Gaby Triana is a mom, a novelist – and a cake artist.
Isn’t that the coolest triple-threat ever?
Her books include Cubanita, Backstage Pass, and The Temptress Four. She is currently celebrating the launch of her fourth teen novel, titled RIDING THE UNIVERSE:
Here is where you can read about her passion for pastries (check out the slide show!).
Now – onto the interview!
Q: Can you tell us about your new book? What was the inspiration?
Sure! RIDING THE UNIVERSE is about 17-year-old Chloé Rodriguez whose beloved uncle bequeaths her the Harley-Davidson they built from the ground up when she was younger, much to her parents’ chagrin. If she wants the privilege of riding it, she has to keep her grades up, an impossible task when she starts falling for Gordon, the peer tutor assigned to her after she starts failing Chemistry. Add to that her best friend, Rock, who suddenly decides this would be a good time to confess his love for her, plus her newfound curiosity to find her birth parents following her uncle’s death, it’s no wonder Chloé’s world starts spinning out of control. It’s a story about finding your place, love, and family, and it makes me cry every time I finish reading it.
My husband was the inspiration for the motorcycle angle of the story. He’s a Harley-rider, so I wanted to incorporate something I’ve learned a lot about vicariously into one of my stories, and the love triangle aspect of the book…well…let’s just say real life is the inspiration for most of my stories. JQ: You have found a wonderful groove writing teen novels. Do you read a lot of teen novels, or watch large doses of Gossip Girl and 90210?
Weirdly enough, I don’t watch that much TV anymore, but I do read a lot of teen novels. It’s a fascinating time in one’s life to write about—you’re not quite a child, not quite an adult—the perfect breeding ground for lots and lots of drama! Each generation of teens has something different to contend with than the previous, but really, the issues and emotions remain the same over time. Q: Which book has been the most personal for you and why?
You know, not to give the diplomatic answer, because the truth is that ALL my books have something intensely personal about them, but…uh…ALL of them. Even BACKSTAGE PASS, about the daughter of someone really, really, I mean really famous, which I know nothing about, was intensely personal in the most cryptic of ways, those which only my closest family and friends would ever be able to decipher. CUBANITA, because of the obvious—Cuban-American main character, overprotective mother and family, wanting her freedom. THE TEMPTRESS FOUR said a lot about the transition I went through in my life at that time(post divorce)—from structured, predictable future, to okay, now what? And RIDING THE UNIVERSE, about fighting for control over the uncontrollable speaks volumes about my life.
So, to answer to your question, Kathy… *shrugs.*Q: What would you say is your signature item that runs through all your work. A “Gaby” common denominator. Like, you can tell a Gaby book because it has…
My name on the cover. *snerk* I’m so funny!
Okay, no, let’s see…because they all have—and this, I’m taking from all the feedback I’ve ever received from readers—believable characters. My readers seem to enjoy that all my characters seem like real people, people they know, have met, see each day, people they miss once the story is finished. I also like to feature parents prominently in my stories. Parents have everything to do with who teens are, what they do, how they act. Many authors like to keep them in the background, thinking maybe teen readers don’t want to read about the old folks, but um…parents exist, and I happened to have great relationships with mine, so while my characters may not always agree with their parents, they usually love and respect them, while many characters in other teen books are totally appalled by theirs.Q: Between being a mom and writing novels – when you have time to make such perfect cakes?
I cloned myself. One of me does the writing and the mothering, and the other does the cakes. Fine, I have help. My husband and my mom are my secret weapons. Before them, it was daycare. But now that the kids are home for the summer, if I have to make a cake, I’ll bake while the kids are around, but as soon as I need to start decorating, my husband knows that I will soon become a werewolf if he doesn’t get the kids out of the house. Luckily, he is able to find his way to my mother’s house and keep them fed and entertained for hours at a time so that I can transform a mass of flour and eggs into a ’66 Mustang convertible. Same goes for turning blank pages into parallel worlds.Q: How did you get started? Did you make one and then knew you had a calling for it?
I started when I was like 18 when I bought a Wilton catalog and followed the directions on decorating a cake, back when it was just buttercream. It was just fun for me, never thought it would turn into anything profitable. Soon, I was making cakes for every occasion, even making up occasions just so I could make a cake for it. Family started asking for them. Then, I stopped doing them for the longest time, when I really got into writing, until I started back up about two years ago. I almost sold all my baking stuff on eBay before then. I sat there, looking at my inventory of pans and realized I couldn’t sell them. I came out of the garage and said, “I’m gonna start making cakes again.” My mom said, “Tú estás loca.” Then came fondant. Once I realized I could use fondant for just about anything, my art background, the sculpture, the painting…just sort of blended with the baking, and well… www.cakesbygaby.com.
Q: Can you share three tips for using fondant?
1) Work quickly. It dries quickly, so make sure you don’t have to answer the phone, let the dog out, or anything that will interrupt you.
2) Don’t roll it too thick nor too thin. Too thick, and it’s just gross. Nobody wants to eat sugar Play-Doh. Too thin melds nicely with the buttercream underneath, but it’ll tear. And nothing sucks worse than laying on your fondant, having it tear all over the place, then having to decide, do I remove it and start over (wasting expensive fondant) or do I cover all these tears with inconspicuous decorations? By the way, all my cakes have fondant glitches somewhere, but you never see them because I’ve either filled them in or covered them with polka dots.
3) Use vodka, not water, when painting or dusting your fondant. Vodka evaporates faster than water, so mixing your dusts and sugar gels with vodka means the fondant doesn’t sit around softening the way it would if you used water. Softening fondant means you’re going to get a hole somewhere from it dissolving, and you will NOT be a happy cake decorator if that happens! Trust me (werewolf).
Yes, this is one of Gaby’s cakes!
Q: Whether it is outlining a story or prepping your ingredients, how do you get in the groove? Do you work in long stretches of time, or a little bit here and there?
Writing involves the gathering of just the right words, so I need total quiet. I can’t have music, background noise of any kind, or I just can’t concentrate. When I write all day, I will literally spend the day in total quietude. I won’t even answer the phone, because it’ll totally throw me off course.
But with baking/decorating, I plug in my iPhone and let my playlists take over. I don’t really think about anything while I’m working, I just listen to music. Any music, depends on my mood or the type of cake I’m making. If it’s a delicate baby shower thing, I’ll listen to Billie Holiday, and if it’s a sculpted BlackBerry cake, then AFI. If it’s a curled up cat, nothing, because I’m too busy screaming my frustration at its head falling off for the third time. I won’t answer the phone here either, usually because my hands are covered in sugar. Yes, my family thinks I hate them, but I DO NOT. I just can’t talk.
Oh, and I work in long stretches. I’m very impatient and want to see the finished product in everything I do, whether it’s a book or a cake. I want to see it NOW! So I’ll forgo meals just to make that happen.
Q: How are making cakes and writing books similar? Metaphorically, that is!
They’re both like having babies. Pregnancies take forever, are messy in the making (and delivering), but once the kitchen is all cleaned up, the manuscript nice and tidy, you have a perfect little product to show off, and everyone will ooh and ahh…