My guest today, is Romance Author, Susan Wiggs. I've been reading Susan's books since 1990. Susan has written such a variety of books over her long career, historicals, women's fiction, and contemporary romance. Susan makes no bones about the fact she is a militant romance writer and I have to say, I'm glad of that. :-)
Susan's topic today is Christmas and a subject dear to my heart, cookies. I love collecting cookie recipes and experimenting with different ones. Of course, it must be done with appropriate music...
I made a lot of key discoveries while writing Lakeshore Christmas. One is that everybody–and I mean everybody–associates the holidays with a particular flavor, be it cinnamon, anise seed, ginger, chocolate, marzipan...you name it. The flavors of the season reach back deep into our roots, triggering sentiments and emotions we like to savor like a rich butter cookie with a cup of tea.
This caused a bit of a dilemma when it came to creating the very special holiday cookie recipes that appear in Lakeshore Christmas. I ended up testing dozens of options, offered to me by friends, family, librarians and booksellers–and sometimes the choices were as excruciating as my resistance to sweets. How can the Silver Palate cookies edge out Aunt Martha’s Molasses Stars?
This led to another little epiphany about the holidays. I finally figured out exactly why the Cookie Exchange came into being. It’s a way of sharing your special flavors with friends. My way of sharing is through my books, and for this novel in particular, I had an embarrassment of riches. Tons of glorious recipes, dripping with butter and sprinkled with sugar. So many that I couldn’t include them all–which is why I’m glad for this opportunity to share a few more. Here are some wonderful, amazing cookie recipes that didn’t quite make the cut, but they’re still worth baking up a batch.
I’m also eager to share something else with you. From my own childhood come rich memories of baking with my family in very specific ways. We had to use the wavy-tree cookie cutter, and the rainbow-colored nonpareils...and we absolutely, positively had to have music playing in the background. We played records on my parents’ totally mod stereo, everything from the Nutcracker Suite and Handel’s Messiah to Brown Sugar by the Rolling Stones and Peaches en Regalia by the Mothers of Invention. So in addition to providing you with cookie recipes, I’ve included song suggestions for your listening pleasure while you bake.
Of course, since this is a Susan Wiggs book, there’s a world of difference between the main characters, so I had to create two different playlists. Maureen is the town librarian and a complete traditionalist when it comes to Christmas. Her nemesis–and the one man she can’t resist–is Eddie Haven, who lives up to his bad-boy reputation right down to the music he chooses.
- In honor of Maureen, I’ve put together this iMix: http://itunes.apple.com/WebObjects/MZStore.woa/wa/viewIMix?id=325424201
- and this one for Eddie. http://itunes.apple.com/WebObjects/MZStore.woa/wa/viewIMix?id=325424108
Yet this novel is more than a love story featuring food, friends and family. Lakeshore Christmas is also a passionate drama involving something near and dear to my heart–the public library. I don’t have to tell you that this most precious of institutions is facing serious economic troubles. In the novel, the cookie exchange is held to benefit Avalon’s own public library, keeping it open for generations to come.
So I’ll end with a big idea: Bake some cookies. Save a library. Save the world.
- What flavors and scents do you associate with the holidays?
Classic Christmas Cookies
"If there is no joyous way to give a festive gift, give cookies." –Maureen Davenport, in Lakeshore Christmas
3 cups flour
3 t baking powder
1/2 t salt
1 cup sugar
6 T butter, softened
6 T shortening
3 eggs separated
1 1/2 t. almond extract
1/4 c orange juice
- Preheat oven to 350° F. Combine flour, baking powder, salt, and sugar. Cut in butter and shortening until dough resembles coarse meal. Mix in egg yolks.
- In a clean bowl, beat egg whites and almond extract with mixer until soft peaks form. Fold whites into dough. Mix in orange juice.
- Turn out dough onto a lightly floured surface and knead briefly. Roll out dough to about 1/2 inch thick. Cut into shapes.
- Create "cookie paint" with egg yolks mixed with food coloring, and paint to decorate. Sprinkle with sugar and nonpareils.
- Bake until edges are lightly browned–7 to 10 minutes. Store in an airtight container.
Susan Wiggs's life is all about family, friends...and fiction. She lives at the water's edge on an island in Puget Sound, and she commutes to her writers' group in a 17-foot motorboat. She serves as author liaison for Field's End, a literary community on Bainbridge Island, Washington, bringing inspiration and instruction from the world's top authors to her seaside community. (See http://www.fieldsend.org/) She's been featured in the national media, including NPR's "Talk of the Nation," and is a popular speaker locally and nationally.
According to Publishers Weekly, Wiggs writes with "refreshingly honest emotion," and the Salem Statesman Journal adds that she is "one of our best observers of stories of the heart [who] knows how to capture emotion on virtually every page of every book." Booklist characterizes her books as "real and true and unforgettable." She is the recipient of three RITA (sm) awards and four starred reviews from Publishers Weekly for her books. The Winter Lodge and Passing Through Paradise have appeared on PW’s annual "Best Of" lists. Several of her books have been listed as top Booksense picks and optioned as feature films. Her novels have been translated into more than two dozen languages and have made national bestseller lists, including the USA Today, Washington Post and New York Times lists.
The author is a former teacher, a Harvard graduate, an avid hiker, an amateur photographer, a good skier and terrible golfer, yet her favorite form of exercise is curling up with a good book. Readers can learn more on the web at www.susanwiggs.com and on her lively blog at www.susanwiggs.wordpress.com.