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Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Author Interview: Into the Fire by Amanda Usen

Thank you so very much for chatting with us today Amanda! May I offer you something to drink?

Amanda: Oh, yes, please! What time is it? Five o’clock somewhere? Can I whip us up a couple of Blackberry Smashes from INTO THE FIRE? Too early for tequila, blackberries, and lemonade? Then I’ll have coffee, please.

Enchantress: LOL! Coffee it is! Why don’t we start off by having you tell us a little bit about yourself for those who are meeting you for the first time?

Amanda: I write sexy contemporary romance about hot chefs falling in love. I’m a pastry chef married  to a chef, and we have three kiddies and a small menagerie ranging from reptile to beagle. I’ve been a romance reader for as long as I can remember, and my idea of a good time involves a good book, a good friend, or a really good sandwich!

Enchantress: We have the same idea for a good time! You and I have a few things in common (smiling). I attended the Le Cordon on Bleu in Orlando, FL. I have lots of fun and interesting stories, can you share one of your most memorable ones with us today from your days as a student at the Culinary Institute of America?

Amanda: You probably want to hear about the cooking part, right? I’ll get to that…but when I think about culinary school, the first thing I remember is meeting my husband. I saw him and thought – never mind what I thought – but we've been cooking together for 17 years. So many memories! How about the time I came back to the kitchen during lunch to start filling up the sinks to do dishes, got distracted, and flooded the kitchen? I caught hell for that! Or the time I thought I could flip a fish filet better than the Master Chef? Disaster. Lots of good memories, too. I learned a TON at the CIA!

Enchantress: LOL! Those are some good stories! You've been able to incorporate both your love of food and writing with your stories, can you tell us a little about how that all began?

Amanda: Life…is funny. I graduated with a degree in creative writing, and I planned to be: a poet! Full of youthful hubris, I applied to the top 3 schools in the country. While I was waiting to hear back, I took a job in a restaurant. I fell in love with the industry, went to culinary school, met my husband, moved to New Orleans, and by the time I made my way back to writing, I had this idea for a book about a chef and a pastry chef falling in love. I wrote SCRUMPTIOUS and discovered my cooking adventures over the past few years, as well as all the yummy recipes I've discovered, make for fun writing! Good thing, too, because those poetry MFA programs said no. I plan to tell my kids to apply to more than three! As we writers know about the subject of rejection, it’s subjective. Cast a wide net.

Enchantress: Yes! Definitely cast a wide net! Food tends to be a character in it of its self in your stories. It’s a major part and not just the environment. Was that on purpose, an accident or was it a natural progression based on your love of food?

Amanda: I always joke that I write about food and romance because it’s what I know. I am not a huge fan of research, and setting my books in the kitchen feels very natural to me. I don’t intentionally make food a character, but I do tend to get hungry while writing. Since I love to cook – and eat – I think that comes out in my stories. 

Enchantress: Your latest release is “Into the Fire”, can you tell us a bit about the story and what can the readers expect from it?

Amanda: It’s fun! My agent challenged me to write a fun, sexy book, and Into The Fire came pouring out. I put all of my favorite foods, fantasies, and romantic elements into it. For example, I love sexy banter, so I made it an enemies-to-lovers story. Lila and Jack have good reasons to fight, but they can’t keep their hands off each other. I also love yoga pants (and yoga, lol), and I hate awkward conversation at dinner, so when Jack picks Lila up for a whirlwind restaurant tour, he tells her to wear comfortable clothes and they get rid of the tension immediately. *giggle* Here’s one of my favorite lines from Lila: 
           “Are you kidding? Sex first, then dinner—and I don’t have to wear 
uncomfortable shoes? Sold.”

Enchantress:  That does sound like fun!! Which character that you've written is your favorite and what makes him/her so appealing?

Amanda: I love them all. No, really! Jack seems so confident and alpha but underneath he’s insecure, and that’s what makes him so delicious. I love cocky, but there needs to be some self-awareness, too. Otherwise that one-night-stand will stay a one-night-stand! Lila is determined to make Jack pay, but she also has a nurturing side, and she’s drawn to Jack. “Kissing Jack was dangerous—like drowning in something that tasted good. He was like the chocolate cake she couldn’t resist, full of artery-clogging butter and heavy cream, heaven in her mouth but hell on her heart.” *sigh* Have you every done something you know is a bad idea just because you can’t resist? That’s Lila, and that’s why I love her. I hope readers will relate to her struggle.

Enchantress: I think we've all done something knowing its a bad idea, but couldn't resist and that's all I'm going to say about that, ahem. LOL! In all your books, there’s been major tension between the hero and heroine, which we as readers LOVE! How important is that tension to you?

Amanda: I am a sexual tension junkie. I will turn hundreds and hundreds of pages, waiting for the characters to (I’m just going to say it) DO IT! I love books where the characters fight their attraction to each other with everything they've got, but I know they will both give in eventually, and when they do, the paper will catch on fire or the e-reader battery will melt, in Lila and Jack’s case! The first romance I every read was “Heart Under Siege” by Joy St. Clair, so I think the die was cast then. I also loved Moonlighting. At the moment, I’m loving Nashville, the T.V. series. Lots of tension there. Love it! Need it! Must have!

