Authors

Food in Fiction with Charles Yallowitz

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It’s a big pleasure to have the author of the wonderful Legends of Windemere series, Charles Yallowitz, here with me today to talk about one of my favourite pastimes – munchies. I love his dry wit, and the fact that he is always so down to earth and friendly with everyone, no matter how busy his life must be. Thanks for joining me Charles.

Thank you to Jo for offering to host a promo/guest blog. Now to get the introduction and promo stuff out of the way. My name is Charles E. Yallowitz and I’m the author behind the Legends of Windemere epic fantasy series where the latest one is Sleeper of the Wildwood Fugue. I also just released a 27-page short story for 99 cents called Ichabod Brooks & the City of Beasts, so you can get a quick, cheap taste of me . . . whatever. Let’s move on to the fun!

The Avengers post-credits scene
The Avengers post-credits scene

I think many authors overlook the versatile uses that food can have in a story. It doesn’t have to be the central focus like in the manga ‘Toriko’ where the entire story revolves around discovering new foods and recipes. (Great series by the way.) Now that series is an extreme use that doesn’t have to be added to every story. Like in the above scene that occurred after the credits of ‘The Avengers’, you can make a food scene mild and simple. Though, I have yet to figure out what shawarma is or even try it. Staying on topic, here are a few non-central uses for food in fiction:

  1. Cultural Depth– Every region and culture has its own culinary identity. Think of any group and you’ll probably touch on an associated food within the first minute or two. I just thought of Jews and Matzoh Ball soup and Russians and vodka. Yes, these tend to be stereotypical in our world, but it makes the point. In a fictional world, you can create local cuisine that is unique and strange. This can relate to the type of land that the culture comes from too. For example, in Allure of the Gypsies you learn that Luke Callindor’s hometown is a big supplier of honey-based products because it is in an area that is perfect for raising bees. Bor’daruk has a lot of flat breads and giant scorpion meat is a local delicacy. So think of implementing a food scene when characters reach a new location.
  2. Dialogues– This is one of my big uses for eating scenes. Characters need to talk about events and they commonly do so over either a meal or drinks. This allows me to have them do something while talking. Otherwise, it’s a back and forth chat where you get an image of the characters standing like mannequins. Also, I’ve found that how people eat tells a little about their personalities and you can see it when compared to each other. For example, in my series Timoran Wrath eats piles of food and takes his time. Sari snatches food off people’s plates. Delvin is rather simple and casual. Fizzle sits in the apple basket. All of this in one scene paints a bigger picture.
  3. Conflict– Nothing to declare war on, but characters can fight over food in some situations. This can bring in some amusement and development. Yes, I know this sounds odd. Just imagine your heroes ordering a pizza or anything where you can pick toppings. You can go the simple routes with everyone getting their own pie, they decide to order a plain pizza, or have a group of people unrealistically agree on toppings. That last one is severe fiction. Now you can also take a little time to have them argue over what to get. Again, this can demonstrate personalities and roles within the group. It can even lead to some pent up aggression coming to the surface. Maybe that warrior is still angry about his favorite sword being lost by the caster’s clumsiness. Well, they fight over the dipping sauces for the chicken and the rage bubbles into a real problem. Sounds strange, but this happens in real life.
  4. Threats and Villainy– Ever see a movie or read a book where the villain is eating something strange? Maybe all their threats involve eating organs. This relates to one of my favorite parts of a Spider-Man story is in a novel called ‘The Venom Factor’. I don’t remember it exactly and the book is buried in my library, but the gist is Venom threatened to eat Spidey’s spleen. After years of being threatened with brain eating, Spider-Man says he doubts Venom even knows where the spleen is. The villain’s retort, “We can find out. It might be fun.” This may be a minor use of food and a stretch of the topic, but you can also have villains physically eating disgusting things. Vampires are a good one where they’re draining a person while talking.

Sad Soaks And Rock Stars

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I read an article by a famous multiply published author yesterday, although I’ve totally forgotten his name, so I can’t say who now. My memory is really rotten with names. He said that the reason most authors become miserable drunks is because of the terrible depression that sets in after their first book is published and sells not a single copy in months. That is indeed a depressing thing to say. I don’t think I’ll be swigging gin for breakfast while singing Mr Bojangles quite yet though. Of course I want people to buy and read my books. And thank you to those gorgeous and discerning people who have already bought Shadow People so far. How exciting to think of you guys, wherever you may be, reading it, and travelling to my worlds with me.

As a writer I’m grateful to every single person who reads and enjoys my scribbles. But I really don’t agree with that famous author guy at all. In my circle of indie writer friends there is not one single sad old gin swilling soak that I can see. Well. Not gin swilling for that reason anyway. We writerly folk enjoy the odd tipple just as much as anyone else. They are just a group of hard-working, talented, and inspired people who are doing what they have to do, to share their stories with people who want to read them. I think they “get” that Rome wasn’t built in a day, and not without a bit of spadework also. They’re not miserable either. Just a little tired perhaps from having to learn how to be salesmen (or women). Generally, the tender, creative soul of a writer doesn’t easily embrace that particular profession, most especially when trying to sell her (or him) self. Never let it be said that I am ever politically incorrect. Anyway. The amount of indie writers zooming around the web says success to me, and not desperate depression, whether they sell one book or thousands in any given month.

Maybe I’m wrong, I very often am, but to me it’s logical that no matter what you do to earn a crust, you don’t go from first day newbie to rock star overnight. Even if after all is said and done, you only end up rocking the club scene, and don’t get to open for Gaga, I still see that as success. I don’t see any reason to be depressed when you’re doing what you love, no matter how slow your first book is out of the starting gates. I reckon the main thing is that it’s actually at the gates. That achievement alone is success in my eyes, and if one person really likes your tale, so is that. If one does, more will too. It’s all just in the time.

So, if there really are any pickled pen-pilots out there today, crying into their Absinth’s, I say to you – give it a year, not a day – before you hit the booze and Prozac. And of course, so you can meet those lovely folk who will like what you wrote, join our merry group of Readers, Bloggers and Writers on Google+.

https://plus.google.com/communities/115573021758683598908

Till next time friends. xxx

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