Thursday, April 24, 2008

Interview With A Cool Girl- Liza Palmer

What's Jack Up to? Jack is tired. It's getting near the end of spring break week and he's feeling ready to have his quiet days back, oh wait, is that just me? Whew.

Today I have the cool honor of interviewing author, Liza Palmer. I have been a big fan of Liza since reading her book Conversations With A Fat Girl and became an instant friend after bonding with her on line at an RWA convention in Dallas while waiting for free books. Somehow the first season of TOP CHEF came up and that was it. We were soul sisters!

Now I've become and even bigger fan after reading her latest book Seeing Me Naked. The story of Elisabeth Page, daughter of famous novelist Ben Page and sister to equally famous novelist Rascal Page who is trying to make a name and life for herself as a pastry chef in in the hottest restaurant in L.A. while coming out of the shadow of her famous family.

For a chance to win a personally autographed UK edition of Seeing Me Naked. Please leave a comment and I will draw a winner at random and Liza will send a copy to the winner. Yay, Liza!

Now to the hard hitting interview:

1.First off I'll start with a couple of traditional questions. Liza did you always want to be a writer? Is it something you always knew you'd do?
I started writing at a very young age – even before I could write actually. My Mom would write my stories down– stories about Animal Land. Hilarious.
But then…life happens. And especially for young girls – writing and being different are not really sought after characteristics in junior high school. So, I stopped. And then high school came along – where you just try to survive. And then it became about putting food on the table – and there wasn’t any room for dreams and silly stuff like that. It was like this numbness set in. Years later I looked at my life and…well, it wasn’t what I wanted, you know? I was working at this law firm in LA and it just freaked me out – I could see myself there in ten years, twenty years. So, I started going to these little Saturday morning workshops at Vroman’s bookstore here in Pasadena. And weekend by weekend I started believing that maybe…maybe I could write after all.

2.Please tell us the story of you 'overnight' success? I always laugh when I ask that one.
So, these little workshops taught me the business of writing – query letters, yaddayaddayadda. You know. So, I wrote the Worst First Draft ever over that summer, gave it to a group of friends (now former…echem). I thought in the time it takes to edit this draft down to something not ridiculous, I could send out these queries. So, I looked in the acknowledgements of books that I thought we like mine (Conversations with the Fat Girl) and queried four agents. Three of them wanted the manuscript and one turned me down…twice.
I thought...okay, they won’t forget about me in a month – so, I edited the draft in about three weeks and sent it back out. I signed with one of those first three. And then that little book just kept wriggling into the perfect situations…it was bought by Warner three days before Christmas and then launched the 5Spot line at Warner (now Grand Central).

3.What is your usual writing process? Are you a plotter or a pantser. Do you have a set everyday writing schedule?
I am definitely a pantser. If there ever was one…but, it’s evolving though. I think of it like this: I know that I’m driving from LA to San Francisco. I know where I’m starting and where I’m ending. And I just need to decide if I’m taking the 5, the 101 or the 1. But, the problem with this whole “drive to san francisco’ theory is that most times I get stuck somewhere around San Luis Obispo wondering where the heck I’m going.
Lately, I’ve been going to this amazing little coffee shop everyday because a) I am actively bribing myself with nonfat lattes and b) I’m starting to feel like a shut-in. And you know – it’s totally worked. I look forward to writing again and it’s been a nice evolution for me. I’m probably going to stick with it for a little while.

4. Seeing Me Naked takes us into the world of a gourmet kitchen. How did you choose that as a setting for the book and how did you do the research? I was totally immersed and it felt like it was written by an expert. Did you ever work in a kitchen? How much research do you do for your books?
When I just started percolating about Seeing Me Naked, I thought about jobs that I could see myself doing – if I couldn’t write. And I thought: chef. So, then I did some research and learned that the only place a woman is really tolerated in a French kitchen is in the pastry corner.
I then made a few phone calls and got hooked up with Karen Rawers, who was the pastry chef under Michel Richard (citronelle). I picked her brain for everything…every last detail. She drew out what a French kitchen looks like, told me all about etiquette, staffing, politics…all of it. And then we went to Bastide here in LA, when Chef Ludo Lefevre was still the chef there. We ordered the chef’s surprise menu, had it paired by the sommelier and then got a tour of the kitchen…it was just one of those nights. It gave me everything I needed…until I asked my next battery of questions.
But, I needed it to be right, you know? I hate reading books about certain settings and finding wrong details…, so, I really worked to make that kitchen as authentic as possible. And the recipes in the back are the real deal…my step-dad’s chicken and dumplings recipe, a family friend’s flan recipe (I can’t even begin to tell you how I wrassled that from her grip)…and on and on. I really had fun with all the desserts that Elisabeth made throughout the book…and now, my dish at Christmas is cherry clafouti! Pretty cool.

