Eating Authors: Edward Willett

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Edward Willett

Welcome to the first installment of EATING AUTHORS for 2019. The weather’s still pretty mild in my corner of the world, and of course I’m tempting fate by typing that (which, given that I’m flying to Detroit in ten days may be quite risky indeed). Still, less than a week into the new year and things are looking pretty good on both personal and professional fronts. Is Fate lulling me into a false complacency or am I simply cashing in some of the backlog of karma accrued in 2018? I’ll keep you posted.

Meanwhile, please welcome this week’s guest, Edward Willett, who’s up in Canada (Regina, Saskatchewan, to be precise) where it’s about 20° colder. The lower temperatures up there may explain why he keeps so busy. Sure, he writes novels, including a multiple YA series under his own name and as E.C. Blake, but in addition to novels he also writes plays and nonfiction, performs as an actor and singer, and also hosts local television programs and emcees public events.

His latest book, Worldshaper , is the first in a new series, and has what may be one of the best covers I’ve seen in a long while. I’ve added it to my to-be-read stack for 2019.

LMS: Welcome, Edward. What’s your most memorable meal?

EW: How hard a question can that be? Harder than you’d think. There’s not even an easy out, like, “I can’t remember my most memorable meal.” English lets us write that sequence of words, but they’re self-contradictory: it’s impossible to forget your most memorable meal, because by definition, if it’s memorable, you remember it.

Worldshaper

Yes, I’m stalling.

Okay, so, I remember lots of meals, which makes them all memorable. But which one rises to the very top?

The question is complicated by the fact that my wife and I make a point of seeking out interesting restaurants—like the one in Spearfish, South Dakota (to give one example) run by an ex-New York chef who had moved back home (all I remember of the meal, though, is the South Dakotan wine—pear, not grape—I couldn’t have a glass because I was driving and we had my elderly mother with us and there was no way even one glass would not have earned motherly disapproval). We’ve eaten at Top Chef-contestant (and winner) restaurants, great hotels, mountaintop patio restaurants, and the now sadly departed International Wine and Food Festival at the Banff Springs hotel, where the meals were remarkably memorable, considering there would be flights of four or five (or more) different wines to accompany them.

But ultimately, I think I’d have to go with a meal that ties closely to my writing career: my very first DAW dinner.

Marseguro

DAW Books has a wonderful tradition of arranging an extremely good meal for whichever of its authors are present at the World Science Fiction and World Fantasy conventions. My first original novel for DAW, Marseguro, came out in February 2008, and although I’d talked to my editor/publisher, Sheila E. Gilbert, I’d never met her. WorldCon was in Denver that year, a not-unreasonable distance from our home in Regina, Saskatchewan, so we drove down…and for the first time, I got to attend a DAW dinner.

The location was spectacular: the Independence Room in the Brown Palace, a beautiful private room whose panoramic wallpaper, painted by Jean Zuber et Cie in Rixheim, Alsace, France, in 1834, is one of only two existing original painted wallpapers in America (the other is in the Diplomatic Reception Room of the White House). (And no, I didn’t remember all those details off the top of my head, but isn’t the Internet a wonderful thing?)

The company was engaging: it was the first time I met, not only Sheila and Betsy, but other DAW authors, such as my fellow Canadian Tanya Huff.

The food, I know, was equally wonderful, although I don’t remember exactly what it was (I’m sure we still have the menu tucked away somewhere, but I can’t put my hands on it), with one exception that also made the experience stand out.

When plans for the dinner were being mooted, I’d told Sheila that Margaret Anne and I would be there, but that we would be traveling with our seven-year-old daughter, Alice. Would she be able to attend?

Song of the Sword

Sheila was a little hesitant, explaining that it was a very grown-up dinner, but I assured her Alice was used to attending grown-up dinners (in fact, from time to time she complains about the number of grown-up dinners she’s had to attend) and would be fine. And she was, making a hugely favorable impression on Sheila and Betsy and the others—and also illustrating for me how a truly fine restaurant deals with unusual situations.

While, as I’ve noted, I don’t remember the details of the menu, I do know that very little of it was designed to appeal to a seven-year-old girl’s palate. But that wasn’t a problem at all: the waiter asked her what she’d like, and she said macaroni and cheese, and the chef made it for her—so well, in fact, that she still remembers that as some of the best macaroni and cheese of her life, and that dinner is one of her most memorable ones, too, even though she’s now in her last year of high school.

The dinner, though held in a historic room in a high-end restaurant in a historic hotel with people I’d never met until then, felt very much like a family dinner, and it was my introduction to what Betsy and Sheila like to call the DAW family: the family I’ve been thrilled to be a part of now for nine novels and counting.

There have been more memorable DAW dinners since then, and all of them rise high on my list of the best meals of my life—but that first one, to which I and my family were so warmly welcomed, remains a highlight, not just of my adventures in dining, but of my entire career.

Thanks, Edward. I have several fond memories of meals during the Denver Worldcon, but yours makes me want to nudge my agent to push for selling my next book to DAW. Heh, if only it were that easy.

Next Monday: Another author and another meal!

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