Thursday, May 08, 2014

Terrific Summer Beach Read!
You'll Love The Vegan Character In It Named Kale

Cover Art by Christy Hawkins
a vegan for 21 years!

Melanie Bishop
I met the author of this book, Melanie Bishop, a few years back when she checked into our vacation rental in Sebastopol to do some writing. Most of the time people visit our studio to go biking or wine tasting so we were excited to think of Melanie up in our apartment getting inspired by our vineyard and our little kookie town of Sebastopol. I was also very happy to have a writer here because I was in the middle of writing my own book, Health Begins in the Kitchen. So I felt an immediate connection to Melanie. 

Melanie Bishop is recently retired from Prescott College in Arizona where she worked on the creative writing faculty and was the founding editor and fiction/nonfiction editor of Alligator Juniper. Melanie divides her time between Prescott, AZ and Carmel, CA where she teaches community classes, hosts writing retreats, and freelances as a writing coach/editor. She is at work on Book Two of the Tate McCoy Series, and writes book reviews for Carmel Magazine.

Melanie and I kept in touch and followed each others' progress. And although this book wasn't the one she wrote in our studio, I was delighted when My So-Called Ruined Life was published. I bought one of the very first copies and thoroughly enjoyed it.

This young adult novel (yes, I still love reading young adult novels!) is about sixteen-year-old Tate McCoy. Her mother is murdered and her father is the prime suspect. Despite the whispers of the townspeople, Tate refuses to believe her life is ruined. She engages in all sorts of self-rescue, the summer before her 17th birthday--finding solace in the great outdoors, swim lessons, her wonderful best friend, Kale, and a crush on her swim instructor. Teens will be inspired by Tate's resilience, and readers of all ages will appreciate her quest to find her buoyancy, her personal balance amidst the backdrop of tragedy.

I particularly love her vegan best friend named "Kale" and how Tate makes an attempt to become vegan herself. The cover, also designed by long-time vegan Christy Hawkins, shows the subtle presence of her best friend on the cover as actual kale leaves! How clever. 

         *                         *                         *

My Interview with Melanie:
Why did you create a vegan character in the book?
There are a few reasons for this. As a college professor for 22 years, I knew many many young adults who were vegetarian or vegan or gluten-free, or dealing with other dietary restrictions. Classes at Prescott College often traveled so I would be with my students for a month at a time, living in close quarters. Diet and food shopping and meal preparation was always big on these field courses--meeting everyone's needs and making good food! I think attempting to be vegan/vegetarian is something young people can relate to. But also, the inspiration for my protagonist came from a combination of about four young women I know. Some were former students of mine, and some were relatives. One of my nieces, who provided parts of my inspiration for Tate McCoy, is vegan, and has a husband and two children now and the whole family is vegan. They live in Portland, Oregon, which is about the best place you could ever live if you are vegan. They even have vegan donuts at a place called Voodoo Donuts. I've had them. They are Yum. 

Why did you select a vegan artist to design the cover?
This one is easy! That same niece I mentioned above was an art major at Portland State, right around the time my book was accepted by Torrey House Press for publication. She had an assignment in her art class to illustrate something and I needed a beautiful book cover, so she read the book, we talked about themes, and symbols, and metaphors, and then she did this painting that became the cover. (The actual painting is bigger, and encompasses more; it was cropped for the dimensions of the book.) She was a natural choice for me when I needed something artistic. She comes to me for writing/editing help, and I will always go to her for visual arts help.

Having gone to school in Austin and staying there to work for another 13 years, I really loved that the book takes place there. Why did you select Austin as the setting of your story?
In order to write about a place believably, the setting of the book had to be a place I knew well, a place I'd lived myself. I lived in Austin, TX from 1980 to 1984, and waitressed at the restaurant where the character Kale works in the book--Mother's Cafe. It's an amazing vegetarian Mexican place and I worked there for four great years. Lovely people own it and manage it and the food is just superb. If you're in Austin, check it out. At the corner of 43rd and Duval. Once I decided on Austin, certain details of that city became key parts of the book. I knew Barton Springs would play a big role, and that's when buoyancy became a huge theme in the book. All of that was born at Barton Springs, in my imagination--my memory of time spent there.

Learn more about Melanie at

         *                            *                       *

Looking for a Summer Beach Read?
So if you are looking for a good read, pick up a copy of this book (available on Amazon). 
Publishers Weekly called My So-Called Ruined Life  " introspective page turner".  For more reviews, an interview, and a one minute trailer for the book, go to


Christy said...

Melanie told me about your little guest house when she was there and I was so jealous. It sounds wonderful and so does your book that just came out. Thanks for pointing out the awesome veganess within this great book. I was so honored to collaborate with Melanie and do the cover art. She's such a great writer and an even better aunt. Thanks for the great review.

Dr. Joanne L. Mumola Williams said...

The cover is absolutely gorgeous! You are incredibly talented. Hope to meet you some day.