TNA: Hi, Indra, and welcome to The Novel Approach. We’re happy to have you here with us today. Let’s start out by having you tell us a little bit about yourself, hobbies and interests and other odds and ends things that make you, you.
Indra: Hello, Lisa, I am absolutely thrilled to be here. I adore your site and find a lot of the books I read through your reviews, so this is kind of a big deal!
Okay, what could I say that makes me sound marginally interesting… I was born in Belgium and lived there until I was twenty-one. I took a Bachelor in Nursing-Midwifery, then moved to England where I earned a Bachelor in Traditional Chinese Medicine. I lived and worked there for a few years, then moved back to Belgium where I met my husband. (Who is Irish and moved to Belgium when I moved to England, so what are the odds!)
In 2008 we packed our bags and moved to Michigan, and we’ve been here ever since. As for hobbies I love horse riding, snowboarding, and anything with speed really. There’s no roller coaster I won’t go on! I hate exercising on any kind of gym equipment but love hiking, I read a LOT, write a lot (or if you’d ask my beta-readers they’d tell you I whine a lot about writing).
TNA: Your latest novel, The House on Hancock Hill was just recently released by Dreamspinner Press. When I read the title, before reading the blurb, I have to say I thought it was a mystery, or perhaps a historical novel, but it’s far from that. Will you tell us a little bit about how the book won that title? What’s the significance of the house and its location?
Indra: Jason, who is the main character, has some deep running ties to the house on Hancock Hill, even though he doesn’t admit it for a long time. It’s his family’s vacation home, and the one place he remembers being happiest, before his father died and he began to lose everyone he cared about. For a long time he tried to forget it even existed and when his story begins, he is going back there for the first time in over a decade.
While he managed to build himself a good life—he has a thriving bakery in Traverse City, Michigan, and another one opening soon in Detroit—when he is in Hancock and reconnects with Henry, he realizes he hasn’t been living his life to the fullest. He has just been functioning, really. So going back to the house on Hancock Hill—or what remains of it—will not so much change him, as reawaken something inside him he’s been denying himself for years.
TNA: Your MC, Jason Wood, is a pastry chef. What made you decide he needed to excel at that particular career? Is the exact and orderly process of baking a metaphorical contrast of the disorder of his life?
Indra: I saw an anthology call for food-related stories while I was feeling a little bit homesick.
One thing (amongst many *ahem*) Belgium does well, is chocolate. Truffles, dark, milk, white, chocolates filled with anything you could possibly imagine, you can literally find them at every street corner. We also do the best pastries (usually with some kind of chocolate in or on them), and I used to be able to just walk out of my door on a Sunday morning and go to the bakery on the corner.
I wanted to recreate that. I think a bakery like that would thrive in a place like Traverse City, so I thought I’d write a short story about a pastry chef who felt homesick for something much more than a particular place.
Only it turned out I couldn’t keep the tale confined to short story length.
As for the process of baking being a contrast of the disorder in Jason’s life, you are absolutely right. He lost both his parents at a young age, he had boyfriend troubles, he lost touch with all his friends. To Jason it felt like he had no control over his life at all, so the rigid and demanding pace in a bakery counters that. It also helps with his insomnia, and it keeps his overactive mind occupied so he doesn’t have to think too much about the things he’s missing.
TNA: Do you enjoy baking as well? Would you describe yourself as a foodie?
Indra: Eating healthy has been ground into me by my mom from a very young age. We ate homemade soup and a cooked dinner every single evening, even though she had two kids and worked a full time job. My dad worked even more, so she had to do all that by herself. Now, if I don’t cook one night I actually feel guilty and I buy as much organic as I can. I’m far from a chef, but I can follow a recipe.
As for baking, my talents are sadly lacking, which is why the recipes on this blog tour are mostly “how to cheat your way around complicated recipes”.
Flour-less cookies (with a vegan option)
This is my greatest baking secret. I love these cookies more than anything, and trust me, if you make them, you will be blown away.
In a saucepan, combine:
• 1/2 cup of milk (for vegans, replace with a non-dairy milk of your choice)
• 1/2 cup of butter (or vegan shortening)
• 2 cups of sugar
• 4 tablespoons of cacao powder (the good stuff)
• roughly 1/2 cup of your favorite peanut butter
1. Over medium heat, and stirring frequently, bring to a rolling boil. (And for those of you who are like me and had no idea what a rolling boil meant: it’s when you stir the mixture and it doesn’t stop boiling.)
2. Let it boil for 1.5 minutes. This is VERY IMPORTANT! Any shorter and you will have liquid cookies, any longer and you will break your teeth. And who wants to spend time with a dentist. (I’m looking at you, Melissa) 90 seconds will give you the perfect gooey goodness you want.
3. Remove pan from heat, stir in the vanilla extract and peanut butter. Mix thoroughly. Do not eat the mixture. It smells like heaven, I know. Yes, the scent will lure you like a… lure-y thing, (you are all impressed with my way with words, I just know you are,) but you will burn your tongue. What do you mean how do I know?
4. Add the one minute oats – I use Quaker oatmeal.
5. Spoon the mixture into lumps onto waxed paper and let them harden. Now hide them from the rest of your family and eat them all by yourself. I recommend a nice hot cup of coffee to go with it, but that’s entirely up to you.
