Tiramisu-tastic: The Talented Martina Munzittu on Non-Fiction Excellence

Today I’m really excited to welcome to the blog my talented friend and author, Martina Munzittu. I asked Martina if she’d be happy to answer some questions about her latest release, a cookery book with a difference: Tiramisu Recipes From Italian Friends and Family. What’s really interesting about this interview is how Martina managed to produce a non-fiction book with the same beautiful standards as any traditionally published cook book. Read on to find out more …

STOP PRESS: The Kindle edition of Martina’s book is on special offer this weekend only at $0.99/£0.77! The usual price is $4.99/£2.99 so grab yourself a bargain then come back to find out more :)

Tiramisu Cover Square

  • Martina, I think the idea for an authentic Italian cookbook like this – with recipes inspired by your friends and family – is brilliant, but it’s also perhaps an unusual project for an indie author to undertake alone. Can you tell us a little about where the idea came from, and why you decided to self-publish rather than pitching it to a traditional publisher?

I had been thinking for a long time about writing a cookery book, but somehow the time never seemed quite right.  I love cooking and I particularly like baking and preparing desserts. Several months ago I was making tiramisu for some friends who were coming to dinner. Over the years I had changed the traditional recipe and added a layer of chocolate mousse to it. I love espresso coffee, but I’m not fond of coffee in my desserts, so I had replaced the coffee with Martini. While I was melting the chocolate in the saucepan, I started to think of the many times I tried tiramisu as a guest in the homes of my friends and relatives in Italy. How a simple, wonderful dessert could taste quite different depending on the person who made it. But not only that, I remembered the varieties of tiramisu I had had. The fruity tiramisus during the summer, children’s ones at birthday parties, alcoholic treats at weddings. And that’s where the idea for the book came from. I was going to ask my family and friends not only to give me their tiramisu recipes, but also to send in the photos of their desserts once they made it.

As far as pitching the book to a traditional publisher, to be honest, the thought never even entered my head. I just went ahead and self-published it.

  • When I got the pdf proofs to do the index for this book I was amazed at how professionally it had been laid out. Did you use a professional typesetter, and what other professional services did you employ on this title?

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My biggest challenge with this book was to ‘marry’ the images with the text in a uniform and elegant way. I tried doing it with Word, but it wasn’t working. I realized that I needed the help of a professional and I found a lovely lady, Janet Tallon, who is a talented designer. I had an idea of what I wanted the book to look like, so I gave her the brief, provided the text and photos, and she produced something that exceeded my expectations.

The other challenge was to create the ebook. Ebooks with images are not that easy to do, especially when you have 70 photos. They need to work in every device, not just the kindle readers. Not to mention the fact that Amazon charges the author $0.15/£0.10 for each MB of data if you go for the 70% royalty option, and images tend to be heavy. I didn’t want my ebook to be too heavy/costly. So I had to hire another expert, as I was not capable of formatting the ebook so that it would work in any ereader and be ‘light’ at the same time. Serena Zonca was the lady who helped me format the ebook, and she did a fantastic job.

  • If the pdfs were good, the physical book itself was another huge surprise! As I said above, I’m really impressed with the quality of the final product, but I know you had some issues initially with the printing. Can you talk us through that and how you resolved it?

I published the book with Lightning Source and they had two options for printing in colour. Standard and Premium.  At first I went for Standard, because I wanted my book to be reasonably priced, but when I received the proof copy, I wasn’t happy with the quality of the paper: it was too thin and flimsy, I could just imagine any cook holding the book in their hand getting cross as the pages might tear. So I decided to upgrade to Premium Colour. Unfortunately, this pushed the price up of the paperback from £7.99 to £12.99. This is something that concerns me a lot as a self-published author, as I see many traditionally published authors (often celebrity chefs) who have fantastic cookery books out there, which sell for less. And I can’t compete with those prices (let alone with those names!)

  • The photos in the book are lovely, and everyone knows food photography is very difficult. How did you get such great pics?

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The pictures were a huge challenge, both for me and my friends who were sending them to me via email. Some photos I was receiving were out of focus, at times the lightning wasn’t right. Some just didn’t do justice to the desserts so I had to ask those people to make the tiramisu again and re-send the photos and I felt really bad about that. I had to do my own tiramisus a few times, in order to get the pictures right. There was a lot of trial and error, and you can see that the style of photography varies considerably, depending on who made that particular dessert. In the end we got there, thanks also to the help of Janet, who managed to get the best out of each photo.

  • Which part of the process did you enjoy the most? (Okay, I’m guessing it was cooking and eating loads of tiramisu!)

You got that right, Jo! However, after you make tiramisu twice a week for several months, you kind of have enough of it… My husband though, always seemed to appreciate it, he liked the variety of the desserts. For me it was different, maybe because I was actually making them, measuring the ingredients, testing the recipes, writing about it; after a while I decided I didn’t want to eat another tiramisu for at least a month. It only lasted one month… I’m back on it now.

  • What’s next for you as an indie author-publisher?

I’m working on two other cookery books. One will be about pasta sauces and one about risottos. They will follow the same format as the tiramisu book, a collection of recipes from Italian friends and family.

