Bambi Smyth is the author of Men on the Menu – 75 delicious affairs around the world. That title gives you plenty of clues – namely food and frolicking! But to add some filling to this dish, we went to directly to the source and asked Bambi a bunch of questions…
For those who may not have read it yet, tell us in 62 words or less about Men on the Menu.
“Men on the Menu covers my journey to 22 countries right around the world, meeting the local men, eating the local food, and then – for a bit of fun – comparing the personalities of the men I dated with the local foods. For example, Stefano from Italy was a doppio espresso coffee, because he was sweet, dark, rich, and gave me heart palpitations!”
Wow, what a fun concept! So, the number on the cover is correct? Seventy-five?
“In all I had dates with seventy-five men in eighty-one days, ranging from a prince in Naples, a waiter in Portugal, and the 6th most eligible bachelor in Scotland. And although the main reason behind the trip was to find The One and fall madly in love, ironically I didn’t find him (well, apart from Stefano, although sadly it wasn’t quite reciprocated), until I’d finished my trip and was back in Australia. Still, I met some very tasty men along the way!”
Just five more and you would have had ‘Around the World in 80 Dates’! So, you’ve said the idea was to expand your horizons after not having much luck dating in Australia. At what point did the idea of turning it into a book happen?
“About the same time as I was newly single, I’d undertaken three short writing courses – travel writing, food reviewing, and romance fiction. As I was contemplating how to combine these three genres, it occurred to me that perhaps I could use my impending trip overseas as the basis for a book. I’d wanted to travel overseas anyway to try my luck with European men (whom I’d always rather fancied), and decided I may as well kill two birds with one stone.
“This idea then morphed from just hanging out in Europe, to travelling the whole alphabet, over six continents. Then I decided that rather than just trying to meet ‘eligible’ men, why not push the boundaries and meet as many local men as possible, no matter their age, occupation or relationship status, so as well as increasing my chances of meeting The One, (apart from the married Ones!) it would also provide fascinating cultural insights, which would make a book even more interesting.”
Definitely a unique journey! So how long, from idea through research to finished product, did this book take you?
“A very very long time! I started my initial research (trying to organise dates in various countries, and working out which countries I would visit) back in August 2006. The actual trip covered three months at the end of that same year. Then I spent six months intermittently writing up the first few chapters. However, by this time I had decided that no one would want to read about a 47-year-old on a quest to find love, so I dumbed the whole concept down so that I became a ditzy 35-year-old advertising chicky-babe. Needless to say, I was rejected by every publishing house in Australia.
“Disillusioned, I spent the next few years on other projects, before rewriting the manuscript in early 2013. In mid November 2013 I sent the new manuscript off, and within just one week The Five Mile Press had contacted me expressing interest, and by first week of 2014 I had a contract!”
Wow, eight years in the making – nice! Now, you’ve also been a successful illustrator and children's book author – why the shift in focus to a travel memoir?
“I needed a change. I wanted to ‘grow up’. I had lots to say and I wanted to share it. I thought it would be tremendously satisfying to combine my three greatest passions in life – travel, food, and men – and to make a unique story out of it. The idea of writing several more travel memoirs is enormously appealing, as it means I can keep on doing what I love most. I might need to find a new angle, however, especially given that I found The One at the end of Men on the Menu, so I can’t really pursue that theme anymore! Still, you never know, relationships tend to come and go (at least in my life!), so perhaps next trip I’ll be more adventurous and see if I can find an interesting man in Greenland. I always rather did like rubbing noses.”
Speaking of noses, we’re feeling nosey – what's your typical day like – do you have a writing routine?
“I’m at my desk by 9.30am (at the latest), after enjoying a heart-starting coffee at one of my favourite local cafes, and possibly a workout at the gym. Once I’ve switched on my computer in my study, I’m there for pretty much the rest of the day. For lunch I’ll grab a can of salmon and bring it upstairs to eat at my desk, and then I’ll usually work right through to 6.59pm, when I’ll switch off my computer and watch the ABC news and have dinner. I occasionally go back to writing after this, but it depends on how tired I am. If I have other freelance design work on (gotta pay the bills somehow!), I’ll try to write in the morning when my mind is sharp, then work on illustrations in the afternoon.”
Whoa, that was probably the most detailed description we’ve had. Loving the 6:59pm stop! So you must be fairly disciplined.
“I think it’s enormously important to be self-disciplined, but then again, there are some days when your brain just doesn’t work, so it’s probably best on these occasions to go shopping!”
So what’s next for Bambi Smyth in the book department?
“I’m doing the final edit on my second book. Then I’d love to either a) polish up a fiction novel I worked on several years ago (about the reincarnation of a black Labrador), or b) start work on a third memoir, that would necessitate me delving back into my wicked past!”
So do you have any wicked advice for others who would love to be a full-time writer one day?
- Make sure you have another source of income that will sustain you through all the years of receiving no income from writing. Or else the (most likely) very small advances you’ll receive if you ever do get published.
- Be willing to accept advice from professionals, and even pay for assistance. I spent around $1,000 on a freelance editor to help me get my (previously rejected) manuscript into shape, and it was without doubt the turning point of my foray into the enormously competitive world of publishing
- Be tenacious. Just because one publisher rejects you, doesn’t mean the next publisher will.
- There’s no harm in trying to make your book commercial. Think about your subject matter and whether or not it will appeal to thousands, or only to one (like your mum). The latter not being such a great idea if you want to a) get published, b) make money.
- Get your manuscript in the absolute best possible shape (and that might mean 5-10 full redrafts) before sending it off. You will very rarely get a second chance to submit the same concept.
- Believe in yourself and enjoy the journey!”
Want to read Men on the Menu? Grab a copy from your local bookstore or online.