Photo Credit: Meredith Wilson
Today I’m thrilled to welcome Aussie author Lisa Joy to my blog. Lisa’s first novel, Yes, Chef! is out today with Destiny Romance, Penguin Australia’s digital imprint. It’s a super fun story set in London revolving around Becca, a personal assistant to a demanding chef and her quest for fulfillment in her career and love too of course! I had the chance, thanks to the always-awesome crew at Penguin to ask Lisa a few questions about her writing and her own life. Don’t forget to check back at midday today for my review of Yes, Chef! but in the meantime, get to know some more about the woman behind it!
Q1. Hi Lisa and welcome to my blog! Thanks for taking the time to answer some questions for me. Congratulations on the publication of Yes, Chef! To start, can you tell me how long you’ve been writing and how you came to be published?
Thanks for having me Bree, I really appreciate the support and hope your readers enjoy Yes, Chef! I certainly had a lot of fun writing it.
I began writing seriously about five years ago. I’d not long moved from London to Melbourne when the idea for a series of fantasy novels came to me. From that moment I knew I wanted to write, but for some reason I could never seem to get a good momentum going with my fantasy story. I kept stopping to re-write parts and started from scratch at least three times. So, when I found out author Fiona McIntosh was running a commercial fiction masterclass, I booked myself a place hoping she could give my writing a proverbial kick up the backside. She certainly did. I learnt more from Fiona in 5 days than I had from countless writing courses.
On the final night we were all having dinner and I started telling stories about my work in the restaurant business. It wasn’t long before I realised the whole table was fascinated. I discovered that my job, something I had always thought of as ordinary, was actually quite interesting to those not involved in the industry. I began writing Yes, Chef! that very night. Looking back, it was a big mind-shift from fantasy to chick-lit, but once I’d started writing Yes, Chef! there was never any doubt that what I was writing was a romantic comedy. I submitted to Penguin because an associate publisher from the global publishing house had given a talk at our masterclass. She was very inspiring and I could tell their authors were nurtured with great editorial support. Almost one year to the day after Fiona’s masterclass they offered me a contract for Yes, Chef!
Q2. Share a little of your writing routine: do you have a favourite place to write (eg study or café) and is there anything you need such as coffee or music, that’s essential to the creative process?
I wish I had a routine. I talk a lot about setting a routine, but it never seems to stick. I wrote Yes, Chef! on my iPad while my fiancé and I lived in a one bedroom apartment in Melbourne. We’ve recently moved to a 9 acre property about an hour outside Melbourne and now I write from a desk overlooking our veggie patch and citrus orchard. I absolutely cannot concentrate with music playing; I always end up daydreaming rather than writing. Coffee is a must when writing a work in progress and chocolate is essential when going through a copy-edit.
Q3. Are you a meticulous plotter or fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants writer?
I used to be a meticulous plotter. When I was trying to write my fantasy novel I felt I needed to know exactly what was going to happen in the last book before I could finish the first. I now realise that’s rubbish as the characters take me where they want to go anyway. I do like to have some structure laid out though. When writing Yes, Chef! I decided there would be 8 parts each with their own food related title. It helped me to keep a good pace and hit the right notes in the story.
Q4. Is Damien based on anyone you’ve encountered in particular (names withheld of course!)
Ahahaha! I was expecting that question. Damien is so despicable it would be great gossip if he was based on someone real. He is actually an amalgamation of a few bosses, male and female, I’ve had over the years, but mostly he is a figment of my imagination designed to create conflict in Becca’s life.
Q5. You and Becca share a job although I’m sure your boss is much more considerate than Damien. What’s the most exciting thing about being PA to a chef and what are your general day to day duties?
Yes, my boss is the very opposite of Damien. Thankfully!
I don’t travel with him like Becca does with Damien. There’s really no need for a PA to travel with a chef unless they also cook and my cooking is not quite up to standard 🙂
On a day to day basis I respond to image requests and media enquiries about his restaurants. Just like Becca, I discuss event, interview and appearance requests with my boss. I’m basically the middle-woman between him and everyone who wants something from him. I organise his travel and review his recipes before they’re published. It’s a varied and interesting job but I guess the most exciting thing for me personally is getting to work with people who are top in their field and truly passionate about what they do.
Q6. What made you choose to set Yes, Chef! in London?
I lived in London for about 7 years and even though I have been back in Australia for 5 years I still miss it. There are times, usually after I’ve watched a movie or TV show set in London, that I will physically ache for the city. Setting Yes, Chef! there made me feel as though I was back there, even if it was only in my mind.
Q7. As I mention in my review, I’m a food channel addict. Do you have any favourite cooking shows?
I love Anthony Bourdain’s No Reservations. I can’t think of anything better than getting paid to be a foodie-tourist. He’s funny and smart and takes you to places the guidebook probably wouldn’t.
Q8. What is your favourite thing to cook?
I’m pretty spoilt at home. My fiancé is an amazing cook and does most of the cooking (and the washing up!!!). My specialty is baking. We have an enormous lemon tree on our farm so at the moment I’m enjoying baking lemon cakes and lemon delicious pudding or lemon shortbread. Recently we made lemon marmalade – it was delicious.
Q9. Share five of your favourite authors and /or books
– Ian McEwan’s Atonement – wonderful storyteller with brilliant economy of words.
– Bridget Jones’s Diary by Helen Fielding – I’ve read it more times than I can remember.
– Salman Rushdie’s Midnight’s Children – grand magical-realism tale.
– Five Quarters of the Orange by Joanne Harris – her writing is laced with delectable foodie descriptions.
– John Milton’s Paradise Lost – every now and then I will open a random page and marvel at the beauty of his prose.
Q10. And lastly…what’s next for you?
I’m heading back to Europe to research my next novel (such a chore but somebody has to do it). I’m calling it a lush foodie adventure-romance set in the UK and Italy about deciding what you really want from life and then doing everything you can to achieve it, even if it goes against what others expect of you.
Thanks so much for your time Lisa! I can’t wait to read that next novel.