Friday, September 29, 2006

Online Book Fair

Thank you to Ronlyn Domingue for pointing me in the direction of the Online Bookfair taking place next week, October 3-5.

It's October already! Time for crispy, colored autumn leaves and chimney- smoke filled air. Apple cider and knitted sweaters, new boots and knee socks. A fire in the fireplace, a soft blanket and a good book. I love this time of year.

The online book fair features interviews with authors, author favorites, raffles, guest literary bloggers and more. Be sure to check it out!

Joanna Schlip, Glamour Gurlz

Joanna Schlip is a world renowned makeup artist who has put makeup on many celebrity faces. I don't have enough room to list them all but let's just say she's powdered faces from Alicia Silverstone to Zooey Deschanel and everyone in between. In short, she knows her craft. I'm certain she could make me look like Marilyn Monroe at age twenty, Joanna is that good.

She put together this fabulous book called Glamour Gurlz where she shows how to apply cosmetics and get certain looks, all while focusing on being a strong, positive, confident girl. The book may be for young women just starting out with makeup application but please, we can all benefit from learning some tricks of the trade. A clean, pretty face always looks appropriate no matter what the age.

I had the opportunity to ask Joanna a few questions. Naturally I wanted to beg her to come over and make me over because all I can pull off is the heroin chic look and that's because I'm perpetually tired. I love love love makeup. Makeup and books and good vodka. Just kidding about the vodka. I'm not.

I present to you The Five Minute Interview with Joanna Schlip...

You've had the opportunity to do makeup on hundreds of famous faces. Which celebrity is the most fun to hang out with?

All of my clients are fun … just in different ways.

Do you crank up the tunes while you work or apply makeup in silence?

ALWAYS when possible.

What would the title of your autobiography be called?

Somebody needs to take a vacation.

In your opinion, what are some of the worst makeup crimes that women commit?

The floating face not blending foundation on the jaw line and the neck.

Oh, please mention the dark lip liner with frosty pink lipstick!

And yes.

What are your favorite beauty-nail-skin-hair products?

Skin- La Mer. Nails-hot pink polish even though I’m wearing black today. Hair-Kerastase products.

Do you do full face makeup on yourself every day?

No I do what I have to do. Cover this cover that… you get the picture.

Do you wear perfume? What scents do you like?

Yes. Marc Jacobs

I believe you can tell a little about a person based on what scents they wear. Do you agree?

Yes, I agree.

Glamour Gurlz is a great guide for all girls. What age do you think is it okay to wear makeup?

When a girl gets her menstrual cycle I think it’s a great way to celebrate the passage into womanhood …and with her parents approval. Even if it's only a clear lip gloss.

Should a woman wear less as she ages? What are the rules?

Yes. Too much product can actually age the face by accentuating lines and wrinkles so even though you want to cover uneven skin tones, go light with a foundation.

We are under the assumption that celebrities are perfect and gorgeous but you've seen them without the help of lighting and airbrushing and professional makeup. Are these superstars as glamorous in person as we see in magazines?

Everybody has good days and bad days.

You have traveled around the world, what cities are your favorite and why?

Rome for the people and the food, Paris for the architecture and Cairo for it’s amazing history.

Do women in different countries have varying attitudes about beauty?


Is there a plan to come out with your own line of cosmetics?

Not as of yet but I wouldn’t rule it out.

When girls/women read your book, what is one thing you hope they walk away having learned?

There is nothing more beautiful then a confident young woman!

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

National Coming Out Day

I'm posting the following press release that I received from the Human Rights Campaign. I believe it's very- no-, extremely important to treat our fellow human beings with kindness and respect no matter what their sexual orientation.
The world will be a better place when we don't judge others and when everyone is free to be who they truly are.

As the country looks to celebrate National Coming Out Day on October 11, a day set aside every year to honor gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender and straight Americans living openly and supporting equality, the Human Rights Campaign is proud to announce the participation of Grammy Award winning artist and international singer, P!nk.

“P!nk is one of millions of straight Americans who supports fairness and honesty for everyone – GLBT or straight,” said Human Rights Campaign President Joe Solmonese. “This project will show the faces of countless Americans who support openness over painful silence and isolation. Young people who are afraid to come out will see these pictures and faces and know that they are not alone.”

For more information on the Human Rights Campaign’s Coming Out Day Project please visit:

Talk About It...I love creative people, those who are different and maybe a little off kilter. Those who aren't part of the "in" crowd whatever that may be. I want to encourage you to be bold and brave and live true to who you are. Distressedjeans loves you all!

Paint it Black

This is the story of Josie Tyrell, an art school model and teenage runaway who is deeply in love with Michael, the son of a famous pianist. The two have an intense love until Michael commits suicide and leaves Josie to dig deep into the life of the man she thought she knew. Deep, I know. It's heavy. If you are not in the mood for a serious book then read something funny and come back to this one. I read it after finishing The Mercy of Thin Air and thought...a book where someone dies again?

