Why did you write your book?
A Busy Cook’s Guide to Spices was a labor of love. My husband is allergic to MSG and other food additives. I wanted to find a way to spice up our food without using those additives.
Did you do any research for the book? If so, how did you do it?
The first step in writing any book is to first see if someone else has covered the material. So I hit the bookstores first. Granted there were a lot of picture books on spices, but every one of them was organized alphabetically by spice. Because people go to their pantry or refrigerator to decide what to prepare for a meal (not their spice cabinet), I wanted to organize the book both by spice and by the foods we eat. I wanted to know what spices would go with the chicken, asparagus or rice I was preparing. And I assumed many other people wanted to know, too.
The scope of the book continued to expand as I wrote it. Most of my research was done at the library and from other spice books. As a history buff, I wanted to include information on spice folklore, and I was curious about what the spices were used for in ancient times.
I also discovered how little I knew about the abundance of choices we all have at the grocery store. Much of my research involved buying foods I had never tried and experimenting with them. Because I was so naïve, I assumed many others were also, so I included a How to Cook and Buying Guide for all the foods that are listed.
What about your book might pique the reader’s interest?
I hope that the title “A Busy Cook” will register with everyone. I wasn’t interested in doing elaborate preparations, although there are one or two recipes that may require some time. I believe in the KISS principle. What I wanted was a way of adding more flavor to my standard meals and in finding out how to spice foods differently. In other words, I didn’t have the time to run to the grocery store for a recipe, so I would read through it and see if I couldn’t improve on it with more or different spices. Nothing tastes better than a happy accident that you create on your own.
What challenges did you face as you wrote this book?
Time and money were always a challenge. It took three years to complete the research and design the book. I was running a fulltime business of my own at the time. I wasn’t sure if the book would sell, but I knew as I continued that it was something that I wanted to complete for me. If nothing else the book is a ready reference for the way I and, as it turns out, many other people cook.
What are you working on right now?
Currently I am redoing a travel and guidebook on Colorado in eBook format from an insider’s viewpoint. The original book Almost Native How to Pass as a Coloradan is narrowly focused on the Colorado market. It is a major rewrite and will have a new title. This time I want to reach the travelers from Europe, Australia and other people, who love beautiful scenery. By adding a large section on what to do in various locations throughout the state with links to websites, I think the book will be more of what a traveler wants to know.
What’s been the most surprising part of being a writer?
When I say I’m a writer, people treat me a differently. I find that a little weird and have to assure them that they probably have never heard of me. Since publishing has become accessible to almost everyone, everyone pretty much thinks they are a writer, which is why I find people’s reaction so strange.
I have to admit it tickles me a bit, when my mother-in-law calls to say she saw my name in a magazine she picked up at the local bookstore. Or when a teacher from high school English calls to order my book. Those are both nice surprises.
What do you like to read? What is your favorite genre?
I like mysteries. I blame my sister for turning me onto them, since I used to read a lot of biographies. I turned my hobby of reading serial mysteries into a book called Mystery Lover’s Puzzle Book and continue to do book reviews on my publisher’s website (Bellwether Books.com). I think my days of crossword puzzle making are over, but I have begun a second puzzle book with other fun quizzes that I think mystery readers will like.
How have you marketed and promoted your work?
Each book was marketed differently in order to find a special niche often outside the bookstore market. My bestselling spice book is promoted mostly in spice and gourmet shops and spice catalogs across the country. The publisher even provides a map, so customers can buy locally if they wish. I do weekly food articles that show up on the website to keep up to date and to draw people to the site.
The Colorado book is promoted through local museums, tourist attractions and visitor centers throughout Colorado. That required a lot of phone work.
The crossword puzzle book was specifically targeted to sell in independent bookstores, especially with those that catered to or specialized in mysteries and thrillers. Our aggressiveness paid off, because the book made the Independent Mystery Booksellers Association’s list of Paperback Bestsellers in December 2007.
Have you written any other books?
Being aware of the time constraints we all face and wanting to pursue the idea of more flavor in my foods, I wrote A Busy Cook’s Guide to Flavor-Packed Cookies & Bars. It came out in 2008 when the market tanked and so did a lot of bookstores.
The idea was to concentrate less on goo and more on flavor. All the recipes had to take less than 35 minutes to bake, and I wanted to include both a cookie and a bar recipe for each of the flavors. Now when I’m in the mood for pineapple, I can make either a bar or a cookie with that flavor. If I want to put icing on, I’ve included several recipes, but for me the cookie’s flavor should stand on its own. The other thing I did was to reduce the recipes to between two to three dozen. The recipes are simple for the most part, and I tried to minimize the sugar content as much as possible.
Is there anything else you’d like to tell us?
Writing is an isolating type of job that seems to never end. Like any creative “starving artist” endeavor, it often takes years to become an “overnight success.” Somewhere I read that writing is more about rewriting than anything else. Nowadays it is about marketing and finding a unique following. I believe everyone has a book inside of them and shouldn’t be afraid to put it down in words if only for your family. But I’ve also come to realize that just because you have a voice, doesn’t mean that you can sing.
Where can people learn more about your books?
All of my books can be found and ordered from the publisher’s website http://www.bellwetherbooks.com. Feel free to look at the How To Order section to see if there is a spice store or bookshop close to you. You may also want to browse some of the new articles or book reviews under the Author Bio section.