Tuesday, February 08, 2011

Author Interview - Annette Lyon

Today I'm joined by Annette Lyon, author of the recently released cookbook Chocolate Never Faileth, as well as several LDS historical and contemporary novels.  Annette, thanks for taking time out of your busy schedule to chat with me.

Tristi: In addition to being an award-winning novelist, you are famous for being a word nerd and for chocolate.  Tell us a little bit about what it means to be a word nerd and how you became one. 

Annette: I grew up with a linguist as a father and dinner-table conversation along the lines of, "So what IS the Latin root of that word? Or is it Greek?" I thought this was normal. Turns out that no, it's not normal, and the apple doesn't fall far, at least in my case (my siblings aren't word nerds, at least to the same degree). Me? I just ate it up. Then in high school I had an amazing English teacher, Miss Drummond. (She took a grammar class from my dad at BYU--coincidence? Maybe.) The way I learned punctuation is totally thanks to her. She cemented my love of language and grammar. Dr. Oaks at BYU fed the addiction. I've never been the same.

Tristi: And how did you attain your chocolate celebrity status?

Annette: Celebrity? Chocoholic is more like it.

For several years I worked as one of the founding sisters of the Utah Chocolate Show, and for most of that time, I was assistant director. While it may sounds really impressive, what it boiled down to was three crazy sisters with an even crazier idea working their tails off to make it happen and having a ball in the process. I learned a ton about myself and gained skills that have proven useful for promotion as a writer--things like PR, sales, and marketing. I also rubbed shoulders with amazing people, like world-famous pastry chefs and chocolate-tasting gurus. (Think wine tasting only chocolate. Yes, it is as good as it sounds.) 

I gave show tickets to the staff at my publisher, so they knew of my Chocolate Show background. Combining chocolate  with my writing chops was almost a no-brainer.

Tristi: You took your love of chocolate and parleyed it into your newest book - a chocolate cookbook.  How long did it take you write? 

Annette:  Fortunately, I already had a decent number of recipes, but a couple dozen isn't anywhere near enough for a book.  One of my jobs with the Chocolate Show was writing the weekly e-letter, which always had fun chocolate quotes, anecdotes, and factoids - and I was able to use those in the book.  So with all that, I had a running start. 

It took a solid 5+ months of virtually nothing but turning my kitchen into a chocolate laboratory, doing 2-3 recipes a day (often repeats when things didn't turn out perfect the first time or two . . . or seven). I had no idea it would be as intense as it ended up being, but it was worth it in the end.

Tristi: So you had some recipes on hand, but you needed to find new ones to include?

Annette: I had to branch out really far to fill an entire book. For inspiration, I did a lot of digging around in other cookbooks and online, then headed back to the kitchen with notes for how to try my own version or this or that--or invent something wholesale. 

Tristi: How did your family feel about all the chocolate recipes marching in and out of your kitchen?  Were they willing guinea pigs?

Annette:  They were very willing guinea pigs, I must say.  At least until about four months in.  At that point, we were ALL sick of chocolate.  I never thought I'd say those words, but when you smell nothing but cocoa and melted chocolate - and you have a deadline looming large on the calendar - it begins to stress you out.  My neighbors loved me during those months - we had to find some way of getting rid of all our creations!

Tristi: Your book is gorgeous.  Did you make all the food they photographed?  And how did you get such a darling layout and binding? 

Annette: I made most of the food in the pictures, but I physically didn't have time to remake everything, so I called for reinforcements. For example, my sister made the dipped pretzels, the tart, the Tiger Tails, and one or two other things, and a cousin made the cake that landed on the cover. I do love pointing to pictures and saying, "those cookies/waffles/brownies came out of my kitchen!" They hired a photographer, and we had to find dishes to match the book's color scheme (my cousin introduced me to Thai Pan Trading Co.). It's great fun to look through the book and see my cousin's mug or our family's butter dish or whatever (or my actual bath towel and loofah by the body scrub, our play dough toys, and so on).

As for the rest of the graphic design and binding, I have to credit Christina Mercano, the amazing designer at Covenant. She's pure genius. They told me they hoped to get a red coil binding and scalloped pages but weren't sure if it would happen--so when I saw the book for the first time, I squealed at seeing BOTH. I love how it turned out!

Tristi: What is your absolute most favorite recipe in the book? 

Annette:  Toughest question I get, and one that's almost impossible to answer, because my chocolate moods vary with what I'm craving. Lately my favorite cookie has been the Jumbo Rocky Road. I adore the French Silk Pie (and sometimes make the just filling then eat it straight up). The pudding is amazing, if I say so myself, and my brownies are an eternal classic. I could go on.

Tristi:  Will you be writing any additional cookbooks in future?

Annette: Possibly. I have one or two ideas percolating, but nothing's in stone right now. But I'm sure nothing will ever top  chocolate!

Tristi: What are you working on now?  Do you know what your next book release will be?

Annette:  I've got several pots in the fire--working on revisions to a murder mystery that I hope will be accepted soon. I'm planning a book of personal essays. I hope to do some re-edits on my second book, which is currently out of print, and get it onto the Kindle, and possibly get another, as-yet unpublished book onto the Kindle as well. I have a couple of other mid-stream projects I'm toying with. If all goes well, my next release I should be a couple of historical chapter books for girls in August--sort of "American Girl" meets "Mormon Girl." 

Tristi:  Best of luck with all your projects, Annette, and I certainly wish you all kinds of success with the cookbook.  I think it's impossible for you to go wrong, though - how often do we get to study at the feet of the Chocolate Master?

Be sure to look for Annette Lyon's Chocolate Never Faileth at your nearest bookstore, or buy it online.
You will also want to check out Annette's grammar guide, There, Their, They're, a must for any writer. 


Stephanie Black said...

Reading about Annette's chocolate cookbook makes me hungry . . .

Great interview!

Happily Cheesy said...

Awesome. Sheer awesomeness. Way to go Annette--making it through the crazy. The book sounds wonderful, and the recipes even more so!

RaShelle said...

Great interview. Still want to get that cookbook. Thanks for the reminder, Tristi. And, Annette, you rock. =D

Krista said...

No kidding, Stephanie! I'll have to get the cookbook back out! Thanks, Tristi and Annette!

Valerie Ipson said...

I'm thinking I need a bog ol' chocolate cake on the cover of my novel when it gets published. Very appealing!!!

I enjoyed learning (salivating) about your cookbook process, Annette. Great interview, Tristi!

kbrebes said...

Annette, you are soo impressive. What a lovely home life you had/have!

Great post, Tristi!

Taffy said...

Good interview. Annette's chocolate book sits on my counter for all to drool over!

Jennifer K. Clark said...

Great interview! I'm not a chocoholic, but I do enjoy a few coco creations. This interview really peaked my interest. I think I'll be trying some of Annette's recipes for valentines day.

Patty Ann said...

Oh, we bought this book a few weeks ago and are slowly working our way through it!! It was definitely love at first sight for me. I love the chocolate waffles (and so do my girls!) can't say enough good things about a book that helps you make wonderful chocolate recipes.

Rachelle said...

This cookbook is beautiful! It was fun to read this interview--Annette, you're awesome!

Renae W. Mackley said...

Such diversity, Annette. I'm impressed.

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