Written by JJ Barnes
I interviewed cook book author Richard Sayce about his career, his love of curry, and the creative process behind his latest book, Curry Compendium.
Tell me a bit about who you are.
As you may already realise, I’m a lover of curry and spice. I’m a middle-aged white Englishman from the North-West who grew up in a typical family but rarely had exposure to spices. Our diet was mostly the traditional English food of the time with the occasional spag bol or lasagne as a treat. Curry was a revelation to me.
I’ve self-published three books so far – Indian Restaurant Curry at Home Volumes 1 & 2, and the latest one, Curry Compendium. I was quite determined to have full control over all aspects of publishing, despite me knowing absolutely nothing about the industry. The knowledge of Indian cooking comes a lot from practice and spending time with chefs in the kitchens of takeaways and restaurants.
When did you first WANT to write a book?
It kind of evolved from what I had been doing as a hobby – creating Indian food recipes and making YouTube videos of them. I had no intention at the beginning that I’d write cookbooks. It was about four years ago that I decided on a book-writing project.
When did you take a step to start writing?
A friend suggested I write an eBook, which I did in early 2018 (Indian Restaurant Curry at Home Volume 1). I then bit the bullet and self-published a paperback version of it. Volume 2 followed in 2019, and now Curry Compendium, the magnus opus hardback is fresh of the printing press.
How long did it take you to complete your first book from the first idea to release?
About a year, and I had to wear many hats. I already had most of the material in one form or another but the whole process of producing a book was a steep learning curve, and a lot more labour intensive than I had imagined. One of the most intricate parts was writing the supporting chapters, which fully explain the all-important cooking technique of cooking curry.
How long did it take you to complete your latest book from the first idea to release?
My latest cookbook, Curry Compendium, is an amalgamation of my other two books with some extra recipes and updated artwork, so it didn’t take as long to produce. I took my time over it, spanning about six months.
Focusing on your latest release. What made you want to write Curry Compendium?
I wanted to produce a solid hardback book with the wow factor which contained all my recipes plus more – a one stop book that people could get everything they need from.
What were your biggest challenges with writing Curry Compendium?
The most tedious parts were organizing the page layouts and getting the cover perfect. Getting the page count to be an exact multiple of 16 was a big pain (320 pages plus endpapers).
What was your research process for Curry Compendium?
I’d been involved in the world of BIR (British Indian Restaurant) for many years, so I had a lot of experience under my belt. And having already written two cookbooks there wasn’t a great deal to learn apart from understanding the physical structure of hardback books, and the finishing options for the cover.
How did you plan the structure of Curry Compendium?
Merging the contents of my previous books into one was not as simple as it sounds. There was quite a lot of extra photos and other artwork that I wanted to include. Some of the chapters had to be renamed and recipes placed into their chosen slots. With cookbooks it’s better if an entire recipe is fully visible when the book is laid open i.e. on two facing pages. That’s not always possible as some recipes span three pages, plus photographs need to be included. A lot of time went into shuffling around the recipe order so it was as convenient for the reader as possible.
Did you get support with editing, and how much editing did Curry Compendium need?
Yes. I have a long-standing editor friend who knows the subject matter of Indian food well. He has helped me greatly. A lot of the textual content was already in place from my previous books, so it was an easier process editing Curry Compendium. I’d advise authors in any genre to find a good editor – it’s amazing how many little mistakes can creep in if you’re not careful.
What is the first piece of writing advice you would give to anyone inspired to write a book?
In terms of the writing, it would have to be that there’s a lot more work involved than one might think, especially for cookbooks. All the content must be as perfect as you can get it – little things matter.
Generally, I would say write a book about something you are passionate about – it’s that fervour that will help get you through the tedious process.
Can you give me a hint about any further books you’re planning to write?
No plans right now – when inspired I will embark on another project. Having said that I remain very involved with the world of curry – that’s not going to change.
And, finally, are your proud of your accomplishment? Was it worth the effort?
It’s a huge challenge writing a book, let alone being an independent publisher. It’s like climbing a mountain – hard work but when you reach the summit it becomes worthwhile. It was certainly worth the effort, but it’s not for everyone.
Pop all your book, website and social media links here so the readers can find you:
Curry Compendium (Amazon UK): https://amzn.to/3zkxgbl
Indian Restaurant Curry at Home Vol 1 (Amazon UK): https://amzn.to/34XuLPc
Indian Restaurant Curry at Home Vol 2 (Amazon UK): https://amzn.to/2QMrgCQ
Richard Sayce’s Website: https://www.mistyricardo.com
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