I have three things that I really love (other than family, of course):
- Books–reading them and, of course, writing them. I love a story that transports me to another world and takes me on a journey that invokes emotion. Which takes me to #2.
- I love Love. I love feeling it, and the journey of finding it. Since I’ve already found the love my life, I enjoy experiencing that journey through books (see #1) or movies. Basically, I’m a sucker for a good love story.
- I’m a huge foodie. Being French Canadian, food is a huge part of our culture. Many of my happy childhood memories revolve around the sharing of stories and music at the dinner table (except on liver and onions night, sorry mom!). My favourite date night with my husband is sitting down to a nice slow meal, savouring each bite, pairing it with wine and revelling in the enhancement and compliment of flavours–the sensations on my tongue, the salty, the sweet, etc. Food is not just fuel, it’s an experience. Food is love.
So, when I came across the beautiful cover reveal for Amy Reichert’s novel, The Coincidence of the Coconut Cake on Brenda Drake’s blog, with its blend of my three favourite things, I knew I had to read it.
Once I delved in, I had so many questions I wanted to ask Amy. So, I approached her for an interview for my blog, and she was gracious enough to agree. This is a really busy time for Amy, The Coincidence of Coconut Cake was released on July 21, 2015, so I want to thank her for taking the time out of her busy schedule to answer my questions. Her journey is an inspiration to writers like myself, who are in the querying (and editing, querying…) trenches.
- Amy, tell us about yourself.
I earned my MA in Literature from Marquette University, and honed my writing and editing skills as a technical writer (which is exactly as exciting as it sounds). As a newly minted member of the local library board, I love helping readers find new books to love. I’m a life-long Wisconsin resident with (allegedly) a very noticeable accent, a patient husband, and two too-smart-for-their-own-good kids. When time allows, I love to read, collect more cookbooks than I could possibly use, and test the limits of my DVR.
- What inspired you to write The Coincidence of Coconut Cake (C3)? Is it the first novel you’ve written?
I had been staying home with the kiddos, and my youngest was about to start school. With the realization that I needed to find something to do with my time and a strong revulsion at seeing the inside of a cubicle again, I brainstormed possibilities. At the time, I spent a lot of time in the Harry Potter fandom and folks were starting to chat about NanoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month). I had always told myself stories but never written, so I thought I’d try writing them down. That year, I only wrote about 9000 words during Nano before life interrupted, but I’d been infected by the writing bug. It took me another 8 months to finish that first draft.
- From idea to completion, how long did it take you to complete the manuscript? Did you workshop or take classes? Did you use an editor or critique partners to help you get your manuscript query ready?
1782 days from the day I opened my first word document to publication. I never workshopped or took classes, but I did read a lot on how to write a book. I also read my Writer’s Digest magazines cover-to-cover. They are full of great techniques. I did have CPs (critique partners) that gave great advice too. I didn’t hire an editor because my CPs were so great.
- There seems to be a subgenre of women’s fiction with food themes, (such as The Sweet Spot by Stephanie Evanovich and Stacey Ballis’s books. Would you consider C3 part of the culinary romance genre? Do you feel that there is a growing demand for this genre?
Interesting question. I never really think of my book in that specific of a genre. But if that’s a place where a reader might discover my book, I’m all for it. Genres are really more a tool for readers, which is why books are listed across several genres on sites like Goodreads and Amazon. From my end of the process, I’m writing light, commercial fiction with some romance (if you want to be extra specific). J As for the growing demand for culinary romance, I can’t speak to any industry trends. I will say that readers have been very positive about all the food in my book – so there is definitely a market for it.
- Under what genre did you query C3?
I queried it under Women’s Fiction and Contemporary Romance. Since the book could have gone either way, I tried to query it that way.
- Can you talk about your query process with C3? How many agents or editors did you query? Tell us about your journey from querying to “The Call”.
I queried 88 agents over the course of 14 months. Over that time I would send out a batch, get feedback, then revise. This resulted in 3-4 major overhauls of my book during the querying process. Had I not taken the time to revise, I would have never gotten an agent with that first version. Once I had that last version, I queried my agent the traditional way, she requested the full one month later, and a few weeks after that I got the call. For the entire story, plus gifs, here’s my post on it.
- What advice would you give writers who are in the query process?
Be patient, be persistent, but realize if it’s not working, that’s a sign something isn’t working. It might be your query letter, it might be your manuscript. If you aren’t getting requests, then start working on your query letter. If you’re getting requests, but no offers, then it’s your manuscript. Writing is one of those skills where you never stop learning and improving.
- Tell us about The Coincidence of Coconut Cake.
In downtown Milwaukee, Wisconsin, Lou works tirelessly to build her beloved yet struggling French restaurant, Luella’s, into a success. She cheerfully balances her demanding business and even more demanding fiancé…until the morning she discovers him in the buff—with an intern.
Witty yet gruff British transplant Al is keeping himself employed and entertained by writing scathing reviews of local restaurants in the Milwaukee newspaper under a pseudonym. When an anonymous tip sends him to Luella’s, little does he know he’s arrived on the worst day of the chef’s life. The review practically writes itself: underdone fish, scorched sauce, distracted service—he unleashes his worst.
The day that Al’s mean-spirited review of Luella’s runs, the two cross paths in a pub: Lou drowning her sorrows, and Al celebrating his latest publication. As they chat, Al playfully challenges Lou to show him the best of Milwaukee and she’s game—but only if they never discuss work, which Al readily agrees to. As they explore the city’s local delicacies and their mutual attraction, Lou’s restaurant faces closure, while Al’s column gains popularity. It’s only a matter of time before the two fall in love…but when the truth comes out, can Lou overlook the past to chase her future?
Set in the lovely, quirky heart of Wisconsin, THE COINCIDENCE OF COCONUT CAKE is a charming love story of misunderstandings, mistaken identity, and the power of food to bring two people together.
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