This morning I realized that it’s been a little while since I took readers behind the scenes of one of my books, so I clicked right over to the random number generator and up popped #21, which just happened to be assigned to The Cakes of Monte Cristo. This random selection made me happy because I really enjoyed writing this book, even though it was the last book my publisher wanted in the series.
So without further ado, here are 5 things you might now know about The Cakes of Monte Cristo.
Fact #1: Older daughter suggested the title to me as a joke, but the minute it left her lips, I knew I had to use it. I think I was in the middle of writing the second book in the series, and I knew the title didn’t fit any o the books I was under contract to write at the moment, but since A Sheetcake Named Desire had hit a national bestseller list, I thought there was a good chance my publisher would want to continue the series beyond the first three books. . I tucked the title away until just the right idea occurred to me, and then I got to work on the book. I ran through six or seven different plots before I found one that worked for me and for the characters. Readers almost ended up in a “hippie” commune, meeting Sparkle’s parents (or at least her mother), but while I was writing Rebel Without a Cake, Rita started making plans for a future event, mentioned (quite unexpectedly) that the event would take place at the Monte Cristo Hotel, and I had no choice but to go along. I’ve learned to ignore my characters at my own risk. Characters who are ignored tend not to play along when I need them to.
Fact #2: By the time I was ready to think about this book, I’d grown really comfortable with the characters. I’d discovered their quirks, and I’d learned to appreciate them for who they were. Unfortunately, once Rita boxed me into the corner by announcing her plans in advance (something no series character had done to me before) I struggled a bit to figure out exactly where the story was going and how to get it there. The story finally gelled after a brainstorming session with my then-editor, to whom I remain deeply indebted, not only for her incredible insight, but for her encouragement as I wrote the book.
Face #3: When I first conceived of the idea of creating cakes that looked like dresses for the event, I wasn’t sure such a thing was possible. I spent many hours researching the possibility and quickly found out that not only was it possible, but that some of the cakes that had been created by cake artists all over the world were nothing short of masterpieces.
Here are just a couple of examples. Stunning, aren’t they?
Fact #4: I didn’t expect Rita and Simone to become friends when I introduced Simone in Rebel Without a Cake. In fact. if you had asked me, considering who Simone’s mother is, and after Simone revealed her connection to Philipps (Rita’s late-almost-ex-husband), I would have predicted the two women would be…well…less than friendly. I was pleasantly surprised to discover that they liked each other a lot. I always thought Rita needed a good friend. I’m sad that I didn’t get a chance to explore their friendship further.
Fact #5: I also interviewed several different temporary receptionists to take Edie’s place while she was on maternity leave–so many, in fact, that Edie’s desk began to look something like Murphy Brown’s eternal search for a secretary (now there’s a reference sure to date me). Once Estelle suggested hiring her niece, I knew I’d found a temporary solution to my problem, but it took a while to figure out exactly what Zoey’s issues were. I knew she had some, I just didn’t know what they were for a while. Once again, I got a lesson in how much I am not in charge, and how much of the story relies on the characters who are sharing their lives with me. Zoey won a special place in my heart, but, then, most of my characters do. I learned early on that if I wanted characters to cooperate with me, I had to allow them their dignity. No character ever gets slotted into the role of “just a bad guy” or “just the comic relief.” The minute I try to do that, they become lumps and refuse to talk to me…at all. And when my characters aren’t talking, I’m not happy with what I write.
So there you have them: 5 things you might not have known about The Cakes of Monte Cristo before today. (This should be a Universal link to the book on Amazon, so I hope it works.)