Jan 11, 2010

Guest Post: Jennie Shortridge - Author of When She Flew

I am so thrilled today to welcome Jennie Shortridge to Books and Cooks! I recently read her latest book, WHEN SHE FLEW and reviewed it here. It was an interesting book on so many levels, one being that it was based on actual events. Today Jennie is going to talk a bit about the book and also about the role food has played in her earlier books. Take a look . . .

. . . In my first three novels, food played an important (if sometimes minor) role in unveiling the emotional states of the characters. In Riding with the Queen, a runaway daughter comes home to find her bipolar mother doing better on medication, and cooking up big family meals. In Eating Heaven, a food-obsessed food writer cooks for her terminally ill uncle and untangles her own emotions about eating. In Love and Biology at the Center of the Universe, a middle-aged mom comes to terms with her less than perfect family and life while cooking her grandmother’s recipes for the clientele of the Coffee Shop at the Center of the Universe.

With my fourth novel, When She Flew, I knew I was embarking on a different kind of story, one actually based on true events that took place in Portland, OR in 2004. Police found a Vietnam vet raising his daughter in the woods. I decided to fictionalize the story and tell it from the viewpoint of Lindy, a 13 year old being raised in the woods by her Iraq vet father, and Jessica, one of the police officers who goes in after the father and daughter. The bulk of the story is told in a quickly paced action packed 24 hours, and I thought there’d certainly be no room for food, but as usually happens, it found it’s way into the story at just the right times.

There are many issues with living an outdoor, off the grid life, and eating. How do they acquire their food, what can they afford to buy? How much do they forage and grow for themselves? Lindy’s life changes forever on a day when she is off foraging for mushrooms and spies a great blue heron, one of her favorite birds, and follows it too far into civilization. On a journey to find sustenance, she finds instead the real world, and ultimately, her place in it.

After the police have taken the pair out of the woods, they are taken in by a kindly and grandmotherly pastor, who makes them scrambled eggs with real cream in the middle of the night, knowing they’ve been through a harrowing ordeal. The comfort and richness of the creamy eggs is a surprise to Lindy, as she’s only eaten eggs fried in the same oil they use to cook everything back in their camp. The comfort of home, of loving kindness, is a revelation.

And when the father and daughter find a home living with a farm couple, Lindy imagines the omelets that will be made from fresh chicken eggs, the meals they will have at a real kitchen table, and realizes how badly she wants these things.

None of these scenes were written with the intent of revealing anything other than to just keep the story moving, but we all harbor deep emotions about food and nourishment, about being fed, about feeding others. The joy I get from writing novels is uncovering these little gems as I sit, day after day, in front of a computer screen, letting a story unfold.

When She Flew is Jennie’s fourth novel. She lives in Seattle, WA, and is working on a new book that is also inspired by true events. Jennie has a terrific website that is filled with information about her books and what is happening in her career. All Jennie Shortridge fans should check it out!

Jennie, I'd like to thank you for taking the time out of your busy schedule to include Books and Cooks in your promotional tour. And I'd also like to wish you continued success with your books. I am looking forward to going back and reading your other books. Needless to say, I am a forever fan of Jennie Shortridge!

Take a look at Jennie's books:


  1. How appropriate that she wrote about food on Books and Cooks! I enjoyed this post.

  2. Very cool interview indeed. I've never really thought about food in that context!! I have this book and hope to get to it within the month!

  3. Fun post! I really need to read this book!

  4. Wonderful guest post! I enjoyed reading about how food played a role in all of her books. I loved When She Flew and have her other two books on my TBR shelf.


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