Author Carly Ellen Kramer and How to Bake a Chocolate Soufflé

how to bake

 

I have an interview with author Carly Ellen Kramer to share as well as a recipe and an excerpt from her book How to Bake a Chocolate Soufflé which sounds like a delicious title. The book released in late 2014 is available now.

Forget what your English professor told you – life stories are not written in college.

Madeleine LaBlange, Annie Anderson, and Audrey Navarro shared formative years as roommates at Chicago’s Catholic haven for women, the historic Abbott College. If only they could have predicted the collisions between their carefully crafted life plans and the realities they discover beyond campus…

Madeleine harbors dreams of becoming a concert pianist while Dr. Reynold Fenwick, her mercurial graduate school mentor, harbors fantasies of Madeleine. Will pursuing her dreams be worth the cost? Will an evening in Budapest change her life forever?

Annie plans to build a perfect family with her perfect husband in the cutthroat news media industry, until an abrupt tragedy shakes the foundations of her marriage. What happens when she feels pulled between the two men she loves most, her husband and her father?

Audrey leaves her religious, restrictive parents behind and aims for Chicago’s downtown skyline, dating recklessly and staring down each grueling workday one Chicago Dog at a time. Will an island respite lure her away from her corporate future? When she finds herself in the arms of an unexpected lover, will she have the courage to stand up for her own evolving sense of self?

Follow the journeys of these remarkable women, and cheer them on as they navigate life, love, and chocolate soufflé.

Melitzanosalata
Melitzanosalata (Greek Eggplant Dip, pictured)

Pierce two medium size eggplant several times with a fork and grill until blackened and soft. Allow to cool for a few minutes, then scrape off blackened skins. Puree eggplant in a blender along with 2 cloves of fresh garlic, 1 tablespoon of fresh parsley (mint works well, too), 1/4 cup of fresh lemon juice, and 2 tablespoons of good quality olive oil. Season to taste with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper. Serve with crisp vegetable slices or fresh pita bread. Makes about 2 cups.

 

Please tell me about yourself
I love to cook, and am fascinated by the connections between food and culture. I also love to travel, which lends itself quite nicely to exploring both new foods and new cultures! It’s only natural, I suppose, that my book characters often connect certain foods with pivotal life experiences. I feel very fortunate that my hobbies feed one another (pun intended).

Please share something about you that no one knows
I often write dialogue in my head while making jams and jellies. That probably sounds ridiculous, but making jams and jellies requires constant stirring over a bubbling pot for long periods of time. All of that repetitive stirring is very relaxing, and allows my mind to wander through conversations and conflicts my emerging characters are experiencing.

What are you reading now?
Hmm. I’m always reluctant to answer that… it’s like having your photo taken during a random, everyday moment, and then having people hold that image of you – whether or not you are smiling or your clothes match – forever! I read a LOT, and exactly what I read varies widely from one week to the next. Right now I’m reading Tatiana and Alexander by Paullina Simons, Finding His Way Home by Mia Ross, and Lost and Found in Prague by Kelly Jones. Next week, who knows?

Some favourite books and authors?
The Bronze Horseman by Paullina Simons is one of the best books I’ve ever read. Other favorites include Savage Inequalities by Jonathan Kozol, Pandora’s Lunchbox by Melanie Warner, The All You Can Dream Buffet by Barbara O’Neal, and Sugar Daddy by Lisa Kleypas. As you can see from the eclectic mix of fiction and nonfiction, there’s really not much predictability behind my favorite books and authors!

What is your work space and writing routine like? Please share a picture if willing
I spend some of my most productive writing time in coffeeshops at odd hours. The ability to people watch and, yes, eavesdrop on conversations often inspires the dialogue in my novels. I don’t mean that I steal conversations – nothing like that. Instead, I’m curious about speech patterns and the ways in which language evolves. New (to me) figures of speech, turns of phrases, slang words, positive and negative exclamations – those are the sorts of details that catch my attention. I also take note – literally – of body language. If the woman waiting for coffee next to me yells into her cell phone “Oh no, tell me he did NOT say that to you!”, I notice her nonverbals. Did she lift her head high on her neck while talking, or stick her head forward? Did she pace, or stand in place with a hand on her hip?

Sometimes I write at my messy desk in my home office.
Carly Ellen Kramer's desk

It’s just a plain old messy desk, really.

Food is a big part of your life, what is the best meal you’ve ever had?
The best meal that comes to mind at the moment was a three hour lunch at a tiny little bistro in Lichtenberg, France. My dining companions and I didn’t speak French, and the staff didn’t speak English, but a great deal of mutual smiling and miming led to an extraordinary experience. We sampled a little bit of everything, or so it seemed – pates and salads, fish and chicken, breads and cheeses, and the most exquisite desserts! Each plate looked so enticing that I took photos and had them printed into a series of notecards.

You work recipes into your books, do you come up with the recipe or story first?
The story always comes first. That’s the way it works in real life. Nobody ever says, “I want to make ten pounds of potato salad, but where shall I bring it?” A person is far more likely to say, “The neighbors are hosting a cookout to celebrate their son’s engagement – how exciting! Now, what shall I bring?”

Please tell us about How to Bake a Chocolate Soufflé
How to Bake a Chocolate Soufflé is about life experiences of three women who were roommates in college and followed very different paths after graduation. As time passes career and family dynamics evolve, and the women experience comedy, romance, drama, and steadfast friendship. There are so many “coming of age” books which tell the story of characters during their college years, and then the story ends. Many of those are great books, but I didn’t want to write a story like that. I wanted to write about what happens next, because a few years spent in school shouldn’t be the end of anything – those years should be the beginning of even bigger and better adventures to come!

What do readers have to look forward to next?
In Book 2 of the Cherry Harbor series, the three women featured in How to Bake a Chocolate Soufflé take a small step into the background. The lead character is a young widow who is trying to rebuild her life while hiding terrible secrets. Three wise women (I told you, just a small step into the background) help her to find her way. A handyman who happens to look darn good in a pair of blue jeans and harbors a few secrets of his own may have a little something to do with the story line, too… 😉 Book 2 is a little edgier, I think. I’m looking forward to reviewing a proof copy soon!
A server appeared – it was Hektor, Annie realized in a flash of undeserved embarrassment – with a plate of tiny, artfully arranged Orektikó. Among the appetizer bites were petite dishes of eggplant melitzanosalata and tangy tzatziki with thin bell pepper slices for dipping, a pair of slender lamb filled dolmades, and two small triangles of tiropita bursting with feta and ricotta cheeses. The anniversary couple took their time and savored each bite, knowing that traditional Greek meals were luxuriously long affairs.

How to Bake a Chocolate Soufflé can be found online at Amazon in print or ebook format, Crowded Earth Kitchen for signed copies and on Goodreads.

A server appeared – it was Hektor, Annie realized in a flash of undeserved embarrassment – with a plate of tiny, artfully arranged Orektikó. Among the appetizer bites were petite dishes of eggplant melitzanosalata and tangy tzatziki with thin bell pepper slices for dipping, a pair of slender lamb filled dolmades, and two small triangles of tiropita bursting with feta and ricotta cheeses. The anniversary couple took their time and savored each bite, knowing that traditional Greek meals were luxuriously long affairs.

“I fired Max yesterday,” Annie declared.

Bryant looked surprised. “Really? Why didn’t you –”

He cut himself short, remembering his unanticipated late night at work, and the three-against-one bedtime chaos he walked in on when he finally returned home. Bryant quickly changed the direction of his question.

“What finally did it?”

~How to Bake a Chocolate Soufflé, page 90

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