Saturday, 12 November 2011

Author Interview: Dianne Blacklock - The Secret Ingredient

I have had the pleasure of interviewing the awesome Australian author, Dianne Blacklock.  Dianne's latest release is The Secret Ingredient, which came out 1st November 2011.  I was lucky enough to receive a copy for review and if you would like to read my review, please click here.  Now on with the show!

Goodreads Synopsis: Taste was such an evocative sense; Andie had closed her eyes, with the scone melting in her mouth, and been transported back to her grandmother's kitchen... 

Nourishment is nurture. That's what Andie learned from her grandmother and what she's always believed about cooking. But somehow, since marrying Ross, she's allowed her love of food to take a back seat and given up her dream of becoming a chef. 

Lately she's been craving more. And when her marriage falls apart, she's determined to find herself again and take back control of her destiny. 

The first step is taking a job in the kitchen of renowned chef Dominic Gerou. The brooding Englishman is more than Andie bargains for, but the new Andie is ready for anything, even a bad-tempered chef who makes it clear he won't tolerate mistakes. 

In this beautiful new novel, Dianne Blacklock takes us on a sumptuous journey of the heart as Andie uncovers the secret ingredient for her new life, and shows that no matter how many false starts you may have, if you hold on to your passion and your dreams, anything is possible.


Firstly, can you please tell us a little about yourself?
I’m a mother of four sons, a former teacher of communications, and now I am lucky enough to be writing full-time. My first novel, Call Waiting, was published in 2002, and my eighth has just been published in November.

Katie - (Wow, four boys, awesome!  I am sure they keep you extremely busy).

When did you begin writing & did you always know you wanted to be a writer?
You know, that’s a funny thing, I wasn't one of those people who always dreamed of being a writer – I didn't have the audacity. I always loved to write, for as long as I can remember, but it didn't even enter my head that it could be a career. Then, years ago, an old friend suggested we write a Mills & Boon together, thinking we could make some easy money. We soon learned it was not so easy. We were swiftly rejected, so then set about writing what we wanted to write instead, not with a designated publisher in mind. That project kept me going for more than a decade, eventually becoming the manuscript that first gained a publisher’s attention. It was a long, but extremely valuable apprenticeship!

What made you decide to write romance? Where do you get your inspiration from?
I didn't decide to write any particular genre – except for when I tried to write a Mills & Boon, as mentioned above, and that was a complete failure! I’m interested and curious about all kinds of relationships – within families, amongst friends, and between people who are falling in and/or out of love. My novels explore all these relationships; the love story is often the icing on the cake for me, I guess I’m a romantic at heart!

Because we’re social animals, I get my inspiration from everyone around me – which makes my friends nervous at times! There’s never a shortage of material when you’re writing about people living everyday lives.

What research did you undertake (if any) for The Secret Ingredient?
There is such a fascination with food and cooking and all things related, that there is a veritable feast (pardon the pun!) of information to draw on – restaurant websites, blogs, reviews … But I did want to be realistic about what it’s like to work in a commercial kitchen. It’s not as glamorous as people imagine, in fact it’s not glamorous at all. I was able to run everything by a couple of friends who work in the industry, one who is actually a chef.

And I started watching MasterChef! I’d only seen snippets before, my sons have no interest in it whatsoever, but I told them it was for research. I think it helped me pick up on the terminology especially.

I also had to do some research into Ross’s heart condition. I got the idea because my cousin’s husband had been through it, but it wasn’t too difficult to check the medical facts. Google is a wonderful thing.

If The Secret Ingredient was made into a movie, who would you like cast as Andie and Dominic?
Colin Firth for Dominic, no question (though he’d have to be about ten years younger – circa Bridget Jones). While I was developing his character, there were different actors that ‘auditioned’, but as soon as Colin Firth came into my head, he was perfect. Dominic appears arrogant and even haughty at first, but that’s partly shyness, perhaps a little awkwardness. He’s really quite sweet, as readers have been discovering.

