Eating Authors: Jaye Wells

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Jaye Wells

My guest this week here at EATING AUTHORS is Jaye Wells. She has what must surely be the best possible pedigree any writer could ask for. Which is to say, she was raised by booksellers. And while all such children might not grow up to become authors, there’s a certain sense of predestination, a feeling of “coming home” that I imagine both she and her parents must have felt as she set out on her career.

Jaye is the author of the Sabina Kine series of novels and short fiction, as well as the Prospero’s War trilogy (book three due out next March), both published by the fine folks at Orbit. Her bio insists she likes to travel and drink good bourbon. As you’re about to find out, she also likes good food.

LMS: Welcome, Jaye. So tell us, what’s your most memorable meal?

JW: You know how to stress a book lover out? Ask them to tell you their favorite book. Likewise, asking a food lover to recount their favorite meal is anxiety inducing.

The truth is that in books and in food, I usually don’t recall the details of plot or plate as much as I recall how they made me feel. As it happens, the meal I’ve decided to tell you about today combines both books and food.

Red-Headed Stepchild

In late 2012, I went to Cleveland for Bouchercon. While I was at the con, I stole away for a few hours to complete the draft of the first book in my new Prospero’s War series, Dirty Magic. In fact, I emailed the draft to my editor while sitting in the lobby of my hotel. This was fitting because the fictional town of Babylon, Ohio was heavily influenced by Cleveland. I mention this because the night of this particular dinner was an occasion since I was celebrating finishing the book.

This was the first time I’d been to Bouchercon, which is geared toward mystery and thriller writers. Several of my friends were in attendance, including Nicole Peeler, Liliana Hart, and Juliet Blackwell. But one of my favorite booksellers, John Kwiatkowski, from Murder by the Book in Houston and his partner, Matt, were also there. We all decided to leave the conference hotel for dinner. We wandered through downtown Cleveland, which, if you haven’t been there, is surprisingly charming. With the help of Yelp, we found a restaurant called Hodges a few blocks from the hotel.

Dirty Magic

If you don’t know Cleveland and you’re a foodie, let me tell you there’s a renaissance of food happening there. The downtown is littered with restaurants doing really exciting things with local and artisanal ingredients. Hodges itself was charming and had a sort of new American farmhouse thing going for it.

We all started with a round of Old Fashioneds. Bourbon is a particular favorite of mine, and whenever I’m in the mood to celebrate a good Old Fashioned hits the spot. Since there were so many people in our group we decided to order a bunch of appetizers to start. The hit was the lard on toast. Yeah, I know—lard! They took a piece of crusty bread and toasted it, smeared it with lard and drizzled it with honey. It’s not often I feel a deep sense of shame upon tasting something, but this did the trick. I can’t say it was delicious—lard has a habit of coating the entire pallete—but it was certainly memorable. Everyone at the dinner was adventurous and tried it, and we all felt a little dirty after.

As for the rest of the meal, I don’t recall everything we ate. I’m confident there were lobster corn dogs involved. I also know we had dessert. And several more drinks.

Meridian Six

But for me, the star of the meal was the company. There’s a sort of magic that happens when you’re with great people. Everything tastes better when spiced with laughter. Even better when it’s paired with truly excellent food and delicious drinks. I’m not saying the meal would have felt as epic if we’d eaten at an Applebees. The atmosphere, the food, and the company conspired together to make it an epic meal. And every time I see my friends who shared the meal with me, we smile knowingly and say, “Lard on toast” as if we survived something life-changing together.

I mentioned earlier that I remember meals and books by how they made me feel. The dinner at Hodges made me feel lucky. When I started writing, I never knew that the words I put on the page to transport my readers would also be a passport into a world where I get to have ridiculous culinary adventures with amazing people in unlikely places.

Thanks, Jaye. I was going to remark on the wondrous combination of joy that must result from completing a book while at a con, but you bring up a much more important point: we’re lucky, all of us, in so many amazing ways. Thanks for reminding me of that..

Next Monday: Not just another author and another meal, but the start of our 2014 coverage of Campbell Award nominees!



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