Tracie Banister is the author of Twin Piques, In Need Of Therapy, Blame It On The Fame and Mixing It Up. The hallmark of Tracie’s books are that they depict strong women navigating family, friends, career and often romance. Banister’s humorous and realistic dialogue make her characters accessible to readers. While her work is in the Chick Lit genre, Banister writes books that have universal appeal regardless of gender. Her latest book, Mixing It Up, will be released on October 19th. I recently had the pleasure of interviewing her about Mixing It Up. Read what she had to say below:
Congrats on the release of Mixing It Up. How did you conceive of this book?
“It’s something that has kinda been on the backburner for years. I came up with the idea a long time ago. I love watching cooking shows. It’s what I watch when I work out everyday. Shows like things realize capture my interest. I always imagined that there was alot of drama that goes on behind the scenes. So I had the idea of a chef with a cooking show with the difficulties of having the show the way she wanted. That became my springboard. I wanted interesting characters and drama and conflict in this cooking world. For me it seemed like something that wasn’t really represented on television, to have this chef who cooked this classic French food.”
What challenges did you face with this book that you didn’t experience with your three previous books?
” I don’t want to be repetitive. I want to bring something funny to my audience. I want to anticipate what my readers want but I was aware that I was in new territory. I always felt that if I were interested in the story myself, then the reader would be interested (laughs). I don’t ever want to repeat myself. As long as I’m keeping myself entertained, then hopefully I’m doing that for my readers. I think that this keeps me aware and I want to bring my readers along for the ride. The challenge I see is that I want my readers to be able to explore a new world through my books. This book is different from my previous books because here I have a character who grew up with money and in this privileged world who is still trying to find her way. She doesn’t want to be a socialite. She wants to follow her own dreams. It was a challenge for me because I usually write about early twenty something characters who have to worry about money, but Cecily doesn’t have to worry about that. So I had to find different things for her to worry about (laughs). I did other things that were her hurdle to get over.”
Mixing It Up is very accurate with its mastery of the culinary arts. How much research went into writing this book?
“I wanted to put myself in the world of the heroine. I don’t have that background, but I do feel like I’ve been in the culinary world by watching culinary shows. I felt that I had a grasp on it, but I wanted to delve into that world. The culinary arts has so much creativity and it’s an art form. People who cook aren’t only pleasing the palate, but they’re pleasing the eye as well. I’m not a great chef and I probably never will be (laughs). For Cecily, her mother was involved in the charity world and the society world so Cecily would go down to the kitchen and watch Yvette, the family cook. Cecily’s love for food came from watching Yvette (who was French) prepare these elaborate French meals. Cecily was fascinated by that since she was a child and wanted to learn more about that life.
When she grew up, Cecily went to the Cordon Bleu to learn more about French Cooking. I look at the psychology of my characters because I want to know why they’re behaving as they are. What motivates them. Why are they doing what they’re doing.”
Mixing It Up excelled in capturing both Italian and French culture with the menus in this book and the use of the languages used in dialogue. How challenging was it to do that?
“I have some understanding of French because I studied the language for many years. I’m by no means fluent but I do have an understanding of the language. The challenge was with Dante and the Italian. Dante peppers his speech with Italian. I didn’t want him to always speak in Italian because I’m assuming that many of my readers don’t know Italian. But I wanted him to pepper his speech with Italian so the reader would know that this was his native language. Fortunately, I was very blessed to know someone who is very fluent in Italian, my friend Traci Andrighetti, who is also an author and is in the Acknowledgements of this book. She was very helpful and very patient. She and I went back and forth through emails because I did want to honor the language because that was an important part of who Dante was especially when he was angry or passionate. I wanted to get it right.”
Your main character, Cecily Sinclair, is a Cordon Bleu trained chef who hails from an upper crust family. When you were plotting this character, what came first in your mind: her familial roots or her career?
“Career for sure. I think that it was already in my mind that I wanted to have a young chef on a cooking show who went to the Cordon Bleu. So then I thought, ‘Why would someone her age go to the Cordon Bleu rather than train at the Culinary Institute of America,’ and I decided that was because her family was from the Manhattan upper crust. That was how it played out from there.”
