Earlier this week, I reviewed Chicken Soup & Homicide by Janel Gradowski on Monday — its book birthday. Today, the author stopped by for a Weekend Cooking interview. This is our second interview. The first one was after publication of her first book, Pies & Peril. In our previous interview, we discussed cooking and research, so I thought that this time I would ask about Janel’s writing process.
I love the names of the businesses in Kellerton, Michigan. How do you go about creating an entire fictional town, especially those amazing restaurants and other foodie havens?
I love to travel, so Kellerton is a sort of mashup of many small towns that I have been to mixed with places I have seen on television shows. I love watching travel/adventure TV shows almost as much as cooking shows. When my family travels we often try to eat at unique local places, instead of national chains, so I have accumulated a lot of dining experiences over the years.
When I am preparing to write a new book I have a lot of fun coming up with new businesses. Of course I have a lot of food-related ones, like Riverbend Café and The Breakfast Spot, but I have tried to recreate what would be, for me, a perfect downtown district with everything from high-end salons to book stores. I have a series “bible” and a map of the downtown area so I can keep things straight as I write new books.
Your characters have such great jobs, many of them food-related. How do you go about populating a fictional town?
Honestly, many times the characters just come to me. As a writer I file away bits and pieces of people I see or talk to as I’m going about life. I really should get one of those T-shirts that warns people that I’m a writer and they may end up in my next book!
During the initial plotting stage for a book I’ll jot down notes on new characters. When I decide on characteristics they get their own page in my series bible. I also use Pinterest where I have a private board populated with people who look like the characters as well as the character descriptions. As I’m writing I can just pop onto Pinterest to see who I’m writing about. I also have a set of tiny index cards on a binder ring that I use to record all character names in alphabetical order. Names are the hardest thing for me to come up with. I tend to want to use very similar sounding ones, so I have to make a point to check names so readers won’t get confused. In fact, I made name changes in Chicken Soup & Homicide after I turned it in to my publisher.
Are there more adventures with Amy and her friends to come?
Yes! I just finished writing Book #3. I don’t have a title yet, but I can tell you it will be out in early June. A Culinary Competition short story will also be coming out in a multi-author collection this summer. Then Book #4 in the series will be out Fall/Winter 2015. I have big plans for Amy, Carla and everybody in Kellerton, Michigan!