January 13, 2010

3Q with Liza Palmer (And a contest!)

Beloveds, I am out of here until Monday, because I will have no access to the internet, unless you count DJ Cracky B. (Yes, in fact, I did name my cell phone. What? Your cell phone doesn’t have a name? REALLY? Karen’s answers to “i-so-phone-y.”)

Scott and I are taking the kids to Disney World. As we planned the trip, we realized we have never done this before. We generally vacation with my brother’s family and my parents or go to Scott’s mom’s house, and Scott and I have gone on trips alone. We have never, just the four of us, flown/driven someplace far and away for more than a day with no purpose other than our pleasure. Our first family vacation. Weird.

In honor of this momentous event, we all agreed...no screens. NO SCREENS. My hands shake a little as I type this. For me this means I am not bringing the Laptoposaurus: no blogs, no trolling Facebook, no Pathwords, no WoW, no working on novels, and we are not going to watch television. Nothing. Well, I will still be able to tweet from the DJ. I mean, we aren’t becoming COMMUNISTS.

For Sam, this means no Mac, and both kids are abandoning their portable Nintendo Touch Screen Whompulus Hand Held Game-tastic Thingummies. For entertainment, we have each other, and all of the Magic Kingdom unfolding before us, shimmering with promises of princesses and pirates and preternaturally clean toilets. And of course, books:


I am going to read A Field Guide to Burying Your Parents on the plane this afternoon.
I read Liza Palmer’s first book, Conversations with the Fat Girl, and really liked her voice and her sharp humor, so I am quite looking forward to this new one about Grace Hawkes, whose estrangement from her quirky family ends when her father---who left twenty years ago and who has a very spotty past and a mysterious present---has a stroke. I admit the title worried me. It sounded like it might be HEAVY or depressing---NOT the book you want to take to Disney. But Publisher’s Weekly calls it, “breezy feel-good story of family bonding,” and that sounds just perfect. And I trust Palmer to deliver surprising turns and weirdy humor after her fantastic debut.

If this sounds like a book you want to read, too, here’s your chance. You know the drill: Leave a comment before Monday, January 18th at Midnight EST, and I will let the Random Number Generator over at Random.org have his wicked way with all of you. Official rules are here, stolen from Mir’s fantastic bargain shoppitty blog.

JJ: A lot of writers read this blog----how did you come to realize you wanted to pursue writing as a career instead of a personal passion or a hobby.

LP: I've written stories as far back as I can remember. Then came adolescence and my focus turned to merely survival. Anything that set me apart I quickly exorcised. Writing was the first to go. Obviously I felt lost without it. Years later, I was working at a bankruptcy law office in LA when my aunt asked if I wanted to go to Vroman's Bookstore in Pasadena for these little Saturday morning writing workshops they were holding. I barely graduated high school and instead of college I chose to work at In N Out Burger, so the prospect of learning how to write outside of a classroom was very attractive for me. That summer I learned about dialogue, setting, how to work full-time and write your first novel and on and on. But, most importantly - and most terrifyingly - I let the genie out the bottle again. I started to care about writing and it wasn't going to allow itself to be buried again.

I wrote Conversations with the Fat Girl (my debut novel) that summer. It was a remarkably bad first draft. 900 pages of vomitous sludge, but, it was a draft. A beginning. A way out of the life I'd settled for rather than the life I wanted.

I found an agent that Thanksgiving, by Christmas we'd sold the manuscript and by the following September Conversations was launching Hachette's new 5Spot line.

I'm still reeling, to be honest. Maybe it's just the caffeine.

JJ: How important is location to you as a writer, or, a better way to say that might be, could these books be set anywhere else?

LP: To me, location is one of my main characters. I've set each one of my books in California and can't imagine a more fertile ground in which to set my novels. I've grown up here and am constantly awed by its effortless beauty: Los Angeles, Pasadena, Ojai, Montecito, San Francisco, the 101 Freeway, the coast of California. It's all so sensual and lush. I'm tempted to drive PCH right now just talking about it.

On my website I've put up a photo gallery of all the places I've mentioned in all three of my novels. From Silverlake's House of Pies (frequented by Rascal Page in Seeing My Naked) to Pasadena's Europane (Maggie Thompson's favorite bakery in Conversations with the Fat Girl). I love having my characters live and love amidst places that actually exist. I think it adds a level of realism to the novels. And having to do "research" at Joan's on Third, with their cloud cupcakes and crisp americanos, is a task I don't mind undertaking. Daily.

