The amazing Rajani LaRocca is on today's blog! Born in Bangalore, India, Rajani immigrated to the U.S. as a baby. She grew up to attend Harvard College and Harvard Medical School, and trained in Internal Medicine at Massachusetts General Hospital. In addition to writing, she has been working as a primary care physician since 2001.
Rajani's middle grade debut, MIDSUMMER'S MAYHEM, will be available on June 11th. In addition to receiving a starred review from Kirkus, MIDSUMMER'S MAYHEM has also been chosen as an Indies Introduce Selection for Summer/Fall 2019, and a Kids Indie Next Summer 2019 Selection.
Check out the synopsis below!
Can Mimi undo the mayhem caused by her baking in this contemporary-fantasy retelling of Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream?
Eleven-year-old Mimi Mackson comes from a big Indian American family: Dad's a renowned food writer, Mom's a successful businesswoman, and her three older siblings all have their own respective accomplishments. It's easy to feel invisible in such an impressive family, but Mimi's dream of proving she's not the least-talented member of her family seems possible when she discovers a contest at the new bakery in town. Plus, it'll start her on the path to becoming a celebrity chef like her culinary idol, Puffy Fay.
But when Mimi's dad returns from a business trip, he's mysteriously lost his highly honed sense of taste. Without his help, Mimi will never be able to bake something impressive enough to propel her to gastronomic fame.
Drawn into the woods behind her house by a strangely familiar song, Mimi meets Vik, a boy who brings her to parts of the forest she's never seen. Who knew there were banyan trees and wild boars in Massachusetts? Together they discover exotic ingredients and bake them into delectable and enchanting treats.
But as her dad acts stranger every day, and her siblings' romantic entanglements cause trouble in their town, Mimi begins to wonder whether the ingredients she and Vik found are somehow the cause of it all. She needs to use her skills, deductive and epicurean, to uncover what's happened. In the process, she learns that in life, as in baking, not everything is sweet. . . .
And now, here's my chat with Rajani!
Hi, Rajani! Welcome and congrats on Midsummer's Mayhem. Can you tell us a little about the story and what inspired it?
Midsummer’s Mayhem is an Indian-American mashup of A Midsummer Night’s Dream and competitive baking. It’s a story about 11-year-old Mimi, who dreams of winning a local baking contest to finally prove she’s not the least talented member of her family. But she loses her best helper when her food writer father returns from a business trip mysteriously unable to tell the difference between delicious and disgusting. Following strangely familiar music into the woods behind her house, Mimi meets a golden-eyed boy, Vik. Together, they find exotic herbs and spices in the woods and bake with them, and soon, everyone around Mimi is acting even more strange. Mimi must use her skills, deductive and epicurean, to figure out what’s happened and return everyone to normal. In the process, she learns that in life as in baking, not everything can be sweet. . .
I was inspired to write this story because of my childhood love of A Midsummer Night’s Dream and my obsession with competitive baking shows.
What did you love most about writing Mimi?
Mimi truly is a sweet character with a heart of gold who views everything from a culinary point of view. I loved causing her all sorts of problems (sorry, dear Mimi!) and infusing her thoughts and dialogue with food-related details and metaphors.
I'm a firm believer in the idea that every story teaches the writer something new, so what did writing Midsummer’s Mayhem teach you?
After working on this novel for three years, I did my final revision, in which I removed a major character rewrote nearly every scene, in five weeks. This taught me that once I really understood the heart of my story and saw how every single scene needed to relate to that heart, I could revise it quite quickly.
Humor is such an important ingredient in (most) middle grade. Do you have any tips for making sure it sounds authentic?
Oh, this is a hard one. I think the best advice I have is to read pieces aloud. . .or even better, have someone else read it aloud. The ear can pick up things the eyes can’t. If something sounds awkward, or you don’t get a laugh when you think you should, it’s time to rethink things a bit.
What are you reading, watching, or otherwise currently infatuated with?
I am currently reading THE BRIDGE HOME by Padma Venkatraman, and it is so good! I am not watching anything, because I am a little too busy at the moment! Culinarily, I recently baked with some dear friends for my launch party, and we absolutely perfected three of the baked goods described in Midsummer’s Mayhem. In addition to the two recipes included at the end of the book, I’m giving a PDF recipe book to anyone who preorders!
And finally, what’s the most valuable lesson you’ve learned so far in your publishing career?
Surround yourself with good people—people who help and nourish you, who give you strength. Publishing can be very tough, and having these supports around you makes it much easier. I am so grateful for my wonderful family and writing friends, who have helped me through the difficult times and celebrated the wonderful times. To me, writing is about connection, and connecting with creative friends has given me the greatest joy.
Many thanks go out to Rajani for taking the time to tell us more about Midsummer's Mayhem. Be to sure to add this Shakespearean-inspired, baking competition mash-up of a middle grade to your Goodreads list, or (better yet!) pre-order your copy (WRITE) NOW from retail sites like Amazon, and Barnes & Noble, or request it at your library, or local independent bookstore!
For more information, follow Rajani on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter at @rajanilarocca, and visit her author website at rajanilarocca.com.
And, as always,