Nancy Olah – Book Journeys Author Interview Transcript – Nov 7, 2013

Book Journeys Author Interview – Nov 7, 2013

Dr. Angela Lauria with Nancy Olah, author of Fool a Carnivore: Meaty Main Dishes…Minus the Meat.
 

“I would say to not be afraid to reach out and identify what you do well and what you don’t do as well, and get assistance in the things that may be challenging for you.” ~Nancy Olah
 

Angela:
Well, hello, everybody, and welcome to Book Journeys Radio. My name is Dr. Angela Lauria, I am the founder of the Author Incubator and creator of the Difference Process: Ten Steps for Writing a Book That Makes a Difference, and each week on Book Journeys Radio, we talk to authors about their experience writing their books, and really get a handle on what it takes to become a published author, what – what I call a – a – an author who has – has transformed, because we are all authors in – in transformation, and the people that are on the other side of that journey have so much to offer. Everybody’s book journey is unique, but we can all learn from people who have been there before. And today, on the show, we have Nancy Olah. Nancy is an author and a chef, so we’re gonna – give you – whet your appetite a little bit today on – her book is called Fool a Carnivore: Meaty Main Dishes…Minus the Meat, and you can – follow along as we talk to Nancy at foolacarnivore.com. That’s fool, f-o-o-l-a-carnivore.com. Nancy, thank you so much for being with us.
 

Nancy:
You’re welcome. Thanks for having me, Angela!
 

Angela:
Terrific. Well – so, Nancy, tell us about Fool a Carnivore, what is it about? I know it’s a cookbook, and – and I haven’t tried any of the recipes yet, though I am – staring at them right now. So, tell us …?
 

Nancy:
Wonderful. Fool a Carnivore is a cookbook that helps meat lovers enjoy tasty, meatless meals. I decided to stop eating meat over thirty years ago, and the meals I make almost every night please my carnivore family and friends. I cook about five nights a week, and I really believe in – not having to compromise my principles but still being respectful of the fact that – I may have folks that enjoy eating meat. So, the difference is –
 

Angela:
So, it’s not all pasta primavera at your house?
 

Nancy:
It’s not all pasta primavera, and my book has no tofu, either.
 

Angela:
Oh!
 

Nancy:
So, I think maybe there’s – want to eat food that looks and tastes like what they’re used to eating. And there are some terrific products out there right now called meat – what – that I’ve coined “meat analogues.” A number of great companies have done sausage and ground meat and chicken and turkey products that really can fool meat-eaters if they’re prepared in the right way, and with great sauces and a lot of creativity.
 

Angela:
So, l – let me ask why? On this show, we focus on people who wanna make a difference with their books, and let me ask, why meatless? Why was that important to you? I know it’s been a – a long journey for you, but what was your message there?
 

Nancy:
Well – I – I think that people – i – it pleases me no end to have someone say to me that they were able to fool a family member – into – enjoying a dish that was healthier for them, lower in calories, lower in cholesterol. Many people are struggling with weight, high cholesterol and other health problems, and going meatless one or two nights a week could be a potential answer for them, to help get their diets back in check.
 

Angela:
And was that a journey that you went on, personally?
 

Nancy:
My dad died when I was nineteen years old, and he had very high cholesterol, he was forty-seven – a – a waste for a man that young to die of a heart attack. I decided, at that point, that heart disease and stroke ran in my father’s family, and though I had some protection, as a woman – that probably wasn’t enough to necessarily keep me driving until my eighties. So, I decided to go ahead and stop eating meat, and – … if I could change just – one life at a time, that was – that was enough for me.
 

Angela:
Got that.
 

Nancy:
So, I married a wonderful car – southern carnivore who, luckily, was very open to new things and – new food, and my husband has willingly eaten every single thing I’ve put on his plate, since the day we were married, thirty years ago.
 

Angela:
Aww, that’s a keeper.
 

Nancy:
He is a keeper.
 

Angela:
So – so, the book came out, I think, in 2010, right?
 

Nancy:
In August of 2010, yes. Ah, 20 – 2012. 2012, last – yeah.
 

Angela:
… Oh! … okay. So – but that’s a long journey – that was – twenty, eight, twenty-nine years of being a vegetarian, and making these meaty main dishes. What inspired writing a book? How did that come about?
 

