Pie-of-the-month club – Kimberley Griffiths Little

July 27th, 2010
On the menu today:  Kimberley Griffiths Little, who stopped by to talk about her new novel and to share her favorite recipe for — what else?  — pie!

Kimberley Griffiths Little

Kimberley, what have you been cooking up for readers?

My novel, THE HEALING SPELL, was just released  from Scholastic Press. The word “cooking” describes the writing process perfectly because it took a long time to mix the proper ingredients, rewrite, polish, start over, add, delete, and so on until it was just right. It took a period of about six years from the time I wrote the first draft until it sold – even though I had many editors tasting and re-tasting and telling me how close it was! Just a little more plot, another pinch of character, a few more pecans—I mean scenes.

I understand you also cooked up a mother-daughter book club guide and a book trailer to help promote the novel.  Can you tell us a little bit about that process?

The book trailer was a true labor of love as I worked with Nua Music to bring the story, location, and characters alive. The girl who brought my script and 12-year-old Livie to life with her voice-over did a superb job, and I couldn’t be happier with how it turned out. Since I needed very specialized images for an unusual story, I created or photographed more than half of them myself, using models and doing several photo shoots and photo-shopping to get the feel I wanted. I’m thrilled with the original music and the special sound effects as well as the production from Nua Music – and the response has been tremendous from other writers, industry folks, Scholastic, as well as readers.

How about your favorite pie-in-the-sky moment as a writer?  Have you ever had one of those “I never dreamed it would really happen to me” moments that was special to you?

While I kept experimenting with the recipe for THE HEALING SPELL, I baked up a few other pies—I mean books, too. Sorry to keep up the pie analogy ad naseum, but it’s such a good one! I was writing about the ancient Middle East and Egypt as well as a contemporary YA romance set in Paris and was querying agents like mad about three of these projects to see what would stick, like testing spaghetti noodles against the wall. After signing with Super Agent Tracey Adams, she sent out THE HEALING SPELL and a YA historical called SECRET RITES OF THE GODDESS to several houses and within a month, we ended up with a three-book deal at Scholastic. Selling three books at once to the same publisher was something I never expected, and one of those dreams you didn’t know you were dreaming until you wake up one morning and bounce off the ceiling with excitement.

Has there ever been a moment in your career when you had to eat humble pie?

Do hundreds of rejections count? The biz of writing to get published keeps you pretty darn humble. And then there are the dumb questions you ask your agent or brand new editor, or you worry that you’re being a pest, or you’re so nervous at your first book talk event that your voice is shaking and no matter how hard you try, it won’t stop! I have no trouble feeling like the perpetual newbie on the block.

Now, let’s REALLY talk pie. What’s your favorite kind? Do you have a favorite pie memory? How about the recipe you’re sharing – can you give us a little background on it?

I’m definitely a pie girl. I make a mean apple pie and the SECRET to a successful apple pie is using REAL (not canned), TART apples, sliced THIN with lots of sugar and cinnamon.  It will melt in your mouth. Eat warm, of course.

MELT-IN-YOUR-MOUTH APPLE PIE

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 recipe pastry for a 9 inch double crust pie
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter
  • 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 1/2 cup packed brown sugar
  • 8 Granny Smith (or other TART) apples – peeled, cored, and sliced THIN

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. Melt the butter in a saucepan. Stir in flour to form a paste. Add water, white sugar and brown sugar, and bring to a boil. Reduce temperature and let simmer.
  2. Place the bottom crust in your pan. Mix 1 cup sugar with 2 teaspoons cinnamon together and mix well with the apples. Fill the pie pan with the sugared apples, mounded slightly. Cover with a lattice work of crust. Gently pour the sugar and butter liquid over the crust. Pour slowly so that it does not run off.
  3. Bake 15 minutes in the preheated oven. Reduce the temperature to 350 degrees F. Continue baking for 35 to 45 minutes, until apples are soft.
  4. Eat warm or with ice cream!

From one pie girl to another, that sounds fabulous, Kimberley!  I have a special place in my heart for apple pie — it was my mom’s favorite — and I can’t wait to try your recipe.

