Author Interview: Alicia de los Reyes

Tell us about The Chick Lit Cookbook.

The Chick Lit Cookbook is a beginner's guide to writing a chick lit novel. It provides a "recipe" for chick lit with how to create your main character, her love interest, and an interesting plot full of ups and downs. Each chapter is a step in the recipe and includes an exercise that will get you writing right away. The exercises can be completed in a half hour--time you usually spend daydreaming about how nice it would be to write a novel. :)

Why did you write a guide on how to write chick lit?

I was working on a "serious" project: a research-based narrative about evangelicalism in the US. It was mentally exhausting, and I needed to take a break. Over Christmas, I reread a bunch of my favorite chick lit novels and I realized that my favorite chick lit novels had a few things in common--for example, most of them had a character who had a secret dream, and by the end of the novel, she was in a position to achieve it. Of course, there are exceptions to every rule, but I realized that I could share the main ingredients of good chick lit with other aspiring writers.

Since you haven't written a chick lit novel yourself, what qualifies you to guide others on how to write a book in this genre? 

Great question! I am a die-hard chick lit fan--I've been addicted since reading Confessions of a Shopaholic by Sophie Kinsella when I was 15--and I've taught writing for several years. I combined these two passions with my deep (as in bookshelves-deep) love of how-to manuals and writing guides like Stephen King's On Writing and James Scott Bell's Plot and Structure to write my own guide.

How is The Chick Lit Cookbook different from the other chick lit writing guides, Will Write for Shoes by Cathy Yardley and See Jane Write by Sarah Mlynowski? 

The Chick Lit Cookbook has let's-get-writing-now exercises that will literally help you write. There are tables, prompts, even fill-in-the-blank sentences that will give you a notebook full of tangible work when you're done. It focuses on the fun parts of writing--writing doesn't have to be a chore, and you don't need to dread the blank screen! I don't think writing guides are an either-or proposition--everyone is motivated by different things--and The Chick Lit Cookbook's "recipe" might be just the kick in the pants you need to get writing your own novel.

Why did you choose a cupcake theme for this guide?

I didn't start out to write a cupcake-themed book, though I have long loved cupcakes. My editor, Kelly Rizzetta of KMR Publishing, suggested that we organize my chapters by some over-arching principle. I thought...why not a recipe? I tried matching up each chapter with a step or ingredient from a cupcake recipe, and after a couple of tweaks, we made it work.

Have you always wanted to be a writer?

Absolutely! Though I have always had a lot of interests. I majored in math (mainly because I like it) before going back to school to get my MFA in creative nonfiction. Now, I work as a teacher and a writer, and I write fiction and nonfiction.

What do you love about chick lit?

I'm a sucker for a happy ending! I also love reading about the details of a character's personal obsession. For example, when Becky Bloomwood describes the perfect Hermes scarf and what her life would be like if she owned this scarf, I eat that up. It's like getting to peek into someone else's brain.

How do you respond to the chick lit haters?

I ascribe chick lit hate to two parts sexism mixed with one part jealousy. And mostly, I ignore it.

Who are your favorite chick lit authors?

I love Helen Fielding and Sophie Kinsella/Madeleine Wickham best, but I am excited to be reading newer indie authors like Haley Hill.

Why should writers use The Chick Lit Cookbook?

Writers should use The Chick Lit Cookbook because it's a fun way to stay on track with your writing. I've been using it to write a rough draft of a chick lit novel on my blog ( Having to go through a chapter each writing day is a huge motivator, and having a step-by-step plan for what to do lets me concentrate on the writing itself.

What are you working on now?

I'm writing a novel (working title "Cave Art"...taking suggestions for a better one!) using The Chick Lit Cookbook on I'm also working on another writing guide, Suck it up and Revise!. 

Thank you, Alicia!

Alicia de los Reyes drew on ten years of chick lit addiction to compose The Chick Lit Cookbook. Originally from Fair Haven, N.J., Alicia is now a freelance writer and teacher in Seattle where she lives with her husband, Andrew Quinton, and their cat, Mitzi. In addition to reading and writing, Alicia likes running, quilting, and eating oatmeal. For more information, visit Alicia’s website and follow her on Twitter.