Tag Archives | Erica Bauermeister

The Fireworks In Fiction

Today’s post from Erica Bauermeister | Erica on Facebook

Erica’s novel, Joy For Beginners, was our featured book club selection last February. She’s back with a new release this month that we’re eager to share with you. The Lost Art of Mixing is the sequel to her first novel, The School of Essential Ingredients. And one lucky reader is going to win copies of ALL THREE of Erica’s novels today! Just leave a comment on this post and you’ll be entered!

Erica Bauermeister

Update: the winner of this giveaway is Jill Little. She has been notified by email. Thanks to everyone who entered! Check back soon for more giveaways!

In real life, I am a control freak, but when I am writing fiction, something else entirely happens.   I don’t outline.   I don’t plan.   I let go, relax my mind, and wait.   My novels always come from a spark — an image that then opens up over the course of a year or two or ten of writing, with other characters showing up and relationships developing between them all.   Seen in retrospect, it’s like watching a slow-motion film of a firework expanding across the sky.

The Lost Art of Mixing started with two images.

The first was of a quiet man in his early fifties, caught in a marriage he didn’t understand.   In the scene in my head, he was in bed with his wife, her complaints coming at him like small waves rocking against the side of a boat.   I felt such sympathy for him; I wanted more for his life.

And then one day I went into a bookstore in a faraway city and offered to sign their stock of my books.   The clerk got the books and never once checked my identification.   As I left the bookstore I thought — anybody could just walk in and sign someone else’s books.  I thought of Al, my quiet hero, and I knew that this was just the sort of hidden rebellion that would appeal to him.   A transgression of the quirkiest kind.   What would happen to him, I wondered, if he took this small and unusual step towards independence?   Where would his story go?

The other image in my mind was of a character I had loved for a long time — Lillian, the chef from The School of Essential Ingredients.   From the moment that book was published, I had begun receiving letters from readers asking me what had happened to Lillian and Tom after they went for their walk at the end of the book.

I thought I was done with the characters from School, and yet, another image started showing up in my imagination — Lillian, standing in the restaurant kitchen doorway, just the way the first book had started.   But this time, Lillian was overwhelmed by the smells of the kitchen, and through her reaction, she was realizing she was pregnant.

Well, what was I going to do with that?

And that is the fun of writing — following those images to wherever they lead.   Seeing what happened when Al finally got caught.   Understanding the difficult decision that Lillian had to make.   Finding all the other characters, whose personalities and conflicts made the pages come alive.   In the end, there were eight characters — four pairs, each pair in the midst of a misunderstanding.   All of them brought together through serendipity, tipping each other forward like dominoes, sometimes without their even knowing it.   Fireworks, all of them.   Sometimes made from anger, sometimes from joy, always from life.

National bestselling author Erica Bauermeister returns to the enchanting world of  The School of Essential Ingredients  in this luminous sequel.

Lillian and her restaurant have a way of drawing people together. There’s Al, the accountant who finds meaning in numbers and ritual; Chloe, a budding chef who hasn’t learned to trust after heartbreak; Finnegan, quiet and steady as a tree, who can disappear into the background despite his massive height; Louise, Al’s wife, whose anger simmers just below the boiling point; and Isabelle, whose memories are slowly slipping from her grasp. And there’s Lillian herself, whose life has taken a turn she didn’t expect. . . .

Their lives collide and mix with those around them, sometimes joining in effortless connections, at other times sifting together and separating again, creating a family that is chosen, not given. A beautifully imagined novel about the ties that bind—and links that break—The Lost Art of Mixing  is a captivating meditation on the power of love, food, and companionship.

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A Room of Her Own – The Writing Space of Erica Bauermeister

Erica Bauermeister's Office

Bestselling novelist (and this month’s featured author) Erica Bauermeister on her writing space: “I actually write all over the house — in a big white chair in front of a window, sitting on my bed  with my legs stretched out, sitting in a chair by the fireplace.  Partly that comes from starting my writing career while I was still a young mother; I simply went wherever there was quiet or privacy, and as that was a moveable proposition, I learned to move as well.  Thank heavens for laptops.  Now, it’s an ingrained habit, but in the process I’ve come to realize that some of my characters are simply more comfortable in certain environments, so even though my children are grown and out of the house, I still move around while I am writing.  When I was writing Joy for Beginners, Sara was easiest to write if I was looking out a window; Hadley seemed to like the comfort of a bed.  I wrote large portions of Caroline’s chapter sitting at the kitchen table.  Perhaps that sounds odd (in fact, reading it over, I’m pretty sure it does), but it’s just something that happens and I’ve learned to go along with it…

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Literary First Love – Erica Bauermeister

Literature, it seems, always comes full circle. Take that little girl in the cozy reading nook flipping through The Velveteen Rabbit or the young boy who has recently stumbled upon the wonder that is Hugo Cabret. The teenage girl in love with Gilbert Blythe. The young man who can almost hear the howling of dogs while reading The Call of the Wild by flashlight. Writers were first readers, and ravenous ones at that.

And so begins our Literary First Love series where we visit with authors–new and established–to hear about the books that first captured their hearts, and also about the novels they’ve written as a result of their love-affair with words.

First up is this month’s featured author, Erica Bauermeister. Won’t you give her a warm welcome and then share your own Literary First Love?

Erica Bauermeister

There are books I fell in love with as a child — Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Little House series and The Secret Garden.   As a college student I discovered Anne Tyler’s Dinner at the Homesick Restaurant and became fascinated by the potential of stories told from multiple points of view.   In one of my literature classes otherwise dominated by all-things-male, Tillie Olsen’s short story I Stand Here Ironing convinced me that everyday life is just as worthy of literature as the hunting of a big white whale.  These books settled into me until they feel almost like my genetic structure.   Perhaps we’ll simply call it an emotional structure, and I am grateful for the strength it gives me.

But I think there is much to be said for a literary love that comes in your adult life, when you spend long stretches of your day (or week or month) not being dazzled by the wonder of things.   I first read Joanne Harris’s Chocolat purely for enjoyment, but when I started writing The School of Essential Ingredients it took on a greater importance.   It’s the book I turned to when I had spent the day speaking to children in simple, direct phrases and I wanted to remember the sound of sentences unspooling across a page like silk.   It’s the book I pulled off the shelf when I wanted a reminder of how the world contains moments of magic and tragedy, misunderstanding and grace.  It wouldn’t take much — sometimes just a sentence or two — but like music or perfume or the smell of dinner cooking, it could change the color of my thoughts, settle them down, and leave me ready to write my own words.  My copy is dog-eared and waterlogged and beloved, the way the best books so often are.

Erica’s second novel, JOY FOR BEGINNERS, is this month’s She Reads book selection. But you may be interested to know that her debut, THE SCHOOL OF ESSENTIAL INGREDIENTS, is the much-applauded national bestseller born from her very own love of reading.

The School of Essential Ingredients


Once a month on Monday night, eight students gather in Lillian’s restaurant kitchen for a cooking class. They come to learn the art behind Lillian’s dishes, but it soon becomes clear that each one unknowingly seeks a recipe for something beyond the kitchen. One by one, they are transformed by the aromas, flavors, and textures of what they create. Over time, the paths of the students intermingle and intertwine, and the essence of Lillian’s cooking expands beyond the restaurant and into the secret corners of their lives, with results that are often unexpected and always delicious.




And don’t forget that there is still time to enter this month’s giveaway and have a chance to win both of Erica’s novels, along with a journal and chocolates hand-selected by her.

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