Tuesday, November 15, 2011

FOODFIC: Please Welcome Andrew Carlson, Author of Sue's Fingerprint

Ever since we were kids, we’ve had our likes and dislikes when it comes to food.  We’ve tried many things growing up, and by adulthood we’ve pretty much separated the food we like from the food we don’t like.  But what happens if you’re an adult and you don’t know what you like?  What happens if you’ve not tried many things in your life because you just arrived on the planet?  That’s what characters experience in Sue’s Fingerprint.

What do I mean by ‘just arrived’?  Eleven people are cloned—exactly copied—from other people by an alien goo that suddenly appears on Earth.  (You’ll have to read the book to get the details.)  The clones arrive with no prior knowledge and no prior memories. (No clothes either!)  Without any past experiences, the clones have to learn about themselves and the world around them, including what foods they like and don’t like.

I tried to make the discovery of food a noticeable theme in Sue’s Fingerprint.  It’s not the most important, but it is a key aspect of personal discovery for the clones.

While ‘contained’ by DHS on an unused military base, the staff members assigned to observe and assist the new people help the clones discover what foods they might like.  Their first lunch at the base is pizza.  Consensus:  cheese pizza is boring.  But they do like sausage, pepperoni and deluxe.  For dinner, they experience PB&J and the roof-of-your-mouth stickiness it offers.  They also learn about popcorn; “I want to see how popcorn pops itself inside out.”  The clones agree that popcorn is fun and delicious, especially with lots of butter.

When the staff members at the base suggest burgers for dinner, Sue explains that she already had a hamburger and didn’t like it.  It was too sweet from the ‘stuff’ she had on it. 
“You know you can change the stuff you put on hamburgers, right?” a staff member asks her. 
“You can???”
“You can put just about anything on a burger.”
So the clones have a dinner of sliders with many topping options so they can try different combinations to decide what they like.  And what does Sue like best?  Mustard.  Onions, pickles and cheese are good too.  She also likes the spicy heat of salsa.

During all this new food exploration, one clone, Sue, decides she’d like to try cooking. With guidance from the staff, she begins to experiment with breakfast.  The meal that started simply with Fruit Loops (their favorite cereal) expands to scrambled eggs, toast, pancakes and coffee.  The adults gather in Sue’s kitchen each morning to sample and critique her cooking.  Eggs are much better with salt.  And butter makes everything taste better.  Donald doesn’t care for cream in his coffee, but Martha has to have it.  Martha must also have her cup of coffee waiting for her, Sue finds out, or she’ll be cranky.  (Martha becomes a coffee addict.  And the local barista!)  Sue not only refines her palate as the weeks pass, but she also becomes a good chef.   With help from her ‘sous chefs’ (two staff members) Sue prepares big meals for everyone at the base.  And her passion shapes the rest of her life.

Discovering what foods they like and dislike, and, for Sue and Martha, how much they like to prepare food is just one part of the personal development for the clones in Sue’s Fingerprint.  What you and I figured out over many years growing up, the clones have to learn quickly.

Read what else the clones learn and discover.  Get yourself a copy of Sue’s Fingerprint to meet the clones and find out what ultimately happens to them!

Thank you Shelley for the opportunity to guest blog here on But What Are They Eating!  And good luck to you and your Solid series!

Thanks for stopping by and sharing some food for thought, Andrew!

You can find Andrew at:

And Sue's Fingerprint at:


  1. re: book review request by award-winning author

    Dear Shelley,

    I'm an award-winning author with a new YA book out this fall. Ugly To Start With is a series of thirteen interrelated stories about childhood being published by West Virginia University Press.

    Can I interest you in reviewing it?

    If you write me back at johnmcummings@aol.com, I can email you a PDF of my book. If you require a bound copy, please ask, and I will forward your reply to my publisher. Or you can write directly to Abby Freeland at:


    My publisher, I should add, can also offer your readers a free excerpt of my book through a link from your blog to my publisher's website:

    Here’s what Jacob Appel, celebrated author of
    Dyads and The Vermin Episode, says about my new collection: "In Ugly to Start With, set in the eastern panhandle of West Virginia, Cummings tackles the challenges of boyhood adventure and family conflict in a taut, crystalline style that captures the triumphs and tribulations of small-town life. He has a gift for transcending the particular experiences to his characters to capture the universal truths of human affection and suffering--emotional truths that the members of his audience will recognize from their own experiences of childhood and adolescence.”

    My short stories have appeared in more than seventy-five literary journals, including North American Review, The Kenyon Review, Alaska Quarterly Review, and The Chattahoochee Review. Twice I have been nominated for The Pushcart Prize. My short story "The Scratchboard Project" received an honorable mention in The Best American Short Stories 2007.

    I am also the author of the nationally acclaimed coming-of-age novel The Night I Freed John Brown (Philomel Books, Penguin Group, 2009), winner of The Paterson Prize for Books for Young Readers (Grades 7-12) and one of ten books recommended by USA TODAY.

    For more information about me, please visit:

    Thank you very much, and I look forward to hearing back from you.


    John Michael Cummings

  2. It really would be interesting to experience some foods for the first time. Your example of pb&j is a good one!

  3. Love the "you know you can change the stuff you put on hamburgers!" Sounds like an interesting read - I like the idea of clones who need to rediscover who they are, fascinating concept!