By Linda Lovely
Making candy at Christmas is a family tradition. I was in grade school when we first added chocolate-covered cherries to our repertoire. Marsha, who rented our apartment, joined in the fun and shared her recipe. My candy selection still includes chocolate-covered cherries, but my latest iteration rolls cherries in a fondant that’s less sticky.
I’m genetically predisposed to tinkering. What fun is it to follow a recipe by rote year after year without experimenting? My same predispositions apply to genre formulas. We’ll get to that later.
Let’s consider my Oreo/almond ball candy. My starter recipe called for a filling made of crushed chocolate wafers, chopped and toasted almonds, corn syrup, powdered sugar, and chocolate-flavored liqueur. Here’s my current version.:
1 package double-stuffed chocolate Oreos, crushed in the blender
1 cup almond slices
1 cup powdered sugar
¼ cup light corn syrup
1/3 cup Amaretto
(Later, you’ll need vanilla-flavored candy coating and some melted semi-sweet chocolates for decorating.)
I mix all filling ingredients, roll them into balls in the palm of my hand, and place them on wax-paper covered cookie sheets. The candy goes into the refrigerator to harden. After the balls chill at least an hour, I melt vanilla-flavored candy coating in the microwave. Then I dunk the balls in the coating with a fork and plop them back on waxed paper. Next I use a salad fork to fling (yes, fling) melted semi-sweet chocolate across the candy tray to create interesting dark patterns on the white candies.
My liquor and cookie choice can vary with what’s in my cupboard. I’ve used crème de cocoa and regular Oreos, not double-stuffed. I tried vanilla Oreos (not a favorite). Not all experiments are keepers.
So how does this apply to genres? When I start a new novel, I know my basic ingredients will include suspense/mystery, romance, and humor (usually supplied by a character’s view of the world). However, I have no preconceived notion of ratios nor do I feel a need to satisfy some arbitrary genre ratio. Instead my characters and plots dictate the recipe. In this, the author show serves as my personal heroine is Susan Isaacs. I’m currently rereading her novel, Magic Hour. What a treat! Her books always include my three favorite ingredients but how she mixes them can deliver quite different and surprising results from Compromising Positions to Shining Through, and Red, White and Blue.
Do readers who love thrills, romance, and humor really care how and when the ingredients get mixed, as long as a book delivers a reading treat? Changing recipes can add new flavors, deliver surprising twists.