Friday, December 30, 2005


My favorite book of this past year was without a doubt, The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls. I read into the night and put off finishing the book because I did not want it to end. The Glass Castle was recently honored by Elle Magazine and has been acclaimed in numerous publications. It's an amazing read and even more so knowing it is a true story.

Good Grief by Lolly Winston was another favorite of mine. Julia Roberts is rumored to be playing the main character in the motion picture of the novel.

She's Come Undone author Wally Lamb put together an amazing book of women in prison and their stories. It is a must read. Couldn't Keep It To Myself is the title.

I read this novel a while ago but it stayed with me, Chris Bohjalian's Midwives.

I don't think Janet Fitch has written another novel since White Oleander. Your heart will go out to Astrid, the main character.

Nickel and Dimed was a fantastic non-fiction book about "not getting by in America". Barbara Ehrenreich goes undercover and holds a series of jobs in order to see if she can get by on minimum wage earnings.

I was hooked from page one and cried with the main character of Girls In Trouble. Caroline Leavitt is one of the best novelists and if you haven't read her novels then you are sorely missing out. Each one is a treasure.

The only person I know who hasn't read this book is my mother who insists its a young adult book. It is one of the best books I have ever read, The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd.

The one and only time in my life I hand-wrote a letter to the author telling her I enjoyed the book and she didn't write back to me. But I'm not sour about it and will recommend The Center of Everything by Laura Moriarity. It's one of those 'coming of age' books that resonates so well with me, a child of the 80's.

Lisa Tucker is a supremely talented author. Be sure to read The Song Reader if you haven't already. Shout Down the Moon is also excellent.

I would love to find more novels like this great read, Swimming Toward The Ocean by Carole L. Glickfeld. I enjoy books that can easily transport me from the present into the past with deft skill.

Mrs. Kimble was an interesting take on a man and the three women he took as his three wives during the course of a lifetime. Excellent. Keep your eyes out for more from Jennifer Haigh. Baker Towers, her sophomore novel was another fabulous read.

Aside from women's fiction, I enjoy heart pounding, nail biting suspence. I was chilled to the bone and literally bit my nails in fear as I read Land of the Living by Nicci French. MJ Rose will also have you turning pages as fast as you can with The Halo Effect.

I read so much, I should really keep a book diary. There is nothing in the world like a good book that allows us to immerse ourselves into other places and lives. You know the feeling when you close a book and wish there was one or two more chapters so the book didn't have to end?

I also want to mention Miriam the Medium by Rochelle Jewel Shapiro, any book by Michael Lee West or Adriana Trigiani. and true crime books by the unparalleled Ann Rule.

Happy Reading and see you when its officially 2006!

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Cara Lockwood, Dixieland Sushi

Rachel Kramer Bussel recommended Dixieland Sushi to me over the summer. I emailed Cara to ask for a copy of the book and she sent me an entire media kit which included a sushi pen, a wind-up sushi toy and a bunch of cool sushi stickers. I made a note to myself to create an equally fun media kit when my novel is published. (But will that day ever come? This remains to be seen!)

I heard about Cara years ago, when a friend was raving about Pink Slip Party. Then I caught the movie, I Do, But I Don't on Lifetime television. Shortly thereafter I read Dixieland Sushi on a plane ride from California to New Jersey. I enjoyed the book so much and the author's easy- going and fun style of writing. Its a quick read peppered with quotes from Mr. Miyagi, the wise old man from the Karate Kid movies. The prmise of the book is what happens when far east meets down south.

I highly recommend Cara's novels, her website and blog, it's worth your time to check it out.

And now for our interview...

Pat Morita, the voice of Mr. Miyagi, the wise karate guru of The Karate Kid died recently. You featured his quotes throughout Dixieland Sushi. How did you learn the news of his death?

I actually learned the news online that Friday after Thanksgiving. I was out shopping with my mom, and while I was taking a break waiting in line to get coffee, I checked some news online through my phone and found out about Pat Morita’s passing. It was a sad moment. He’s an actor who broke a lot of barriers and entertained us throughout his life. He’ll be missed.

What was it like to have your novel, I Do But I Don’t, turned into a movie? Were you able to visit the set or have lunch with Denise Richards? How much input do authors have when their books are turned into movies?

