Join YA Author Kelly Fiore for a Taste Test (Interview and Giveaway)

Thursday, August 29, 2013
Are you a fan of Iron Chef? Do you find yourself DVR-ing Cupcake Wars? If you are a foodie and love young adult books, too, then you are really in for a treat with the interview and giveaway we have today. We have debut author Kelly Fiore and her young adult book, Taste Test. Grab your favorite snack, read this interview, and then enter to win your copy below! She shares a bit about her book, balancing work and family, being a locavore and proponent of the Feingold Diet, and writing through post-partum depression. 

WOW: Welcome, Kelly! Congratulations on your debut of Taste Test, a young adult contemporary novel. Tell us a bit about the plot. It sounds fun!

Kelly: Thanks so much for having me! Taste Test is about a high school senior named Nora who grew up in her widowed father’s North Carolina barbecue joint. When her favorite show, TASTE TEST, is casting for new teen cooking competitors, Nora applies and is accepted. Once there, though, she realizes that her humble upbringing didn’t prepare her for the cut-throat world of culinary reality TV. She’s got a snotty roommate and a love/hate relationship with the competition hottie, Christian Van Lorton. Not that Nora can concentrate on her personal life – when accidents in the kitchen start looking more like sabotage, Nora realizes she needs to focus on staying in the competition and try to avoid being “chopped” for good.

WOW: I love this--I'm a reality TV fan! Where did you get the idea to do a reality show about teens cooking?

Kelly: I was a high school teacher for about ten years; and throughout that time, there was a program called “Commercial Foods.” It was run by a former chef, and the kids absolutely loved it. It was always one of the most popular classes. I sort of took that idea, combined with the simple fact that there really SHOULD be a reality cooking competition for teens, and compiled Taste Test.

WOW: What kind of research did you have to do for this? Did you get to go to a reality show?

Kelly: If I tell you I watched a lot of TV, does that count as research? (smiles) In all seriousness, I think much of my former life was research – I worked in restaurants for about seven years in my teens and early twenties. Now, I watch a ton of food-related television, and I’m lucky to have several Top-Chef alumnus restaurants in my area (Bryan Voltaggio’s Volt, Spike Mendelsohn’s Good Stuff Eatery, Mike Isabella’s Graffiato, etc.). So sure, I did watch a lot of TV – but I also tried to spend time in the restaurant arena and absorb the atmosphere. For example, Volt has a Table 21 menu (21 – yes 21! – dishes are served), and it takes place in a kitchen-side dining area. So you get to see the chefs working while your food is prepared. That was an invaluable experience for my writing.

WOW: Food is a big theme for you--on your blog and in your life! I read this on your website, and I KNOW we have some readers on here who will be REALLY interested in this: "I spend all of my free time that isn’t spent writing cooking, baking, and canning. We are locavores and extremely supportive members of a local farm CSA. We also follow and support the Feingold Diet, a food program for kids sensitive to artificial additives and natural salycilates." Can you explain a little how you balance everything?

Kelly: Um. Carefully? (smiles) Being “locavores” is actually really easy for someone living in suburban Maryland. We’re surrounded by farms and the CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) movement is huge here, especially in bigger cities. So many farms already have deliveries into Baltimore and DC, but offer a discount if you pick your share up at the farm. I find it inordinately important that my son spends time on a farm to see where food comes from, so we go most Saturday mornings to get our eggs, veggies, and pork/chicken.

I could talk about the Feingold Diet all day, so I’ll try not to make this too long. The FG Diet changed my son’s life. He was having really horrible behavioral problems from age 3-4, and sometimes they seemed physical – almost seizure-like. Doctors weren’t much help. When we discovered the FG Diet, it was sort of a “well, I’ll try this before we try meds” kind of choice. Instead, we found our son – the boy he was always meant to be – by eliminating dairy and artificial colors/flavors/preservatives. We also limit foods high in salycilates (this is the active ingredient in aspirin and does a number on young tummies). The FG Diet is labeled as an ADHD diet, but it’s really not just that – since starting in February 2012, my son hasn’t had seasonal allergies, ear infections, stomach troubles, or any of the symptoms that used to be regular for him. And his behavior is no longer an issue. In fact, he started Kindergarten this past Tuesday and got so many “green lights” for behavior that he got to bring home the “Show and Tell” bag.

