Monday, March 18, 2013

Maria Goodin talks about From The Kitchen of Half Truth, turning a short story into a luminous debut, the surreal aspects of being a published author, and so much more

I know how hard it is to get published, and so I always have a soft spot for debuts and debut authors. A publicist I trust told me I'd love this novel--and she was right. I'm so thrilled to have Maria Goodin here to talk about From The Kitchen of Half Truth. Thank you, Maria!

So, this wonderful novel first started out as a short story (which won the Derby Short Story Competition). Did you ever think of it as a novel as you were writing it? What was the process of turning it into a novel like?
No, it never occurred to me at the time of writing the short story that I would be turning it into a novel. It was really only winning the competition that made me wonder if it could be extended. Using the short story as a basis for a novel turned out to be a good way of getting started with novel-writing though, because it gave me a readymade structure and made the whole process less overwhelming. It allowed me to see which chapters were blank and needed ‘filling in,’ and then it was a question of developing some new characters and a few more themes.
So much of From The Kitchen of Half Truth is about the stories we tell ourselves. Were you always a storyteller yourself?
When I was little my friend and I were obsessed by our Sindy dolls for many, many years, and I think that was my first experience of storytelling. We developed and entire world for them, and I think all that make-believe helped develop an active imagination. Playing like that was my first experience of developing characters and storylines. As I got a bit older I became a terrible daydreamer, and was always off somewhere in my head. I was never bored – I seemed to have my own built-in entertainment system.
I loved all the cooking lessons that go on in the book. Are you a cook? Do you think there also is a truthfulness to food and cooking, or are there ways we cheat to make food (and our lives) better?
I actually don’t like cooking much. I find it stressful and frustrating, usually because things don’t turn out quite like they are meant to. However, I am starting to wonder if I could enjoy cooking if I took the time to get good at it. I have become aware of the fact that although I always say I don’t like cooking, I seem to watch a lot of cookery programmes, spend a lot of time looking at cookery books and I wrote a novel about cooking! That has to say something. Maybe I am a closet foodie.
I find the association between emotions and food quite interesting, and I think that is linked to this question about honesty. I think we attribute all kinds of meanings to food, and often those meanings are distorted and dishonest, even though they feel true to us. You just need to look at the number of people who have issues with food to see how complex a relationship it can be; overeating, under eating, depriving ourselves, gorging ourselves…we use food for all kinds of emotional fixes and as a way of communicating things we can’t otherwise say.
What's obsessing you now and why?
How to balance career and motherhood is probably top of the list right now because with two small children writing is suddenly a lot harder!
What question didn't I ask that I should have?
How does it feel to have your first novel published? I did wonder if I would have to end up answering that and now I have to think about it!
It feels rather surreal when I see my book in a shop or a library. I find myself wanting to pick a copy up, wave it at the nearest person and shout “Hey, I wrote this!” Luckily my son does that for me at my local library, picking my book up and yelling, 'There's mummy's book.”' I feel quite proud and glance around to see if anyone has noticed but they never have. Generally, I would say I feel less of an 'author' than I might have expected. It wasn't like the moment my novel was out I quit the day job and committed myself to a new life. Publication is such a gradual process that the whole thing slowly crept up on me rather than changing anything dramatically overnight. What has really surprised me is how much of my focus has been on 'right, what next?' rather than really savouring the experience. My first aim was to have a novel published. Now I have done that my aim is to have a second novel published. Occasionally I have to look at the copies of my books and remind myself what an achievement it has been to have a book published in the first place, otherwise I find myself constantly looking forward. And this really isn't an experience I want to miss!

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