Sunday, January 20, 2008
FAB - Liza Palmer Interview - AND the contest
Oh My. Words of advice are coming straight at your heads right now, ok? If you ever decide to do a book review blog, and by some twist of fate end up featuring a FABulous author (like, say LIZA PALMER!) during the same week that you are going out of state (to Tenessee, though the state was irrelevant) for your day job (which is NOT as a writer. Yet.), be smart and pack the cord of your laptop (the thing that makes your laptop work) WITH your laptop (the place you store ALL of your reviews and interviews and basically everything else writing related in your life!), so that you can actually do the posts that you are supposed to do WHEN you are supposed to do them (instead of three days late), ok?
So yeah, laptops need cords. So do cell phones. Neither of which I've had for the past few days. Not so good. As my way of apologizing, I'm going to extend the CONTEST until Wednesday at midnight. So go ahead and copy this .jpg and the BCC onto your site, so you can enter and win.
Now on to the interview with the FABulous Liza Palmer!
dee: Tell me about your new book, SEEING ME NAKED, in one sentence.
Liza: [SEEING ME NAKED is] The story about a woman who must go backward in order to go forward.
dee: WHY do you write? Is it something you HAVE to do, or is it 'just a job'?
Liza: Yes, unfortunately – it’s a ‘HAVE TO’ thing. I assure you, this is not my choice. Having homework every night, holidays and weekends included, is not my idea of an awesome career choice. But, I’m just happier, you know? Happier when I’m writing. Healthier when I’m writing. And as wrenching and droning as writing can be sometimes, because it is my job – I am the perfect me while I do it. When I’m in front of that computer screen spinning these yarns, it’s like I’ve walked into this perfect puzzle-piecian world where everything fits and everything makes sense. I feel perfect. And this whole “puzzle piecian’ perfect thing really helps when you’re going on like 3 hours of sleep in 4 days trying to make a deadline.
dee: I read on your site that you wrote your first book relatively quick. Was the process the same for the second book? How long did it take you?
Liza: I’m a quick writer, long term editor. It’s almost like – and this is gonna be kind of gross, so hold on – it’s almost like there’s this initial vomiting thing that happens – and then it takes a year to clean up the mess.
Conversations took 3 months to write and about a year to edit. Seeing Me Naked took about one month to write and about a year to edit as well. I do not condone this type of whirlwindish writing – even my dog turned her back on me at one point – maybe she just wanted a walk….who knows.
dee: Explain your 'writing process'. Do you have a critique group? Do you share your chapters as they are written with anyone?
Liza: Do you want me to talk about the whole ‘vomiting as writing’ process again or shall I save EVERYONE from that vision?!?!?
Editing – easier. Cleaner. My Mom is my first reader and editor – which made those hot scenes with Daniel a little embarrassing, to say the least. Thanks to her Catholic School education her grammar is perfect…mine? Not so much. It’s also the first time I really talk about where the story is going, the path to get there and really the subtle hues of each character – it’s our own little round table. After Mom, the draft gets a lot less embarrassing and can be seen by other people besides the woman who HAS TO LIKE IT BECAUSE SHE’S MY MOM!
For Seeing Me Naked, I actually had two male readers – which I think helped the book so much. In the earlier drafts I had the male characters (Ben, Rascal, Daniel, Will and Samuel) opining about this and that, beautiful monologues filled with velvet and sentiment – and the two male readers would argue, “Men don’t talk like that.” I would gasp – probably…maybe some fainting. I’d finally give in and ask what they would say, getting ready to write down a shorter monologue maybe…a crisper soliloquy…pencil at the ready. They would say, “A guy would just say yes.” Sigh.
After the two boys get done with it, the draft then goes to one other reader – another writer here in LA - and then finally on to my agent.
On writing about L.A. -
dee: I love that you put pictures of actual locations from your books on your site. How do you decide what places to mention in your book? Do you go for the very 'local' places, or could a tourist find some of these spots?
Liza: The locations in Conversations with the Fat Girl were a lot more specific to Pasadena – and they really are my stomping grounds…places I felt comfortable depicting with a loving hand. I know every inch of those locations – for EuroPane – every luscious pastry…every steaming cup of coffee…I can smell it now. They have this egg salad sandwich there…forget about it. You’ll all just have to come here and experience it.
