To cap off our busy Friday, we invite Viv Doyle, the latest chef to enter the Starving Kitchen with her book, The Treason Game, and have a chat about literary cuisine and her own style in the kitchen. Enjoy!
Please introduce yourself to my literary foodies!
Hi! I’m Viv Doyle but I’ve also written under several pen-names. I live in England, not far from the city of Manchester where my latest novel, The Treason Game, is based.
Do you do any work outside of the writing kitchen? Any non-work interests?
As a working writer, I’m hungry for knowledge about everything. From my POV there are no ‘non-work interests’ because you never know when something will tempt you into concocting a new story. Science, the Arts, Nature, Human Nature . . . it all goes into the melting pot. But I do also enjoy singing and playing music, going for long walks, travelling and speaking other languages, making videos. You can see my Treason Game video here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VCx2wpvlGAQ
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?
My latest piece-de-resistance, The Treason Game, is a new type of literary cuisine for me and also, I think, for my readers, because it’s set in the high calorie world of video games design. I’ve not found any other novel set in this context, so could this be the start of a new genre?
I’ve previously self-published a couple of books that were also different from my usual fare: a collection of mashups called Literary Mysteries Solved, and a vampire novel called Lusting (published under the name of Vivienne LaFay)
What made you want to put on the chef’s hat and whip up your own books?
Guess it was a spicy mixture of ‘Oh, I wish I could produce fabulous books like his/hers!’ and ‘Why on earth have they dished up this unpalatable nonsense for public consumption? Surely I can do better than that!’
I used to teach English Literature, helping my students digest other masterpieces whilst writing in my spare time. But one day I decided I wanted to write full time. I still did some tutoring of would-be writers, but mainly I wrote for any market I could find that would buy my delicacies. Lots of appetising short stories, then whole tasty novels, and eventually I found a few outlets prepared to buy anything I cooked up – yum yum! More recently, I’ve enjoyed self-publishing eBooks.
Do you have a genre of specialty or do you dabble? Why?
When I started out I wanted to write for children. Sadly, none of my kids’ books found a publisher, despite the fact that I had an agent. My literary success came when erotica became the main dish on the menu of certain publishers, and I found I could whet readers’ appetites with my saucy prose!
Style! Every literary chef aspires to have their own unique one! What do you think sets yours apart and why?
My favourite literary ingredient is a touch of humour. I think it’s there in all my work. But I’m not one for putting too much fancy icing on the narrative cake.
Even the best of us find inspiration is the dishes of others. Do you have any literary inspirations, heroes, and influences?
Loved reading the classics while I was writing my Literary Mysteries book. Every parody was an admiring tribute to the original, and I hope readers take it that way.
I’ve also enjoyed works by contemporary authors Philip Pullman and Sarah Waters.
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?
The Treason Game was transformed when I changed from third to first person narrative. If it’s multiple viewpoint, though, I’d choose third person.
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?
I’ve no taste for densely spiced and decorated fare, preferring just enough flavour to enhance the meaning and bring the scenes and characters to life. If I have to chew over every sentence to get the essence of it I probably won’t continue reading.
Picking off the menu of base literary conflicts, what’s your favorite and why?
For me, the conflict within one’s character is the one that really matters, and every other conflict is an extension of that.
What do you think is more important to your recipes, plot or characterization? Why?
I do like to cook up a good plot, but the skill lies in making the characters drive it.
We all know that the first taste means the most! What do you do to get that first bite hook with your readers?
An ‘amuse-bouche’ is a good opening, some curiously tasty little trifle, with an unusual combination of ingredients, to stimulate the appetite. In The Treason Game I decided to start with the video game itself, and the story proper begins when the main character is caught playing it at work.
The most important of questions: Cake or pie?
Pies can be stodgy, and once you’ve had a bite it’s much the same all the way through. A cake, on the other hand, can have so many layers of different flavours, sandwiched together with yet more flavour. It might seem deceptively light and airy, but by the time you’ve tasted it all you realise there was a lot more to it than you thought there was at first bite.
Finally, if you could give one piece of advice to aspiring literary chefs out there, what would it be?
Refine your taste for language, so that your words make music and paint pic