Amanda Usen is the author of Luscious, a sexy romp through Italy, featuring yummy food and star-crossed lovers. Amanda dropped by the virtual offices for a chat about her book. After the interview, enter for your chance to win a copy of Luscious!
[Manga Maniac Cafe] Describe yourself in 140 characters or less.
[Amanda Usen] Pastry chef, word geek, romance writer, mom of three, caffeine addict, hot chef lover – all at the same time, not necessarily in that order!
[Manga Maniac Cafe] Can you tell us a little about Luscious?
[Amanda Usen] Chef heroine Olivia Marconi is balanced on the knife-edge of a major meltdown. Her marriage is over. She hates her job. Her two best friends have fallen in love with each other. She wants to start over, but first she has to go to Italy and tell her parents she doesn’t want to run the family restaurant anymore. Sean Kindred rejected Olivia’s indecent proposal while she was still married, but now that she’s free, he’s determined to take her up on her offer. Wherever. Whenever. Italy would be perfect. Luscious is the story of star-crossed lovers searching for a new beginning while eating amazing food, drinking fantastic wine and making incredible love.
[Manga Maniac Cafe] How did you come up with the concept and the characters for the story?
[Amanda Usen] I was sitting in a doctor’s office editing the first draft of Scrumptious. When the doctor came in and learned I was a chef, he started telling me about his fabulous vacations at a cooking school in Italy. Villa Farfalla was born! A cooking school/spa/vineyard in Verona, Italy seemed like the perfect place for the next book. I knew Olivia, the restaurant owner from Scrumptious, would be the main character. Since she made a pass at her divorce lawyer and got shot down in the first book, it made sense that he would become her love interest in the second book. The storyline fell into place in my subconscious and was born, page by page, on the computer screen. There was a LOT of coffee involved in the writing of Luscious and more wine than I will ever admit.
[Manga Maniac Cafe] What three words best describe Olivia?
[Amanda Usen] Hungry for love!
[Manga Maniac Cafe] What are three ingredients Olivia would never, ever use?
[Amanda Usen] Strawberries, inferior quality olive oil, box wine
[Manga Maniac Cafe] What are three things that Sean would never have in his bedroom?
[Amanda Usen] Best question ever! It’s going to take me ages to answer because I keep mentally trying on items and giggling. Okay…deep breath… a television. No hero I write will ever spend his time in the bedroom watching TV. Mementos from other women; it’s always been Olivia for Sean. Pajamas. No explanation needed.
[Manga Maniac Cafe] What are your greatest creative influences?
[Amanda Usen] I belong to the Western New York Romance Writers and the Romance Writers of America. I’m constantly inspired by the hard work of my colleagues, and I’m grateful to the authors who write books that make me reach deeper and work harder to write my own stories. Food plays a big part in my books. I met my husband in culinary school, and he’s my own, personal, hot chef hero. He cooks, cleans and loves to play with our kids – now that is inspiring! I love to read the cookbooks of Maida Heatter, Nancy Silverton and Tish Boyle. I love to listen to the music of Adele, Brad Paisley and Taylor Swift. Growing up, I read all of Anne McCaffrey’s dragon books, Crystal Singer books and contemporary romances. I constantly seek inspiration from life; it’s the way I stay creative.
[Manga Maniac Cafe] What three things do you need in order to write?
[Amanda Usen] My three Cs: Coffee, Computer, Chair!
[Manga Maniac Cafe] What is the last book that you read that knocked your socks off?
[Amanda Usen] Tiffany Reisz’s The Siren, but her BDSM erotica isn’t for the faint of heart or the conservative of religious or sexual morals! Reisz is just such a great writer that it was impossible not to be pulled into her world of complicated and unforgettable characters.
[Manga Maniac Cafe] If you had to pick one book that turned you on to reading, which would it be?
[Amanda Usen] One book? One book? When I was a child, I devoured books, one after the other. I was voracious. Insatiable. One book? Okay…Timothy and Two Witches by Margaret Storey. In the book, the good witch grows a petit four tree out of a stump after lunch, and the diminutive desserts have the characters’ names on them. In the forest, elves make hot chocolate that is the perfect temperature to warm your belly. Who would not be captivated by a book like that? I still have it, and my girls have both read it.
[Manga Maniac Cafe] What do you like to do when you aren’t writing?
[Amanda Usen] I love to read. I was a romance reader long before I started writing, so I’m always in the middle of a book. I get to yoga as often as possible to help correct laptop-hunch. Since it’s summer, we take the kids swimming and to lots of parks. We love to cook with vegetables from the garden and make summer cocktails with the mint and lemon balm that run rampant in the flower beds. WNY summers are precious, so we spent quite a bit of time sitting in the front yard, watching the neighborhood kids and dogs chase each other around in circles, and waiting for the Mr. Softy truck to come down the street!
[Manga Maniac Cafe] How can readers connect with you?
[Amanda Usen] I love to talk about romance, writing and recipes on my blog Writer. Chef. Romantic. http://www.amandausen.com/
I can also be found on Facebook http://www.facebook.com/amandausen and Twitter https://twitter.com/#!/AmandaUsen
Thanks for having me here at Manga Maniac Cafe today! I love that you have “geek” in your tagline. I’ve always described myself that way, although I’m more of a barefoot, bookworm, sits-in-the-front-row, studies-for-every-test, hates-curling-my-hair kind of geek. I always have a book in my purse for emergencies. Speaking of books, what’s your current favorite? For the chance to win a copy of Luscious, comment below and tell me what you are reading!
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