Weekend Inspiration: Sophie Calle


I first stumbled onto Sophie Calle’s work at the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis.

Calle is a French conceptual artist who combines photography with the written word.
The exhibit — I believe the overall theme was voyeurism — featured “The Shadow.”

In this work, a private eye followed Calle around for a day and then reported on his stalking. Meanwhile, Calle kept a journal of her activities. The work combines the two with pictures the detective took as he tailed her.

The day I saw this, I had my children with me so I didn’t get to spend as much time with it as I would have liked, but still, for a few moments I was mesmerized.

The Shadow/La Filature

In April 1981, at my request, my mother went to a detective agency. She hired them to follow me, to report my daily activities and to provide photographic evidence of my existence.


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Writer Interviews: Lisa Unger


I’m beyond thrilled that Lisa Unger is my guest today on the blog. I’m a huge fan of her writing and her books. She writes the kind of mysteries I dream of writing: character-driven psychological suspense, lyrical writing that doesn’t draw attention to itself and a perfect blend of commercially friendly yet completely literary aesthetic.

Her novels and characters haunt me long after I close her books and put them on my shelf.

She is also one of my role models for how successful authors should treat their readers and fans. When I offered to feature her on my blog, she suggested that she provide a signed book as a giveaway for one of my readers. If you comment on this post before July 1st, you have a chance to win.

I know you will love them as well. Here is Lisa Unger in her own words:

1. Describe your writing routine and/or schedule?

My most creative hours are from about 5 AM to noon.  However, I have a six year old daughter, who comes before everything else … and she also likes to get up between 5 and 6 AM.  Luckily, my husband is on board to help, but I like to be with her first thing, make her breakfast and see her off to kindergarten … so the early hours are hit or miss.  I write when she’s in school.  If I haven’t met my goals by the time she comes home, I work again after she goes to bed.  The writer/mother thing can be a difficult balance, and sometimes I need support in the afternoons. But mainly it works.  And I feel lucky to do what I love and still be present every day for my little girl.

2. What do you do if you get writer’s block?

I don’t believe in writers’ block.  I think that’s just fear, or perfectionism.  In The Lie that Tells a Truth, author John Dufresne says that writers’ block is you wanting to write well right now.  But sometimes all you have to do is write. Perfection – or hopefully something close — comes in revision.

My singular struggle – in work and in life — is that there are not enough hours in the day. Writing is the thing that has always come most naturally to me.  And it’s harder for me not to write, then it is for me to sit down and put my fingers to the keyboard.  I live for the blank page.

3. Who do you read, or recommend other writer’s read, in regards to craft?

Stephen King’s On Writing, The Lie that Tells a Truth by John Dufresne, as well as Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott all books that offer tremendous insight on the craft of writing.

4. Who do you read for fun?

I have always been a literary omnivore and have been influenced as heavily by popular fiction as by classic literature.  I don’t discriminate!  I have loved Truman Capote, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Jane Austen, Patricia Highsmith, The Bronte sisters.  But I have also loved Stephen King, Sidney Sheldon, Joy Fielding.  My fiction love affair right now is George R.R. Martin’s Game of Throne series.  I am knee deep in book four, A Feast for Crows.  The series is simply a feat of brilliant storytelling and character development.

I have read widely across genre.  I love a great story and I think that can be found in every area of fiction.  One of my first and favorite thrillers was Rebecca by Daphne DuMurier.  I really loved that idea of the ordinary girl caught in extraordinary circumstances.  And it is a theme that has run through my work.

Some of my favorite contemporary writers:  Laura Lippman, John Connelly, Karin Slaughter, Michael Connelly, Kate Atkinson, Dennis Lehane …  I could go on and on.  I am currently also reading Lisa Gardeners Catch Me. (I always have multiple books going!)  It’s truly fantastic.

5. When did you first know you wanted to be a writer? Tell us about it.

I don’t remember a time before I defined myself as a writer.  Making a living as a writer is really the only thing I ever wanted to do with my life.  It was a twisty road to that place, and there were times when I never thought I’d manage it.  So I’m very grateful.  It’s a dream come true.

6. What advice would you give an aspiring writer?

The best advice I can give aspiring writers is to write every day. Dig deeper every day. Be true to yourself. Think of publishing as an incidental element to the act of striving to be the best writer you can be, secondary to getting better every day for your experiences and dedication to the craft.

And read.  Read everything you can get your hands on.  Study the people who are doing it best and learn from them.

7. What do you think is the most important skill to have to succeed as a writer?

Tenacity makes up for almost any shortfall.  Of course, you need talent.  You might also benefit from a little bit of good luck.  But without the drive and sheer never-say-die determination you won’t have what it takes to finish a novel, or to succeed once you do.

8. What is your favorite food and/or drink?

Coffee, Coffee, Coffee.

9. Do you have a favorite book or movie?

Rebecca was my first gothic thriller.  I love every word Truman Capote has ever writer – from Music for Chameleons to Breakfast at Tiffany’s.  But it was In Cold Blood that had the biggest impact on me as a writer.

10. Is there anything I didn’t ask you that you’d like to share?

I am sure every author feels this way, but I think I have the very best fans and readers.  I am connected with them every day at www.facebook.com/authorlisaunger. They are funny, smart, and so supportive.  So, I suppose what I’d like to say more than anything is: Thank you so much for reading and being a part of my life.

Lisa Unger is an award-winning New York Times and international bestselling author. Her novels have sold over 1 million copies in the U.S. and have been translated into 26 different languages.

