by K. Evan Coles & Brigham Vaughn
As we discussed topics for this this blog post, the conversation got derailed (as it often does) by talk of food. First K. Evan mentioned that she was making overnight oats. This segued into Brigham’s dinner plans of turkey burgers with curried mayo and garam masala roasted potato wedges. From there it went into a discussion about what Brigham should do with a bunch of milk that needed to be used up before it went bad. Homemade ricotta cheese and pumpkin rice pudding were discussed and recipes researched. We debated the merits of bubble tea, tapioca pudding, and Champorado, a Filipino rice porridge made with cocoa powder and coconut milk.
We have conversations like this often, both for IRL purposes and for character writing. In the end, we realized we might as well write a blog post about food, one of our mutual loves. After all, clearly our minds were on the topic, so why not focus on something that we clearly spend a lot of time talking about.
K. Evan calls herself a “super food fan” and Brigham is a self-described foodie. Both of us enjoy both cooking and baking as well as eating, and especially sharing the food we make with others. Our newsletter even has a section for recipe sharing. We wholeheartedly enjoy others doing the cooking, too, especially foods we’re not easily able to make ourselves. To us, food is just all sorts of fun.
We’ve had to research a different genre of recipes for “The Speakeasy” books, namely cocktails and mocktails. The characters in the books frequent an uptown speakeasy in Manhattan called Under, and the bar becomes a sanctuary of sorts for a growing circle of friends to connect and share their experiences. Under serves as both hang out and haven for the characters, and the drinks served there and throughout the plots are as varied as their personalities.
Some of our characters want something fabulous with four liquor and a fancy garnish, like the Lita Grey Cocktail. Others crave a more straightforward kind of drink, like the Cuba Libre or a great Scotch served neat. We also write characters who abstain from alcohol and some who drink sparingly to avoid medication interactions. For them we’ve become acquainted with lots of gorgeous mocktails and infused waters, many of which have migrated into our personal lives (neither of us finds writing while imbibing actual alcoholic cocktails to be particularly productive).
To be sure, our books contain references to food, too. Our characters cook with and for each other, and some do a little more teaching if they find their partner in crime is best known for burning water. The characters definitely dine, too, and enjoy sharing meals in groups. Some of the characters are even willing to set their differences with friends and family aside—at least for a little while—when it comes time to cozy up to the table for some good food and conversation.
Food is so often a universal language that brings people together and helps them connect. The connections in our books might occur over a boisterous dinner featuring a big group eating homemade Guinness beef stew, but they might also happen in a more intimate setting, like an impromptu picnic of cookies and beer for two on someone’s half made bed.
We can go a little overboard with the descriptions, which we suspect occurs if we’ve been writing while hungry. As our beta readers go through a book, they often make suggestions to trim a section that involves food or remove some of the details of a meal the characters are eating. We writers then typically debate the comments at length before we cut anything out. Because food.
We know there are readers out there who are much less interested in every last detail of the food and drinks the characters enjoy, so we want to keep it balanced. Setting the scene is important, but we also want the scenes to help develop the characters and move the plot forward. In the end, we want to tell a really great story, and we do our best to determine how many words we spend on everything in it.
Incidentally, we have plans for a book about a chef in the near future. Our tendencies to go cheerfully overboard with the food talk may come in handy then!