We are proud to welcome as a guest one of our former Debutantes, Dana Bate. Dana wrote for the Ball in 2013, the year she published her first book, THE GIRLS’ GUIDE TO LOVE AND SUPPER CLUBS, which earned a starred review from Publishers Weekly and was translated into five languages. Her third book, TOO MANY COOKS, is a witty and insightful look at celebrity, cooking, love, and the influence of family. Kelly Madigan, a cookbook ghostwriter eager to upend her quiet life after her beloved mother’s death, accepts an assignment that takes her to London to ghostwrite a cookbook for Natasha Spencer — movie star, lifestyle guru, and wife of a promising English politician. As Kelly navigates the mercurial moods of her narcissistic boss, the challenges of a cosmopolitan world completely unlike her native Michigan, and her growing attraction to her boss’ neglected husband, she must decide how far she’s willing to go to become the person she wants to be.
In our Deb interview, Dana talks about navigating a rapidly changing publishing industry, the hardest and easiest things about being a writer, and more.
The road to publication is twisty at best–tell us about some of your twists.
Oh, boy. How long do you have? The beginning of my publication story is actually pretty smooth and straightforward: spent a year or so writing the book, took a month or two trying to land an agent, landed an agent, had offers shortly thereafter from a few publishing houses, signed a deal. Boom. Done.
Er, sort of.
About two or three months after I signed a deal with Hyperion, my agency went through a restructuring and laid off my agent. So I was shuffled over to a different agent (who thankfully remains my agent to this day). Then about three months after that, my beloved editor at Hyperion moved to Putnam and couldn’t take me with her, so I was shuffled over to a different editor at Hyperion. We got along very well, but once my book came out, she also left the company, and then Hyperion changed their publishing model, so for my second and third books, I moved to Kensington, where I am today.
Oh, and shortly before the publication of my second novel, my UK publisher was acquired by Little, Brown, who laid off my editor, and the process of shuffling through different editors began anew.
So,yeah. I tend not to get attached these days.
Tell us a secret about the main character in your novel — something that’s not even in your book.
My main character, Kelly Madigan, has a recurring dream that she returns home to find everything in her apartment gone. This probably stems from her (undisclosed) belief that she doesn’t deserve the success she’s achieved and that her comfortable lifestyle could evaporate at any moment.
What are the hardest and easiest things about your job?
Hardest: The lack of control over things like sales, packaging, and marketing; the overwhelming uncertainty (Will I get another deal? Will the book take off?)
Easiest: Immersing myself in a new world that I’ve created; the flexibility (particularly as a working mom); coming up with various foods and recipes to include in my stories
Has anyone ever thought a character you wrote was based on them?
Before he’d even seen a copy of my debut (The Girls’ Guide to Love and Supper Clubs), my former boss at the Nightly Business Report started telling people that the protagonist’s boss was modeled on him. What he didn’t realize was (a) that wasn’t true, and (b) Hannah’s boss, as I’ve written him, is c-r-a-z-y. I told him, “You need to stop telling people that. You’ll see why when you read the book.” Needless to say, once he read the story, he understood what I meant.
Do you have a regular first reader? If so, who is it and why that person?
My husband. I was nervous giving him the draft of my first book, but he gave me such thoughtful, constructive feedback that he’s become my go-to first reader.
GIVEAWAY: Comment on this post by noon (EST) on Friday, December 11, to win a copy of TOO MANY COOKS (U.S. only). Follow The Debutante Ball on Facebook andTwitter for extra entries—just mention that you did so in your comments. We’ll choose and contact the winner on and contact the winner on Friday. Good luck!
Dana Bate is the author of TOO MANY COOKS, A SECOND BITE AT THE APPLE and THE GIRLS’ GUIDE TO LOVE AND SUPPER CLUBS. Before writing fiction full time, she was a Washington producer and reporter for PBS’s Nightly Business Report, where she won the Gerald Loeb Award for a series she produced on the Indian economy. She studied molecular biophysics and biochemistry at Yale University and received her master’s degree from Northwestern’s Medill School of Journalism, where she won the Harrington Award for outstanding promise in the field of journalism. She lives outside Philadelphia with her family. You can follow Dana on her website, or on Facebook, twitter, and instagram.
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