Seeing Me Naked saw me getting a little more exploratory with the LA landscape – moving into Silver Lake, Montecito and Seeing Me Naked I’ve got Toast, Doughboys and Joan’s on Third. You’ll recognize Joan’s from all the paparazzi shots of Jake Gyllenhaal– he’s a regular. That may have something – just a little bit – to do with my love of the place.
No – that’s the great thing about all the places in my books – they’re the local dives, the mom and pop gathering spots and the neighborhood haunts. The Regal Beagles, if you will. There’s a richness to this city that needs to be shared and I intend to do it one divey café at a time!. And I realize I have this obsession with 3rd Street. In Conversations – I wrote about Quality Café and Surya India (both on 3rd) and now in
dee: Both of your books have been based in California. How important is location to your characters? Could your books have been set in another town, another state, or geographical area?
Liza: I love when the setting of a book is like another character – I mean, this is LA! Home of Raymond Chandler…I had to utilize it. And being a native of Pasadena (home of the Rose Parade) it just felt right to include my absolute love affair with the city in my writing. I honestly don’t think I could help myself.
I honestly think that I could set every book I write in a different part of LA and it would never feel the same – this city is so diverse.
Digging a little bit deeper...
dee: Your books seem very introspective to me. Both of them deal with women who learn to be comfortable in their own skin, literally and based on their family. Have you faced similar issues that your characters faced? Is their solution the same as your solution?
Liza: Great question! I definitely see a pattern forming, that’s for sure. Honestly, I don’t think I knew that this was the case. I had someone tell me that my books are about women figuring out who they are and then being that. I think it’s about authenticity – finding your true self. I know I’ve definitely had those same issues – years and years spent trying to be this other person – just so I’d fit in….but, that’s not the point is it? What’s that quote: No well-behaved woman ever made history. Love. That.
dee: You have romantic relationships in your books, but they are not the core of either book. Are you intentionally sending a message to your readers that romance is important, but not the most important thing? Or is that just a by-product of the story? (happen to LOVE this about your books, by the way!!)
Liza: Definitely intentional! I think relationships with our significant others are these little thermometers measuring how we feel about ourselves. We’ve all been in relationships that absolutely embodied how badly we were feeling about ourselves at that time – unavailable men, what have you. So, what interests me is the journey to a healthy relationship. The going backward to go forward. And I think slogging through the past and unraveling whatever mythology your identity is built on is the only way to really get that bird’s eye view of a hero’s journey. The relationship is the effect – I want to know the cause.
dee: The mother plays an important part in both of your stories. The relationship that your main characters have with their moms changes during both stories, and in SMN, the mother has an amazing! character arc. Did you intentionally set it up this way, or did the moms just jump off the page and demand their own time?
Liza: The mother in Conversations jumped off the page absolutely. She was just right there…I guess a character like that would have to be, huh? My interest in that character was really building a positive mother/daughter relationship that would work as a tool in Maggie’s evolution, as opposed to an obstacle.
Ballard – the mother in Seeing Me Naked - took more time to get to know. She was a slow burn, as opposed to a volcano like Maggie’s Mom in Conversations. It wasn’t until I pieced together Ballard’s history that I got her motivation – the absolute loneliness of her childhood would absolutely lead to her trying to keep her family together by any means necessary. And I think it’s that desperation that makes her blind to what’s really happening in the home. I loved her arc, by the way – and it came from nowhere. It was one of those awesome discoveries during one of the edits.
dee: In SMN, the main character has a very famous father and brother. How did you research this? Did you get to meet any famous people? :)
Liza: I think all of us can identify with thinking that our parents are these mythical creatures. They don’t even have to be anywhere in the vicinity and yet every decision we make we ask yourselves, however quietly, “what are my parents going to say about this?!” And I think because it’s fiction – I just went about finding Elisabeth’s (and Rascal’s) Zeus – I think Ben Page could definitely hang on Mount Olympus
Thanks so much, Liza, for being here with us last week, and for putting up with my crazy travel schedule. Thanks also for talking me back from the ledge while I was wallowing in the "miss home blues". :) Your book is simply FABulous, and I can't wait to read the next one!!
If you readers haven't entered the contest, you've got a few extra days, thanks to airline security craziness and my innate sense of fairness. Be sure to enter by Wednesday at midnight. I'll announce the winners on Thursday.
Good luck with the contest, and...
Keep Turning Those Pages!!
Dished by dee at 10:58 PM