Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Author Snapshot: Denise Dietz

You don’t see her without a smile. That’s not a surprise. People who have read her books suspect that the author, too, will be humor-filled, that she will be wicked smart and that the smallest of her comments will drip with a good-humored wit. In person, Denise Dietz, author of the Ellie Bernstein Diet Club mysteries is all of these things, and more.

Though Strangle A Loaf of Italian Bread (Five Star) is Dietz’s 14th novel, it is the fourth to feature diet club leader Ellie Bernstein who has replaced her eating habit with one for solving mysteries.

“Denise Dietz is like Robert B. Parker on estrogen,” author Marshall Karp has written. “Her heroine, diet guru Ellie Bernstein, is fiendishly clever, blatantly sexy, and uproariously funny. Trust me, ladies, this is not your maiden auntie’s murder mystery.”

Dietz lives on Vancouver Island off Canada’s westernmost coast with her husband, novelist Gordon Aalborg. Like most of Dietz’s work, her current novel in progress sounds deliciously funny. Called Gypsy Rose Lieberman, the books stars “a Vaudeville ghost who was -- oops! -- sawed in half by her magician husband.”

Dietz’s fans are likely already laughing in anticipation.

A Snapshot of... Denise Dietz
Most recent book: Strangle A Loaf of Italian Bread (Five Star)
Born: Manhattan, New York
Resides: Vancouver Island, British Columbia
Birthday: January 29
Web site: www.denisedietz.com

What’s your favorite city?
Colorado Springs, Colorado. I chose to live in Colorado, inspired by Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged, which I “borrowed” from my mom’s bookshelf when I was a kid. I don’t agree with Rand’s ideology, but she’s one heck of a wordsmith!

You only have six hours to spend there. What do you do?
Only six hours? Inhale and absorb the scenery, especially Garden of the Gods, say hi to the librarians at the Penrose Library, and browse my favorite thrift/consignment shops.

What food do you love?
A perfect meal would be raw oysters, prawns and lobster, and New York cheesecake.

What food have you vowed never to touch again?
Cottage cheese.

What’s on your nightstand?
Potpourri. I’m rarely sick, knock on wood, but when I get the flu, my nightstand holds a copy of Stephen King’s The Stand. When I read The Stand I feel much better.

What inspires you?
Change the question to “who” and my answer is readers. I once had a long wait at the DFW airport and started chatting with a young woman. When I told her I was an author, she said, “Have I ever heard of you?” Exhausted, I merely said, “I doubt it.” She wanted to know my name. I said “Denise Dietz” and she said, “OMG, Beat Up a Cookie! I loved that book! My dad loved it, too.” That happened more than 10 years ago and it still inspires me. Another, more recent inspiration is Susan Boyle.

What are you working on now?
Gypsy Rose Lieberman, starring a Vaudeville ghost who was -- oops! -- sawed in half by her magician husband. I’m also writing the second book in my Sydney St. Charles apothecary series. Title: Toe of Frog. Working title: “The Da Vinci Toad.”

Lift your head and look around. What do you see?
A huge, framed poster of Daniel Day Lewis in The Last of the Mohicans, a photo of my husband, novelist Gordon Aalborg (Dining with Devils), and a stuffed “deadline” vulture named Michael Seidman.

When did you know you wanted to be a writer?
When I wrote a story for my high school magazine called “Is the Bronx Zoo in Brooklyn?” and it made everyone laugh. That was cool. In my second story, “Red Corduroy,” I killed a dog. Everyone wept buckets, including me, but I’d never kill a dog, or a cat, today, I swear, Girl Scout’s honor, cross my heart...

If you couldn’t write books, what would you be doing?
I can’t imagine not writing books, but I suppose I’d be looking for singing gigs. In my next life I want to be a stand-up comedian. Or the first woman to win racing’s Triple Crown.

To date, what moment in your career has made you happiest?
Seeing my first published book -- Throw Darts at a Cheesecake -- in the library. It was shelved with the new books. I ran up and down the aisles and shouted, “Come! Come! Come!” over and over. Several people followed me and when I reached the shelf, I pointed to the book and said, “Me! Me! Me!”

