The Book of Unholy Mischief by Elle Newmark

About the Author:

Elle Newmark is an award winning writer whose books are inspired by her travels. She prowled the back streets of Venice to cook up The Book of Unholy Mischief and explored India by car and elephant to conjure The Devil’s Wind. She calls California home.

For more information on Elle or her work visit

About the Book:

It is 1498, the dawn of the Renaissance and Venice teems with rumors of an ancient book that hold the secrets of unimaginable power. Rich and poor alike speculate abouthe the long buried secred tht might be scrawled in its pages and where the book might be hidden in the labyrinthine city. While those who seek the book will stop at nothing to get it, those who know will die to protect it.

As a storm of intrigue percolates in Her Most Serene Republic, Luciano, a penniless orphan, is plucked off the street by the doge's chef and taken in as the chef's apprentice. In the palace kitchen Luciano is initiated into the chef's rich and mysterious world where recipes are more than they seem.

It is not long before Luciano is caught up in the madness. Torn between loyalty to his street friends and his passion for Francesca, a convent girl, Lucianco's worthiness is tested. Armed with a precicious mind and insatiable curiosity, Luciano embarks on a perilous journey to uncover the truth. What he discovers will swing opent he shutters of his mind, inflalme his deepest esires, and leaven an indelible mark on his soul.

I was fortunate enough to get Elle to agree to an interview with me. This is what she had to say:

Could you please tell us a little about your book?

The Book of Unholy Mischief is a historical mystery with a culinary twist. It is 1498 in Renaissance Venice. The city is abuzz with rumors about a mysterious book that might hold secrets of alchemy and immortality. In this tumultuous atmosphere, the doge's chef takes an urchin off the street and makes him his apprentice. But there is more cooking in the the palace kitchen than food. It soon becomes apparent that the chef has ulterior motives for taking on Luciano and soon they are both swept up into a delicious but dangerous maze of secrets and intrigue.

Did something specific happen to prompt you to write this book?

I had just finished writing my first novel (which is still unpublished) and thought my writing career was finished. I had no new ideas. Zip. Nada. So my writing coach asked me to think about what I like, what interests me, and what I know about. I like Venice and I like a good story with an element of mystery. Also, since my father is a chef I know about good food. But that did not a novel make, so I slouched around the house for weeks, reading other people's novels and watching movies. One evening I watched The Name of The Rose and that night I had a dream. I woke up at 5 a.m. with a broad notion for a book about a chef in Renaissance Venice who mentors to a young man with the intention of grooming him for a larger purpose. The story revolved around a mysterious book, but I did not know what the book contained. I wrote and re-wrote The Book of Unholy Mischief for two years before it became clear what was so important about the chef's fictional book. I started with a foggy plot idea and two characters; the rest evolved in the writing.

Who or what is the inspiration behind this book?

Life and my own interests are the inspiration for all my books. I take things I know and things I'm interested in and mix them together. In the case of this book it was my love of Italy and food and my personal belief in Humanism.

Who is your biggest supporter?

Other writers. One of the things I love about writers is how we support each other. In other fields people doing the same work might be inclined to compete and trample each other in a bid to get ahead, but the writers I know are incredibly generous. Without the feedback, expertise and honesty of other writers I doubt I could ever have written a book.

Your biggest critic?

Me. I can be a real pain.

What cause are you most passionate about and why?

The cause that resonates in Unholy Mischief is humanism. No matter what anyone might or might not believe about the meaning or purpose of life, it cannot be denied that we are all stuck on this planet together. If we poison the earth or our children's minds we all suffer. But if we try to leave things better than the way we found them we all benefit. It sounds so simple; I don't know what it's so difficult to carry out.

In the last year have you learned or improved on any skills?

I have been privileged to work with a very fine editor at Atria, Emily Bestler, and . I've learned a great deal from her. Emily was able to pinpoint what was needed where with surgical precision and the book was much improved for her input. I believe that working with her has made me a better writer.

Do you have any rituals you follow when finishing a piece of work?

I take a shower, sit outdoors and breathe deeply.

Who has influenced you throughout your career as a writer?

Again, other writers. There are so many great writers, past and present, it is inspiring to read them and know that there is room in literature for many voices. That knowledge has given me the freedom to develop my own.

What is the most important thing in your life right now?

Becoming a better writer.

What are you currently working on?

I recently delivered my new novel (working title The Devil's Wind) and am about to start revisions with my editor. It is a tale of parallel love stories in India set against a backdrop of parallel wars. I spent last March in India researching.

Do you have any advice for writers or readers?

For readers: Don't read junk; be picky. Insist that an author leave you with something valuable. For writers: Never give up.

Is there an author that inspired you to write?

John Steinbeck is the first author that made me wonder how ink on paper could cause me to laugh and cry and make the world disappear. I wanted to know how he did that and I'm still trying to figure it out.

What are some of your long term goals?

To never retire and to never stop learning.

What do you feel has been your greatest achievement as an author?

Not giving up in the face of 20+ years of rejection from traditional publishing. I love to hear from readers who say they were discouraged and ready to give up until they read my story. That's the best!

What do you feel sets this book apart from others in the same genre?

The food. There are lots of historical novels out there, but one that makes its points with culinary metaphors is something different. I feel rather clever about that.

You know the scenario – you’re stuck on an island. What book would you bring with you and why?

Stuck on an island? Horrible thought, but okay. Probably Sohpie's Choice by William Styron. It has everything: Fine writing, fascinating characters who come to life completely, a fully imagined setting, and a heartbreaking comment on the human condition that I could think about for a very long time.

If you could go back and change one day, what would it be?

None. Everything I've experienced has been necessary to who I am.

Are you a different person now than you were 5 years ago? In what way/s?

Yes. I have a job.

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Janel said...

I loved this book. It was a great find that I plucked from my library's shelves. Thank you so much for doing the interview.