Paint it Black takes place in 1980, during the punk rock days of Los Angeles. What an awesome backdrop for a novel and Janet nails it with the details of both Los Angeles and the punk scene. Or at least what I imagine it to have been.

“What happens to a dream when the dreamer is gone?” is the central question of Paint It Black, the story of the aftermath of Michael’s death, and Josie’s struggle to hold on to the true world he had shared with her. Compounding her grief and rage is Michael’s pianist mother, Meredith Loewy, who returns to her native city with the news of her only son’s death. Despite a fierce mutual enmity, the two women find themselves drawn into an eerie relationship reflecting equal parts distrust and blind need.

You can learn more about this book on Janet's website which I am linking to right here. I am wondering why it took so long for her to come out with another novel after the huge success of White Oleander....?

Paint it Black didn't tug at my heart the way White Oleander did, but if you want to read an excellent novel that will put you in another time and place-- a dark time and place-- then you should absolutely crack this book open. To be enjoyed with the music of the Germs and the Cramps.

Friday, September 22, 2006

Caprice Crane, Stupid and Contagious

This is the kind of book I love. Stupid and Contagious is witty and sarcastic and funny, which always resonates with me.

The book is written from the point of view of the two main characters, Heaven and Brady. The author does an incredible job of making each voice original and true. Both characters are so engaging that I wanted to be friends with them. The story moves quickly and when it's over, you mourn a little. Okay, I mourned a lot and was not above asking Caprice for the manuscript of her next book so I would be guaranteed a great read again. There are many pop culture references and you get the feeling that Caprice totally has her manicured fingers planted firmly on the pulse of society today.

Caprice Crane is amazingly accomplished. She has written screenplays and books, worked at MTV, founded a record label and did some jewelry making. All that accomplishment might make me a teeny bit jealous (and she is gorgeous too!) but Caprice is so nice that I cannot help but be happy for her successes and wish her years and years of great storytelling and prosperity and good luck and happiness and all of that.

And look what was written on E! online:

Courtney Love, singin' Nirvana to a bunch of chic salesgals at La Diavolina. Stupid and Contagious, a book by Caprice Crane, was on display at the boutique, and Court snatched it up. "You guys do realize what this says, right?" she asked, before singing the entire chorus of Smells Like Teen Spirit and pointing to the title when she reached the line, "stupid and contagious." Evidently, the reference to her late hub Kurt Cobain was enough to make her walk right out with the book (which the delighted store honeys gifted to Ms. L.). For the bitchy record, Court wasn't. Seems she's also thin (and sassy) again, thank gawd.

It might have been nice if Courtney actually paid for the book! These celebs and their freebies...but that's a whole other topic for another blog.

I suppose we should mention that you are the daughter of Tina Louise who played my favorite character on Gilligan's Island, the gorgeous, glamorous Ginger. Did having a famous mom give you the edge on getting jobs?

I'm not typically introduced to producers or publishers as the "daughter of" and even if they know--people don't want to pay you just for being related to someone. Most people don't want to pay you period. It's an interesting sidenote for some people, I suppose, but I can't say it has helped me. Perhaps the opposite--especially in people's assumption that it's somehow helped me. But if I'm going to be totally honest...that waitressing gig I got...? I heard she called in a favor.

Wikipedia describes you as a Writer/ Novelist/ Music Supervisor /Screenwriter/ TV Crewperson / TV Producer. That's a lot of hats to have worn at such a young age. How would you describe what you do right now? Coffee drinker...napper?

Unfortunately, it's much more of the former and none of the latter. The double-edged sword of sustaining the novelist/screenwriter career is that there's always *something* to be written. It's a lot of juggling of voices, characters, plots and settings in your head. Let's just hope characters from the movie don't start introducing themselves to characters in the book and vice versa. All I need is someone to accidentally get pregnant by a character who's not even in that project.

You are also a jewelry maker. Tell me how you got into that. And if you could create a piece of jewelry for any person, dead or alive, who would you design for and what would you make?

That was just a phase - a past life. It was really just me making stuff for myself and then whenever I'd wear a piece, people would ask where I got it and say they wanted one. So I tried my hand at it for about 5 minutes. Since I'm not a factory and writing was my real passion (and a demanding task-master), I decided to focus on just that.

But, per your question...if I *was* going to design something for someone dead or alive, I would design a wedding ring for my mother (who is very much alive) and a handsome prince to place it on her finger.

I could never be a waitress because I'd be exactly like Heaven. Was Heaven's experience based on you?

