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Interview with Ann Pearlman, author of The Christmas Cookie Club

November 24, 2009

Earlier this month, I read and reviewed The Christmas Cookie Club by Ann Pearlman.  I really enjoyed the book and was lucky enough to have the opportunity to ask Ann a few questions.  Here’s what she had to say:

THE CHRISTMAS COOKIE CLUB is so different from your other books.  What made you decide to tell this story?

I have been writing fiction for some time and have won prizes for short stories from small literary magazines.  I also have written several novels that have not found a home, one back in high school. So writing fiction is not new for me. When I first attended the cookie party in 2000, I knew it would make a great setting for a novel about women’s friendships.  I started notes for it then.  Writing another non-fiction book interrupted the project.

How was the writing process different for writing fiction than it has been for writing non-fiction?  Do you feel your personality is better suited to either one? Do you enjoy one more than the other?

In fiction there is less research.  When I’m writing non-fiction, I do massive amounts of research which I love doing.  Some of my non-fiction has entailed projecting myself into another person’s mind and experience which is entirely different than going deep inside your own mind and unearthing characters there.  With both fiction and non-fiction, the writer is entertaining and teaching.

In both, it’s a question of getting to know your characters, making scenes come alive and believable. In fiction, your characters teach, show you, tell you who they are. In non-fiction, I work to be true to people and facts. In fiction, I work to be true to in an internal vision.

Would you consider including not only cookie recipes but also recipes for some of the dishes that the women bring to the party?

You must be prescient! Marybeth Bayer, who is the hostess for the cookie party I attend, and I are finishing up a non-fiction workbook How to Start your own Christmas Cookie Club. In it we have dozens of new cookie and appetizer recipes, baking tips, and all sorts of other suggestions for a cookie exchange. Marybeth is a great hostess and baker.

How have the members of your Cookie Club reacted to the publication of this book?

They are excited and proud!  I threw a party for them, gave each of them a copy of the novel.  We decided we’ll sign each others’ copies at our cookie party this year.  The book seems to have focused attention on cookie exchanges throughout the country, and started a bunch more!!

Do they recognize themselves in it?

I didn’t give them that chance.  Long before the book was published, I told the few that were in it and showed them a draft of the bits I used – an email, an appearance, and an event–  and received their enthusiastic permission and excitement.  Our friends recognize the pieces of people who are in it in spite of the fact I made up so much about them. But other than the few things I mentioned in the acknowledgements, the book is not true and my characters are not the women in my cookie club.

I think the women in the cookie club feel proud that our great group has been memorialized by the book and may increase the number of cookie clubs across the country.

People who live in Ann Arbor get a kick out of reading about the city.

I loved the little essays about the cookie ingredients. At what point in the writing process did you decide to include them?

That idea came almost out of the blue as I was finishing up the book.  I wanted to give people something they could take away that would spotlight and call for reexamination of things we assume as ordinary… our friendships, the very food we eat. It’s not ordinary. Especially now in these times focus on food has changed.  And, human beings’ search for food has a spectacular history and effect.  I struggled how to present the ingredients… Some people wouldn’t want the narrative interrupted, others read to learn.  So I put them in discrete chapters and each reader decides how to handle them. Some save them to the end and read them all at once.  Others read the book straight through.

For me this is really a story about the importance of women’s friendships. Why do you think women’s friendships are so important?

Yes.  This book is about the importance of women friendships.

Why are they important?  Individually, we help each other get through the rough times, and celebrate the good. We are there to talk, cry, laugh, help out in an emergency or a major crisis.  We have fun together.  We understand and accept each other.  We support each other when our lives need to change. We love each other.

As communities, by relying on each other, we cooperate to get through emergencies and crisis.  In Katrina, for example, women who merged resources, shared, and figured out what to do survived with the least trauma.

In our history, recently evolutionary research has looked at the role of grandmothers.  A grandmother, a non-reproductive female with stamina to work, often made the difference for the survival of her grandchildren, and the carrying forth of her genes, by sharing the food she gathered.  We underestimate the importance of grandmothers to the survival of our species and cultures.

