This week the Debutante Ball has the distinct pleasure of welcoming back Deb Alicia Bessette, from the Deb Class of 2010. She’s here with us today to celebrate the release of the paperback version of her debut novel.
Alicia Bessette’s first novel, A Pinch Of Love (also published as Simply From Scratch), became an international bestseller immediately upon publication. People magazine dubbed it “tasty” and Library Journal raved, “a strong, richly detailed debut novel, with a truly lovable heroine.” Alicia was born and raised in central Massachusetts. A pianist and freelance writer, she and her husband, novelist Matthew Quick, live in New England. For more information visit http://www.aliciabessette.com
[Wow — husband and wife novelists! Talk about a creative match-up. Stay tuned, because Matthew has agreed to be with us in March to share the release of his next YA novel, BOY21.]
Here’s a little about A Pinch of Love:
Rose-Ellen “Zell” Carmichael Roy doesn’t cook, but she wears her late husband Nick’s camouflage apron every day. That’s her widow style. It’s been more than a year since Nick’s tragic death during a post-Katrina relief mission in New Orleans, but Zell can’t bring herself to move on.
Then, a postman’s error spurs her to enter a baking contest in the hopes of donating the grand prize to the hurricane survivors in Nick’s memory. After Zell’s first attempt at baking goes embarrassingly awry, she meets Ingrid Knox, her motherless nine-year-old neighbor, and the two forge an unlikely friendship that will alter both their lives forever.
Need a little more inducement? How about this: “Fans of Cecilia Ahearn’s PS, I Love You will find a lot to like here.” —Library Journal
Where do you love to be?
Outside. Especially in the mountains, near rivers and lakes, with trees all around. It’s always been that way for me. When I was little I used to talk to trees. I suppose I still do, in a different way. I feel most myself, most relaxed, most capable, when I’m on a wooded path, or a mountaintop, or a secluded riverbank. I’m all about negative ions, baby! Fresh air and sunshine might not be a cure-all, but they lift my spirits.
Do you have any phobias?
I have so many phobias. A lot of them are weird.
I’m afraid of insects getting tangled in my hair. I’m afraid of very crowded places (such as Versailles palace at the height of tourist season, which I had to leave in order to avoid full-blown panic). I’m afraid of paper near my eyes; if someone comes running at me waving concert tickets or a birthday card or a newspaper all up in my face, I freak out.
If anyone reading along feels like sharing a phobia in the comments section, that would make me feel less alone!
Talk about one thing that’s making you happy right now.
The occasion of this interview. I was a Deb in 2010, the year of release of my debut novel. Now it’s out in paperback. To think I’m writing and making a living from it makes me so happy.
Tell us a secret about the main character in your novel — something that’s not even in your book.
One storyline in A Pinch Of Love that was edited out concerned a mountain lion. The big cat appeared in and around the town of Wippamunk, and some of the main characters — the good friends who support the narrator, Zell, through her grief — caught glimpses of it. If you read the book closely, you’ll find vestiges of this storyline.
I still think about the mountain lion. What her secrets were. What she wanted. Why she was there. I suppose she symbolizes something, both in my book and in my life. I’m not sure what yet. Maybe someday I’ll figure it out.
What is your advice for aspiring writers?
Persist. Stick-to-it-itveness is the most important quality a writer can develop. You might craft phenomenal sentences, you might be adept at self-editing, you might take criticism like a pro. But if you quit after the first disappointment — a rejection, a bad review, poor sales, whatever — none of those skills will amount to anything.
In 2007 I was rejected by eleven creative writing MFA programs. Eleven. I don’t think I’ve ever felt so low. In 2008 I racked up more than one hundred rejections from literary agents for a novel I was pitching. I reached a new low and spent a few months crying. Eventually I scraped myself up off the floor and started working on the novel that would become my debut, and an international bestseller. The moral of the story is, if the world tells you your writing isn’t ready, it might not be. But that doesn’t mean it won’t ever be.
Keep writing. Keep going. Believe. You must! Persist.
Alicia has agreed to give a free copy of A Pinch of Love to some lucky commenter — HOORAY! Now would be a good time to share your phobias. Come on, spill!