It was a surreal but wonderful experience. The movie was filmed in Montreal, and I did have an opportunity to visit the set. I spent two days on set while they shot various scenes, including the groom rescue scene and the bridal shop scene. I met Denise Richards and Dean Cain while on set, as well as the director, producer and lots of other set members. Denise and Dean couldn’t have been nicer. It’s funny because on set, they sat in chairs with their characters names on them, like “Lauren Crandell.” It was so surreal, because these were character names I had made up, and now they were suddenly real people in real life.

As for the second half of your question, authors don’t typically have a lot of input into how movies are made about their books, and I was no exception. I basically signed over the rights to the story, and the screenwriters adapted the book for the small screen. They did a fantastic job, so I didn’t have much to worry about. But when I was visiting the set, I was just a guest. I had no input at all into the screenplay or how scenes were done. It’s a little like Nicholas Cage’s character in “Adaptation” when he wanders around the set and no one knows who he is. That’s a little what it felt like. But it makes sense, if you think about it. I’m a writer, but I know very little about making movies.

What was the last movie you watched in the theater? I saw Rent two weeks ago. Are you a dvd renter or a movie goer? I love the big popcorn bucket loaded with butter and a gigantic soda. I like to sugar -and- carb overload at once, and you?

The last movie I saw was Harry Potter – the newest over Thanksgiving with my family. The movie before that I saw was “Good Night and Good Luck.” I love movies. I am such a movie fan. I’ll see movies on DVD or in the theatre, but I think I’m partial to going to the theatre. I love the snacks and the stadium seating and the big screen. I’ll see anything in the theatre, but I especially like quirky films, like Wes Anderson films (The Royal Tenenbaums and Rushmore). But I like all kinds of movies. I think it runs in my family. My Dad is an avid moviegoer, and I will seriously see anything in the theatre. I once saw Weird Al Yankovic in UHF in the theatre, if that tells you something.

And sugar and carb loading? Everything is good about that. Add some caffeine, and that’s my idea of heaven.

Nick and Jessica- what went wrong? If you were writing the book about these two stars, how would you end the tale?

I think they were probably a little naïve about marriage, but then we all are, to some degree. Marriage is hard, no matter who’s in it, but you add celebrity and constant public scrutiny, and I think that just complicates matters even further. I think a lot of us feel like the wedding is the end of things, but it’s really just the beginning of a long journey. Both people have to be willing to work on it, if it’s going to succeed.

If I were to write an ending for them, I’d probably have them meeting other people and finding new love.

A perfect day would consist of doing what?

A perfect day would start with a gingerbread latte from Starbucks and end with a sale at Nordstrom. (amen to that, sister!)

How long does it take you to write a book? Do you have a multi-book contract?

It takes me anywhere from four months to eight months to write a novel. Honestly, it depends on my deadlines. I think I could work on a novel for years, if I didn’t have to turn it in. I do work under multi-book contracts. Typically, my contracts are divided into two-book deals.

If you weren’t a writer, what would you be doing?

This is such a hard question, because writing is so much a part of who I am. I think I would always find a way to write, even if it wasn’t fiction. Before I published my first novel, I worked as a newspaper journalist, and then as a marketing writer. I think I’d always find a way to write. But if I couldn’t write, if it wasn’t allowed, then I’d probably be drawn to graphic design. I’m definitely a creative person. I can’t keep it in!

Where do you see yourself within the next two years?

I hope to be doing what I’m doing now, which is writing stories that interest me (and hopefully) other people.

Saturday, December 17, 2005

What famous people are reading...

I always want to know what's on everyone's bookshelves. And as you know, I love all things celebrity. So from time to time, I'm going to be finding out which novels celebs are reading and I will share their recommendations. I asked gorgeous actress Selma Blair what books she has at the moment and here is what she said~

Never Let Me Go by Ishiguro

Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy

And a novel I am very anxious to read, Veronica by Mary Gaitskill.

Thanks for sharing, Selma!

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Pamela Anderson, Star Struck

Now thats what I call a salad!

Pamela Anderson and I have so much in common, it’s almost scary! We could practically be sisters. We are both blonde and thin. We both have sons named Dylan. We love animals, we own dogs and enjoy the beach. We like to cook, we grew up in small towns. She is on a show about a bookstore, Stacked, and I spend hours in the real bookstore. But the biggest similarity would have to be that we both like to write.

