but I loved it back then. Plus I would use colored hair mousse to make my bangs purple and so on. I had a collection of hats. But maybe we all dressed like that in the 1980s? Oh, and I used to wear a TON of blue or green eyeshadow. All of this is funny because I am a fairly conservative dresser and, unless I’m at a book signing, often forget to put on any makeup at all!

KC: I'm laughing! the things we do on the road to finding our own personal style! It is that expression thing, you know? Now on the "hobby knitter" thing, we are all creative souls in the capacity that makes us happy, certainly not what we feel is important to the rest of the world! Last week my uncle told me that I need a Hobby Farm to reduce my tax load. As if such a thing could happen in the middle of a large city---- a hobby farm. It does make me wonder however if the category "hobby knitter" has any wonderful consequences for us? I think it surely must!

As a busy and successful woman about to go out on another crazy book tour, if you could design your perfect day, what would it look like?

KJ: What a wonderful idea: The perfect day! For me, it would involve a bit of supersonic travel. But my perfect day would be shared with my husband and our dog, and begin with French toast and a Mimosa at the restaurant across from my old Manhattan apartment, The Barking Dog. Next I’d go for a walk in the wooded Rotary Trails in my hometown of Hope, BC, and jot down some notes for a story idea. Then I’d enjoy some hang-out time with my family up in Canada, scoot back to my home in California for an afternoon that didn’t end until I was finished reading every last word of a new Alice Munro short story collection (because, if it’s my perfect day, then she has something out that I haven’t read). Then maybe a little neck-and-shoulder massage at a spa, a catnap, and a cup of tea. Oh, and there’s definitely a slice of cake in there somewhere, time to write a page or two, and maybe a flight back to New York to see a play. Or a cool foreign movie at Film Forum. And then I’d top it all off with a midnight cup of chocolate gelato with my husband in Rome. Did this day have to only have twenty-four hours?

Thank you SO much Kate! That did sound like a perfectly wonderful day! My perfect day would be sitting to knit a few rows with you over a cup of tea so I hope you can work that into your schedule! I really appreciate your time and energy and I'm sure that my blitters -- a wonderfully creative soup of knitters, quilters and crafters appreciate it as well. I hope that you will be coming by St. Louis again this year on tour for "Comfort Food" so I can hug your neck and say hello! You're not on the schedule yet but I'm keeping my fingers crossed!

Congrats as well as "The Friday Night Knitting Club" is number one on the New York Times Bestseller List----- woo hoo! How exciting!

Kate's tour schedule and other goodies are online at www.KateJacobs.com where you can also read the first chapter of "Comfort Food".

1 comment:

jen said...

Awesome interview Tina! Thanks! I'll make sure and grab the book next time I'm at Borders.