‘More Like Her’s’ Liza Palmer: How to Find Your Bliss
Much like her characters, author Liza Palmer has experienced the pressure to be “perfect.” But how she handles these impossible expectations is inspiring.
Liza Palmer is no stranger to penning a story to remember. As the internationally bestselling author of Conversations with the Fat Girl, Palmer is back and better than ever with her brand new novel.
Titled More Like Her, the page-turner grapples with issues like death, friendship, and the pressure to be perfect. We chatted with Palmer about her inspirations, the characters she worked so hard to develop, and how every woman can empower herself. Are you ready for a major dose of inspiration?
Betty Confidential: Why did you write More Like Her?
Liza Palmer: I wrote More Like Her because I wanted to get women talking. I wanted there to be a discussion about this phenomenon of keeping secrets and not asking for help and out and out lying about how hard being a woman can be. I really wanted to let women talk and more importantly–-be heard.
BC: In More Like Her, Emma is this beautiful, successful career woman, but “hides” behind her husband. Do you feel that women are breaking out of this trap today or is this story still all too common?
LP: I think women hide their light under a barrel just in general. There’s a great TED talk by Sheryl Sandberg, the COO of Facebook, where she really unpacks this idea. One of her main points is that “women systematically underestimate their own abilities.” And when they do succeed, Sandberg says that unlike men who attribute their successes to themselves, women ascribe their victory to someone else’s help, support or just plain luck.
BC: What did you do to learn more about your characters talents, like Emma’s painting or Sam’s architecture?
LP: That’s always the fun part of any novel – getting to explore and learn about something completely new. I did research on green architecture, the genesis of it as well as interviewing a student of architecture and a few friends of mine who are architects. It was really amazing to learn about all that’s happening in that field right now. And Emma’s painting was just a delight to learn about – I took field trips to all of Los Angeles’ amazing museums and soaked up everything I could. It was just a fantastic experience.
BC: Who is your most admired heroine and why?
LP: I love Jane Eyre. Her strength and ability to survive in the face of adversity is always inspirational. I love her voice and her demand to be respected. And I love that she made room for love in it all. Just beautiful.
BC: What was the most difficult part about the writing process?
LP: An idea is a beautiful, scary lightning bolt of a thing, isn’t it? You have this moment of blissful clarity where this simple thought wafts or intrudes into your psyche. The hardest part for me is harvesting that lightning bolt – keeping true to that original idea, while still understanding that this has to be a structured work.
BC: How have you seen the pressure to have the perfect life with the right guy, kids, a nice house, etc. affect women?
LP: All it takes is a scan of the tabloids at the grocery store to get the full impact of what a blood sport this quest for perfection has become. Those tabloids–with their headlines about stars caught without make up! Look who’s got cellulite! She steals her man and flaunts it! Childless and alone! It’s all about calling attention to the flaws, the cracks in the façade and the mistakes one makes. So women try to keep up and play the game – fad diets and skin creams and on and on… never once weighing the most important element of all: the depth of one’s character.
BC: How do you not give in to that pressure?
LP: I think it’s all about happiness, right? That really is the antidote to it all. I mean, you send twenty people into a diner and they’re all going to order twenty different things. So, why do we think that The Perfect Life is something we should all have in common? Comparing yourself and evaluating yourself by what someone else says is the measure of success only breeds resentment and a haunting numbness that we can all recognize in those around us who have succumbed. You get to be happy. You get to walk into that diner and order what you want. If you can get there – to the point where you really think about what kind of life would make you happy–then none of that other crap can touch you.
BC: Do you believe that postcard fairytale-life deception is ever going to end?
LP: I don’t think wanting a fairytale-life is deceptive. We get to have the fairytale, the happily ever after and all that. The power comes from us defining what “happily ever after” is, not someone else. What a Home Sweet Home looks like, what a Prince Charming is…all of these set pieces are for us to cast and design–not someone else. Becoming empowered doesn’t mean you deny yourself a happily ever after… it means quite the opposite.
BC: As someone who has had weight issues, how have you witnessed society treating you differently now that you’ve shed the pounds?
LP: I wish it were as simple as a number on the scale equals worth, but we all know that’s not true. We’ve all struggled with body image and never has a lower number on the scale meant a higher level of self-esteem. Without the work, without the journey to self and love of self and understanding that we’re worthy and valuable whatever our appearance – it doesn’t matter what that scale says.
I’ve found that society treats you how you treat yourself. If you walk into a room feeling worthless and apologetic then everyone will fall into line, but if you walk into a room and own it? Nothing can stop you. And that? That has nothing to do with a number on the scale.
BC: What would you tell the younger you who was just starting her career?
LP: The reality is going to be so much better than the fantasy. Stay true to your voice and all will be well.
BC: How would you respond to the claim that your novels are chick lit (and that chick lit, by definition, is fluff)?
LP: I don’t think this is about chick lit or labels at all. I think this is a much bigger issue: why are people comfortable dismissing the issues facing women in general? Why is a woman’s journey adorable? Who is a woman’s journey adorable to? Certainly not us. So, is this about us responding to such ridiculous claims or is it about us disregarding them and judging for ourselves.
BC: Will there be a sequel? What else do you have up your sleeve?
LP: There are no sequels in the mix, but my fifth novel, Nowhere but Home, is done and ready for 2013. Nowhere but Home is about a failed chef who returns to her small Texas hometown where the only job she can get is preparing last meals for death row inmates.
BC: How do you manage to weave comedy and tragedy together in the same book?
LP: Chris Rock once said that, “The funniest sh*t is the sh*t that’s not funny.” and I couldn’t agree more. Just because we’re going through something tough in life, doesn’t mean that we stop being who we are. I think the most beautiful moments happen when we allow our own humanity to shine through in the hardest of times.
For me, this is about knowing my characters well enough so that I can show their authenticity even in dire circumstances. I find new layers each time I take another pass at a draft. Writing is rewriting.
Diana Denza is a regular contributor to BettyConfidential.