Six years ago I was visiting California, I had not yet made it my home. I was at Knott's Berry Farm waiting for my son to get off the carousel. Standing next to me was a small woman with a fabulous figure. I was pregnant and feeling bloated and fat and all together hideous.
I turned to look longingly at the ultra flat stomach belonging to the person next to me and…noticed a barbed wire tattoo around her bicep. Could it be…? Was it..? YES. It was.

I tried to come up with something clever and witty to say but drew a blank. Her boys got off the ride and I felt uncomfortable intruding upon their time together. That didn’t stop me from staring at her and smiling like a complete moron. Now, six years later, I have come full circle and finally get to chat with Pamela!

I believe Pam has a duel personality. One where she is a glamour queen and another where she is a humble mother and humanitarian. Her dedication to helping others certainly inspires me and in all my gossip reading, I don't think Ive ever seen this woman with a nanny taking care of her kids. I admire many things about Pam on a basic level. Take away the fanfare and the flashbulbs and there is a genuine person with a big heart. Who happens to write fun books.

I enjoyed her novel Star and the sequel Star Struck. I like to relax with beachy reads and that's what Pam's novels are all about.

If you stayed in Canada and lived in the small town you grew up in, would you be a writer holed up in a cabin writing novels or would you be doing something else?

When I was in Canada I was a fitness instructor - who knows maybe I'd still be making people do sit-ups. I should do that now anyway as people are getting so unhealthy and obese. That's part of the reason I promote vegetarianism - its not just better for the animals for for people too.

What do you say to the critics who write negative reviews, does this bother you? Star and Star Struck are loosely based on your life- so does that fact make the negative reviews more personal and hurtful?

I wrote the book for fun, not for critical acclaim. I never imagined Star would become a NY Times bestseller – though I certainly can’t take all the credit for that. I never expected to be hailed as an incredible writer; I just wanted to share some stories. With anything I do publicly, there will be people who love it and people who hate it – I learned a long time ago not to get too concerned with the negative stuff. You can’t please everyone!

If you were stripped of your fame and fortune, would you change from the person you are right now?

I think so. I’d still be a mom, I’d still be an activist, I’d still care about the things I do now. Money and fame aren’t my priorities and never really were. I sort of stumbled into the “celebrity” world, but I stayed the same person.

When I come over for dinner, will you make me a black bean lasagna with soy cheese? What is your favorite vegetarian meal?

I love anything with tofu, and I love Asian food, so I’d probably make some tofu and vegetables with peanut sauce. But we'd start with hummus. I’m very much a kitchen person – you may one day see me hosting my own cooking show. Something like Baywatch but instead of a red bikini, you’ll see me on the beach wearing a red apron and cooking.

Do you have a ritual each time you sit at your desk to write? Personally, I need lots and lots of coffee, sometimes green tea.

My co-writer Eric Shaw Quinn and I get together for breakfast and talk about the stories, really fine-tune them. It helps me to discuss things out loud and swap ideas, rather than sit at a desk by myself.

Would you ever give up acting for writing? And what is your favorite part of being a writer? Is it the fact you can sit in your pajamas all day and not have to go out if you don’t want to?

My favorite part about writing is that I can do it from home and don’t have to work set hours, so I can spend more time with my kids. That’s the most important thing to me.

Do you watch television? Go to the movies? What is your idea of a great day? Im guessing it has something to do with a walk on the beach…

I don’t watch much TV or see many movies; I’d much rather be outside. I was always a tomboy, so I love being athletic and in the outdoors, running on the beach with my dog or playing sports with my kids.

I think we all imagine your life as totally glamorous and exciting, what is the truth? Do you ever have moments where you want to be anonymous?

My life revolves around my kids. I take them to soccer practice, I go to PTA meetings. Every so often I go to glitzy events for Stacked or to help PETA and other charities, but most of the time I’m just a regular mom, shopping for groceries and picking the boys up from school.

Do you find that writing is better than therapy? Do you keep a journal? Do you like to be alone? Writing is very solitary.

I write with Eric, and it’s a fun collaborative effort. It is kind of like therapy, taking these stories, some of which are based on real-life events or people I’ve known, and just taking them over the top.

When you are an old lady with grandchildren and still with the big blonde hair and smoking body, what do you want to be remembered for the most?

I'd like to be remembered by 2 simple words.... any 2 words, as long as they're simple! I hope people remember me someone who stumbled into the spotlight and then shared it with things that need more attention in the world, such as animal rights, gay rights, and disease prevention.

