I am pleased to post an interview with Aussie, Dianne Blacklock, author of The Secret Ingredient (and many more titles!).
I posted my review on the weekend, read it here.
The Secret Ingredient was released this month, what can readers (old fans and new) expect from your latest title?
Hopefully a good read! The Secret Ingredient is the story of Andie, married to a much older man who left his wife and family for her, so in turn, she gave up a potentially demanding career as a chef for him. However, ten years on, Andie feels as though her life is going nowhere, and Ross seems distracted … When the marriage implodes, Andie has to rebuild her life, and she decides to try her hand at being a chef again. But Ross is not going to let her go that easily, and her new boss, head chef Dominic, doesn’t look like he’s going to make things easy for her either. I hope readers will stick with Andie as she learns to trust her own instincts again and work out what will ultimately make her happy.
The Secret Ingredient is about relationships, food, love and following dreams. What do you think are the secret ingredients to a happy life?
All of the above! Nothing has made me happier or given me more satisfaction than being a mum. That’s just for me, it’s not for everybody. I think the secret is having people in your life who you love freely without expecting anything in return; you end up getting it back in spades anyway.
The other secret ingredient to a happy life is to work at what you love. Anyone who knows anything about publishing knows that it’s not exactly where the big bucks are – but it is such a privilege to be able to do what I love for a living, I wouldn’t swap it for anything.
On your blog you talk about having an obsession with names (see Dianne’s post on What’s In a Name), how did you come up with the names for the characters in The Secret Ingredient?
Sometimes I really struggle to come up with names, other times one pops into my head as I begin to write a character and it feels right immediately, so I just go with it. With The Secret Ingredient, most of the names just tumbled out – Joanna, her children, Andie’s close circle of friends. Dominic is a favourite, and has been on standby for a while, waiting for the right character. Ross came to me straight away, but it’s the name of the CEO of my publisher, and in the book, Ross is not a very nice character. However, the name stuck, so apologies to all the nice Rosses out there.
Andie took a little longer; I toyed around with more exotic, fancy names, but as I developed her backstory, I realised her mother was a little old-fashioned or formal, and she would have been the one to name her. So I decided Andrea fitted well as a sister to Meredith and Brendan, and I liked that it could be shortened to something more casual. I enjoy playing around with names so that characters can have a different identity in different relationships.
Wow, I really do obsess, don’t I?
I think all the names fit in well 🙂 The popularity of Chefs and reality television has skyrocketed in Australia; do you have any favourite foodie shows or chefs?
I might obsess about names, but I’m not particularly obsessed with the current foodie trend, despite having written a book set largely around a restaurant and positively littered with chefs. I only watched MasterChef properly for the first time as research for The Secret Ingredient! Don’t get me wrong, I love to cook – but writing satisfies my creative urges and doesn’t give me much time to cook these days. I do like Jamie Oliver – who is nothing like Dominic in the book, incidentally – especially the campaigns he takes on, such as healthy food in schools.
I think Jamie does a great job promoting healthy food for kids as well. Who are your favourite Australian authors?
I find it impossible to nominate absolute favourites. When I think of the Australian authors I’ve read just this year – off the top of my head: Liane Moriarty, Craig Silvey, Lisa Heidke, Kylie Ladd, Ahn Do – I have enjoyed them all for such different reasons, it’s very difficult to single one out as a favourite. Perhaps ‘favourite’ can only be applied to those who have lasted in my memory for a very long time – I still get emotional when I think of the final scenes in Seven Little Australians by Ethel Turner, and I was deeply affected by The Chant of Jimmy Blacksmith by Thomas Keneally when I read it as a senior student. I can still quote lines from that book.
I agree, there’s too many great Aussie authors to choose from! Your by-line on the media release says you were previously a counsellor and I found this really interesting. I am a psychologist and enjoy exploring relationships in my writing too. Does this experience provide you with an additional insight into the inner workings of the characters you create?
That’s a bit of a chicken and egg question – did I go into counselling because of a fascination for people and relationships, or the other way around? I think anyone who studies psychology is interested in people in the first place, but the study and practice are bound to give you greater insight. More than anything, counselling develops empathy, and I believe having empathy for your characters – being able to get into their shoes and see the world from their eyes – is vital for a writer.
I completely agree Dianne. In addition to being an author, you are also the mother of four boys! How on earth have you managed to write and publish eight books in the last ten years?
Well, there are only two left at home now, and the ‘baby’ has just finished high school! But to be completely honest, I was much more disciplined and productive when they were younger. School hours impose a pretty tight schedule on all mums, and I had to make the most of any time I had to myself. I would drive the boys to school and come back home and write until I had to leave to pick them up. There was very little chance of getting any more work done once they were home, so I often left off right in the middle of a scene, frantically jotting down notes and fragments of dialogue. It was so easy to jump right back into it the next day. Now my time is largely my own. It does mean I can work late into the night – which suits me, but it also means I procrastinate a lot more. School bell-time was like having a daily deadline, and I’ve discovered I work best to a deadline!
Timeframes and deadlines seem to keep me more motivated with my writing as well. Thank you so much for stopping by The Australian Bookshelf!
Thanks for having me!
Dianne Blacklock- The Secret Ingredient
Synopsis: Taste was such an evocative sense; Andie had closed her eyes, with the scone melting in her mouth, and been transported back to her grandmother’s kitchen…
Nourishment is nurture. That’s what Andie learned from her grandmother and what she’s always believed about cooking. But somehow, since marrying Ross, she’s allowed her love of food to take a back seat and given up her dream of becoming a chef.
Lately she’s been craving more. And when her marriage falls apart, she’s determined to find herself again and take back control of her destiny.
The first step is taking a job in the kitchen of renowned chef Dominic Gerou. The brooding Englishman is more than Andie bargains for, but the new Andie is ready for anything, even a bad-tempered chef who makes it clear he won’t tolerate mistakes.
In this beautiful new novel, Dianne Blacklock takes us on a sumptuous journey of the heart as Andie uncovers the secret ingredient for her new life, and shows that no matter how many false starts you may have, if you hold on to your passion and your dreams, anything is possible.
For information about Dianne Blacklock’s check her out on the web: