I’ve calculated it’s exactly 31 months since I first started writing Knife Skills For Beginners. It sounds a long time – it feels a long time – but apparently, as these things go, it’s fast.
I imagined that you wrote a book, and if you were lucky, it got published. How wrong I was! Having been taken on by one of the top crime agents - Oli Munson at A M Heath – I soon realised that writing commercial fiction is a team effort. Oli had suggestions for improvements, but it was after we found a publisher – Transworld, which is part of Penguin – that the serious work began. Sheaves of ‘notes’ started to arrive from my editor, suggesting myriad major and minor changes. At times I panicked, not sure I could do what was asked, but after many different drafts, we finally got there. And apparently, as these things go, this is normal…
My book is a classic ‘cosy crime’ novel, known in the United States as a ‘mystery’. The story unfolds within a few streets in Belgravia – Chester Square, Elizabeth Street and Bourne Street. If you’re interested in walking the actual streets, I recommend a visit to the Book Trail website, where you’ll find a virtual guided walk: www.thebooktrail.com (This is a fascinating website, incidentally, for anyone interested in the settings and locations of books, not just crime novels.)
The action happens in a posh but shabby-round-the-edges cookery school, run by the strange Rose Hoyt – a woman with secrets. Chef and food writer Paul Delamare (note spelling – it’s a running gag in the book that no one ever gets it right) is called in at short notice to teach a residential course to eight demanding students. Something terrible happens and Paul finds himself in a race to clear his name, at the same time as teaching the students the finer points of bread and pastry. Interwoven with the story are six ‘killer’ recipes, which combine to form a genuinely delicious meal.
I hope readers will find it fun, interesting and, at times, poignant. Paul carries round with him a weight of sadness (the love of his life died 14 months ago) and his best friend is the adorable Julie, who works as food editor for lifestyle magazine. Two of the characters in the book are very loosely based on people I knew; one being Dena, the magazine editor – although the real thing wasn’t nearly as terrifying as the one in the book. And Jerome Marnier is a tribute to the much-loved TV chef and restaurateur Robert Carrier, who died in 2006.
I hope you’ll buy and enjoy the book, which has been handsomely published by Transworld. As my publicist says - it’s worth it for the recipes alone. If you have a local library, please ask them to stock it (the ISBN number is 978-1787636811). If you belong to a book club, please suggest it as a group read. (You’ll find a special page for book clubs under Events, here but be warned – spoiler alert.) Like many authors, I enjoy meeting readers and have already been invited to a couple of book clubs to do so.
The book is also available for Kindle and as an audiobook, read by Sebastian Humphreys. If you’re prepared to wait, the paperback edition will be released in September.
And in case you’re interested, I can announce that Knife Skills For Beginners has a sequel. I’ll be saying much more about this when the time comes, but suffice to say I’m currently buried in edits.