Katie - (Oh yes, Colin Firth is perfectly suited)

Andie is more difficult to cast, she might have to be played by an unknown. She’s supposed to be physically quite stunning, so there are plenty of actresses around who fit that bill, but she also needs to have a sweetness and slight naivety, but be smart and tenacious enough to pick up her life and push on. It’s a hard one – I’m open to suggestions!

Is there another book in the works? And if so, can you give us any hints or clues as to what it is about?
There is another book in the works – there’s always another one! It’s only very early days yet, but I've established the main characters. At the moment – and things could change! – it centers around a feisty single mum who’s an activist, whose work leads her to come up against a man who owns and operates a vineyard. Looks like I’ll be doing a lot of research on wine … it’s a tough job, but someone’s got to do it.

Katie - (sounds like that will be fun research) LOL 

What are your top 5 favourite books of all time?
Great Expectations, Pride & Prejudice, To Kill a Mockingbird, The Lord of the Rings … then the fifth place I would have to share between so many books that I love, but would not be able to single out one as an all-time favourite above the others.

What are you currently reading and what format do you prefer (paperback or eBook)?
I’m still largely reading paperbacks because I have a stack to get through, and I only recently bought an ereader. However, I’ve just started Sense and Sensibility on my Kindle – I read it a long time ago, and I've seen the movie several times. It’s delicious going back to the original text, and I’m quite happy to read it as an ebook.

Do you have a routine when you are writing? 
When my kids were all at school, my routine was much more strict. Now I waste a lot of time! However, I do prefer to write later in the day than earlier. So in the mornings I’ll go to the gym, and/or do a bit of housework, run errands, whatever. Then I settle down to work in the afternoon. If I’m on deadline, and particularly if the boys are out and about (and therefore not needing to be fed!), I’ll happily work right through into the night.

Do you need something on in the background, like music or the telly?
Never the telly, that would be way too distracting. I do like music, and often develop a playlist for each novel. However, I don’t need it exactly – sometimes it gets me going, but once I’m in the zone, often the music has stopped and I haven’t even noticed.

What's your biggest challenge when writing a novel?
Eight books in, my challenge now is to keep it fresh, find new and interesting storylines, and introduce characters who are unique and individual, but also still feel familiar – readers want to relate to the characters. The first three novels were easier in a lot of ways, because I could write about anything I’d ever been interested in exploring, and create characters without the fear of repeating myself. I would hate to start churning out the same basic story, with just the names and some of the details changed. Fortunately so far, my very loyal readers tell me that all of my books are ‘very different’.

Have you ever thought of writing a series?
I’m often asked if I’ll ever write a sequel to any of my novels – especially when people have a favourite. I always explain that those characters have been put through enough, they've got their happy ending now, so they should be left alone. However, the potential in e-publishing is quite interesting, and I have been toying with the idea of developing a series with chapter-length installments. That is possible electronically, it wouldn't be viable in traditional book format.


Favourite food?
Unfortunately for my figure, I’ll eat anything! Narrowing to down to two food groups, I’d have to say chocolate and potatoes. (Not such a quick answer!)

Vanilla or chocolate ice cream?
Although I love chocolate (see above), in ice cream I’d prefer vanilla. I’m an enigma.

Sweet or savoury snacks?
Six of one, half a dozen of the other … please!

Tea or coffee?
Tea first thing, always. Love coffee through the day, but can’t drink it after five. So it’s herbal tea in the evening. (You thought you’d get one-word answers, didn’t you?)

Cats or dogs?
Allergic to cats, so that’s easy. And we've always had dogs since I was a girl.


Excellent, thank you Dianne for joining me today.  You are a very inspirational Woman, Mother and Author.  I can't wait to see what you decide with the series in e-publishing and the next book.  Everybody must go out and read The Secret Ingredient, it is a beautiful romantic read.

You can find Dianne at her blog,, on Twitter, her website and find out more on Dianne's books on GoodreadsAmazon and Kobo.

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