Mary: Thank you for joining us today, Simone. Where people can find you, your web site, face book, etc.
Simone: Thank you for the invitation! My website is up and should be fully operational by January (www.simonesinna.com) but I’m also up on Manic Readers and my book is at Siren (www.bookstrand.com/simone-sinna ), not to mention twitter (@simonesinna)
Mary: Why did you want to write fiction when you write non-fiction?
Simone: My non-fiction is part of my job, which I am passionate about but it is work! Writing fiction can be hard work too (particularly the editing) but I love the creative process part of it that is missing in non-fiction. I started writing stories at age 8 and haven’t ever really stopped, and both writing and reading fiction (I read at least a couple of books a week) is a great way to escape and wind down. And you can choose so many different places to escape to!
Everyone take a minute to stretch, refill you’re plates if you’d like. A bit more hot Cocoa maybe?
Mary: I read over your web site, and we do have the love of travel in common. Some of my favorite cities are New York, San Fran, Seattle for the US and then there is Paris and Rome, but nothing compared to Venice. I want to go back to Italy so bad. So enough about me, where are some of your favorite places, and why?
Simone: Like a lot of people born in Australia, I have the wanderlust! Part of it is that though not so much now, but when I was growing up, we seemed a long way away and everything important was happening elsewhere. All my grandparents were from the UK so I also felt a strong pull there. So since 18 I have travelled every opportunity I can. This has included living and working in the USA, where I adore New York, but also the fabulous national parks which I need to go to more! Fall in New England is amazing. Because in Australia we have mostly evergreens, we just don’t get that dramatic color change. We also have a house in France, so are there at least once a year, and I have lived there for extended periods. Our children went to school there so speak fluent French (which is more than I can say for me) and we love the food and wine. We can order wine in France (and therefore no taxes) and have it delivered ready waiting in our three hundred year old cellar. Near Beaujolais, the farmhouse is in bucolic surrounds and the French know how to eat and drink well! Other favorites are Italy and Spain, but Istanbul and Cairo are both amazing places too in a different, exotic way. I spent time in Spain recently, walking to Santiago via the coastal route. Great weather (April this year, we were lucky), crisp cold Rose and some great pulpa (octopus). San Sebastian is beautiful and fabulous Tapas bars.
Mary: Tapas, my weakness.... I understand you’re off to sample some restaurants in Amsterdam and Paris, so tell us, do you jet off like that often? If so, please share with us some of your favorite restaurants.
Simone: Both my husband and my work takes us overseas to conferences/ give training so we always add something social- and usually a trip to our French house. At the moment he’s training at the Hague so I’m meeting him in Amsterdam (went there last year in Summer and it was gorgeous) and catching the train to Paris, where we will eat and do some Christmas shopping. Friends are going to then stay with us in our farmhouse.
I heard a radio interview of a Francophile restaurant reviewer who said everyone who could get there should, once in their life, go to a three star Michelin restaurant in France, and I’d have to agree – as long as you don’t think about how much each mouthful costs. It’s an experience, not just the food. But that said, if you don’t really like and appreciate food the subtleties will allude you. That said, my mother (whom definitely missed the finer details) still talks about George Blanc, and this is my favorite because it is a complete experience. In Vonay, about an hours drive north of Lyon, George Blanc basically owns everything in town. He has accommodation – very nice but expensive, but also some more reasonable. The restaurant is very elegant, huge hanging tapestries and you enter walking down a moat on one side and pictures of the G8 and the then looking into the kitchens (spotless) on the other. In the main part of the hotel are pictures of all the stars who have stayed there (including the Clintons, Tom Cruise etc). Staff are every where and very gracious (and they speak English). The food is superb - you must taken a set menu because you get loads of extras, dessert and cheese trolleys roll up and you can have as much as you want. Be sure you’re hungry!
My other absolute favorite, though no longer open, was El Bulli north of Barcelona. Again, not just food but a total experience.
Mary: Do you celebrate any of the winter holidays? If so, can you share with us your traditions? And maybe a fun recipe.
