For Jaclyn “Jack” Pace, sensing what sweets people crave is as easy as breathing. But it’s not enough to keep her cupcake bakery in the black.
So, when her estranged sister Harper comes back to town with an affinity for making art out of icing—and a past full of secrets—she reluctantly gives Harper a job and a place to crash. As their sisterly relationship begins to thaw, the one with her business partner Graham starts to heat up. Given the legend that says Hollingsworth men will recognize their soul mates at first touch, Jack’s always been resigned to the fact that she’s not his.
But when she starts sensing desires that are decidedly not dessert-related, it’ll take all of her magic to set things right with customers and make her own desires come true.
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Me: Jack can sense what food —and in some cases, drinks— people desire. How did you come up with this specific magical ability? Was it before or after you decided she owned a cupcakery?
The cupcakes definitely came first. From there it was a matter of finding something magical that fit with the cupcakes but also fit with a girl who couldn’t seem to get her relationships (with Graham or her family) to be what she wanted.
Me: Love & Cupcakes is set in a small Southern town, what is it that specifically drew you to that setting? I know you are from the south, is Sugar a reflection (or idealism) of your own town?
I am from the south and just love the sense of hospitality here. I worked in a coffee shop in college and for a few years after. It was one of those places where I knew most customers by name, where they hugged me on a regular basis, where I still go every Saturday to drink coffee with some of them. I wanted that feeling on a whole-town scale.
Me: You have some pretty amazing (read: mouthwatering) cupcake flavor combinations in Love & Cupcakes. What kind of research did you have to do to come up with them?
So, there’s a scene in Love and Cupcakes where Graham and Jack are fighting about making new cupcake flavors and Jack says that she reads blogs, and Graham kinda laughs at her. That’s basically me and my husband. I read a ton of blogs and looked at menus on cupcakery websites, and honestly I just made some up that I thought sounded cool. I desperately wish Pinterest had been around when I was writing this book. It would’ve been so much fun!
Me: You write both Adult and Young Adult, is one easier or more interesting for you?
About 90% of the books I read in 2013 were YA. (I’m almost 33, so anyone who says YA is just for teens has no clue what they’re talking about!) My last two manuscripts have been YA because that’s the mindset I’ve been in. There’s just something about writing (and reading) about teens that appeals to me. All the heightened emotions, the intense friendships, the almost desperate need to figure out who the hell you are apart from what everyone wants you to be. It just gets in my head and refuses to leave.
But my adult books allow me to explore the person who’s lived through all of that and come out on the other side—and not always for the better.
Me: You have won NaNoWriMo five times, which is an impressive number! What words of advice do you have for writers struggling to finish their manuscript or revise a NaNo project?
Put your ass in the chair and your fingers on the keys. No, seriously, do it. That’s the only way you’re going to get it done. Books don’t write themselves, not matter how much we might want them to some days. (Cats don’t either, by the way. I’ve asked.) Set goals for yourself and force yourself to follow them. The goals can be as small as “I’m going to write one page every day,” or “I want to have a first draft by X date.” Just make it something you can stick to.
The non-writing cat, Chaucer, standing on top of a book outline.
I also highly recommend finding some writing friends who write in a similar genre and style to critique with. The support system of others who are going through the same struggles (and highs) as you does wonders for your productivity. I don’t know where I’d be without my CPs. (That’s not true. I’d probably glaring at my cats for not writing my books for me and finding any excuse I could to not do it own damn self.)
(Me Aside: As one of Susan’s CPs, I don’t know where I’d be without her. I love knowing when I get stuck or freaked — and believe me you will inevitably get stuck or freaked — I can email, Tweet, or text — sometimes all three!— Susan and she will help me unstuck and de-freak.)
Me: You make some very clever pop-culture references in Love & Cupcakes. My favorite is when Harper, Jack’s younger sister, appears wearing a t-shirt with the words Grr Argh written on it. Which is a reference to Joss Whedon’s production company, Mutant Enemy. As a fellow fangirl, these little nods made me smile. If you could share a cupcake with three of your fangirl inspirations, who would they be and what flavor cupcake do you think Jack would give them?
Oh, my. Of course you would ask me to choose between my favorite fangirl inspirations! (Me: Muahahahahaha!) Okay, since you’re forcing me, here goes:
1) Bryan Fuller (creator of Pushing Daisies, Wonderfalls, and Dead Like Me) is a no-brainer. I feel like Graham would have to make a special gruyere-topped, apple pie-filled cup for him. Or maybe it would be a simple white chocolate and honey. But it would definitely relate to The Piemaker since he was the inspiration for Graham.
2) Logan Echolls from Veronica Mars (yes, I’m going fictional inspiration here! I mean, have you seen that boy?). His cup would most definitely be a dark chocolate with whipped marshmallow filling and icing because he is the ultimate Marshmallow.
3) Zoe and Wash from Firefly (yes, I’m picking two because they come as a packaged deal and I refuse to separate them, leaves on the wind be damned!). They would split a milk and white chocolate marbled cupcake with a spicy cinnamon icing. Then they’d hightail it back to their bunk on Serenity to eat it in private.
Me: If you walked into Crumbs, and Jack was behind the counter, what flavor cupcake or scent would she smell for you?
Ooh, if we’re talking strictly cupcakes, Jack would probably sense chocolate caramel from me. Chocolate and caramel, in almost any form, is my weakness. But if we’re talking desires in general, it would be more like salty air and suntan lotion and a hint of peaches because I’m a beach girl and my husband grows peach trees.
Susan Bishop Crispell is not one of those writers who’s been scribbling down stories since she could hold a pencil. She didn’t read constantly growing up (blasphemy!), and she can still be found in public without a book tucked into her purse (again with the blasphemy!).
She is, however, the kind of writer who lives for the imaginative spark that introduces her to a new character or story idea that pushes her to turn everyday life into something magical.
She lives and writes near Wilmington, NC.
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