Pickin' Tomatoes by JW Bull

What inspired you to write your book?
I love to cook and I love quirky, funny books like Bridget Jones Diary. I decided to write a book appealing to the masses of women who get into trouble in the kitchen but want to cook a flavourful, gourmet meal. I also really wanted to write a comedic book addressing everyday issues between men and women.

About your Book:
Pickin’ Tomatoes is about picking the right choices in life. Sometimes you pick rotten tomatoes, sometimes you pick Heirloom tomatoes. Root for Maggie Malone as she searches for herself and Mister Right. She’s part Stephanie Plum, part Bridget Jones and part pre-renowned Julia Child and will definitely keep you in stitches.

Here is a review blurb from The Shirley You Jest comedic book awards (Pickin’ Tomatoes is a finalist in their competition. Results due in November):

“A single mom who can barely boil water finds happiness and hilarity when she reinvents herself as a cooking columnist serving up recipes for romance.” Shirley You Jest Book Awards

Cuisine Style or Food Genre
cheatin’ gourmet

Sample Recipe or Food Advice
This salsa recipe is the recipe that sparked the creation of my book. Here is an excerpt when my protagonist, Maggie Malone, compares finding Mister Right to picking the right tomato for your salsa.

Finding Mister Right is like choosing the right tomato for your homemade salsa. Yes, ladies, you may think you want a firm, ripe, fresh tomato that will give your salsa zest and new life. But that same young, firm-fleshed tomato might get bored with your salsa and run off with someone else’s onion. Fresh tomatoes, although pleasing to the eye, can give you watery salsa. Ladies, when it comes down to tomatoes and men, the everyday, canned variety is better. Mister Right might be a little boring. He might even be slightly lumpy. But he has potential if you spice him up. And chances are, he won’t run away with someone else’s onion!

Mr. Right Salsa
1 (16-ounce) can diced tomatoes with basil and oregano
1/2 bunch cilantro, chopped
1 small Vidalia onion, chopped
1/2 jalapeno pepper, seeded and chopped
2 teaspoons lime juice
garlic salt, to taste

Combine and serve with chips.
Happy hunting for Mister Right!
~The Chef of Hearts

What formats are your books in
eBook, Print, Both

How do you see writing a food/cookbook as different from writing other genres of books?
Writing a cookbook or a novel with recipes is very time consuming. You have to test each recipe, write down the recipe, and then in my situation, tie it into the story. The recipe part of my book was extremely challenging for me because when I trained in a French restaurant to be a sous chef, I learned to cook not using any recipes. I am my best in the kitchen when I experiment and just let my creative juices flow. It’s very rare when I make something the same way twice and even rarer for me to follow recipes. Writing these recipes down was quite an achievement for me!

What advice would you give to someone that is thinking about or currently working on a food book or cookbook
Get a good editor who is experienced with editing cookbooks. They will help with your story development and help you format your recipes.

How did you decide how to publish your book and where is it published through:
Rejections are a part of life and how you handle those rejections can be the difference between the glass half empty and the glass half full. And the difference between publication and the trash can. People say it’s the journey, not the destination that’s important. I say it’s both.

The purpose of this article is to share with you the journey of trying to get my first book published and its final destination. If I can pass along a few tips, some motivational words, a little humor – all the better. After all, life’s just plain cake without the icing of a few words.

In 2007, I began to write my first book, The Chef of Hearts. I knew I wanted it to be about a middle-aged woman reinventing herself and I wanted it to include recipes. But beyond that, I had no clue. As the story progressed, my quirky voice emerged and the story morphed into a combination of Lucy Ricardo meets Bridget Jones. It was amazing. I could actually visualize the wacky scenes unfolding in my book. I was so excited that before the book was even finished, I sent out queries to multiple agents. Lo and behold, an agent nibbled . . . “This is indeed fun. I would like to try to sell it for you.”

In a panic, I slapped together an ending and rushed it off to the agent. Before I could even comprehend what was happening, my book was sent off to a bunch of A list houses. The query immediately piqued their attention and they promised to read it, ASAP. And that’s when the rejections started piling up, like dirty clothes in a laundry hamper. “I liked the concept but wasn’t as compelled by the story as I would have liked . . . . Thanks much for sending me this. An inventive idea, but I’m afraid that I just didn’t fall in love with it the way I wanted to . . . While Jennifer’s recipes all look fantastic and the basic premise of the novel is interesting, I never developed a strong enough connection to the main character to really care about her fate or become truly drawn into the story”. . . Hmmm . . . not so good . . . but hey, I had an agent. He could always send my book out to more houses.

More rejections arrived with similar comments but I didn’t care. It was like I was in bed with naivety and rolling around in my fantasy dream of getting my book published. It wasn’t until I received the last rejection that I began to smell the coffee. My agent was not going to send my book out to more publishing houses and I needed to have my book edited. But I still didn’t open my eyes. I fell into the trap of thinking I could fix the book myself. Like one of those “do it yourself” projects from Home Depot. The kind of project that sits in a bag on a counter, gets shoved in a corner, and is finally relegated to the junk space in your cabinet.

Over the next few years, my dream of getting my book published sort of dithered away. I rewrote the book a couple of times, never really getting it right. And then for some odd reason, I picked it up last year. I rewrote it once more, renamed it Pickin’ Tomatoes and sent it out to multiple agents. And you know what? Once again, it was picked up by another agent. At this point, I would love to say this time around things were different, that I had learned from my past mistakes, and achieved victory – publication.

But alas, it was like that movie GroundHog Day with Bill Murray and Andie MacDowell. I couldn’t seem to stop reliving the same situation, the same destiny – rejection, rejection, rejection . . . “a fun premise, I’m afraid I just didn’t fall in love with the voice . . . when I started reading, I was captivated by the narrative voice. But as I continued to read, I got bogged down in too many flashbacks . . .a bit light for our fiction list . . . The Bull is not right for the imprint (Got to say, that one was my favorite, by far) . . . I really enjoyed reading this story; Ms. Bull’s writing is both touching and humorous, and her recipes sound delicious. While there is so much to recommend about this one, I’m not sure how I could make it stand out from other novels like it . . . Finally, I smelled the coffee, woke up and opened my eyes. This was not going to work. Ever. I had failed.

Or had I? There’s a quote from an unknown author that I love. “When you feel like giving up, remember why you held on for so long in the first place.” Why had I held on so long to my dream of publishing this book? Why did I have to settle for no? Why did I have to succumb to other people’s decisions regarding my book? Maybe it was time to take matters into my own hands and figure out what I wanted for a change.

So here I am. Will my dreams come true? I know one of them will – my book has been published. I hired a professional editor, a graphic artist, and a book formatting company and I did it myself through Createspace on Amazon. Will it be successful? I have no idea. I hope so. But after all the frustrating ups and downs, almosts and maybes, it’s no longer about the book being successful. It’s about my personal goal to take charge of my book and my life.

You can change your destiny. To me, that is success. And just maybe, I’ve found what I’ve been searching for all along . . . the icing on the cake.

Author Bio:
JW Bull is the author of Pickin’ Tomatoes and is currently a finalist in the Shirley You Jest Comedic Book Awards.

She was born in Mt. Vernon, Ohio and grew up in Charlottesville, Virginia. Raised by parents who believed in encouraging their children to follow their dreams, JW received a bachelor of violin performance from Furman University and also worked as a sous chef in a french restaurant.

Currently, JW lives in Atlanta, Georgia with her husband and two sons. When she’s not teaching violin, playing in The Georgia Symphony, or cooking she is working on her next book, Musical Chairs.

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