Friday, June 17, 2011

Guest Post: Tara Woolpy

Please join me in welcoming Tara Woolpy, author of Releasing Gillian's Wolves to Always With a Book! If you missed my review, you can read it here. Today Tara guest blogs about why she included recipes in her new novel.

Releasing Gillian’s Wolves is a novel in four parts. Each section begins with a recipe. Since in many ways this is the story of a woman stepping out of the kitchen and into the light, it may seem odd to lead with recipes. One the other hand, sharing food is central to Gillian’s character and I wanted readers to be able to experience the lushness of her table. I also envision the story as something of a hero’s cycle with the recipes serving signboards along the journey.
We begin with Survive Anything Brownies as Gillian struggles to keep herself afloat in a life that we can see is unsustainable but she is determined to maintain. In the end there isn’t enough chocolate in the world to make that life bearable. Gillian crosses a threshold and begins to contemplate leaving, despite terror that her departure may spark a scandal that could damage her family. This is a bittersweet period and the section begins with a recipe for Tang of Life Tomato Sauce. I began the next section with Les Ailes Escape, a not too subtle play on words. Les Ailes Escape is a clear garlic soup named from the French for garlic (les ails). The recipe for the final section is Start Again with Pasta and represents the return of our heroine, transformed.
Gillian cooks to sooth herself and others. For years she has used elaborate food preparation as a way to contribute to her husband’s campaigns while avoiding the public appearances she dreads. But the meals she prepares are more than a defense mechanism. They are as much an expression of her artistry as her paintings. She nurtures her friends with muffins, pies, pastas, casseroles, soups, salads and cakes. She provides her friend Edward with the meal for his first date with Sam because, as Edward says, “Gillian’s food is sexy.” Her closest friends have abandoned their own kitchens to play sous chef in hers, earning their dinners by washing and chopping and shredding on command. Much of the story takes place in the kitchen because that’s where Gillian feels most alive, serenaded by sizzling saucepans, inhaling the smell of baking brownies and fresh coffee and surrounded by friends.
By including Gillian’s recipes, I’m offering readers an opportunity to experience the warmth of Gillian’s kitchen for themselves. More of her recipes are occasionally posted on the Lacland News Blog at

About the author: Tara Woolpy’s writing career has followed a somewhat unusual trajectory. Throughout her twenties and early thirties she worked hard to learn her craft. Her formal studies included a B.A. in English Literature from Whitworth College and a post graduate year at the Women Writers Center in Cazenovia, New York. In the 1980’s she published poems and short stories in small feminist journals, freelanced for an independent Seattle newspaper and wrote the novel destined for the bottom drawer. Eventually returning to school, she earned a couple graduate degrees in aquatic science and has spent the last several years in that field, most recently as a tenured professor at the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay. As such she published peer-reviewed technical papers and book chapters and edited reams of student writing. Now that she teaches online, she has returned to fiction.

Releasing Gillian’s Wolves is far from autobiographical. However, tidbits from Tara’s personal history are woven into the novel. She imbibed campaigns and politics with her mother’s milk, her mother represented Northern Idaho in the State Senate for seven terms. She currently lives in a house very like Edward’s, works in Sam’s academic field, has survived more than one bad marriage. She has also finally found her own happy ending on a lake in Northern Wisconsin with a wonderful supportive husband and a very friendly Boston terrier.

On her way to happily ever after, Tara has published under a number of last names (Woolpy, Reed, Danaan and Reed-Andersen).

Thank you Tara for contributing this great guest post!

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