Debut Author Spotlight: Brian O'Reilly
Name: Brian O'Reilly
Book: Angelina's Bachelors
Genre: Contemporary Romance/Mainstream Fiction
Current Home: We live in the Greater Delaware Valley. It’s a great place to live (and my lifelong home, excepting short spurts in California and just outside NYC), within striking distance of great cities, museums, parks, and mountains, even an ocean. And home is where the kitchen is.
Career (in addition to writing): I’ve been a producer for about 25 years, and most recently, I was the creator and an executive producer of Dinner: Impossible on Food Network. I do some writing for political campaigns across the country and I’m currently developing a number of TV projects while working on a second “Novel with Food.”
Favorite Word: Beer. I think it’s one of the richest, most varied, friendliest words in the language, especially when paired with the interrogatory punctuation mark: “Beer?” I also love the word “slake,” as in “Come and slake your thirst, my friend.”
Author Icon: For pure economy, I love Sir Arthur Conan Doyle; for mythic scope, J.R.R. Tolkien; John Irving, for melding the classical novel form with a fiercely individual narrative point of view; Shakespeare, not just for language, but brilliant plotting; Stephen King for sheer, page-turning, mechanical mastery; and aspirationally, James Joyce.
Which book (other than your own) have you re-read the most?: I’m a serial re-reader. Back when I had more time, I used to block out weeks in the summer for rereading books that had just given me pure pleasure. The Dune Trilogy, Lord of the Rings, John MacDonald’s Travis McGee books, Raymond Chandler, Robert B. Parker’s Spenser books. I’ve recently reread Hero with a Thousand Faces by Joseph Campbell, The Great Gatsby and Tony Bourdain’s Kitchen Confidential. I keep a complete volume of Sherlock Holmes stories on my bedside table.
You are already a well-known cookbook author - why the jump into fiction?: Writing fiction has always been my most cherished goal. Actually, I’ve always been a writer - as a producer, I’m the writing producer, the person who translates ideas into a visual form, either on the written page or on the screen. In the cookbooks, we had the opportunity to write for a gifted chef who has had many amazing life experiences cooking for world leaders and celebrities- a dual writing exercise and culinary education. Cooking happens to be a passion I share with my wife, whose writing talent for recipes is a reflection of her skill with food and natural bent for teaching. And, happily, choosing the venue of “a novel with food” allowed us to blend our efforts in doing something special together.
RT labeled Angelina's Bachelors a contemporary romance, but it could easily be called mainstream fiction as well. How do you describe your book?: I like to think of it as mainstream fiction, in that I like to think there’s a little something in there for everybody. It has aspects of women’s fiction and light comedy as well. In the end, we decided to call it: A Novel, with Food. I hope that, ultimately, it’s just considered a great story.
What was the first spark of idea you had for Angelina's Bachelors?: My wife and I, like many married couples, share ideas and stories all of the time. In our case, since we’re writers, even fragments are discussed as if they may prove to be mined gold. She told me the story of a woman she heard of who used to- in Angelina’s words - “take in some cooking” for unmarried gentlemen. It seemed like a wonderfully quaint concept around which to fashion a story.
Food has always had the reputation of bringing people together and Angelina creates a family of sorts around her dinner table. Was this influenced by your personal experiences relating to food?: Yes - that’s the tradition I grew up in and one we keep to in our daily lives, for sure. We’ve always had a “sit-down together” dinner and have never gone the “eat on the run” route. We feel something’s missing if we aren’t together for that meal (or, in fact, for most of the meals we eat).
There is realism in your prose that immediately catches readers' attention. How did you get into the 'head space' of a young, jobless widow?: Thanks very much for saying so. I think I just plunged in blindly at first. My wife’s input was invaluable and without a doubt informed my take on Angelina’s predicament, especially on her moment-to-moment reactions to events. I think I was able to fully “put on the character” by the time I started working through the second draft. All of us have been young and bereft and jobless at some point in our lives and know what that feels like. Hopefully, the blanks are filled in by a lifetime of observation and empathy.
Readers will not only find great prose in your novel, but also lots and lots of recipes. Do you have a favorite recipe you included in the text?: Choosing a single recipe is nearly impossible (especially since I’ve tasted every one!). Virginia hit a home run with the Aubergine Napoleons. I think, for now, I’ll say my personal favorite is Eggs Benedict Florentine.
Can you share a detail from the manuscript you are working on right now?: Well, I can tell you that it’s another Novel with Food and that the central character is a young woman who is an excellent cook, but one with a very different culinary point of view than Angelina’s. It will also explore the dynamics of conventional and unconventional family structures, but in a way that I think will be really surprising. And I’m already dazzled by some of the recipes!