Author in the Spotlight: Penny Watson

My guest today is Penny Watson, author of the recent release, Taste of Heaven, a delectable story that features two reality cooking show contestants who really heat up the kitchen. I sat down with Penny to find out more about her and her work:

Penny Headshot Cropped

Hi Penny, and welcome! So I have to start with the food—your descriptions are vivid and appetite-inducing. Have you worked as a chef or are you simply a talented amateur like your main character, Sophia Brown?

Hi Rosie! I have no professional cooking experience. I’m an amateur like Sophia—sometimes a successful amateur (I make a great corn-cheddar chowder)—and sometimes not so successful (I burned my son’s instant waffles this morning). My love for cooking developed from a love of gardening. I wanted to learn how to cook with the fresh herbs and vegetables in my garden.

In one lovely scene, Sophia imagines and describes her favorite family dinner. Would you do the same for us?

This is a great question! I am part of a multicultural family—my husband and children are Filipino—so our special family meals include lots of traditions. We typically start with pancit, a delicious Filipino noodle dish made with pork and vegetables, and then sprinkled with fresh lime juice. My husband also makes a killer version of Loc Lac, a Cambodian dish with steak tips and LOTS of garlic. (We never have problems with vampires at our house!) And we often make the appetizer I described in my book—grilled shrimp wrapped in Thai basil and prosciutto. I have an herb garden right outside my kitchen, so I love grabbing fresh basil, chives, lemon balm, and edible flowers for our dinners.

As a woman of “a certain age,” I love that your characters are a mature man and woman who don’t necessarily fit the romance mold for heroes and heroines. What inspired you to go with older characters? What’s been difficult about writing older characters? Rewarding?

I was finding it hard to relate to many of the heroes and heroines in romance. Many of them are in their twenties and model-perfect. I wanted to read about “real” people who didn’t have six-pack abs and who had some life experience. As soon as I started writing older characters, I knew I’d found my niche. I find it much more fun and rewarding to create flawed characters “outside-of-the-box” of the typical romance world.

I thought your descriptions of the reality show setting were spot-on and very funny. How did you research your behind-the-scenes look at reality television?

Hours and hours of watching TOP CHEF, CHOPPED, and THE GREAT FOOD TRUCK RACE. Wednesday night is “date night” at my house. My husband and I are addicted to TOP CHEF. I love everything about those culinary shows—the creativity, the competitiveness, working under pressure, and the camaraderie and sometimes animosity among the contestants. There’s a great story in every episode.

My sister is a film editor and has worked on reality TV shows, so I asked her some questions about the process. Honestly, I just made up most of the details!

I am a Top Chef addict, myself, by the way! So are you working on a new project? Would you like to share a bit about it with us?

I’m currently working on my latest Klaus Brothers book—SWEET CINDERELLA. I write a holiday romance series about the five sons of Santa Claus. SWEET CINDERELLA is Gregor’s story—he’s the financial guru for Klaus Enterprises. I love getting back into the Christmas spirit, even if it’s not quite Halloween yet. Drinking gingerbread lattes helps!

Thanks for joining me today, Penny! Loved having you. Read more about Penny and her new book:

A Taste of Heaven

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“Create one perfect bite.”

Good little widow Sophia Brown always follows the rules. When the producer of a cooking competition requests an amuse-bouche, the chefs stick with proteins. Sauces. A savory concoction. She has only one shot to impress the judges on A Taste of Heaven. But in a moment of defiance, she creates an extraordinary dessert, one that combines both the bitter and the sweet, just like her own life.

That one bite changes everything.

After a year grieving for her dead husband, forty-seven-year-old Sophia is finally ready to break out of her shell. Unfortunately, there is a large, angry obstacle standing in her way. Scottish chef Elliott Adamson has a chip on his shoulder the size of Loch Ness, and he’s blocking her path to victory.

Spurred by her daughters, she embarks on a poignant adventure that takes her from the wildflower fields of Vermont to the wind-swept vista of North Berwick, Scotland. Fear, courage, and inspiration from unlikely places will mark this journey, and Sophia is determined to persevere until the very end.

PENNY WATSON is a native Pittsburgher whose love of romance started at the age of twelve when she discovered Gone With The Wind in the middle school library.  This resulted in numerous attempts at a first novel involving a young lady with windswept hair who lived in a tree house.

A biologist by training, Penny has worked at various times as a dolphin trainer, science teacher, florist, and turfgrass researcher. After taking time off to raise her two spirited children, she decided to rekindle her passion for storytelling. Now she gets to incorporate her wide array of interests—including gardening, cooking, and travel—into her works of fiction.  Penny lives outside of Boston with one fly-fishing crazed husband, two lively Filipino kids, and a wiener dog.