Um...see the answer to the first question. Yes, I did some time in the food service trade, and while a few of Heaven's antics are loosely based on that time, she's a true original. I'm not sure I'd want her as a waitress, but I think she'd be a riot to have as a friend. You know--the kind who gives you the vicarious thrills by doing all of the dangerous and unruly things that you love to hear about, but would never have the bad taste to do yourself?

I love the premise of Forget About It. What was your reaction when you found out that Scarlett Johansson is attached to the movie version of your book? And will you have any input to the screenplay?

One never knows what will actually get made and who will eventually star in it. When I heard that Scarlett loved the idea and wanted to attach herself I was thrilled. But I've learned to be cautiously optimistic in his business in order to stay sane. As far as the screenplay goes, I wrote the original screenplay before I even wrote the book, so they optioned both. Right now, there are a couple of writers adapting it. But it's a long and circuitous trip from initial manuscript to finished movie. I'm as excited as anyone to see what comes of it.

What kind of books do you enjoy reading?

I can't pigeonhole myself on that one. I love all types of books. Most of all I'd like the free time to actually read--because right now I have none. Some perennial favorites are David Gates, Chuck Palahniuk and Peter Farrelly (of the Farrelly Brothers) who wrote a book a few years ago called The Comedy Writer that I absolutely adored.

What is your writing schedule like? I read that you are jacked up on coffee while you write. What's the hot beverage of choice- plain old coffee or something more fancy like a non fat, low sugar, mocha sans whipped cream?

I write until my tendonitis acts up so bad that I'm curled up in the fetal position. That's not true. Not entirely true, at least. My writing schedule is pretty much this: I write whenever I feel moved. And nothing moves me like a deadline or an eager editor or producer. These days those seem to be in abundance. On the beverage, I'm flexible. The more caffeine the merrier.

Tell me the difference between writing for television and writing a novel?

I think I combine the two. I'm a novelist with an obvious love of the screen so I'm inspired to write books that are as engaging and as vivid as movies. The main difference for me is economy of words. I try to show characters through action and fun dialogue, rather than spend too much time on their inner monologue. I guess my dream would be to invent the book whose characters immediately jump to life at the push of a button. That would be fun. And I'm going out to patent it right now.

Music is really important to you, we can tell that from all the musicians you mention in the book. The book title even comes from a song. If you were going to quote a song for different book, what would you choose?

For a title? Or just to quote a song? Not knowing what you mean, or having a particular book in mind, that's hard to say. One of my favorite lyrics is "The ashtray says you've been up all night," by Wilco. That line--that's an excellent example of the whole "show don't tell" thing. And there's such rich story potential behind it. But I'm not sure whose story. Certainly not my life story. I don't smoke. Anymore.

With all the praise of Stupid and Contagious and the success of Forget About It before it's even published, will you continue to crank out books or focus on other projects?

I'm so grateful for any praise I've received thus far and I would love to keep writing in whatever medium people will have me. My first love is screenwriting. That's what I went to school for and that's my background, but now that I've started gallivanting a little in the book world, I love that too. I'm fickle I guess. I've got a ton of ideas for new projects. We'll just have to see whether they make more sense as novels or films. You can always check my website to keep up with coming attractions.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

From pages to screen

Who can forget my un-interview with Gigi Levangie Grazer last year? I can't.

I was reading through some Hollywood news this evening and came across this little morsel:

Jon Avnet is set to direct and executive produce the USA Network miniseries, The Starter Wife. The show is based on the book written by Gigi Levangie Grazer, says The Hollywood Reporter; it's about the quest of a divorced woman (Debra Messing) to redefine herself after years of marriage to a Hollywood studio head.

I was surprised/excited/intrigued to see that the authors of The Nanny Diaries were set to pen the screenplay to Five Men Who Broke My Heart for Paramount Pictures.

The film is based on the romance memoir of Susan Shapiro and her midlife crisis-turned romantic comedy. Shapiro decided to seek out the five boyfriends who dumped her; her goal was to find out why she didn't measure up.Five Men Who Broke My Heart has no production schedule as of yet.

It's always interesting to see which novels get chosen for television or film and I'm happy to see studios are looking to authors for entertaining stories. Who else is eagerly anticipating the October release of Running With Scissors? I'm going alone, in the morning and enjoying it all by myself with a bag of popcorn loaded with butter.

I know of some wonderful books that would make excellent television shows or movies. I think movie studios should start reading this blog, don't you?

Monday, September 18, 2006

Ronlyn Domingue, The Mercy of Thin Air

It was author Jen Lancaster who pointed me in the direction of this amazing novel. Thanks Jen! I would have otherwise missed out on one of the best novels of the year. I keep of mental list of must-read books and when a friend asks for a recommendation, these titles are on my lips. Oh yes, this is one.

A good book can do so many things. It can transport you to another time and place, it can awaken and evoke emotions you did not know existed, it can intrduce you to a new idea and it can give you chills and make you cry. The Mercy of Thin Air did all of the above.