  • Finally, what advice would you give any readers who are thinking of self-publishing a non-fiction title, particularly one that needs to look as beautiful as this?

This is my first non-fiction book, so I still consider myself as newbie. In my limited experience so far, I would probably say that many rules of writing fiction still apply: your research shows, so whether you’re writing about cooking or any subject, it’s important to get your facts straight. The style needs to be engaging and warm, which is easier to do when you’re dealing with chocolate desserts, rather than a DIY manual, but as writers we’re expected to be creative. Now, if you’re book has many pictures and you don’t have the skills to put it together yourself, I definitely recommend finding a professional who can help you, both for the design of the paperback and the ebook. You can spend hours and hours trying to do it yourself and still end up with something that doesn’t look good enough, while it’s best to use your time doing what you do best: writing a good book.

Martina

Martina Munzittu was born and raised in Italy (Sardinia); she now lives in Cambridgeshire, UK, with her husband and young daughter. She writes contemporary romance and chick-lit books. Her debut novel A Deal with a Stranger is a romantic/mystery set in Sardinia; Incompatible Twins and The Broken Heart Refuge are set in London.

Like many Italians, Martina has a passion for food and this comes across in her books, where the protagonists of her stories are often obsessed with cooking and eating. Martina’s latest books are dedicated to this passion.

Click here to buy the book 

Click here to visit Martina’s website

 

 

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Typing THE END – How Amazing Does That Feel?

I finished A Date With Death at the weekend. (I’ve left some space here for you to cheer.)      It was wonderful! I’ve been editing as I went along this time, and as I was working from a very detailed plan – necessary, I find, with a complex mystery plot – when the time came to type ‘The End’ it really was the end. Well, apart from editing, of course, and beta-reading, and proofreading etc. But you know how wonderful that moment is, when you reach the end – when you reach the point at which you feel completely happy with what you’ve achieved. Ah, lovely!

This time, I thought of an extra special way to mark the event – I got my 6 year old daughter to come upstairs and type ‘THE END’ on my computer. She loved it! Bless her heart, she’s always writing little books, and is working on one just now called ‘The Terrible Octopuses’. She’s drawn the cover and written the first page and wants me to make it into a proper book when she’s finished.

So, A Date With Death is finished and the countdown to launch starts here. I don’t have a definite date yet, but it will be some time in November, and the ebook will be available for pre-order very soon. Here, to whet your appetite, is a little excerpt from the first chapter. Enjoy :)

(If anyone hasn’t read Murder at the Maples yet, the first in the Flora Lively series, watch out for a special competition for subscribers to my mailing list to win an audio version of the book very soon. Or you can check out the Kindle version here.)

A Date With Death cover

‘Nervous?’

Flora kept her gaze on the long gravelled driveway that wound through the woods to Hanley Manor. She could feel rather than see Marshall’s eyes trained on her face.

‘No,’ she said. ‘Why on earth would I be nervous?’

He shrugged. ‘No reason. Just … you know.’

She did know, but wasn’t about to engage with him on that topic again. Not so soon after their last argument, anyway. Celeste’s return from two years’ travelling had thrown old insecurities wide open, but Flora was sick of hearing Marshall criticize her friend. And he was way off the mark about her nerves.

Sort of.

‘You’re doing real well,’ Marshall told her. He was referring to her driving. Flora had passed her test only a week ago; she was prickly about the fact that it had taken her until the age of thirty to finally cross that threshold of independence. Her next challenge was to master their pantechnicon removals van, which wasn’t going to be a breeze. Especially not with Marshall watching her so intently, commenting on each and every crunching gear change, pulling that wincing face every time she miscalculated and caused the wheels to touch the kerb just the slightest little itty-bit. It was infuriating. But then Marshall was infuriating – always had been, always would be.

Flora pressed her foot to the brake, slowing the van as they approached the end of the driveway. She was sitting on two cushions but still had to stretch out her legs to reach the pedals. The steering wheel felt like the helm of a ship, the van’s sway and constant pull like the sucking of the ocean.

‘Just park up over there,’ Marshall said, pointing to a line of four or five cars.

‘Oh, I think here will be fine,’ Flora countered. She waited a beat for the engine to shudder to a halt, then reached for the door and jumped down from the cab. She heard Marshall’s exasperated sigh and tried to suppress a grin.

Infuriating, and easily infuriated. At least they were evenly matched.

Hanley Manor was just as Celeste had described it. Flora guessed it to be Georgian, a hulking square of pinkish brick with two rows of symmetrically placed windows travelling its length and width. The facade nearest the drive had a porch – if you could call it a porch – with six columns supporting a flat jutting overhang. The roof was squat and symmetrical, balanced by regularly spaced chimneys and part-hidden behind an ornate parapet. Flora registered that jittery feeling in her stomach again. It wasn’t nerves, no matter what Marshall said, but it wasn’t exactly excitement either. Maybe she was just overwhelmed by all this grandeur, or maybe it was the thought of meeting an actual real-life film crew – Rojo Productions – who had travelled over from Spain with her friend to this quintessential English location.

