Thursday, March 19, 2015

The Cake House & Los Angeles (+ Giveaway)

A retelling of Hamlet in LA. Now, when you hear these words, do you get as excited and curious as I do? Today I have a special treat for y'all: Latifah Salom is here to explain the inspiration for her debut novel, The Cake House. I am currently running a giveaway for The Cake House; and I would urge you to enter if you like reading Latifah's response here today.

Release Date: March 3, 2015
Published by: Vintage

The Cake House - Latifah Salom | Goodreads

Part mystery, part compelling coming-of-age tale, The Cake House is a riveting debut novel that re-imagines the classic story of Hamlet amidst the hills of suburban Los Angeles.

Rosaura Douglas’s father shot himself after her mother left him . . . or at least that's the story everyone is telling. Now her mother has remarried and Rosie is trapped in “The Cake House,” a garish pink edifice in the hills of Los Angeles that's a far cry from the cramped apartment where she grew up. It’s also the house where her father died—a fact that everyone else who lives there, including her mother, Dahlia, and her mysteriously wealthy stepfather, Claude, want to forget.

Soon, however, her father’s ghost appears, sometimes in a dark window, sometimes in the house’s lush garden, but always with warnings that Claude is not to be trusted. And as the ghost becomes increasingly violent—and the secrets of her family’s past come to light—Rosie must finally face the truth behind the losses and lies that have torn her life apart.

The Cake House and Los Angeles
By Latifah Salom

What informs our choices when writing? What strange jumble of influences, the flotsam in our conscious or unconscious minds that leads a writer to chose not only plot and theme and genre, but also character traits, history, and of course, setting?

Like in chemistry, sometimes all you need is that right mixture of elements to start a chain reaction. Every writer starts somewhere – an idea, a theme, a small kernel of story, a line of text – whatever it is that sparks that impulse to sit down and start writing. For my novel THE CAKE HOUSE, it started with Hamlet. That was my base, stripped down to its bones: a murder, a ghost, heartbreak, revenge.

As I began writing, I asked the sort of questions most writers ask: What do I want to say with this story? Who are my characters and what are their wants and desires? Where do they live, and why?

I am fond of questions. The beauty of asking a question when writing is that it doesn’t always matter what the answer is, as long as you do answer it. Case in point: Why Los Angeles? Well, the quick and easy answer is I live in Los Angeles and grew up here. But, in truth, familiarity only goes so far.

I knew this story needed to be set in a real place and not in an imagined town or city, to balance against the heightened drama of the story and to give credence to the ghost.

Los Angeles is big and vast and even though there are actual city limits, the perception is that it stretches across Southern California like a blanket of smog, from ocean to desert. But even choosing Los Angeles, I was still faced with deciding where: Beverly Hills or Hollywood? Westside or the Valley?

When I was in junior high I knew someone who came from Canyon Country, a place that is actually located outside Los Angeles, and I remembered how she used to speak about it, like a far off kingdom. I wanted that sense of isolation, of loneliness and seclusion.

I called upon those years as a young girl, living outside of Los Angeles – the way the asphalt almost melted in the September, the way I felt surrounded by hills. These were the flavors I wanted for my novel.

As soon as I decided to write a story based on Hamlet, I turned my back on the play. I didn’t want to be overly influenced by it. It was there of course, but under the surface, like a ghost. There is universality to Shakespeare’ that make them infinitely adaptable to any culture or setting. This is like magic.
IF YOU LIKED Latifah's post and find yourself interested by The Cake House, don't forget to enter the giveaway for a copy of the book.

Also don't forget to read the PRAISE for The Cake House!

“Evocative . . . Salom’s writing is atmospheric, and her conjuring of the many shadows of Los Angeles provides the perfect backdrop.”—Kirkus Reviews

“Tense, shocking, and seductively dark, The Cake House is a brand-new twist on a classic story—an urban reinvention of a Shakespearean tale.” —Rebecca Coleman, bestselling author of The Kingdom of Childhood 

“Reading The Cake House, I vividly saw the whole edifice rising up before me, latticework covering a multitude of sins. A wonderful, chewy, complicated book that doesn't flinch from danger or pain but rejects despair.” —Naomi Novik, author of the bestselling Temeraire series

copyright: Shannon Keast
“The Cake House is a gem of a novel: a mystery wrapped in a cloak of family dysfunction with subtle Shakespearean trim. . . . Rosaura is a heroine with spunk and a vulnerability so endearing I missed her the second I closed the book. Salom has written a dazzling coming-of-age tale that will resonate long after you reach the end.” —Elizabeth Flock, New York Times bestselling author of Me & Emma and What Happened To My Sister

About the author:

Latifah Salom was born in Hollywood, California to parents of Peruvian and Mexican descent. As a teenager she attended the Los Angeles County High School for the Arts, and she holds degrees from Emerson College, Hunter College, and from the University of Southern California’s Masters of Professional Writing program. She currently lives in Los Angeles.

What do you think? Does the Los Angeles setting sound fascinating to you or what? I particularly love how Latifah described "the way the asphalt almost melted in the September, the way I felt surrounded by hills" as flavors for her novel. As someone who grew up in Los Angeles, I can definitely identify with this sentiment. 

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