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Hallie Durand Interview

Hallie DurandAs I mentioned earlier this week, I was privileged to interview via email the author of the new Dessert series (my  review of Dessert First here).  Ever since I hosted my first author interview here at Hope Is the Word, I have itched for the opportunity to do it again.  This was the perfect chance for me to communicate with a real, live author and pick her brain a little bit.  Care to listen in?

Hi, Ms. Durand, and welcome to Hope Is the Word. I am extremely honored and excited to host this interview! I was excited to get to read Dessert First before it is even available for purchase, and I really enjoyed it.

I am interested in how you got started as a writer. Have you always been interested in writing? How did Dessert First come to be?

I’m a very big lover of children’s books, but I never really tried to do it myself. What happened was that Dessert came knocking and I started typing. She took over my life!

See, I have a very dear friend with whom I’ve been sharing dessert for almost two decades. For the first decade, whenever the dessert would arrive, I would turn the plate a little to the left or right so that the best part of the dessert “happened” to be staring me in the face . . . you can guess what part is the best—the back side of the cake with all the frosting, the outside of the pie with the most crust—I could go on and on! But then one evening, in a booth at a cozy restaurant, I gently turned the cake like I always did and my friend said loudly, “WHY DO YOU ALWAYS TAKE THE BEST PART OF THE DESSERT?” And I said much more quietly, “Because I thought I was getting away with it.” And that was the beginning of a friendship for life–because we’d told each other how it is, which takes a lot of courage.

Then a couple of years ago, I shared a slice of iced lemon cake with this dear friend, and while we were eating it we started to talk about writing, and she encouraged me to try my hand at writing a story. I said I would, but I didn’t really mean it. Then, to my absolute surprise, as I was walking home that night, just a few hours later, the idea of a girl named Dessert came to me, and I knew immediately that she signed her name with a maraschino at the end. She was right there in my mind, clear as day, demanding my attention. Nothing like this had ever happened to me before and so I began typing that night—I was very much in a hurry to get her story down because I was afraid she might leave as quickly as she came.

I think it’s fair to say that Dessert is a little bit like me (and I’m not always especially proud of that!). But that’s the truth. She’s a little sneaky, she usually gets caught, and, she grows up a little more every time she has to say she’s sorry. Dessert First sprang from delicious food and real friendship, two things that are very important to me.

What is a typical writing day like for you?

I don’t have any typical writing days, but I do carry pen and paper wherever I go, in case I hear something funny or something that has special meaning to me. But most of the real writing happens after a day at Pippin Properties (my regular non-writing name is Holly McGhee and I opened a children’s literary agency named Pippin Properties eleven years ago), after I tuck my kids in, and after my husband and I catch up on our day. Then I sit on the couch with my laptop and see what happens.

If I’m on a roll or if there is a deadline looming, I go away—all by myself, with a suitcase full of food and my laptop.

One thing I liked about Dessert First was the idea of the “food family” and the emphasis on recipes, cooking, and baking—I love to cook and bake, too. Is this something that you’re interested in personally, or were you inspired by someone else?

When I’m not writing I head straight into the kitchen. I love food, I can cook all day long—I even like slicing vegetables. I always feel best when my cupboards are full and the house smells like Thanksgiving dinner.

I was also a big 4-Her, and one of my proudest accomplishments was winning the title of New York State 4-H Bread Champion as a teenager (I got to go on a bus trip to Chicago!). Then in my freshman year of college, I was late getting to the sign-up for the work-study program, and the only job left was a shift from 3 a.m. to 6 a.m. in the bakery—but I had to do it because I needed the money. As it turns out, I got to work with this fantastic baker named George and I absolutely loved sticking my whole hand in the bucket of icing and “drizzling” the huge trays of turnovers.

These days, I have a French friend, Christine Snell, who’s like a sister to me. She and her husband own a French Bistro in Brooklyn, and she gave me a big red fondue pot for Christmas a month before Dessert interrupted my life. The restaurant in my book, Fondue Paris, was born of that friendship.

Dessert’s teacher, Mrs. Howdy Doody, is an interesting character. Tell us a little bit about her.

Mrs. Howdy Doody came to me as soon as I started writing Dessert First. She walked around in slippers and was a bit of an outsider, someone who didn’t worry about what anybody else thought. And now I can see that I was inspired by Mrs. Normana Schaaf, who teaches the two year olds at Morrow Memorial Preschool. It’s a coop school, at which parents are helpers on a regular basis. I’m not somebody who fits into groups very well and I’m not an ideal “helping parent” either, but Mrs. Schaaf said to me when she met me, “You can do nothing wrong and your children can do nothing wrong.” That’s one of the many reasons why I love her. She marches to her own drummer, whether she is wearing her pajamas to school, or trying to teach two year olds how to make apple crisp.

The children in Dessert’s family have interesting names. Tell us a little bit about how this came about.

Let’s see. Charlie, the four year old, just came to me as Charlie. As for Wolfgang—originally I had the parents name him after Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, but I took that out a long time ago—the name Wolfie stuck, though. And Mushy—we used to call our son Mushy when he was a baby. So far in the Dessert books, I’ve only called him Mushy, but I may reveal his full name one of these days!

Are there more Dessert books in the works?

I have completed the second book, Just Desserts. In it, Charlie comes into her own, much to Dessert’s dismay, and we get to know Sharon S., Billy and Donnie B., Bonnie A., Evan C., Pat D., and Emily V. much more . . .

Do you write in other genres?

I do have a picture book coming out from Candlewick Press. It’s about a three year old who won’t go to bed till his father says he can drive there. It’s tentatively called Mitchell’s License and will be illustrated by Tony Fucile, whose first book Let’s Do Nothing is coming out now. I love working with Tony!

Who are some of your favorite authors, particularly children’s authors?

My very favorite author is William Steig, because he always told the truth.

Growing up I loved Madeline, Mary Poppins, The Wizard of Oz, and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory more than any other books.

Lastly, do you have any hobbies?

I love grocery shopping with my dad.

ISBN9781416963851In my world, food and books are pretty important, so I think Hallie Durand has created a winning combination.   Be sure to check out her inaugural story, Dessert First.  I’m giving away three copies of an ARC of Dessert First here at Hope Is the Word.  The giveaway ends at midnight on Sunday, May 24.  See this post for details!


3 Responses

  1. […] wait!  There’s more!  In addition to all of this, I had the privilege of interviewing Hallie Durand, and I will be publishing that interview on Friday, May 22.  Come back to read more about the […]

  2. […] wait!  There’s more!  In addition to all of this, I had the privilege of interviewing Hallie Durand, and I will be publishing that interview on Friday, May 22.  Come back to read more about the […]
    P.S. – Sorry, forgot to tell you great post!

  3. […] If you’d like to learn more about author Hallie Durand, read this interview. […]

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