Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Behind the book 1: An idea is born

Over the next four weeks I will be bringing you the story of how an Australian author gets into the heads of an ex US President and First Lady, then researches and writes a historical fiction novel that revolves around their time in power. This week it's all about the birth of the idea.


The President’s Spuds

The idea for THE PRESIDENT'S LUNCH came while I was completing the first draft of PERFECT NORTH, my novel published in 2013. It was 2010 and I was busy searching online food sites for a recipe for roasted potatoes. 

I didn't want just any old roasted potatoes, though. I was seeking something special, roasted potatoes with a twist, so I visited the Gourmet magazine website. An American publication, Gourmet never disappointed when it came to finding something a little out of the ordinary. 

Once the recipe was sourced I stayed on the site and began scanning the featured articles. Eventually I came across a piece written by American journalist and culinary historian, Laura Shapiro. It was titled FDR’s Anti-epicurean White House.  



What followed was the astonishing tale of Henrietta Nesbitt, the presidential housekeeper during Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s twelve-year administration. 

I knew something of FDR’s presidency from the American history courses I took at university, but after reading Shapiro’s article I became fascinated by the fact that the wheelchair-bound president, who navigated the United States through the rough days of the Depression, Pearl Harbour and World War Two, was never served a tolerable meal while at the White House. 

The volatile relationship between the leader and his housekeeper struck me as a wonderful premise for a Frank Capra film, or even a novel. 

It was the merest kernel of an inspiration, and I knew an entire novel could not be written around a president and his housekeeper, but I was determined to nurture the idea into something special.

In searching for a recipe I had found my twist! Not only did I walk away from my computer that day with the delicious foundations for a new novel, I also discovered a delightful recipe for roasted potatoes with bacon, garlic, cheese and parsley



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