November, 2009


Liza Palmer's debut novel, Conversations with the Fat Girl, launched Warner's 5Spot line in 2005. She is also the author of Seeing Me Naked. A Field Guide to Burying Your Parents is her latest release. She lives in Pasadena, California.

Return to interview list

  1. 1. What inspired the storyline of A Field Guide to Burying Your Parents?

    As with most of my novels A Field Guide to Burying Your Parents started as a What If Game. That little grain of an idea that you're compelled to pick at. The extreme circumstances of caring for an ailing parent combined with this idea of being forced to care for an ailing parent who abandoned you early in life. So, you're in this unrelenting situation with someone you don't even know you love (or if they love you). And then add in the usual family dynamics and I just couldn't wait to write it.

  2. 2. Do you think Grace's family issues are a common problem among modern women?

    Absolutely. Great question. I think women are constantly met with this expectation of who they're supposed to be and what they're supposed to be doing and how they're supposed to act, but during extreme situations (like the one depicted in Field Guide) you just can't keep up that scrim anymore. Out of pure exhaustion (both mental and physical) you're forced to be vulnerable and filled with rage and be frustrated and unconcerned with people's needs. You're allowed to be human - which for most women, is a Herculean task. I also loved chronicling the story of two women (Grace and Abigail) who had been raised by a single mother. Being raised by a single mother myself, I thought it was about time to give single mothers a shout out.

  3. 3. What have you been up to since our last interview?

    Well, I gave up caffeine for like nine months, so I can't speak to that blur of time as I'd clearly lost my will to live. But, for the other months - man, it's just been this amazing steady climb: more projects, more opportunities - in TV and film, more stories, more books and on and on... I'm trying to keep up with it and still keep myself in awe at it all, not get overwhelmed. The hard part is balancing all the writing with actual, everyday life – it helps that I have to walk my dog twice a day, something about this simple, bookending task of walking her keeps me settled into some sort of schedule and not just writing all the time - all feral and unkempt - keeping to the wilderness with just my Mac and a venti Starbucks to keep me warm.

  4. 4. Is there any progress being made on a screen adaptation of Conversations with the Fat Girl?

    Hilariously, I know very little about that end of things. I love the producers - they did Rome, Band of Brothers and Generation Kill - so I have the luxury of trusting wholly the able hands Maggie is in. We shall see what this year brings - I mean, I won't - because writers are always the last to know - but you know, in general we shall see. Not me. But, you know ... the world - the world shall see.

  5. 5. What are your plans for 2010?

    2010 starts out with a bang with A Field Guide to Burying Your Parents launching on January 8 and then from there it's just writing, writing and more writing. I keep being hilariously shocked at what I'm allowed to do with my writing. Every meeting is always this farce of trying to act like I'm not completely in awe of who I get to work with, on which projects and that they're actually asking if I want a bottle of water. I'm just waiting for someone to break it to me that my time in Emerald City is over and it's back to Kansas for me. I'm so lucky ... and that's mostly because I chose to drink caffeine again. The world is just brighter with caffeine in it. That's my parting thought. Caffeine: it's a good thing.

January, 2008
  1. 1. Tell us about Seeing Me Naked.

    Seeing Me Naked is about Elisabeth Page - a pastry chef in a five-star French restaurant here in LA. The book captures that moment where we all have to make the decision to go backward to go forward - meaning, slog through the past, really look at our parental influences - and then make a choice to live differently. Grow up but on our terms.

  2. 2. Did you always intend to have the family dynamics such a major part of the plot?

    I just think it's impossible to write about relationships without exploring how you got to be the person who's standing in front of the Daniels and Wills of this world, you know? We can all relate to family drama - and I find that so much more interesting to mine than just the relationship that results from finally sorting your stuff out. I want to see the process - that's what inspires me.

  3. 3. Why did you make Elisabeth a chef?

    The idea about a making Elisabeth a chef first came to me when I was thinking about any other career that I might have done OK in - that I could have been happy doing. I immediately thought of a chef. After doing research, I quickly found out that usually the only woman in a French kitchen was the pastry chef. I also thought the demeanour of a pastry chef - usually a perfectionist - worked with what I was trying to do with Elisabeth.

  4. 4. What's the worst job you've had?

    I temped for a while and was shuffled off to this job at a convention center - but I worked during the week, so we would have to count all the money that came in over the weekend. They showed me my new �office�, which was a tiny cubicle where someone had taped butcher paper over the windows so I wouldn't get �distracted�. And the hours were from 6am to 2pm. 6am - counting pennies in a windowless cubicle. Awesome.

  5. 5. How did you get into writing?

    It got into me.

  6. 6. What inspired your first book, Conversations with the Fat Girl?

    I was looking at female friendships first and foremost - why women hold on too long to people in their lives . . . even after it starts to get to be a negative force in one's life. We make so many excuses for why people treat us poorly. Combine that with the alarming comfort we have with hating our bodies/ourselves and apologizing for the space we take up - I just thought it was time to really examine all of those factors and how they lead us away from authenticity. And I think that's the commonality between both Conversations with the Fat Girl and Seeing Me Naked - women who must figure out who they really are and then live accordingly.

  7. 7. Could you have written that book without having been on your own weight loss journey?

    Unfortunately, I think most women these days are on some weight loss journey or another and it's never about numbers on a scale - it's about feeling like we're not good enough. Weight is never purely about diet and exercise - it's about putting a buffer between you and the world. Literally wearing a suit of armour. And I can certainly relate to that.

  8. 8. How much of you went into the characters of Maggie and Olivia?

    They really are two sides of the same coin - that's what fascinated me about them. Olivia thinks that becoming beautiful on the outside will lead to her happiness (it never does) and Maggie finally figures out that happiness leads to being able to finally take off the suit of armour.

  9. 9. What's your next book, Chasing Grace, about?

    Family - surprise, surprise, right?!?! Chasing Grace tells the story of the Hawkes family (Huston, Abigail, Grace and Nicole) as they deal with their estranged father's illness. Grace is the main character and I think this book is the book that I had to write as opposed to wanted to write, if that makes any sense. There's a necessity to this book . . . an urgency. Another book about a character having to go backward to go forward. Finding her true self.

  10. 10. Do you ever daydream about what happens to your characters after you've finished the story?

    ALL THE TIME!!! It still freaks me out that I'm never going to run into Rascal on the street - that I can't walk into Beverly and have Elisabeth make me something. These characters are so real to me - they have to be, you know? I think it helps with creating the world - really making them believable.

  11. 11. What does chick lit mean to you?

    It's a designation for stories about women that use humor and the first-person point of view.

  12. 12. How have other authors inspired you?

    They inspire all the time - I can never get enough, actually. I still go to readings at the local independent bookstore here in Pasadena - Vroman's - and just listen to them talk about writing. I can't get enough. It's so inspiring to listen to someone talk about their passion. I highly recommend it to any aspiring writers out there.

  13. 13. What's the best piece of feedback you've had from a reader?

    In the beginning of Conversations with the Fat Girl I wrote Olivia a little more negligent - her biggest flaw as a friend was that she was neglectful. Neglect is really not a pro-active character trait for a villain, by the way. One reader of the first draft said: ' knew I was supposed to hate Olivia, but I never really got the chance.' Best.Note.Ever.

  14. 14. What's your favourite:

    1. Food
      bean and cheese burritos
    2. Song
      (my head just exploded�so many�so many�) - how about favorite song this morning? Cannonball by Damien Rice
    3. Book
      Where the Wild Things Are - Maurice Sendak
    4. Movie
      Princess Bride with Goodfellas coming in a close second
    5. Celebrity
      Diane Keaton
    Back to top