Tomato Pie and Novel Fun with Erin McCole Cupp

dont-you-forget-about-me-book-coverI’m always looking for a good novel, and when I find one, I’m always eager to share about it.

And in Erin McCole Cupp’s new novel, Don’t You Forget about Me, I have found a winner!

This book has all the elements that make a book addictive: a compelling story told well with characters who are unforgettable. You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, you’ll stay up all night reading.

This is among the books that will be going on my “only share with people you know will give it back,” because it’s a book I’m going to want to revisit like an old friend.

Speaking of a visit with an old friend, grab yourself a cuppa and let’s sit down with Erin and talk about her book, shall we?

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

SARAH: You have crafted, in Don’t You Forget about Me, quite a book. What inspired you to actually buckle down and write it?

ERIN: Why, thanks!  I give all the credit for the “buckle down” part to the Catholic Writers Guild’s online conference.  I got the idea for Don’t You Forget About Me sometime in 2009 and tried writing a few chapters of it, but I got sidetracked and set it aside for quite a while.  Meanwhile, Ann Margaret Lewis of CWG invited me to attend CWG Online in 2012.  I attended a chat presentation with mystery author Therese Heckenkamp on “Marketing Your Catholic Mystery Novel.”  I asked a question in the chat and got a private chat request from a publisher who was interested in the idea of “an NFP murder-mystery.”  That sure lit the proverbial fire under my behind!  That was in early March 2012, and I had the first draft sent to Ellen Gable at Full Quiver Publishing by the beginning of that July.

You kind of caught me at the end of the book. How, exactly, does a writer come up with that sort of “ha! gotcha!” kind of plot twist and turn and surprise?

Erin McCole Cupp

Erin McCole Cupp

I already had the pattern in mind, that each of Cate’s adventures would have her dealing with an era of her past from the distance of adulthood.  The first obvious era was grade school, which makes the next high school.  So I knew going in that I had to set up the bread crumb trail into the next novel, and what better way to tie the two together than to have the baddies of Don’t You Forget About Me try to get back at Cate by digging up other parts of her past?  Enter the now-grown-up stalker-y ex prom date.    ::cue creepy music::

I know you’re a mom and you have many other responsibilities. And yet you’re launching your second novel (and with a smile on your face). What does an integrated Catholic life look like to you? How do you manage it?

This is going to sound trite, but if and when I do actually “manage,” it’s with prayer and trust.  Moment to moment, I must put God first, and the rest will fall into place.  This very morning I was thinking, “You know, if we skipped daily Mass, we’d have so much more time and I’d be less stressed, right?”  I had to grit my teeth over that hump, because I knew that thought wasn’t Truth.  The grace that comes into our family by attending weekday Mass, praying the Angelus at noon, family rosary, etc.… it’s not always a sensate grace, but I do see it peek through when I need it most, like when Frodo’s mercy on Gollum seemed like folly in Fellowship of the Ring, but at the end of Return of the King, that mercy paid off.

Was that too nerdy of a comparison?  Yes?  Eh.  I’m okay with that.

What was the hardest part about writing this book? And how did you come up with the title (which I can’t decide if I should read in a certain provocative accent or with some spooky music in the background)?

The hardest part of writing the book wasn’t actually in the writing but in the editing.  In Cate I have a very flawed character who needed to resolve an internal conflict that was so integrated into her being that she didn’t even know it was there, i. e. all the prejudices and unhealthy defenses she had collected as a result of being bullied as a child.  In the initial draft it took Cate the better part of three chapters to resolve this, but Ellen, my editor at Full Quiver, helped me to see that three chapters is way too long for that kind of nonsense.  It made sense that I needed to cut it down rather than drag it out, but I agonized for about a month over how to craft that resolution.  Finally I just threw it on the desk of the Holy Spirit and said, “Your book.  Not mine.  You want it to happen?  Make it happen.”  Then on a very rare long car drive by myself, a solution popped into my head, and I was able to set a few things up enough earlier in the story so that resolution could happen in just one chapter.

You should be singing the title and picturing The Breakfast Club in your mind!  I wish I could pinpoint when or how the idea for using 80’s song titles for the chapters as well as for the title of the book itself came into my mind, but I’m glad it did.  Whenever I got bogged down with a sticky plot point or a misbehaving character, all I had to do was think, “I just gotta get through this chapter so I can listen to the next song!”  Writing DYFAM totally bloated my iTunes account.

I would ask about your coffee and/or chocolate consumption during the writing of this book. However, I have a more pressing question. Just what is tomato pie? Is it pizza without toppings? Is it…good? I hereby give you permission to speak on the beauty and goodness that this is. 🙂

Daily coffee consumption is a given in our house. In fact, on my first date with my husband, I ordered a decaf and he joked, “I’m not sure this relationship is going to work out.”  So he got me back on real coffee, and I got him, the former agnostic, onto Catholicism as well as tomato pie.  Anyway, I know there are several types of things called tomato pie in different regions of the United States, but the tomato pie I grew up eating consists of a thick, pillowy yeast-risen dough covered with a super thick, sweet-and-savory tomato sauce. That’s all topped with a whisper of grated parmesan and sprinkled with olive oil.  This style of tomato pie is very specific to the Philadelphia area—and not even to the whole Philadelphia area, but only those population pockets where the Italian influence is from certain regions of Italy.  Tomato pie was at virtually every party I went to in grade school, but then I remember going to parties during my time at a regional Catholic high school less than ten miles away and wondering, “Where’s the tomato pie?”

“Is it good? “ she asks.  Oh, honey.  God created humanity so that we could have chocolate, bacon, wine and tomato pie.  On November 15, I’ll be over at CatholicMom.com sharing our family’s attempt at making it at home.  My hopes aren’t high that it’ll taste anything like the goodness that comes from, say,  Corropolese Bakery, but I’m confident that we’ll provide CM readers with a good laugh in the process.


Sarah Reinhard is a Catholic wife, mom and author whose nose is probably in a book if she’s not scraping something off of her shoes. Her latest book is A Catholic Mother’s Companion to Pregnancy: Walking with Mary from Conception to Baptism. Check out all of her books at http://sarahreinhard.com/writing/my-books/.

Visit Sarah’s website: http://sarahreinhard.com/


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