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As part of an ongoing celebration for a pair of pie-related books that I have coming out this fall (“Babyberry Pie” and “Pies & Prejudice” – learn more here), I started a pie-of-the-month club to showcase new books by friends and colleagues. To read other selections on the “pie-of-the-month club” menu, check out my interviews with Jane Kurtz, Toni Buzzeo, Lisa Schroeder, Jennifer Ward, Susan Blackaby, Jennifer Jacobson, and Frederic Hunter.  Be sure and drop by again soon, because throughout 2010 I’ll be serving up more stellar books by some of my favorite authors and illustrators.

Oh, and pie is on the menu, too, of course.   Pie is ALWAYS on the menu here on my blog.  Enjoy!

Little House on the Cul-de-sac

July 20th, 2010

There’s something about summer that makes me feel all Laura Ingalls Wilderish.  I get in a “Little House” frame of mind come July every year, and there’s nothing to be done for it but whip out my apron and start stirring up good things.

July is when the berries start ripening in droves.  June is a tease — just strawberries, mostly — although here in Oregon, that means Hood strawberries, the likes of which you won’t find anywhere else.  Intensely sweet and highly perishable, they rarely make it to stores and have to be hunted down at Farmer’s Markets or, if you’re lucky (which I am), at the neighborhood berry stand that magically appears every summer in an unpaved parking lot near our local supermarket.

June means bowls of strawberries for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.  It means homemade strawberry shortcake (my husband’s favorite) for Father’s Day.  Some years it means strawberry jam, too, although this year I was too busy with work to put any up.

July, though, means Berries with a capital B — boysenberries, loganberries, raspberries, marionberries, tayberries, sylvan blackberries, and whatever other berries Mother Nature can dream up.  I was determined not to let this bounty, too, slip by, and when a window of opportunity opened up this past weekend, I grabbed it and my husband (aka Pa Frederick), and made a dash for our favorite berry farm …

… where we picked gooseberries and boysenberries.

Oregon boysenberries

Boysenberries  make the BEST jam — although marionberries run a close second.

Ma Frederick's Boysenberry Jam

Oddly enough, boysenberries also make good picture books.

Coming in October 2010!

I got the idea for this book a couple of years ago, at the very same berry farm.  Writers fool around with words in their heads a lot (if you ever notice a vacant expression on our faces, that’s what we’re doing), and that day I got to noodling around with the word “boysenberry” while my hands were busy picking.  Wouldn’t it be funny if there were girlsenberries? I thought.  Which of course led to, And wouldn’t it be funny if you could pick babyberries? That was it, I was off and running, and voila! Babyberry Pie was born.

No picture books were born this weekend, just a most satisfying cupboard full of jam and chutney (gooseberries make fabulous chutney).  Oh, and we picked up some rhubarb, too, which I turned into Rhubarb Custard Streusel Pie.

I used Jennifer Jacobson’s recipe (thanks, JJ!),  but since I only had one pie crust in the freezer (I make several at a time and freeze the extras), and was too lazy to make another one, I whipped up some streusel topping instead.  You can use it atop just about any fruit pie — trust me, it’s delicious.  Here’s the recipe:

Streusel Topping

1/2 c. butter
1/2 c. brown sugar
1 c. flour

Mix together until topping is the consistency of coarse bread crumbs.  Sprinkle evenly atop pie, cover with foil, and bake as usual, according to the directions for whatever pie you’re making.  Remove foil for the last 10 minutes or so of baking, so that streusel turns golden brown.

Yum.

All in all, a most satisfying weekend.  Ma Ingalls would definitely approve.

Pie-of-the-month club – Frederic Hunter

July 13th, 2010

A little something different on the menu this month — a book for adults instead of young readers.  Frederic Hunter stopped by to talk about his new novel “Abe and Molly: The Lincoln Courtship” and to share his favorite recipe for — what else?  — pie!

Author Frederic Hunter

Fred and I are both “alumni” of  The Christian Science Monitor, where I was a staff reporter and children’s book review editor and he was a glamorous foreign correspondent (he covered sub-Saharan Africa).  He also served as a foreign service officer in Brussels, Belgium, and at Coquilhatville and Bukavu in the ex-Belgian Congo. Later, he wrote screenplays for film and television, including “Lincoln and the War Within for PBS, which triggered his interest in the Lincoln courtship. His writings include “The Hemingway Play” and “Africa, Africa!,” a collection of fifteen stories. Fred and his wife Donanne have a website spanning fifty years of experiences in Africa.

What have you been cooking up for readers, Fred?  Tell us about your new book, and how it came about.

