Eating Authors: A. K. Larkwood (Astounding Award nominee)

No Comments » Written on May 17th, 2021 by
Categories: Plugs
A. K. Larkwood

You’d think with a pandemic going on, it would be easier than in past years to make contact with the current cohort of Astounding Award nominees and invite them here to EATING AUTHORS — as I have done for years and years. However, the past month has demonstrated quite the opposite.

This year the nominees are Lindsay Ellis, Simon Jimenez, Micaiah Johnson, A.K. Larkwood, Jenn Lyons, and Emily Tesh. As you can see by the link, Jenn has been a previous guest here. Of the remaining five, I’ve only successfully made contact with three, but I remain ever hopeful. And in that spirit, it’s my pleasure to present the first of this year’s nominees, A.K. Larkwood.

She’s landed her nomination on the strength of her debut novel, The Unspoken Name, Book One of The Serpent Gates (Book Two, The Thousand Eyes, is scheduled to be released next February), a fantasy about a young priestess slated for sacrifice, who escapes her fate and becomes an assassin. Or, as Arkady Martine described it in a blurb, “In the vein of Le Guin’s magnificent Tombs of Atuan ― if Arha the Eaten One got to grow up to be a swordswoman mercenary in thrall to her dubious wizard mentor.” Yeah, that’s a “shut up and take my money now!” line, right?

As for A.K. herself, she lives in England with a wife and a cat. Beyond that, it’s worth noting that on the list of things she says she likes to write are “human sacrifice, immortals behaving badly, and fraught banquets where someone gets murdered.” That last one seems like a good place to stop this intro and get on to her meal (though, spoiler, it’s not a banquet and no one gets murdered).

LMS: Welcome, A.K. Congratulations on your Astounding nomination. Now, please tell me about your most memorable meal.

AKL: When I was in my early twenties, my best friend and I decided to go on a trip to shake up our ideas. I hadn’t found my feet after university, didn’t really know what to do with my life, and had no idea how to look after myself or anyone else. We went to Paris as cheaply as we could, and I had some idea of sitting around romantically outside cafes working on my novel.

Due to a series of administrative fuckups on my part we ended up staying in different backpacker hostels on opposite sides of the city, with only one working phone between us. The sun was very hot and Paris was very big and we were both as depressed and adrift as ever, except now also lost in an unfamiliar place. I was very aware of my own hubris, and of how much less of GCSE French I had remembered than I thought I might.

The Unspoken Name

After wandering round in the baking heat for several hours we were also ravenous. We found a supermarket across the road from a tiny park and bought lunch. Bread, soft cheese, grapes, and for some reason a family-sized jar of cornichons.

At the time I couldn’t cook. I’d survived on microwaveable soups through university, and was now living in a room in a bizarre shared house where you had to stand on a chair to reach the stove, so the reign of soup looked set to continue. So it was totally accidental that this meal was in fact perfect. We didn’t have any cutlery so we broke the bread into spoon-shaped pieces to scoop up the cheese. The bread was fresh, the grapes were ripe, everything was beautiful. Elsewhere in the park, a group of childminders had formed up a circle of prams so the kids could sleep while they chatted. Sitting on a bench eating bread and cheese in the sun with somebody I loved, I thought, for the first time in a while: well, maybe life is pretty OK.

The rest of the trip wasn’t great. The jar of cornichons quietly seeped brine into our bags for the rest of the day, I did not write a single word of my novel, and I got home with no better idea of what I wanted to do with my life – but I did feel a little better about taking my time to figure it out.

(Also, about five years later my then best friend and I got married, so that helped too).

Thanks, A.K. Bread and cheese and Paris are a classic combination, but true romance is to be found in the brine of pickled cucumbers.

Next Monday: Another author and another meal!

author photo by Vicki Bailey / VHB Photography

NB: links to authors and books here are included as part of an Amazon Affiliate account. If you follow any of them and ultimately make a purchase Amazon rewards me with a few pennies of every dollar.

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