Welcome back to my new blog series, Foodie Kidlit Friday! On selected Fridays, I’ll be talking to authors of great food- and cooking-themed books for kids and teens, giving books away, and sharing recipes from my own forthcoming foodie middle-grade novel, All Four Stars. Today I am thrilled to welcome the fabulous Lisa Graff to the blog!
Lisa is the author of numerous middle-grade novels, including The Thing About Georgie, Umbrella Summer, and most recently, A Tangle of Knots, (which has a big foodie element and was longlisted for the National Book Award!). A former children’s book editor, she now writes full time. You can learn more about her at www.lisagraff.com.
Here’s a little more info about A Tangle of Knots:
Told in multiple viewpoints, A Tangle of Knots is a magnificent puzzle. In a slightly magical world where everyone has a Talent, eleven-year-old Cady is an orphan with a phenomenal Talent for cake baking. But little does she know that fate has set her on a journey from the moment she was born. And her destiny leads her to a mysterious address that houses a lost luggage emporium, an old recipe, a family of children searching for their own Talents, and a Talent Thief who will alter her life forever. However, these encounters hold the key to Cady’s past and how she became an orphan. If she’s lucky, fate may reunite her with her long-lost parent.
Tara Dairman: Welcome to Foodie Kidlit Friday, Lisa!
A Tangle of Knots takes place in a universe where many people have a special Talent—and for one of your characters, Cady, that Talent allows her to instinctively bake the perfect cake for any person. I love this idea, and was wondering what your inspiration was for it. Is there a real Cady out there? (And if so, can she move in with me?)
Lisa Graff: I wish there was a real Cady out there! If so I would beg her to make me cake all the time. I’m not sure exactly where the idea came from, to be honest, although I do remember that I was in an airport when I decided that’s what Cady’s Talent should be, so most likely I was incredibly hungry at the time.
TD: Cady is one of many characters in A Tangle of Knots, and her story one of many intersecting plot threads. But somehow—like ingredients in the perfect recipe—every thread comes together in the end in a deliciously satisfying way! Did this require a lot of planning before you wrote the book, or were you able to make connections as you drafted?
LG: Lots and lots of planning was required for this book, which was tough on me because I absolutely hate outlining. For most of my books I prefer to start writing a draft and going wherever the characters take me–which always ends up with me having to do TONS of revising on the back end, but I would happily throw away two-thirds of a draft rather than outline beforehand. For this book, though, I knew that would be an impossible way to do things. I spent three months brainstorming and outlining before I wrote a single word, and my outline–no joke–ended up being 72 typed pages. And, of course, I still had to do a ton of revision after my first (several) drafts. But the outlining was worth it, definitely.
TD: Cady’s scrumptious-sounding recipes for cakes for various characters are sprinkled throughout A Tangle of Knots and are also available on your website—as is a recipe from one of your other books, Sophie Simon Solves it All. Do you have plans to write any more foodie-themed books in the near future?
LG: The main character in my newest book, Absolutely Almost, which comes out next June, is more than slightly obsessed with doughnuts, although he doesn’t make them himself (he only eats them).
TD: When you were developing recipes for A Tangle of Knots, did you have to do a lot of test baking at home? Which recipe was the trickiest to get right, and do you have a favorite of all of the cakes?
LG: I tested so many cake recipes for this book! I knew I wanted to include nine different cake recipes in the book, and I wanted them to not only represent the nine main characters but also cover a wide range of cake types and be recipes that children could theoretically make themselves fairly easily. I think I tested about thirty or forty cakes before I settled on the final batch that’s in the book now. (It was a tough job, but somebody had to eat it. I mean, do it…)
The trickiest cake for me to get right was V’s Mystery Fudge Cake, which is basically a lava cake (a chocolate cake with a gooey chocolate center). I knew from the get-go I wanted to do a lava cake for her, but I tried out recipe after recipe, and none of them worked at all! I must have made four or five “lava” cakes that ended up having no “lava” in them. It was very frustrating. I finally found a recipe that worked really well, though!
Thank you so much, Lisa, for talking to us today about writing and food! And wow–that s’more cake looks incredible!
Readers: If Cady were to bake you your ideal cake, what would it taste like?