I feel so lucky to interview the author of this gem, Ronlyn Domingue. I have to warn you, take break from reading anything after The Mercy of Thin Air. Any other book will probably pale in comparison and you will make unfair assessments of your current reading material. Just sit and page through People magazine or something. And then, and only then can you resume reading another novel.

I could probably sit here forever and keep writing about how great this book is. Just take my word for it and visit Ronlyn's website here.

After doing all the physics research for this book, would you say you are less fearful or worried about dying than before you wrote The Mercy of Thin Air?

I’ve never been afraid of death, although I worry about how I will die. (My request--painless, quick, and clean, in that order.) I don’t recall ever obsessing about what would happen after my physical body ceased to be. That seems odd, especially because I was raised Catholic and the fate of one’s eternal soul is nothing to take lightly. When I researched quantum physics to figure out what Razi thought she was--she wouldn’t call herself a spirit or a ghost--I didn’t expect it to affect me so deeply. I was introduced to ideas that gave me a real sense of comfort and wonder. There were alternate universes, a rational for reincarnation, the idea of merging with the beauty of the universe itself. This science was more spiritual than I could have imagined.

Being humans on earth, our imaginations and realm of experiences only takes us so far. Is it possible there is something beyond what we cannot grasp?

I believe so. There is something beyond, after we die, but no one can agree on what that beyond is. I’ll let the theologians and scientists duke it out. For now, I’m content with the ambiguity. It seems to me, though, intuitively we know there’s something else. Those moments of transcendence we have in life, that’s an experience of oneness with something beyond ourselves.

Some people receive this in prayer, or through their vocations, or experiences with nature. Those are glimpses into a secret about existence. Our curiosity about it keeps us going, as much as our brains and organs.

The book is so masterfully written, it's hard to believe it is a debut novel. Did you do a lot of writing before this book?

What a tremendous compliment. Thank you. I started writing when I was eight years old, and well into my teens, I wrote more than my fair share of short stories, poems, plays, and the start of a novel or two. I was the dork who sat in the back of the classroom, head ducked down, immersed a world that escaped through the tip of my pen.

Once I was in college, I set aside any literary aspirations and studied journalism. I soon learned that I wasn’t cut out for that career, but the jobs I did get always required strong writing skills. Throughout my twenties, I dabbled with fiction, but it was half-hearted. That is, until I had years of these dreams in which I’d lose babies to stillbirth, abortion, or adoption. The “dead baby dreams,” as I call them, stopped when I realized the babies were my unwritten books. I’ve never had another one since. After a couple of years of stumbling on my own, I decided to boot camp myself--go to graduate school and get my MFA in creative writing. It was the right decision. My thesis, two drafts later, became THE MERCY OF THIN AIR.

What was the editing process like? Did you have many changes to make?

Editing was minimal. I spent a lot of time on research and thinking before I wrote each draft. By the time I was actually writing, I didn’t have to worry about what would happen, but how to tell it. I’d say 85 percent of what you read is exactly what I wrote on the first try.

My agent, Jandy, recommended minimal changes before she sent it out. I added sentences to some scenes and wrote a new one—the orphanage scene, which is one of my favorites. All of that work upfront paid off, because once Atria picked it up, my editor, Sarah, recommended subtle changes, and very few at that. She did, however, ask me to go back to the moment Razi dies. Excruciating as that was for me--to endure Razi’s death again, not because I had to make a change--Sarah was right, and that scene is even better because of her suggestion.

After she died, why wasn't Razi supposed to indulge her sense of touch?

Ah, yes, the third rule of being between. It’s a matter of desire and consequences. The ones who are between want their physical bodies back, even if they don’t say so or think about it. When they touch inanimate objects, it reminds them of their bodies and, as a result, their unsettled pasts. They become deluged by memory. When Lionel plays the cello toward the end of the book, that’s what’s happening. Then if they have contact with another who is between or, even more harmful, one of the breathing (the living), they’re raw energy. They’re what the flesh kept contained, a force they don’t understand. They’re dangerous, more so when the desire to feel another body becomes uncontrollable. I won’t be a spoiler about the details.

Were you concerned at all about comparisons between The Mercy of Thin Air and The Lovely Bones, both having narrative voices speaking from after their death? (I must point out that anyone who has read both books can say they are two entirely different novels from page 1.)

Of course, but I couldn’t obsess about it. THE MERCY OF THIN AIR began as a short story in January 1999. A few months later, I began to develop it as a novel. I remember when I found out about THE LOVELY BONES, sometime in 2002, when I saw an interview with Alice Sebold. I choked on my Cheerios—oh no, her novel had a dead narrator, too. I purposely didn’t read her book until I was in the last throes of my own. No point in tainting my process. I was relieved to see how very different they are.

