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LAist Interview: Tamara Gregory

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Tamara Gregory is an LA native who enjoys all the perks that our metropolis has to offer. She is a film producer and author. Her first novel, Passport Diaries, which brings an African American perspective to the Chick Lit genre, goes on sale tomorrow.

A perfect beach-read, the novel follows LA-based assistant District Attorney, Kia Carson, as she embarks on a European vacation that also becomes a journey of self-discovery about global culture and interracial romance.

To celebrate her book's debut, Tamara is hosting a book release party at the Borders Books & Music in Westwood (1360 Westwood Boulevard) on Tuesday, August 2nd at 7 PM.

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Even if you can't make the reading, you can enter to win a trip to Paris courtesy of American Airlines via a "Passport Diaries" promotional offer at passportdiaries.com.

Age and Occupation:

Wow! Nothing like starting out with the toughest question. I’m 40. And I’m a producer/writer.

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

I was born in LA, raised in Orange County, went to college at USC and have lived in LA ever since (minus the two years I recently spent living in NY). I currently live in Inglewood.

Why do you live in Los Angeles?

Contrary to what, as I like to call them, “the leftist” think, LA is the greatest city to live in as long as you can afford to travel to other cities and do so often. You can’t beat the weather and the easy living (if you have a car, if not, LA can be brutal). Sure the traffic is drag, but traffic in Miami, Houston, and New York isn’t much better and they have a little thing called humidity to deal with.

What inspired you to write The Passport Diaries?

I went to Greece for three weeks. While there I had so many unique experiences; staying in a Greek villa with a Greek family, partying with a group of famous Milanese fashion designers and racing along a seaside cliff to catch a sunset. I'm a filmmaker at heart, but something about this experience felt like a book to me. Of course, I hope to sell the film rights as soon as possible.

How is it different from other books in the genre?

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First and foremost, I wanted the book to entertain, but I was also hoping to drop a little knowledge along the way, encourage the reader to look at the world differently than they did before reading PASSPORT DIARIES. Most books in the chick lit genre inform their readers about the latest fashion trends and new ways to diet or manipulate your boyfriend, all of which can provide fun, light-hearted reading, but I worked hard to make sure PASSPORT resonated deeper than that. Sure, my lead character loves shoes, but she is also a deeply committed prosecuting attorney who strives to make the world a better place.

Are you going to offer the "Passport to Paris" giveaway at book signings in other cities?

The giveaway is open to readers everywhere. I believe the winner will be chosen sometime in November.

Where is the best place to write in Los Angeles?

My home office. Unfortunately, I am not one of those writers who can write in cafes and such. I often read my work out loud and I'm too self-conscious to do so in public.

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

See above.

What's your preferred mode of transportation?

Someone else's car, preferably a convertible. I've had a car since I got my permit license at 15 1/2, so I'm a little over the driving thing. I do it, of course, but it's so much better when someone else drives.

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

I'm embarrassed to say, never. I am concerned about the environment and recognize that public transportation should be the wave of the future for LA, but getting me on a bus, is a long shot. I do however, recycle my grocery bags, use environment friendly soaps, etc. to make up for it.

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

"Heat" and "Six Feet Under." I love "Nip/Tuck," which takes place in Miami, but should really happen in LA.

Best LA-themed book(s)?

PASSPORT DIARIES, of course. The book begins and ends at LAX.

Share your best celebrity sighting experience.

Working in the Hollywood industry, I spot celebs all the time. However, I will confess that seeing Janet Jackson and Jermaine Dupri working out with their trainer at the beach in Playa Del Rey was a recent celeb spotting highlight.

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

La Cienega. I live just a block away.

What's the best place to walk in LA?

Beverly Hills. You park in one of the underground two hour free parking structures, and you can eat, shop and walk to your heart's content.

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

I'm in the middle of my workout at Sand Dune Park in Manhattan Beach. I've just come from Jamba Juice off of Rosecrans (I like to drink one before my workout) and on my way home I'd probably stop off at Trader Joe's (also on Rosecrans) for some light grocery shopping.

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

Being a black woman, I'd have to say, now and only now.

What's your beach of choice?

After seeing so many pristine beaches around the world, I'd be lying if I said any of beaches in California, let alone, LA make my list. If a gun is put to my head though, I'd say Playa. It's easy for me to get to.

What is the "center" of LA to you?

The Grove/Farmer's Market. It's a great half-way meeting place for my friends who live or work in Hollywood/Silverlake.

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

Does Long Beach count? They have some great beach front condos out there and it would be fairly easy to get to Downtown LA. My family lives in Redondo Beach, so Long Beach would put me pretty close them as well.

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

View Park/Ladera Heights.

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?

Since my family lives here and I went to college here, I have not found this to be the case. However, I'm sure this is one stereotype of LA that probably is true. Since you spend so much time in your car, alone, LA can be a little isolating.

What is the city's greatest secret?

It's native people. By that I mean, those of us born and raised here. Contrary to popular opinion, we are not materialistic, beauty-obsessed snobby people, blame that on all the transplants that have given us a bad name.

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

LA Taxi. 310.412.8000. Okay, that's a lie. I've only taken a taxi to or from the airport. In truth, I'm too much of a control freak to get drunk in public, so drinking and driving has never really been an issue.

Describe your best LA dining experience.

Mr. Chow's with a group of fabulously dressed, totally entertaining girlfriends. Although the lobster dish is so good you could dine alone and still enjoy yourself. The fact that Mariah Carey or Robert De Niro are seated a table away doesn't hurt either.

What do you have to say to East Coast supremacists?

Grow up already. There is no Santa Claus. There is no Tooth Fairy. And LA is America's greatest city/county/geographical region.

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

No contest. Earthquakes last what, 30 seconds? Winters/hurricane season last for three months and are guaranteed to happen every year.

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

Paris.