Nancy:
I had been compiling my recipes for about seven years before I actually committed the process of creating a manuscript and – and thinking seriously about having a book. What – what – came together for me was, back in December of 2010, when I was at a – a covered dish supper, and realized that my homemade lasagna was the hit of the evening, and it had a meat substitute sausage and ground meat in it. It was very meaty, it had a wonderful home-made sauce, and it was the first item on the buffet table that disappeared.
 

Angela:
Mmm.
 

Nancy:
And all night long, people kept asking me for my recipe, and finally I told them that it had no meat in it. And people who claimed to hate vegetarian food had eaten it and loved it.
 

Angela:
Wow.
 

Nancy:
And so, that was when I finally realized that my cookbook wasn’t just – the cookbook in my head wasn’t just for vegetarians. It’s real purpose was to help meat eaters – accept and enjoy meatless meals.
 

Angela:
Mm-hm. And what was your – I know you say you’re an author and a chef, w – what was your career path at the time? Was the book related to something you were doing from a business perspective, or was this just a pure – passion project?
 

Nancy:
Oh, it’s – I’ve been – cooking since I was eight years old. I loved – Julia Childs, I used to watch all her French chef recipes – shows religiously on – our little black and white television, when I was a kid, and – I have always loved feeding other people. I – have an Italian mother, so the Italian background always wants you to mangiare, and we show our – we show our love for food. But in terms of my career path, I’m an attorney. I’ve been an attorney for thirty-five years, and that’s probably one of the reasons why it was harder for me to allocate the time to write a book.
 

Angela:
Wow! So, let’s start there. Tell us about writing the book, and how, with a busy career like that, did you make time to do this?
 

Nancy:
Well, I – I finally decided that I needed to get serious about it, and I – a lot of people think of – of lawyers as just the – mouthpieces, we’re talking all the time, but actually, in my practice, I’m not a litigator, I do real estate and business law. And so, I’m constantly writing. I’m drafting contracts, agreements, memos, letters – covenants, restrictions, all kinds of things for my clients. And I can’t ever have writer’s block or let my work not get done, because I’m not gonna be properly serving my clients. So, once I decided to get serious about the book, I just transferred that same discipline that I’ve learned as a lawyer to my cookbook writing.
 

Angela:
Mm.
 

Nancy:
I – I’d made sure that I set aside at least two to three hours every day to work on it, and some of them might – some of that time might be perfecting old recipes, some of that might be – doing the – sections of the book that precede the recipe, the recipes that more explain what my philosophy is, and how to use the book, and a lot of it was also tasting every new meatless product I could find against what I’d already used in the past, so m – my recipes may have gone through four or five incarnations – as I continually searched for a better product and a – one that would more closely replicate meat.
 

Angela:
And so – does that mean you got to – consider cooking as part of the time that you spent on your book? ‘Cause that sounds fun.
 

Nancy:
Well, i – i – it was fun, but it actually is part of the time that I would spend on my book, because – cook – cooking, and then – taking photographs of the recipe, and making sure that I was paying careful attention to my – ingredient list, making sure I wasn’t leaving out a step in writing my instructions. What I – I’ve learned from a lot of other recipes – ‘cause I probably have five hundred cookbooks – is that, a lot of times, authors can get sloppy in terms of the way they describe the process of cooking, ‘cause cooking – most recipes go, “one, two, three, four, five,” but cooking’s also a non-linear process, so there are – m – multiple things that you may be doing at the same time, but a traditionally-written recipe doesn’t always lend itself to that explanation.
 

Angela:
And so, how did you address that?
 

Nancy:
Well, I’d – I wanted to make sure that I was giving things in a clear fashion that would be almost like pilot’s instructions. I want someone to pick up my cookbook and be able to cook any of the dishes I have in there and have a great result the first time. And so, I – I’ve tried to put – a little bit of a homey and folksy flavor to my – my book. I – I want you to feel as though you’re almost sitting across the kitchen table with me, and I’m – I’m sharing or confiding my secrets for how I’ve been able to get – products that aren’t meat, plant-based proteins that can taste like meat.
 

Angela:
Mmm. Yeah, and I will say, the cover – the cover has pictures of four dishes that – there’s no w – way I would not know – I w – I would never guess that they weren’t real meat, so – and I can practically smell them on the page, they look so delicious!
 

