I’m delighted to welcome fellow Wild Rose Press author Barbara Barrett here today for an interview and a look at her new contemporary romance, And He Cooks Too.
Hi Barbara, so glad to have you here today. Tell us a little about And He Cooks Too:
My second release, And He Cooks Too, officially launches with The Wild Rose Press on March 22, but the Kindle version is currently available on Amazon. It was one of my favorite books to write because I did a lot of research watching TV cooking shows. The Sleepover Clause was released by Crimson Romance in September 2012 and is available now in ebook format and POD. It takes place in my hometown of Burlington, Iowa. [See more below].
And He Cooks Too Blurb:
Three men, three lies. One thought it was for her own good, one did it for his own good, and the third nearly destroyed her career. Blacklisted by the city’s finest restaurants, Chef Reese Dunbar must now put the resuscitation of her battered reputation in the hands of yet another man. The television experience Nick Coltrane’s cooking show offers is her best option for restoring her name and becoming the Big Apple’s super chef. But after giving her body and heart to him, her trust is put to the test when she discovers that Nick has lied about the real reason he brought her on board, and worse yet, Nick can’t cook.
What inspired this story?
I am a huge fan of TV cooking shows, particularly those featuring various cooks and personalities who have become major celebrities and cooking competitions. Awhile back, I got to wondering if these warm, knowledgeable culinary artists were really like that off-camera, and that started me on the route to creating a TV chef who can’t cook plus his self-involved, ambitious aunt and executive producer of his show. None of the characters in this book is directly patterned after one of these celebrities, but they certainly got me started with my “what if?” process. After watching numerous cooking competitions, I realized that to survive as a chef, particularly a female chef, one has to develop a thick skin and ego. So I gave my heroine, Reese, the real chef in this story, a bit of an ego and blended that with impulsiveness, which have her walking out of evening service at her restaurant, a big no-no in the restaurant world, when she learns she has been passed over for the promotion she was promised.
What are you working on now? Do you have any releases scheduled for this year?
I’m currently working on two projects while two others percolate in my brain. The first, Driven to Matrimony, is a shorter story than my others to date (approximately 50,000 words) about a forensic accountant who places her job in jeopardy to convince her aging movie star mother to slow down her rush to the altar with a twenty-year-old film student only to find herself attracted to the young man’s father. The other is the sequel to The Sleepover Clause, currently titled The Travel Clause. The two that are currently gelling (already written and revised awaiting a final revision), are the first and second of what I’m calling “The Dances of Sullivan’s Creek” trilogy about the people who are part of building a residential development in Iowa – the developer, the architects and civil engineers, the general contractor, the sales manager and the interior designer. The first is titled Saved by the Salsa and the second is Tough Enough to Tango.
What are your writing goals for this year?
First and foremost is productivity. I want to complete all four of the manuscripts mentioned in my response to the above question. I’d also like to expand on my reader base. Although I’ve set up my own website, I put off establishing a blog. It’s time to follow up on that goal, but before I proceed, I need to obtain a little more of the technical know-how required to launch and maintain one. I also want to get the content right, i.e., develop something that has direct appeal to and benefit for readers. I recently participated in a webinar about how to use Facebook and Twitter more effectively in promoting my writing. I want to follow up on some of the ideas I gleaned from that session. I’ve already agreed to speak to two groups in my community in the upcoming months. And finally, I want to participate in a signing for my print and ebooks.
Can you share with us “the call” story?
I spent part of last year arranging a mini-reunion in the North Woods of Minnesota with six of my high school friends. I was so excited to see everyone and take part in all the activities we’d planned for our four days on Lake Superior. However, as the time for that special event arrived, as fate would have it, I was close to hearing back from my editor whether they were going to publish And He Cooks Too. Although we had wireless in our rental house, it was a slow connection. I found myself spending an inordinate amount of time indoors waiting for my email to come up while my friends were outside drinking wine, laughing and otherwise getting reacquainted. Early in the morning of the second day, I received the “the call” email while reading my iPhone messages. Needless to say, I was ecstatic and delighted, but it was so early in the morning, I couldn’t share my news with anyone. Rather than spill first thing when I finally joined them for breakfast, I held onto my big announcement until we were on a tour boat viewing Duluth from the lake later that morning. Just as I was about to talk, the public address system came on and the tour guide began what was for me an endless description of the lake and its history. (To my Minnesota friends and readers, it really was quite interesting; I was just preoccupied.) The time had passed. So I waited until we were back on land in a parking lot enjoying a tailgate lunch to finally share my big news. It wasn’t quite the same, but I still relished the moment. I’m sure my friends came home from our time together convinced I had adopted an artistic temperament because I was so preoccupied with my book, but you have to be ready for good publishing new whenever it comes.
What do you enjoy most about writing?
