Author interview with Nancy Mehagian
Nancy Mehagian has been involved with food and healing since 1969, when she opened the first vegetarian restaurant on the Mediterranean island of Ibiza. A native of Phoenix, Arizona, she attended USC and graduated with a degree in English Literature from Arizona State University.
Since 1978, Nancy has maintained an active Massage Therapy and Jin Shin Jyutsu practice in Los Angeles. She accompanied Quincy Jones on his Jook Joint Tour and was the Massage Therapist for the Eagles’ Hell Freezes Over World Tour.
Nancy Mehagian has previously published a vegetarian cookbook for children, Supernatural, lectured at health conventions, catered for celebrities and taught gourmet cooking classes, creating cuisine that is healthy, international and authentic. Her culinary memoir Siren’s Feast, An Edible Odyssey was released in 2008 and she is at work on another, chronicling her career in Hollywood as “masseuse to the stars.” Nancy lives and cooks in Studio City, CA.
- Tell us about your latest book. Set primarily against the backdrop of the turbulent Sixties and early Seventies, Siren’s Feast, An Edible Odyssey, tells the tale of a rebellious daughter who foregoes the safety and security of suburban American life and sets off on an adventure that leads her to some of the remote outposts of the world. Referred to by one reviewer as “sex, drugs and couscous” music mogul Quincy Jones said of it “A spicy brew of recipes and adventures. I don’t know whether to eat this book, smoke it or make love to it.”
- How did you get started as a writer? I began taking writing courses at UCLA, which led to joining writing groups.
- What does a typical day look like for you? I have always been self-employed so I have been able to set my own schedule. I wake up early, read the paper, write in my journal, respond to emails. Then I take a long walk or hike in the hills with my dogs. After that I’m ready to greet the world.
- Describe your desk/workspace. My desk is in my office/treatment room, so there is usually a massage table set up nearby as well as several bookshelves. I love books and have a hard time letting them go. And I’ve always been a Mac person. I wrote my early drafts on a 128k.
- Favorite books? My favorite books are anything by Zora Neale Hurston, especially Their Eyes Were Watching God and Dust Tracks on the Road. I adore Anne Lamott, especially Bird by Bird. And of course as a foodie, there is no greater food writer than MFK Fisher (The Art of Eating). The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver is a standout. I’ve read everything she has ever written.
- Tell us 3 interesting things about you. Most people think I’m crazy, but I cook for my dogs. And I suppose it’s interesting that I am an ex-convict, but you’d have to read my memoir to find out how that happened since I’m definitely not a criminal. And I was a single mother long before it became fashionable.
- Favorite quote? I love what Mark Twain once said: “Truth is stranger than fiction. Fiction, after all, has to make sense.”
- Best and worst part of being a writer. The best part of being a writer is connecting with readers. I’ve been humbled and brought to tears by the responses to Siren’s Feast. The worst part of being a writer is the guilt that ensues when I haven’t been writing.
- Advice for other writers? The best advice I can offer writers is to join a writer’s group, especially one like mine that has a brilliant leader/teacher, Amy Friedman. I love the safety of sharing a first draft with my fellow writers and the gentle feedback I receive. It also helps to have a deadline. Writers are well known for procrastination. I once read that Joan Didion’s guilty pleasure was computer solitaire, which I had avoided for years. Then I thought, if Joan Didion does it, maybe I should check it out. I became addicted and had to break the habit.
- Tell us a story about your writing experience. The first rejection letter I ever received from a publisher was so beautiful I framed it. Then I sent her some Armenian sweet rolls I baked.
Where can people buy your books?
Siren’s Feast, An Edible Odyssey is available on Amazon.com and my website http://www.sirensfeast.com/ as well as through Baker & Taylor. Fellow Armenians can check out http://www.abrilbooks.com/. I occasionally blog, including photos and recipes http://sirensfeast.blogspot.com/
And I love comments from readers!
I found the comment pertaining to writers’ groups most informative. Over the years, I have found it very difficult to locate “serious” writing groups–meaning those comprised of individuals who truly love to write, who contribute consistently to the group, or consistently SHOW UP–and would love more information on the best ways to find these!
In response to Chanctetinyea, I developed most of my writing groups with fellow students I met in university extension writing classes. Classes tend to be bonding and often students didn’t want the class to end, so I’d offer to host the group in my home. I’m still hosting these pot-luck groups. Everyone brings some nosh to share and it’s always an enjoyable evening.
You might also put up a notice at your local library. Many libraries offer this already and they’re usually free. Good luck with this. I’m sure you can make it happen.
It’s many years now since I first met Nancy- such a fascinating girl! I look forward to filling-in the intervening years with a good read of her creative writing. E
What a delightful surprise to have an old friend find me through Wendy’s wonderful blog.
Hey Nancy, as an Armenian, I am actually ashamed that you call yourself Armenian, seeing that your morals are absent. Being a single mother is nothing to be proud of in our culture, let alone sleeping around. You may indeed have had experiences and adventures, but I seriously doubt you are anyone to be looked “up” at, quite the reverse.