Heather McElhatton embraces the hot shame of Cinnabon


Local writer Heather McElhatton is no stranger to the seductive power of food. The author of the popular book Pretty Little Mistakes released Jennifer Johnson is Sick of Being Single last year, a book in which the main character is often found running for the nearest Cinnabon stand when a crisis hits.

McElhatton's next book, Million Little Mistakes, comes out August 1 and is in the same choose-your-own-adventure style as her first book--but this time the reader is a $22 million lotto winner.

1. Cinnabons play a major role in your book Jennifer Johnson is Sick of Being Single. Are you as big a fan as she is? If not, what is your particular fast-food addiction? I am a fan of the Cinnabon. Cinnabons are sanctioned shame. We know they're bad for us. We know people look down on them. That's why we usually eat them in out-of-town airports. We know a steaming chunk of hot lard and chemical icing won't satisfy us long term, but sometimes you just need a hit to get through the damn day. Alas, Cinnabons are like one-night stands. They're hot and delicious, but you always wind up sticky and alone.

2. Had you always planned to make Cinnabons a minor character in the book, or how did it come about? I was looking for "shameful secret habits" to give Jennifer, and naturally I have a personal treasure trove to choose from. I had this boyfriend once who suggested I "eat healthier." Every time he said that I marched out and crammed something awful into my mouth. Chili cheese dogs, cotton candy. I even ate something called "Ho-Ho Bake."

3. Do you have a bartender or server who is as trusted as Jennifer's Cinnabon counter girl? Johnny Michaels at La Belle Vie is my favorite bartender. He's a surly, dark-eyed liquid genius. He comes up with drinks that involve muddled red peppers, 24-karat gold, and have wicked names like "Teen Hooker in Tokyo." His concoctions taste sensational while making you feel mildly humiliated at the same time--who can ask for more?

4. You're working on a follow up to Pretty Little Mistakes--are there any foods you turn to during writer's block, foods that stimulate you? I just finished a choose-your-own-adventure book called Million Little Mistakes, due out this fall. In the book you win $22 million and you decide what to do with the money. Donate it, spend it, buy insane things. One choice is to buy a $40,000 dinner catered by the greatest chefs in the world. While I was writing this section I had to research the most expensive meals in the world, and I became obsessed with Manuka honey, which I ordered online. It's a rare single-source honey from New Zealand that's said to be so powerful it can stop flesh-eating bacteria. I ate it on toast and have had no flesh-eating bacteria to date, so I guess it works.

5. The recent ash cloud over Europe left you stranded. Where in the world were you, and what did you eat to pass the time? The ash cloud stranded me in London, where I got sick of eating $30 fish and chips at Heathrow Airport while futilely waiting for planes to depart. So back in the kitchenette of my hotel room I boiled hot dogs in the electric tea kettle. Serves the hotel right. Nothing on their room service menu was under 50 bucks, but I got my money's worth. They, however, got a teapot that will make funky-tasting tea for the rest of time. Glad to be home.

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