Category Archives: Book Club

Author Melissa Ford on Life from Scratch

Earlier this week, readers of the book Life from Scratch asked each other questions and shared their thoughts on their blogs, much like people used to do over munchies and punch back in the old days when book clubs were limited to interacting with people who lived near each other.

Twenty bloggers participated in this tour. Check out what they’re saying.

We were fortunate to have a highly accessible author who has answered questions we posed to her. I should add that she is also a highly successful author, as well, because her novel hit #7 on the Kindle Content list on Thursday, and rave reviews continue to come in on Amazon.

The rest of this post is from Melissa Ford.

The author, not the p0rn star.

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First and foremost, I want to thank everyone who read the book and participated on this tour.  It means the world to me that you would take the time to do that.  And honestly, this is a love story to blogging, so it is fitting that it’s being written about on blogs.

1.   Have you considered actually writing the Life From Scratch blog as Rachel?

I did, but wasn’t coming together, which is sort of a testament of how difficult and time-consuming it can be to write a blog and keep it going.  I did the posts you see in the book, and I have a handful more that are saved as a file.  I had high hopes of getting a whole Life from Scratch blog chugging, and while that’s still a possibility in the future, I knew that if I committed myself to that blog that I would probably stop writing Stirrup Queens.  Stirrup Queens is such a comfortable (and comforting) space for me that I couldn’t see giving that up.  This writing two blogs things is hard…

2.  Considering the story is based in NY/NJ with an international twist, how do you research the detail behind the specific places/terrain/culture, is this based on your own experiences or experiences of others?

I spent about a month in Spain, and while I didn’t hook up with any hot Spaniards (I was dating this man that I broke up with literally days after returning.  What a waste of a trip!  I could have had a wild affair… not that any hot Spanish men were banging down my hotel door), I’ve definitely spent enough time there to create Gael.  The New York scenes were much trickier.  I’ve spent a lot of time in NY and I can get around parts of the city decently well.  My brother is up there, so he received a lot of phone calls from me asking about different subway routes, what she’d be seeing on the street, etc.

I thought about setting the story in D.C., and it certainly would have made things a lot easier.  But I just couldn’t picture Rachel in Washington, despite the fact that we have fantastic food bloggers down here.

3.  Where did the inspiration for Rachel come from? Is any part of her you?

I think there’s a lot of me in Rachel… or vice versa.  I made a character that I’d want to be friends with.  She isn’t perfect.  Like all of us, she can be self-absorbed at times.  But she seemed like the type of person I’d want to spend the evening around.

But her fear of mayonnaise and cockroaches — all me.

4.  I remember reading that Sue Grafton, author of the “A is for Alibi” series (who is married with kids) enjoyed writing about Kinsey Millhone (the twice-divorced, single detective) because she believed it was her way of exploring the road not taken. Was writing about divorced, single, childless Rachel Goldman an opportunity to explore a road not taken? Was she an easy or tough voice for you to write in? Sorry, I guess that’s two questions 😉

That’s a really interesting question and I hadn’t really considered that.  She is experiencing a road that I find really undesirable — I like being married, I worked really hard to have kids, and I didn’t really enjoy the single years (was not sad that I’ll never have another first kiss).  I wouldn’t want Rachel’s life.  But — I am finishing up a YA novel right now (literally in the final edit before I send it to my agent) and while I wouldn’t necessarily want to inhabit that world either, it did come a bit from a moment where I realized that a road-not-taken (and never could have taken) was closed off to me.  So I love that my character is getting to live it for me.

5.  Why did you write a book where food and cooking are the key components but you chose to not include a recipe for the reader?

I really debated that, especially because I included a recipe in my non-fiction book!  I ultimately decided against it because it wasn’t about the food.  I mean, yes, she cooks and she is a food blogger and some of that becomes much bigger in the sequel.  But this first book was really about finding her voice and looking at how she navigates relationships — with her ex-husband, her boyfriend, her best friend, her brother.  I think recipes (Rachel-invented recipes) would work better in the sequel and definitely give me that feedback if you’d want to see that.

6.  How did the writing Life from Scratch (fiction) compare to your experience writing Navigating the Land of IF (non-fiction)?

