Friday, January 11, 2008

Liza Palmer, Seeing Me Naked

Liza Palmer is a smart girls author. Both of her books, Conversations With The Fat Girl and her newest one, Seeing Me Naked, will be enjoyed by the youngish hipster set as well as the suburban moms like me looking for a bit of literary escapism. Liza writes well, no doubt about it, with some beautifully crafted sentences that I had to reread, trying to commit them to memory. Seeing Me Naked is flirty and fun but a book you can take a big bite out of, no pun intended given the subject matter.

In the book, we have a heroine who is busy living in the shadow of her successful best selling author dad and cool brother who is emerging as his own literary sensation. Elisabeth is a pastry chef at a French restaurant, not quite certain of her own aspirations. She's not quite certain either of her wealthy, on-again, off- again boyfriend, Will. Coming from a pretentious family, Elisabeth finds herself falling for a basketball coach who couldn't be more down to earth or opposite of what Elisabeth knows. Ahhh, complications arise! There is more to the story than that, but there's the general idea. You have to read it for yourself. It's a quick read and a very engaging one at that. And all the talk about food! And places to eat in Los Angeles!

And I have to tell you that Liza is super duper cool. Anyone who recalls Two Moon Junction with such fondness is A-okay in my book. You must check out the blog which she shares with other talented writers here, read this hilarious post. And Liza's website is here. Check out the pensive author photo! Such a serious face belies a great sense of humor.

You mention so many great places to eat in Los Angeles. What are your favorites? And what celebs have you seen dining?

I love that stretch on 3rd Street with all those little diner-y cafes. Quality Café and Joan’s on Third being my two favorites…so good. Joan’s has amazing take-away stuff – like these green beans – why am I so excited about green beans, you ask? They’re THAT GOOD. And they sell gummi alphabet letters and serve Mighty Leaf Green Tea Tropical tea – two of my all time favorites.

My most recent star sighting was out of this world. I was eating at Mozza – the new Mario Batali place on Highland – and Mel Brooks and Carl Reiner were holding court just over my shoulder. And that place is TEENY, so it was definitely a close encounter. Mel Brooks’ voice is unmistakable. So perfect. And the food is….so.good.

Chef Liza! So much talk about food! Do you cook? Where did you learn so many details about being a chef? Are you a Food Network fan?

I so wish I could whip up amazing food like Elisabeth Page, the lead character in Seeing Me Naked. The biggest step towards culinary education I did recently was by a grill. Big doin’s in the Palmer abode.

No – Elisabeth’s expertise is thanks to Karen Rawers, a pastry chef here in Los Angeles who worked under Michel Richard of Citronelle. I asked her every question under the sun, we drew maps of what the kitchen would look like, where she’d be stationed, who’d she be next to – all those little throw-away facts that are so monumentally important. We then traveled down to Bastide here in LA – when Chef Ludo Lefevre was still in the kitchen – and had their Chef’s surprise menu – paired with some amazing wines. We even got a tour of the kitchen after dinner. So inspiring. It really is like nothing else, you know? The level of sheer brilliance in kitchens like that – I mean, everything has to be perfect…and it is. Amazing. A job I could never do.

I love the Food Network…love. It. My favorites have got to be Barefoot Contessa and Giada di Laurentiis. It’s just so calming, I find.

Did you see No Reservations with Catherine Zeta Jones? I heard she doesn't know how to cook at all in real life. (Real life is where she can hire a personal chef.)

I saw No Reservations – but actually preferred the German movie, Mostly Martha, on which No Reservations was based. I thought it dealt better with all the subtle emotion that No Reservations lacked – I think No Reservations relied a little too heavily on the music montage to move the narrative forward. And I love me a music montage, I assure you. But, they just got greedy with it. I thought Catherine Zeta-Jones did well – and when isn’t Aaron Eckhart ridiculously hot? And Abigail Breslin? So talented.

Was Ratatouille an inspiration for Seeing Me Naked?

No – Seeing Me Naked was born wayyyy back in 2006 – long before Ratatouille hit box offices. But I loved Ratatouille. LOVED. They totally nailed the whole French kitchen– I read in the credits that it was Thomas Keller from Napa’s French Laundry that consulted for them. You can totally tell – they’re spot on. But besides all the kitchen stuff - I’m a huge Patton Oswalt fan – the Comedians of Comedy is one of my favorite documentaries, by far. I just think the movie was so smart and beautiful. The Anton Ego speech at the end about critics and criticism is just lovely – and voiced by Peter O’Toole? Perfection.

What is your all time favorite movie that you could watch over and over?

Princess Bride. Hands down.

What is the last book you read and loved?

I loved the Confessions of Max Tivoli by Andrew Sean Greer. So good.

Let's discuss Richard Tyson, the non-Academy award nominated actor who starred in the brilliant yet little remembered Two Moon Junction. What do you think happened to him?
Ok, first off – dude made a carnival worker hot. A CARNIVAL WORKER. A CARNY. HOT. Sigh. I remember Sherilyn Fenn drove that white, convertible BMW – I mean, I was in my teens when that movie came out – and I just don’t remember coveting a vehicle more. The. Coolest. I think that movie – it’s such a heartbreaker – because I remember it being this taboo thing that was all tawdry and risqué and now…it’s just kind of depressing and dated. I shouldn’t have taken another bite at the apple – I should have just let that movie languish in my memories. And you know that Richard Tyson is totally doing the Red Show Diaries thing, right? He had that written all over him. Along with like – Costas Mandylor and Richard Grieco.
this is the stuff teenage dreams are made of
Where did the names from the book originate- Rascal? Ballard? Rick Danko?

Rick Danko is an actual guy – he was the bassist for The Band. He did the vocals on my favorite song by The Band – It Makes No Difference. He was this musician who started touring at 16 – went on to back-up Bob Dylan and then that same line-up became The Band – one of the all time greatest bands ever. He died young – and I think that tragedy attracted Rascal.

Rascal – you know, it just happened. He came out of the gate fully formed – the name, the brooding look, that melancholy. He just kind of appeared – and he couldn’t have been named anything else. He was very real to me from the beginning. And I know the name is different - but that was the point. He was named by Ben (the iconic father) who wasn’t bred from these upper crust families like Ballard (the socialite mother). So, Rascal had to toil away in these private schools with the Williams, Annes and Michaels. An outsider from the beginning.

How do you handle stress?

Black tar heroin.
(just kidding…I’m more of a dog walking, tea drinker…)

What is a little known fact about you?

I still get immensely nervous before readings – like out of control shaking, trips to the bathroom, shaky voice nervous. And I love every minute of it. I love that this job still terrifies me. I wouldn’t have it any other way.

What will your next book be about?

Chasing Grace is about Grace Hawkes and the whole Hawkes clan. It should be out 2009. I’m dealing once again with family and a character’s need to go backwards to go forward.

a photo for you Liza, Richard Tyson today.

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Blogger Leslie said...
I LOVED Conversations with the Fat Girl! So glad Liza has a new book. I'll have to run out and get it.
Thanks for posting this interview, Cindy! @ 9:23 PM  
Blogger Felicia said...
Ok, I absolutely LOVED Conversations with the Fat Girl. It was impossible to put down. I've actually read it 3 times now. I just finished Seeing Me Naked and really enjoyed it. Liza seems to be so down to earth and funny and those qualities really shine through her work! @ 7:23 AM  
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