Paperback: 246 pages;
Publisher: Interlude Press (Feb. 4 2016);
Amazon Kindle: Sweet
Blurb: Not every love story is a romance novel.
For Jules Burns, a lonely baker, it is the memory of his deceased husband, Andy. For Teddy Flores, a numbed-to-the-world accountant who accidentally stumbles into his bakery, it is a voyage of discovery into his deep connections to pleasure, to the world, and to his own heart.
Alysia Constantine’s Sweet is also the story of how we tell stories—of what we expect and need from a love story. The narrator is on to you, Reader, and wants to give you a love story that doesn’t always fit the bill. There are ghosts to exorcise, and jobs and money to worry about. Sweet is a love story, but it also reminds us that love is never quite what we expect, nor quite as blissfully easy as we hope.
Praise for ‘Sweet’ by Alysia Constantine from Publisher’s Weekly: http://www.publishersweekly.com/978-1-941530-61-0
"Speakerphone. Put me on speaker so you can use your hands. You're going to need both hands, and I won't be held responsible for you mucking up your phone. Speaker."
Teddy set his phone on the counter and switched to the speaker, then stood waiting.
"Hello?" Jules said. "Is this thing on?"
"Sorry," Teddy said. "I'm still here."
"It sounded like you'd suddenly disappeared. I was starting to believe in the rapture," Jules said, and Teddy heard, again, the nervous chuckle.
Their conversation was awkward and full of strange pauses in which there was nothing right to say, and they focused mostly on how awkward and strange it was until Jules told Teddy to dump the almond paste on the counter and start to knead in the sugar.
"I'm doing it, too, along with you," Jules said.
"I'm not sure whether that makes it more or less weird," Teddy admitted, dusting everything in front of him with sugar.
"It's just like giving a back rub," Jules told him. "Roll gently into the dough with the heel of your hand, lean in with your upper body. Think loving things. Add a little sugar each time—watch for when it's ready for more. Not too much at once."
Several moments passed when all that held their connection was a string of huffed and effortful breaths and the soft thump of dough. Teddy felt Jules pressing and leaning forward into his work, felt the small sweat and ache that had begun to announce itself in Jules's shoulders, felt it when he held his breath as he pushed and then exhaled in a rush as he flipped the dough, felt it all as surely as if Jules's body were there next to him, as if he might reach to the side and, without glancing over, brush the sugar from Teddy’s forearm, a gesture which might have been, if real, if the result of many long hours spent in the kitchen together, sweet and familiar and unthinking.
"My grandmother and I used to make this," Jules breathed after a long silence, "when I was little. Mine would always become flowers. She would always make hers into people."
Teddy understood that he needn't reply, that Jules was speaking to him, yes, but speaking more into the empty space in which he stood as a witness, talking a story into the evening around him, and he, Teddy, was lucky to be near, to listen in as the story spun itself out of Jules and into the open, open quiet.
When the dough was finished and Jules had interrupted himself to say, "There, mine's pretty done. I bet yours is done by now, too," Teddy nodded in agreement—and even though he knew Jules couldn't see him, he was sure Jules would sense him nodding through some miniscule change in his breathing or the invisible tension between them slackening just the slightest bit. And he did seem to know, because Jules paused and made a satisfied noise that sounded as if all the spring-coiled readiness had slid from his body. "This taste," Jules sighed, "is like Proust's madeleine."
They spent an hour playing with the dough and molding it into shapes they wouldn't reveal to each other. Teddy felt childish and happy and inept and far too adult all at once as he listened to the rhythmic way Jules breathed and spoke, the way his voice moved in and out of silence, like the advance and retreat of shallow waves that left in their wake little broken treasures on the shore.
Only his fingers moved, fumbling and busy and blind as he listened, his whole self waiting for Jules to tell him the next thing, whatever it might be.