JJ: What writers influenced your work and how and why?

LP: I am a California writer through and through, so I consider John Steinbeck and Jack London among my influences. And yet it's a very primal influence - almost as if they taught me HOW to be a writer, not so much about the writing itself. Just this past year I made a pilgrimage up to The Steinbeck Museum in Salinas, California. Amazing. You turn a corner and there's the Rocinante. And there's the wooden box Steinbeck made to transport the East of Eden manuscript. It's other-worldly. I wish I had taken more pictures, but I was too busy walking around mouth open...just stunned and silenced. High recommended.

Posted by joshilyn at January 13, 2010 9:33 AM

OOH! That looks like a good one -- and I'll have to check out her other books. Have a marvelous time at WDW.

Posted by: Kim at January 13, 2010 9:50 AM

My phone's name is Edward - and was named such LONG before Twilight came out. Although truth be told, it would be more accurate to call it Edward the Third.

Posted by: Heather at January 13, 2010 9:58 AM

I must read these! I was born just south of Steinbeck country, and I've never found a place I loved more.

Posted by: Meg Moseley at January 13, 2010 9:59 AM

I was struck by the title. And then by the cover. And then by a million thoughts about how this story might unfold. All that remains is for me to be struck by the book itself! :)

Posted by: JMyersbook at January 13, 2010 10:29 AM

i'm in need of a book with a great title like that. if only for the looks i'll get reading it while sitting alongside my mom on the exercise bikes at the YMCA.

Posted by: dramamama at January 13, 2010 12:01 PM

that number generator hates me, but alas, i try, try, try!

Posted by: Dani at January 13, 2010 12:04 PM

Please Random Number Generator, pick me! RNG, did I tell you how pretty you look today?

Posted by: Linda Sherwood at January 13, 2010 12:11 PM

I've been to Salinas to see the Steinbeck Museum and tour his house-love any lit set in CA! Pick me

Posted by: JJS at January 13, 2010 12:45 PM

always up for another good read

Posted by: Glory Words at January 13, 2010 12:47 PM

after phone calls to the library, I only owe a dollar, but I'm still too lazy/busy/transportation-impaired to go.
I want a book sent to me.

Posted by: emily jane at January 13, 2010 12:50 PM

They are now on my to-be-read list.

Posted by: heidi at January 13, 2010 12:54 PM

Sharp humor AND a feel good story you say? I'm totally in.

Have a phenomenal vacation!

Posted by: Dani at January 13, 2010 12:54 PM

Wow, a screenless vacation. I am terrified - and intrigued - at the prospect.

Posted by: Corrie at January 13, 2010 12:55 PM

The book looks delicious. I'm gonna try no-screening it in a couple of weeks!

Posted by: ailo at January 13, 2010 12:55 PM

Alright, RNG, you crazy bitch. Have your way with me. I'm done playing nice. It never works anyway. Pick me, or the 11 gets it, see?

Posted by: Aimee at January 13, 2010 12:57 PM

Ooooh... I need a good read. And a vacation. I'll take either.

Posted by: Sarah S. at January 13, 2010 1:00 PM

I like her from the interview. I will read her books...hopefully with a little help from the RNG? I have not named my cell phone, probably because I don't actually give a crap about it. The day I break down and get an iPhone, I will almost certainly name it.

Posted by: Jen A at January 13, 2010 1:17 PM


Not only did it come with that name, but I thought it particularly apropo since it hits the ground more often than not.


And BTW, RNG hates me.

Posted by: Chris at January 13, 2010 1:34 PM

Please, please, please pick me!! I need books. Always.

Posted by: Erin at January 13, 2010 1:35 PM

Count me in! I'm intrigued.

Posted by: Katie Bowlby at January 13, 2010 1:45 PM

I was just thinking, I am going to the airport! Maybe I will see Joshilyn in the ATL! Then I realized my plane is actually flying out of another airport because it was cheaper. Sad. But have happy traveling! I am super Disney-jealous. I am from a major Disney family and I get very Disney-jealous whenever anyone who is not me goes to Disney.

Posted by: Jessica at January 13, 2010 1:52 PM

Wow do you ever find BAD novels??? On my way over to library site to put it on my "send me these list"

Posted by: Linda J at January 13, 2010 1:57 PM

I'm glad that dramamama feels comfortable reading the book next to her mom - I'm not quite as sure how MY mom would react to such a title! But who knows, she might find it intriguing.

