Interview with Leah DeCesare, Author of Forks, Knives, Spoons
Today we’re talking with Leah DeCesare, author of the women’s fiction novel, Forks, Knives, Spoons.
Please describe what the story is about.
There are three kinds of guys: forks, knives, and spoons. That is the final lesson that Amy York’s father sends her off to college with, never suspecting just how far his daughter will take it. Clinging to the Utensil Classification System as her guide, Amy tries to convince her skeptical roommate, Veronica Warren, of its usefulness as they navigate the heartbreaks and soul mates of college and beyond.
Beginning in 1988, their freshman year at Syracuse University, Amy and Veronica meet an assortment of guys —from slotted spoons and shrimp forks to butter knives and sporks—all while trying to learn if the UCS holds true. On the quest to find their perfect steak knives, they learn to believe in themselves—and not to settle in love or life.
Share a teaser sentence or two from your novel.
Amy unpacked her dad’s words along with her yellow Sony Walk- man, turquoise Benetton sweater, and peach comforter set. His lesson was tucked carefully in her memory, the details recorded in her reporter’s notebook, available for labeling the college guys she was about to meet. She would adhere to her father’s advice—she always did—though she wasn’t about to let any guy distract her from her dream of being a journalist, not even a perfect steak knife.
What do you want people to know about your book?
FORKS, KNIVES, AND SPOONS presents a fun, quirky system but in the end, I really want women to hear the message loudly that we all need to love and believe in ourselves. I love the discussion questions included in the book and would love to be an invisible listener when book clubs share their thoughts!
What did you learn about yourself while writing this novel?
The saying “you write your first novel to learn how to write a novel” was definitely true for me. I came at FORKS, KNIVES, AND SPOONS from so many different directions, and with the help of a lot of revisions, great editorial advice, studying the craft, awesome feedback from beta readers, and still more rewrites, I wrote a book I’m proud to put out into the world. I’m approaching my work-in-progress very differently and have spent a lot more time planning and considering story directions before doing the writing so I’m hopeful that this book will be written more efficiently.
What was your timeline from drafting to publication?
About four years. It definitely wasn’t a straight-line path! But it was about that time from when I got serious and sat to “write the book” until this incredible time of having an actual pub date.
What is your favorite part of writing (drafting characters, making up scenes, plotting, developing emotional turning points, etc). Why?
One of the parts I love the most is naming my characters. I put a lot of thought and research into the meanings behind their names, the time period, how the names sound, what the nicknames could be … I’ve gotten some raised eyebrows with my baby name books lying around.
Even if the reader never knows what a name means, I’m very deliberate about that selection. I’ve always loved symbolism and deeper meanings behind things. I like to decide on the names at the outset of my project so I can really begin to understand and get to know the characters.
Briefly, where did the idea for your book come from?
The kernel of FORKS, KNIVES, AND SPOONS that’s real is that my father told me before I headed to college, like Amy’s dad told her, that there are three kinds of guys: forks, knives, and spoons. In my freshman year, my girlfriends and I all added utensils and created this elaborate system. That nugget stayed with me for decades as I raised children and worked in the childbirth/doula arena for sixteen years until I finally asked myself when I was going to write my book. I got serious and reprioritized things to make room for writing and I knew my first novel would have to include this fork, knife and spoon labeling system.
There was just this system without a story behind it, so I had to invent the characters and the story arc through which this Utensil Classification System could be woven.
When do you do your best thinking about your work in progress?
Usually when I can’t get to paper or my phone notes app.
I have some very random notes that didn’t translate well when I’ve tried to speak my ideas instead of typing them.
I also like to take walks to work out story problems and sometimes I just open a document and free write to figure out where I want to go with an arc or plot problem.
Share something people may be surprised to know about you?
I volunteer doing leadership development training for middle school girls, collegiate and alumna women and I lead a team of fourteen leadership development specialists across the country and Canada. I have a very random work and volunteer history but when I examine it, I see the common thread is empowering others. That’s the message in FORKS, KNIVES, AND SPOONS too – believe in yourself.
What’s the best piece of writing advice you’ve ever gotten?
I don’t have to do it like everyone else does. I used to think that the “right” way to write a book was to have a daily word count goal and to do your writing in the morning during the same hours every day, but I don’t write like that. I’ve learned from hearing many authors talk about their own process that there isn’t one way or a right way – there’s my way and that’s a valid way!
I’m working on my second novel set in eastern Connecticut about a doula. It’s a lot to juggle all the pre-publication activities for FORKS, KNIVES, AND SPOONS and working on a manuscript deadline, but it’s EXACTLY what I want to be doing and it lights me up in every way!
FORKS, KNIVES, AND SPOONS
“Leah captured me on the very first line, ‘There are three types of guys: forks, knives, and spoons.’ With imagination, highly relatable characters, and witty dialogue, we are taken back to our youths – reevaluating and categorizing all of our crushes. A lovely story of friendship, love, and the amazing time between childhood and adulthood.” —Dawn Lerman, best-selling author of My Fat Dad: A Memoir of Food, Love, and Family with Recipes, New York Times Well Blog columnist
“Full of 1980’s nostalgia, DeCesare’s ambitious young women protagonists meet campus ‘Forks, Knives, and Spoons’ as they navigate how to ultimately place themselves firmly at the head of their own tables.” —Ann Imig, Founder of Listen to Your Mother
“FORKS, KNIVES, AND SPOONS is the perfect marriage of wit, romance, and, above all, heart. DeCesare’s writing is simply delectable and sure to woo any woman who has ever wondered if there is such a thing as Mr. Right.” —Nicole Waggoner, author of Center Ring and The Act.