Thursday, March 21, 2019

Amber Royer

Amber Royer writes fun science fiction involving chocolate, aliens, lovesick AIs, time travel, and more. She teaches enrichment / continuing education creative writing classes for both teens and adults at UT Arlington.

Royer's new novel is Pure Chocolate.

Recently I asked the author about what she was reading. Her reply:
I just finished Twain's Feast: Searching for America's Lost Foods in the Footsteps of Samuel Clemens by Andrew Beahrs. Twain was definitely an early influence on my sense of humor. ("The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calavaras County" is the first short story I can clearly remember reading.) So it’s been interesting learning more about him as a person (I knew a bit, like that Twain was a steamboat pilot, but I underestimated how dangerous that occupation was – and understanding that gives the fact that he chose “Mark Twain,” which basically meant safe depths, as his pen name more profound), and seeing a critical look at the times he was living in and his complicated context within those times. This book starts with a list of foods Twain said he enjoyed. Then it explores history in the context of those foods. I’ve always felt that food is a good entry into understanding any time period or culture. (I write sci-fi, and I’ve actually taken the time to develop culinary traditions for the invented cultures my alien characters belong to. It makes them have so much more context, and makes their invented planets seem so much more real.)

I’ve also been binge-reading cookbooks, since my husband and I have been working up a revised and expanded version of the chocolate-paired-with-herbs cookbook we self-published back when we were doing events for the local herb society. One of the most fascinating was Michael Ruhlman’s Ratio. It’s a book about principles. Knowing the basic ratios that will give you different doughs, batters, stocks and sauces allows you to insert your own preferred ingredients to create unique recipes. It also teaches you how to look at a recipe and figure out how to scale things up and down. I recommend reading it cover to cover. It will change the way you think about food.

I did a reading out of Free Chocolate at the Dallas Chocolate Festival, and I met the guys from Dandelion Chocolate, a craft chocolate company out of San Francisco. They have a book out now called Making Chocolate: From Bean to Bar to S'more. It actually goes into the nuts and bolts of chocolate making, with detailed photographs, charts and graphs. It also talks about the creativity and innovation that sometimes goes into the process on a small business scale, because some chocolate-processing equipment is dang expensive. It’s a compelling read, and did I mention the gorgeous photographs? Because they will make you hungry.

On the fiction side of things, I just finished All Systems Red by Martha Wells, the first in her Murderbot Diaries series. They’re novellas, which make them quick reads, and I have an hour commute on the days I teach, so audiobooks really help me get in reading time. It was cool from a fellow-writer perspective to see how much sympathy and tragic backstory she wove into a story about a cybernetic being meant to be a killing machine that would really just rather watch the entertainment feeds – without slowing down the story.

In hard copy, I’m currently working through Asimov’s Foundation Series. It is one of those classics that I somehow never got around to reading. So far, it sounds like they’re building Wikipedia, though that’s just part of laying the groundwork for a much larger conflict. I intend to study it to see how the galactic-scale worldbuilding was done but I’m having a little trouble with the fatalism implied by psychohistory. I’ve always said that genre is a conversation, so you need to be conversant with what other authors have said in the past to say something new and relevant.
Visit Amber Royer's website.

The Page 69 Test: Free Chocolate.

My Book, The Movie: Pure Chocolate.

The Page 69 Test: Pure Chocolate.

--Marshal Zeringue