Friday, February 17, 2012

JO ROBERTSON: Becoming Banana Bread

Mocha Banana Bread--see Recipe Page

My guest is award winning author of romantic thrillers, Jo Robertson  She’s also a member of one my favorite groups, The Romance Bandits. 

Every morning I eat a banana. 

Not because I really like bananas at all; I'd much prefer a juicy peach or ripe pear, grapes or strawberries.  But I eat the banana instead. 

Actually, it's not so much a whole banana as what I call a "banana stub." Every morning my husband eats a banana, but since he doesn't want a whole one, he leaves me the stub. Mind you, if I don't eat that stub, it'll be there the next day anyway, and there'll be two banana stubs to eat or throw away. I can't stand waste, so I eat the stub.

My husband and I have completely different ways of buying bananas. I prefer them yellow with no bruised spots, but even if they turn a bit brown, they're still very edible to me. My husband buys them green and calculates exactly how many he needs to buy at a time to eat his daily banana portion and leave me the stub.

I figure a banana should never be thrown away. Why?

You guessed it.

Banana Bread.

In fact, when I frequent my local 7-11 store, I'm often delighted to see there are only bruised and slightly brown bananas. I see a banana bread loaf or banana pudding (another favorite of mine) looming in my future.

Sometimes when you start out wanting one thing, you just end up with something else. And often, in my experience, that something else is quite unexpectedly delicious and delightful.

I don't know about other writers, but my writing "well" is a lot like that. What I had envisioned as a simple piece of fruit ends up as a dessert, with all its varied ingredients – walnuts, sugar, vanilla, eggs – and all its varied layers – vanilla wafers, pudding, sliced bananas and whipped cream.

At least that's what I hope happens.  My ideas start small.  I don't think there's a large idea in my head (okay, maybe a lot of tiny marbles rolling around like Buckyballs, those tiny magnetic balls that were all the rage at Christmas).  Check it out here  But, like those magnetic beads, I hope I can twist and shape and create something quite beautiful out of those small kernels of imagination.

My characters also are like that. I'll see a feisty, ambitious, perhaps obsessively-driven woman. Lots of energy (of course, because you can't have the other traits if you're chronically tired) to deal with what drives her. I probably don't even know what drives her, but I suspect it borders on the edge of mania.

She can't rest, can't relax, can't love – until she solves the dilemma. At this point I'm not sure what the dilemma is, but I know the hero will be her Selexa. The one who helps her ground herself, center her soul so that she can accomplish her mission (should she choose to accept it and – of course! she will – this is a romance story at  heart).

I know the hero's a pretty solid, stand-up guy although he carries a bit of baggage from his past; however, he doesn't let that past define his future. He's an optimist and he sees in my slightly pessimistic heroine the woman who will complement him, although at the get-go he's sure she's completely insane.  Or trouble with a capital T.

What begins as something pea-sized in my head can flourish in my imagination into something quite large. And it always astounds me!

It's the same with my cooking. I often begin with onion, pepper, and garlic in olive oil. But what I add next is a mystery to me – a little meat, some beans, veggies, spices (who knows which ones) until the "smell" is just right. Yeah, I cook by odor. Then I taste.

I think I write a lot like that.

Readers, have ever embarked on what you thought was a small sojourn that ended up being a wild, wacky journey?  Started one project that ended up being something else?  Walked down one road to find yourself somewhere entirely different from what you'd imagined?

What about you, writers?  Do you find that a tiny kernel of an idea is the starting point for your story?  Or do your stories come in full-blown Technicolor?

I'm offering a free download of any one of my trilogy – "TheWatcher," The Avenger," OR "The Traitor" – to one lucky, random commenter!

THE AVENGER Jo  Robertson
A clandestine government organization called Invictus "recruits" outstanding athletes for secret projects. But their top agent Jackson Holt has special, almost preternatural, qualities not even the Organization can explain.

Olivia Gant, professor of Ancient Studies at a private college in California, was once Jack's childhood sweetheart. But when he deserted her, he left her alone to combat her stepfather's drunken attentions and her mother's careless neglect.

