Monday, July 12, 2021

TBR: Embassy Wife by Katie Crouch

TBR [to be read] is an invitation-only interview series with authors of newly released, interesting books who will tell us about their new work as well as offer tips on writing, stories about the publishing biz, and from time to time, a recipe. 


Give us your elevator pitch: what’s your book about in 2-3 sentences?


Amanda Evans and her children leave everything to move to Namibia for her husband’s job, only to find out he’s come to Africa for other reasons.  Meanwhile, her new friend Persephone is convinced her State Department husband is a CIA agent. The two get involved in an international crisis. Hilarity ensues.


Which character did you most enjoy creating? Why?


Persephone Wilder. She’s long-time State Department wife, and one of those terrific ladies you meet who are NEVER WRONG. Anytime I get to write about a misguided character, I get excited, because there’s so much to play with between their perception and reality. She’s also very glamorous and drinks too much.


And, which character gave you the most trouble, and why?


Amanda Evans. I needed her to be steady because Persephone’s so extravagant and all over the place. But she couldn’t be flat! My answer was to write fifty-ish pages of backstory, so I could really know her. I cut most of those out.


Tell us a bit about the highs and lows of your book’s road to publication.


My original editor left my publishing house before anyone saw this. I’d recently published Abroad, which was very different. I was really worried about what would come next.


Then I had a baby at forty-three and moved to Namibia in real life with my own family. Any time I had to sit around being anxious about what an editor I’d never met might think of a book I hadn’t written…well, those hours evaporated.


Happily, living abroad gave me a lot of ideas, and I went full throttle on this for a year or so. My new editor really liked the book! So here we are.


What’s your favorite piece of writing advice?


Turn off the Internet.


My favorite writing advice is “write until something surprises you.” What surprised you in the writing of this book?


I had no idea how I was going to figure out the plot threads I’d started. And there are kind of a lot. But then my characters just sort came up with answers.


I am endlessly surprised and delighted by the power of the subconscious.



What is something you would like readers to know about the book?


State Department life is not always elegant. The families of the diplomats I met had to sleep in bedrooms that were gated off and locked from the rest of the house, as to ward off night attackers. They called it the “Safe Haven”.


So, if you ever meet an American diplomat, thank them for their service! They’re out there helping to broker world peace. And it’s not all fancy dinners.


(Though it sometimes is. I went to some.)


Inquiring foodies and hungry book clubs want to know: Any food/s associated with your book? (Any recipes I might share?)


In Namibia, tea shops are popular little places to get a coffee and a pastry. There’s just a lot more time there somehow to sit and chat. These shops all serve “meltert”, or milk tart. It’s basically a super creamy custard pie.


If life were fair, I would be able to crawl into a milk tart and take a long, sweet nap. 


Here’s a recipe for the filling. I never met anyone who bothered with the crust. Those we bought pre-made at a store called Woolworth’s¾not the American version.


  • 2 1/2 cups milk
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 2 tbsp flour
  • 2 tbsp corn flour
  • 1 tsp vanilla paste
  • large tbsp butter
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon

 For the filling:

  1. Place milk and cinnamon stick into a pot 
  2. Bring to the boil then discard cinnamon stick
  3. Whisk together eggs, flour, sugar, corn flour and vanilla
  4. Pour the hot milk into the egg mixture, whisking continuously 
  5. Return milk mixture to the pot and cook on medium heat until thickened
  6. Stir through a spoonful of butter
  7. Pour milk mixture into baked pastry shell
  8. Sprinkle over ground cinnamon
  9. Leave tart to cool completely before serving






BUY THIS BOOK (with a signed bookplate) FOR YOUR OWN TBR STACK: 



DC-area author Leslie Pietrzyk explores the creative process and all things literary.