Thursday, 6 December 2012

Author Interview: Dana Bate

Happy publication day to Dana Bate who is my guest today to talk about her debut novel The Secret Supper Club.  I'm reading this book at the moment and can highly recommend it, my review will be published shortly.  

Can you tell us a little bit about The Secret Supper Club? 
The story is about a twenty-six year oId woman named Hannah Sugarman who is having a quarter-life crisis.  On paper, she seems to have it all: impressive job, brilliant boyfriend, famous intellectual parents.   But all Hannah cares about is cooking, and no one takes her passion seriously -- not her boyfriend, and not her parents , who want her to become a professor like them.

When her relationship falls apart, Hannah seizes the chance to do what she's always loved  and starts an underground  supper club out of her new landlord's town house -- a secret venture that is both wildly successful and highly problematic, given that it is not, technically speaking, legal.  As the success of her supper club grows, so do the number of secrets Hannah is forced to keep.  Can she keep her underground restaurant a secret?  Or, like everything else in her life, will it end up being a recipe for disaster?

What was the inspiration behind The Secret Supper Club?
I was living in London at the end of '09, and one morning I read an article that mentioned an underground supper club in London run by a woman called MsMarmiteLover.  I thought the idea sounded so fun - and also potentially disastrous.  The idea stuck with me while I was working on another (failed) book idea, and one night I popped up in bed in the middle of the night and scurried into the living room in our flat and jotted down "girl who starts underground supper club"  in my writing notebook.   The next morning I scrapped the old idea and started what would eventually become The Secret Supper Club.     

The Secret Supper Club is your first book, how long did it take to get it published?
About a year and a half.  I started the book at the very end of 2009 (November-ish), and I started  sending the manuscript to potential agents in February 2011.  I landed an agent in April/May of that year and sold the book at the end of June 2011.

Do you have a set daily writing routine?
I usually eat breakfast as soon as I get up and then check email and read the newspaper until 9:00, at which point I start writing.  I write until lunch, and then I take a break to eat and decompress a little.  Then it's back to writing for a bit longer, usually on something I wasn't working on in the morning - an essay or blog or something like that.  By 5:00 I usually call it a day.  The times aren't set in stone, especially when I'm out of town or have appointments and things going on at home.  But I try to stick to that schedule, even if it's a loose one.

Have any of your characters in your books been based on people you know?  If so, did they recognise themselves?
Nope!  All the characters in the book are figments of my imagination - although my former boss  thinks I've based Hannah's boss on him.  I assure you, I have not.
If you could write another style of genre, what would it be and why?
Interesting question!  In my case, I started writing not knowing what would come out, and what came out was light-hearted women's fiction.  So right now I'm thrilled to be writing women's fiction/romantic comedies.  But I always love a good mystery - though I'm not convinced I'd be any good writing one! 

If you could give one piece of advice to an aspiring writer, what would it be?
Revise, revise, revise.  When I look back on the first draft of The Secret Supper Club, I can't believe how different it is from the final version.  Every revision brought new depth to the story and the characters.  I know the expression "writing is revising"  sounds like a cliche, but it's true. 

Are you able to give us a hint as to what your next novel is about?
I'm revising my second novel as I type!  At this point I'm keeping the plot under wraps, but I can say the book is a separate, stand-alone novel, with entirely new characters and situations.  But for those who enjoy the first book, the second will have some of the same ingredients: humor, relationships, family and, of course, food (though food is less front-and-center than it is in The Secret Supper Club).   

Do you have much spare time to read books?  If so, what was the last book you read or what are you currently reading?
I love reading and just joined a new book club.  I was part of a book club in Washington, DC, but I recently moved to Philadelphia, so I found a new group of women here.  The next book we're reading is Still Alice by Lisa Genova.  But I read outside of the club too, and right now I'm finishing up Stacey Ballis' Off the Menu.

If you could have The Secret Supper Club made into a film, who would you cast in the leading roles?
Oooh, good question!  I'm really bad at this kind of thing, since I made up all of the characters in my head, maybe Emma Stone as Hannah, Chris O'Dowd as Blake, Ian Somerhalder as Jacob, and someone like Chace Crawford as Adam.  

If you were going to be stuck on a desert island and could only take 3 books with you, which ones would you choose?
Only three?  Oh dear.  Well, if I had to choose, I suppose... Lolita by Valdamir Nabokov - because you can read that book dozens of times and still discover new things with each reading.  My Life in France by Julia Child - because her story is so inspirational and magical (although depending how much food is on this desert island, this may be a terrible choice, unless I am satisfied living vicariously through Julia's descriptions of sole meuniere...).  And finally, How to Survive on a Deserted Island by Tim O'Shei - because honestly?  I wouldn't have a clue.

Can you describe The Secret Supper Club in 20 words or less?
A woman stuck in an unfulfilling job and a doomed relationship opens an underground supper club.  Hijinks ensue. 

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