Simmer and Smoke: A Southern Tale of Grit and Spice
by Peggy Lampman
GENRE: women’s contemporary fiction
A single mother who dreams of becoming a chef.
A food writer who just lost the love of her life.
Two women discover what’s worth fighting for in this deliciously rendered novel that illuminates the power of food, love, friendship and family on the human heart
1. ASSEMBLE INGREDIENTS:
Shelby Preston–a young, single mother trapped in a hardscrabble life in rural Georgia–escapes her reality as she fantasizes herself a respected chef in a kitchen of gleaming stainless steel and pans shimmering with heat. Mallory Lakes–an Atlanta newspaper food writer–may lose her job, and searches for her muse in a shot glass of illusion.
Mallory secures her job by crafting a zealous doppelgänger to satisfy the expectations of an illusive cyber audience. This also mollifies the memories of her lover who recently bolted; no warning. Shelby persuades her mother to take care of her daughter so she can pursue her dream of going to chef school in Atlanta. She cooks them a special dinner said to bring good luck; Lord knows her family could use a pot of something good.
Chasing desires and ambitions, the women’s lives unravel down a path beyond the kitchen, then weave together in an unsettling culinary landscape of organic farms and shadowy borders–some borders not meant to be crossed. As Mallory combats her demons with booze and pills, and Shelby battles the odds stacked against her for becoming a chef, the women discover what’s really worth fighting for.
Mallory (Spoiler Alert!)
I stare through the window, which frames a mass of thick grayish-black clouds; it is, after all, the last day of December. I walk to Mama’s sofa and sit, hugging my thighs into my chest. So tired. So tired. Snuggling into the corner, I lay my cheek against the arm rest and inhale her powdered scent.
She is in me. Mama’s in me.
Turns out Itchy and I are both right. Life is random, a deck of cards shuffled, collapsed then dealt to its players with blind oblivion; sperm to egg, roll of the dice, quirky fate. Yet some of us—those fortunate to have been birthed into nurturing families, those lucky few with prescience to find hope in despair—can coerce, twist and reshape the odds into something redeeming. Make your best hand, high card wins the trick.
I cut deals with the devil, learning just what he can do and precisely how he does it, huddling in his abyss as the fear of living devoured me. But light seeped through, tracing the contours of darkness; he couldn’t steal my soul.
Closing my eyes, I round the bend to the place where the year began, and now is ending, and all of the events in between; everything that occurred the day of the accident, and my unraveling since. Nothing that happens in the universe vanishes, and our past is not a dream; our past is our story, which lives forever, somewhere, and is limitless, attaching itself to what follows, and it’s this thing that follows that is the dream. Some dreams drown in booze, some come crashing down on asphalt, while others dissolve in a backwoods Southern town. Yet, for some, the dream persists. Shuddering. So you pick yourself up, retracing your path, but only if—and here’s the burning truth—only if you’ve got the guts. I’ve seen the face of courage. In the past six months, I’ve seen this face on a man, woman and child. Next time I’ll recognize it sooner. Next time it will be my own.
AUTHOR Bio and Links:
Peggy Lampman was born and raised in Birmingham, Alabama. After graduating from the University of Michigan with a degree in communications, she moved to New York City, where she worked as a copywriter and photographer for Hill and Knowlton, a public relations firm. She moved back to Ann Arbor, her college town, and opened up a specialty foods store, The Back Alley Gourmet. After selling the business, she wrote under a weekly food byline in The Ann Arbor News and MLive. This is her first novel.
Amazon Buy Link
Peggy took some time out of her busy schedule to answer a few questions for us today 🙂
What do you write?
Women’s Literary and High Concept Fiction. I just published “Simmer and Smoke: A Southern Tale of Grit and Spice”, and am now working on my second book in the trilogy: “Where There’s Smoke.”
What genre do you favor?