Nearly twenty years later, their paths cross in a mission to fight a bizarre religious serial killer whose methods include crucifixion and burial alive. Olivia and Jack battle for happiness against years of secrecy and distance as they use Olivia's expertise in Latin and Jack's special gifts to track a brutal killer.

Can Olivia forgive Jack for his long-ago betrayal?

Can Jack allow Olivia to witness the terrible Change that makes him such an effective killing machine? Excerpt (you can read the first couple of chapters on Amazon)



Jo Robertson, a former high school English teacher, lives in northern California, near the beautiful Sierra Nevada foothills. She enjoys reading, scrapbooking, and discussing the latest in books, movies, and television shows. Any "spare" time she has is spent enjoying her seven children and grandchildren.
When her Advanced Placement English students challenged her to quit talking about writing and "just do it," she wrote her first completed manuscript, "The Watcher," which won Romance Writers of American's Golden Heart Award for romantic suspense in 2006. The second book in the loosely-connected trilogy is "The Avenger," which won the 2007 Daphne du Maurier Overall Award for Excellence. "The Traitor is the third book in the series."
Jo's books are romantic thrillers, which means they straddle the line between mainstream thriller-suspense and romance. She feels that a strong relationship in a book makes the danger more intense. Readers have commented that they especially enjoy her complex, three-dimensional villains


~Sia McKye~ said...

JO, welcome back to Over Coffee! For you, I have banana bread with your coffee. I also have a couple of banana bread recipes in the recipe tab in the upper left.

I really loved this book. It kept me engaged from the moment I started reading it. It was good to see Ben again, and learn a bit more about him. I'm looking forward to The Traitor.

Loucinda McGary aka Aunty Cindy said...

Hi Jo and Sia!

YUM! I LURVE banana bread. I'll take mine with walnuts, please. ;-)

I'm like you, Jo. I start with that kernel and am always surprised at what my story "sprouts" into. Sometimes I really wish I could be more of a plotter, but I always enjoy all the twists and turns my story takes before I get to "The End." :-)


Talli Roland said...

I'm a massive fan of banana bread, but I haven't had any for ages! I might have to rectify that. Yes, I always start with a small spark and then see where it goes from there. That's part of the fun.

Kat Sheridan said...

OMG, how funny your hubs leaves you the stub. Mine does the same thing (because he knows I won't eat fruit at all if he doesn't do things like that). Although I'm the one who likes them green and hubs is the one who eats them spotted. Also, banana bread is his most favorite snack in the world. I should make it more often. The recipe looks yummy, but he's SUCH a purist—and neither of us likes nuts in it.

My ideas always seem to start with a character. Someone just pops in my head and says "tell my story". And off we go.

The excerpt was fabulous and the books look like great fun!

Jo Robertson said...

Hi, Sia! Thanks for having me today. I love the look of your site; it's so engaging. Yumm on having the loaf of banana bread. Looks delish.

Thanks for your kind words about "The Avenger."

Jo Robertson said...

Hi, Cindy! Thanks for swinging by. I'll have to make some banana bread for you. I had the BEST recipe passed down to me forty years ago!

I, too, wish I were more of a plotter, but I think I might find it a bit boring LOL.

Jo Robertson said...

Hi, Talli! Yes, that wee spark is where it all starts for me too. And I definitely agree that it's part of the fun.

I often talk about my story and characters as if they came from inside someone else's head because, honestly, sometimes it feels like that!

Jo Robertson said...

OMG, Kat, I can't believe there are TWO husbands in the world like that! Do you get the "handle" end or the end-end part of the banana? I always get the handle, so that's nice.

As I said I have a very old banana bread recipe that's very delicious. When I make it, however, I have to make half WITH walnuts and half without because we have some no-nuts folks in our family.

I've found the secret to the most moist banana bread is using those little tiny loaf pans. The batter bakes more evenly that way.

Yumm, I might make some today!

Liza said...

The current book I am working on started with a phrase that entered my head one night when I was trying to get to sleep. I wrote it down, then let it sit for several months. I had no idea what the story was attached to it would be, but then, it came.

Jeanne (AKA The Duchesse) said...

Hi Sia! Hi Jo! Ohhhh, I love banana bread (nuts please! but I use pecans), and 'Nana pudding, and banana based smoothies and all that good stuff. Grins.

