Thursday, June 26, 2008

Comfort Food by Kate Jacobs

The Friday Night Knitting Club author Kate Jacobs, is back on the scene with a new novel Comfort Food. You will love it. Here's what it's about:

Cooking with Gusto! host Augusta Gus Simpson, a widowed mother of two adult daughters who's about to turn 50, is tiring of her many obligations, which include throwing an annual birthday bash for herself. That trial pales, however, in comparison with the introduction of saucy former beauty queen and YouTube star Carmen Vega as Gus's cohost. Click here for the full Amazon page.

I am so into everything cooking these days. Top Chef, Hell's Kitchen, Ramsey's Kitchen Nightmares, reading cook books, and magazines like Taste of Home and Cooking Light...I wonder how I can take a cooking tour of Tuscany to culiminate my latest obsession. It's no wonder that I devoured Kate Jacobs's newest novel in a day! She has a easy, page turning style and the story flows. You want the best for her characters because they become your friends. As with The Friday Night Knitting Club, I was sorry to reach the end of the book. So now I anxiously await another Kate Jacobs masterpiece!

This book centers on food and cooking. Are you much of a cook?

I’m not a gourmet, that’s for sure! But yes, I like cooking. And I am addicted to Food Network. I get all excited when I see they have that darn cake special. Who doesn’t love Dr. Seuss cakes? In my own home, I enjoy experimenting and I love to have people over to dinner, but I tend to stay within a comfort zone. If I can make a dish and have it turn out well then I like to try it again (and again and again). Ask my husband how many times I’ve served tenderloin and roasted veggies. But, when I was younger, I really didn’t want to know anything about cooking. For me,the process to enjoying the domestic realm has been evolving, as I’ve gotten older and as I’ve discovered that I can enjoy being homey while still spending most of my time focusing on work. For my mom, it’s highlya musing that my debut novel was The Friday Night Knitting Club and nowI’m writing about cooking in Comfort Food. When I was a kid, you could barely get me in the kitchen unless it was to eat…or bake cookies. I break all rules for cookies.

I love to bake and I think I'm pretty good at it. What is your specialty n the kitchen?

Chocolate chip cookies, with a mix of semi-sweet and milk chocolate.I get out the ingredients whenever I need a bit of a stress relief. Writing Comfort Food was one long cookie: I baked, I snacked, I wrote, I baked. And then I did it all again. Plus, when I’m really grouchy, I do all the mixing by hand to burn off a little of the tension!

How are you alike/different from the main character of Gus?

Well, Gus is this wonderfully elegant hostess. I’m a bit more harried. Or maybe a lot more harried! She’s older than I am, and a mother. Though as she is surprised by turning fifty, I must admit that I am shocked – truly – to realize I am going to be 35 this year. It’s not that I feel old. (Well, maybe a little.) It’s that I am amazed at how quickly life is moving. Just the other day, I swear, I was arriving in Manhattan to go to grad school. Except that was 13 years ago! Her best friend’s last name is Levine, and so is one of mine. That was a little intentional thing I threw in there.

There is one thing Gus and I do share in a deeper way, though, and that similarity really helped me into herc haracter. It’s not something I talk about very much but right before myf irst novel went on sale my husband was seriously ill and hospitalized. He experienced what’s known as a mini-stroke, or TIA, and it was very frightening. We hadn’t lived in California for long and I realized, once I got to the hospital, that I didn’t have the phone numbers for anyone we knew nearby. I wasn’t able to call anyone to come and be with us. (Of course I called our families, who began arriving the next day. But they live long distances away.)

So that night, it was just me and Jon, except he couldn’t speak intelligibly or move his limbs. There was a pervading fear of not knowing where we’d be the next morning and it was horrible. Now, he recovered fully. He’s great. But what a scare! Talk about putting things in perspective. I was excited to have that first book published but a heckuva lot more excited to still have my husband around. I just felt sort of stunned for months afterwards, even as I was on tour promoting the book. And then later, when I sat down to write Comfort Food, I made Gus around the same age as I was when Jon was ill. She became a widow – my big fear that night – but then I balanced it out by giving her children, which we realized then is one of our deepest and as yet unfulfilled wishes. Comfort Food is my own comfort, in its way.

