Q/A with Nadiya Hussain

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Nadiya’s Bake Me a Story is the first children’s book from the star of the UK’s most-watched and BAFTA-winning TV show of 2015, Great British Bake Off winner and the nation’s new sweetheart, Nadiya Hussain.

This unique hybrid of storybook and cookbook contains recipes and stories devised and written by Nadiya herself. Nadiya’s Bake Me a Story brings families into the kitchen to spend time sharing stories and cooking. Get messy making yummy bean patties, and while they are in the oven, curl up with the story of Jack and the Bean Pattiestalk, or read about Ruby-Red and the Three Bears and their Very Berry Muffins while you wait for your own to bake.

We check in with Nadiya as Nadiya’s Bake Me a Story hits the shelves.

1. What was your favourite book as a child and why?
As a child my favourite book was The Hungry Caterpillar and even now I probably read that three times a week to all of my children, they all still want to read it but their fingers are too big to fit through the holes now!

2. What are you reading now? Do you have a favourite author?
Now I really love Irish authors; Anna McPartlin and Marian Keyes are my favourites. The last book I read was The Last Days of Rabbit Hayes  by Anna McPartlin. My favourite children’s author is Roald Dahl – George’s Marvellous Medicine has such a strong message about being brave.

3. When do you find time to read?
I’ve got books in the conservatory, in the kitchen, in the living room, in the kids’ rooms. Once I have my bathroom fitted there will be books there! It’s about having books everywhere and them being accessible. And that’s the whole point of my book, to show that books aren’t just for your bedroom, it’s a book for your kitchen, not just a cookbook or just a reading book.

4. What are you currently reading with your children? Any that you would recommend?
David Walliams is a god in our house; there is nothing the man can do wrong. They absolutely love him and cannot get enough of his books. And my kids are really odd because they really like cookbooks! I just bought John Waites’ new book and Chetna’s book, they literally sat and read the whole thing.

5. Tell us about Nadiya’s Bake Me a StoryF224658330
Nadiya’s Bake Me a Story was an epiphany moment! My kids are massive readers, they’ve always got a book in their hands and they love being read to. And they pester me in the kitchen while I’m cooking and that’s when the idea came to me – what if I wrote a book that stays in the kitchen with stories that are matched with recipes.

6. What was your experience of weaving together the step-by-step recipes and the fantastical stories? How did that format originate?
I’d always had in the back of my mind that I’d love to do a kids cookbook and then this idea came along –  with stories that are matched with recipes – and when Hodder Children’s approached me I explained the idea and they loved it.

7. So have you always written?
When I was about seven I wrote a poem that won a national competition and that was it, I got really into reading and writing in a big way and I’ve been doing it ever since; reading, writing, lots of poetry. I express myself in writing quite a lot although I’ve never had a diary as a child, it was always make believe and stories.

8. Any advice for other budding writers?
Read whenever you can. Even as an adult, I find when I read books I feel like I can articulate myself so much better the more I read.

9. How long did it take to complete the book?
When I first started writing Bake Me a Story, I was sat there on my laptop not knowing how I was going to do this, and then I literally did a story a day for 15 days including recipes, and it just worked. I was on a roll and just carried on. After that, I did a lot of talking about my stories with my kids – only snippets mind – and went back and changed things or added things according to what they said.

10. When you begin writing, do you know where it is going, and what your end destination is?
Bake Me a Story is the first book I’ve written where I’ve had to write fiction in the form of short stories. I started with the concept of cooking and reading being compatible – you don’t have to be in the bedroom to read a story, you can share books in the kitchen too, often the hub of a family home. I wanted the stories to be just as important as the recipes in the book so I started with the stories. I really wanted to play with fairy tales; I didn’t want long stories because when you’re choosing stories in the kitchen they need to be short and quick. I’m aware as a mother that children’s attention spans are short, you’ve got them for about 20 minutes and then you’ve lost them. So I thought, right, fairy tales are short and sharp and to the point – but then when I was doing my research I realised fairy tales are the most grim things I’ve ever read in my life! So, I picked the stories first and then altered them into a very modern version, and then the recipes just seemed to come naturally.

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11. Do you have a favourite recipe in the book? 
My favourite recipe from Bake Me A Story is the Blueberry and Orange Soda Bread – it’s just delicious, even if I do say so myself! And it’s fun to make. Go on, give it a go! And then read the story of Little Red Hen and her Bread Friends.

12. Do you like working with other people? Tell us about the collaborations that have made the book possible.
My children! Every time I thought of a new idea, I read it out to them, but I never read them the whole thing, I read them little snippets and saw their reactions – they were really good at giving really constructive feedback – they’re really good at being honest! But they’ve only heard snippets because when the book is out I want them to be able to read it as if they’ve never read it before.

13. What do you like to do in your spare time?
We recently moved out of Leeds and have only been in Milton Keynes for about five months. We used to go to our library in Leeds on a Saturday morning, we would wake up and walk two miles there and then would spend a couple of hours getting lost amongst the books and reading little bits. And then we’d get some ice cream and make our way home.

14. You have an adult cookbook coming out shortly, plus three contemporary women’s fiction novels, as well as Bake Me a Story. Which do you prefer – writing for children or adults? 
When I was given the opportunity to do three different projects, it was a no brainer for me. The thought of doing novels does not scare me one bit; I enjoy it so much. It’s very different to cookbooks but any style of writing, even if it’s something I haven’t done, I won’t hesitate to have a go. I love the process of getting it wrong and correcting it and seeing what does and doesn’t work. I loved making those mistakes, so I feel like I’m learning all the time.

15. So, you’re one busy lady! What’s next?
When I came off Bake Off, I thought that was it! I’d fly under the radar and I’ll just go back home and go back to normal life and actually I’ve done quite the opposite! I’ve been able to do everything I’ve ever dreamed of.

Nadiya’s Bake Me a Story publishes on 8th September in hardback priced £14.99 from Hodder Children’s Books

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