Had to LOL about getting the stub. I'll do this to my DH - eat part of the banana and hand him the rest. He won't eat a whole one, but if I say, "Here finish this off." He'll eat it. Grins. Walking garbage disposal, he is.

Love, love, love your books, Jo! Don't enter me in the draw as I already have them! :> Lucky though, whoever gets it because it's OUTSTANDING!!!

*Waving at Cindy and others I know*

Have a great day Over Coffee, ya'll!

Mason Canyon said...

Jo, I love banana bread but have never tried my hand at making it. Not sure why. Wishing you much success with your writing.

Sia, your chocolate banana bread recipe sounds yummy. I may have to try my hand afterall.

Thoughts in Progress

~Sia McKye~ said...

Jeanne, the books are outstanding. I didn't know what to expect when I read the first one. Hmm. Once I started I was, omg, this is great! Book two is just good, maybe even a little better. Probably because Jack intrigued me with his *power*.

Okay, I eat the whole banana. Don't like them too ripe. I do cut them up in my cereal and add raisins.

~Sia McKye~ said...

I have two banana bread recipes in the tab.

Mason, the one pictured is good with a glaze too. Sometimes I add a bit of chocolate--just a bit--to the glaze. Coffee glaze is good too. These recipes are great because you can add nuts or not, I have a friend who adds raisins to hers.

Jo I'd love to see your recipe (if you're inclined to share)! Loaf pans are good so are the small 8 1/2 inch square pans.

~Sia McKye~ said...

Aunty, it's great to see you here! Hugs sweetie.

My stories usually start out with a spark or a partial scene. It is fun seeing where it will take you.

Kat Sheridan said...

Jo, I get the stubby end (hubs gets the end with the "handle". LOL! And I'm going to have to get some of those little loaf pans. Great tip! I saw a banana bread recipe the other day that used chocolate chips instead of nuts. That's what I'm going to try next!

Jo Robertson said...

Don't you just love when that happens, Liza?

I'll usually get a scene or a series of remarks between the hero and heroine. Completely out of context, of course, but it all comes together in the end.

So cool.

Jo Robertson said...

Hi, Jeanne! Thanks so much for swinging by. I know things are hopping over at the Romance Bandits so I appreciate it.

LOL on your husband being the walking garbage disposal. They gotta be good for something, right?

Jo Robertson said...

Ah, Mason, you're missing out on one of life's great pleasures if you haven't had banana bread LOL.

Adding chocolate sounds scrumptious. I'll have to try that one, Sia.

Jo Robertson said...

Sounds like a pretty healthy breakfast, Sia. Unfortunately, today we did a Micky D's breakfast run, not nearly as good for us!

Jo Robertson said...

Sia, Aunty Cindy's been to so many exotic places, it's no telling where an idea of hers will land. Her latest, HIGH SEAS DECEPTION takes place off the coast of Mexico. And has a wonderful Irish hero!

Jo Robertson said...

This recipe comes from Pearl, who's long passed, down to me, Sia. I hope everyone enjoys it:

2 c sugar
3 c flour
6 mashed bananas
2 t soda
3 eggs 1 1/2 c butter
2 t salt

Mix and pour into greased mini-bread pans. Makes 6 loaves. Recipe is easily halved. Bake at 350 for 45-60 minutes, but do not overbake.

Jo Robertson said...

Wow, just looked over your banana bread recipes, Sia, and I have to say they sound absolutely to-die-for!

Anna Campbell said...

Hi Jo! Hi Sia! Jo, what a fabulous post and you've inspired me to try making banana bread. I've never actually made it before. I do a lot of baking but usually biscuits/cookies. Sadly my oven died a couple of months ago and the new one only comes next week so I'll have to restrain my patience. Love how you equate writing to cooking - cooking gives you more immediate gratification ;-)

Tawny said...

Happy Friday, Jo and Sia :-D

Okay, first off- what a wonderful wife you are to eat that banana stub *beg*. I'm pretty much anti-banana, unless it comes in the form of bread with nuts, that my husband would have to deal with his own stub.