Alice Sebold happened to be at the start of some collective unconscious zeitgeist going on--in this case, the afterlife or something like it. Glen Duncan had one in 2004, Connie May Fowler in early 2005, there’s a new one out by David Long. My wish is that readers search for the individual merit of a novel, especially when it’s marketed as similar to previous popular work.

What kind of life do you think Razi would have lived if she hadn't died so young?

The one she planned. She would have been an amazing doctor and a steadfast advocate for women’s rights. Although Andrew was a surprise, I believe those two would have figured out how to make their relationship work. Razi had the ability to compromise, deep down, but not on her convictions. He loved that about her. And she loved him. . . For the record, would you believe me if I told you I used to lapse into fantasies about their long lives together?

The book is also a passionate love story between Razi and Andrew, a love that never died. What are your thoughts on true love, do you think we all only have one great love in our lives?

I absolutely, without question, believe in true love. I’m a cynic about nearly everything else in life, but not about this. Most people get a few loves in a lifetime, puppy loves, unrequited loves, deep loves. A great love is a one-time event. It may last a few weeks, or a few years, or a lifetime. I have friends who, even if they are attached or married, will still mention the great loves that didn’t last. There’s such longing, even in their resignation. Honestly, though, I’m biased. I’ve been with the love of my life for 18 years. If we didn’t love each other the way we do, I’m not sure I could have written this novel.

Are you going to come out with another novel sooner than the four or so years it took to write The Mercy of Thin Air?

No pressure, right, Cindy?! I’ve had the second novel in my head since 2001--it started as a short story, too--and the research has begun in earnest. I know that the next one will be more difficult to write than the first, emotionally, psychologically, and intellectually. Some of the issues I’m researching include the Vietnam War, ecology, and urban development. (That shouldn’t sound too crazy considering I researched 1920s culture and history, the women’s movement, and quantum physics for THE MERCY OF THIN AIR.) Honestly, I hope it doesn’t take four years, but if I does, I hope it’s worth the wait.

You live in Louisiana- has the devastation of Hurricane Katrina touched your life personally? Has it inspired your writing in any way?

I was born and raised here. I spent most of my life ashamed of being Southern. But after Katrina, that vanished. I realized that I’m connected to this place and its people in profound, undeniable ways. Other than that revelation, has Katrina touched my life? Sure. My friend Matt’s family had ties to New Orleans going back generations. They lost his parents’ home. One of my best friends decided not to stay in the city and moved to North Carolina. You can’t believe how much pain people are still in. You can feel it in the city itself.

I was there last week, and although there’s more normalcy, it’s still a place where people are grieving. They have every right to be. As for my writing . . . two days after the storm hit, I stood in my dark kitchen, wet as the air itself, (we got hit by the west edge of the hurricane) and realized there is no way I can write my next novel without mentioning Katrina. I know the second novel will delve into a sense of home, the connection between landscape and memory. Hurricanes Katrina and Rita shattered that for millions of people. I’m compelled to explore these issues, both out of empathy and my own vulnerability.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Julia Cameron, Part II

You might recall a while back I posted a review of Julia Cameron's memoir, Floor Sample. For those of you who are not familiar with Julia Cameron, she created the best selling artists guide called The Artists Way. It’s a highly regarded book on how to unearth your creativity, imagination and awaken your subconscious to make your goals and ambitions happen.

I read Floor Sample and was truly amazed at this woman. She is an incredible human being, a novelist, songwriter, screenwriter, poet, teacher, creative guru. I thought there is no way I will be able to get an interview with her.

I was lucky enough to communicate with Julia’s assistant who said Julia would do a telephone interview with yours truly. Yes, I know. Fear, anxiety and worry braided together and made a knot in my stomach. I hemmed and hawed about getting in touch to pinpoint an interview time. This was Julia Cameron after all. I let fear stand in my way which is silly because I interview talented authors all the time and usually its excitement under my skin, not nerves.

In her book, Julia discusses synchronicity, a coincidence that's meant to be, if you will. Now I don’t go along thinking that every person I meet is going to want to help me or further my career path. But here she is, an accomplished writer, having done the things I want to do. She is standing before me (synchronicity) and I'm going to pass up the opportunity to talk to her because of fear? No. I sent an email to Julia’s assistant and decided on a date and time. 2:20pm. I had my questions on yellow lined paper, a few pens and a glass of water. I was ready. The clock was ticking. My kids were in another room, instructed to only come into my office if there was blood, but preferably get daddy first.

I dialed, my fingers trembling. And answering machine. She forgot about me? “Julia? We.. um…had an appointment for an interview…? Perhaps something came up…in any case, you can reach me at 555-555-5555.”

That was disappointing. But then with a sinking feeling not unlike lead in the pit of my stomach, I realized that Julia is in New York. I am in California. There is a three hour time difference. She had been expecting my call at 11:20, New York Time. Oh dear.