Enchantress: I know you met your hubby at the Culinary Institute of America, was he a fellow student or a Chef Instructor? What made you fall for him? Is he your inspiration for the hot chefs in your stories?

Amanda: He was a fellow student, but that Chef Instructor thing gives me an idea for a book! *snerk* I fell for my husband because I could spend 24 hours a day with him and never want to be alone. He may or may not have plied me with an entire bottle of Tanqueray when we met, so it’s a little blurry, but that’s what I remember! He (and Johnny Depp) totally inspired Joe in Scrumptious. I gave Joe my husband’s beautiful power-lifter shoulders, his light blue eyes, and sauté burn scars on the inside of his forearms. I dedicated my first two books to Ben because writing a book is hard, and he fed me and kept me sane while I was working. He also cleans, wrestles with all the kids, is the mayor of the neighborhood, and more fun than a barrel of puppies. And mine, ladies, lol! The rest of my heroes are up for grabs, as long as you can get them away from their heroines…

Enchantress: He sounds fantastic! Thank goodness you made it clear that he's yours!! Sorry ladies! He's 100% taken! You're very lucky! You teach pastry arts classes at a local community college, but do you prefer to bake or cook (savory dishes) on your own time?

Amanda: I like to bake. My husband took over the cooking when disastrous childbirth experiences wrecked me for about a decade. He can really turn and burn, so why the heck would I mess with such a sweet deal? I do the dishes! I do cook ethnic when I get a craving. Ben is a contemporary American cuisine kind of guy, so all dumplings, rice noodles, gnocchi, etc, are on me. I’ll be making Chicken Alighieri from Into The Fire this week, so I can put it up on my website. Many of the recipes from my books are the things we make all the time, so I try to share them with my readers. :) 

Enchantress: I love that you share the recipes with your readers! What is your favorite sexy food?

Amanda: Do cocktails count? I love a potent, pretty drink, and alcohol is an aphrodisiac! Okay, food -  I could totally go for a Greek pizza right now. If my husband delivered one of those to the couch where I am typing, I’d totally have sex with him. ;-)

Enchantress: It is sexy when the Hubby/Significant Other takes care of us! Thank you so much for hanging out with us today! I had a blast and I hope you did too! Looking forward to reading “Into The Fire”!

Amanda: The pleasure was mine, my lovely Enchantress! Thank you so much for having me. After answering your questions, I’m starving! I may have to order that pizza. What is your favorite food? 

Enchantress: I LOVE Italian food! A good, creamy red sauce over some penne pasta or a yummy pesto sauce with sautéed mushrooms over bowtie pasta. Or Fettuccine Alfredo. Oh and for dessert, a tiramisu! See now I'm getting hungry! LOL.

Amanda: Readers, what about you? I’m always looking for inspiration in the kitchen!

Into The Fire
By Amanda Usen

Jackson Calabrese has a lot of nerve. He beat Lila Grant in the Culinary Academy competition using her recipes. Now, he’s opening a restaurant and wants her help? Fine, she'll fix his menu, but it's going to cost him.

Heir to the Calabrese restaurant empire, Jackson can buy anything he wants, except creativity, so he buys Lila's instead. He can craft perfect paella, but to take New York by storm he needs her innovative spark.

Skillets aren't the only things hot in the kitchen, and an uneasy truce ignites into passion. They’re great in bed, but Jackson doesn't trust her, and Lila is contemplating revenge. The restaurant opening approaches, the menu is completed, and the tables are set for one final act of betrayal. How can love bloom in the midst of such a hot mess?

Available for purchase at 

 About the Author

Amanda Usen knows two things for certain: chocolate cheesecake is good for breakfast, and a hot chef can steal your heart. Her husband stole hers the first day of class at the Culinary Institute of America. She married him after graduation in a lovely French Quarter restaurant in New Orleans, and they spent a few years enjoying the food and the fun in the Big Easy. Now they live in Western New York with their three children, one hamster, two guinea pigs, a tortoise, and a new-to-them beagle. Amanda spends her days teaching pastry arts classes and her nights writing romance. If she isn’t baking or writing, she can usually be found chasing the kids around the yard with her very own hot chef

Want chimichurri, chocolate cake or Chicken Alighieri? Visit Amanda at http://www.amandausen.com, where you can find recipes for many of the yummy dishes in her books. She can also be found on Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/amandausen) and Twitter (https://twitter.com/#!/AmandaUsen) if you want to chat about romance, writing, or recipes.

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  1. Yup - sure enough, it's coffee time! I'm about to pour my second cup. I'll check in throughout the day to chat, so if readers have any questions, post away. :-)

    1. Thank you so much again for hanging out w/ me today! This was soooooo much fun!!!

  2. My favorite is Italian also. Just simple, old-fashioned Italian. And thanks for making me hungry reading about all this food! ;)

    1. LOL! We were both hungry at the end of this interview too! Now I have lots of ideas I need to get on a plate!!

  3. Thank you for your giveaway, It's very unique and fun.

    1. This is an awesome series! Can be read as a stand alone, but why would you want to?!! Hot, Sexy Chefs and they know how to cook!!

  4. Italian is winning! Maybe that's why I was craving gooey cheese all day! I think I'll have to make lasagna - soon. Unless I can get my MIL to make it. Her lasagna rocks, and she makes these cute little garden salads to go along with it. *sigh*

  5. The book sounds great! Thanks for the giveaway :)