A big Texas "howdy" to fellow Texan, author Lisa Wingate! Thanks so much for taking time out to be here, discussing "The Summer Kitchen".
What made you decide to be a writer? Are you a full time or part-time writer (do you have a different job too)?
A very special first-grade teacher told me I would become a writer one day, and I believed her. These days, I am a full time writer and have been since my first two novels, Tending Roses and Texas Cooking, sold to Penguin Putnam ten years ago. The Summer Kitchen, just released, is my twelfth published novel. I now work for two publishers, Penguin Books and Bethany House, writing a book each year for each house.
It depends on the book. Some come to me fairly quickly, and some require more research and thought. Often these days, the ideas come from reader letters, when someone writes to me and asks, “What happened to this character after the story ended?” Those questions send my mind flying into the world of my imaginary friends, and that process of wondering as I wander generates another story. Even though each of my stories is written to stand alone, they’re often part of a series, in that a secondary character in one story will become a primary character in the next.
Tell us about your book The Summer Kitchen?
The Summer Kitchen (July 2009) is the second book in the Blue Sky Hill series, following A Month of Summer (July 2008). With the excitement of A Month of Summer being a finalist for the ACFW Book of the Year Award, the release of The Summer Kitchen has been a whirlwind. In the midst of that whirlwind, I’ve been tried to make sure the story behind The Summer Kitchen isn’t lost.
The Summer Kitchen was inspired by the incredible true story of The Gospel Café in Waco, Texas. I learned about the Café a few years ago when a reader came to a book signing and said, “If you’re looking for a great story, there’s a place you should know about.” She proceeded to tell me about three women who had, some years ago, hatched the idea of buying a former crack house in a rundown area of town, and turning it into a café that would offer lunches to all who came asking, whether they could pay or not. This groups of friends not only hatched the idea--they acted on it and made it work! Thirteen years later, the Café feeds hundreds each week. In the novel, the main character, SandraKaye, doesn’t begin her Café with such a grand sense of purpose. She is merely compelled to deliver a bag of sandwiches when she sees kids digging for food in a dumpster at a nearby apartment complex. With the help of a young foster-care runaway, she begins to create something that, much like the real Gospel Café, takes on a life and a mission of its own.
How did you bring these characters to life?
The characters of The Summer Kitchen and their neighborhood came to life very much on their own. As research, I volunteered periodically in the kitchen of The Gospel Café. When you look out the kitchen window and see the amazing cross section of humanity—homeless men and women, families from the housing project, university students from Baylor, professors, ministry students, youth group members—all sharing a common table, it is an amazing experience. Cass, SandraKaye, and the members of the Summer Kitchen’s neighborhood came to life during those visits to the Gospel Café.
Are you currently working on something?
Currently, I’m putting the finishing touches two new books for 2011, Larkspur Cove, the first in my new Moses Lake series (Bethany House, February 2011) and the fourth in the Blue Sky Hill collection, Dandelion Summer (Penguin Books, July 2011). I guess you could say it’s been a busy summer around here!
How can my readers find out more about you and your books?
Visit my website at www.Lisawingate.com. Right now, I have an amazing contest going on, in which readers can enter to win a getaway weekend at the book event of the year, the Pulpwood Queens Girlfriend Book Extravaganza, 2011!
Here is a blurb from the back of the book:
“Sometimes hope springs up in unlikely places. SandraKaye Darden certainly never expects to find it in the little pink house left by her uncle Poppy. With her adopted son, Jake, missing thousands of miles away, and her family life disintegrating in the comfortable suburban home that once seemed perfect, Sandra feels as if her world is falling apart. A decaying house in a struggling Dallas neighborhood just adds to her burden. But what begins for Sandra as a simple painting project to help sell the house becomes a secret venture that starts to change everything.”
Sandra’s uncle has died and his little pink house is to be put up for sale. Sandra is the only family member close by so she gets to oversee the sale. When the realtor sees this house, she immediately points out the things that needs to be done in order for it to even be put on the market. Sandra decides to get the paint and paint the cabinets, clean up what is left, and fix a few of the major problems herself. Her oldest, adopted son Jake, leaves home for his birth place, Guatemala, after Poppy dies. Her husband, Rob, is a physician and is hardly ever home, and her youngest son, Christopher, has taken to his room since Poppy’s death and Jake’s disappearance.
Cass Blue is a runaway who left foster care with her brother, Rusty. Their mother died and their step-father was not a nice guy. When they get to Dallas, they find a small apartment to rent and Rusty goes to work. They don’t have much at all, in fact there are times when there isn’t any food in the apartment. Rusty comes home from work one day with Kiki, who works at a “club” and her little girl, Opal. Cass has to give up her bedroom to Kiki and Opal and sleep on the couch. Not only does she have to give up her bedroom but she is left to care for Opal while Kiki sleeps all day.
SandraKaye and Cass meet one day over sandwiches that Sandra brought after seeing kids in the apartment complex going through the dumpster looking for food. A unique friendship is born. Cass and Opal begin to go to help Sandra at Poppy’s house, where they make sandwiches for the hungry kids, including Cass and Opal. One of the beautiful things is that Cass begins to trust SandraKaye, something she’s had a problem with. Together, Sandra and Cass, along with many friends, bring to life The Summer Kitchen. The Summer Kitchen is a place for second chances, a place for healing.
If you would like a chance to win a copy of this awesome book, please leave
a comment along with your email address. No email address means no entry!
Contest will continue until 10/18, winner announced on 10/19/10.
Good luck and God bless!