Growing up, I never imagined I’d have the opportunity to really make a difference, but I hear from people all the time who say they went vegetarian because of an ad I did, or they stopped wearing fur because of a video I narrated. That’s a wonderful feeling, to know you’re affecting people in a positive way, and I hope I can continue to do that...

Saturday, December 10, 2005

Liza Palmer, Conversations With The Fat Girl

Liza Palmer

The book received favorable reviews in magazines like People and Entertainment Weekly, way to go, Liza!

Liza Palmer contacted me a while back asking if she could send me a copy of her debut novel, Conversations With The Fat Girl. I'm always interested in finding good books so I said of course. I couldn't wait to read it, but had a bunch of other novels to get through first. When I did finally open the book, I enjoyed it immensely from the very first page.

I relate so well to any character who is flawed or troubled or imperfect. Many people shy away from books that remotely bear the chick-lit stamp. I want to encourage you to pick up this novel and give it a try because it's wonderful and well written. I could be friends with Maggie, the character who is hanging on by a thread to her once fat, but now skinny and gorgeous friend Olivia.

I became emotionally involved with Maggie and wanted to give her a good shake a few times throughout the book or at least email Liza and ask why Maggie didn't see who Olivia had become. You just have to read the book to appreciate Maggie's journey to confidence and self assurance. Fat, skinny, pretty or not, we have all felt like Maggie at one time or another and Liza does a great job with the emotions of a character who finally figures out the truth about a friendship which has run its course.

What is the first thing you do when you wake up in the morning?

Put on my glasses, check the time, walk downstairs, find the dog, pet the dog, make coffee. Breathe.

Which character do you identify with the most?

I think that's beauty of writing - I identify with all the characters. Every one of them has a piece of me - obviously Maggie being the one I most identifywith - it's her voice which is the most true to mine.

What do you think of Tyra Banks donning a fat suit to experience life as an overweight person? Do you think people are generally accepting of those who are overweight?

Gasp of all gasps. You mean overweight people are treated differently than Victoria's Secret models. What has this world come to? Blasphemous. I think - jeez, what do I think - I dunno.

On one hand I like that she's exploring prejudice and unearthing a truth maybe - but, that's kinda bullshit, I mean, we all know this Truth and I just think it's a tad bizarre that it's being treated as this expose or something. It's like someone drinking water and, it really is wet. But, the gist of my whole novel is that you never know how big Maggie is.

There are so many themes in this book- love, acceptance, following your dreams and your heart, friendship... What do you want people to take from the book when they finish it?

Stop wasting time hating yourself. It's exhausting and you're really the only one doing it. I always revel looking at pictures of myself - and I remember distinctly thinking I was fat when those pictures were taken. And now when I look back I was never as fat as I thought I was. I've ruined so many amazing moments thinking my Area was showing or that everything would be better if I were 10 pounds lighter. Start living now.

What is your favorite color and why?

I love pink. It's taken me a long time to really come to terms with being girly. And now I hope by embracing pink, I've learned to embrace my softness, feminity and feeling lovely. It's taken way too long.

I wanted to go to school to be an art restoration specialist so I was excited about Maggie's job opportunity. Is art something you enjoy, and if so, who are your favorite artists?

The LACMA is one of my great escapes. I adore art. I adore museums. There is something - well, everything about them I love. My favorite artist -it depends. I love the modern stuff - but, I love just getting right up next to any piece - looking at the brush strokes - the nuts and bolts of genius. Everything. I appreciate a something. I love seeing a manifestation of thought.

Who were Bella and Emily based on? They were so cute, their personalities came through very well.

I am blessed to have two such lovely little women in my life. I hope I did them justice.

Do you read your horoscope? Ever had tarot cards read? Would you want to know what the next chapter of your life holds if you could find out?

There is a huge part of me that loves horoscopes and tarot. The curious, hopeful part. The part that loves seeing myself as a courageous lion and not someone who sometimes may not feel so roar-y.I would love to say that I wouldn't look at that little chapter - but, there's no way I wouldn't look.

How has life changed for you since the book was published?

In too many ways to even begin listing - and in ways that I don't even think I know about yet. Life is a rollercoaster right now - and I'm not quite ready to let go of that security bar enough to really look behind me just yet.