Writers@Work: An Interview with Author Jeanette Hurt
November 8, 2016
Note From Rochelle
We’re just 8 days into NaNoWriMo, and I’m having fun. It’s delicious to wake up and go to sleep thinking about ideas and writing!
But, I have to admit, I’m a little nervous about next year. With my head down and my brain deep into creator mode, I don’t know when I’ll find the time to plan for 2017. That’s why I’ve set aside time to meet with my mastermind partner in December to set my intentions for 2017.
Because I see how valuable it is to pause and consider the future, I want to offer to be your mastermind partner this year. I want to support you in dreaming about what you want to accomplish in 2017 and to planning how you will do it.
I know you can do it on your own, but it’s so much easier—and more effective—to work with a coach. For that reason, I’m offering a special $95 rate for this one-hour conversation. You’ll receive:
+A welcome letter and assignment to complete before we meet.
+A one-hour consultation with me to create a plan for achieving your goals.
+A recording of our conversation.
If you’re interested in claiming one of the ten spots I have available for this conversation, email me today.
As I planned for this month’s posts, I was delighted to learn that my friend Jeanette Hurt has a new book, Drink Like a Woman: Shake. Stir. Conquer. Repeat. I’m thrilled to welcome Jeanette to the blog to talk about how she created this gem and to provide us with perfect drink recipe to survive Election Day drama. Read on to learn how you can win a copy of her new book!
The Write Now! Coach
Writers@Work: An Interview with Author Jeanette Hurt
Writers drink. According to the Academic Productivity blog, Anthony Burgess would force himself to write 1000 words a day, 365 days a year. When he had completed his word count, he would relax with a dry martini. Ernest Hemingway is known for his drunken escapades—but he always wrote sober, often waking at dawn to write, marking his progress on a board he attached to the wall with these words inscribed on top, “So as not to kid myself.” But other authors drank all day. When author Carson McCullers wrote at Yaddo, the famous writer’s colony, she’d have a beer just after breakfast, move onto her favorite drink—tea with sherry—for most of her writing day, and then have cocktails at night.
Read on to learn how Jeanette Hurt wrote Drink Like a Woman, discover some other secrets of great writers and thinkers, and learn how to mix up a pretty good cocktail!
How did the idea for writing this book come about?
In general, I write about what I am curious, what I’d like to learn more about. In general, I have written about food, wine, travel, and nutrition, but I’ve also written about dogs and parenting and medical issues. Eleven years ago, Guy Rehorst opened the first distillery in Wisconsin (in Milwaukee), and I started writing about spirits and cocktails. One story led to another, and over the course of interviewing bartenders and distillers, I really wanted to learn how to make a great cocktail. It seemed like this mysterious, almost alchemical process, and if you read cocktail menus, it seems like they’re made out of magic and fairy dust.
In conversations with my agent, the amazing Marilyn Allen (if you are ever lucky enough to get her to be your agent, you will be totally wowed, www.allenoshea.com), and one of the things I had been writing about is regional drinks – the old-fashioned in Wisconsin, the Sazerac (and hurricane and milk punch) in New Orleans, etc., so I came up with an idea called The United Drinks of America: 50 states and (more than) 50 Drinks.
I wrote the proposal, Marilyn told me what I needed to do to refine it – including getting a graphic illustration for the cover page (so I got a friend to do it for me, with the promise of payment if the book sold). Marilyn got some great responses from editors at the annual Book Expo, and she met Laura Mazer, the editor for Seal Press. Laura said she loved the idea, but could I come up with a book proposal for women and cocktails.
Wow. Well, as excited as I was about writing about state cocktails, a cocktail book for women excited me even more, and Drink Like a Woman was born. It’s one of those books that, had I seen in print, I would have wanted to have written it. So, I am so grateful and thrilled to have written it!
From the writing of the proposal to the contract, it was less than two months. Now, what you need to know, is prior to this, I had spent two years working on a different proposal that went absolutely nowhere. Money was tight, my son hadn’t yet started kindergarten so I was only able to work nights, weekends and with the occasional babysitter (thank you, Eliana!)
When the idea is right, when you are ready, and when you have time to work (thank you, kindergarten and Mrs. Patterson!), things can change rather rapidly.
Now, this is my ninth book, but my first hard cover, my first big press deal that wasn’t a Complete Idiot’s Guide, and I have probably written anywhere from 20 to 50 book proposals that have gone absolutely nowhere. Some came close, but no deal.
What kind of research did you have to do for the book? I’m guessing—hoping—it involved mixing and tasting cocktails at home!
I hired Suzanne Bruce, a woman who has taught bartending classes in the Chicago area for more than 30 years. She was the friend of one of my dad’s tax or investment clients, and since driving to Chicago once a week for two months was impossible, I hired her as a private bartending tutor and guru. Suzanne was absolutely amazing. She taught me to shake and stir and balance ingredients, and without her instruction, I wouldn’t have had the confidence to write and develop cocktail recipes.
I’m an experience journalist, and like I said, I’ve been writing about cocktails and spirits for nearly a decade. I interviewed more than two-dozen female bartenders, distillers, and brand ambassadors from around the world, and many of these generous women also contributed recipes to my book. I also talked with professors, authors, and other researchers to make sure the history was as solid as the recipes. I wrote probably 30,000 words about the history of women and cocktails and women and bartending, and that part of the book probably got cut down to about 7 or 8,000 words.