Nancy:
(chuckles) Well, thank you.
 

Angela:
So – so, tell me, for you, w – when you were writing this book – you got this idea, “I’m gonna turn this into a book,” then you got serious. Here’s my question: why were you doing it? What are – what did you think success was? Were you trying to be the next Julia Childs? What – what did you want to get out of the experience?
 

Nancy:
I guess – actually seeing my book in print, to see a goal that I’d had for so long finally realized, was – was my end. And – finding that – the – the actual marketing of a book is so much more and time-consuming than the process of writing it. I – I know most authors think that the writing is the hard part, but there you have control over the outcome, and once you let your book go into the world – you no longer have control over whether or not it’s going to find its audience. So, i – I always felt that, even if I never made a dime from the book, the fact that I was actually writing it and being able to go ahead and express my thoughts about a subject that I’d – long felt was an important one, was fulfilling to me.
 

Angela:
Wow. And did you get more than you bargained for? Have the results been – having it published and in your hand is one thing, have you been able to make an impact with the book?
 

Nancy:
Well – I w – I would love to have more book sales, what author wouldn’t?
 

Angela:
Yeah, …
 

Nancy:
But … that – that the people that I have touched have responded so positively. I’ve got seven five-star reviews on Amazon, I’ve got folks who e-mail me and write me about what a difference the book has made in their lives. I have a – a friend who’s lost forty pounds just – cooking without meat!
 

Angela:
Wow.
 

Nancy:
So, that’s fabulous to me.
 

Angela:
Yeah. That is super-fabulous, and I think that when we get really clear on what we want from our books, and set the kind of goals that you set, we often get – more than we bargained for. We get more because we’re open to whatever is coming, so – so what do you – what do you wish that you knew, if you had to do this all over again, and you had all the knowledge you have today, but you’re starting your book now, what would you do differently?
 

Nancy:
I think I might have worked harder to find a traditional publisher rather than going the self-published route, and I would have invested the additional time to have a full-color book with photographs of every recipe, so that the – idea that – “I can’t – I can’t visualize, I can’t see what every single recipe looks like,” wouldn’t be an issue.
 

Angela:
Mmm.
 

Nancy:
What I’ve tried to do, as a – in – in – interim steps until book number two comes out, is to make sure that I have photographs of almost every recipe on my website, or on Pinterest, so that people can, in fact, see what that lasagna looked like – that fooled my friends, even if I wasn’t able to put a full-color picture – in the book, of it.
 

Angela:
I see. And – and – you mentioned you’re using Pinterest?
 

Nancy:
Yeah.
 

Angela:
Is that the – the social media platform? So, that’s interesting. How – how did you – were you active in social media before your book came out, or was that a skill that you discovered after, and how did you pick Pinterest?
 

Nancy:
Well, Pinterest is just one of the platforms, probably the only social media that I was active in was LinkedIn –
 

Angela:
Mm!
 

Nancy:
– and that was primarily because – as an attorney, as a business professional, LinkedIn seemed to me to be the most fruitful source of making connections. I had to be – dragged, kicking and screaming, to Twitter and Pinterest and – Facebook. I personally don’t have a Facebook page just for myself as an individual, but I had to get one for Fool a Carnivore.
 

Angela:
And – and who dragged you, kicking and screaming? How did you come to learn about it?
 

Nancy:
Oh, I – I had a few good friends who helped me a great deal. One of them is Gina Elliott, and she’s – been very instrumental in helping me and advising me along the way.
 

Angela:
Hm. And – so, let’s talk about that. What – let’s – let’s talk about the help that you need as an author, whether it’s with writing, promoting or publishing. How – how did you get the help that you had, and then, what would you advise other people to do to get that help and support?
 

Nancy:
I guess I would say to not be afraid to reach out and identify what you do well and what you don’t do as well, and get assistance in the things that may be challenging for you. I did not – I have an agent, I tried to get a couple of agents interested in my concept, but I ultimately figured out how to get it published myself. I looked at a number of different – self-publishing – options, and – finally decided to go with CreateSpace. I was also very blessed to have some help from Deborah Madison, who’s one of my culinary heroes. She was kind enough to respond to a random e-mail that I sent to her website and entered into an e-mail dialogue with me and agreed to consult with me on the book, so I was able to get some editing assistance from a well-respected professional chef who, at the beginning of the this whole process, didn’t know me from Adam.
 

