I am typically a visually-inspired writer.
An Imax movie stimulated questions and ideas for my underwater novel Breaking the Surface.
This image prompted an 80,000 word YA Fantasy manuscript that is still trying to find its way into the world.
I use photos from Pinterest to help me describe everything from widow displays to character apparel to dessert.
And Google image searches help me see what a castle, coastline or conservatory garden reeealllly look like.
But my newest novella was inspired by something entirely different. Something I hadn’t sued as muse before…
I met Jen Barney in the summer of 2017, when our business coach (the super talented and wise Chynna Haas) hosted a co-working meet up. Instead of working from their basements or kitchen tables, several of Chynna’s entrepreneurial clients met at Grounded Specialty Coffee. For a few hours we chatted and pecked away at our laptops, networked and shared the joys/woes/troubles/triumphs of our solo business journeys. We left our time together feeling a part of something bigger than our own efforts and I also left that day with a new friend, local baker, Jen Barney.
Over the next year or so Jen and I stayed in touch and even did a couple product projects together. During this time, I continued to promote Champion Chocolatier and Jen landed a spot on the Food Network’s Holiday Baking Championship, which she managed to WIN!!!
Fast forward a bit. I had been getting requests to write a sequel to Champion Chocolatier for quite a while, but this fall I decided it was finally time. I knew that I wanted to stick with the theme of competition and as I began to think about what type of challenge Emmy might face, Jen’s story came to mind. YES! Emmy would go on a reality cooking show! PERFECT!
Instead of heading to the library to do my story research I went straight to Jen. First, to ask permission. “Can I write a story about a small business owner that goes on a reality TV show loosely based on you and your experiences?” I was thrilled she said yes and returned the favor by dedicating the book to her!
After the initial ask was out of the way, I dove in to ask several more questions. I visited her industrial kitchen and spent time listening to baker’s conversations, smelling the sweet scents in the air, and paying attention to the tools, processes and action. I also attended a few of Jen’s speaking events in which she shared all about her business experiences. I listened closely and took notes.
I had watched Jen’s episodes live and worked to recreate the details in my head and on the page. As I wrote, I recalled the timed challenges and the handsome and charming host. I brought to mind other details of the show as well. How were the kitchen stations set up? What type of commentary did the judges offer? What kind of personalities were conducive to “good” TV? One specific detail that stuck with me is the way my young sons got sucked into the show. It grew to be something we looked forward to watching each week. Just before they announced the winner of a particular challenge my nine-year-old exclaimed, “Ugh! Why do they make the music sooo scary?!?” He was on the edge of his seat, and I knew that music had played an important role.
I also read everything written by and about Jen and her national TV experience. I read her blog and social media posts. I watched her appearances on the daily news and read about her in the La Crosse Tribune and local magazines.
All of these bits and pieces of her real-life experience informed the fictional events, personalities and settings in my made-up story. And next week, I will share the final result with my family, friends and readers at my book launch party. If you are in town, consider this your formal invitation! Come have a few sweet treats and get your copy of Champion Chocolatier: Reality Bites!
Emmy Dawson is in over her head. This time she’s not just trying to convince herself she can run a successful chocolate business, nor is she cooking to impress a stuffy board of directors. This time she’s competing in a reality candy making championship and is trying to win over all of America. The Vanderbilt Valentine’s Day Candy Making Competition, held at the famous Biltmore Estates, will host eight talented candy makers – all with jumbo sized hopes and dreams… and egos. Emmy wants desperately to win, and to prove to her tiny town she is more than a stay afloat business owner and just the girl who dates Eddie Edwards.Even though the North Carolina weather makes for easier winter driving, Emmy’s road to victory is paved in potholes. A snarky TV producer, a real-life baker Barbie, and a talented pool of candy makers, not to mention a healthy dose of stage fright, stand in her way.
Being filmed for Prime Time TV in sunny North Carolina might sound more glamorous than Duluth in February, but Emmy is about to learn the hard way that, sometimes, reality bites.In this sequel to Champion Chocolatier, readers will find all of the sweetness and fun they fell in love with in the original. New locations, new characters and new challenges thicken the plot and will have Hallmark lovers and reality show junkies begging for another round of foody fun and delicious disasters.
To get a sneak peek you can read chapter 1, HERE!
I thoroughly enjoyed using Jen’s real life as my story inspiration. Thank you, Jen, for sharing your business journey, TV experiences and your story with all of us. I hope that you, and all of my readers, enjoy Emmy’s delicious and disastrous appearance on national television.