Joyce Wayne’s new novel: The Cook’s Temptation
Can you tell us a bit about the book?
The Cook’s Temptation is the story of Cordelia Tilley, who faces classism and prejudice in late Victorian England. She is the child of an unsatisfactory mixed marriage: a sophisticated French mother and a rough English publican. Throughout her young life at the Devil’s Stone Inn, the hostelry where her mother runs a brilliant continental kitchen, Cordelia is pulled in two different directions. Her mother wishes her to “marry up” so she can escape the drudgery of the Inn while her father shows complete disdain for social climbing.
When her mother succumbs to typhoid fever, Cordelia is forced to marry the wealthy mining magnate Frederick Wendice. Soon after their marriage, Cordelia discovers that Wendice is anything but the gentleman he pretended to be during their courtship.
Wendice isolates Cordelia in his mansion in Country Devon and refuses to allow her to cook, the one thing she is passionate about. After many years, she gives birth to a son, but William is severely disabled and dies tragically at 18 months. Cordelia is entirely lost.
Her shocking attempt to rise above her husband’s brutality and create a new life for herself in the East End of London is the story of this novel.
What inspired you to write historical fiction?
I can’t remember a time when I wasn’t taking historical novels out of the library. In Windsor, Ontario, where I was born, there were three shelves of historical novels at the local library, and as soon as a new one came in, I checked it out. History and fiction is such a rich combination. You can claim characters from the past, re-invent them, imagine new circumstances. Alter history in your own little way. By the way, Cordelia is a real person. The spark for my novel came when I read the inscription on her gravestone in a rural churchyard in Devon. Recently novelists such as Hilary Mantel, Sarah Waters, Carol Birch and Sheri Holman have done brilliant things with the genre.
How did you go about your research? How do you know when you’re done the research phase and ready to write?
I go about my research in a cockamamie way. I research and then I write. Then I go back and research more. At a crucial point, it’s important for me to actually stand on the ground where then novel is set. To feel it, so to speak. After that I can finish the novel, but there is always more research. At some point, you must force yourself to stop researching and get on with it.
Can you tell us about your process? What did you find most challenging about writing a novel?
The process goes like this: First I make an outline on huge pieces of drawing paper. In fact, I make many outlines. For a long time, the story and characters live in my head. That’s the most sublime part of the process, when it’s swirling around in your imagination and you’re trying to find a way to allow the narrative to take shape in the real world.
The most difficult part is beginning to type, of course. When I was writing The Cook’s Temptation I was also moving from our home in Oakville to a condo in Toronto. There was no place to write. The house was in total disarray. So after 7 p.m. I’d trek over to William’s Café across the road at Upper Middle and Third Line in Oakville. It was surreal at night. I imagined it was what an Edward Hopper painting would look like if he painted suburbia.
Are there any new exciting developments you can talk about?
My publisher, Howard Aster at Mosaic Press, who recently returned from the Frankfurt Book Fair, is selling rights to The Cook’s Temptation to the U.K. and Australia. He also has interest from houses in Holland, Poland, Egypt and Turkey.
It’s all quite exciting and quite humbling.
If you’d like to read an early review of Joyce’s book see Generally About Books!