I love doing dialogue. It’s a challenge to write male characters who sound like men, but when it’s working, it’s a great high. I’ve already started to convert one of my manuscripts into a screenplay.
What is the best thing about being an author?
The best thing as well as the scariest thing about being an author is knowing it’s all in your hands, at least that first part, before anyone else sees it and offers their opinions. It’s not so much the control as it is the creative challenge to start with a blank computer screen and start filling it with your own ideas. I love the process of “what if?” Starting with a simple question and letting my imagination go from there.
What is your favorite scene from this story and why?
My favorite scene to write was Reese and Nick’s first time co-hosting the show. An injured Nick, who should not have returned to work so soon, pushes through in order to keep the show on schedule but quickly loses steam in rehearsal, and the director makes the call to pull in Reese to co-host with him. Though Reese wants her own show, she questions whether she’s ready to go before the camera, but finally agrees to help, even though the script no longer works and they have to wing it. To their surprise and the director’s delight, their banter and the sexual tension between them sizzles on-camera. I loved writing the dialogue for this scene as they introduce the day’s cooking theme to their audience.
My favorite scene is when Reese discovers that Nick can’t cook. I don’t want to give away much more than that, but it’s one of the scenes the reader has been waiting for throughout the book as well as waiting to see how Reese will react.
How do you balance writing and everyday life?
Do I? Well, here’s how I attempt to keep the balance. I try to write every day. Some days that’s only an hour and some days, it’s all day. I have very open-ended completion goals right now. In other words, I don’t pay attention to how many words I write each day or how many pages I revise. I could be a lot more productive, if I did, but I’m retired, and one of the things I promised myself after over three decades with the same employer was that I’d enjoy myself from here on. I play Mah Jongg twice a week and frequently have lunch with friends. I’m trying to walk more and spend more time on the treadmill at a nearby fitness center. Those activities serve to free up my brain while I still keep it active. I’m a member of an online critique group that usually meets every two weeks. I try to have something for them to look at every time. Other than the times when I’ve been handling editor revisions and reviewing galleys, having something for each critique session comes closest to a writing goal for me.
What is your favorite food to cook or eat?
Pizza. I can’t have it very often anymore, because I’ve discovered I’m slightly diabetic. So it’s become a real treat.
These are few of my favorite things:
1. My kids and grandchildren
2. Exploring the world with my husband
3. Lunch with friends
Excerpt for And He Cooks Too
The woman, her boss had called her Reese, angled her head, as if absorbing the man’s statement. It was the first real look Nick had gotten of her. Not bad. Not bad at all. “Patrice got the job because of Julian Parker, not because you and she got together?”
He glanced away. “Uh, well—”
“Both of you?” She started for the door again. “I am so out of here.”
Louis clamped a hand on her shoulder. “C’mon, Reese. Cut the drama. I thought if I explained the situation, you’d understand.”
“What I understand is that there is nothing here for me anymore.”
“You know the code, Reese. Chefs don’t leave their kitchens in the middle of service. You’re good, but not good enough to test it.”
She twisted around. “You can thank your new sous chef for the timing. Do you think her telling me just prior to the dinner hour was an accident?”
“Stick around. We’ll work out something,” he coaxed.
“Nobody leaves me high and dry. You’ll regret going out that door.”
“Let’s see who regrets what.” She ripped a net from her head, allowing a mass of raven black hair to escape, and pushed through the door to the outside world.
Barbara Barrett spent her professional career as a human resources analyst for Iowa state government, and that training has stayed with her in her writing of contemporary romance fiction. The theme of her writing, “Romance at Work,” reflects her fascination with the jobs people do and infiltrates her plots almost to the point of becoming a secondary character.
A member of Romance Writers of America and several of its affiliate chapters, she was first “published” in sixth grade when a fictional account of a trip to France appeared in her hometown newspaper, the Burlington Hawk-Eye. Years later, she was fortunate enough to visit the subject of her essay, although in it she never envisioned that she would trip on a curb near the Arc d’Triomphe and have to limp her way through the Louvre.
Now retired, Barbara spends her winters basking in the Florida sunshine and returns to her home state of Iowa in the summer to “stay cool.” She is married to the man she met in dormitory advisor training her senior year of college. They have two grown children and six grandchildren. When she’s not writing, she’s busy lunching with friends or playing Mah Jongg.
Her first book, The Sleepover Clause, was released by Crimson Romance in September of 2012. Her second book, And He Cooks Too, will officially be released by The Wild Rose Press on March 22, but in the meantime, it is available in the Kindle version on Amazon.
She loves talking about writing romance and welcomes invitations from book clubs to join them via phone calls or the Internet. Check out her contact information to request she visit your book club.
You can find Barbara at:
Facebook: Barbara Barrett
Barbara Barrett Photo by Leslie Sloan
And He Cooks Too is available now for your Kindle at: Amazon.com
The Sleepover Clause is available now for your Kindle and print at:Amazon.com