Jo, I love your books. You have such a wonderful way with words and an intensity of storytelling that grabs the reader and yanks them right into the story!

gayl said...

I love bananas but I have to admit part of that is to make banana bread. There is nothing like a slice in the morning with a good cup of coffee.

My stories always begin with a kernel of an idea. They just grow from that point until something forms and it takes off.

I am a huge fan of romantic suspense so I am definitely adding your books to my tbr list.

Christina Brooke said...

Laughed at the post and your banana stub, Jo! But it's so true--I never know what that germ of an idea is going to become--probably a full-blown epidemic by the time I'm finished. Long may your ideas flourish!

Jo Robertson said...

LOL, Anna C.! Cookies are definitely my weakness. My faves are frosted sugar/butter cookies and snickerdoodles. Do they have snickerdoodles in OZ?

I have to mix the dough and freeze part of it b/c I'm sure to eat the whole batch. My boys (lucky them) are not big sweet eaters.

Jo Robertson said...

LOL at your husband dealing with his own stubs, Tawny! I only like bananas in bread and pudding too, so I consider myself quite righteous to eat the morning stub. There's not that much nutrition in a banana, I figure, but it IS high in potassium.

Thanks for the compliments; you're a sweetie!

Jo Robertson said...

Thanks, Gayl! Love the way you spell your name. My sister's name is Linda Gayle.

I'll put your name in the draw box. Maybe you'll win a copy of one of my romantic thrillers!

Jo Robertson said...

Thanks, Christina, I know you're very busy right now on deadline so I appreciate your stopping by.

Wish I could've had one of those cupcakes you mistakenly made LOL.

Jo said...

I love banana bread, but I eat a whole banana every day as I get cramp very easily and this solved a lot of my problems. I enjoy bananas anyway. I prefer the less ripe ones, hubby likes them good and ripe, almost banana bread stage.

Will certainly be checking your books out, they sound good.

~Sia McKye~ said...

Jo, if you like a good thriller, you'll love Jo's books.

Anna, boo on the oven. Can't one of your *pool boys* take care of it? You wouldn't want to get your pink boa mussed up. lolol! Hope the flood waters are far from you. This is the second year you guys have gotten pounded rain and flooding.

~Sia McKye~ said...

Oooh Christina, I love the look of your book! Must check it out.

Jo, thank you for the recipe. I've made note of it. :-)

Caren Crane said...

Jo, I don't think I've ever started to write a book that didn't end up somewhere TOTALLY different than I expected or planned. TOTALLY. A synopsis does me no good at all, except to make me laugh at my naivete in thinking that I knew my characters at all. Ha!

As for bananas, my mother always told us, 'Eat your bananas, they make you beautiful!" I ate them because I liked them, but I loved to hear her say that. :) And banana bread and banana bran muffins are favorites around here, too!

And mad waving to Sia! I hope you're doing well, darling!

~Sia McKye~ said...

Caren, I'm doing much better, thank you. Creative juices are beginning to flow again, Yay. Good thing as I have so much to get edited and can face it without wanting to run away screaming.

I hear you on thinking you know your characters and find out you really didn't.

~Sia McKye~ said...

Jo, thank you for the compliment on my site. I just realized I had revamped it since you were here last. I like the look and feel of it too. :-)

Renee said...

I get a little scene around which you can build a whole story.

Jo Robertson said...

Hi, Renee, I'm stopping by a little late to say hello to you. It's amazing how a little scene can develop into a whole story, isn't it?

Sia, I like this new site very much!

Jo Robertson said...

Hi, Caren, I've never heard that about bananas. They must be good for the skin because you have a beautiful complexion.

Jo Robertson said...

Hi, Jo#1 from Jo#2! That's the potassium. Bananas are a great source and they keep you from getting leg cramps in the night. Very painful!

Jo Robertson said...

Thanks again for inviting me to "Thoughts Over Coffee," Sia!

I've had a great time, as always!

~Sia McKye~ said...

Jo, it was a pleasure, as always, to have you visit!

Drum roll, please....

Jo is reaching into the magic hat for the winner...

and the winner is:



Kat Sheridan said...

Wooo HOOO!! YAY! Thank you thank you thank you! Doing a big happy dance here!