What research did you do while writing Comfort Food? I'd guess a lot of time spent watching the Food Network!

Absolutely. I watched a ton of TV and, of course, many hours of Food Network. I’m so glad someone started Food Network because it is just sosoothing. How can you not be happy watching someone simmer away? I’m also a big fan of Top Chef though that’s not soothing at all! More exciting.I’m always very invested in Judges’ Table and enjoy reading the blogs. For me, in general, I don’t go overboard with the research – I prefer to stay within my imagination. Because my background is as a journalist I don’t want to get caught up in feeling I have to report what goes on in the real world. I’m writing fiction here! So I wouldn’t describe Comfort Food as a blueprint of how a cooking show operates. It’s more an imagined behind-the-scenes story of the tensions and relationships that go on in aworkplace – only this “office” happens to be a kitchen!

Your first novel was about knitting and this one features food. What will your next book be about?

People. That’s actually the core element that unites my stories. Iwant to write about emotions, about relationships, about getting to know each other and getting to know ourselves. And through writing The Friday Night Knitting Club and Comfort Food I have learned many new things about myself. Each of those novels, in their own way, has surprised me by providing me with a deeper understanding of some of the experiences I have had. Now, that said, will my third book have a domestic element? It very well could. It doesn’t have to, of course. But it might.

What is the last book you read?

The Book of Joe by Jonathan Tropper. Loved it. I also just read I Was Told There’d Be Cake by Sloane Crosley, which was also great. I read so many books that I literally FedEx them back to my house when I’m on the road on a book tour – right now I’m out and about promoting Comfort Food-- so I can lighten up my suitcase and make room for a new one.

Has there been movie interest in Comfort Food? I know Friday Night Knitting Club was optioned and I can easily imagine this book as a movie too.

Well, there is some interest. But nothing I can talk about yet! I’d love to see Comfort Food as a movie; I think it would make a hilarious romantic comedy. As for casting it, I leave that up to Hollywood…

What are the best and worst aspects of having a book hit the bookstores?Do you get nervous about reviews, critics, book sales?

I’m a worrier. ‘Why wait until tomorrow what I can worry about today’is my motto. So, on the one hand, it’s tremendously exciting to have a newbook hit stores. Especially, with Comfort Food, I feel a certain joy that I didn’t with FNKC because that one came on the heels of Jon’s illness. On the other hand, who knows what will happen? You work hard on your craft and throw the book out there and who knows? Some reviewers love a book and others don’t, and that’s just real life. Opinion is subjective. You know,I aim to create fun, easy-to-read stories that offer a bit of respite during a busy, stressed day. I’m out to entertain.

How do you like going on a book tour? It must be exhilarating and exhausting! How do you unwind at the end of a busy day?

Book tour is a peculiar thing for me. I love meeting readers; everyone is always so kind and welcoming. But the truth is that I hate to leave home. I am very much into my comfortable space. I like being with my husband and our dog; we’re a little pack. And was I ever nervous when I first went on the road with Friday Night Knitting Club! But now I’ve eased into it a bit. Without exception, I meet great people on tour. What more could I ask for? And I really enjoy staying in hotels, for example, and trying out all the little soaps and shampoos. I tend to have a little collection of bottles by the end of my travels and that’s neat. It’s like bringing home a goodie bag.

What’s next for you?

Two books are in the works, and I have pages written in each of them. Neither has a title yet but I’m working on that, too!

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Anonymous Anonymous said...
Thanks for the review. I meant to ask you- whatever happened to "Five Minutes With Maggie"? I remember you posted about looking for someone to review books for your site.

IP @ 9:44 PM  
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