Julia called a bit later and I apologized profusely for being so out of it, if only she could see my bright red face and feel my rapid pulse. Another day and time was set- Monday and yes, I clarified the time. My kids would be in school, the house would be quiet, I would be ready.

Unfortunately, over the weekend I got sick and had picked up some antibiotics Monday morning, taking a pill as soon as I had the bottle in my hands. An hour, two hours, and I was on my knees in the bathroom, so sick that I could only lay on the floor and moan. I stumbled to the telephone and called Julia to explain my situation.

“We can just reschedule,” she said. I thought she would say "oh well, let's just forget it!" But instead she suggested we choose another day and time to conduct our interview.

I think in life there are a series of lessons to learn. I need to get over my fear of calling people on the phone, reigning in my awe of those more accomplished than myself, and taking each opportunity to talk to or meet someone who has accomplished what I am setting out to do. Doing this interview with with Julia, someone I so admire, will be an experience for me to learn from and share with you. Stay tuned for Part III.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Stacey Ballis, Room for Improvement

There was a time in my life when each Saturday night rolled around I was in front of the television watching Trading Spaces and nothing could tear me away. I knew every epsiode and when Hildy glued hay to a family's living room walls, I shared in their horror with my own fresh tears and disbelief.

If I was unable to move from the couch I just might have kept the channel on TLC and watched an episode of While You Were Out. I loved those home improvement shows but always wondered how things got done so quickly. A new entertainment center, freshly painted walls, new pillows, hand painted artwork and slipcovered furniture within two days? Amazing!

Room for Improvement by Stacey Ballis takes a look at what goes on behind the scenes of a fictionalized home improvement show called Swap/Meet. The heroine of the book, interior designer Lily Allen, is relatable and fun, the kind of girl you would want as a friend...although she just might be a little stubborn and lost on the topic of love.

I like the way Stacey plotted the book, through episodes of Swap/Meet (which is a smart premise for a show) and the many disasters in love and life that Lily encounters both on set and off. The book was a quick and humorous read. You will love it!

Which Do it Yourself shows make you stay in on a Friday night? Are you a sucker for a sawdust covered man wielding a hammer?

I miss While You Were Out tremendously, I think they got it right and were enjoyably up to the last episode. Lately I've been enjoying Design Star, Designer Finals, and I love the old episodes of This Old House. And Extreme Home Makeover is a guilty pleasure, I save them for when I need a good cry. And yes, I do have a certain affinity for a man in sawdust.

I painted my daughters room bright red complete with streaks and splotches, I learned about the art of primer much later. What have you attempted to do on your own?

My DIY projects are both too numerous to list, and legendary in some of their idiocy. Some successful projects include converting a cabinet to open shelving in my bathroom, painting a linoleum floor and formica counter, converting an open upholstered glass-topped coffeetable to a veneered display case coffeetable, and turning an old sideboard into an entertainment center armoire. However, my current project, painting the ceiling of my dining room with harlequin diamonds in gold on gold has stalled. For the last nine months.

Would you like to be on Trading Spaces? And if so, whose room would you make over? You can't go wrong with bright pink feathers and leopard print, it's a winning combo for any home owner.

I would not like to be on TS. I feel very much as if they have lost the desire to create beautiful rooms for people to live in, in exchange for shocking rooms that make for dramatic television. I would have loved to be on WYWO. But, if someone promised me that Vern Yip or Genvieve Gorder were going to tackle my room, I'd trade spaces with my sister, whose bedroom could use a major update, in exchange for my kitchen, which was last done in 1976.

You boldly write detailed sex scenes. Does writing these make you uncomfortable at all? Are you thinking of how your mom or grandma will be reading about some guys throbbing bulge?

I like writing sex scenes only slightly less than I like having sex. And my family is very hip and open, so I never have to worry for their delicate sensibilities. My grandmother doesn't even think my stuff is that shocking! But my dad does wish I would give sci fi or historical fiction a shot!

Where do you stand on the Chick-lit vs. Not Chick -lit debate?

It's semantics, and I frankly could care less what genre you label me, as long as someone is reading it. If calling my work Chick Lit guides some readers my way, I'm a happy girl. I think getting snarky about it is sort of juvenile.

What is the last book you read, what types of novels do you enjoy?

Last book was Second Glance by Jodi Picoult. I like all sorts of stuff, but some favorite authors are: Anne Lamott, Oscar Wilde, Tom Robbins, David Sedaris, Jasper Fforde, Joyce Carol Oates, Colette, and most of the Victorians. For Chick Lit, my faves are Laura Caldwell, Jennifer O'Connell, Jennifer Weiner, Liz Flock, Lynda Curnyn, and Cara Lockwood, and for chick-lit memoir, Jennifer Lancaster. And, of course, Grandmother of us all, Jane Austen.