Sidebar question: With the setting for this book, all I want to know why in the world you had to be coaxed to blog about TOP CHEF? LOL!
I had to be coaxed because I didn’t know if everyone was going to be as nutso for it as I was, you know!?!? I mean, I can go OFF on that show…I love it. But, I wasn’t sure if people were only into Project Runway or if they were sick of the tv recaps. But, I’m so glad I did – I love it. I am totally Blog Envious though…because you are so much more succinct about those shows then I am - you say things and I’m like…ohhh, that’s how to say it so people understand. Good to know.

5. You are so good at your characterization. How do you come up with your characters? Do you do the whole GMC (goal, motivation, conflict) for all of them or is it just something you have in you?
Weird! I just learned that GMC thing in this screenwriting class thing. Weird??! Eerie, even.
So, obviously…I didn’t use the GMC thing for my characters…where was I when that thing came out? I mean, it’s genius!
How do I come up with the characters…I don’t know. How’s that for a bad answer! No, I just build the main character and then just ask why over and over again….like, okay – Elisabeth is kind of snobby. So, how did she get like that? Then I build the parents – Ballard and Ben. Ben is a key element to the novel – so I spent a long time building the biggest shadow that Elisabeth would have to come out from under, you know? I mean, all of our parents are these titans, but I really wanted to create a Zeus in that character. Then I thought I should give her a sibling who she could be in the trenches with (Rascal), but I wanted to make him the opposite of Elisabeth – so she’s this hard-driving perfectionist and Rascal is this Fainting Couch dauphin who is constantly being brought down by melancholy.
And Daniel. Well…Daniel was certainly a lot of fun to write. Sigh. A basketball coach from Kansas? Just this straight shooting man? He almost eclipsed the whole book, because I loved his interaction with Elisabeth…how he made her really look at herself.

6.What's the one piece of writing advice that you would give aspiring authors?
*Do you want to write A story or YOUR story.
*Don’t let the truth get in the way of a good story.
* Kill your darlings. (Yes, you think it’s clever, but does it move the story forward?)
*and most of all – WRITE!
Stephen King says to ‘close the study door’ as you finish your first draft. Such good advice. Just finish that first draft before really talking about it, sharing it or letting it see the light of day. You’ll never finish it if you keep editing and futzing…something which everyone does and inevitably ends with someone tearing my final drafts from my cold, dead hands.

7.What's next for you, Liza?
I just finished a script for a television show I’m thinking about…I love it. I love working in only dialogue (can you imagine?!?!?!) – it’s awesome. And then it’s back for the second draft of my third book – which is due in May…oh wait…what day is it? The 24th? Uhhhh…maybe I should get on that.

Thanks so much for doing this interview Liza. Once again I'm honored to have you here.

Don't forget to live a comment to me entered in the giveaway guys. I'll announce the winner on Sunday.

Oh and Check out Liza's site




pve design said...

Cool Interview, She won me in your interview, and I'd like to win her book!

Anonymous said...

I just finished Conversations and I LOVED it. I'm so glad to see there's another book. Thanks Liza for doing this interview, and thanks, Kwana, for posting it!

The (Mis)Adventures of a Single City Chick said...

I (heart) Liza! :-) Loved both of her books, which I have copies of, so you don't need to enter me in the contest. I just wanted to pop in and give a quick wave and urge everyone who doesn't win the book to go out and buy their one copy! :-)

Sarai said...

Nice interview I have never read anything by this author but I will have to give her a try!

Anonymous said...

awesome interview! I have "conversations" on my list of books to read (it's so long!!!) and would lurrrve a copy of her new book! enter me up!

Anonymous said...

I can't tell you how fun this interview was...I mean, any opportunity to a) talk to Kwana b) about TOP CHEF?!?!?!

Thank you so lovely.

Maureen McGowan said...

What a great interview, but damn you, Kwana. Now I have another author I MUST read.

Liza, I totally loved that driving from LA to San Francisco analogy. That's kind of how I plot, too. Lately I've been planning my routes more carefully, but I usually not only change roads several times... I think I often take the winding side-routes over the hills from 101 to 1 a few times.

Wendy said...

Cool interview! I'm really looking forward to reading Seeing Me Naked, it sounds great. :)

Bethany Hiitola said...

Another top chef fan! YAY! The book sounds fab! can't wait to grab it (even if I don't win it)!

Kwana said...

Thanks for the wonderful comments. All you shy ones, there's still time to enter. You have until Saturday at midnight!

Emily Marshall said...

Wow, tons of great writing advice. Thanks for doing the interview. I'd love to win a copy of the book.

Brown Girl Gumbo said...

Great interview!! I really enjoyed reading about how she decided to go after her dreams after putting them on hold for so long. Very inspiring!!

Leanna Renee Hieber said...

Great Interview, Kwana and Liza!

We missed you at RT, Kwana, glad you were able to do New England, but hope you can do RT with us next year! *hugs*!

Kwana said...

Thanks for all your great comments.
I saw what a good time you had at RT, Leanna. Looks like a blast.

The contest is now closed. Thanks for the comments. Check back for the winner.

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