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LAist Interview: Lisa Teasley

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Lisa Teasley is a successful fiction writer living in Los Angeles. Her first book, "Glow in the Dark," won the 2002 Gold Pen Award for Best Short Story Collection and the 2002 Pacificus Literary Foundation Best Short Story Writer award for fiction. Bloomsbury USA published her first novel "Dive" in 2004. The novel is a romantic thriller set in Los Angeles and Alaska. Bloomsbury will publish her latest novel "Heat Signature" in 2006.

Age and Occupation:
42, writer

How long have you lived in Los Angeles, and which neighborhood do you live in?

I live in Laurel Canyon. I’m an L.A. native and have been here for most of my life, except for the twelve years I spent in Durham, N. Carolina and New York City.

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Why do you live in Los Angeles?

You make your own magic in this city. It’s not in your face like New York. The getaways—beach, desert, mountains—are heartbeats away. All of my family is here, and it’s home.

Why did you write your latest book, "Heat Signature"?

I’m intrigued by the many ways in which we thwart our own happiness. The ghosts and phantoms we give weight and validity to. We all tend to be haunted by something, in most cases, the other lives we think we might be leading or could have led. The main character in Heat Signature is literally haunted by his dead mother, and with his story I get to explore faith through religion, philosophy, and the supernatural. I wanted to try and illustrate how we create our own realities. While writing the novel, a number of strange occurrences happened which further drove me to believe that there is no such thing as coincidence. The book is also set in Joshua Tree, as well as LA and the Northern California coast all the way up to Newport, Oregon. My characters tend to travel as I love that on the road feeling of vulnerability, being utterly yourself, and lost in thought.

Why did you make one of your characters an animator in your last book, "Dive"?

I’m also a painter, and so the visual is part of my language. When I have something to work out with someone, I tend to draw cartoons about it. The animator character in Dive gets to do full time what I do only in fits and starts.

As a mom raising a child in Los Angeles, what are some kid-friendly places in Los Angeles?

My daughter Imogen is very sporty so we play basketball at West Hollywood Park, go skateboarding by the L.A. River, go to the beach, where she boogie-boards and I watch.

How do you manage to write and raise a child? What arrangements work best for you and your child?

During the school year, she’s in an incredible afterschool program called Star, where she takes classes like chess, karate, magic, drumming, and woodworking. Because she’s in an accelerated program, it keeps her pretty busy with homework at the end of the day. During the summer, spring and winter breaks, we spend mornings together and then I work in the afternoon—or sometimes it’s the other way around, I’m very flexible. Her father is also a very attentive and generous one, and my live-in boyfriend as well as my family is extremely supportive. It’s an idyllic situation.

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Where is the best place to write in Los Angeles?

I have a closet-size office at home, where I write. Outside I’m too distracted, and a café can be worse.

Where is the worst place to write in Los Angeles? Any LA café where you had a bad experience writing?

No bad experiences, because 99 percent of the time I write at home. My daughter and I worked on a story together once at Anastasia’s Asylum, where we will probably return to finish it.

What's your preferred mode of transportation?

My skateboard, though that doesn’t work too well in the hills.

How often do you ride the MTA subway or light rail?

I'm embarrassed to say I've never taken either.

What's your favorite movie(s) or TV show(s) that are based in LA and why?

"Six Feet Under" because it lacks the caustic, plastic gloss of shows like "Melrose Place" "90210" and the "O.C." that the rest of the world associates with the city. It's also the closest thing to literature on TV--soapy though it can be, and this season is disappointing me. Still these characters live in the real L.A. All noir comes to mind as some of my favorite LA films are "Chinatown," "The Long Goodbye," and "Devil in a Blue Dress."

Best LA-themed book(s) and why?

Bukowski's "Post Office" and "Hollywood" because they were the best and funniest company while cooped up during a long winter in New York; any book by Wanda Coleman because she will always be the city's poet laureate; Joan Didion's "Play It As It Lays;" and though it ultimately goes to Nebraska I liked a lot of what Ann Patchett notes of LA in "The Magician's Assistant."

Share your best celebrity sighting experience.

Having grown up here with friends in the film and music industry, I've probably met or seen every super megawatt star there is, so I'm pretty jaded on that count. Still my daughter, boyfriend and I went running over excitedly to say hello to Huell Howser in a parking lot outside the Hollywood farmer's market, where he was just as gushing and sweet off camera.

In your opinion, what's the best alternate route to the 405?

La Cienega, Sepulveda, Coldwater Canyon, Lincoln. Traffic is horrific everywhere, but depending upon where I'm trying to go, I'll take whatever street combinations possible because nothing is as awful as the 405.

What's the best place to walk in LA?

I love hiking the trails whether it's Topanga, Fryman, Temescal, Elysian, San Gabriel Valley, or Griffith Parks. There may not be a mountain park near town I haven't hiked.

It's 9:30 pm on Thursday. Where are you coming from and where are you going?

Coming from an art opening or literary event and going home. But more likely I'm home and have been there all day.

If you could live in LA during any era, when would it be?

Since I'm black and paranoid, I have to say I only feel comfortable navigating in the now. Any era in the past being scary to me, vis-a-vis race, and any era in the future even scarier, thanks to politics and the environment.

What's your beach of choice?

Point Dume.

What is the "center" of LA to you?

In my driving mind's eye, Fairfax at Melrose or Pico feels like the center of LA to me.

If you were forced to live in a neighboring county, which would you choose? Ventura County is a wussy answer.

San Bernadino County where Joshua Tree, Twentynine Palms, or Pioneertown would suit me just fine.

If you could live in any neighborhood or specific house in LA, where/which would you choose?

I fell in love with the house I live in, I'm happy to say, and with the little forest I have for a backyard. I can't imagine being anywhere else in the city.

Los Angeles is often stereotyped as a hard place to find personal connections and make friends. Do you agree with that assessment? Do find it challenging to make new friends here?

I'm an open person, attracted to open hearts. I'm easy to confide in, so have never found it hard to make connections here. Being a native I've never been able to see it any other way but natural.

What is the city's greatest secret?

That it is down to earth.

Drinking, driving. They mix poorly, and yet they're inexorably linked. How do you handle this conflict?

Cozy up to my designated driver.

Describe your best LA dining experience.

My talented carpenter boyfriend could be a chef. So every evening at home is the ultimate LA dining experience, each one better than the last.

What do you have to say to East Coast supremacists?

Get over your jealousy.

Do you find the threat of earthquakes preferable to the threat of hurricanes and long winters?

Yes, because you are well warned for the latter two. Twenty years ago my family lost everything in a fire, and had I known that something like that could happen (someone threw a Molotov cocktail up the hill where we lived), I would have been living my life in fear and attachment to earthly possessions. So I don't spend a lot of time worrying about earthquakes I can't predict.

Where do you want to be when the Big One hits?

In New York I cried watching the 10 Freeway crumble on the TV news during the '93 earthquake and wanted to be there, so for the Big One I'd like to be in Hawaii.