The Booktopia Book Guru asks
author of Yes, Chef!
Ten Terrifying Questions
1. To begin with why don’t you tell us a little bit about yourself – where were you born? Raised? Schooled?
Born in Sydney, I spent a good deal of my childhood at dance class. At 21, deciding I wasn’t cut out for the famished life of a ballerina, I moved to London where I lived for seven years and worked in the restaurant industry, in fashion retail and as the production assistant for the British TV series Midsomer Murders. I started writing short stories in high school but didn’t consider a career as a novelist until I moved to Melbourne six years ago.
2. What did you want to be when you were twelve, eighteen and thirty? And why?
A ballerina, an actor and then a writer. I guess I’ve always been a dreamer. My imagination made childhood games more interesting and adult disappointments easier to deal with.
3. What strongly held belief did you have at eighteen that you do not have now?
Having a dream unrealised was better than having a dream that failed. I was basically too scared to put my writing out there for a long time and found it hard even to show friends my work. Now I know the only way to grow and become better is to try and keep trying.
4. What were three works of art – book, painting, piece of music, etc – you can now say, had a great effect on you and influenced your own development as a writer?
I saw Van Gogh’s Bridge in the Rain at the Van Gogh museum in Amsterdam and was captivated. I began reading all I could about Japan and hope to one day spend time there and write a travel and food diary.
I found Joanne Harris’s foodie novels, Chocolat and Five Quarters of the Orange very inspiring. Her writing is laced with delicious foodie descriptions. It’s how I hope my writing will be some day with practise.
Salman Rushdie introduced me to magical realism with Midnight’s Children. Reading his novels makes me want to be a better writer and I can imagine myself writing something that combines food, friendship and love in a magical way.
5. Considering the innumerable artistic avenues open to you, why did you choose to write a novel?
I love the escapism that novels and creative non-fiction provide. I enjoy learning something new about a people, place or time and fiction can provide that in an entertaining and emotional way. Novels and memoir are what I read most and I hope to write both one day.
6. Please tell us about your latest novel…
Yes, Chef! is set in the world of high-end restaurants and celebrity chefs. It’s told through the eyes of the PA to London’s most notorious chef, a smart and sassy woman who is approaching thirty and trying to figure out what she really wants from life while getting carried away in a wirlwind of reality cooking shows, opening nights and kitchen scandals.
7. What do you hope people take away with them after reading your work?
An authentic insight into the foodie world from someone who’s been there and lived it. I’ve worked in a number of different roles and establishments in the restaurant industry including being PA to a well-known Melbourne chef. I think readers will want to call up their best friends after reading Yes, Chef! and head out for a nice meal and a bottle of prosecco. Either that or they’ll want to take a foodie trip to Italy or Istanbul as my heroine, Becca Stone, does.
There are many fiction writers I admire greatly – Salman Rushdie, Ian McEwan, Joanne Harris, Kate Morton, but having met Fiona McIntosh I must say I admire her enthusiasm, energy and tenacity. I attended her fiction masterclass as a fantasy writer and emerged with the beginnings of a women’s fiction book. One year later Yes, Chef! was picked up by Penguin. I really admire the time and energy Fiona spends helping new authors realise their potential and their dreams.
9. Many artists set themselves very ambitious goals. What are yours?
As a new author I’m well aware my best work is yet to come but I learn something with every experience and have made my number one goal to keep improving with every book. Of course, my imagination runs away with itself sometimes, dreaming of film adaptations, but I try not to get too carried away with this and just keep writing.
10. What advice do you give aspiring writers?
Don’t listen to too much advice. Find a mentor that you trust, someone who’s had proven success in the genre you write in and then keep referring back to their advice. Above all, write because you love it, because it makes you happy and keeps you sane, not because you think it will make you a lot of money or because you think becoming published will make you feel fulfilled. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a wonderful thing to see your dreams realised, but you shouldn’t place so much pressure on yourself to achieve the reward that you fail to enjoy the process.
Lisa, thank you for playing.
by Lisa Joy
Sassy foodie Becca Stone is over her job taking reservations for one of London’s most successful restaurant empires. So when she is unexpectedly catapulted into working as PA to celebrity chef Damien Malone, it seems like the opportunity of a lifetime.
Becca is quickly caught up in an exciting whirlwind of travel, reality TV and opening nights, and even her usually abysmal love-life takes a turn for the better. But as Becca is slowly consumed by the chaos of life in the spotlight, she begins to lose touch with her friends, her heart and even with reality. Working with Damien has its challenges and she is soon struggling with his increasingly outrageous demands and sleazy advances, all while managing the ridiculous requests of his self-centred wife. It takes a disastrous trip to Italy for Becca to realise that she may have thrown away exactly what she’s been looking for all along.
Inspired by Lisa Joy’s real-life adventures, this deliciously funny and romantic story is a tantalising llok at the trendy restaurant scene: a world where chefs are treated like rock stars, and cooking isn’t all that goes on in the kitchen.
About the Author
Lisa Joy began writing stories in her teenage years, but decided she needed to get her heart broken and live in another country before pursuing a career as a novelist. Born in Sydney, she spent most of her childhood wearing pink tights and leotards at ballet class.
At age 21, deciding she wasn’t cut out for the famished life of a ballerina, she left her safe and somewhat predictable existence behind and travelled to London, where she worked as a television producer’s PA, in fashion retail and the restaurant business. Having fallen head over heels in love with London, travelling Europe, eating amazing food and the occasional stint on stage and screen, Lisa stayed put for about 7 years, until finally, family called and she returned to Australia to work as PA to a well known Melbourne chef.
Her writing took a dramatic turn for the better after she attended a commercial fiction masterclass with author Fiona McIntosh. She now lives in the picturesque Dandenong Ranges outside Melbourne on a small acreage farm with her husband and four chooks where in addition to writing novels, she grows vegetables, berries and herbs to supply to some of Melbourne’s best restaurants.