Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Meet the mistress of Magic Realism, Sarah Addison Allen.

Posted by Susan B James on 2:00:00 AM with 9 comments
  Please welcome Sarah Addison Allen whose new bookFirst Frost  releases January 20th. Not only do I have an interview with Sarah, I have an autographed copy of First Frost to give away. I feel like I won the lottery.

I fell in love with Sarah’s first book, Garden Spells  in 2008 and couldn't wait for the next dose of her self -described Southern Fried Magic Realism.
The Sugar Queen  did not disappoint. I have given away so many copies of it to friends that it’s ridiculous.

I took this bio from Sarah’s website:
New York Times Bestselling novelist Sarah Addison Allen brings the full flavor of her southern upbringing to bear on her fiction -- a captivating blend of magical realism, heartwarming romance, and small-town sensibility. Born and raised in Asheville, North Carolina, in the heart of the Blue Ridge Mountains, Sarah grew up with a love of books and an appreciation of good food (she credits her journalist father for the former and her mother, a fabulous cook, for the latter). In college, she majored in literature - because, as she puts it, "I thought it was amazing that I could get a diploma just for reading fiction. It was like being able to major in eating chocolate."
After graduation, her big break occurred in 2007 with the publication of her first mainstream novel, Garden Spells, a modern-day fairy tale about an enchanted apple tree and the family of North Carolina women who tend it. Booklist called Sarah's accomplished debut "spellbindingly charming." The novel became a Barnes & Noble Recommends selection, and a New York Times Bestseller.
After publishing four bestselling books in five years, Sarah took a hiatus when she was diagnosed with late-stage breast cancer at age 39. She returned to writing with her 2014 bestselling Lost Lake. She is now in remission. 
In 2015, she revisits the popular setting of her first book. First Frost, continues the story of the Waverley sisters from Garden Spells.

I love firsts, so tell me about the moment when you found you’d made your first sale.
It was the day before Thanksgiving and an editor from Canada called and left a message saying she was interested in a short romance novel I’d written.  I played the message for my family at Thanksgiving.  I was going to keep it for posterity, but it was mistakenly erased.  The book, called Tried and True, was published under the pen name Katie Gallagher.  I thought I had it made.  But then the line folded suddenly.  It took a long time to get another book published.  But that book turned out to be Garden Spells, so it was worth the wait.  We don’t always see the rhyme or reason behind the journey we have to take until we’re far enough down the road to see that the twists and turns were just leading us to where we needed to be.
I love that. Also I am such a fan, that I looked up Tried and True and bought it for my Kindle.

Other than your own, who are your favorite (heroes/heroines/writers) in your genre?

Alice Hoffman and Joanne Harris are wonderful, the queens of contemporary magical realism.  I first discovered this genre in college, and those first books remain some of my favorites.  I think the newness, the way this literary device opened a whole new world for me when I discovered it, made these titles unforgettable, like first loves: The Passion by Jeanette Winterson, I Am One of You Forever by Fred Chapppell, Like Water for Chocolate by Laura Esquirel, A History of the World in Ten and a Half Chapters by Julian Barnes.

Your book tour for The Peach Keeper had to be cancelled when you were diagnosed with late stage breast cancer. What helped you the most getting through this set back?
My family and friends, but also, unexpectedly, my readers.  I was overwhelmed by the support they offered me after I let them know I wouldn’t be on tour because I had cancer.  Cancer was such a shock, was such unexplored territory for me, that I had no idea what to expect.  I think, in the back of my mind, I was just going to try to hold on to what was normal for me, and bear the rest silently until it was over and I could go on with my life.  But everything changed because of cancer, including the way I accept — and now offer — support when going through the most trying times in life.

What is the most exciting moment, so far, in your writing career?
 I like to joke that I knew I finally made it when my dad stopped asking me when I was going to get a real job.  But I think the most exciting moment was getting the call that Garden Spells made the New York Times bestseller list.  I was in a tiny hotel room in Charlotte, N.C., on a short tour for the book, and I didn’t see it coming.  Best surprise ever.

What is your favorite pastime, other than writing?
 Sleeping.  Really!  Hobbies are the things we like to do but don’t always have time for.  That’s sleeping for me.  I like to think I’m getting really good at it, when I find the time!

