July 13, 2009

Interview with Elle Newmark

Elle Newmark is the author of THE BOOK OF UNHOLY MISCHIEF, which I reviewed last week. The pacing didn't quite work for me, but I can tell why so many people love it. (And I may give it another try when I'm in a different mood because of that.) Elle first visited Italy at four years old and attended kindergarten there. She originally self-published THE BOOK OF UNHOLY MISCHIEF, but happened to invite literary agents to the release party she threw herself.


1. THE BOOK OF UNHOLY MISCHIEF starts when Luciano steals a pomegranate and becomes involved in a secret network of chefs and a metaphorical cookbook. What kind of food do you enjoy? Do you have a favorite (literal) recipe?

I'm sure it will be no surprise that I love Italian food. It's familiar and it's good. I just came back from a month in Italy and I can't figure out why Americans can't make gelato like that. The fruit sorbettos taste like biting into the real fruit only better. Ben and Jerry, pay attention! And once you've eaten fresh pasta with a complicated and delicate filling there is just no going back to frozen ravioli stuffed with faux cheese. I have a lot of favorite recipes but there's a special place in my heart for a really good tiramisu. It's so rich it should probably be served with a heart pump, but oh my goodness...

Book Cover

2. Do you prefer the cover of the US or the UK edition? Why?

I like all the foreign covers but I must say I adore the U.S. cover. They did a painstaking and magnificent job on every detail. It's rich and beautiful and I particularly like the bleeding fig and the insects that hint at corruption. My editor was so attentive to detail she actually had the font specially designed for the title. It looks positively mischievous. And the end papers are gorgeous, good enough to eat.

3. You spent time as an advertising copywriter. How did this kind of writing help you when it came to composing a novel?

It was actually very helpful. Writing ads means learning how to get to the point. You have X number of lines or words or inches or minutes to work with and within those constraints you have to say something compelling enough to make people buy something. Writing ad copy taught me how to be economical with words. Perhaps that's why Unholy Mischief is a bit briefer than most historical novels, but I take pride in that. Mark Twain once wrote a friend a lengthy letter and closed with, "I would have been briefer but I didn't have the time."

4. What activities do you like to do in your spare time? What skills do you find most valuable? Any you regret never learning?

I like to read and then I like to read some more. Always been a bookworm. However, reading and writing alone do not make for the healthiest lifestyle, so I've also learned to love walking. I'll never be a gym rat, but I do enjoy a long walk over the hills around my rural California home. Especially in spring. Lovely. But when I'm working on a book I walk with a tape recorder.

The skill of balancing sedentary activities with walking and swimming is very valuable. If I didn't make an effort to fit a little movement into my day I'd probably have to be surgically removed from my favorite chair.

I regret never learning how to play an instrument. When I was a kid my mother asked my sister and me whether we wanted ballet or piano lessons. My sister said ballet and I said piano. My mother apparently realized then that piano lessons would mean buying or renting a piano, which we had no room for in our Chicago apartment. We got ballet lessons. These days, I have surprisingly little need to strike poses, but it would be lovely to be able to play Chopin.

5. How do you feel about the success of THE BOOK OF UNHOLY MISCHIEF? What comes next?

The success of Unholy Mischief has left me stunned, thrilled, amazed, grateful and pleased and friggin' punch. Perhaps the most gratifying thing that has every happened to me.

Next is a novel set in India. I just delivered the manuscript to my editor and will begin revisions this summer. It is the story of parallel love stories set against a backdrop of parallel wars. I spent March in India researching and look forward to seeing it launched.


This review was arranged by Pump Up Your Book Promotion.


Don't forget my contest for a copy of HP7 and a pin. And come back Friday for an interview with Ellen Jensen Abbott!


  1. Excellent interview! It's so nice to hear about Ms Newmark's rise in the publishing world. I had no idea this book was self-pubbed first. As I've noted before, I loved and have given and recommended it to many others. Cheers~

  2. favorite line from the interview:

    "pleased as friggin' punch!" HA! love it. great to hear about a success like this. will look forward to more by newmark!

  3. Great interview! What a joy to have lived in Italy for a while.


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