It is both easier and harder.  It’s sort of the difference between fixed form poetry and free form poetry.  Some people find fixed form poems (or the structure of non-fiction) really limiting.  It stifles their creativity.  But I find that when I have strict limits, I can actually be more creative and think clearer.  Free form poetry and fiction are limitless, but it can be a very heavy load to keep all the threads of a story in your head.  I enjoy writing both, and I find that I like working on both at the same time.  I currently have three books going at once — two fiction and one non-fiction — and I just work on the one that fits my mood.  Do I want something more structured or can I handle something more freeing?

7.  How did you come up with the storyline and characters for Life from Scratch? Were any of the characters based on people you know IRL? Did any of the parts of plot come from real life experiences that you, friends or family members have had?

None of the characters are based on real people I know, though there are some names or details that are meaningful.  For instance, I worked a friend’s last name and birthdate into the story to honour her.  The blogging stuff is obviously close to my heart — that’s the world I know and in the sequel, Rachel will step out from behind the screen and meet other bloggers, which is a favourite thing of mine.  But the storyline literally came to me as I was running errands.  I still have the notes I jotted down in various parking lots, though parts of the story changed and differ greatly from those first notes!

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Voting for Flight 1 of Limerick Chick is open until Sunday morning — click over to vote for your favorites. And check back soon to vote on Flights 2 and 3.

My stop on the Life from Scratch book tour

Once upon a time I was a voracious book reader. I was a bookworm before bookworms were cool (What? They’ve never been cool? Not on my planet.).

I once thought I would be able to read every book in the library — that being my elementary school’s wee library. But the libraries I frequented got bigger and then the Internet hit and I was devastated to realize that I would never in a million years read everything there is to read.

In recent years I have moved away from books. I now read blogs. And Twitter and Facebook. Well, one doesn’t exactly read Twitter and Facebook, but one can get endlessly lost following links of interesting things to read via Twitter and Facebook.

Plus, I now have children. Time-sucking children who always need one thing or another. Like they need an after-school snack NOW, while I’m busy checking out a link @BlogHer tweeted about on its site, which led to the Huffington Post, which led to a controversial mommyblog article about our broken attention spans, which led to me wondering about a certain term, which took me to Wikipedia, which reminded me of  a YouTube video I’d meant to look for, and wasn’t that guy in a Paul Thomas Anderson movie? I’d better check IMDB.com to see which one that was. Because heaven forbid if I don’t scratch this itch right now and find out. And WHY CAN’T YOU GET YOUR OWN DAMN DINNER, my cherubs?!

Bottom line is, whereas I once read a book a week, now I’m lucky to read one in 6 weeks. So when I pick The Book To Read, it better be good. No longer do I finish a book just because I begin it. I ditch a blah book the way I’d skip out on a halitosis-reeking blind date.

I was really really hoping that I would genuinely like the first novel published by my friend, Melissa Ford. For one reason, that friend thing I mentioned:  I owe Melissa both truth and loyalty, which, as any husband knows, can be mutually exclusive when asked something like “Does this dress make my butt look big?”

For another reason, I had offered to lead this book tour, and I wanted to be able to do it enthusiastically.

How bad would it suck for me if I didn’t like her book??

That, thankfully, can remain a theoretical question. Melissa’s book is as engaging and witty and insightful and wise as her blog is, which I have read faithfully and loved for 4 years. The characters are multi-dimensional and I found myself wondering about them as I went to sleep at night, the way I wonder about actual friends. The plot is not predictable and the ending surprised me. And I loved the image of this guy in my mind’s eye whenever the book mentioned Gael.

Life from Scratch ends with hints of a sequel, so I hope to be in this same predicament in another year or so.

Here are my three questions and answers for the Life From Scratch book tour.

Blogging plays a key role for Rachel in the growth she experiences throughout the novel.  How has blogging affected who you are and/or how you see the world?

