I’m delighted to host Jenn J McLeod on Book’d Out today to celebrate the publication of her third novel, Season of Shadow and Light.
Fiction with a side order of food!
I’ve had a love-hate relationship with food all my life. I love it. Sadly, my hips do not.
Kicking off my sea change in 2004, I gave up my city job to buy a café in a small town and ran it for four years. The work almost killed me (I now have the greatest respect for hospitality workers) but the experience changed my life and irrevocably changed the way I viewed food. (You may get a ‘taste’ of this in certain parts of the story! “A plate of hardened arteries, anyone?”) After the café I ran a B&B where I provided restaurant-quality evening meals. To me, every meal—morning, lunch or dinner—is an event one plans and looks forward to.
But let’s talk about my version of fiction with a side order of food.
Whenever you walk into a café there’s generally a main menu featuring all the usual dishes diners love. Often there’s also a specials board, meant to tempt you away from the everyday, to try something new. How the plot and the characters in Season of Shadow and Light evolved was a little like that—founded on convention with a little side order of fun. I had my traditional characters and conflict planned out—or so I thought: a mother (Paige) who is on a personal mission and needing time away from her cheating husband, a her daughter (Matilda) who keeps her grounded and responsible. Stranded by floodwaters in the tiny town of Coolabah Tree Gully, Paige and her entourage find a publican with an uncanny resemblance to Mr Magoo, a cranky cook battling a broken heart, and someone who knows that truth can wash away the darkest shadows, but the question is…
Are some secrets best kept for the sake of others?
However, something happened as I started stirring a little conflict into the plot—a dash of Aiden, a splash of Alice and a sprinkling of Rory. Soon Aiden was really spicing things up. The once sought after executive chef was now executive chip fryer at his uncle’s small town pub and a little side order of Aiden (gotta love a damaged man) was just what the plot needed—and what Paige needed, tempting her away from her everyday life to try something new.
And, boy, didn’t I have fun bringing Aiden to life. I guess you could call him Paige’s love interest in the story, and although far from Mr Perfect, the thing I enjoyed most about Aiden was creating the perfect chef. (Can’t say I met many of those in my time as a café owner!) As Paige says at one point . . . (a little excerpt about a tiny tiff . . . )
Most chefs she’d known were highly- strung, with short fuses.
‘You know what?’ she fired back, fully prepared to tell this guy where to shove his platters, only to see a smile creep across Aiden’s face.
So totally unexpected—so absolutely gorgeous—her brain felt suddenly sous-vide, with every expletive instantly and silently sucked out, the bag then sealed tight. Although why she worried about offending this guy, she didn’t know. So far she’d witnessed him cursing into his mobile, throwing phones, happy to leave cows stranded, issuing orders and generally being a prattish, mulish, moronic chef. Typical, in other words, and Paige had met very few in the business who weren’t precious. Yes, he’d had cause to hit the roof about traipsing manure through a clean kitchen—any kitchen—minutes before service, but now here he was smiling.
Foodies will definitely enjoy what I call ‘the fun bits’: the cooking analogies, the kitchen antics and my favourite peanut jokes (which I still can’t believe my editor let me keep). I even get to include the best morning toast combo ever—vegemite and peanut butter. So, yes, there is quite a bit of me and my passion for food in this novel.
The truth is, not until I was asked to write a piece for you with a food theme, did I realise how many references there are. That got me thinking. I usually provide a ‘Tissue Rating’ for my novels (yes, sorry, you may need one of two for this one) but maybe Season of Shadow and Light should have come with a kilojoules count. I think I may have added two kilos to these hips of mine just thinking about all the food references in this book. Speaking of food . . .
Now for a side order of book blurb . . .
SEASON OF SHADOW AND LIGHT
Sometime this season…
The secret keeper must tell.
The betrayed must trust.
The hurt must heal.
When it seems everything Paige trusts is beginning to betray her, she leaves her husband at home and sets off on a road trip with six year old Matilda, and Nana Alice in tow.
But stranded amid rising floodwaters, on a detour to the tiny town of Coolabah Tree Gully, Paige discovers the greatest betrayal of all happened there twenty years earlier.
Someone knows that truth can wash away the darkest shadows, but…
Are some secrets best kept for the sake of others?
With early reader reviews already in, I am so excited about this story of secrets and love, of family loyalty, and of trust—the kind that takes years to build but only seconds to wash away—that I could hug a carrot.
Season of Shadow and Light is available to purchase from
and all good bookstores.
Also by Jenn J McLeod