She was born in New Haven, Connecticut but grew up in the Netherlands, England, New Jersey and New York, where she graduated from the New School for Social Research.  Lisa now divides her time, along with her husband and daughter, between Florida and New York City.

Her writing has been hailed as “masterful” (St. Petersburg Times), “sensational” (Publishers Weekly) and “sophisticated” (New York Daily News) with “gripping narrative and evocative, muscular prose” (Associated Press).

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This Writer’s Life: The American Hotel Part V


“From first glance, the American Hotel (built in 1901) along Traction Ave and Hewitt Street in Los Angeles’ “Arts District” (next door to Little Tokyo and Skid Row…fun times!) looks exactly like what you expect from a dingy, rundown and not very well reviewed “hotel.” People really sleep here?” — Forgotten LA

This Writer’s Life: The American Hotel

One night, I returned home very late to my room on the fourth floor of The American Hotel. I was sleepy, so at first it took me a second to figure out what I was seeing: a shiny black coffin in the hallway right in front of my door.

What the hell?

Watching it out of the corner of my eye, I unlocked my door and quickly slipped into my room, locking my door behind me. I called my boyfriend and told him. It took a minute for him to understand, as well.


“There’s a giant fucking black coffin outside my door!”

“Did you look inside?”

“Are you serious?”

“I’ll take that as a no.”

I had just bought my first really nice 35mm camera and was going crazy shooting pictures: (“I tried taking pictures, but they were so mediocre. I guess every girl goes through a photography phase. You know, horses… taking pictures of your feet.” Charlotte from Lost in Translation)

I opened my door and quickly snapped a photo of the coffin. I watched it for a minute. Nothing. I looked up and down the hall. Nothing. All was quiet. I closed my door and went to bed.

The next morning, I woke and slowly pushed my door open a crack, peering into the hall. It was gone! At least I had proof that it existed. I had taken a photo!

Two days later, I was walking past Dennis’ room a few doors down from me. He had his door open and I stopped to say hello. And wouldn’t you know it, he had that damn coffin. It was propped upright against one wall, he had installed shelves into the white satin lining and made it an entertainment center for his TV, VCR, and radio.

It went well with his six-foot-tall wooden that oozed colored wax down it’s planks like blood and the red light bulb that illuminated the room.


Dennis, a playful Chicano man in his mid-20s, was hands down my favorite neighbor at The American Hotel. The first night I met Dennis he had just taken PCP. We were all up on the roof partying with the LA skyline as our backdrop. Suddenly, half the group dropped to their knees. Dennis had lost the keys to his room on the tar roof and people scrounged around until they found them.

Later, I saw him teetering outside his room for about thirty minutes, alone, holding a large wad of keys, trying them one-by-one until he found the key to his room.

But the best part of Dennis was when he was sober and feeling productive. He would stay up all night, with the door to his room wide open and type on an old typewriter for hours. In the morning, his door would be shut tight, but his latest creation would be tacked to the outside for all to read. Most of it was astonishingly good. My boyfriend’s favorite Dennis writing was the most simple one. One morning we paused and there was just one line on the white paper. “The ironic thing is the irony.”

One thing I loved about Dennis was his carefree attitude. He was so much fun to be around and he had simple philosophies about life. If you were depressed or blue about something he would tell you this: “Go clean your room, man. Get your shit together and everything will be alright.”

When he wasn’t writing short stories or poetry he was either doing drugs, playing his guitar, or reading. He loaned me Ken Kesey’s “Electric KoolAid Acid Test.” I lent him Karen Finley.

But the drugs often got the best of him. My boyfriend had drawn a really trippy pencil and watercolor mural on the big white wall in my room. Occasionally Dennis would drop acid and then come knocking on my door.

“Hey, I NEED to look at your wall again. That is some mother fucking cooooool shit.”

He would stare at it for a few minutes, examining it closely, and then leave.

One morning I was woken up by the sound of Dennis in the street below. He was lying in the middle of the street with his hands stretched out on each side, hollering “I wanna burrita! I wanna burrita!” Finally, after repeating this about fifty times, he began hopping from car hood to car hood shouting the same thing and then laughing hysterically.

Once, shortly before I moved out, I realized I hadn’t seen Dennis for a few days. I asked around and found out he was in jail. I was told, however I have no idea if it was true, that they allowed him to take his guitar with him. They said he was sitting in a jail cell playing his unplugged electric guitar all day long. That was the last I ever heard of my friend.

The halls of the hotel may reek of pee and weed, but you can’t deny that the place is held together with love. (No, seriously, the amount of tie rods being used throughout the walls makes it look like the building is about to fall apart.) — Forgotten LA


Dear Reader: Will you stay tuned for more about life at The American Hotel? Next up, The LA Riots.

If you’ve missed them, here are the other posts:

Part I

Part II

Part III

Part IV

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Lisa Unger Book Giveaway

The super talented and awesome Lisa Unger is going to be featured on my blog this week — Wednesday — as she kicks off her tour for HEARTBROKEN, her latest novel, but meanwhile, Lisa has offered to give away a signed copy to one of my readers.

All you have to do is comment on this blog post to be entered in the giveaway.

The contest will end one week from today, Sunday, July 1st.

Photo: My personal collection of all of Lisa’s books, (awaiting HEARTBROKEN.) Can you tell I’m a huge fan?





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My article featured today on Stacyknows

If you have a second please pop on over to Stacyknows and check out my article on why I wrote BLESSED ARE THE DEAD and why I can never be a “normal” parent:


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