For you, what is the easiest thing about being a writer?
To be perfectly honest, I don’t find writing easy. It’s gobsmackingly gratifying -- especially when you hit page 170 and realize there was a good reason for the three wonky paragraphs you wrote on page 30 -- but it takes an incredible amount of self-discipline. That’s why, when people say “Someday I’m gonna write a book,” I try to stifle my snort.

What’s the most difficult?
Waiting for reviews! You send your “baby” out into the world and hope someone doesn’t say, “What an ugly baby!” I’ve been lucky with starred reviews for The Landlord’s Black-Eyed Daughter (written as Mary Ellen Dennis) and rave reviews for Footprints in the Butter and Fifty Cents for Your Soul. However, I’ll always remember a lazy reviewer who, obviously, hadn’t read my book. She compared me to Diane Mott Davidson: Colorado locale, 40-ish sleuth, food title, and then wrote: “So I suggest you buy a Diane Mott Davidson book, instead.” Diane is a fellow Coloradoan and a friend, but our “voices” are very different. Before I could vent my ire, I discovered that my sales had spiked. It seems the only thing people remembered was the comparison to Diane.

What question do you get asked about your writing most often?
It’s a toss-up between “How long does it take you to write a book?” and “Have I ever heard of you?”

What’s the question you’d like to be asked?
“Would you be our Toastmistress at Left Coast Crime (or Bouchercon or Malice)?”

What question would you like never to be asked again?
“My life would make a great book, will you write it?” To that end, an attorney once asked me to ghost-write his John Grisham rip-off. He offered me 50 per cent of his royalties.

Please tell us about Strangle a Loaf of Italian Bread.
The title is from a quote by the late, great Gilda Radner. She said: “Eating is self-punishment; punish the food instead. Strangle a loaf of Italian bread. Throw darts at a cheesecake. Chain a lamb chop to the bed. Beat up a cookie.”

Sara Lee, a waitress at Uncle Vinnie’s Gourmet Italian Restaurant, plans to try out for the John Denver Community Theatre’s production of Hello, Dolly! Before she can, she’s strangled with a Daffy Duck necktie and trashed in her restaurant’s Dumpster.

Diet club leader and mystery maven Ellie Bernstein wants to know why everybody didn’t like Sara Lee. At the same time, Ellie -- who has never owned a dog -- is dog-sitting a diet club member’s Border collie and coping with her cat, Jackie Robinson’s reaction to the canine guest. Then Ellie discovers that the dog’s owner has disappeared into thin air.

Eventually, Ellie’s search for Sara Lee’s killer lands her at the Hello, Dolly! auditions. Only problem is, Ellie can’t sing or dance.

This is the fourth book in the series but, like all of my books, it stands alone.

Tell us something about yourself that no one knows.
My life is an open book (hee!) But very few people know that I sang on a cruse ship with a British rock and roll band. Our most popular song was “Happy Anniversary, Mr. and Mrs. Abramowitz...”

Labels: , , ,


Blogger Paul Brazill said...

My brother used to sing on cruise ships and used to do mario lanza songs in the style of johnny cash and vice versa... nice interview with a versy sharp woman.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009 at 8:07:00 AM PDT  
Anonymous Deni Dietz said...

Great to hear from you, Paul. Talk about humour! Your stories are wry-humour gems. LOL singing Mario Lanza in the style of Johnny Cash. My daughter is a combination Whitney Houston and Janis Joplin.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009 at 8:20:00 AM PDT  
Blogger Peg Brantley said...

This is just too weird to think that (a) we've never met and (b) I've only spent a wee bit of time with your website and your mantra, and am only JUST about to read my first book of yours, but girlfriend, I think of you as a Girlfriend.

Whitney and Janice? What in the world could be better than that?

Tuesday, June 9, 2009 at 6:54:00 PM PDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Deni that's a great interview I was pleasantly surprised to learn that all of your book titles are Gilda Radner quotes.

I remember having a great time with you and Gordon in Portland, Oregon a few years ago. I was still smoking then so I hung out in the bar a lot and that's where we met, I bought your book based on your sisters acting job at that time. I wish you even more success.


Tuesday, June 9, 2009 at 9:47:00 PM PDT  

Post a Comment

<< Home