Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Deanna Kizis, Finishing Touches

It was almost two years ago when I went in for major surgery and my friend, Gayle brought me a bag overflowing with good books to keep me occupied. She was just returning from Book Expo America and had tons of novels to share. One of those was a fun little book called How To Meet Cute Boys by Deanna Kizis. Humorous book with cartoons throughout, you couldn't help but read it and love it and pass it to your best gal pal. The book is set in Los Angeles and the author wrote superbly about the glitzy town. Fast forward to very recently when I noticed Deanna Kizis was coming out with a new novel. You know me so well by now--I had to get my pink nailed hands on a copy.

Finishing Touches is about a girl whose good friend dies after a terrible car crash. Grieving friends comfort and pull away from each other as they deal with death in their own way.

Deanna is the super cool girl everyone wants to be friends with. Imagine a gorgeous brunette who is glam and successful, who interviews celebrities for a living, whose work shows up in the most stylish of magazines. Besides that, she writes fabulous novels and when I opened my InStyle magazine today, guess who was hanging out with Heidi Klum? Yup, our author du jour, Deanna.

The book deals with death which is a huge and difficult topic to write about. What was your research for portraying the characters as grieving?

That was the interesting thing--I tried to research, and I couldn't find anything for people who are young (as in, twenties and thirties) and single. Unless I really missed something, I could really only find books for widows, widowers, and more general books about grief. So instead of doing research, I drew from personal experience.

How to Meet Cute Boys was light and funny and, well, cute. Finishing Touches is not cute or light. Where did the idea for the book come from?

I know--it's a crazy switch right? Here's what happened: After writing How to Meet Cute Boys, I started working on another comedic novel. At the time, however, a close friend had been diagnosed with a brain tumor and her prognosis went from perhaps okay to very bad. I found myself really fortunate in that my friend let me be there for her. This was one of the most incredible gifts--a true honor--I've ever received.

It also made me less inclined to work on a funny novel. When she passed away, I couldn't write that book anymore. I kept trying, but it just wasn't there. I was grieving, and couldn't get back to where I was. About a year later I started writing Finishing Touches instead.

Sometimes people ask me if I'll finish that previous book, and the answer--I'm pretty sure--is no. I really enjoyed writing Finishing Touches--it was painful, but it felt right. Don't get me wrong, I'm really proud of How to Meet Cute Boys, but I look at this book as a step forward, as part of growing older for me personally. I liked the challenge and I'd like to continue to write books that are a bit less comedic. Of course, I'm sure I'll never play it too serious, or too straight.

Are you a person who needs to make an outline of the story or let it unfold organically as you write?

You know I never can seem to write an outline. I start obsessing over it and then I think: What's the point of this? I can't publish something that says "Chapter One, Scene A, dialogue here TK"! So I just go for it and live with the consequences.

West Coast editor of Elle magazine. How did you land such a sweet job?

I bugged them until they gave it to me. Well, not quite. I started as a contributing writer to Elle and then took on the West Coast editor position when it was created. However, I'm not the West Coast editor anymore! I had to take time off to write more books. Of course I love the fine ladies at Elle--such a great magazine and I plan to contribute as much as they'll let me.

“Don’t Date George Clooney”...sound familiar? I want to hear all about this story.

Ahhh, yes. Gee, it does sound familiar. Look, I think anyone who can land a date with George Clooney should go for it or rue the day forever.

What happened was this: Elle was working on their annual Hollywood Issue and I wrote a piece that was about why it's horrible to date a celebrity when you're not one yourself. The central anecdote in my story was about an actor I went on a date with who had some interesting opening moves. Problem was, the story ran with the headline "Why Not to Date George Clooney."

He took offense to that, understandably, since the anecdote was not about him. Then Mr. Clooney wrote a very funny letter that basically set off a media sh-t storm complete with the Enquirer calling my aunt to find out who the date was really with and threatening to put a photographer outside my house.

I learned the following lessons: A. Don't date celebrities in general. B. If you DO date celebrities and then callously write about all it, expect wrath to come your way and take your medicine. I rely on your intrepid readers to do an internet search to find out the rest!

What is your writing schedule?

When I'm working on a book I write 1,000 words a day, five days a week. If it takes an hour or two, great. If it takes until four in the morning, well, then I write until four in the morning. It's the only way I've found that works. The point, I think, is not to wait for inspiration. Just write, write, write, look at it a few weeks later, and fix it.

Who is your muse, what is your inspiration?

On the first book it was an ex-boyfriend who, surprisingly, I'm still friends with. Horrible boyfriends can make great ex-boyfriends. On Finishing Touches I was most inspired by my incredible, honest, and extremely understanding group of friends, many of whom were wrestling with their own grief at the time.

When you were a child, what did you think you would be doing at the age you are now?

I thought I would be a corporate attorney! My aunt was friends with one and he always talked to me at grown up dinner parties--I had a tremendous crush on him. Then I found out I'm terrified of confrontation and don't have the stamina to go to the office every day.

Take me through a typical day of Deanna. What time do you get up and do you run to Starbucks or the Coffee Bean for a non- fat, no sugar, no whip, half caf cappucino?

A typical day starts with my patient fiance making me coffee because I'm too lazy and difficult to do it myself. Then I read the New York Times. Then I play with my dog. Then I check my email for way longer than I should. I talk to my best friend on the phone and then, when all that is done, I putter around the garden, procrastinate some more, have some eggs or something, and only then do I work. Fortunately I like to stay up late.

What book are you reading right now? What is your favorite book from this past year?

Right now I'm reading The Time Traveler's Wife and really enjoying it. My favorite book from this past year...wow, that's tough. The Rachel Papers (not a new book, I know, but I'd never read it) and I just started my pal Steven Kotler's West of Jesus and it's incredible.

What’s next for you?

I have to start writing the next book! I have a few pages for two different ones--no outlines--and may the best book win.