What do you think about Rosie O' Donnell joining The View? Are you mourning the demise of Star Jones career or could you care less?

I have always loved Rosie in just about anything she has ever done, so I'm sure she will be great on the show. I have never particularly found Star Jones remotely appealing, and from what I have read about the whole debacle, I'm mostly embarrassed for her. But I have never actually seen The View. I'm more of a Daily Show kind of girl.

Who would play you in the Lifetime movie of your life?

Well, it depends what you're going for. If you're trying to capture personality, Queen Latifah, in a brilliant non-traditional choice. I mean, how much fun to watch her play a white jewish girl from Chicago? But if you want someone who might be able to sort of work the visual as well, Melissa McCarthy from Gilmore Girls would probably be terrific.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006


Distressed Jeans aka me, Cindy, will have a novel in the stores in just a few months.

Yes, A Thousand Dollars for a Kiss will be in bookstores, Amazon and Barnes& in mid-November, 2006.

The novel is about a girl (okay, not quite a girl--she's in her early thirties) who becomes swept up in the life of popstar Kat Savage. Being friends with the singer isn't what Barrett imagined. It's not a steady stream of Spago, spa rituals, awards shows and free designer clothes and Jimmy Choo sandals. Quite the opposite actually.

Only after Barrett loses everything is she able to understand that a dose of celebrity worship may be more harmful than good.

I will post updates as I learn more. And we now resume our regular schedule...

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Amy DeZellar, Dating Amy

I’ve often thought about writing a book about all the dates I’ve been on –I'd have to classify it as tragic-comedy. I would start with the guy who showed up at my door with a rusty Dodge Dart that leaked carbon monoxide. We drove to New York City in the pouring rain with the windows rolled down so we didn't poison ourselves. Keep in mind this was long before Frizz Ease was invented. He called everbody “chief” and got us lost in Harlem. Fun!

There was the guy who parked his BMW far away from the club we went to for fear his precious baby would be broken into. That’s fine, but to make me walk along the highway at night, in the snow? Unacceptable. There was the guy who was cross-eyed, poor thing, and the one who couldn’t and wouldn’t stop talking about Star Trek. There was guy, who in the middle of the date bluntly asked, "Can I just take you home?" There were dates involving a suction-cupped Garfield stuck to the car window, men with missing teeth, lime green jumpsuits, a Harry Connick look-a-like and the list goes on. And on.

I think there’s something to be said about sharing these dates- the good, the bad and the funny. Because we’ve all had them. Amy DeZellar started a website vowing to go on fifty dates and write about each one. The site was so popular that soon she had a book deal and the result is the memoir, Dating Amy. I was hooked from page one, maybe that’s the voyeur in me, or maybe its because its been so long since I’ve been on a date. The writing is snappy, dialogue and descriptions are witty. The book will make you laugh and shake your head because lets face it, many men are cut from the same cloth.

Where do you fall in between the "call me for a good time kind of dating" and the "looking for a husband" kind of dating?

Believe it or not my "number" is still in the single digits and I'm a self-obsessed complainer, so I'm not much of a Good Time Girl in any sense of the phrase. Sadly I haven't been savvy enough to hone in on looking for a husband either. I wasn't kidding in my book when I said that I've dated strictly for my own pleasure with no thought to a stable future: My history is made up of cross-dressing musicians, circus performers and philosophy grad students. I definitely wish I had a husband now, because launching a writing career is a two-person job and it helps if one of them has an income.

Have you dated Teflon or Harry Potter since the book has been published?

I haven't seen either of them since the book came out a few months ago, but I've seen Teflon since I wrote it. Some of the other men from the 50 dates have come to my readings and one them actually started signing my book for people! I was so pissed on behalf of Teflon and Harry; if anyone has a right to do that it would be one of them. That's a lie, I'd be pissed if either of them did that too.

The Comedian (who didn't know I had written about him) showed up at a reading last week. God, in my book I compare him to the Pillsbury Doughboy, say he jumped and squealed like an 11-year-old girl at the slasher movie we went to and joke that he was more hip-replacement than hipster. He in turn said nice things to a reporter about me and later took me out for a glass of merlot and pointed out funny things from my book. He had to wear his bifocals to find the specific paragraphs, but still.

Tell me about your ideal future husband. Does he have the intelligence of Bill Gates and the looks of John F. Kennedy Jr.? Is he funny like Conan O'Brien or short like Danny DeVito? Crazy like Tom Cruise or serious?

In the intro of DATING AMY I talk about how I want to take the good looks of one guy and smash them onto the personality of a different one like a child putting the head of a Barbie doll onto the body of another. Am I too earthbound in admitting that I only do this with men I actually know, though?

Okay, how about if my intended has Brendan Fraser's looks and Brendan Fraser's personality combined with Brendan Fraser's likes and dislikes and Brendan Fraser's income.

