The four Waverley women all have special talents: Evanelle’s gifts, Claire’s knack with herbs, even Bay’s sense of belonging. Which of these gifts would you most like to have?
I would love to be able to cook with instinct and abandon, like Claire. Unfortunately, cooking is such a tricky alchemy to me. I once thought lettuce and cabbage were interchangeable. Then there’s the whole baking soda/powder conundrum. And I’m completely confounded by exactly how much is a pinch of salt. But it’s always been a fantasy of mine to be able to create gorgeous, unusual dishes.
If you knew that biting into a Waverley apple would reveal your future would you bite? What do you think you might learn?
I think I would resist taking that bite. Having your future revealed would be like finding out that someone was planning a party for you. The surpise is the best part about it.
Forced to choose, how would you categorize your book? Contemporary romance? Romantic fantasy? Fairy tale? Southern fiction? Something else entirely?
I’ve always called it Southern-fried magical realism. But, at it’s heart, it’s a love story.
Bay’s innocence and gentle curiosity rejuvenated the Waverley household. How do you think Bay inspired the entire Waverley family?
Bay’s gift is knowing where things belong, so when Bay is satisfied that things are where they’re supposed to be, I think it gives not only the Waverleys, but the reader, a sense of security. It means all is right with the world.
Evanelle delivers such a broad range of gifts, from a lighter to strawberry Pop-Tarts, and even a mango splitter. How did you come up with such quirky gifts?
I let my mind wander to crazy things that would fit into a large purse, like the kind Evanelle carries. The content of a woman’s purse says a lot about her. Evanelle’s bag tells her entire story.
In past interviews, you’ve said that the Waverley tree didn’t become a character until the end of your novel. How did this magical tree weave its way into Claire’s garden and your story?
When I reached the scene when an apple rolls out of the garden and stops at Sydney’s feet upon her returning home, I was surprised. I didn’t intend for that to happen. But that’s when I realized the tree itself had a personality. I went back to the beginning of the story and wove that personality in. The tree is a character in its own right, and it wanted me to know that!
Claire obviously has a lot of resentment built up for her younger sister Sydney. It seems to be a case of one-sided sibling rivalry. Do you have any siblings who have inspired your thoughts on this?
My real-life older sister is named Sydney, actually! But we’re so far apart in age that the only rivalry I can think of is that I always thought she got the better name…
In September 2007, Garden Spells was chosen as both a BookSense pick and a Barnes & Noble Recommends selection, how have these achievements changed your goals for your future books?
The attention Garden Spells has received has been a wonderful surprise. I’m incredibly grateful. But my goals remain the same—to keep writing books I love, quirky as they may be.
A prominent theme in Garden Spells is the effect of Claire’s catering dishes on her clients. Do you have a favorite “go to” recipe when you have guests over?
If I can make this, anyone can. Seriously.
Ziti with Artichokes
1 box of ziti, cooked and drained
1 can tomato sauce
2 small jars of marinated artichokes, quartered (save oil)
2 chopped fresh tomatoes or 2 cans of chopped tomatoes, drained
2 small cans of sliced ripe olives
Salt, pepper, sweet basil
In large warm skillet, pour about 3 or 4 Tbs of the artichoke marinade. Add artichokes and tomatoes, then sauté. Add tomato sauce. Simmer for about five minutes. Flavor with salt, pepper and sweet basil. Remove from heat and add cooked ziti and ripe olives.
How do you think your father, being a writer himself, has influenced your work?
When I was in junior high, Dad was getting a lot of recognition for his work at the newspaper. My lit teachers were aware of his work, and I think they wanted to see something of him in me. If there was a glimmer of something good in my writing, they praised it. They found something in me I didn’t know was there. I’ll always be grateful for that.
Can you tell us a little about your next book, The Sugar Queen?
A secret closet full of candy…Books that won’t go away…Three women with more in common than they think…
The Sugar Queen, a novel of love, candy and magic, on sale Summer 2008.