You write some of the best food I’ve ever read. What’s your snack of choice while writing?
Thank you!  I’ve always been a little obsessed with food.  And I’m a classic emotional eater.  I used to eat my way through the stress of writing books (I gained nearly 20 pounds writing The Sugar Queen), but I’ve learned to keep snacks away from my computer while writing, or I’ll eat bags of candy and chips without thinking.  And my diet changed after cancer.  I learned some better habits, like, if it’s not in the house, I won’t eat it.  So I don’t keep the bad stuff around.  That’s not to say I don’t still eat it!  Just not at home. 

Got a recipe you want to share? Oh Please!!! Perhaps a Waverly Sisters recipe?
 Here’s the fabulous recipe for the Fig and Pepper Bread Claire Waverley makes in First Frost
Fig and Pepper BreadA simple, rustic bread with a magical combination of sharp, cracked pepper and sweet, moist fig.  Pair with your favorite creamy cheeses or marmalades.
2 cups wholegrain spelt flour
2 1/2 cups unbleached all purpose flour
1 1/2 cup coarsely chopped figs
2 tsp coarse black pepper
2 tsp sea salt
2 Tbs olive oil
1 dry yeast packet
1 1/2 cups of warm water

Whisk flour, salt, pepper and yeast until blended, by hand or with whisk attachment of mixer.
Add olive oil and warm water.  Knead for 10 minutes, or use dough hook attachment of mixer for 5 minutes, until dough is smooth and springy.
Oil a large bowl, place dough inside, and cover bowl with a damp hand towel.  Let sit in a warm place for approximately 1 hour, or until dough has doubled in size.
Softly knead in the chopped figs and evenly distribute throughout the dough (lightly flouring your hands can make handling the dough easier), shape into an oval, then place on a baking sheet.
Snip three shallow lines into top of the dough with scissors, then lightly dust the dough with flour.
Let rise, uncovered, until dough swells a little more —  10-15 mins, or longer if the kitchen isn’t warm.
Place tray in 350 degree oven for 40-45 mins until crust is slightly brown and the loaf sounds hollow when tapped on the underside. Cool on a wire rack.
I can't wait to try this. It sounds wonderful.

Any advice for new writers just starting out?
Trying to get published, trying to make a living from writing, from something you love to do and know you were meant to do, can be frustrating and disheartening.  But don’t give up because of the dark days. Succeed in spite of them. The dark days will make the bright days seem even brighter.  So bright you can hardly stand it.

Tell us about First Frost

First Frost is a return to the world of Garden Spells, but is a standalone novel.  It takes place ten years after Garden Spells, and explores what happens after the happily-ever-after.  I loved this return to Bascom,North Carolina.  It felt like coming home.  I hope readers will enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it.
I, for one, know I will.

What’s your current WIP?
 I only have a chapter and a synopsis right now, but it takes place in Charleston, involves two older sisters who haven’t talked in years, a young woman on her own for the first time in her life…and an invisible bird.  Who knows where the story will take me?  I can’t wait to find out.
You had me at invisible bird. If you ever use Beta readers, I volunteer.

And finally, where can we find you? 
My website is www.sarahaddisonallen.com.  And I’m active on Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest,too, if you want to come join me on social media!
Here are the the buy links for First Frost:
Thank you so much for doing this interview, Sarah. Sarah graciously gave me an autographed copy of First Frost to give away. The only way I've been able to keep my hands off it is by re-reading Garden Spells. I pre-ordered my own copy of First Frost months ago. 
a Rafflecopter giveaway


  1. What a great interview! I fell in love with your work in Garden Spells. I know I'm going to adore First Frost. :) Congratulations on this new release and I hope it sells in the gazillions.
    And that recipe sounds awesome. Figs are fabulous. Now if I can just get away from the computer... .

  2. Great interview! Thanks so much! I'm a huge fan of Sarah's work. Really looking forward to FIRST FROST!

  3. Great interview - I am looking forward to FIRST FROST coming out - and am now registered to follow you on facebook and via your blog.

  4. Hi Sarah, Congrats on the release of First Frost! It sounds delicious and so does your recipe for Fig and Pepper bread.

  5. Wishing you much success Sarah. Thank you Susan.

  6. Congratulations. I look forward to discovering your books.

  7. What a great interview! I loved the Sugar Queen (so much that I gifted it to my best friend) and can't wait to read more by Sarah!

  8. My only question is this....why isn't "pepper" listed in the ingredients? It's omitted in the book as well - how much pepper do you use? Feeling "frustrated"

    1. two teaspoons coarse black pepper.
      I see it in the recipe. Check the recipe page of this blog.


I love reading comments! Please do.