Angela:
Wow! That’s a great example, and one of the things I think successful authors know is – a couple of things that I just wanna point out here and – and jump in, if you think I don’t get these right. The first thing is, before your book was done, you were open to talking about it, and I think a lot of people get – sometimes, people afraid that – that someone’s gonna steal their idea – which I think is a silly fear, but a lot of people have it. Some people are afraid they’re gonna sound stupid, or they don’t know enough yet, they have more work to do before they can share it – but I think when you’re open, you can make some amazing connections, and not only that, the second little benefit is, you’re suddenly holding yourself accountable in a way that you weren’t before. You told this – top chef you were gonna write this book, so you had to dive in there and write it and publish it and do all those steps, so – I don’t know, did that – did sharing the fact you were working on this, and at various stages, did that help you stay motivated?
 

Nancy:
It did. It – it – it – it very much helped me stay motivated. I set some timelines with some goals for myself in terms of when I was gonna have it published – I had a whole slew of people who were taste-testing recipes –
 

Angela:
Mmm.
 

Nancy:
– I would send out various versions to – friends who were open to – doing more than just their … meatless Monday, and getting their feedback about what worked and what didn’t. I threw a – a number of very large parties and – successfully – fooled a number of people into thinking that they were eating meat –
 

Angela:
Wow, that’s fun!
 

Nancy:
– and … long-time friends – I had a long-time friend – say, on New Year’s Day this year, that he never thought he would be eating meat in the Nancy Olah house. So, that was – that was cool, because …
 

Angela:
And, in fact, he wasn’t eating meat in your house?
 

Nancy:
And he wasn’t eating meat in my house!
 

Angela:
Wow! Wow, that’s awesome. So – so, you wrote your book, the process of assembling all these – there’s – there’s a lot of front material, where you give us a lot of background – and then, there’s – how many recipes are in here?
 

Nancy:
About a hundred, I think.
 

Angela:
… there’s got to be about a hundred. Together, about a hundred recipes, and there’s a little bit – there’s a – an index, that probably took awhile, some work cited – there’s a lot of descriptive copy around the recipes, so how long was the process of actually getting the manuscript finalized?
 

Nancy:
I would say that was about six or seven months of – of pretty consistent work. The book –
 

Angela:
When you’re … guests?
 

Nancy:
Yes. And the book – the book went through – actually three or four edits. I had a friend of mine, who is an English professor up in – Pennsylvania do one edit, I had – an edit from CreateSpace, Deborah Madison helped me with some of the editing, and – then I had another friend help me as well. So, it – it – I had input from a lot of people, and that was – very beneficial, I didn’t take everyone’s editing suggestions, ‘cause ultimately it was my book, but I did learn from each of their – comments and was so glad that I had them as a resource.
 

Angela:
Yeah. I love that. So, let’s talk about good advice, bad advice and maybe even something in between, good advice, you don’t wanna take. How did you know what advice to listen to, and what advice to ignore?
 

Nancy:
Well, I think that ultimately comes down to – at the end of the day, your name is on the – the manuscript, and your name is on the finished book, so you have to have that independent judgement and conviction of what feels true and authentic to you. There were some pieces of advice that – may have been hard to listen to –
 

Angela:
Mmm.
 

Nancy:
– and I really tried to open my mind so that I could understand the person’s perspective and take the best of what they had to offer, but ultimately it still had to be my choice.
 

Angela:
Right. And – did you get advice that conflicted with each other? One person would say one thing, and somebody else would say something else, and they were at odds?
 

Nancy:
I – i – in – in a few cases – we had a lot of – controversy over em dashes and en dashes –
 

Angela:
Oh, I’ve had that conversation.
 

Nancy:
– which – … way above – above my pay grade. (laughs)
 

Angela:
And – well, yeah, and so, how did you – what was your tiebreaker? How did you make the decisions about what was what you were gonna go with?
 

Nancy:
I – I guess, i – in every case, it was – it was a little bit different. There were – there were some things where – do you actually spell out tablespoon, do you do a tbs?
 

Angela:
Right.
 

Nancy:
And I tried to go with what made the m – what made the most sense to me. That – that’s the best I can say.
 

