I am so happy to be part of this tour and to welcome Sybil to Escape With Dollycas!
Food That Fuels the Imagination
by Sybil Johnson
Agatha Christie was known to eat apples while plotting murder. Victor Hugo swallowed two raw eggs before beginning his writing day. And I learned from a post the Awl had a few years back on food and writers (http://www.theawl.com/2012/08/writer-food-from-a-to-z) that Neil Simon rewards himself with a bag of Fritos after completing a difficult scene.
After reading the Awl article, I was curious if the writers I know have their own food rituals so I posed the question to some of them recently with interesting results.
Not everyone I informally polled noshes while working, but a large number of them mentioned snacks they enjoy as they write. Not surprisingly, chocolate is a favorite, all types from milk to dark to those that include nuts, bacon, raisins… I even got a peek inside Phoebe Fox’s desk where I found, you guessed it, chocolate (Madagascar) as well as Jolly Rancher lollipops. She tells me she also likes Cheetos.
Multi-series author Diane Vallere uses food to get into the mind of her series character and help her keep track of what she’s working on. For her Style & Error series, it’s Pennsylvania junk food: pretzels, hoagies, pizza, meatball sandwiches, tastycakes. For her costume shop series, it’s smoothies. It’s not only the food she eats, but also the movies she watches, the magazines she reads, the music she listens to that gets her into the mindset of her characters.
Ellen Byron finds herself craving Cajun food while writing her Cajun Country series while Sarah M. Chen prefers black tea with milk and honey, Marilyn Meredith Chai lattes. Shawn Reilley Simmons craves brie and pretzels while Wendy Tyson enjoys ginger snaps.
Larissa Reinhart confesses to always being hungry while writing, something that I’ve noticed about myself. I’m a nibbler when I’m working on a story, especially when the words aren’t flowing, not the best thing when you’re trying to maintain or lose weight. I have a particular fondness for mint chocolate items. Thin Mints and Frango mint chocolates are special favorites, though I try not to indulge too often. And diet Coke, preferably with lime, helps keep the words flowing. You’ll see my protagonist, Rory Anderson, consuming all three of these in FATAL BRUSHSTROKE and PAINT THE TOWN DEAD. I do eat healthy a fair amount of the time. Like Rory’s BFF, Liz Dexter, it’s not unusual for me to eat and enjoy brown rice, steamed veggies and tofu.
I’m not the only one whose own food likes make their way into their work. Larissa Reinhart’s character, Cherry Tucker, loves Southern food just like her creator does. And LynDee Walker’s Nichelle drinks Moscato and often eats Mexican food or barbecue, all favorites of the author herself. For Maria Alexander, her love of peanut M&Ms ended up playing an important role in a YA novel she’s currently working on.
For me, sometimes it’s not the eating of a food, but the making of it that gets my creative juices flowing. I love baking all kinds of things, but my special love is cheesecakes—trying out new recipes, modifying ones I’ve used before, creating new ones. While working on my sweet creations, a solution to a plot problem often pops into my mind.
After a lot of trial and error, the following has become the base for my cheesecake experimentation. As you can tell, I like things on the lighter side. For me, it’s less filling and just as flavorful. Just add a crust of your choice and play around with different flavors/additions, then bake at 300 degrees F for an hour and twenty minutes until it jiggles only slightly at the center when shaken.
4-8 oz. packages light cream cheese
1 c. sugar
1/3 c. fat-free evaporated milk OR whipping cream
1 1/2 c. egg substitute
2 tablespoons flour
2 teaspoons vanilla
So there you have it, food habits of some of today’s writers. What about you? What food fuels your imagination?
Sybil Johnson’s love affair with reading began in kindergarten with “The Three Little Pigs.” Visits to the library introduced her to Encyclopedia Brown, Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle and a host of other characters. Fast forward to college where she continued reading while studying Computer Science. After a rewarding career in the computer industry, Sybil decided to try her hand at writing mysteries. Her short fiction has appeared in Mysterical-E and Spinetingler Magazine, among others. Originally from the Pacific Northwest, she now lives in Southern California where she enjoys tole painting, studying ancient languages and spending time with friends and family.
Paint the Town Dead
(An Aurora Anderson Mystery)
2nd in Series
Paperback: 264 pages
Publisher: Henery Press (December 8, 2015)
E-Book ASIN: B0156W71GW
“Johnson paints characters with a folksy charm that makes them feel like family…Color me a fan!” – Diane Vallere, Author of the Material Witness, Style & Error, and Madison Night Mystery Series
“Rory is definitely a quirky character; she has the ability to draw the readers in so that they want to follow her through her adventures.” – Suspense Magazine
The Ocean Painting Society invites you to join the painting wave…
It’s June in the quiet Los Angeles County city of Vista Beach, the place computer programmer and tole-painting enthusiast Aurora (Rory) Anderson calls home. Decorative painters are flocking to the newly built Akaw hotel to attend the Ocean Painting Society’s inaugural convention.
During the week-long event, Rory plans on shopping the trade show floor, working in her mother’s booth, taking classes and connecting with other decorative painting fans. She doesn’t expect to witness her childhood friend collapse in class and die. When the police find no evidence of foul play, Rory embarks on her own investigation. Can she brush aside the lies to uncover the truth and bring the killer to justice?
Related subjects include: cozy mysteries, women sleuths, murder mystery series, whodunit mysteries (whodunnit), amateur sleuth books, book club recommendations, craft and hobby mysteries.
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