Do you have any plans for a sequel to THE CHRISTMAS COOKIE CLUB?

Absolutely.  I’m working on a novel about Sky and Tara.  I have fallen in love with them and their story.  A question for you and your readers: The Christmas Cookie Club is like a party.  You meet new friends and enjoy old ones. Which of the women from the novel would you like to become a closer friend (or enemy)? Who do you want to know about?  A prequel or a sequel?

I’d like to thank Ann for taking the time to answer my questions, and ask you to answer her questions if you’ve read THE CHRISTMAS COOKIE CLUB.  Which of the women from the book do you want to know more about?

18 Comments leave one →
  1. November 24, 2009 7:28 am

    Great questions! I think a prequel would be interesting. I think all of the characters had an interesting story and if you delved into them a bit more, they’d make for a great book.

  2. November 24, 2009 10:26 am

    Now I really want to read this book. Great interview. It felt like you were just sitting together talking. I especially loved what she had to say about grandmothers – of course I did.

  3. November 24, 2009 11:17 am

    Excellent questions! And didn’t you love it when she said “You must be prescient!”?!!!!

  4. November 24, 2009 11:37 am

    I haven’t read this book, but this interview was fascinating. You asked great questions and I loved her answers. Now I really want to read this book. Off to the good reads list.

  5. November 24, 2009 12:34 pm

    Terrific interview! It ties in so well with your cookie series. I enjoyed both the questions and the answers. This book sounds like a fun and cozy read.

  6. November 24, 2009 1:35 pm

    The theme of women’s friendships and how important they are is one I have visited in my reading several times this year. Thanks for the great interview…sounds like a book I would enjoy reading!

  7. stacybuckeye permalink
    November 24, 2009 2:53 pm

    This is on my wish list and gift idea list. I’d love one that includes appetizers!

  8. November 24, 2009 3:09 pm

    A sequel??? Oh boy, that’s great!

  9. November 24, 2009 3:28 pm

    I have to read this one!!

  10. November 24, 2009 8:51 pm

    I’ll definitely keep an eye out for How to Start your own Christmas Cookie Club.

  11. November 24, 2009 10:40 pm

    Great questions! I’m clueless in baking. LOL!

  12. November 24, 2009 11:45 pm

    oh, good! i’ve been on a baking kick lately and have made three recipes from books i’ve read: 2 from the cream puff murder and 1 from confections of a master baker. thanks for a great interview!

    in my family, we do a cookie swap and i’m always on the lookout for some new ideas.

  13. November 25, 2009 11:37 am

    What a great interview. I haven’t read the book yet, unfortunately.

  14. Beverly permalink
    November 28, 2009 7:11 am

    I have read this book and found it to be very entertaining ,parts had me crying, others had me laughing . I also made some of the cookies and they were a big hit at my church Thanksgiving dinner, and my friends that received some in the mail , also super easy to make and people know it is a special recipe when they first bite into the Pecan Butter ball. I think this book would make a great Christmas gift.

  15. November 28, 2009 10:25 am

    Lovely interview! I have had this book on hold at my local library since you first reviewed it. I think I am now number 4 in line. Perhaps it will be available to read over my Christmas break 🙂

  16. November 30, 2009 3:47 pm

    I bet the members of the club were so excited to have their cookie exploits recorded and featured in the book. I already have this one on my list and I can’t wait to get to it!

  17. Lele permalink
    December 8, 2009 9:53 pm

    As I prepare for a cookie swap with friends of more then ten years,these friends are so important, my own family are 17 hundred miles. I was about 33 years old when they asked me to Join. there has been stresses,support, and love. Thank You for The Christmas Cookie Club. It dose give me prespective in my own life. and I will be sharing your book with someone who I share stress with. PS thanks for showing me how much more I can look forward to…

  18. Ellen permalink
    January 21, 2010 9:03 pm

    I just finished reading your book and loved it. I am one of the Cookie Bitches in Linda’s new Christmas Cookie Party. What a wonderful time we had and listening to all the stories…just like you mention in your book! I look forward to the new friendships and great yearly parties! Thank you for sharing your cookie party story.
    Virginia Beach

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