From the time I first heard Hillary Manton Lodge’s news that she was writing a series of culinary stories, I’ve been waiting (not too patiently) for the first one to release. I was thrilled and honored to be able to read an early copy and write this endorsement:
Warm, witty, and a culinary delight! Hillary Manton Lodge’s crisp writing reminds me of a vintage romantic comedy but with contemporary appeal as the story unfolds with perfect pacing and recipes to make you drool. More than once I found myself wishing I had a pastry chef in my own kitchen. Wonderfully romantic in all the best ways!
And lucky for you, too, A Table by the Window is now released to bookstores everywhere so you, too, can get your own copy. Or read to the bottom and find out how to enter the giveaway. Recently I was happy to catch up with Hillary and have a chat. Sit back and enjoy!
You know I loved A Table by the Window. It’s so romantic and features all the yummy food! How did you come up with the concept of the series? Was there a defining moment when you said, “Yes! This is it!”
The seeds of the story began in late 2005, when I was working as an intern at a food, wine, and travel magazine. But that’s all I had – seeds. Over time the characters grew, and after I met my husband online and we married, I put the two stories together. As a women’s fiction piece, though, it still lacked depth.
A couple more years later, I sat down over Thai food with an editor friend of mine. The two of us threw around all kinds of ideas to bring complexity to the story. From there, it snowballed! Before I knew it, the story had grown so much that it needed three books in order to be contained. So it was less of a “Yes, this is it!” kind of thing as much as it was an “Oh yes, that too!” And honestly, some of the finer points of the mystery keep jumping at me and creating themselves. I’m looking forward to seeing how it all wraps up in the third book.
Do you have personal experience with restaurant management or being a sous chef? Or are you just a Food Network aficionado?
I’ve certainly watched my fair share of the Food Network, but what really launched the book was the time I spent as an intern for a food, wine, and travel magazine here in Portland. It was my first time living away from home – I was lucky enough to grow up in a college town – and I got to try new foods, visit new restaurants, and meet chefs. The internship wasn’t long but it was enough of a taste that I knew I needed to set a book in that world.
I supplemented those memories with stacks of food memoirs by people who had travelled the world, worked in the restaurant industry, and eaten just about everything. Studying up for the series has definitely been some of my favorite research!
Now, that we’ve established this book is about food and romance – please give us a short synopsis.
Juliette D’Alisa is our intrepid protagonist. As a food writer and the youngest heir to a French-Italian restaurant dynasty, Juliette has spent her life negotiating her skill with words and her restaurant aspirations. When her brother Nico offers her a chance to open a restaurant together, she feels torn between taking the risk or hanging onto her journalism career.
After the death of her grandmother, she discovers an antique photograph of a man who looks strikingly like her brother. As the truth behind the picture reveals romance and dark secrets, Juliette struggles to keep the mystery away from her nosy family until she can uncover the whole story. (Note: they really are nosy. This is not easy.)
To further complicate matters, her grandmother’s passing inspires her to explore the world of online dating. To her surprise, Juliette finds a kindred spirit in Neil McLaren, a handsome immunologist based in Memphis, Tennessee. Between changes in her position at work, the new restaurant, and a tentative long-distance relationship, Juliette has some decisions to make. The story chronicles her journey as she chooses between the life she wants and the life she feels others want for her.
It’s a fine line in real life, too, isn’t it. How about you – what do you do to get away from it all? Any hobbies or super powers?
To get away, I love a good walk. If the weather cooperates, everybody wins – it’s cheap, the dog and I get exercise, and if I can con my husband into joining me, so much the better. A walk somewhere with flowers? That’s my favorite.
My interests are pretty varied – I enjoy photography and crafting of all kinds. I love exploring art museums in new cities. As far as a superpower, I’m really pretty good at cutting my own bangs.
Who are your favorite authors?
I love Susanna Kearsley’s books, and Sarah Addison Allen’s as well. I reread Siri Mitchell’s Chateau of Echoes about once every year. Discovered Rainbow Rowell this last year – when her next book releases, I’m turning off my phone and disappearing for the day.
Great choices, although I’m not familiar with Rainbow Rowell – hmm, I may have to check that out. Is there a book that you’re an absolute evangelist for?
I’m pretty gushy over Maria Semple’s Where’d You Go, Bernadette. I’ve actually read it twice and listened to the audio recording; the first time I reread it, I wanted to make sure it was as good as I thought it was, because I’d read it so quickly the first time. The third time through, listening to the audio book, I got to listen to it with my husband. That was fun. Anyway, it’s a book about an avant-garde architect who stopped creating and has been spiraling, of a sort, ever since. And when she goes missing, her daughter pieces together her mother’s whereabouts. It’s thought-provoking, compulsively readable, and ends well. The characters don’t do what you think they’re going to do – there are true surprises in store.
End of gushing.
What is your favorite line from a book (either yours or someone else’s)?
Since I’m evangelizing Bernadette, I’ll share two that really stuck with me. The first is when she’s corresponding with a former colleague. He says, “People like you must create. If you don’t create, Bernadette, you will become a menace to society.”
My second favorite, second simply because it happens later, comes when she’s describing herself to her daughter. Some called her a genius, a great architect, but she counters, “I’m more of a creative problem solver with good taste and a soft spot for logistical nightmares.”
The first, I think, is a reminder that even though it’s hard, creative people must create – and that if they don’t, it doesn’t just go away, it’ll self-destruct. The second reminds me not to overthink my creative process. Good taste and clever detangling can go a long way.
Oh, great quotes from the book! Thanks, Hillary. Now, the burning question I’ve been dying to ask you. Did you try all of the recipes from A Table by the Window? And do you have any funny anecdotes about that?
A lot of those recipes are family recipes, for starters. The rest I dreamed up to suit what sounded appropriate for the sequence. I’ve made most of them, but the ones I didn’t have time for I passed off to friends and family to test on my behalf.
I’m trying to think of funny anecdotes – when I was working on the Orecchiette Carbonara, I tried making the Orecchiette by hand. Well, it was my first go at making pasta, and it came out rough and chewy. I opted to not use that recipe because I wanted to keep the recipes accessible. Instead, recommended that readers use dried pasta. But it was fun to try – and I’ll definitely try again. What was the most fun was learning to make the Orecchiette shapes. I watched YouTube videos of Italian grandmothers cutting and turning the shapes – they’re amazing!
And so are you, my friend! Thanks for coming. And thanks for offering the book giveaway to one of my readers.
Please leave a comment with your favorite “foreign” food – what the food is and your favorite place to eat it. Have you ever made it at home? I’ll be drawing for the book next Saturday (let’s hope I remember!). Chat away.
Hillary Manton Lodge is the author of Plain Jayne, a Carol Award Finalist, and Simply Sara, an ECPA Bestselling book. A graduate of the University of Oregon’s School of Journalism, Hillary discovered the world of cuisine during her internship at Northwest Palate Magazine.
At an early age, Hillary decided on royalty as a career path. A storyteller at heart, she admits that publishing is plenty exciting, and marriage to an engineer results in a less complicated in-law situation. In her free time, she enjoys experimenting in the kitchen, watching foreign films, and discovering new walking trails. She and her husband, Danny live in Portland with their Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, Shiloh.
Web site: hillarymantonlodge.com/
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