Today it's my pleasure to welcome Jenny Oliver back to the blog to talk about her latest book The Sunshine and Biscotti Club, which Emma will be reviewing later, as part of this Food and Drink feature month. Welcome Jenny.
Can you tell us a little bit about yourself and your writing journey?
I’ve been everything from a personal trainer, an elf in the Disney store, a local journalist, an editor and now a writer. Each job has been great but this is definitely my favourite. My first book, The Parisian Christmas Bake Off, was written while on a very rainy summer holiday in France. We ended up watching The Great British Bake Off on the laptop because there was nothing else to do in the torrential downpour – I started to think about how amazing all the patisseries had been on our holiday and how fabulous they must be at Christmas and the whole idea came together in an instant. I haven’t stopped writing since.
Where did the inspiration for The Sunshine and Biscotti Club come from?
It was during an Italian holiday with my family. I was trying to come up with an idea for my next book and knew I wanted to write about a group of friends who had reunited after some time apart and explore how their lives and friendships had changed over time. On our drives around the area I looked out the window at amazing landscape – the vineyards, the blue sky, the mountains – then in the mornings had my breakfast in the garden of our B&B under a lemon tree and ate lunch in lakeside cafés, and The Sunshine and Biscotti Club all started to come together.
We meet food blogger Libby and a group of her friends who come to help her open her Italian cooking club, which character did you have the most fun creating?
I really like them all! But Dex holds a special place because he grew and grew as the book developed. And Eve because she kept making me laugh and became an unexpected favourite.
If you had to describe The Sunshine and Biscotti Club in one sentence, what would it be?
Set in Tuscany, with a stunning lake lapping nearby and the scent of the next-door lemon grove drifting in the air, it’s the story of a group of friends, once really close, reuniting to help their struggling pal, Libby, renovate her faded-glory hotel while at the same time each working out what they truly want in life.
That’s a very long sentence! Maybe just: Perfect for your holiday reading! ;-)
Describe your cooking style, follow recipes religiously or wing it and see how it turns out?
A bit of both. I tend to religiously follow the first couple of times I make something then I wing it - chucking in anything and everything I have to see if it works.
If you were going to apply to be a contestant on a cooking show, would it be Masterchef or Great British Bake Off?
Bake Off definitely. I don’t think I have the patience for Masterchef. I like the fact they quite often stop for a cup of tea on Bake Off. I’d quite like to do Sewing Bee, but my pattern following skills are very limited.
You're planning a dinner party, which 5 people (dead or alive) would you invite?
I’m really bad at this question because I always just want to invite my friends and family because I know it would be really relaxed and fun and there would be lots of laughter, gossip and good stories – those are my favourite type of evenings.
It's your last day on earth, what 3 course meal would you choose?
I would have six little oysters to start. Then I would have this amazing grilled prawn and garlic rice dish that we used to have in a tiny seaside taverna in Corfu on holiday growing up. Then my mum’s Malakoff Torte, which is a Russian dessert – a cross between a cake and a tiramisu.
What's your favourite dish to cook?
I love making a Moroccan chicken dish by Nigel Slater called Baked Couscous with Chicken and Spices. It’s really simple and in his Real Cooking book.
At the moment, however, I’ve started making the simplest, most amazing banana pancakes for breakfast. It’s just a mashed banana and a whisked egg (plus some vanilla extract and cinnamon if you like). You fry the mixture in little pancake blobs for a minute or so each side and then eat and it’s absolutely delicious!
Now for a few quickfire questions to finish ;-)
Gordon Ramsay or Marco Pierre White? It's all about Rick Stein for me!
Paul Hollywood or Mary Berry? They’re better together, like cream and jam for a scone.
Sweet or Savoury? Argh, I don’t know! Both. Sweet. Unless I’m in Spain (where my head is for my new book) where I’d choose savoury.
Steak or Lobster? Lobster. I love all shellfish.
Profiteroles or Crumble? This one’s easy. Profiteroles. Except now I’ve started thinking about crumble and custard…
Jenny has very generously offered me a signed copy of The Sunshine and Biscotti Club to give away to a follower of the blog.
The ovens are pre-heating, the Prosecco is chilling…and The Sunshine and Biscotti Club is nearly ready to open its doors. But the guests have other things on their minds…
Libby: The Blogger
Life is Instagram-perfect for food blogger Libby…until she catches her husband cheating just weeks before her Italian cooking club’s grand opening.
Evie: The Mum
Eve’s marriage isn’t working, but she’s not dared admit it until now. A trip to Italy to help Libby open The Sunshine and Biscotti Club might be the perfect escape…
Jessica: In Love with her Best Friend
Jessica has thrown herself into her work to shut out the memory of the man who never loved her back. The same man who’s just turned up in Tuscany…
Welcome to Tuscany’s newest baking school – where your biscotti is served with a side of love, laughter and ice-cold limoncello!
Enter via the Rafflecopter form below. The winner will be selected at random next week and contacted for their postal address to be passed onto Jenny to post a copy of the book to you. Good Luck.
a Rafflecopter giveaway