William Morrow Cookbooks will release The Pioneer Woman Cooks: Recipes From an Accidental Country Girl by Ree Drummond, who writes the blogs Confessions of a Pioneer Woman and The Pioneer Woman Cooks. Drummond’s loyal fans (she gets about two million visitors a month) helped make The Pioneer Woman Cooks the #1 pre-ordered hardcover on Amazon last week. The author talked to PW from her Oklahoma ranch about her writing, from blog to cookbook to a forthcoming narrative nonfiction book.
PW: You started out by writing a blog about country life, Confessions of a Pioneer Woman. How did you make the transition to blogging about food?
RD: About a year into writing Confessions of a Pioneer Woman, I posted a recipe and gave readers a tutorial on how to cook a steak. I think a lot of people won’t buy a cookbook without photos, and I’m one of them. So I used 20 photos and showed ridiculous detail in my photos of things like sprinkling on the salt. People really responded to it.
PW: It’s difficult to talk about food bloggers getting book deals without mentioning Julie Powell. Did her story have any bearing on your decision to start a blog and write a book?
RD: I wasn’t aware of her when I started my food blog, and read Julie & Julia about a year after I started [blogging]. I didn’t know food blogs existed before I started mine. I loved Julie & Julia [the book], and her success is very exciting. I don’t necessarily draw a parallel [between us] except we did both sort of carve out a little place for ourselves on the Internet and then get published.
PW: How did your book deal come about?
RD: I met my editor, Cassie Jones, through a mutual friend in September 2007. My blog was popular, but certainly did not have the numbers it has now. Cassie had read my blog and I could tell she understood my voice. We decided we were going to make the book an extension of my food and cooking blog, which is a little irreverent.
PW: Why write a cookbook instead of a more narrative book?
RD: Earlier in 2007, before I met Cassie, I struck up a conversation with an agent [to write a narrative book]. I started writing a proposal/book about how I met my cowboy husband in a smoky bar when I was in my hometown on my way to Chicago. I was a chapter in, and said, “I don’t know if I want to write this book.” So [the agent and I] amicably agreed to go separate ways. Then I struck the cookbook deal with Cassie.
PW: Do you think you still have a narrative book in you?
RD: One day in late 2007, I woke up for the first time with writer’s block. I had nothing to say [on my blog]. So I fished through my hard drive and I got that chapter I wrote with the agent. It was about the night I met my husband. It morphed into this Harlequin meets Green Acres love story. The response [from readers] was through the roof, so I kept writing installments. It was about 45 chapters long. Now I’ve just finished my proposal for that book. It turned into a campy romance and reminded people of why they fell in love with their husbands. And I let the readers name it. They came up with Black Heels to Tractor Wheels. It has drama, romance and cow manure.
Author photo: Bill Nyard
This story originally appeared in Cooking the Books, PW's e-newsletter for cookbooks.