Simone: In winter we sometimes have a mid year Christmas with the turkey, because of course winter in Australia is in June. At Christmas we then tend to go for seafood because it’s hot!
My favorite recipe which I would serve warm in winter, with a salmon on top, or good cold in summer, is quinoa salad. I discovered quinoa when I was walking in Peru (Macchu Picu is amazing). It’s a grain a bit like couscous and is easy to digest which was important because we were at high altitude. It’s very good for you, but also easy (and low calorie!) and when done my way (which you vary a lot) is delicious. All our supermarkets now have it so I imagine you can get it in the USA.
1. Wash the quinoa and then throw into a hot wok and fry (stirring to stop sticking) for about five minutes. It will ‘pop’. Doing this step gives it a bit of a smoky flavor but if you’re in a rush you can go straight to the next step.
2. Put the quinoa (1 cup does about four-six; mix the white, brown and black colors, it looks better) in boiling water for exactly 8 minutes then drain.
3. Now add what you like! One can of chick peas (drained) is fairly essential, as is cut up red peppers (adds color), at least half a bunch of coriander and mint and up to a cup of cranberries. I’ve also added pistachios, onion fried in turmeric. Don’t forget the salt- this needs it!
Mary: Sounds awesome, thanks! Before we say good bye, please share a blurb of your latest book.
Simone: Thanks Mary. Seen as we’ve been talking about restaurants, I’ve picked an excerpt from Embedded where Stephanie, an investigative journalist working under cover is dining with her employer (whom she is investigating on drug charges but is very attracted to). They are at La Rosa Nautica which is a real restaurant in Lima that I will provide a photo of to Mary and hopefully she can add it to put you all in the mood!
Mary: I was able too, and now I want to visit there. It's just below the cover.
Gabriel didn’t suggest dessert and called for the bill, seeming keen to end the evening. But she was wrong, or at least he had business with her to attend to first. As soon as they were in the car, he closed off the window between them and the driver. ‘First, let me be clear. Marguerite was a tragedy. We don’t speak of her often, and that probably suggests I’m still grieving, but I assure you, it was a long time ago.’
Stephanie could smell the maleness of him, his controlled anger, yet rather than fearing it, she was mesmerized. A moth to the flame.
‘I did blame myself,’ he continued. ‘But it is not my world. I blamed Ramon and the drug cartels far more. Myself, I have forgiven, and to some degree, also Ramon. But them, never.
‘As for women? I assure you, nothing about my relationship with you is in any way typical of anything.’ He looked momentarily at a loss but regained his composure so quickly that Stephanie wondered if she’d been mistaken. ‘You asked why I employed you. Believe me, I ask that myself often.’
Stephanie held her breath. Now he was going to really give it to her.
‘You have to be the most frustrating, annoying, impossible woman I have ever met.’
Stephanie straightened up. ‘Now you listen to me,’ she began, finger pointing, but she didn’t get a chance to say more.
He grabbed her arm, almost tight enough to bruise. ‘No, you listen to me.’ Except it seemed that words failed him and, as if battling against himself, he pulled her toward him and kissed her hard on the mouth. His lips and tongue took over her own, melding so that she was lost in him. It felt, for all its wild unexpectedness, inevitable. As she felt the tension in him release, he put one arm around her, the other touching her breasts and legs in a frenzied passion. All Stephanie was aware of was the intense presence of the man. Her body responded unquestioningly, and she kissed back as hard as he kissed her.
He pulled back, almost pushing her away. The car had stopped outside their hotel. Gabriel released a brief bitter sigh and turned away to open the door. ‘I’m sorry. That was totally unacceptable, and I apologize. It won’t happen again.’
Stephanie, stunned, stared after him as he disappeared inside.
Stephanie’s hotel room resembled a bomb site when she finally crumpled into bed. She had called Gabriel every expletive she could think of and flung anything that wasn’t bolted down. The consolation of anger was that it was better than crying, but she did some of that, too. What was wrong with the man? And why was she such an idiot?
I love the excerpt, I'm glad you shared, of course we all want the book now. Oh, that was the point. Thank you so much for joining us, Simone, I hope you come back and visit often.