DeAnna Knippling interview!

DeAnna is a truly inventive writer and friend. Come celebrate her offbeat culinary cozy, Your Soufflé Must Die, and see how she subverts interviews and genre expectations.

Melissa Yi:  Are you more sugar or more vice?

DeAnna Knippling: While I do love both sugar and vice, I’m probably more tart than either sugar or spice! 

A while back I sorted out what emotions seemed to be most strongly associated with what flavors, and what genres with what flavors, just as a goofy mental experiment. Sweetness as a flavor goes with falling in love, family, and social connections–a lot of romance! While crime fiction, on its own, tends to have a very dry, intellectual, complex flavor, like the bitterness of coffee, a seared steak, or chocolate.

I’m not really a sweet person or a drily intellectual one, though. I’m more of a sour person, craving the zing of excitement, challenge, and wit. I look for a layer of humor in everything I read and write, and I try to layer it in too, even in the darkest tale. 

That being said, I do love both sweetness and bitterness–but the sourness comes for me, as a flavor and perspective on life.

MY: Interesting. One of the restaurants featured in Sugar and Vice is Tart of Darkness. Maybe you, or your heroine Sam, might fit right in!

YSMD makes me believe you’re a cook! Are you really? Or just a writer practiced in the art of deception?

DK: BOTH!

I love to get up to various shenanigans in the kitchen. I’ve been playing a lot with sugar syrups lately. How to make them, how to flavor them with little bits and pieces of leftover things from other projects, how to add them to both sweet and savory dishes. I’m not a serious cook, mind you; I’m just messing around. As I work with syrups, though, I’ve discovered that they’re a good way to preserve a flavor; they’re basically runny jelly! I recently also discovered that a gelatin-based mousse is basically just a sugar syrup with cream and gelatin in it, too. Jelly, syrup, mousse, caramel, taffy, marshmallows, hard candy, Turkish locum…they’re all kind of different expressions of the same basic idea of sugar crystals suspended in liquid, able to be transformed and translated between dishes, and pretty cheaply, too.

But I am also nowhere near enough disciplined to be able to do what Sam, the heroine of YSMD, does in the kitchen. I recently wrote a side-story, “COOKIE MADNESS!!!” about her making Christmas cookies for her catering company and figured out that she made something along the line of two thousand cookies. (She did get help decorating and packaging.) No way I could ever do that. I just don’t have that kind of attention span.

So if someone reads the book and thinks, “Wow! I bet the author knows her souffles!” well, that’s a lie. But I am a cook and I liked to mess around with recipes to try and understand why food does what it does, both physically and in what food means for us.

MY: Apart from the food, I really like the camaraderie and friendship in YSMD, but am driven slightly mad by her love life. How do you build complex relationships in your fiction?

Something that annoys me about a lot of romance novels is that they aren’t as messy as real life. Most romances are like, “You know what? You, and you, I want you to meet in a cute way, be attracted to each other, have some external conflicts to resolve, and BOOM, you’re done.” A lot of romances aspire to be simple and straightforward, maybe as a relief from the complexities of life.

And yet if you look back to Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, what you’ll see is that the main character hates her real love interest, falls for some other guy, gets tired of him, decides she hates him (and then has to deal with him as a brother-in-law), continuously roasts her real love interest, gets set up with some douchebag by her mom, rejects him, accidentally seduces her real love interest, rejects him, finds out he’s a genuinely decent guy even if he is a socially awkward idiot, and finally decides he’s worth pursuing, even if it means admitting that she’s made an ass of herself.

I have no problem with the way most romances are written. They just aren’t for me.  Here, I was reaching for romantic conflicts that reminded me of Jane Austen-level silliness. I really don’t think Sam’s love life could be any other way! I hope it pays off for the reader a little bit like the way Price and Prejudice paid off for me.

MY: This was seriously a fun read. I learned a lot about cooking, but also friendship and how to write setting, like sitting in a leather chair and waiting for it to deflate, or really wild chocolate or alien-themed feasts. YSMD doesn’t follow the usual cozy rules, which some readers will enjoy. Give it a whirl!

DeAnna Knippling writes eclectic crime, mystery, romance, and other stories with characters whose sense of justice gives them a bittersweet view of life. Her hobbies are cooking, taking long walks on Florida beaches, digging into the realm of open-source intelligence, fangirling over history, science, and psychology—and reading lots of fiction, graphic novels, and web comics while her tea goes cold. Author of the Sweet Granadilla and Dark & Cozy mystery series, you can find her at WonderlandPress.com.

Sugar and Vice’s Kickstarter ends Sept 26th at 9 pm. Join us!