What is an immediate deal breaker when it comes to guys? From your book I see that you don't mind paying for dates (perhaps only occasionally), clothes don't matter (didn't Harry Potter wear Tevas?) and the guy doesn't necessarily have to be a perfect specimen. So what's a big turn off?

Harry Potter drove a car that turned heads (in a bad way), Teflon wore Bermuda shorts to dinner, John Goodman was overweight -- I just adored each of them. You are right that I don't give a moment's thought to appearances, but I do have a huge problem with men not picking up the check. I was gritting my teeth when Harry Potter didn't pay for the Japanese garden tour and when Unrefrigerated Sandwich wanted me to pay even just the tip at that fantastic dinner at the Pike Market restaurant. I'd rather have a black coffee that the man paid for than a great-yet-Dutch meal.

One of the things I struggle with in my book is when does it become a dealbreaker that a man still wants to continue seeing other women? As you've seen I wavered on it, miserably. Now I just expect to be the only woman right away, certainly after anything gets physical, and if not it's a total dealbreaker. My ex, who I met after I finished the book, has become my template for how things should be done. He was microwave-hot and had more options than most with women, yet just expected that we'd be exclusive. Never again will I buy into a man saying "I need to sleep with you for awhile longer before I make up my mind" or "I need to date a few other women before I can tell how I feel about you" or "I'll probably stop seeing other women after dating you for a few months."

It's laughable to hear men use the excuse that they have too many choices to limit themselves to one woman. If Paul McCartney can commit to having just one, Joseph Schmo of Seattle certainly can too.

Another thread that runs through DATING AMY is this question of "How much is it okay to ask for from a man?" In the beginning of the book I don't ask for that much, maybe that the guy pick up the check and not ogle other women (especially if he's blind), but as it goes on my demands get bigger and more personal. I figure men are natural negotiators, so ask for the moon and they'll probably talk you down to accepting undying devotion, maybe dessert.

Why do you think its so easy for some people to find a spouse and for others it's like digging for a diamond in a coal mine. Or finding a sapphire encrusted needle in a haystack- impossible.

It's not a diamond or sapphire, it's a neon sign flashing "Intentions." I knew a woman who had to be careful with whom she accepts a date, because every first date she's had ends up as a longterm relationship.

The other night I went out with a guy who has to keeps an Excel spreadsheet since he dates so many women. He's at #123 for this year alone and he's still nowhere near cohabitation. Neither is more unique or special than the other, it's just one wants to be in a relationship -- yesterday -- and the other doesn't just now. It's easier to be selfish and alone, but a lot of times we don't feel too pretty admitting this, so we do online dating and mew about not being able to find anyone a lot.

I took a swipe in the Seattle Weekly at never-married men over 35 who pretend to be earnest about finding a relationship when really they just want to play the field, but I may have unwittingly done the same thing. In the back of my mind I've always wanted to have a tangible success in the arts before I settled down. I met my last boyfriend as I was literally finishing up the edits to my book at a coffee shop and it was a whole different feeling from when I was going on The Dates. I suddenly adopted the point of view of 'what's good about this relationship?' rather than 'how many things can I find wrong with him to bitch about... or mock?'

What kind of publicity have you done for the book and have you had a lot of weirdos come out trying to meet you? What is it like to meet your fans or the people that have been with you since day one?

I have male groupies. Some of the more notorious ones are old and can't drive to my readings if they're too far away, but when I'm in town they rock it at Barnes and Noble until sometimes as late as 8:30. I don't mean to sound slutty, but I've been accepting dates with a few of those who are under 55. '

How did it go over when you asked for donations on your site? I did that once and people went crazy telling me how selfish I was to be looking to make money off my site. Ever get any rude emails?

I've gotten death threats over asking for money. One would think that the fact that I wrote about intimate relationships with men, sometimes without their knowledge, would be more upsetting for people, but no, my saying "If you like my writing, feel free to send a few bucks" incurred much more hostility. Most professional writers know there's not a lot of money in writing, still I think it's an hilarious social comment that someone said he wanted to see me dead because I suggested being paid for my work. But enough about my publisher.
Seriously, to answer your question, yes, I have gotten rude emails.

There could easily be a sequel to Dating Amy, we could call it Courting Amy. Or Marrying Amy. Or anything ---ing Amy. How would that book play out? What is your ideal fairy- tale happy ending if you could write one for yourself?

My fairy tale is that I'm still in Seattle in a beautiful house with a handsome husband who adores me. We live in the city and not some suburb with a name I don't currently recognize. I don't have to take the bus or do temp work anymore. We have a garden with olive trees and magnolia. Sometimes The Dates from my book stop by to hang out. It is beautiful and copacetic and not at all awkward. None of the ones I liked have married other women.