Author Spotlight: “A Healthy Type of Romance”
Happy World Book and Copyright Day! Every year on April 23rd, World Book Day, aka International Day of the Book, reminds us that books connect us. The meaning of WBD assumes a whole new dimension this year, since most of us are all physically and somewhat emotionally disconnected from one another at the moment.
This is only one of the reasons I wanted to celebrate this meaningful day with Carley Mercedes, the author of Dirty Cooking (2019), a humorous, light-hearted romance novel.
Carley’s novel gleefully combines laughter and romance and will certainly help you switch off and unplug–when you most need it.
I know that we could all use a laugh, as well as a good book right now.
“Frequently books create healthy, dynamic partnerships betweenmen and women, but every once in a while, I’ll read a book that glorifies problematic relationship behaviors such as manipulation or even stalking. I don’t ever want to write a book that encourages women to seek out unhealthy, or even dangerous, relationships, so I focus on creating relationships that are healthy.”C.M.
I have written about Carley’s novel before here. In this post, you will find more information about wonderful Carley herself and her novel. If you’d like to know what makes Carley’s writing different from others in the genre, read on!
Carley Mercedes is a romance writer who lives in Missouri with her husband. A sucker for love and happy endings, she started writing HEAs (Happily Ever Afters) when she was in high school. With a need for caffeine and bookshelves stacked to the ceiling to inspire her, she writes best in libraries and coffee shops. She’s happy to be a writer cliché, but when she’s not working she enjoys painting, plays racquetball, and travels.
“Melanie is a broken-hearted chef who loves fine food, but without any other job prospects, she’s stuck at the Jivin’ Diner, where grease is the main ingredient on the menu. She’s desperate to get a new job so she can start cooking the food of her dreams, and when her best friend calls her about an opportunity as a live-in chef, Melanie jumps at the chance. Not once did she ever consider that her boss would be hotter than her oven.
Growing up in foster care, Erik had a rough start. To save himself and his foster brother, the boys escaped their abusive foster father and ran off to Arizona. Now the owner of a successful app development company, Erik has more money than he knows what to do with. He has a huge home, fast cars, and even faster relationships. His life seems perfect, but something was missing. That is, until he hires Melanie. This little chef makes Erik’s blood sizzle more than the oil in her frying pan.
The fire between them burns hot, and though they try to resist the delicious temptation, the attraction proves to be too much. Emotions flare up, but the past hangs around like the smell of burnt popcorn, and neither can fully trust the other. Will Melanie and Erik overcome their past fears and embrace what is bubbling up between them? Or will their romance flop like a ruined soufflé?”
Interview with Carley Mercedes
Tell us about your background. What made you decide to pursue writing?*
I was always a daydreamer. As a young child, I absolutely loved road trips because I could spend hours staring out the window creating worlds and stories in my mind. When I was old enough to write, I always carried a notebook around with me. I started story after story—fantasy, fan-fiction, romance, science fiction, everything. I didn’t manage to finish a novel until my MFA, but after that, well, I couldn’t stop if I tried.
How do you choose which genre to write in?
I write in a lot of different genres because I find that writing is a fantastic way to explore the fascinating hobbies, jobs, and wonders in the world. But I’m partial to romance writing because I’m a huge fan of stories with happy endings. The world isn’t perfect, and people live difficult lives. If I can share a moment of happiness with a reader, I know I’ve accomplished something worthwhile.
What makes your book different from other books in your genre?
This is one of my favorite questions! I’ve read a lot of romance novels. I started reading them when I was around fourteen and I’ve been hooked on several authors in the thirteen years since. Frequently books create healthy, dynamic partnerships betweenmen and women, but every once in a while, I’ll read a book that glorifies problematic relationship behaviors such as manipulation or even stalking. I don’t ever want to write a book that encourages women to seek out unhealthy, or even dangerous, relationships, so I focus on creating relationships that are healthy. Of course, even heroes and heroines make mistakes and face conflicts, but I try to ensure that my characters don’t engage in red flag behaviors.
Can you describe what your book is about in one sentence?
Sparks fly when recent culinary graduate, Melanie, finds a job as a private chef for a handsome, though troubled, entrepreneur, Erik.
Give us some insight into your main character. What does he/she do that is special? What are his/her character flaws?
Mel has a dream and she’s sticking with it no matter the consequences. I love that about her. In a day and age when we’re so frequently told to be practical and to think about securing our future, I love to see a woman who bets on herself.
In terms of character flaws, Mel has a tendency to hold on to the past. It makes her a bit too cautious and keeps her from enjoying the present.
How did you get the idea to write Dirty Cooking?
After I finished graduate school, I wanted to write something fun. I absolutely love romance novels, but sometimes I’d be concerned about the way they portrayed relationships. Concepts of soul mates can lead to issues within relationships–for example, people might expect relationships to be easy, or they might think that problematic behaviors are excusable because their partner is ‘the one.’ So, I decided to write a romance novel without the soul mate trope, one that would be fun, and playful!
Can you summarize the novel in three words?
I’ll do it in two: sexy and funny. A combination I really enjoy writing.
What’s your favorite scene in the novel?
I think this answer changes every time I think about it. Today I’m partial to when the heroine, Mel, accidentally starts a fire at work. She sticks up for herself, which is great, but there’s also some fun chaos.
What was the hardest scene that you wrote in the novel?
Mel and her mother have a good conversation at the end of the book and that was a tough one to write. Their relationship isn’t simple and I think digging down to the love beneath complications is hard, but worth it. And I hope that came through here.
How would you describe your writing style?
What’s your writing process?
I like to have an arch to aim for–a concept, the main conflict, and an ending insight. Then I like to build the characters so that complications develop naturally.
What was one of the most surprising things you learned in creating Dirty Cooking?
If I had fun writing it, it’s likely the reader will enjoy reading it. My readers’ favorite sections are often the ones I had the best time writing. It’s a good reminder that each sentence, each section, each chapter deserves as much attention as the one before it. The book will be much stronger for it.
What is your favorite genre to read?
I love reading as many genres as I love writing in. I’m a huge fan of romance novels, but I also love speculative fiction and literary fiction.
What are some of your favorite authors or books?
Like many people my age, I owe my childhood to J.K. Rowling and Harry Potter. When I reached adulthood, Margaret Atwood and Octavia Butler changed the way that I thought about fiction. They made me realize that writing can be a social act, that bookscan change minds. And after a long, stressful day, I’ll reach for something by Ilona Andrews or Carly Phillips.
What other projects are you working on?
I’m working towards my Ph.D in fiction and my dissertation is a literary novel set in a border town in Arizona. I’m also working on another romance novel that follows Erik’s brother, Hunter. Also—because one can never be too busy—I run a small, experimental press called Partial Press with my husband.
What advice would you give to aspiring writers?
You have to practice writing novels just like you would practice anything else. It’s hard to envision such practice because a novel takes so much more time, but you wouldn’t write one poem and call yourself a fantastic poet, would you? Practice writing novels,practice finishing them. Don’t get discouraged if the first manuscript doesn’t get published. Just write the next one.
*the first and last five questions are excerpts from the author’s media kit.
You can find more about Carley and her novel at her website: CarleyMercedes.com
I will leave you with Pink Martini’s “Sunday Table,” which would be a nice soundtrack for Dirty Cooking!
Just a feeling.
I hope you’ve enjoyed my first Author Spotlight post–If you have any questions for Carley or about the book, drop me a line!
Again, happy WBD day!
If you’re an author who would like to be featured in a future post, send an email to me with the subject line “Author Spotlight” at firstname.lastname@example.org