Promises to Keep
I am finally starting to dig myself out of the sand of writing and editing, and getting back to the business of being a mother, wife, friend, cook, chauffeur, amateur pediatrician with a specialty in dermatology, and hostess.
Those of you who have been following me on Twitter or Facebook, will know that we have gone back and forth on the title of my latest book, and once again we have had to settle on different titles for the US and UK markets. It is frustrating when my readers search online and end up buying the same book twice, and I apologise, but the two markets are very different, and a title that works for one country, simply doesn’t for another.
In the UK, it is The Love Verb.
In the US, it is Promises to Keep.
In many ways, this was the hardest book I have ever written. Part of my journey last year, and part of my blogging silence, was due to my friend Heidi, aka The Eskimo, being diagnosed with Stage IV Breast Cancer. From the day of her diagnosis, I felt she wouldn’t be with us long, so I stopped everything to look after her and be with her as much as possible.
She died in September, just as the leaves were beginning to turn, as the seasons, and my life, changed.
One of the gifts of being a writer, is the ability to process emotions through your books. I have long written about the events and emotions that mean something to me: from women’s relationship with food in Jemima J, to my own feelings about marriage and divorce in my later books.
Writing not only gives me an outlet, it provides a catharsis, and often helps me understand how I feel, long before I have consciously processed it. There is something meditative about writing, feeling the words flow out through your fingertips, and often I am surprised at what comes out, and the truths contained within.
And so this book is for Heidi. It is not her story, for I never write entirely about the events in life. Instead, we writers draw upon our lives, and the things we go through, use the people we encounter as inspiration, not as characters.
I wrote it with tears streaming down my face every day, and I felt her watching over me as I wrote.
Callie Perry has a pretty perfect life. It may not be everyone’s idea of happiness – her husband spends more time travelling for his job as a commercials director than he does at home - but it works for her. It gives her time to work – she is a successful family photographer – and be around for her two kids, and her friends. She lives in Bedford, New York, is beloved by all who know her, and wakes up every morning grateful for how happy she is.
Her younger sister, Steffi, the baby of the family, has never grown up. In her early thirties and the epitome of a free spirit, she’s never held down a job, or a boyfriend, for longer than six months. Her latest incarnation is as a vegan chef. She’s living with the latest unsuitable man, in a sixth floor walk up in Soho, and her parents have almost given up hope that she’ll ever learn what it is to be responsible.
Lila Grossman is Callie’s best friend. Single, she’s finally met the man of her dreams. Ed has a son she adores, a crazy ex-wife she doesn’t, and she finally feels ready to settle down. If, that is, their goals are the same.
And then there are Callie and Steff’s parents. Walter and Honor . Divorced for almost thirty years, they haven’t spoken for most of that time. They may share two grown-up daughters, but it is agreed by all who knew them, they share little else.
Until they all receive a shocking phone call that changes their lives forever, and brings them all together one short, snowy winter.
Promises to Keep is about the hard choices we sometimes have to make; about having to be a child, long after you've grown up, and mostly, about the enduring nature of love.
Many of the recipes on the blog feature in the book, and some new ones. Coming out of the fog of writing and my annual winter hibernation, I am finding myself starting to cook and entertain again. I’m off to London in March to film a TV commercial for The Love Verb, and am about to start planning events in the US this Summer.
I have a new agent, and a new editor in the US, which has been life-changing. This book was written in a very different way from my previous ones – I sent my editor chunks of the book as I finished them, and we sat down over delicious lunches and talked about it, where the story was going, what this character might think, etc etc. It felt like much more of a collaboration, and was hugely inspirational creatively.
Figless Manor will hopefully be built this year. (Good LORD – why didn’t anyone tell me how long this would take???) We now have an entirely different house from the one we started with – not, any longer, an Italianate based on Beloved’s childhood home – but a low-slung antique farmhouse. I blame the movie director Nancy Meyers. Years ago I walked out of Something’s Gotta Give and instantly re-did my kitchen, and this time Beloved and I walked out of It’s Complicated, turned to each other and said: Bugger. We’re building the wrong kind of house.
(I’d also quite like to move to Santa Barbara, but I suspect I’m better off staying put).
The website is being re-designed, and hopefully will be up and running within the next couple of weeks. It’s busy, busy, busy, and I’ll be keeping you posted on all that’s going on...