Today I feel very lucky!!” Why” you may ask. Well, I have the opportunity to introduce you to the lovely lady behind the fabulous and recently released debut novel “The Confectioner’s Tale”, Laura Madeleine. I would like to thank Laura for taking the time to indulge me as I know these past few weeks have been particularly busy due to the release of the novel. You can read my review of this delicious novel right here, however if you want to know a little more about Laura it is happening just below.
• How do you go from baking fabulous cakes to becoming a fiction author? Did you always know you wanted to write?
The writing came first! The Confectioner’s Tale is my debut novel, but it’s not the first one I wrote. I started the first one when I was nineteen and finished it while I was at university. It was a chaotic thing, and although it was never published, it got me my agent. Before that, I was constantly writing something: short stories, plays… Baking is something I’ve always enjoyed, so getting the job as resident cake columnist for Domestic Sluttery was a perfect opportunity to improve my skills and create my own recipes on a regular basis.
• “The Confectioner’s tale” is set in Paris in the “Belle Epoque” era. Why choose this time and place?
Paris is one of those immortal places. We all carry an idea of it around in our heads, and Paris during the Belle Époque represents the absolute height of our romantic ideals: of decadence, glamour, abundance and artistry. It was the perfect place for a patisserie at the pinnacle of its craft. But it’s also a city of contrasts, and in the 1910s it was a world on the brink of collapse. The storm clouds of war were gathering, and the weight of all that wealth and luxury was never going to be able to sustain itself, built as it was on the backs of the less fortunate. That growing tension and the erosion of class boundaries is obviously one that is reflected in Jeanne and Gui’s story. Overall, it was an irresistible setting.
• Is Jeanne and Gui’s story reminiscent of a time in your life in some ways?
Not really… sorry! I feel a lot of affinity for Gui though. When I was writing about his work for the railway I’d just started my first full-time job out of university. The feeling that a job is burning huge holes in your time without you even noticing is one I got from there. Needless to say, like Gui, I moved on before too long.
• What was the first thing you did after writing the last word of “The Confectioner’s Tale”?
I don’t remember! Probably ran to tell my sister.
• What is the story behind the St Germain cake recipe, did you know right away it would be THE recipe and best companion for your novel? Did you create other recipes before settling on this one?
I played around with a few other ideas… the characters drink a lot of anisette and absinthe in the book, so I was wondering if I could fit that in somehow. I once invented a “Fin de siècle” cake for Domestic Sluttery which involved absinthe and gold-dusted popping candy. But in the end, I went for flavours that I absolutely love; elderflower, raspberry, almond. Somehow they represent perfumed headiness, simplicity and luxury all at the same time. Plus, the bottle for St Germain elderflower liqueur is gorgeous: pure Belle Époque.
• When it comes to baking, what is your “péché mignon”?
I love that phrase! I have a real soft spot for hazelnuts, toasted, caramelised… I think they’re beautiful. That and real vanilla bean pods. I’m a bit of a purist when it comes to that; there’s just no alternative.
• Will we be lucky enough to see “A collection of recipes” book by Laura Madeleine on our cooking shelves one day?
Ha ha, maybe! I certainly have a lot of recipes and ideas… watch this space?!
• Your sister Lucy Hounsom had her book “Starborn” released on the same day as “The Confectioner’s Tale”. Were you able to share the writing and publishing experience together, and what was that like? And are you thinking of writing together one day?
Yes, we’ve always supported each other during the actual writing process; she’s the first person I call if I get stuck, and vice versa. It’s been great to have someone so close who is also experiencing the publication process first hand. As for writing together, I think it’s unlikely! Our styles and preoccupations are very different. We’ll probably stick to what we do best together: eating large quantities of cheese.
• Can you tell us “10 things” we don’t know about Laura Madeleine?
Ten is a lot! We’ll be here all day. How about five?
1. I used to be an actor (and top-grade tap dancer).
2. I play the saxophone (badly).
3. I can touch my nose with my tongue
4. I once accidentally tripped up Daniel Radcliffe
5. When I was growing up, my parents ran a fancy dress shop
• What is your biggest dream?
I don’t know about biggest, but being able to support myself through my writing is certainly a long-term goal I’m edging my way towards.
Thank you so much Laura for letting us getting to know you a little better.