Guest Author - Laurel Remington
The Secret Cooking Club is largely about family life. As a mother yourself, would you say you draw inspiration from your own life when writing this book?
I don’t think I’m much like the mum in the book, but I do draw inspiration from my children’s joy of cooking and baking. I suppose Scarlett’s sister’s love of ketchup is based on my middle daughter’s! When I’m writing, it’s Scarlett’s voice I can hear in my head, and her I identify with the most.
Growing up, which authors inspired you to write?
My dad read me a lot of books aloud as a kid, and these inspired me. He read me the Lord of the Rings, by JRR Tolkien, which is probably my all time favourite. Later on, I used to get a lot of books from my local library, as we didn’t always have a bookstore in my town in America. I read widely, and liked a lot of the American Newbury Award winning writers like E.L. Konigsberg and Zilpha Keatley Snyder.
Did you always want to be an author growing up?
I wanted to be different things at different times, and for a long time I wanted to be an astronaut (really, I wanted to be Princess Leia). I always loved reading and making up stories, though. Reading and writing were a part of my life from an early age.
You won the Times/Chicken House Prize in 2015 with The Secret Cooking Club. How did you feel when you won this?
It was an incredible moment, and totally unexpected. I broke down in tears it was so emotional. It took me many years to get published, and I have piles of rejection letters to prove it. Sometimes it was quite difficult to keep going – as being a writer demands not only a lot of time, but a lot of yourself to be put in each book. I kept going because I felt like I always had another story to tell. Winning the award made the sacrifices worth it.
Why did you decide to write sequel to The Secret Cooking Club?
I felt that Scarlett and her friends deserved a continuation to their story. Scarlett transformed her life in the first book, and while the ending of the first book was bittersweet, I wanted to see what happened next. It’s the same idea as what’s behind ‘happily ever after’ – does Cinderella have a perfect life, or does she have the same ups and downs as the rest of us? How far and how deep does Scarlett’s (and her mum’s) transformation go? These were things I wanted to explore.
Did you enjoy coming back to the characters from your original novel, and continuing their story?
Very much so, and I hope that the series may continue even further. We’ll see. To me, the characters are very real – and I like the idea of writing about ordinary people in extraordinary circumstances. Having an already stressed mum planning a TV wedding, and Scarlett trying to deal with all the changes, both good and bad, in her life, was both fun and interesting to write. I hope my readers enjoy it too.
Are you currently working on any other novels? Will you write a third book in The Secret Cooking Club series?
I am writing another book for my publishers Chicken House right now, which is about a girl who wants to transform her mum’s awful second-hand clothing shop into something fabulous.
I do hope to write a third book in the Secret Cooking Club series, and I have two different ideas for the next book. Watch this space! Do you have a particular place you like to write?
I like to write at my desk in my bedroom, but I don’t often get a chance. I work part time as a lawyer so a fair amount of my writing at the moment is done on the train. I also like to write very early in the morning in my kitchen with a huge cup of coffee.
What are some of your favourite novels?
I like the romantic classics like Jane Eyre and the Jane Austen novels, though in truth, I spend most of my free time reading detective novels these days.
As for kids books, my favourites are probably the His Dark Materials trilogy by Philip Pullman, ‘From the mixed up files of Mrs Basil E Frankweiler’, and ‘Ozma of Oz’.
If you could give one bit of advice to an aspiring author, what would it be and why?
Read everyday, write everyday. This helps you to learn the craft of writing, which is what is required to turn an idea into something real on paper. Develop a thick skin to be able to handle criticism and rejection, and meet and share your work with other writers for support in the difficult times. And finally, there are easier ways to earn a living, so make sure you cling to that little spark of joy that made you want to start writing in the first place.
THE SECRET COOKING CLUB: Confetti & Cake by Laurel Remington out now in paperback (£6.99, Chicken House)
Interview was written by Georgia Jones (15), Werneth School