Amanda Bonilla and I met through a blog chain we both participated in, and we've gotten to be not only critique partners but also close friends. She has a knack for bringing the world in her novels to life in an amazing, tangible way. Her debut novel, the much buzzed about urban fantasy SHAEDES OF GRAY in which shadow assassin Darian finds out the truth about who she in and who she loves, hits store shelves on December 6, 2011.
So without further delay, let's see what Amanda's got cooking for us today:
An author uses so many things to connect readers to a story. We write emotional scenes that cause laughter or tears. We create sexual tension to remind readers of the way it feels to fall in love or experience that first spark of passion. And we draw readers in by creating worlds that, no matter how unusual, can make a believer out of the staunchest skeptic.
It may seem insignificant, but food can play a huge roll in both world-building and connecting readers to a story. In any paranormal or urban fantasy world, one of the first questions we ask is, what does my creature eat? In the case of my Shaedes, I decided that I wanted their diets to be as normal as any human’s. Darian has a particular love for Honey Nut Cheerios, something that carries over from my own childhood. My grandma always had a box in her cupboard, and I definitely consider those delicious O’s as comfort food. When I developed the Lyhtans, the Shaedes’ mortal enemies, I decided to make their physical appearance as far from human as possible. So it stood to reason that their diet should be far from human as well. After much brainstorming, I decided that they should inject their prey with venom that not only paralyzes, but turns the victim’s insides into a slurpable goo that the Lyhtan could suck from the wound. I know, not exactly the most appetizing image, but that’s what I was going for. I wanted the reader to be repulsed by my Lyhtans, and I wanted to convey that this is not the type of creature you want to stumble upon in a dark alley.
Food can really make a scene pop. When I was discussing this post with Sarah, she mentioned a scene in SHAEDES OF GRAY that really stuck out for her. Darian is not-so-happy about a certain turn of events and decides to take her frustration out on a watermelon sitting on her counter. After slicing the melon in two with her katana (she may or may not have anger management issues), she casually digs into the fruit with a spoon and shovels watermelon into her mouth while she stews. This scene might not have been memorable to Sarah if Darian had been sitting in a chair or tapping a finger against her chin in thought. Her actions humanized her, connected her to the reader, put her in a situation that we might find ourselves in. I know I’ve chewed angrily once or twice. Emotional eating is one of my go-to stress relievers!
What do you think? Can food forge an emotional connection between a reader and a character? How big a part does food play in the books you read? And last but not least, what’s your favorite comfort food?
Amanda Bonilla lives in rural Idaho with her husband and two kids. She’s a part-time pet wrangler, a full-time sun worshipper, and only goes out into the cold when coerced. When she’s not writing she’s either reading or talking about her favorite books.