Posted by: Diane (TT) at January 13, 2010 2:07 PM

I saw the book at Target and thought, "Too depressing." If the RNG doesn't pick me, maybe I'll pick it up next time I'm there.

Posted by: GrandeMocha at January 13, 2010 2:17 PM

Sounds like a good read - I am in search of some new authors!!

Posted by: Nicole in WI at January 13, 2010 2:21 PM

My brains are going to fall out from studying for my boards if I don't read some fiction soon.

Posted by: elizabeth at January 13, 2010 2:22 PM

That book sounds awesome! I hope the RNG has mercy on me!

Posted by: Haley at January 13, 2010 2:27 PM

I want this book - the title alone makes it a winner.

Posted by: Keetha at January 13, 2010 2:31 PM

RNG, pick me! My mother's maiden name is Palmer, just like the author; doesn't that count for something?!

Posted by: Kim at January 13, 2010 2:50 PM

Just entering for the sake of the next person, who will probably win. It couldn't possibly be me!

Posted by: Jen at January 13, 2010 2:55 PM

These sound great! Pick me, please!

Posted by: Kelly H at January 13, 2010 3:17 PM

I haven't named my phone, but I do call it My Little Crack Baby. :-)

Posted by: Miss Shell at January 13, 2010 3:19 PM

I need something new to read. Ahem, RNG.

Also, my phone is named Pinky Tuscadero.

Posted by: Megs at January 13, 2010 3:25 PM

Now I have to name my phone...

And I'd love something new to read!

Posted by: Darla at January 13, 2010 3:38 PM

I can't wait to read these. Pick me, pick me!

Posted by: Gina at January 13, 2010 3:45 PM

Okay Random numbers generator god(s)-you didn't like the box of See's chocolates I left for you to win the last book. Do I have to up it to Cote d'Or?

Posted by: Bridget at January 13, 2010 4:41 PM

Hate Steinbeck. Love J London. Please pick me!! Btw, thank you SO much for interviewing Michelle Richmond a while ago. I gobbled up "No One You Know" and have passed it on to others. Am now head-over-heels in "The Year of Fog." Your interviews are wonderful. Thanks!!

Posted by: Lori at January 13, 2010 4:50 PM

OH I want this one!!! But, I know, the gods of random aren't impressed by longing. Nor do they care about desire. So I will just enter the drawing, all cool and casual, and then I will say Have a Great Family Vacation, and enjoy yourselves, and also WOW to the no screen thing, and then I will leave for now. Quietly.

Posted by: edj at January 13, 2010 5:18 PM

This sounds like a great book!! I already have Confessions of a Fat Girl on my wishlist for next buy. Now I need this one, too. Thanks for the opportunity

Posted by: Pamela L at January 13, 2010 5:43 PM

Excellent interviewage and good book recommendation, Miss Joshilyn!
Enjoy the Magic Kingdom!

Posted by: Lulu at January 13, 2010 6:18 PM

Well of course I want it now!

Posted by: Kathy at January 13, 2010 6:18 PM

Sounds like a great book!

Posted by: Rachel at January 13, 2010 6:38 PM

Sounds like a great book; please pick me RNG!

Posted by: Kim at January 13, 2010 7:03 PM

I love your titles!

Posted by: Jess at January 13, 2010 7:19 PM

Oh please, RNG, have pity on me up here in the frozen wastelands of Minnesota - I need to read a book set in sunny California!

Posted by: Kitty at January 13, 2010 7:28 PM

Sounds like a good 'un

Posted by: Jill W. at January 13, 2010 7:39 PM

Oh, do you even realize how much winning something would make my otherwise so-far craptastic January so much better?!? Pick me, pick me!!!

Posted by: Lynnetta at January 13, 2010 7:57 PM

Yes, please!

Posted by: Suzan at January 13, 2010 8:08 PM

These sound like fantastic reads...thanks for blogging about them...and hope Disney is good to you!

Posted by: pendy at January 13, 2010 9:21 PM

me please...

Posted by: jean at January 13, 2010 9:38 PM

Sounds like a great book so I'm trying my luck. Can't wait to check back and read about the Disney trip! Have a great time.

Posted by: Mary Beth Bishop at January 13, 2010 9:46 PM

Okay RNG I am familiar with rejection. Perhaps a surprise is order.

Posted by: Olive Cooper at January 13, 2010 9:50 PM

Ooh, the book sounds really good. RNG, I would treat it very well and give it an extra special place on my nightstand. Pick me! Pick me!

