Quick Take Tuesday, a blog of tasteful, yet shameless, self-promotion involving an author or someone of equal social standing. I ask two questions, and then my guest turns the table and asks me two questions, as long as they don’t involve pounds or pant size.
Q) I love me a sassy protagonist. And yours is Latina with blue blood. What a riot! That’s like spreading mayonnaise on a burrito! And I’ll bet she can’t help but get into trouble while staying classy the entire time. Tell me all.
A) Your description of Lee Alvarez is right on the nose! The daughter of a deceased Mexican immigrant father who made good, and a Palo Alto, Never-Had-A-Bad-Hair-Day blue blood mother, Lee is not your typical protagonist. She may take her burrito with mayo, but she likes salsa on her French fries. This is a woman who has a lot of things going for her and a few things she’s working on. Not perfect, but striving. Lee loves her family, Kate Spade handbags, a good joke, and would have liked to have become a ballet dancing. Unfortunately, as a mediocre ballerina at best, she consoles herself with being a crackerjack PI for the family business, Discretionary Inquiries. Like the rest of us, Lee has her limitations and deals, with the help of a wicked sense of humor and the occasional Milky Way bar. Throughout her adventures, Lee has strong familial support, even though this group is often one pain in her jazzercised derriere. For me, the series had to include two important elements: the recently immigrated, which is one of America’s natural resources, and the family unit. Hence, the Alvarez Family Murder Mystery Series, a family of detectives, was born. Olé!
Q) I love your theatrical background and the fact that you worked on costumes on Broadway for years. But better still, you were born in a three-ring-circus. Now tell me everything and nobody gets hurt!
A) I like to say I was born ON a trunk at Ringling Brothers Circus, in that my father was the head elephant trainer. I have pictures of me when I was barely three years old holding onto a harness and riding the head of a baby elephant. Whenever I did that, my father flanked one side of the elephant and my mother walked along the other side holding onto me. I, of course, was happy and fearless. I still remember it. My mother was a featured performer in her own right, doing tricks with the elephants, plus working the web and trapeze. I guess it was only natural for me to have a career in show business with a beginning like that. I studied drama at the University of Miami on a costume scholarship and headed off to NYC. There I discovered I didn’t really like the life of an actor, in that you travel a lot. Basically, be careful what you wish for; you may get it. So I put my costume expertise to good use and worked backstage on Broadway in wardrobe for ten steady and Manhattan-based years. I continued to write during that time, comedy acts for performers, stage plays, ads, commercials, short stories, all that good stuff. It was fun!
//BUZZER NOISE AND SOUND OF TABLE BEING TURNED//
Q) Okay, your turn, Laura. Let’s talk about your protagonist, Clari. The opening paragraph of Finding Clarityis very funny and enticing. One of the sentences on the first page, “Now that I am 45, it’s safe to say that back in my twenties I existed on an age appropriately shallow plane,” is character revealing and oh, so true! However, I wonder at how much of your personal experience as a reporter is in this book. For instance, I found the description of the very pregnant Clari’s ghastly exit from the reporting game poignant, but it also struck me her fellow workers were insensitive, at best, and cruel, at worst. Did you experience anything like that in your career in news casting?
A) The two stories in the opening chapter did actually happen to me when I was a reporter. Only the “fire” story when Clari is pregnant did not happen when I was pregnant. The pole part of the story, yes, the public humiliation, no. I made that up for this story. I recall someone asking me about a famous Bay Area anchorwoman and whether she was nice. “I’m sure someone thinks so,” was my reply. Let’s face it, it’s not a nice business. Everyone wants to be a star. Everyone thinks they are curing cancer. Some of the nastiest, stupidest people you’ll ever want to meet work in newsrooms. And yet I’m still friends with the nicest, funniest ones. You know when you’re on the mean streets or up in the mountains surrounded by wildfires, you’d better like and trust the people you work with.
Q) We both are East Coast transplants, you and I. My writing, or at least my intent, has changed since I came out to the Bay Area. Now that you live in Berkeley, California, how does it color your writing?
A) For so long, I worked in the news business and so precision, laboring over words and meaning have been what colored my writing most. And then one I realized that I had been collecting in my head and in notebooks, phrases, descriptions of people, anecdotes, all these events over the years and realized how really wild and free Berkeley can be. And yet at the same time, there is this really wealthy, white elite that in theory at least, isn’t supposed to exist. No one really talks about that side of The People’s Republic. People have said to me, “That’s not really Berkeley.” And I realized that it is one side of Berkeley that really intrigues me, and how fun it would be to expose and explore it in my fiction. I hope people fall in love with Clari Drake and Finding Clarity as much as I have!
//BUZZER NOISE AND SOUND OF INCREDIBLY LOUD APPLAUSE//
Thank you for joining me on Quick Take Tuesday, Heather Haven, author and funny lady who sprouted from a circus trunk and worked on Broadway costumes for years. Talk about bookends to life! Please come back and fill me up, so to speak, with some of your work for Feature Friday!