Recently, someone I follow on twitter observed they do not include their characters eating at all in their writing. This made me think of my own writing and made me think of my old blog, Popcorn: More Than Just A Minor Detail.
Sometimes in books, details are just details. Blue curtains could just happen to be blue and the meaning we take from these details are often what we ourselves, as readers, read into the books. But, sometimes, as authors we intend these details to carry more weight.
I can't say I always intend for food to be important to the characters and my books, but food tends to be very important to me. A lot of this is family traditions, like Prime Rib, Yorkshire Pudding, and Green Beans Amadine on Christmas Eve and Chinese Food on Christmas. Some of this could also be influenced by my Jewish background, like Latkas on Hanukkah or Matzoh on Passover. Outside of traditions and holidays, it's the slice and bake cookie dough or mom's mac and cheese.
It's no wonder then that food shows up frequently in my writing, whether it's the popcorn in Society's Foundlings, baking birthday butter biscuits in The Butter Thief, growing tomatoes in Ben's Little Tomato, imagining different uses of pumpkins in Peggy's Little Pumpkin, or drinking hot chocolate in The Memory Tree.
There's traditions, memories, and connection tied to the food in The Butter Thief, Ben's Little Tomato, Peggy's Little Pumpkin, and The Memory Tree. In Society's Foundlings, popcorn is lack of money and resources. It is a dividing line, the feeling of being an outsider, a reminder of all the goals and dreams that are still out of reach, friendship, and feelings of belonging and security depending on the character.
In an upcoming WIP, food is always a source of tension between siblings. There's frustration in lack of resources, but also frustration in what has and has not changed from the past. There is still that feeling of belonging or exclusion.
What does food mean to you? How do you use food in your own writing?
As many of my readers know, The Butter Thief explores the origins of the word "butterfly" in a fun and imaginative narrative. One of the theories that inspired aspects of the book, and continues to inspire aspects of the series, is the part fairies play.
It was believed that fairies and witches would turn into butterflies to steal the family's butter. One element of that theory appears to be missing on the surface of the overall story. But, is it really left out?
Upon closer observation, this is not the case. Readers might recall the purple fairy door that Brigid receives as a gift and in turn gives to the brimstone fairy. What does a purple door have to do with anything, one might ask.
Purple doors are often a sign of a witch.
Before people start conjuring up images of a green-face, wart-nose, evil devil worshiper, let me set the record straight. Fairies and witches are actually very closely related. They way they respect, nurture, and connect with nature is very similar. Often witches are individuals who recognize, harness, and utilizes their inner-most magic and intentions. Like a fairy, they refuse to be ignored, forgotten, or used. Both work in balance. It cannot be all take. Offerings need to be made.
If the brimstone butterfly fairy more than just a fairy? You, as the reader, can decide. Just know, as the author, the witch part of the theory was not forgotten.
Also, The Butter Thief fairy doors will be available soon for your own garden!
I am a writer. I know what it’s like to create characters and a world around them. Trying to capture the exact moment your own creations go through; the sun beating down on the back of Garrett and Erik’s necks as they hunt through wilderness, the smell of Carver’s cigarette as the smoke dances in the midnight breeze, the curiosity of the outside world and frustration of living behind the electrified gates, the hopelessness and fear of a future that feels inevitable. I know what it’s like to try to paint pictures with the very limited pallet of language, words, punctuation, and formatting. And sometimes, I find myself inspired to create the images I write using a different type of pallet, as I first started doing with my short story in my most recent release, A Dragon’s Treasure in A Horde of Dragons Multi-Author Anthology. It was my first venture in toying with the idea of illustrating.
When my fairy godmother, a very good friend of mine, Evangeline Duran Fuentes, was looking for an illustrator for her second illustrated children’s book, Waggles, I approached her with the idea that maybe, if she couldn’t find anybody else, I could try it. And, gee, jumping fleas, as Waggles would say! What an experience! Working with her was amazing! She was supportive and excited. “You took the images that were in my head and you made them real,” she told me. I couldn’t imagine a better compliment. It meant the world to me that the illustrations meant so much to her, that I could bring her story to life!
Inspired by the experience, I thought I’d try my hand at Barb Lieberman’s sweet lullaby in a book, Why Does the Moon Follow Me? Captivated by the story, I tried drawing for some different pages, blowing her away with the final product and wound up co-illustrating with the talented, Jessie J Inspirations, who agreed to include my illustrations. This time, I also had the unique experience of having an audience as I worked. Painting with someone looking over your shoulder is very different than writing. I highly recommend it, especially when the audience is as supportive and amazed by your work as mine was. “It has soul,” Barb described my pictures.
From these two amazing experiences, new opportunities have bloomed. The co-writers of Tales From Mema’s Garden each have individual children’s books coming out about their pets. Elaine McInnes No Kitty Adventures is one of the many stories that are beginning to occupy my sketchpad. The other is Robin Nieto’s The Adventures of Duke and Daisy, expected out in December. The first sketch of Daisy brought Robin to tears. Again, there is no greater compliment. Along with their individual endeavors, their continued series, Tales from Mema’s Garden, I now have the honor of illustrating as well.
Outside of my immediate writing circle, another author contacted me and now her creations, too, are finding a place among my drawings. As are the illustrations for my own upcoming children’s book, The Butter Thief!
My schedule is busy, my paint is at the ready, my sketch book awaits, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. There is nothing I love more than bringing an author’s vision to life.
Gathering dust in the depths of my mind, random thoughts dusted off and put out there for the world to see...