Saturday, July 29, 2006

Denise Dietz Dishes About Writing Humor, Her Exciting E-Mail Romance, and How We Can Eat All the Chocolate Cake We Want

You used to be a Weight Watchers lecturer. I’ve joined Weight Watchers three times, and each time my starting weight was higher. What would group leader Ellie Bernstein say to me?
It took Ellie two tries to reach her goal weight. The first time she attended a party and saw her ex-husband and his new wife—a Dallas Cowboys cheerleader—at the party, and she scarfed up the party goodies like a recently-repaired Hoover. Then she binged for weeks, always planning to go back on her diet “tomorrow.” When she finally rejoined Weight Winners and reached her goal, she called her experience “WW II” – “Weight Winners II.” As for what Ellie would say to you, she’d say, “You’re a wonderful person, Julia, thoughtful, intelligent and talented, and you deserve to be healthy and attractive. But losing weight isn’t everything. Be proud of who you are and what you’ve achieved.” She might also quote Dave Barry, who said “The leading cause of death among fashion models is falling through street grates.”

I like that! Ellie’s significant other, Peter, is a homicide detective. Did you interview a homicide detective in order to create Peter?
Absolutely. In fact, except for the equestrian trophies [if you like horses, give CHAIN A LAMB CHOP TO THE BED a try], Peter’s precinct office is a replica of the downtown Colorado Springs’ office that was inhabited by the Lieutenant I interviewed. And the “Cold Cases” I mention in BEAT UP A COOKIE are for real.

You had a “short lived singing career.” What did you sing? Why was it short-lived?
My first singing role was in South Pacific. I was in the chorus of nurses, but the girl who played Nellie didn’t want to “wash that man right out of my hair” twice a day (matinee and night performances). She threatened to quit the show unless the director changed the blocking and let her hide her dry hair under a towel. I cut my red, waist-length hair very short and took over the part. I subsequently appeared in Kiss Me Kate, Damn Yankees, The Pajama Game, The Sound of Music, and several revues. Then I joined a British rock band. Our biggest gig was on a cruise ship. Our most popular songs were “Happy Anniversary, Mr. and Mrs. Abramowitz…” and “Happy Birthday, dear Shirley…” My career was short-lived because my husband—now my ex-husband—demanded that I quit singing and become a full-time wife. That ex-husband is “Tony” in my diet club series.

On your recent blog you mentioned that, in a survey you read of 3000 Canadian people, no one listed crime fiction among their favorite books. Do you think they were saving their favorite mysteries for a different survey?
The diplomatic answer is “possibly.” But I believe there’s another reason, and it’s not only Canadians who respond to surveys in that manner. I think people are “ashamed” or maybe “embarrassed” to admit they read, and in some cases prefer, genre fiction. Instead, they feed a “surveyor” what they think he or she wants to hear.

What are you writing right now?
I submitted my proposal and partial for the fourth Ellie/Peter diet club mystery to my publisher. I’m also writing the sequel to EYE OF NEWT. It’s called TOE OF FROG, a.k.a. “The Da Vinci Toad,” and it takes place at a horror convention. In LAMB CHOP [the third Ellie/Peter mystery], I included Aspen celebs Goldie Hawn, Kurt Russell and Clint Eastwood. In FROG you’ll meet some awesome horror film stars. Can you say Jason? Freddie? Adrienne Barbeau?

I also saw on your website that you and Gordon Aalborg married at a writer’s conference. How did you and Gordon meet?
We met on line, through Novelists Inc. [NINC]. I was living in Colorado Springs, Gordon in Tasmania. We decided to co-author a romantic suspense. Gordon is the author of 20 Harlequin romances under the pseudonym Victoria Gordon. We wrote FINDING BESS via back-and-forth emails. Only problem was, I kept wanting to kill people off and he kept wanting to get them into bed. Gordon and I fell in love while writing “Bess” and, sight unseen, he asked me to marry him. I felt we should meet in person, first [yes, I know, it’s a “girl thing”], so I hopped a plane for Australia. I spent a month in Tasmania,. Whereupon, we bought a cottage on beautiful Vancouver Island and walked down the aisle at a NINC conference, surrounded by editors and fellow authors. Gordon wrote his own vows and I sang “Evergreen.” Finding Bess [by Victoria Gordon] was published a year and a half later. Lest people think Gordon only writes romances, under his own name he’s the author of CAT TRACKS, a gem of a novel told from a feral Australian cat’s viewpoint, and THE SPECIALIST, a suspense thriller that stars a caver and introduces Bluey, a Jack Russell.

That's a great story! I also saw that, like all intelligent women, you love chocolate. What’s your favorite chocolate treat?
Chocolate cheesecake. NY cheesecake. Baked. You’re making me salivate, Julia.
If only my husband would say that. You’ve been a Weight Watchers’ lecturer, so tell it to us straight: can we ever eat what we want to again and still lose weight? Keep in mind that what I WANT to eat is a big chocolate cake.
Eat as much chocolate cake as you like. Just don’t swallow it.

I knew there was a catch. What helps you concentrate when you are writing?
Deadlines. Also, I have a stuffed vulture on top of my modem. His name is Michael, after my first editor. Michael keeps me from overwriting, which I have a tendency to do. I’ll look up and say, “Oh, Michael, I love that sentence. Can I keep it? Please?” and Michael the Vulture will say no, you can’t. And the funny thing is, he doesn’t even speak English!

The vulture is awesome! Do you write regularly?

Once upon a time I wrote every day, like clockwork, for 7 hours. Then I’d shower and wait tables at night for 7 hours. I no longer waitress. My new “day job” is fiction editor for a major book packager. So I’ve had to learn how to multi-task, which isn’t as easy as it sounds. Trips off the tongue, eh? Mul-tee-task. So does “dis-or-gan-ized.” Unless I’m way behind deadline, I take Sundays off to watch NFL football. Go Broncos!

I can so relate. You mentioned once on your blog a story about “walking the dog” as an excuse for not accomplishing things in life. Have many people told you that they’ve borrowed this analogy?
Quite a few. In fact, it was referred to on another author’s blog. For what it’s worth, the same philosophy holds true for losing weight. If you write one page a day, by the end of a year you’ll have written a book. If you average one pound per week, by the end of a year you’ll have lost 52 lbs.

Okay. "A journey of a thousand miles" and all that. What’s been your best summer fun so far this summer?
Is it summer already?

Yes. :) Will you be on panels at Bouchercon?
They haven’t announced the panel line up yet, but I hope so. It’s the only time I can play stand-up (or in this case, sit-down) comedienne. I love having people laugh with me. I’m really looking forward to this year’s Bouchercon, since I’m a University of Wisconsin grad. I’m told Madison looks a lot different now. So do I.
If you need to do that underline-link-thingy, my website is: and my blog is: and Gordon’s website is:

But you probably knew that :)

But it’s always good to remind me. Thanks for chatting with me, Denise!
A pleasure, Julia.

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