Saturday, February 3, 2018

Combining Fact & Fiction: Guest Post by Vanessa Barrot & Noel Balen

Today’s guest post is by Noël Balen and Vanessa Barrot, authors of Minced, Marinated, and Murdered, the first installment of the Gourmet Crime series. When a beloved chef is found murdered, food writer Laure Grenadier and her photographer Paco Alvarez investigate and sink their teeth into this mouth-watering mystery. Set in Lyon, France’s traditional capital of gourmet food, the novel delves deep into the juicy real details of France’s culinary history, mixing local reality and historical fact with fiction and mystery. Balen and Barrot give some dos and don'ts for how to best combine fact and fiction. 

Combining Fact and Fiction: DOs & DON'Ts

DO take inspiration from real life
Reality feeds our fiction. We draw on the characteristics of real-life people and places and we put them together to create something new. In this way, we use what actually happened to create a realistic fiction. In fact, some of our best fictional creations were informed by the real world. For example, A Nearly Perfect Cream [the second installment of the Gourmet Crime series, which is currently being translated] takes place in Normandy, the homeland of writers like Flaubert, Balzac, Proust, and Maupassant, and we definitely made a lot of nods to that. We created a restaurant that only served dishes mentioned in Proust’s In Search of Time Lost, the names of our characters came from the works of Maupassant, and we took the name for a fictional village from one of the fictional villages in Flaubert’s Madame Bovary.

DON’T harm anyone’s good name
The main characters visit a lot of real restaurants and sites in our books, and we like to think that our mystery novels can double as travel guides. However, the restaurants where the crimes are committed are always fictional, so we aren’t wrecking anybody’s reputation. Likewise, no living chefs or suppliers are ever the victims or the criminels.

DO pay homage 
As I said, we wrote several real restaurants into our books. These restaurants were chosen either because they are iconic institutions with a specific style of cuisine or simply because we really like them. Real chefs and suppliers often pop up and contribute to the advancement of the plot by giving Laure and Paco information to help them reconstruct the crime. We always confer with them as we write the book.

DO give the readers something to chew on 
In the third installment of the Gourmet Crime series, we got permission to write a chef with two Michelin stars into the plot. He actually wrote a recipe for his character to give to our heroine. That recipe is included in the book, just like we included cooking tips and local recipes in Minced, Marinated, and Murdered.

Minced, Marinated, and Murdered will be released Feb. 20. This translation is published by Le French Book. Anyone who pre-orders the book before February 20 gets two freebies: Noël and Vanessa’s favorite places to eat in Lyon, along with a series of traditional Lyon recipes straight from their kitchen. Go here to find out more:

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