Your original question was about balance – I think I got a little side-tracked. In terms of fitting it all in, we make choices as to what is a priority. I’ll be perfectly honest, we spend more money on food than we do on most other bills. But we think our health and our bodies are an important investment and more important than new clothes or vacations and luxuries. Everything’s a trade-off.

WOW: That is so amazing what the right diet did for your son! And I think spending a lot of money on food is actually a good place to spend money. Finally, I read that you started writing during post-partum depression, and then you got your agent. Tell us how writing helped you work through a hard time as a mom, and about your agent journey, which I'm sure was thrilling!

Kelly: I’ve always tried to be really transparent about my post-partum depression because I think it a) happens far more often than people realize and b) is often a silent, hidden issue.

My pregnancy and subsequent depression changed everything for me. Now six years out, I can see that it might have been the best thing that ever happened. I’ve never been as happy as I am now. But at the time, I just wanted to feel anticipation and hope and drive. When I thought about the “butterflies” and emotions of teen love and teen angst, I found myself physically manifesting those feelings. And I was able to write them down.

That first book was extremely cathartic and, like you mentioned, nabbed me my first agent. It didn’t sell, which was a little disappointing, but I can see now that writing it brought me to the place I’m at now.

WOW: Thanks for being so open and honest! What's been the best part about Taste Test coming out?

Kelly: I think it will be the moment I walk into a Barnes & Noble or an Indie bookstore and see it sitting on the shelf. That, or going into a library and finding it there. That will be extremely gratifying. There’s something about physically having a book in the bookstore that makes you feel really legitimate as a writer.

WOW: Thank you, Kelly. To find a copy of Taste Test, visit, Barnes & Noble,, or your local bookstore. To connect with Kelly online, you can visit her website at and follow her on Twitter at: @kellyannfiore


We also have a signed copy of Taste Test by Kelly Fiore to give away to one lucky reader! Just enter the Rafflecopter form below to be entered in the drawing.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Good luck!


Sioux Roslawski said...

Margo--Great interview, and Kelly, I agree. Teens (and the emotional rollercoaster that goes with them) and a cooking competition should be a "no-brainer." The results would be combustible...

Margo Dill said...

Thanks for dropping by Sioux--now how about a reality cooking show for your third graders or better yet, the teachers. . .? :)

Carl Scott said...

Thank you for the interview. I'm a Food Network junkie. My wife and I watch a ton of shows there as well as Top Chef on Bravo and Cake Boss on TLC. It's kind of a passion for us. Thanks for the giveaway, this looks like fun.

Renee Roberson said...

What a fabulous interview! Kelly, I can relate to you in so many ways! We too spend the majority of our money on food (and have an organic garden in the spring/summer) because we want our kids to learn how to make healthy choices and fuel their bodies properly. I make their lunches almost every day and they told me yesterday they don't have any interest in ordering any of the hot lunch options! This sounds like a fabulous premise for a book and I can't wait to check it out. Thanks for sharing with us, Margo.

Margo Dill said...

Carl and Renee: Thanks for stopping by and for taking an interest! :)

Angela Mackintosh said...

I am a food show junkie, so I'm excited by Kelly's book and think it's such a smart idea! I'm also a locavore as much as possible and I too spend more money on food than on anything else. Does dining local count? I hope so because I eat out a lot! LOL Thanks for the interview, ladies! :)

Anonymous said...

My teenage son may not enjoy cooking as much as he enjoys eating but he gets a charge out of bringing homemade cakes to school events.

Anonymous said...

I really like the idea for this book. I still enjoy YA reads, and this one appeals to the Food Network fan in me. Best wishes on the debut!

Camille said...

So inspiring that the writing helped you find happiness during your depression.

Unknown said...

Thanks for the interview! Taste Test sounds like a good read and I do love cooking shows so I'll have to check it out! Thanks for the giveaway too!

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