Finding Refuge Baking

Best-selling author Jeanne Ray didn't publish her first book until after she turned 60, but she quickly earned a dedicated following with her novels about the drama of everyday life.

Her latest book, "Eat Cake," examines how one very stressed-out woman attempts to find inner peace by baking.

Ray says her book came out of the fact that she loves to bake cakes. She especially loves all of the scents, saying that there is nothing more reassuring than the smell of a cake baking.

She describes the main character, Ruth, as a completely competent woman whose family sees her as just another kitchen appliance -- something to serve their needs. And baking is the one thing that she can feel secure in.

Like in previous books, Ray says she likes to base her characters on women she knows and the issues they face -- a deliberate choice, since she felt there were no stories being written about women over 60.

As for Ray, she had planned to retire after "Eat Cake." But, as she has been out on her book tour, she has found that there's a new story rolling around inside her head. She's now planning to write a follow-up to her best-selling debut novel "Julie & Romeo" and says she's not going retire any time soon.

Meanwhile, she continues to work as a nurse about two days a month, which she loves. In fact, Ray says that the combination of being both a nurse and a storyteller serves her well. She believes that she has a "care-giver's aura" about her, so people are very willing to talk to her about their lives and share their personal stories. Some of these -- along with things Ray's has experienced in her own life -- have inspired her novels.

Starting out as a writer, Ray says she received great support from her daughter, award-winning author Ann Patchett, best known for "Bel Canto." Patchett still is the first reader of all of Rays writing. And Ray says that she trusts her daughter's judgment completely.

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