Meet the author: Alysia Constantine lives in Brooklyn with her wife, their two dogs, and a cat. When she is not writing, she is a professor at an art college. Before that, she was a baker and cook for a caterer, and before that, she was a poet.
Sweet is her first novel.
1) Was there a basis for you story? A previous experience or something else?
A few. First, there was New York City, what it means to live with this city. There was also my experience of working as a past chef/baker for a caterer, all those long hours in the kitchen, with the ovens blasting. There was the experience of falling in love, and of trying to put away a past love that had been so important in my life, but the memory of which threatened to interfere with my new love.
2) What skills do you think a writer needs?
Is desire a skill? I think that’s the most important one: one has to want to do it. It’s a very solitary life, unless you work to make it not so. It’s a lot of insecurity, a lot of shots in the dark, and it almost always means committing to some other kind of work because there are bills to pay, and writing rarely pays them (unless you’re writing something other than creative writing). I think you need to be able to take criticism and put it to constructive use, but I think you also need to have a clear sense of your own vision as an artist, so that you’re not blown sideways by every single gust of wind. A lot of people blow hot air at you, so you’ve got to be both flexible and rooted really well. I think it’s good to have an attunement to language, but I wish I had a better sense of plot and mastery over larger pictures than I do, so that is probably a great skill for a writer to have. And the ability to survive on ramen noodles or the ability to convince people to give you money to do things you can do.
3) What for you is the perfect book hero?
I’m not really sure there is such a thing as the perfect hero, because every situation warrants a different hero. So the hero would be specific to the situation. I do think people are more interesting when they are flawed, when they struggle, and even when they do things wrong. They tend to have more interesting stories, too.
4) Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing?
Aside from just doing it? (I mean, really, the discipline of plugging away at something that is hard and often goes unrecognized for months or years or always…that’s hard.) I think what I find most difficult is the global stuff, the larger picture. Plot bedevils me. I’m much more attuned to language, to small moments, to detail, than to the bigger things.
5) Tell us about your favorite childhood book.
I was a pretty voracious reader as a kid, so I’m not sure I could name just one. I can say that Shel Silverstein’s books of poetry inspired me a lot—boy, could I rhyme, thanks to Mr. Silverstein. I loved the whimsical drawings, too. They showed me that writing can be playful, joyful, musical, and about anything. But the books that feel like home to me, the ones I tore through while hiding under the covers with a flashlight as a kid, the ones I reread when I was in college and found them on my mom’s bookshelf upon a holiday at home, were the books in the Wrinkle in Time series by Madeleine L’Engle. There was just something so compelling about those stories for me. The kids were the heros; the parents were sort of well-meaning but absent. And that series had so many really strong girl characters. I needed that. We all needed that, in the 1970s and 1980s.
Where to find the author:
Goodreads Link: http://www.goodreads.com/AlysiaConstantine
Tour Dates & Stops:
4-Feb Scattered Thoughts & Rogue Words, Book Lovers 4Ever, Hearts on Fire
5-Feb A.M. Leibowitz, Love Bytes, Bayou Book Junkie
8-Feb Fangirl Moments and My Two Cents, Divine Magazine, MM Good Book Reviews
9-Feb Sinfully Addicted to All Male Romance, Kirsty Loves Books, Just Love Romance
10-Feb Happily Ever Chapter, My Fiction Nook, Havan Fellows
11-Feb V's Reads, Kiki's Kinky Picks, Lee Brazil, Elisa - My Reviews and Ramblings
12-Feb Jessie G. Books, 3 Chicks After Dark, Book Reviews and More by Kathy
15-Feb Wicked Faerie's Tales and Reviews, Three Books Over the Rainbow, BFD Book Blog
16-Feb Dawn’s Reading Nook, Inked Rainbow Reads
17-Feb Prism Book Alliance, Up All Night, Read All Day, Molly Lolly, Alpha Book Club
Rafflecopter Prize: $25 Interlude Press gift card to one winner, e-copies of ‘Sweet’ to five additional winners
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