Wednesday, September 1, 2010


I have had the pleasure that for every Bits & Pieces I have done, I have been beyond inspired. Mary Rodgers was no exception. Mary has the kind of energy that takes your breath away. It seems that she has lived a million lives, but everything is a brand new experience to her and her passion for learning and life are infinite.  Bumping into Mary at the greenmarket in Rockefeller Center, where I was surrounded by lavender which I love for its calming effects, I was calmed and inspired by having the briefest exchange with Mary, who is working on her own novel right now. I told her that she better hurry and get it out there so the world can enjoy! The world she has created fictionally along with the way she affects this world -- mine in particular by having come into contact with her. She has been to so many places, done so many things and yet she is not complacent. Her creativity is the type that feeds off all the world has to offer, and she does not want to miss a thing. Her apartment is filled with art and books and the good energy she said she felt when she was going to rent it. Mary is a foodie like me, and we bonded over our love of food and Italy--I am dying to make her chocolate mousse recipe. Read below to be blown away by Mary and her recipe!

I have been a storyteller my whole life, both as an actor and a musician. Creating new stories of my own is a natural outgrowth of my creative process.

I started playing the piano when I was five, and was in a conservatory until I was sixteen. At that point, I needed to make a decision as to whether I was dedicated enough to pursue a career as a professional concert pianist. I'd love to say that I arrived at my decision through careful consideration, but the truth was that I had just discovered boys, and suddenly the thought of spending twelve hours a day in a practice room became much less appealing! So that was the end of that career path.

Like most musicians I know, I was in a band for a while - mine was called White Sage. We specialized in the 'angry chick music' that was popular at the time. After about a year and a half of performing as the lead keyboardist and singer for the band, I decided that I just wasn't that angry anymore, and left.

In theater, I acted in both straight plays and musicals, and performed in every kind of venue, from barns to opera houses. I think I preferred the barns. Nothing like having a flock of bats or the local barn kitty horn in on your act at a crucial moment.

I was born in rural South Carolina, and many of the themes in my writing, such as my interest in history, the high value that I place on being part of a community and the pleasure and respect that I take in simple human interactions stem from my upbringing. My very first published story, Big Girl, featured a tough little southern girl catching her very first fish, and it is at least partly autobiographical. My uncle was a farmer, and he taught me to fish when I was a child, using a long bamboo pole with a cricket as bait.

Sometimes something as simple as a turn of phrase can inspire me. I heard an African word, sankofa, which means, 'turn your head to your past to build your future'.  In its earliest incarnation, the word was shown as a pictogram, which showed a crane standing on one leg looking over her shoulder. Later, the diagram evolved and now looks something like an open heart. I was captivated, and wrote my first screenplay, Common Ground, with the concept of sankofa as its central theme.

Other times, a scene will drop into my head, and I start asking myself 'what if' questions about the characters and the locations that I see. What if my character is very young? Or very old? What if she grew up poor? Or very wealthy? And so on. How will that affect her world view and the story that I wish to tell?

If I find that I'm hitting a stumbling block in my story, I'll just put it down and do something else creative.  I'll practice the piano, sing, or take my sketch pad to Central Park. Concentrating on some other form of art for a while helps me clear my mental logjam.

Cooking is one of my passions. I think that it satisfies the nurturing aspect of my personality, because I prefer to cook for larger groups of people, not just myself. Also, it feels a bit like chemistry to me, which is fun: add just a pinch of this, or a dash of that, and you can completely alter the flavor experience. I prefer simple recipes, hearty, home-style recipes. I also make the World's Best Chocolate Mousse - recipe to follow - that also happens to be incredibly easy to make. And people think that I'm a hero when I give it to them.

I love to travel. One of my favorite trips I made after I left my very first job as a banker on Wall Street. Worst job I've ever had, by the way, and that includes slinging hash at a diner.

At any rate, I was emotionally and physically exhausted, and at the last minute my girlfriend couldn't come, and so I traveled to South America by myself. It was an incredible journey. Aside from seeing the exotic flora and fauna, the people I met along the way were fascinating, from all corners of the globe, in very different professions. I learned the spiritual value of traveling by myself.

Years later, I went on a solo trip to Florence, Italy, two weeks before Christmas. I was wandering by myself on the artist's alley side of the Arno River, and I saw a flickering light coming from within a darkened shop.  Like a child, I pressed my face to the window to see what was going on. Presently, a little old man wearing a heavy apron and goggles came to the door, and beckoned me inside. His English was as lousy as my Italian, but he gave me an apron and goggles and indicated where I should stand. Back to work he went. He was spinning gold wire into an intricate bird cage. On a perch inside the cage, a delicate jeweled bird swung back and forth as he worked.  As my eyes adjusted to the dimness, I saw that the entire shop was wall to wall with the most beautiful, lifelike statues and figurines. It was magical, like being in a sorcerer's workshop.

When I returned to my hotel and related my story, the hotel proprietor all but had a nervous breakdown, and gave me to understand that I had been let into the shop of one of the most famous jewelers in the world. His shop is never open to the public - he only sells to Arab princes and European royalty. I don't think that I would have had the same experience if I had not been by myself.

I am currently at work on my first novel, VANISHING POINT.  While it is technically a work of dystopian science fiction -- it is a post-apocalyptic story that assumes that some people on Earth managed to leave and find a new world in which to live before the home planet imploded -- I'm working with a lot of fantastical elements.

My protagonist is an outcast in her own society, which is helping to create some wonderful tensions for me to play with.

And yes, of course there will be romance.  What is an epic adventure tale without romance? 

Mary's "So You Wanna Be a Hero" Chocolate Mousse Recipe

   2 eggs
   2 egg yolks
   ½ C of sugar
   1 C heavy whipping cream
   6-oz package of Nestle's semi-sweet chocolate chips
   1 tsp vanilla
   3 tbs orange juice
   1 tbs Khalua (optional)

--Put the above ingredients in a blender on high for two minutes.
--Add the cream to the blender, and beat on high for 30 seconds.
--In a double boiler, melt one Nestle's chocolate chips together with vanilla and orange juice -- or 2 tbs OJ and 1 tb Kahlua, depending on your preference.
--When the mixture is thoroughly melted with no lumps, take it off the heat and pour it into the blender.
--Blend and mix in the cream and eggs, about 15 seconds.  The heat of the chocolate helps cook the mixture into a custard.
--Pour the mixture into ramekins or small bowls.
--Let sit at least six hours or preferably overnight.
--Keep refrigerated.

Makes about 4 servings.

1 comment:

  1. Fidencia, Always love your interviews!

    And Mary, I can't cook to save my life, but thanks for posting the recipe. A girl can always dream!