Ask the Author: Samantha Verant

What would you like readers to know about you? 

I’m an American living in southwestern France–where I’m married to a sexy French rocket scientist I met in 1989 (but ignored for twenty years), a stepmom to two incredible kids, and the adoptive mother to a ridiculously adorable (and huge) French cat. Most of the books I’ve written–or intend to write–bridge the Franco-American gap, usually involving food, wine, and relationships  


What is your book about for those who haven’t read it? 

THE SECRET FRENCH RECIPES OF SOPHIE VALROUX will be released on September 8th, 2020 (Penguin Random House-Berkley imprint).  

Here’s the short synopsis: 

A disgraced chef rediscovers her passion for food and her roots in this stunning novel rich in culture and full of delectable recipes. 

French-born American chef Sophie Valroux had one dream: to be part of the 1% of female chefs running a Michelin-starred restaurant. From spending summers with her grandmother, who taught her the power of cooking and food, to attending the Culinary Institute of America, Sophie finds herself on the cusp of getting everything she’s dreamed of. 

Until her career goes up in flames. 

Sabotaged by a fellow chef, Sophie is fired, leaving her reputation ruined and confidence shaken. To add fuel to the fire, Sophie learns that her grandmother has suffered a stroke and takes the red-eye to France. There, Sophie discovers the simple home she remembers from her childhood is now a luxurious château, complete with two restaurants and a vineyard. As Sophie tries to reestablish herself in the kitchen, she comes to understand the lengths people will go to for success and love, and how dreams can change. 


What has been your inspiration for writing it? 

Sometime in 2016, I read an article highlighting the fact that Michelin had only bestowed their illustrious stars to one percent of female chefs; it made me very angry. My research began and I began to carve out the plot. As I wrote the first draft, more and more articles about misogyny in the kitchen popped up. The story I was inspired to tell practically wrote itself. My love for cooking and my life in southwestern France also provided inspiration. Plus, the research was fun. 

– I attended cooking demonstrations– one a Michelin 2-star in southwestern France, the other a class led by two Le Cordon Bleu chefs in Paris. 

–  I read books written by chefs–Eric Ripert, Anthony Bourdain, Gabrielle Hamilton, Ruth Reichl–and every “foodie” fiction book at market. 

–  I watched every episode of Chef’s Table on NetFlix— as well as movies like the 100 Foot Journey (the book, of which, I also read), and French series/movies such as Chefs and Oui Chef. 

– I cooked “French” and experimented in my little French kitchen. 

– I found the château I based Château de Champvert on for sale online. It had everything but the river, the spa, and the vineyard. The cost for this 38-bedroom château made my jaw drop–1,500,000 Euros complete with the orchards, acres of land, the lake, the clock tower and more. 


What was your favorite scene or part of your book to write? 

In the second chapter, Sophie, my protagonist, is sabotaged by her chef ex-boyfriend and, ultimately, fired from her restaurant. The first chapter gives an idea of who Sophie is, but this second chapter gets the conflict rolling.

What books or authors inspired you to become a writer? 

I read across all genres, so this is a hard question to answer. There are so many wonderful books and authors out there! In regards to my forthcoming book, more than a few authors provided inspiration: Ann Mah (MASTERING THE ART OF FRENCH EATING), Amy E. Reichert (THE COINCIDENCE OF COCONUT CAKE), Jessica Tom (FOOD WHORE), Louise Miller (THE CITY BAKER’S GUIDE TO COUNTRY LIVING), Julie Powell (JULIE & JULIA), Nicole Meier (SECOND CHANCE SUPPER CLUB), Michelle Gable (A PARIS APARTMENT), Juliet Blackwell (LETTERS FROM PARIS), Roselle Lim (NATALIE TAN’S BOOK OF LUCK AND FORTUNE), and Janice MacLeod (PARIS LETTERS). I love discovering wildly different writerly voices; the way an author describes an event, sets the scene, or describes something in perfect detail; and how an author hooks the reader to keep turning the pages. 


What advice would you give to aspiring authors who want to write a book? 

Patience really is an important virtue! After you write a book, don’t send it out to agents right away. Finding critique partners and readers (not your mother) is paramount. Listen to the critiques. Don’t get angry. Choose the changes you want make and then move on from there. But not so fast. Let your manuscript simmer for a week or two and then edit until you can’t take it anymore. Do your research. Once your work is submission-ready, get it out to your dream agents. And then be patient. If lucky, an agent will connect with your story. If he/she is editorial, give them the time to get you their thoughts. And then you’ll have to be patient again with publishing submissions and editors! Aside from patience, perseverance and passion are other tenets to follow! Don’t give up. 


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