"I have a hate relationship with oatmeal."
Jill Shalvis has written 102 books. That's not a slip of the typing finger; the New York Times bestselling author is one of the most prolific writers in any genre, and romance happens to be her sweet spot. Cooking is not, but in her most recent novel, Lost and Found Sisters, she strides into some previously untrod territory, crafting a heroine named Quinn who works as a sous chef at a fancy Los Angeles restaurant. Quinn's life is turned upside down by the death of a family member and for various reasons (no spoilers—read the book), she finds herself flipping pancakes in the last place on earth she'd expect to.
Extra Crispy spoke with Shalvis by phone about romance, writing, and her love affair with bacon.
Extra Crispy: You keep in touch with your readers via your website in a very personal way, sharing things like your daily routine. It seems as if caffeine is pretty important to you—even if it's late in the day.
Jill Shalvis: It's very important for the brain process in the morning. This morning I started to cook a fancy breakfast because I thought you were going to ask me what I had and I wanted to be all cool about it but I ended up burning it and eating Frosted Flakes so it doesn't count.
As for having caffeine at night, I set a daily goal for myself of how many words or pages I need to have done in order to get the book done on time. Some days I'm done early enough to go out and hike with the dogs and get on the lake and paddleboard and other days it seems like I'm treading water and it's midnight before I'm finished. It's just never the same.
You're so productive, I assumed you would have a routine and was hoping I could steal it. What is the most frequent breakfast you have?
We have three daughters and then we took one in a long time ago, so we've raised four girls. We all end up in the kitchen at the same time every morning, but fend for ourselves. One of my daughters will cook a big fancy egg sandwich. She'll go through all the trouble of doing this after she's asked everyone if they want one—no one else wants one—and she makes it and it smells so good. Then she's over there eating it and we all decide we do want one. After breakfast everyone—thankfully—leaves the house and that's when I dig in and start.
You write a lot of first encounters between people. Having breakfast the next day is a potentially awkward thing.
In real life, the first time that happened between my husband and me, he had to cook when he realized that I couldn't. He's actually a much, much better cook than me. If there's any sort of dinner that's more complicated than boiling water or using the barbecue, he's the one who does it. Our first morning, he cooked me breakfast and that's kind of a funny role reversal. I find the funny in those awkward first moments that every couple has and bring that to the books.
How long have you two been together?
Since the Ice Age—27 years. When we met, we were both starving first-year college students. Our meals at that time—depending on where we were in the month and how much money we had left—were apples and peanut butter, ramen, or mac and cheese and hot dogs. It was definitely a survival situation. Breakfast was 100 percent we shouldn't be having this sort of cereal for breakfast, it should be a dessert type of thing. Frosted Flakes, Sugar Smacks, terrible beginnings. Don't do that.
What would one of your characters make for breakfast if there were another person sleeping over for the first time?
That would depend on the character. Quinn of course would be happy to get up and make breakfast for whoever she just slept with. Most of my other heroines wouldn't. They'd be like, "Well, what can you cook?"
What made you decide to have heroine 102 be a chef?
I just really wanted a fish out of water story. So I took this woman who had grown up in L.A., in kind of in a fancy job position, and threw her into the country in a small town that she'd never been to. In fact she'd never been to any small town, and she ends up as a shortcake chef flipping pancakes for people coming through a cafe on Saturday mornings looking for quantity, not quality. I thought that would be so funny and different for her. And then the ironic part is that she falls in love with this place she thought she would never fit into.
Anyone can make dinner romantic, but if your husband offered to make you the romantic breakfast of your dreams, what would it be?
I'm so easy to please with food. The simpler the better for me. My favorite food is bacon. I would be happy with a bowl of crap cereal and a pile of bacon. In fact one time we went on a cruise, and you're allowed to get whatever you want to eat. I said I just wanted cereal and some bacon, and they brought me a platter of bacon. I was the happiest person on that cruise.
Final question: So many authors we've talked to have a very particular relationship to oatmeal. Megan Abbott and Riley Silver love it. Meg Cabot loathes it. What's yours?
I have a hate relationship with oatmeal. I would starve to death before I'd eat oatmeal. I think that's from my college days when it was all I could afford. I'm obsessed with hating it.