Angela:
That’s fantastic.
 

Nancy:
And – and the important thing for me was to be consistent –
 

Angela:
Mmm.
 

Nancy:
– and – I can pull out cookbooks that are – well-made cookbooks from major publishing houses that have typos and errors and inconsistencies in them –
 

Angela:
Oh, it’s ….
 

Nancy:
– and it absolutely drives me crazy, so one of the things that was important to me was to try to get the book as close to being – I don’t like to use the word “perfect,” but it – it’s the best work product that I could do before I gave birth to it.
 

Angela:
And then – let’s talk about the publishing process a little. Did you – did you – you said you self-published –
 

Nancy:
I did.
 

Angela:
– but did you attempt to publish with a bigger publisher?
 

Nancy:
No, actually, I didn’t. After I wasn’t able to interest an agent within my concept, I immediately started looking at – the various – self-published – publishing options, like Lulu and iUniverse and AuthorHouse and CreateSpace, and I ultimately decided to go with CreateSpace because of its connection to Amazon.
 

Angela:
And how has that experience been for you?
 

Nancy:
I loved the concept of print-on-demand – and I like the easy connection to Amazon and Kindle. I – I have to be honest that I was not as pleased with the design concepts – that I received from CreateSpace, I ultimately had to redo and redesign the cover myself, because they just did not get my concept. I also w – was confirmed, because errors kept creeping into each one of the proofs that I would receive, and they wouldn’t have been in my original manuscript, so having to proofread the book in three different proofs, three different times was – an unnecessarily time-consuming process.
 

Angela:
Yeah, and I will say, I’ve heard – I’ve heard that sort of experience before, so what would you give – advice to people to avoid that? What would you – what would you do differently?
 

Nancy:
That’s a really good question. I – I – I – I probably would have more seriously investigated some of the other publishing houses and try to get author feedback, people that I …
 

Angela:
Mmm. That’s a great piece of advice, talk to people that use this service provider, for sure.
 

Nancy:
Right. And – and I – I don’t know how much experience the editors I was working with had with cookbooks, so if I was writing a children’s book or a cookbook, a novel, I – I might try to target a company that was very familiar with doing that type of work.
 

Angela:
Hm. Okay, and so – so, mixed – mixed bag of experience there, but the book comes out, and just throughout the process, from the time you started writing your book, and then through the publishing, and then, in the last year or two that you’ve been – marketing the book, what was different than you expected? How did you expect things to go, and you’re, like, “Oh, I didn’t expect this?”
 

Nancy:
Well, I – I think I didn’t expect that it would take so long to build an audience. I think that everyone who publishes a book believes that the world’s waiting for their book. They know how much time and effort and love they’ve put into it, and to not have the world embrace it with open arms is – is a little bit of an eye-opening experience. But I feel very good and very positive about what I’ve done with the book. I have nine videos on YouTube of me cooking some of the recipes in the book. I never would have had that experience if I wasn’t trying to get the word out and promote the book, so the book has tested me and made me grow in ways that I never could have imagined at the outset.
 

Angela:
I love that. What’s the best thing to come out of being an author?
 

Nancy:
For me, the – the – the best thing has been – are you familiar with the old 1960’s movie, Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner?
 

Angela:
Yes, of course!
 

Nancy:
It was with Katherine Hepburn and Sidney Poitier, and – I – I’ve often felt that there are – a – of – millions of vegetarians out there who don’t get dinner invitations –
 

Angela:
Mmm.
 

Nancy:
– or, when people do invite them, there’s this awkwardness, because no one has any idea what to serve them. And so, “Okay, you can have the salad course, and I’m gonna put three vegetables on your plate –“
 

Angela:
Right!
 

Nancy:
“– and hope that you like dessert.” So, if my book can do one thing, it would be to make people receptive about having – folks who might have different – dietary persuasions over to dinner, because if you’ve got Fool a Carnivore, you can actually cook for them – something that will please them and your family.
 

Angela:
… That’s a great story. Well, Nancy Olah, is the author of Fool a Carnivore, you can absolutely find her book on amazon.com and you can also go to foolacarnivore.com. Nancy, thanks for being with us.
 

Nancy:
Thank you, Angela.
 

Angela:
And we’ll be back next week on Book Journeys Radio, where we change the world one book at a time.

 

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