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Screen shot 2012-03-16 at 10.34.36 AMThe usually brilliant Pete Denton, clever Lori DiNardi, and the astute JM McDowell are under the mistaken impression that my novel might be The Next Big Thing. The silly rabbits asked me to do this blog-interview about my novel. (Sorry it took me so long, Pete.)

Try to stay awake folks.

1) What is the title of your book?

In Search of Beef Stroganoff

2) Where did the idea come from for your book?

My husband said to me for years, “You should write a novel.”

I said, “Yeah, right. Easy for you to say. I don’t have an idea for a short story, let alone a novel.”

Well, one night, six or so years ago, we were doing the dishes after a dinner of beef stroganoff. I said, “I’ve got it! What if a woman, who treated her mom poorly, wants to make her mom’s beef stroganoff to feel close to her, but she has to search the world to find her recipe. Brilliant! We will be able to retire to Tahiti on the royalties!”

The look my husband gave me said, “Don’t quit your day job.”

The idea for my novel sat untouched in a dusty corner of my brain until one day when I thought, “I wonder what would happened if I started writing?” Voila! A novel is born.

3) What genre does your book fall under?

Quality Women’s Fiction.

Quit laughing. I didn’t put it in that genre. A literary scout in England read In Search of Beef Stroganoff and said it falls in the category of Quality Women’s Fiction. Hey, who am I to argue with a professional in the literary business?

I can hear you saying, “A likely story, Robin. How did a budding novelist in California bribe coax con a literary scout in England into reading your work?”

Easy. She is a friend of a friend. He pitched my novel to her and she agreed to read it. It’s not what you know, but who you know, right?

I hadn’t heard the term literary scout before. Lucky for me, in her long email after she read my novel, the scout explained her role in the book world.

She said, “ I’m not a literary agent or publisher, rather I’m a literary scout here in the UK, so my job is to read and assess all manuscripts that get sent to my office. I read manuscripts (both non-fiction and fiction from all genres), write feedback, and hand-pick certain ones to send on to our clients, who are foreign publishing houses, who then buy the translation rights to distribute in their country if they like them. Like a book match-making service… we find books in the UK market which match the publishing criteria of our clients abroad.”

She went on to give me encouraging feedback. In part, she said,

“I think it has a very saleable plot hook in Meredith’s exploration of self through her search of one ever-elusive recipe. I especially liked the irony of how she found her mother’s recipe! A lovely touch that added very satisfactory circularity to the story.”

“Astrid’s character was extremely warm and very charming. I think her role as replacement mother figure worked well; the ideal surrogate that gave Meredith scope to evolve and have a second chance at the mother-daughter relationship. I shed tears into my tea.”

“Your writing is fluid and maintains a steady pace throughout that drives the narrative forward. The descriptive sections on food were particularly sensuous and beautifully textured It’s certainly good enough for me to send out in one of our weekly reports to foreign publishers, which I can do over the next few weeks if you’d like. In all, I think you’ve got something great here though – fluid prose with a teary redemptive ending, but which needs a few tweaks to round it off.”

She ended her email with excellent feedback on where and how I can strengthen In Search of Beef Stroganoff, and some insight into the nuts and bolts of the publishing world.

4) Which actors would you choose to play in your movie rendition?

Oh gosh darn it. Let’s get the damn thing published first.

5) What is a one-sentence synopsis of your book?

A young woman searches the world for her mom’s beef stroganoff recipe and in the process finds a love of cooking, happiness, and an 88-year-old best friend.

6) Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?

Like many of you, I’d love to be picked up by an agent and traditionally published. Since that is a tough row to hoe right now, I most likely will self-publish.

7) How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?

I wish I kept track of that. I dabbled for a year or so, off and on. Mostly off. Then, when the story started taking shape, I worked on it for a couple of years. I’m still working on it.

8) What other books would you compare this story to?

The School of Essential Ingredients by Erica Bauermeister and Tender at the Bone by Ruth Reichl.

9) Who or what inspired you to write the book?

My love of reading, writing, and food inspired this story, as well as my husband’s blind faith and encouragement to do so.

10) What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?

It is damn good! Wink. Wink.

OK, to be honest, I’d say the novel blends humor and human frailty with the magical power food has in giving comfort and bringing people together.

And now, to pass on this distinction, I’d love to hear about their The Next Big Thing from:

All Things Boys Blog

Corey, M.P.

The Laughing Housewife

Writing by the Numbers

Carrie Rubin

Thank you Pete, Lori, and JM. You guys rock!