Wednesday, 2 July 2014

The Art of Baking Blind by Sarah Vaughan

In 1966, Kathleen Eaden, cookery writer and wife of a supermarket magnate, published The Art of Baking, her guide to nurturing a family by creating the most exquisite pastries, biscuits and cakes.
Now, five amateur bakers are competing to become the New Mrs Eaden. There's Jenny, facing an empty nest now her family has flown; Claire, who has sacrificed her dreams for her daughter; Mike, trying to parent his two kids after his wife's death; Vicki, who has dropped everything to be at home with her baby boy; and Karen, perfect Karen, who knows what it's like to have nothing and is determined her façade shouldn't slip.
As unlikely alliances are forged and secrets rise to the surface, making the choicest choux bun seems the least of the contestants' problems. For they will learn - as Mrs Eaden did before them - that while perfection is possible in the kitchen, it's very much harder in life.

Tomorrow aspiring new author Sarah Vaughan releases her debut Novel 'The Art of Baking Blind'. It’s one not to be missed and I was lucky enough to interview Sarah about her new book....

Sarah Thank you so much for taking the time to speak to The Novel Cafe...Huge congratulations on your fab new book (review to follow) and good luck with the launch. 

1. Describe yourself in 10 words….
Oh, that’s so difficult as I'm naturally quite self-deprecating. So, the positives: Kind, loving, loyal, warm, witty (hopefully); less positively: a perfectionist who’s inclined to worry; with an over-active imagination (both good and bad!)

         2. What do you like to read yourself?
          I suppose I have tended to read literary fiction – or books that bridge the commercial/literary divide. Books I've loved recently have been Hilary Mantel’s Bring Up  the Bodies; Kate Atkinson’s Life After Life and Naomi Wood’s Mrs Hemingway and I've also  really enjoyed Jo Baker’s Longbourn and Rachel Joyce’s The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold  Fry.  I love books with a plot but also so value exquisite writing. And you can't beat a book  that makes you cry: I'm also looking for characters I can't stop thinking about when I've  finished reading.

         3. What made you decide to start writing a novel? 
         I think I’ve always wanted to write a novel. I won a writing competition – Devon Young Writer of the Year – when I was ten but it didn't occur to me I could do this as a career until very recently. I was a journalist for 15 years – 11 on the Guardian – and read English at Oxford so have been writing most days since I was 18 but it was only once I stopped writing news stories – and had my children – that I had the room in my brain, and the fragile self confidence, to think creatively. I started properly the week I turned 40 and my youngest started school and gave myself a year to do it (my voluntary redundancy money ran out then!) Luckily, the gamble paid off and it was sold a year and a month later.

         4. What was your inspiration for your first (amazing) book…The Art of Baking Blind?
Thank you! I think the whole experience of motherhood provoked something creatively in me. It’s a bit like climbing a mountain – I've climbed Kilimanjaro: you can't really explain what it’s like – or the intensity of emotion you'll experience – until it happens. I did a lot of baking with my children, before they started school, and it coincided with the growth in interest in baking. I began to think about why people bake.

         5. Tell us a little about it…
         The Art of Baking Blind is, one level, a novel about why we bake. It’s set around a 1960s cookery book, written by a Kathleen Eaden, an early domestic goddess whose husband starts a chain of supermarkets. Her book prefaces each chapter and her story is seen in flashbacks that intersperse the main story, which revolves around a baking competition run by Eaden’s in the present day.
Each of the contestants in this competition has a reason to bake – and as the book progresses these reasons become explicit as we see their lives unfurl.
One reviewer has noted that it’s about women’s desires and roles and how we reconcile these. It’s also about the secrets that shape our lives; about perfection and the impossible expectations women impose on themselves; about motherhood and nurture, and about everyone’s need to be loved.

6. As the characters in your book are you a keen baker? If so what is your specialty? 
My chocolate Devil’s Food Cake which was the basis for my birthday cakes as a child and which I now make for my children.The recipe should be going up on the Waterstone’s blog shortly.

7. I have to say Claire was my favorite character in the story…do you have a favorite and if so why?
I'm so flattered that you said that as she’s probably the character who is the least like me and so the one I have worried the most about creating realistically. I think Kathleen (Kitty) Eaden is my favourite. For me, she’s a woman constrained by her time and I just loved writing her story.

8. If the book was made into a film who could you envisage playing the lead roles? 
I've drawn a complete blank with this one as I can visualise my characters so clearly I can't imagine any actor playing their roles. I suppose a younger, and plumper, Brenda Blethyn could play Jenny and perhaps someone like Sarah Parish, Karen: neither of them is quite right. They would definitely have to be English. Though the novel’s sold in America – and will be published in ten other countries – I think of them as quintessentially English.

9. What’s next for you? 
I’m working on my next novel which needs to be submitted by the end of November. It’s set on a farm in north Cornwall and has a time-slip story, taking us back to the second world war. It’s about nurture, identity, refuge, love, motherhood and atonement - and the strong emotions provoked by a certain place. My great grandfather was a farmer in Cornwall and a photo of him leading his horse and plough sits on my desk as I write this. I want to draw on those roots and yet depict his harsh world in an unsentimental way. I'm deep into the first draft at the moment and very excited about it.

10. One for fun….3 items you would take with you to a desert island? 
Pen, paper and a photo of my kids and husband.

Review to follow tomorrow......

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