One of my editors recently complained that my manuscript was making her gain weight. There’s a lot of food talk in that book. Now to be fair, one of the main characters is a cook, so I’m justified in extensive discussions of various dishes. His life revolves around cooking, so naturally much of the narrative does too.
In truth, food features prominently in a lot of my books. There are several reasons for this. One is that eating works beautifully as a world-building device. What, where, and how our hero eats tells us a tremendous amount about him and where he lives. Is he eating a lot of gristly, watery gruel in a seedy tavern with nobody as a companion? A big chunk of nearly raw meat in his half-remodeled kitchen? Sarde in saor at a small wine bar, with a handsome yet mysterious man as his date? Or maybe some cheap, simple food he’s picked up at a convenience store? (Bonus points if you can identify which of my books each of these examples is from.) Food tells us about the larger culture and about the socio-economic status and habits of the characters.
Food is also handy as a storytelling device, because it gives our characters something to do while they’re having an important talk. Nobody wants to read pages of straight dialogue. If the guys are eating, we can have them deciding what to eat, playing with their utensils, maybe worrying about spilling something or ending up with garlic breath. And this, too, tells us things about the characters. They might be wolfing down their meals or picking nervously at them. Maybe one guy reaches over and snags something from his companion’s plate—that tells us quite a bit about their relationship, doesn’t it?
I also write a lot about food because, frankly, I like food. I prefer eating it to cooking it, although sometimes I’m in the mood to spend time in the kitchen. I love trying new dishes. Through my stories I can vicariously enjoy things I’d never actually eat. I don’t eat mammals, but there’s nothing to stop my guys from biting into a juicy burger or piling bacon on their breakfast plates. A few of my characters on the paranormal side have appetites I find truly unappealing, and that can make for a fun writing challenge—how do I make a vampire’s meal sound as tasty as he thinks it is?
Sometimes I make myself hungry with my own writing. Sometimes I tease myself unmercifully. In one of my books, Rattlesnake, the guys are regulars at Mae’s Café. Both the town itself and the café are fictional, although the town is based loosely on a real place, Angels Camp, California. Mae’s is so real in my head that while driving with family to Angel’s Camp, I suggested—in all seriousness—that we have breakfast at Mae’s. I was disappointed when I remembered that we couldn’t. (And perhaps it’s no surprise my family wonders about me).
Does reading about food make you hungry too? What are some of your favorite fictional feasts?
Kim Fielding is the bestselling author of numerous m/m romance novels, novellas, and short stories. Like Kim herself, her work is eclectic, spanning genres such as contemporary, fantasy, paranormal, and historical. Her stories are set in alternate worlds, in 15th century Bosnia, in modern-day Oregon. Her heroes are hipster architect werewolves, housekeepers, maimed giants, and conflicted graduate students. They’re usually flawed, they often encounter terrible obstacles, but they always find love.
After having migrated back and forth across the western two-thirds of the United States, Kim calls the boring part of California home. She lives there with her husband, her two daughters, and her day job as a university professor, but escapes as often as possible via car, train, plane, or boat. This may explain why her characters often seem to be in transit as well. She dreams of traveling and writing full-time.
A complete list of Kim’s books: http://www.kfieldingwrites.com/kim-fieldings-books/