Starving Interview: Arlene Cabus Poerio, Author of The Twisted Spiral

Good morning, friends!  Welcome back to the kitchen for a nice little chat the chef in charge of The Twisted Spiral, Arlene Cabus Poerio!  Let’s find out what’s going on in the mind behind the words!

  1. Please introduce yourself to my literary foodies!

This Chef was born in San Francisco the same year the Golden Gate Bridge, attended private schools in The City, then finished up at U C Berkeley.

After marrying, we eventually moved to a small rural community to raise our children in a more serene setting. While residing in this town, I wrote “The Twisted Spiral”. A creative writing class at Berkeley helped me refine it.

Later when our children finished college and started lives of their own, we moved to the Sierra foothills. There, among the tall trees and vistas of the snowcapped Sierras my creative juices began flowing again. Finally, weary of snow in the winter, we moved closer to our children and grandchildren in El Dorado Hills, California. Our eldest, though, lives in Las Vegas. She is the ‘black sheep’ (Stanford, not Cal like the rest of us).

My husband, (especially), and children spoil me, encourage me, and make me want to be the best I can be.

  1. Do you do any work outside of the writing kitchen? Any non-work interests?

I began to paint when we moved to the foothills and have exhibited in several galleries and local and international exhibitions. Some of my paintings can be viewed on my website:

  1. What is your latest dish to be served up? Are there any past pieces of literary cuisine you think we should take a bite out of?

“The Twisted Spiral” is my first published book. ‘Spiral II’ has been completed and is in the editing process. Most of the research on the third book (‘Spiral III’) is done and the writing has started. I also have written a book of poetry which I hope to publish before the end of the year.

  1. What made you want to put on the chef’s hat and whip up your own books?

I have been writing poetry since childhood when I first learned to print. In 1981, I decided it was time for something longer and not so personal. I finished “The Twisted Spiral” in 1982 along with a mystery. Life got in the way and both were put in boxes, but each time we moved, they came along.

Finally, in 2014, I slowed down on my painting and decided it was time to dig those boxes out of the basement. After much editing and some updating, ‘Spiral’ was ready and published last August.

  1. Do you have a genre of specialty or do you dabble? Why?

I had to choose to continue with either ‘Spiral’, a fantasy, or another early book, a mystery.

I chose the fantasy because I had read many science fiction books during the fifties, sixties and early seventies before turning to mysteries. I liked the added possibilities for imagination that fantasy – or science fiction – allow. I can also incorporate some mystery into those works. But for now, I am caught by my characters and have to finish their tale, so I will continue to focus on fantasy for a while.

  1. Style! Every literary chef aspires to have their own unique one! What do you think sets yours apart and why?

I really don’t know what my formal style would be called. The characters and plot run like a film through my mind and that is what I try to convey. Several readers have mentioned that reading the book is like ‘seeing’ a film — makes me think my effort is successful.

  1. Even the best of us find inspiration is the dishes of others. Do you have any literary inspirations, heroes, and influences?

At my age I have read many great, good and awful books. There are some classics, some literary, some mystery and early science fiction authors I admire. I could not possibly choose a favorite. I would say that idea and characterization are most important to me. I believe if I can extrapolate on their idea or on their characters, their book is successful for me.

  1. Let’s get into the meat and potatoes: the art and craft of writing itself! Do you have a preference of points-of-view when you write?

I do not set out with a specific in mind. Whatever rolls out of my pen is it. (Yes, I am one of those who have to write the first draft by hand!) As you mentioned in my review, I have to be careful of not confusing the reader.

  1. Sparse or wordy, how do you like your descriptions served up? Are you a Hemmingway man or do you like some saucy adjectives with your nouns?

Saucy! Descriptions are essential for me. Everything I write, I have can see in minute detail, and I want the reader to be able to experience it too. I feel my descriptions should be intricate enough to encourage the reader’s own imagination and provide their own vision. I want them to see color, to smell scents, to feel the temperature – I want them immersed in their senses.

  1. Picking off the menu of base literary conflicts, what’s your favorite and why?

My choice is probably the most basic: good vs evil. I can’t say I consciously set out to do that, but that’s what seems to come out.

  1. What do you think is more important to your recipes, plot or characterization? Why?

Plot, of course, is basic – especially since your imagination can run wild with fantasy. Sometimes it’s difficult to tame it and maintain logic. But, for me, characterization is the most essential part. If the characters are real; if they grow and change, they will make an impact on the reader. They will be remembered and thus your book will be also.

  1. We all know that the first taste means the most! What do you do to get that first bite hook with your readers?

For me this is a difficult question. I am not sure the first bite of my book is that savory. It is a skill I pursue. I strive to make the initial descriptions and emotions capture the readers and drag them into the story.

  1. The most important of questions: Cake or pie?

Presuming you mean in relation to writing, the overblown fullness of cake or the précis of pie: each, well-done, is desirable, but my choice would be pie. There is something I like about order, tightness, and an idea well enough defined to make you think about it.

  1. Finally, if you could give one piece of advice to aspiring literary chefs out there, what would it be?

Do not give up; do not lose confidence. Keep writing no matter how much or how little time you have for it. Eventually you will accomplish your goal if you are persistent. If you can take classes, it is a plus; however, the most important thing is to read.

(Recently my husband decided he did not have room to build one more bookshelf in our home, so he bought me a Kindle. I have hundreds downloaded already. He cataloged 2500 hardcopy books and boxed half of them away. Besides donating and passing on many more, the bookshelves are still full. I am serious when I say READ.)

There is something to learn from every book – good or bad. It might be an idea, a fact, a phrase or a thought, but there is always something.

What I wrote in 1982 was much better edited in 2014 because of the years of reading. The flow of language becomes yours the more you read.


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