Introducing Kelly Swan Taylor who shares the story of her upcoming novel.
My upcoming contemporary novel is a story of unwavering friendship through loss and triumph and was born out of a love of baking, family traditions, and (of course) my passion for sports. It’s as eclectic as I am and holds a special place in my heart. And I hope it will in yours.
Each fall, for a while now, I pull out my recipe book and prepare for a long season of baking from Halloween through Christmas. What started with a simple (well, not really ingredient-wise) gingerbread recipe turned into at least a dozen different varieties of cookies, now carefully placed between wax paper and packaged inside colorful tins. I tie them with a bow of red and white baker’s twine and ship them off to friends and family. This tradition is my personal version of a bakery and became the catalyst for my debut young adult novel.
As a former laboratory scientist, recipe experimentation is what fueled my enjoyment of baking. That, and sharing the unique results with others. This is something my protagonist, Mia DeSalvo, and I have in common. Bringing new life to old family recipes keeps these cherished memories alive. And it does help to have a wonderful treasure trove of recipes from which to choose. I’m lucky in that department. From my Slovak great-grandmother’s apple strudel to my grandmother-in-law’s “Oatmeal Crispies,” my cookie tins are overflowing.
But it was the stories that my husband told about his Sicilian roots and warm dinners around the Italian table growing up that prompted me to create the DeSalvo Bakery. It was inspired by my husband’s great-grandmother, Antoinette DeSalvo, who immigrated to this country in the early 1900’s. I will never forget my own experience visiting Italy a few years ago and feeling the comforting warmth of delicious food and drink, including sampling several cannoli in each city.
Of course, no sweet teen story would be complete without a fun group of tight, loyal friends. I chose to huddle them around the emerald turf of a football field. While I hadn’t initially intended for football to play such an integral role in the novel, I couldn’t imagine my own high school or college experiences without it and loved the instant action and drama it brought to the story. Whether as supportive teammates or dedicated fans, participating in sports emphasizes teamwork, dedication, and goal setting — all wonderful lessons for the young and old alike. And, while the teenage characters take the lead in this story, the diverse multi-generational cast is included and respected as an important part of their world.
Finally, there is a distinctly American feel to The Winning Ingredient that was intentional. And it isn’t just the all-American football theme. It is scattered throughout the book, from the school’s name and mascot to the hard-working people, who care about their community. The story is a shout-out to immigrant families who own small businesses and came to this country to achieve a dream and share their legacies. Their many recipes and traditions are now weaved into the fabric of our one flag. And I couldn’t forget the essential Gold Star and Blue Star families of our military, who sacrifice so much to keep us safe and allow us the freedom to achieve our dreams.