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Erica Bauermeister: The mixology of a great book

The Port Townsend-based bestselling author on writing, reading, cooking and eating.
Erica Bauermeister is the bestselling author of three novels set in or near Seattle.

Erica Bauermeister is the bestselling author of three novels set in or near Seattle. Susan Doupe

Erica Bauermeister is the bestselling author of three novels set in or near Seattle (the most recent is The Lost Art of Mixing) and co-author of two books of non-fiction. She has a PhD in literature from the University of Washington, and has taught there and at Antioch University. She lives in Port Townsend, where she’s working on a new novel that she hints will be a Pacific Northwest fairy tale.

What books are lying open on your nightstand right now?

I always have a mix of books at hand – some for research and some simply for the beauty of their sentences and insights. To that end, for research I currently have The Drunken Botanist by Amy Stewart, and The Uses of Enchantment, by Bruno Bettleheim.

For the joy of the language, I have The Snow Child by Eown Ivey, and The Giant’s House, by Elizabeth McCracken. I first read it twenty years ago and was captured by her metaphors and quirky characters.

Have you read a truly great book lately? One you’d unhesitatingly recommend to friends and colleagues?

It’s interesting – the two books that have blown me away recently are also two of the darkest books I’ve ever read, so I’m not sure “unhesitatingly” is the right word. But gorgeous, riveting, disturbing, compassionate and absolutely lyrical, yes. The Enchanted, by Rene Denfield is about death row, and a corrupt prison system. A Man Came Out a Door in the Mountain, by Adrienne Harun, is disturbing and stunning, it bumps reality to another level. For those who want dreams without nightmares, I would recommend The Art of Hearing Heartbeats, by Jan-Philip Sendker.

Any well-reviewed or popular books lately that didn’t live up to the hype for you?

You know, I have a hard time with that question, because I truly believe reading is an interactive sport. What works for me, might not work for you, and vice versa. That said, while I loved so many things about Gone Girl – the beautiful sentences, those deliciously unreliable narrators, the cleverness of the mystery – the last ten pages drove me crazy. I felt as if the author had the chance to make the entire book a satire of marriage, she came so close, and then stepped back.

Do you have a favorite among your novels?

My favorite is always the one I am working on. It’s like falling in love — the excitement of discovery, of spending time with characters who have chosen you, of not knowing if things will work out. It’s all new and sparkling.

Food is central to the theme of your novels — The School of Essential Ingredients, and The Lost Art of Mixing — do you love to cook?

I do love to cook. We lived in Italy for two years when our children were younger and I got to experience the way that food can be so many things – an art, a celebration, a way to bring people together. It’s stuck with me ever since.

When I write, I am always trying to make people pay attention to the subliminal things in their lives — the smells and sounds and tastes and colors and textures that affect who they are without their ever knowing it. I could have written about music, or architecture, or perfume — but I do love to cook, so that was where I naturally headed first.

Did you research these books by cooking?

I do a tremendous amount of research for my books, and I make every dish along with my characters, often many times in the course of writing a chapter. One of the wonderful things about writing about food is that when you get writer’s block, you can go cook, and that usually solves many problems at the same time.

Do you have favorite food authors?

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