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‘Accidental cooking and how humour can disappear overnight’ by prized witty author Bonnie Garmus

Bonnie Garmus

For the very few readers who haven’t (yet!) heard about your witty novel, can you tell us about it in one sentence?

Lessons in Chemistry is about a woman chemist in the late fifties/early sixties who reluctantly becomes a TV cookery show host and ends up inspiring her viewers to do a lot more than make dinner.

One description of your heroine Elizabeth is accidental kitchen goddess. Do you align more with “accidents” or “a goddess” in the kitchen?

I'm definitely not a goddess--I don't like to cook--however, what I do in the kitchen could be accurately described as an accident waiting to happen.

Elizabeth’s reluctance to fame is absolutely hilarious. Have you ever been as stubborn about something as Elizabeth?




Where did you get the idea for Six-Thirty, a talking dog?

Six-Thirty doesn't actually talk, but he does think (because of course animals think!) What he thinks about on the page, though, is my imagining of how bizarre they must find us and all of our stupid decisions and constant lies and inability to admit mistakes. Sometimes I can't believe they even allow us up on the furniture. Six-Thirty was based on a dog I had named Friday--she knew a lot of words. The only difference was, we didn't set out to teach her words, she picked them up herself. She would have aced the SAT.

Finally, can you tell us why you think CWIP is important? Not only are you a debut author but you are doing SO brilliantly! Have you ever had moments of ‘doubt’? Do share; it will help us!

CWIP is important because it recognizes humor writing as an actual literary craft--which it is. I think humor is challenging (at least I find it to be challenging) because it requires very specific timing and word choice and it's incredibly easy to fall flat. There's nothing worse than humor writing that isn't funny. I can't begin to tell you how many times I've written something I thought was "pretty funny," only to have it mysteriously rot overnight and turn into complete shit by dawn.

As for self-doubt, that's where I really shine. I'm constantly questioning (and rewriting) what I write, not just for content, but style. I try very hard not to let other worries intrude ("what will so-and-so think of this?") because that can stop me cold. Despair is a normal part of writing and I am good at it. That and procrastination.

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