Joss, we went to Disney the third week in January one year, and it was Disney Heaven. No lines. Literally, No. Lines. Hope it's the same for you.

Posted by: Lori B. at January 13, 2010 11:06 PM

Well the title alone makes it look awesome ;)

Posted by: Heather at January 14, 2010 1:38 AM

Sounds like a funny and irresistable title to me. Does that mean there's something wrong with me? ;-)

Posted by: Brigitte at January 14, 2010 7:26 AM

I love Liza Palmer's books. Can't wait to read this one!

Posted by: dee at January 14, 2010 8:31 AM

My cell phone doesn't have a name. But my computer is named Gus. And I like the sound of laptoposarus.

Posted by: Jenn at January 14, 2010 8:49 AM

Since I read today's post before yesterday's (bad mommy) I will comment that the no screen thing was just WAY too much to ask for a trip to D-world. And skip all the nasty puking--- how does a hotel in ORLANDO not have the Disney Channel! I mean!! Seriously? Let's focus on the true issues.

This book sounds divine and I am immediately adding it to my must-ready list.

Posted by: Chandler at January 14, 2010 9:02 AM

The title alone intrigues me!

Posted by: Carrie Hellbusch at January 14, 2010 9:53 AM

Pick ME RNG!!!

Posted by: Nikki at January 14, 2010 11:49 AM

Sounds like a great time! Have fun!

Posted by: Jennifer Morgan at January 14, 2010 12:05 PM

I haven't read too much "California" literature, so I think this would be the perfect book for me. Please!

Posted by: jess h at January 14, 2010 12:21 PM

I love Liza Palmer's books. I'd love to read this one, too.

Posted by: JenP at January 14, 2010 1:40 PM

Well, sign me up for the book, too!

As for naming cell phones, if its name consists of the words you say to it most frequently, then my cell phone is named either "Oh, shut up,I am NOT anwering you in the bathroom!" or "Where the *#@!! are you, you @#*&!?" (Which, because I try to keep my language clean in public and in front of small children, often sounds like, "you at-pound-asterisk-ampersand-exclamation-point!" I get a lot of funny looks.)

Posted by: JMixx at January 14, 2010 2:50 PM

Oh, I like the sound of that book!

My iPhone is named Tansy, and the previous one (which was adopted by my sister) is named Poppy.

Posted by: ClunyBrown at January 14, 2010 7:12 PM

Would love to give it a read!!

Posted by: Reagan at January 14, 2010 8:24 PM

Lulz-ing at your and Karen's phone names. My phone remains unnamed, though my laptop is Lucy and my iPod is Ethel.

That absolutely sounds like a book that I need to read.

P.S. I hope Miss Maisy feels better very soon, and that she does not feel the need to share her germs.

Posted by: erinanne at January 14, 2010 10:24 PM

I'd love to read it!

Posted by: Kristin at January 14, 2010 11:59 PM

This is the first author that I have come across who has pictures of the locations in her novel posted on her website. Very cool. I want to read about those places now.

Posted by: Michelle at January 15, 2010 9:22 AM

If my phone had a name, it would be Granny, it's that old. I did name the GPS in my truck Claudio after that sexy waiter in Florence...but I digress. Love to read the book, sounds like an interesting read. Liza is quite the baby face, isn't she. Man, I'm getting old.

Posted by: susanvl at January 15, 2010 12:23 PM

My phone is named Pinky, because -- well, because it's pink. My GPS is called Victoria. Except when she fails us, then she is called Icky Vicky.

Posted by: Gina at January 16, 2010 10:19 AM

Sounds like a really interesting book - please include me in the random number drawing!

Posted by: Liz at January 16, 2010 2:16 PM

I've never named my phone, but all of my cars have had names. My phone really doesn't do much but answer phone calls (yeah, we have boring cell phones), but my cars have all had their own personalities. :)

I have always loved the authors who can make their location seem as though it is necessary to make the story what it ends up being, so the idea of the location being like another character is very interesting to me.


Posted by: jess at January 16, 2010 10:49 PM

Oh, I love that cover!

Posted by: Allison at January 16, 2010 11:38 PM

LOVE that title! With that & descriptions like "weirdy humor" and "quirky"...count me in!

Posted by: Janet at January 17, 2010 12:04 PM

Love to read...

Posted by: Donna at January 17, 2010 12:14 PM

I'm a sucker for a good cover and a great title - count me in!

Posted by: Tina at January 17, 2010 9:48 PM

This looks like a great read. :)

Posted by: Billie at January 18, 2010 11:13 AM