TNA: Would you say Jason is a pessimist? If so, would you say you put a little bit of yourself into the character, or do you see yourself as more of an optimist than Jason is?
Indra: He’s a bit of a pessimist, yes. At least in the beginning of the book. He’s been hurt a lot throughout his life, sometimes deliberately, sometimes because such is life. So he doesn’t believe anyone can be 100% happy, he’s content in life and he thinks that’s already more than he could ask for.
I’d like to think I’m a cautious optimist. I have my bad days, just like he does, but I tend to bounce back and keep going.
Jason thinks there is no such thing as ‘being happy’, while I believe if you chase happiness, if you can’t find at least some contentment in what you have, you never will be happy.
TNA: Tell us a little bit about Jason’s love interest, Henry McCavanaugh. What makes him the perfect man for Jason?
Indra: Ah Henry. I love him. He is the strong, silent type. He works hard and he doesn’t care what people think of him. He’s not perfect, because underneath it all he has a bit of a smoldering temper, and he’s not the kind of man to forgive and forget easily. And I think it’s his flaws more than his good side which make him so right for Jason. Jason needs someone to call him on his shit (excuse my French) and the fact that Henry takes it badly when Jason inevitable hurts him, will be an extra incentive not to take love like this for granted.
TNA: If you asked Jason and Henry to describe each other in just three words, what words would they choose?
Indra: Jason would call Henry hot, kind (to a fault) and reliable.
Henry would call Jason strong, brooding and sexy (which would surprise them both, because Henry isn’t the kind of man to say things like that, while Jason doesn’t see himself that way at all.)
TNA: Authors sometimes use real-life models as their inspiration for their characters. Did you have a couple of men in mind after whom you styled Jason and Henry? If so, who are they?
Indra: Hmm I generally don’t base my characters’ looks on real-life models because it never fits quite right and it tends to throw me off.
But if I HAD to pick a resemblance I’d say Henry is a bit of mix between Ryan Reynolds and Joe Manganiello. Does that make sense? I bet that makes no sense… Someone should do one of those ‘if these two guys had a baby’ things. (Actually, please don’t. I bet it would look terrible!)
As for Jason, he’s a bit more Hugh Dancy’s type. But taller. And thinner. Because Jason needs to eat some of his own pastries.
TNA: Would you care to share an excerpt from The House on Hancock Hill with us?
When his family’s farmhouse burns to the ground, he’s summoned to identify a body found in the ashes. Jason returns to Hancock, Michigan, and reunites with a childhood friend, small town vet Henry McCavanaugh. After fifteen years apart, their rekindled friendship soon develops into much more. But Jason’s baggage threatens their blossoming romance, and he leaves town unannounced to escape his feelings—and Henry’s feelings for him. He has learned the hard way if something seems too good to be true, it’s best to run for the hills. Jason stress-bakes more confections than he knows what to do with before wondering if he’s running in the wrong direction.
Excerpt: The most difficult part of working through the panic attack was breathing without making any noise.
At 5 a.m. Henry was deeply asleep, but there was no way he’d understand me creeping around, gathering my things one by one as I tried not to gasp for breath. I didn’t quite understand it myself. All I knew was I’d awoken half an hour earlier, quietly working my way up to the panic that ultimately had me clawing my way out of the sheets, nearly falling out of bed in the process. I had to get out of Hancock right that minute. Every soft breath I heard Henry take had stolen oxygen from my lungs, leaving me high-strung and persuaded I was ruining his life just by being there. Irrational, in hindsight, as only anxiety could be.
There wasn’t much to take from Henry’s bedroom. The new clothes still in their plastic bags I’d leave here; I didn’t need them in Traverse City. All my painkillers were in the kitchen, but I’d leave those too. If I was in agony on the flight, it was nothing more than I deserved.
I was glad for the darkness, for the moonless night, because if there had been enough light to show me Henry’s serene face, I might’ve lost the willpower to go through with this. As it was, the shadows for once held no doubts: I couldn’t spend another waking moment with Henry without doing myself a permanent harm when the time came to say goodbye. Wearing the clothes Henry had found me in, I stood in the doorway and whispered the words burning feverishly through my veins just once. Henry didn’t move, not even a hitching breath. He hadn’t heard me, and he’d never know. My leaving like a coward in the dark would surely have him forget whatever feelings had been stirring from his side. I hoped he’d have an easier time of it than I would.
TNA: Are you currently working on any other writing projects you’d like to share with us?
Indra: I am currently editing the first book of the Shadow Mountain series, which is a paranormal mystery, and I am working on an entirely separate stand-alone novel about a Belgian boy who is a nurse and recently returned from a tour in Pakistan with Doctor’s Without Borders.
TNA: Where can readers find you on the internet?
Indra: I am attempting to decipher the mysteries of website building, hopefully it will be up and working soon. You can find me at:
TNA: Many thanks again for being here with us today, Indra!
Indra: Thank you so much for having me!
The Giveaway: Click on the Rafflecopter Icon to enter for a chance to win:
* A signed copy of The House on Hancock Hill, a choice of books from my backlist, a $25 Amazon gift card, and a selection of swag
* A signed copy of The House on Hancock Hill, a $10 Amazon gift card, and a selection of swag
* An e-copy of The House on Hancock Hill and a $5 Amazon gift card