As a writer, you have to know that as much as you fall in love with your own words, they’re not gold, and you have to work with your editor and your publisher—they know what sells (or, they should), and as I learned, way back when I was a cub police reporter, working the overnight shift at City News Bureau, sometimes, you have to kill your babies (your words) to make the larger picture of your story or your book work or flow as well as it should.
That said, I did work with my editor and publisher to get some facts and stories worked back into the narrative of the book, and only about two stories, one source and three recipes that I really, really wanted to get in didn’t make it in.
Now, as a food and beverage writer, I’ve worked with chefs and tested dozens of chef-developed recipes. Like professional chefs, most professional bartenders do not write or develop recipes for home enthusiasts. Some recipes I received were like this:
List of booze and other ingredients, glass and garnish notes, then something like Stirred. Or Shaken.
Well, what does that mean? Shake what for how long in what? Do you add ice? If so, when?
I wanted to make my book accessible to the average cocktail enthusiast, but I also wanted to make sure that the recipes were solid enough that professional bartenders could either use or appreciate them.
I’ve read about several women writers who drank, including Elizabeth Bishop who used to drink perfume when she ran out of alcohol and Maya Angelou, who would drink sherry while she wrote. In your research, did you come across any stories of drinking women writers? If so, what was their drink of choice?
Dorothy Parker loved gin, and New York Distillery (owned by a husband and wife) makes Dorothy Parker Gin.
I have several recipes that pay homage to women writers like Jane Austen’s Zombie (like Zombies, Jane Austen’s work will never die), Bronte’s Brew, Sylvia’s Sword, and the Zeldapolitan. And Susan B. Anthony wasn’t an author, per say, but her speech writing, of course, is famous, and I have Suzy B’s Virgin Voter (she started out as a Temperance advocate, then after she was denied speaking at a state temperance meeting because she was a woman, she realized that for anything to change, women had to have the right to vote!).
What’s a good cocktail for writers to drink at the end of a good writing day?
The first thing you need to know is a writer’s individual preference for spirits. If you like gin, go with a gin cocktail, if you like whiskey, do a whiskey drink or bourbon cocktail. The other thing is, you can always take a recipe meant for one spirit and substitute with another. I was visiting Great Lakes Distillery the other day, and I tried a Manhattan (in my book it is the Renaissance Womanhattan) made with barrel-aged gin instead of whiskey, and it was fabulous. Of my literary cocktails, probably the easiest to make is the Zeldapolitan. Now, I know cosmos have gotten a bad rap (Thank you very much, Carrie Bradshaw. Not!)
But the drink itself was created by a Miami bartender, Cheryl Cook, who took the classic kamikaze shot and turned it into a drink. She noticed that some of her clientele wanted to be seen drinking martinis, but they hated the taste so she created the cosmo, which was popularized in New York City and Carrie Bradshaw, and the rest is history.
I have to confess I don’t like a basic cosmo. It’s too sweet, but it’s got a fun story behind it, and I had to have a cocktail for Zelda. Well, what did Zelda drink? Probably a lot of bathtub gin, and there are tons of amazing, really aromatic and complex gins out there (North Shore Distillery’s No. 6, Rehorst, Hendricks, Nolets…and dozens I’m not even listing).
Gin is more complex than most citrus vodkas (North Shore Distillery’s Soleil is an exception, I think…and North Shore is owned by a wife and hubby team in Lake Bluff, IL). So I replaced the vodka with gin.
I don’t like sugar-added cranberry juice so I use an all juice blend (straight cranberry juice, while quite medicinal is very, very tart).
But even with those changes, I thought the Zelda was too sweet. So I eliminated the Cointreau, and instead added citrus bitters (I make my own, thanks to Brad Thomas Parson’s great book, Bitters). It was the right combination.
Here’s the recipe:
1 1/2 oz. gin
1/2 oz. cranberry juice (100 percent juice blend)
1/2 oz. fresh lime juice
1/2 oz. simple syrup
2 dashes citrus or orange bitters
garnish: twist of lime
Fill a shaker with ice. Pour in all the ingredients, and shake for about 30 seconds or until well chilled. Strain into a Martini glass and garnish with a twist of lime.
Note: to make simple syrup, combine equal parts water and sugar, heat on the stove until dissolved, and then use! Can store for a month or two in the refrigerator or freeze for months.
Don’t forget to enter to win a copy of Drink Like a Woman!
About the author. Jeanette Hurt is the award-winning writer and author of eight culinary and drink books, including The Cheeses of California: A Culinary Travel Guide, which received the 2010 Mark Twain Award for Best Travel Book, and The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Wine and Food Pairing. As full-time journalist, Jeanette has written about spirits, wine, and food for TheKitchn.com, Four Seasons Magazine, Wine Enthusiast,ntrepreneur.com, Esquire.com, and dozens more publications. When she’s not writing, traveling, cooking or shaking up some concoction, she can usually be found walking along Milwaukee’s lakefront with her husband, their son, and their dog. Visit her online at her website http://www.jeanettehurt.com and on Twitter.