Carmichael’s, the restaurant her family owns in my new novel, has me looking more closely at others. This one specializes in wings.

In my new novel, What’s Left, her great-grandparents parlay a hot dog shop into the purchase of a burger-and-fries joint at the edge of campus. Carmichael’s is a local landmark, even before her family takes over. And then they start buying up neighboring properties.

Her parents’ generation boldly sets out to enlarge on that base. They even buy out a dusty textbook store next door without quite knowing how it will fit into their business model.

Consider this as something else in the writer’s doggy bag:

To get started, we face serious decisions about the bookstore. In the emerging timeline, we schedule the bookstore transformation a year down the pike. With Manoula still in college, we’ll have to find a manager or perhaps even lease the operation to someone willing to put in long hours to make the new store succeed.

You already know that the Hoosier Dog House, like a third of the retailers on Ballantine between campus and the courthouse square, is basically a storefront. In the sequence that follows, demolishing that and starting over is a no-brainer. We can move the bookstore there, where it will have greater visibility and pedestrian traffic.

Once that’s done, the renovations for the restaurant in the old textbook building can begin. The move from the old Carmichael’s itself might come a year after that. Through it all, Baba will be off on his Dharma training, so his input has to occur all at the outset of the project. He must have been very, very busy.

And then? We’ll figure out what to do with the original Carmichael’s spot.


You could see this as more of a description of a chess match than of Cassia’s discovery of the exciting and sometimes risky moves her parents were undertaking a little more than a decade before her birth. Still, it helped me chart a plausible plot for what developed, not that the reader needed nearly this much detail. Think of it as part of the blueprint.

Still, thinking of hot dogs and then burgers, it’s fair to ask. What’s your favorite traditional food? Your favorite guilty pleasure? Anyone else love fried cornmeal mush drenched in maple syrup and melted butter?

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