Interview with Louisa Edwards

Jen: This weekend we welcome Louisa Edwards to Romancing the Book. Louisa, will you please share a short bio with us?
Louisa: Sure! I grew up in Virginia, went to Bryn Mawr College in Philadelphia, spent five years in Manhattan, and now I live in a teeny town in Ohio. Once an editor of romance novels, now I’m writing my own. My Recipe for Love series unites my passion for contemporary romance with my love of food, cooking, and hot, celebrity chefs. My debut, Can’t Stand The Heat, came out last September. The second installment in the series is On the Steamy Side, and it hit shelves on March 2nd! And I’m winding up the Market Trilogy with Just One Taste, on sale August 31, 2010. Look for the Best American Chef Trilogy in 2011!

Jen: Tell us about On the Steamy Side.
Louisa: On the Steamy Side is the second book in my Market Trilogy, which follows the exploits of a renegade kitchen crew at a Manhattan restaurant called Market. In On the Steamy Side, the action centers around jaded celebrity chef Devon Sparks, who takes over the restaurant temporarily only to discover that he may have lost his cooking mojo. Luckily for him, his whole life is turned upside down by the reappearance of his estranged 10-year-old son and a sassy Southern busgirl-turned-nanny. Together, they rekindle Devon’s love of food and his passion for life.

Jen: At what age did you discover writing and when were you first published? Tell us your call story.
Louisa: I can’t remember a time when I didn’t love the written word. I learned to read at a very young age, and I just never stopped. I think all writers are readers at heart. I first discovered romance novels at age 11, and after that, I was hooked! I started writing my first manuscript in college, then set it aside to pursue a job in the editorial department of a publishing house, which I adored. If my husband’s job hadn’t forced us to move, I might never have gone back to writing—but I’m so glad I did! I tried paranormal, but my brilliant agent, Deidre Knight, was perceptive enough to see that it wasn’t the right genre for me. So when she told me to put that manuscript aside and write something for myself, something I felt passionate about and connected to, I came up with culinary romance. I thought no one would buy it! But the first hundred pages poured out of me, and Deidre said she knew an editor who’d been looking for a chef-based romance for years, and after that, it all happened really quickly! St. Martin’s bought my series of four books on proposal, and have since contracted for more. It was a great lesson to me about being true to your heart as a writer, rather than writing to a trend.

Jen: Are there any other writers, published or not, in your family?
Louisa: Everyone in my family is fairly articulate and literate—we’re all readers! I’m the first to publish a book, though.

Jen: How do you approach your writing? Do you plot or go with the flow?
Louisa: I make a story plan, which starts as a basic list of plot points I know have to happen, and grows as I write and learn more about my characters and their situation. It’s a way to split the difference, to have a direction and a road map of how to get there, but to also allow myself room to discover surprising things about my story as I go along.

Jen: What is it about the romance genre that appeals to you?
Louisa: It thrills me to write in the only genre that is truly by women and for women. I also happen to believe in the transformative power of love, and I believe we all deserve a happily ever after!

Jen: What kind of research did you do for this book?
Louisa: None of my research feels like “work” to me, it’s all stuff I’d be doing anyway: reading chef memoirs and cookbooks, pestering my chef friends with questions, watching television chefs and shows like “Top Chef” and “Kitchen Nightmares.” I’m so interested in the whole topic; my mind goes back to it constantly. Even cooking dinner in my own kitchen can be research!

Jen: Do you feel as if the characters live with you as you write? Do they haunt your dreams?
Louisa: My characters certainly become more and more real to me over the course of writing the book. I will say that they feel the most real when the book is done; when I think about Adam and Miranda, the hero and heroine of my first book, Can’t Stand The Heat, it feels like remembering friends I haven’t seen in a while. I miss them! And now that On the Steamy Side is officially done and out there, I feel the same way about Devon and Lilah.

Jen: Who has inspired you as an author?
Louisa: My biggest inspiration for this book was Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre, which I first read when I was about 8 years old. I’ve read it many, many times since then, and On the Steamy Side’s nanny/employer romance is a bit of an homage. More recently, I’ve been inspired by authors like Eloisa James, Jennifer Crusie, and Suzanne Brockmann, all of whom regularly push the envelope on our expectations for mainstream romance.

Jen: If On the Steamy Side was made into a movie, which actors would you choose to play the hero and heroine?
Louisa: Oooh, I love that question! I think Reese Witherspoon (as a brunette) would make a perfect Lilah Jane—all Southern sass and big, generous heart. Devon is tougher; you’d need someone cocky, but soulful, a little broody and tortured but good at covering it up with charm. Maybe Patrick Dempsey?

Jen: What did you do to celebrate the publication of your first book, Can’t Stand The Heat?
Louisa: I threw a big party at Blue Hill in New York City! It was fabulous; Chef Dan Barber’s hors d’oeuvres were to-die-for delicious, the bartender made the cocktails from the book, and all my publishing friends showed up to help me celebrate. One of the best nights of my life!

Jen: What’s the most interesting comment you have received about your books?
Louisa: The Market Trilogy features an unconventional subplot revolving around a romance between two men. I knew it was risky, but I wanted to include it because issues of equality are important to me—and even more than that, I totally fell for the characters. I was fully expecting to receive some negative feedback from readers, but that hasn’t happened. At all. In fact, the vast majority of readers who contact me specifically mention how much they love Frankie and Jess, and how excited they are that their story continues in On the Steamy Side and Just One Taste.

Jen: Who are some of your favorite authors and books? What are you reading now?
Louisa: Favorites in the romance genre are probably Force of Nature and All Through the Night by Suzanne Brockmann, Welcome to Temptation and Faking It by Jennifer Crusie, and more recently, The Madness of Lord Ian Mackenzie by Jennifer Ashley. All those books really blew me away, and are classics I go back to again and again. I’m very excited about Julie James’s new book, Something About You, and can’t wait to read Lessons in French by Laura Kinsale—her book, The Shadow and the Star, was the first romance I ever read!

Jen: What do you do in your free time?
Louisa: Ummm . . . free time? Well, I play with my dogs a lot—we have two Border Terriers named Oscar and Hunter, and they need lots of attention. My husband and I also love to travel; we have friends and family all over the country, so that keeps us pretty busy.

Jen: What’s next for you?
Louisa: I’m about to revise Just One Taste, the third and final book of the Market Trilogy, before diving into the first book in the Best American Chef Trilogy, which will be out in 2011.

Jen: Where can you be found on the web?
Louisa: Visit me at www.LouisaEdwards.com! I’d love to hear from you.

Jen: Is there anything you’d like to ask our readers?
Louisa: Sure! In honor of Devon Sparks: Who’s your favorite TV chef?

Jen: Readers, Louisa has a special prize for one of our commenters. Along with an autographed copy of On the Steamy Side, the winner will be receiving the apron and spatula set pictured here. Due to shipping costs, the contest is only open to residents of the US and Canada. To enter the contest, first you need to leave a comment or question for Louisa. Then to finish your entry, you must either leave your email address in your comment or send a message to contests.bookblog@gmail.com. The winner will be chosen on Thursday, March 18.