Today I have a special post with an interview with the author of new YA novel, Caramel Hearts.
Caramel hearts is the story of Olivia (Liv), a 14-year old girl going through some difficult times. Her mother is an alcoholic, she’s being bullied at school, having issues with friends, and her sister, Hatty, has left college to try to keep social services from putting Liv in foster care.
Olivia finds an old recipe book of her mother’s (A number of recipes are scattered throughout this book), and in an attempt to recapture some memories of happier times, begins cooking some of the recipes. But her mission to reconnect with her mother through these recipes might just cause her more problems.
This book is both heart warming and heart breaking, with beautiful writing, and recipes for delicious treats that you can make yourself.
Interview with E.R. Murray
Tina: You’re new YA book, Caramel Hearts, is a coming of age story about a young girl who finds an old recipe book of her mother’s, and a number of recipes are included in the book. What inspired you to write a book containing recipes as part of the narrative, and is cooking a big part of your life?
Murray: I love food and I love books and I think food in fiction can be very emotive, so I wanted to explore this in Caramel Hearts. I think food gets such a raw deal these days; we need it to live and yet everything is about restriction and diets and restraint – I wanted to write something positive around food. I had the idea of the handwritten cookbook from the beginning, but I didn’t realise how strongly the recipes would feature.
It was once I started exploring the character of Liv more in depth, her situation and feelings, that I realised how much she needed something that would give her the opportunity to find hope and succeed at something. And this turned out to be cake!
During the early stages of writing the manuscript, I visited the National Library of Ireland to see some 16th century handwritten cookbooks; they had amazing ingredients like ‘frosted plums picked by moonlight’. They had such a strong voice, they made me realise the potential for the recipes in Caramel Hearts. It was a natural progression.
As for cooking, I love it! There’s something wonderful about sharing food and conversation with people, whether they’re loved ones or strangers – and I’m always making my own recipes. I made and tested all the recipes in Caramel Hearts, as they had to suit the storyline and emotions, otherwise they didn’t make the cut! I always eat my food at the table, no TV – it’s a great way to stay connected with your friends/partner/family.
Tina: Which one of the recipes would be your first recommendation that readers try?
Murray: I purposely made the recipes accessible so that people could enjoy them. The Peanut Butter Fudge Chunks are super easy and very tasty, but the Rocky Road is also proving very popular. Start with either of these; they’re both quick to make, delicious and great for sharing.
Tina: If you could invite any author (living or dead) to tea, who would it be and what would you cook for them?
Murray: I would have to invite Emily Bronte, seeing as Wuthering Heights is the book that I’ve read the most in my lifetime. I would make her some hearty fare to suit the moors backdrop of the book, but also, she’s been dead a while and could probably do with a good feed! Roast beef and Yorkshire puddings, followed by rhubarb crumble would be on the menu – she’s evidently a bit of a dark horse and I think the tartness would suit her! Over dinner, we could laugh at my tales of those bygone years spent dating men like Heathcliffe, thanks to reading her book in my teens! I’d also try and find out – what was she planning on writing next?
Tina: Outdoor adventure seems to be a huge part of your life. Which fictional character would you like to go on an adventure with?
Murray: This is a good question! I’ve kind of dreamed about this all my life… It would have to be Phileas Fogg. We could rescue exotic princesses and join circuses and get wrongly arrested in far flung parts of the world, travelling on steam boats, trains, and even a hot air balloon – how could I resist?
Tina: What was scarier, submitting your first book to a publisher, swimming with sharks, or jumping out of a plane?
Murray: Oh, definitely submitting to publishers. Writing is such a strange beast, there are so many ups and downs and nothing is ever concrete. Writers are a weird mix of confidence and anxiety, bravery and fear. You put so much time and effort into writing a book, you persevere and overcome challenges of all kinds to make your manuscript the best it can be, and then you send it out into the world with the vain hope that a publisher will like it, knowing full well that you’re going to get rejected. It’s part of the process, and the manuscript has to find the right publisher, but it’s a real rollercoaster. And scary. I’m on my fourth book now and it doesn’t get any easier.
Tina: You’ve worked all around the world teaching creative writing. What’s one piece of creative writing advice that’s helped you?
Murray: I guess it was this: that if you write, you’re a writer. It’s as simple as that. It can be difficult to tell people you’re writing, especially at first when you have few accolades to your name, and it’s also difficult to see yourself as an actual writer. But the truth is, writers write – and that’s what it boils down to.
I would also add: never give up! If you want to be published but you stop writing, you have zero chance. But if you persevere, you’ll get there. I’d say 80% of the people that I met when I first started out – those that have continued working hard at their craft – are now published or have an agent or book deal, or they’ve been asked to send in their full manuscript.
Tina: And lastly, what Hogwarts house do you think you would be in?
Murray: This is so tricky because I want to say whichever sounds smartest or nicest or most witty or brave, but in truth, I’d like to be in whichever house wins. So perhaps Slytherin would be most truthful?
Thank you very much to E. R. Murray for agreeing to answer my questions and to Bloomsbury/Alma books for providing a copy of the wonderful, Caramel Hearts.
Find it here:
Title: Caramel Hearts
Author: E. R. Murray
Publisher: Alma Books
Publication Date: July 2016
Australian RRP: $19.99.