Before I began blogging I felt as if I had to strain to be noticed whenever I was with a group of people — in high school, at a work place, at a conference gathering or cocktail party. It was as if I had a voice but was afraid to use it. The act of blogging has made me:

  • clearer — I am very deliberate with the words I choose and the ideas I put out there. Knowing that my posts could be read by virtually anyone makes me try to see my statements from various viewpoints and be very clear with what I say and how I say it.
  • braver — let’s face it: blogging is brave. We put ourselves out there and open ourselves up to both praise and criticism, and, worst of all, to being ignored.
  • more compassionate — blogging is really two things: reading and writing. The reading part brings me in contact with people who have a wide assortment of experiences and challenges and perspectives. I’ve learned about life after cancer, parenting an autistic or special needs child, coming to terms with childfree living, and surviving all sorts of loss. How could I not be changed, my heart embiggened? (A lesser-known perk of blogging is that you get to make up words.)
  • sane — we all know that blogging is cheaper and more effective than therapy.

I think Rachel Goldman also became clearer and braver and saner as the plot unfolded. Like it did for Rachel, blogging helped me find my voice.

Rachel’s blog gets very popular when she wins a blogging award and she starts averaging about one hundred thousand hits per day.  Would you want your blog to become that popular or would you prefer to stay smaller?

I am so glad to have the chance to ponder this. Prior to this question being asked, I thought, simply, “of course bigger is better.”

But I just read a NYT article on Dooce and Pioneer Woman and cannot fathom having the numbers and level of exposure they have. I cannot imagine the kind of readership enjoyed by either the fictional Rachel or the very real Stirrup Queens.

One thing that I so admire about Melissa Ford, author (which I do not call her to her face) is that with her blog size she has not compromised her authenticity. She remains real, writing for herself first and her audience second.

One of my fears about hitting the big time would be that the locus of my focus would move outside me. If I had 100,000 readers, most of whom I did not interact with or “know” in any sense, would the numbers start to mean more to me than the people they represent? Would I write what the readers want/expect rather than because there’s something inside me that wants to be expressed?

It would be quite a challenge to remain true and centered. But bring it on. It would be an adventure to try.

If you had a year to do what you wanted, what would you do?  Would you learn to cook or something different?

That’s an easy-peasy answer for me. I’d travel.

I’d spend a month or two in each of 6 or 9 places, with no set itinerary or schedule. I’d start in South America — Argentina and Uruguay, and wind through New Zealand and Australia (hi, Eden!) and Japan and China and Cambodia and Nepal and India and Thailand. Off the top of my head.

Problem is, I’m not a solo traveler. So Roger or one of my sisters would need to come with me. Maybe my children, if the free year happened when they were young adults.

To continue to the next leg of this book tour, please visit the main list at Write Mind Open Heart.

Readers’ last words on the Life from Scratch book tour

Welcome to the third and final segment of the Life From Scratch book tour. It’s the tour that takes place from the comfort of your own sitting area, so get yourself some coffee or tea and pull up a virtual chair. And while it’s nice to have read the selected book, it’s not required.

See Monday’s post for background on the virtual book club and to click on links for the first two batches of book tourists.

Come along on each stop. EVERYONE is welcome to read and comment on the blogs of the participants below — even if you haven’t read the book.

So begin clicking! Here are today’s contributors to the Life From Scratch book tour. If a post isn’t up yet, try again later in the day.

Write Mind Open Heart

Four of a Kind

Dragondreamer’s Lair

Too Many Fish to Fry

Bag Momma

Jodifur

The Road Less Travelled

Remember to come back Saturday for insights from author Melissa Ford.

The readers speak again: Life from Scratch book tour 2

First off, THIS IS MY 700th POST.

But what you’re here for today is part 2 of the Life From Scratch book tour. It’s the tour that takes place from the comfort of your own sitting area, so get yourself some coffee or tea and pull up a virtual chair. And while it’s nice to have read the selected book, it’s not required.

See yesterday’s post for background on the virtual book club and to click on links for the first batch of book tourists.

Come along on each stop. EVERYONE is welcome to read and comment on the blogs of the participants below — even if you haven’t read the book.

So begin clicking! Here are today’s contributors to the Life From Scratch book tour. If a post isn’t up yet, try again later in the day.

Tales of Rachel

I Am Not a Handbag

My Preconceived Notion

Here We Go Again

CD 1 Again

Misconceptions about Conception

Turkey in My Oven

Remember to come back tomorrow for links to the last batch of book tourists, and on Saturday for insights from author Melissa Ford.