Monday, November 21, 2011

Guest interview: Denise Verrico serves up fantasy and creamy autumn squash soup

Today it's my pleasure to introduce Denise Verrico and her urban fantasy, MY FEARFUL SYMMETRY.  Hopefully many of you are already familiar with her Immortyl Revolution series. Denise will tell you more about what happens in this third book, but "a boy becomes a vampire and fights to become a man." For a glimpse at the first two books, check out this trailer.

You can find MY FEARFUL SYMMETRY at Amazon, Nook, B&N Paperback, Omnilit, Allromance, and Fictionwise.
Denise, if a couple of your characters were raiding your fridge right now, what would they most likely to eat? Are they disappointed or excited about what they find?
There are lots of fresh ingredients as I favor southern European and Asian cuisines.  We tend to shop as needed.  They would always find a lot of hot sauce!  My teenaged son has about fifteen different hot sauces in the fridge. 
Cedric MacKinnon the hero of my third Immortyl Revolution novel lived in India, and he’d enjoy all of the exotic condiments and spices we have on hand.  

Mia Disantini would love the fact that there is always pasta, olive oil and garlic in my pantry.  Like her, I’m of Italian heritage (I’m also German, Scots Irish and Welsh on the maternal side), and I can make a meal with just those three ingredients.  I’m kind of like Rachel Ray there.  You can’t come between an Italian girl and her EVOO! 

However, my characters would have to go to a blood bank to get their favorite food. 
2.   Hmmm...think I'd hang with Cedric and Mia. What inspired your latest book, and what ingredients do you hope make it a tasty treat for readers? 
My Fearful Symmetry is an exotic dish. 

The series plot of my Immortyl Revolution novels deals with two vampires stealing the secrets of immorality and sparking a revolution among the outcast of their race. 
I had the problem of a lot of political upheaval affecting the fates of the heroine and hero of my first two books that they were not able to witness.  Too much was happening offstage in India, on the other side of the world from New York.

Then I had this character, this irreverent, six-three, auburn-haired, nineteen-year -old Scotsman by the name of Cedric MacKinnon who ends up in India as a male vampire courtesan.  Who better to observe the inner workings of the vampire power structure?  Yes, you saw the words male vampire courtesan.  Cedric is an adept of the ancient arts, a temple dancer in service to the Immortyl cult of Kali.  You could compare them to the Geisha or sacred courtesans like the devidasi of India.  Because of his extraordinary beauty and grace, Cedric is much in demand by the Immortyl elders and becomes a political pawn of the chief elder, which puts him at the epicenter of the turmoil caused by Kurt and Mia’s revolution. 

My vampire stories take on “grown-up” themes like politics, sex and religion.  If you like stories that are thought-provoking, sexy without being graphic, where the eroticism is stylish and interwoven with intrigue and adventure, you’ll enjoy My Fearful Symmetry
      What’s cooking? Can you share a bit about your next project?
The germ of an idea for this one came after reading Ellen Kushner’s fantasy of manners, Swordspoint. What a fun book!  Other than urban fantasy, I’d never thought of fantasy set in anything other than a medieval or Bronze Age culture.  Coming from the theatre, I love 18th century restoration comedy, and I also like picaresque stories like Tom Jones, where the “rogues and scallywags” take on the hypocrisy of their society. 

This fantasy takes place in an 18th century sort of world that is “down under.” The setting is New Zealand-ish in geography, with two large Islands off of a mainland continent.  The magic is somewhat inspired by the belief systems of Polynesian cultures like the Maori.  For many years, the Islands in the story have been occupied by an invading culture that came from the far north. The plot involves three young people, a schoolmaster, a mixed-blood actress and the schoolmaster’s gay best friend, who all run afoul of the lingering puritanism of their society when one of them is scapegoated for practicing “witchcraft”. 

I don’t follow the strict picaresque form of a single first-person narrative, but tell the story in a limited third where each character is the POV in their own chapters.  I hope, however, to bring the rollicking humor, witty banter and bawdy sensibility of the picaresque novel to this book.  There are slimy noblemen, slick politicians, corrupt churchmen and greedy businessmen.  Hmm…that sounds a bit too much like real life.  There is also magic and a feisty heroine who isn’t above slipping a would-be seducer an immobilizing native potion and cursing his manhood.  

 If you were marooned on an island, and Pots & Pens granted your wish for only one book and one food, what would you choose?
To Kill a Mockingbird is my favorite book.  I read it in high school and fell in love with it.  Scout, Jem and Dill are such great characters, and who wouldn’t love Atticus Finch?  I’m attracted to stories that deal with injustice and also coming-of-age tales.

I could eat lobster until I explode. Broiled, steamed, Newburg, Lobster Rolls, Lobster salad, you name it!  I went to Boston this past summer and tried Lobster Rolls for the first time.  Yummy.

Recipe Row: What favorite recipe do you have for us today?  
This one is great as a starter course for Thanksgiving dinner!

Creamy Autumn Squash Soup
One Butternut Squash
One Acorn Squash
(You can use any orange-fleshed squash, but these are what I usually use.)
4- 6 cups Chicken Broth or Bullion (Use your judgment depending on the size of the squashes. It’s good to have extra broth on hand if needed.)
1 medium onion
1 clove garlic
2 TBSP. Butter
1 Pint heavy cream (you can substitute milk, half n’ half or fat-free half n’ half)
Salt/Pepper to taste
1 Fresh nutmeg

Split and clean the squashes. Put halved squashes in a baking dish and bake them at 350 degrees until soft. Allow squash to cool and then scoop out the flesh.  Puree the flesh in a blender or food processor with some of the chicken broth.  You may have to do this in batches if the squashes are large.  Melt butter in the bottom of a Dutch oven or similar pot.  Chop onion and garlic and saut√© in the butter until soft.  Add the pureed squash and more broth if needed.  Heat on low and whisk frequently.  When the puree is hot, add cream or milk.  You can add a little salt and pepper to taste.  Grate a little fresh nutmeg over the top of each bowl and serve.
Serves 4-8 depending on serving size, cups or bowls.

Thanks for stopping by today, Denise!  You can follow her at:
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  1. Denise,

    What a timely recipe with Thanksgiving coming up! This is a decidedly exotic novel. I greatly admire authors who can sustain fantasy. Very creative!

  2. I love squash soup. I have 3 recipes I use, and I could always use one more! Denise, your story sounds fascinating, a different take on the vampire. I'll have to check it out.

  3. Denise, good interview that stirred my juices to open the pages of your book. The soup also sounds like a 'must fix.'

  4. Thanks for the comments! I just fixed a batch of the soup for dinner yesterday. My Fearful Symmetry was a fun book to write. Cedric is one of my favorite characters in the series.

  5. Great interview, Denise. I loved learning more about your series,the exotic settings and characters. But I should never read this blog when I'm hungry. Off to the store to buy squash soup ingredients and dinner.

  6. Fun post, Denise. Cedric sounds like a great character. Will definitely try the soup post-Thanksgiving. My fridge is overstuffed now--just like I'll be after Thanksgiving.

  7. Sounds delicious--both book and soup!

  8. Thank you so much, Denise! Your books sound every bit as yummy as your soup!

  9. The soup is very easy to make. I hope you all enjoy it!