Birmingham resident Lisa Peers became more focused on writing later in life, but she has always been creative. Her new romance novel, “Love at 350°,” published by The Dial Press (an imprint of Random House), combines love and baking with second chances for the perfect recipe. Born and raised in Richmond, Virginia, the Harvard graduate has an MFA from the American Conservatory Theater in San Francisco, where she and her partner lived with their son and had their two daughters before moving to Michigan in 2006.
“It was a family decision,” said Peers, who works in Detroit as a creative director for Jack Morton Worldwide, an international marketing agency. “My partner’s family is here and we’re all very happy with the decision.” Peers also acted professionally in San Francisco and produced TV and radio programs in Detroit.
She focused more on her writing when she came to Michigan. “During the pandemic, I decided to write about something really happy like the baking shows I was watching all the time,” said Peers, who didn’t have to look far for additional inspiration since she considers her partner, Dani, to be the world’s best cook.
Peers tried to get an agent for a previous book that was centered around a classic rock star, but she would eventually self-publish it instead. Still, that process led her to another local author, Tracy Gardner, who writes mystery and romance novels. “She really pushed me to submit my work to Hallmark Publishing during an open call for LGBTQ romance story lines. My proposal didn’t get picked up, but her agent became very interested and was able to sell it within three months,” said Peers.
She considers herself fortunate that her publisher looks for stories featuring protagonists who have not necessarily gotten their say. Not just queer characters, but plus-size heroines and women a little over 40 who are not always seen in romance novels.
Hers revolves around Tori, a high school chemistry teacher with a passion for baking and Kendra, a celebrity chef and judge for a TV baking competition.
The food theme seems to resonate with readers. “I think baking is something that unifies a lot of people and the competition makes it really accessible,” said Peers. “The romance part shows that second chances are available later in life and we can still have fun.”
Her next story has a local spin. “I am planning for it to be centered in the Detroit Indie and garage rock scene. I love concerts and Detroit is such an amazing hub for all kinds of music,” she said.
In addition to the marketing that comes from her publisher, local author events and social media can be great outlets as well.
“A lot of readers are really loyal and try to find new people to read,” said Peers. “They want people to tell their own stories and people are interested in these stories. If they like you, they want everyone to know.”
Peers shared some advice for aspiring authors. “There is not one way to write a story or be a writer. Some people like outlines, some people find something interesting to write about. Some get up early and others like me have 15 minutes before I have to pick someone up,” she said. “Giving yourself that grace is what makes it important. Any work is good work.”
Lastly, she added: “Write about something you would want to take off the shelf and read. You are your own best audience. Find something you’re really connected with and have that guide you.”
Story: Jeanine Matlow
Photo: Chris Ward