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Kate Sidley

@ Sunday Times Books LIVE

My Next Big Thing

I received this blog opportunity, the Next Big Thing, from Jo-Anne Richards, whose fifth book, The Imagined Child, was launched recently. Writers and bloggers answer a series of questions about their books and the writing process and, at the end of it, tag other writers who do the same. It’s a sort of treasure hunt around blogs.

I’m tagging a couple more authors for the Next Big Thing. Steven Boykey Sidley is the author of Entanglement and – just launched – Stepping Out. I might also ‘fess up that he is my husband. Which the more perspicacious reader might suspect from the surnames. Hamilton Wende is a journalist, television producer and novelist, and is not related to me at all. His new book, Only The Dead, is a gripping thriller, set in eastern Congo and Uganda, about the hunt for the mysterious General Faustin in order to free his army of child soldiers.

Now, here are my own answers to the Next Big Thing questions.

What is your title of your book?

The Agony Chef: Recipes and Advice for Life’s Pickles and Predicaments

Where did the idea come from for the book?

I’ve always been intrigued by the concept of the agony aunt and secretly hankered after just such a job. I’m with Gore Vidal: “There is no human problem which could not be solved if people would simply do as I advise.” It struck me that an outspoken, slightly deranged agony aunt would make a funny character in a novel. So I started a novel with a character who was an agony aunt who solves vexing modern day problems. It didn’t work, but the character was even more marvelous than anticipated, so I ditched the novel and kept Delilah.

What genre does your book fall under?

Well, that’s a tricky one. I would put it under humour, because it’s funny (really, though I say so myself…), but because there are recipes in it, it is generally found amongst the recipe books.

Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?

Nigella Lawson – she is sexy, foodie and fun. Or perhaps Joanna Lumley in a toned-down version of her Ab Fab persona.

What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?

A fictional agony aunt solves vexing modern day problems, with recipes, advice and sardonic humour.

Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?

It has been published by Pan Macmillan.

How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?

I fiddled around with it for a bit and then showed a few chapters to the publisher. They loved it and gave me a very short deadline, about three months, in which to finish. (I may have given the impression that I was a bit closer to the finish line than I actually was) so I really had to knuckle down. Nothing like a good deadline to galvanize the mind. Actually, I just loved writing the book and once I’d got the format and the voice right it came quite easily.

What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?

Can’t really think of anything to compare it too, because it’s a strange cross-genre beast. I’d say it is a mashup between Tiny Beautiful Things: Advice on Love and Life from Dear Sugar by Cheryl Strayed and How to be a Domestic Goddess, by Nigella Lawson, but with a good deal more humour.

Who or what inspired you to write this book?

I’ve always wanted to write a quirky, but also insightful social commentary, with jokes and cake. Who doesn’t?

What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?

It has so much helpful advice that you just wouldn’t find elsewhere – What is the etiquette surrounding the newly face-lifted? What do I feed my obese aunt? My son has come out of the closet, what do I make for lunch? Also, I invented a whole new thing – passive aggressive cooking – which is very handy. Also, T S Eliot makes an appearance. Truly, there’s something for everyone.


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