Some years ago, I wrote a show for PBS about the first three months of the Lincoln Administration, aired as Lincoln and the War Within. While doing research for that project, I stumbled on the story of Lincoln’s courtship.  Abe and Molly:  The Lincoln Courtship is quite a romantic tale: rich girl of aristocratic background and good education falls in love with a self-educated attorney from a dirt-poor background, with few social graces and even less money.  Once they become engaged, her family forces Lincoln to break the engagement.  As they say, complications ensue.  My publisher calls it Pride and Prejudice on the American frontier.  Lincoln takes the Elizabeth Bennet role and Mary (Molly) Todd is Mr. Darcy, except that she’s caged in 19th-century strictures on what women should and should not do (like be interested in politics).

You had me at “Pride and Prejudice” on the American frontier.  I can’t wait to read it!

How about your favorite pie-in-the-sky moment as a writer?  Have you had one of those “I never dreamed it would really happen to me” moments that was special to you?

In high school my late twin brother and I wrote a one-act musical.  It was performed the night of the annual one-act play contest, but out of competition because a faculty member had helped us write down the music.  The audience liked it so much that it was immediately re-performed.  That very evening.  Can that possibly be right?  At this distance from high school that seems improbable, but that’s my recollection of it.  Later, in college, my brother and I wrote a musical revue.  At one point I went out to introduce the next act and the audience’s applause flooded up at me.  Applause is a narcotic.  It’s damaged a lot of lives – maybe even mine.

Has there ever been a moment in your career when you had to eat humble pie?  (I did, big-time, when I showed up at a major chain bookstore for what I thought was just a signing and found to my chagrin was educator night – dozens of shining faces looking at me expectantly, and I hadn’t prepared a talk…)

Worst moment?  The evening the first TV show I ever wrote (an adaptation of Ring Lardner’s “The Golden Honeymoon” for PBS) was first broadcast.  My wife and I had filled the living room with friends.  I had not seen the show.  It seemed disastrous!  It was about a guy who couldn’t stop talking, and the director had long moments of silence, showing faces and locales.  Eeeek!  I writhed in horror on the floor before our assembled guests.  They thought the show was OK — it was on PBS, wasn’t it? (It wasn’t as bad as I thought; nor as good as it should have been.)  I learned never to invite friends to see my work until AFTER I’d already taken a look at it.

Now let’s REALLY talk pie.  What’s your favorite kind?  Do you have a favorite pie memory?  How about the recipe you’re sharing – can you give us a little background on it?

The recipe for the pie I’m sharing is probably my favorite.  I married into this recipe.  It’s been in my wife’s family for years and was originally called “Utterly Deadly Southern Pecan Pie.” Velma Hile of Virginia, who was a dear friend of my wife’s grandmother, is the source, and now four generations of our family and dinner guests have enjoyed it.  

Most pecan pies at restaurants have too few pecans, too much syrup (or molasses?), and are never made with butter.  This is “caviar for the general.”  Rich whipped cream on top never hurts, either.

“ABE AND MOLLY’S” SOUTHERN PECAN PIE

4 eggs
1-1/2 cups corn syrup
1-1/2 cups pecans
1 cup dark brown sugar
4 tablespoons butter
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 teaspoon salt
Unbaked pie shell

Boil sugar, syrup, and salt together for three minutes in a large pot.  Beat eggs; not too stiff.  Slowly pour hot syrup into eggs while stirring.  Add butter, vanilla, and pecans.  Pour into an unbaked pie shell.  Bake at 400 degrees for 5 minutes.  Reduce heat to 350, bake for an additional 35-45 minutes.  When tested, knife inserted should come out clean.  Serve at room temperature with whipped cream.




OK, I don’t care if it’s the middle of July and 90 degrees, I’m heading right to the kitchen to make this.  Thanks so much, Fred!

As part of an ongoing celebration for a pair of pie-related books that I have coming out this fall (“Babyberry Pie” and “Pies & Prejudice” – learn more here), I started a pie-of-the-month club to showcase new books by friends and colleagues. To read other selections on the “pie-of-the-month club” menu, check out my interviews with Jennifer JacobsonJane KurtzToni BuzzeoLisa SchroederJennifer Ward, and Susan Blackaby.  Be sure and drop by again soon, because throughout 2010 I’ll be serving up more stellar books by some of my favorite authors and illustrators.

Oh, and pie is on the menu, too, of course.   Pie is ALWAYS on the menu here on my blog.  Enjoy!

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