Writing process

Why are our characters always eating?

Come to our house, you won’t get a feast like this. Sadly.

Is it just me, or are purple book covers a thing right now?

I think it’s only because I haven’t noticed them before, but ever since Stars Beyond came out, all I see are books with predominantly purple covers. I can remember when talking cover colours for Linesman, we said we’d like it to have some blue in it, for every science fiction novel at the time seemed to have red or orange covers.

Looking at the covers coming up, I’m predicting brown will be the new purple.

It’s all about food

We’re currently editing a scene in our new novel where the protagonist’s uncle serves hard-to-eat food to embarrass one of his guests.

Food is a constant in our novels (along with drinking). From Ean’s dinners with rulers and the military, to Rossi’s less-social dinner with Janni Naidan, all the way down to Sale’s sandwiches in the linesman’s survival pack. From Jacque’s spicy flatbread to garfungi soup. So much so that you’d sometimes think that food—and drink—is all we think about.

You might also think that based on our novels we lovingly prepare gastronomic masterpieces every night for dinner. Not so. Once, before some close friends retired and moved to the country, they used to come around for dinner every month and we’d scour the magazines to find something new and experimental (but that looked good) to cook. But that was then, and we haven’t brought out the good dinner service since they moved away.

Those dinners were legendary, by the way. We experimented, and while most meals were successful, some went down in history as monumental flops. We all still joke about the infamous Mars Bar dessert, which was so hard we couldn’t even cut it with a knife. I don’t recall if any of us ate it. I think we would have broken our teeth.

But experiments notwithstanding, most of our dinners are of the “what’s for dinner” variety five minutes before we have to prepare it. It often turns out to be salad and a meat, or meat and potatoes and peas (important standby in anyone’s pantry). Or pasta. Tuna and noodles (tuna in oil and whatever pasta is in the cupboard) is a favourite. Tuna is another cupboard staple.

As for going out to dine, how to get home afterwards is always more important than how good the food is. The restaurant needs to be close.

So although we write a lot about food, but we don’t always think about it.

3 replies on “Why are our characters always eating?”

I love the food scenes in your novels because they usually provide just a bit of catch your breath and character development – the one where Ean is new and goes to that first big dinner and realizes the other 10 there, Rebecca is going to shun him, all that set up so much for me about who Ean was and what kind of man he was on the inside as well. I could SEE that happening. I could feel his embarrassment and was so relieved etc when the Ambassador Katida came along to save the day. I loved how that set up their relationship too.

You’ve just made me realise how important it is that that food scenes in novels do something more than just talk about food. They have to do something else, like show character, or move the story forward in some way. (Come to think of it, that’s the advice authors are given for writing sex scenes too.)

It’s funny how my first reaction to this post was “you don’t talk about food a lot” but then when you started listing I was like oh yeah! I think that shows how well it is integrated into the story that it doesn’t stick out as odd or recurring!

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