The tensions are high between Cecily and her nemesis, Italian chef Dante Marchetti. Was it easy or difficult writing the scenes between these two characters?
“Easy. Dante was very easy to write. He was so full of himself in almost an endearing way (laughs). He has his style and Cecily has hers. She has more issues with Dante than he has with her. The crux of the matter is that they don’t get along and they get on each other’s nerves. The dynamics between the two is that she’s annoyed by Dante while he is amused by her. Cecily feels that Dante is ruining her career and her life. It was fun writing for them.”
One of your most delightful character’s is Cecily’s cousin Dina. How would you describe Dina?
“Easy going, free-spirited. She doesn’t want to rock the boat. She just wants to do her own thing. She doesn’t buy into her rich family and their expectations of her. She doesn’t want to be controlled by her family. I didn’t really go into why she went into astrology. I’ve always been interested in astrology so I wanted to use it in the book. Also, when I write friend characters in my books, I want them to be different from the main characters. She complements Cecily’s personality by being different from Cecily. They have had that bond since childhood. They acknowledge and respect each other’s differences. Dina and Cecily really balance each other.”
Another favorite character of mine is Cecily’s boss, Devlin Hayes. Without giving away spoilers, when you first began writing Devlin, did you have a clear direction where you wanted his character to go or did he surprise you?
“Devlin was a surprise. My original vision of the story was that it was going to be about Cecily and her world with Dante. The President of the network was going to be a fleeting character. He was young and he was going to be a whiz kid. He was not going to be a love interest for Cecily. He was going to be in her work environment and ever so often she was going to interact with him. Once I began writing, Devlin had more involvement with Cecily’s show and adds to the conflict in the story. He’s interesting and he’s fun and he added to Cecily by their interactions. There’s alot of tension in their interactions. I like the juxtaposition between Dante and Devlin. Dante and Devlin are two opposite sides of the coin. Both men are attractive as well as successful. But while Dante has a big ego and doesn’t understand why women wouldn’t be interested in him, Devlin respects strong women and listens to their opinions as seen in how he responds to Jessica. He listens to Jessica’s advice. Devlin likes strong women. That’s one of the things that I like about him.”
How would you say Cecily grew in the book?
“It was definitely a journey from the beginning to the end. She tried a few things in her life. She worked in the restaurant business and now she’s a chef. Cecily is trying to find her way in the culinary world. I think that it’s hard for her and hard for any woman in the culinary world because the chef world is still very much male dominated especially in restaurant kitchens. To be a woman and to survive in that world, it’s not easy. You have to be tough. You see Cecily go through alot of things in this book. She worked hard and learned how to stand up for herself. She became more sure of what she wanted and what was and wasn’t going to work for her. She grew up in a family that didn’t really understand her and her passion. Her family is very prim and proper and Cecily learns how to come into herself. She used to hang on to her emotions, to keep what she was feeling inside. What Dante does for her and what Devlin does for her…they bring it out of her through conflict to grow and become stronger. Cecily will fight for what she really wants. She becomes more confident to stand up to intimidating factors and to find courage. She appreciates people wanting to stand up for her, but she’s not a shrinking violet. She doesn’t need people to stand up for her anymore because she realizes that she can stand up for herself.”
Any possibility that readers can look forward to a Mixing It Up sequel?
“I like to think that I wrap up my books in a satisfying way. I spend alot of time developing and writing them that as soon as I wrap my books up, I’m happy and hopefully, the reader is happy. I feel that Cecily’s story is pretty wrapped up. I think that Cecily completed her journey. That said, my motto is never say never when it comes to writing sequels. I have many supporting characters in my books so you never know whether one of them will show up in a book. It also depends on the response that readers have.”
Are there any other current projects that you are able to share with our readers?
“I’m writing a sequel to In Need Of Therapy that is Izzy’s story. I’m at that stage where I have ideas in my head. I would like to write this book in a reasonably short period of time. The fastest book I’ve written was seven months from start to finish. Pilar, who was the main character in In Need Of Therapy, is really not a big part of the sequel. There will be other characters from In Need Of Therapy in the sequel along with some new characters as well. But it is mainly Izzy’s world, her life. Having a job for Izzy is hard for her because she doesn’t like working (laughs). I also have ideas for other genres.”