Flora looked up at the house again and let out a long sigh. Okay, perhaps she was a little anxious about seeing Celeste after all this time. So much had happened. Flora had lost both her parents, had taken over her father’s removal business, had dealt with the kinds of problems you couldn’t really write about in emails. Not that Celeste had bothered replying to emails. But when you were travelling it was hard to keep in touch, as Flora had explained to Marshall over and over whenever he criticized her friend for not “being there” for Flora in her hour of need.

Still. It would be weird seeing her again. Nice, but weird.

Flora heard the pantechnicon’s engine start up behind her. She watched Marshall maneuver it into the parking space he’d indicated to her. Maddening man – he’d do anything to make a point, to make her look useless. She decided to ignore him and sneak off for a quick glimpse of the gardens. No harm in putting off going inside the house for a tiny bit longer, after all. She strolled to the edge of the driveway, then ducked into a small wooded area, wiping her palms on the rear of her denim shorts. Being out of the unforgiving sun was a joy. After a quick look around to make sure she was alone, Flora lifted her arms straight out sideways to allow the light breeze to cool her sticky armpits. She twirled slowly, closing her eyes. To be able to hear nothing but birdsong and the rustling of leaves on leaves – what bliss.

‘It’s no use hiding in here, Lively. We’ll have to go inside sooner or later.’

She put a hand to her chest – he’d made her jump, booming into the still air like that. How had he managed to park the van so quickly? Flora sighed, her shoulders drooping. Finally passing her driving test had only been the first hurdle: to pull her weight she’d need to master a seven-ton lorry, never mind her second hand Mini. Business was so bad, Shakers Removals was down to two employees – her and Marshall – and there was, as he reminded her far too often, no room for dead weight.

‘Hey,’ Marshall said, his voice softer. ‘I was only joking. We can stay out here a while if you want to.’

Flora pressed her lips into a tight smile. Sometimes he could read her mind, sometimes not so. ‘Will you give it a rest? I’m not nervous.’

‘Sure you’re not.’ Marshall grinned. ‘Let’s go meet us some famous actors.’

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Cupid’s Way Is FREE This Weekend

Remember the summer? Remember blue skies and the sun on your face and picnics with bunting and birds chirping joyfully every morning …

Yes, it is a dim and distant memory now that rain is hammering it down every night, but here to brighten up your weekend is a slice of summer sunshine – Cupid’s Way is on FREE promotion until Monday!

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“Two Weeks Notice meets You’ve Got Mail” – love on opposite sides of the fence in this heart-warming summer read.

Share, share, share, download and enjoy! Here’s hoping this one reaches out to loads of readers – everyone needs a bit of bunting on a weekend  like this ;)

And here’s a little bit more about it …

Sparks fly when Evie Stone joins the battle to save Cupid’s Way – a perfectly preserved Victorian terrace street, surrounded by modern estates and retail parks, now under threat from developers. Dynamite Construction have the deal in the bag – CEO Michael Andrews, charismatic and super-successful, has never let sentimentality get in the way of business.At least, he hadn’t until he met Evie Stone.

Should Evie put her principles aside for the first man in years to set her heart alight? As the residents of Cupid’s Way prepare to do battle, Evie finds herself tested in ways she hadn’t bargained for. Pulled in opposite directions, Evie will never turn her back on her friends. But in Cupid’s Way, love has other ideas …

“‘Cupid’s Way’ is a charming, captivating and simply amazing read which I definitely recommend to chick lit fans; you’ll love it!” Spoonful of Happy Endings“I was really hooked by the story, it was easy to read and Evie was a great character.” Compelling Reads

“Some parts of the story made me laugh, and others were heartbreakingly sad, but all through are lots of little love stories, helped along by Cupid’s Way.” Sheli Reads

“I enjoyed this book from the very first page.” Kim The Bookworm

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Beta Readers Needed for A Date With Death

Una Cita con la Muerte – this is the title of the movie which is being made in the new Flora Lively mystery. It translates from Spanish to A Date With Death … I’m putting out the call today for beta readers who can read the book in two weeks between Monday 18th October and Friday 24th October. There are no special skills needed – just a willingness to feedback honestly what you feel works and what might not work so well. And it helps if you love mysteries, and/or read and enjoyed the first Flora Lively book, Murder at the Maples.

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It would be really super-fab if I could find someone who speaks Spanish to beta-read the book as well. There are a few Spanish words and phrases, and while I have been rigorous in my translations, it would be great to have someone scan these for authenticity in context. If anyone has a Spanish-speaking friend they could put me in touch with that would be great. I could put the Spanish-containing bits into a separate document so they wouldn’t have to read the whole thing.

I love this stage of producing a book. The first draft is completed, and now it’s just polishing and re-drafting and editing. Now I start to really know the characters – and they are a pretty mad bunch, I can tell you! A Date With Death is a mystery more in line with a traditional Agatha Christie-esque structure – a bunch of potential suspects, all holed-up together in a manor house, with lots of twists and turns and surprises. And red herrings, of course ;)

Next week I’ll be posting up an excerpt from the first chapter, so watch out for that. And if you are interested in beta reading, either leave a comment in the boxes below or email me on joannephillipsmail (at) gmail (dot) com.

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