Susan Bishop Crispell talks about sprinkling a little magic in her new book, Dreaming in Chocolate.
- Tell us more about your latest book, Dreaming in Chocolate.
In Malarkey, North Carolina, a hole-in-the-wall town nestled in the Appalachian Mountains, residents rely on the magical chocolates at The Chocolate Cottage to get a glimpse of their futures. But life hasn’t turned out as planned for proprietor Penelope Dalton. Instead of living happily ever after, she’s raising her terminally ill daughter on her own, trying to pack a lifetime of experiences into Ella’s final six months. But when her ex comes back to town and Ella starts to play matchmaker, Penelope will learn that some fates are worth waiting for.
- What inspired you to write this book?
I adore the mother-daughter relationships in Gilmore Girls and wanted to write a story that captured that kind of bond. But I knew it needed to have a twist. Enter the magical chocolates that make people dream of their futures and the one man who has ever proved it wrong. Once I had those elements figured out, I got very excited to see where the story would lead.
- What was the hardest part of the book to write?
Without giving anything away, the end was definitely the hardest. I had a plan for how Ella’s story would end, but the closer I got to writing it, the more I questioned what the right path really was. And I honestly didn’t know which way I would go until I sat down to write those final few scenes.
- If you have to pick one favorite character from the book, who would it be and why?
It’s always hard to pick a favorite, but Ella definitely has that honor. Her personality is based on my oldest niece, Caroline, so I just loved writing her. They’re both feisty and full of heart and so very determined to make other people happy.
- What is your favourite and least favourite thing about writing?
My favorite thing about writing is seeing the characters and towns that started out as these random thoughts in my head turn into full stories that make people feel something. It’s pretty amazing. My least favorite part is actually drafting the book. As a writer, I know that sounds weird. But the first draft or two are never what I want them to be, so it’s hard to slog through something I know is not there yet. Thank goodness for revisions. That’s where my stories really come alive!
- Do you listen to music when writing? And if so, what kind of music inspires you?
Yes, I always listen to music while I write. The type of music depends on the mood of the book and what the characters are going through. I create playlists for each book I write, and the songs range from hard rock to melodic singer/songwriter types to the random pop song. The playlist for Dreaming in Chocolate includes Heart Stops by AFI, Come Around Soon by Rosi Golan, Cry by The Used, Said I Would by One Two, and Got Me Going by Ra.
- What’s one book you wish you had written?
Ooh, such a hard question! I wish I had written The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern. It’s such a stunning, magical story with unforgettable characters and writing that makes the circus and the magic feel so vivid and real. I remember reading it and wanting to curl up in the pages and never come out.
- What message do you want readers to take away from your novels?
I’d love for readers to finish my books with a sense of hope and wonder. I want them to believe in magic and true love and creating their own little slice of happiness in the world.
- Has any other writer in particular influenced the way you write?
If we’re talking novelists, Sarah Addison Allen tops the list. When I first read Garden Spells and the way she describes her writing as “southern fried magical realism”, I knew that’s the type of story I wanted to tell too. I’m also influenced by the TV shows Everwood, Hart of Dixie, Veronica Mars, and the movie Penelope. Their witty, whip-smart dialogue is everything I want mine to be.
- What are you working on next?
I’m currently about 75 pages into a new magical women’s fiction novel that revolves around two estranged sisters and family magic that allows them to erase love from people’s lives to help others move on from bad relationships. It’s set on a small (fictional) barrier island off the coast of NC and involves a dilapidated lighthouse, bourbon pound cake, and a small beach cottage the sisters are forced to share.
At twenty-seven, Penelope Dalton is quickly ticking off items on a bucket list. Only the list isn’t hers. After her eight year-old daughter Ella is given just six months to live, Penelope is determined to fill Ella’s remaining days with as many new experiences as she can.
With an endless supply of magical gifts and recipes from the hot chocolate café Penelope Dalton runs alongside her mother, she is able to give her daughter almost everything she wants. The one sticking point is Ella’s latest request: get a dad. And not just any dad. Ella has her sights set on Noah Gregory, her biological father who’s back in town for a few months – and as charming as ever.
Noah broke Penelope’s heart years ago, but now part of her wonders if she made the right decision to keep the truth of their daughter from him. The other, more practical part, is determined to protect Ella from the same heartbreak. Now, Penelope must give in to her fate or face a future of regrets.
Dreaming in Chocolate by Susan Bishop Crispell is a heartwarming story of love, hot chocolate, and one little girl’s wish for her mother.
Susan Bishop Crispell earned a BFA in creative writing from the University of North Carolina-Wilmington. Susan lives and writes near Wilmington with her husband and their two literary-named cats. She is the author of The Secret Ingredient of Wishes.