If pressed to pick a favorite genre, Women’s Literary Fiction would be it. But I’m a fan of literary fiction, in general––particularly books that deal with the complexities of finding compassion and love (in all its guises) in today’s world. Quirky, original takes on this theme are especially enjoyed. A good example of this would be the last book I read, Jonathan Franzen’s, “Purity”. It’s not women’s fiction, but there were intriguing twists, turns and psychotic nuances, particularly between the mother and daughter. My favorite piece of historical literary fiction, to date, is Sue Monk Kids, “The Invention of Wings.” My favorite memoir is Patty Smith’s, “Just Kids”.
When did you realize you wanted to be a writer?
After hitting puberty, I needed a vent and bought a diary––white leather with gold embossing. Every night before bed, I’d pen page after page of 13-year-old angst; the best way I knew how to get to the pain and pull it out. Journaling has continued to this day. In college, I majored in journalism thinking this would be a good way to monetize my desire to write. For many years, I’ve begun works of fiction only to abandon them. Two four-letter words kept shutting the books down: J-O-B-S & K-I-D-S. “Simmer and Smoke” is my first novel.
What do you think is the best way to publish these days?
It depends on your genre and goal. From what I’ve read, romance, erotica and paranormal do quite well in the self-publishing arena. For my book, I believed that the traditional approach to querying agents, getting an agent, and then getting an offer from one of the big five houses was the best bet. I got an agent via query—Wendy Sherman, the perfect rep for my genre–– but ended up self-publishing the book (after a major re-write) on Createspace. Since then, there has been some noise made regarding the book with Wendy, but time will tell. I’d like a major house to take me on because I’m not the greatest at self-promotions. However, ALL of the money I’m currently making (besides a donation) goes into my coffers. If the book is traditionally published, this will not not be the case.
What are your favorite genres to read? (see second answer)
They are my favorite genres because I’m a woman, a mother, and I’ve lived a complicated, quirky life of contradictions.
Do your characters talk to you?
Especially in my dreams and when I first wake up. Mallory can be annoying so I have to shut her down from time to time. She also messes with my head since we’ve quite a bit in common. How can a writer possibly write characters if they don’t speak with their characters?
How do you approach starting a new book?
An inspiration sparks an outline sparks the first 10,000 words. I’m quick to discard a book that I’ve begun writing if that initial spark retires.
What is your writing process?
I first craft an outline, which reinvents itself through the writing process. Occasionally I let the story rip and roar, seatbelt unfastened, but I prefer using a road map.
What are the best writing books or blogs you’ve ever read?
Jane Friedman, The Book Designer, Kristen Lamb. Do you have recommendations?
What are your non-writing hobbies, or what do you do to relax?
Travel, hang out with my kids, cook, take photographs, hike, kayak, read, ummmm, converse with adult beverages…
What was your best date ever?
On a bus returning from a football game at the age of 13. I had my first serious kiss in the back of that bus and a new world opened and never shut down. I’m wondering what ever happened to you, Don Jackson? (include pic)
Navy SEAL or cowboy?
Chocolate or chips?
If you’re talking imported Belgium chocolates stuffed with liquors, my answer is chocolate. But if you’re talking a Hershey’s chocolate bar, give me a bag of chips. In general, I prefer salt to sugar.
If you could have a superpower what would it be? Why?
That I could read people’s minds and have x-ray vision to see into their homes; to be a fly on the wall at intimate and family gatherings. I’m not a voyeur, but I’m sure this would give me great material.
Fancy restaurant or picnic?
Picnics are fanciful and fun, but to be honest it would be a fancy restaurant. And make that a Thomas Keller—French Laundry or Per Se.
Beer or wine?
Although I do love the artisan breweries, I’d say wine; Silver Oak Cabs, specifically. Frankly, there’s not an alcoholic beverage that I’m not quite friendly with.
Wow. So many. If I had to pin it down to one, I’d say Sue Monk Kidd. Or maybe Ann Patchet. Can’t forget Donna Tart.
Smooth or hairy?
Thank you for inviting me to your book club. I am continuously updating my food blog and author page. I would love hearing from you @ www.dinnerfeed.com
Peggy Lampman will be awarding a $50 Amazon or Barnes and Noble GC to a randomly drawn winner via rafflecopter during the tour, and a $25 Amazon or Barnes and Noble GC to a randomly drawn host.