Friday, July 04, 2008

Introducing Amy Wallen

I ate my first moon pie in Alabama in the summer of 1993, right after graduating from high school, when I spent the month of August as live-in help for my great aunt Rae.

I also had fried pork rinds, fried okra, sweet tea, and boiled peanuts for the first time that summer. But the moon pies? My favorite. So I was tickled by the title of fellow GCC-er Amy Wallen's debut novel, Moon Pies and Movie Stars. About the book:

Ruby Kincaid has her hands full these days. In addition to running the bowling alley after the death of her husband, Rascal, she has the daunting task of caring for her two boisterous grandchildren, since her daughter Violet disappeared without a trace four years earlier. It’s 1976 and Ruby and her nearest and dearest in Devine, Texas are watching their favorite soap opera at the bowling alley when they see Violet in a Buttermaid commercial. Expecting it will only take a little motherly guilt to rein in her wayward daughter, Ruby loads up the Winnebago and heads for Hollywood to try and bring Violet back to the Lone Star State.

Along for the ride are Imogene, Violet’s over-bearing and pretentious mother-in-law (who’s ready to assume the title of “celebrity-in-law”), and Loralva, Ruby’s wild sister who is itching to visit Tinsel Town because it’s where all the game shows are taped – and nothing’s going to stop her from making it to her favorite, The Price Is Right. Rounding out the group are Ruby’s grandchildren Bunny and Bubbie who are confused, sad, and excited at the prospect of finding their mother. They give Ruby the courage she needs to track Violet down and try to make things right.

While MOONPIES AND MOVIE STARS is great fun and a lot of laughs, it is also a poignant story of dreaming big, finding home, and coming to terms with family.

Praise for the book is impressive:

“With a pitch perfect ear for comic dialogue and fine sense of the absurd, Amy Wallen writes herself a place on the porch swing of great Southern writing, as she follows the misadventures of three determined Texas ladies sworn to find a runaway daughter...”
–Janet Fitch, author of White Oleander

“[S]pirited and honest… Wallen capably illustrates that it is not only possible but also compelling to be funny, captivating, and compassionate, all in the same book.”
-Los Angeles Times

“A delightful and exhilarating journey, kind of like being on a tour bus
guided by Eudora Welty on speed.” –Mary Gordon, author of Pearl

Eudora Welty on speed! I love that. To prepare for her tour stop with us, I subjected Amy to a brief interrogation:

1) Now that you are published, what (if anything) have you changed about your writing routine?

Now that I’m published I still can’t afford to be a full-time writer, but I feel much freer to not only write in the allotted few hours I give myself in the morning, but I find any excuse to write now. It used to be more of a hobby where I would write when I found the time, now I am often late to other appts because I’m trying to finish up an idea or scene for the next book I’m working on.

2) Do you listen to music while you write?

Usually not. One of my cats likes to sit on my feet and sleep while I write, and he smacks his lips and snores—those are the sounds I like to hear. If my boyfriend is home, music is usually on, but I can tune it out and I usually like it, but never think of turning it on when I’m alone.

3) Have you found that as you've developed your writing and story telling skills, you watch movies or read books 'differently?'

Most definitely. As a writing teacher I tell my beginning students that once they’ve taken a writing class and learn all the parts of the craft, that they’ll never read the same again, and I believe that’s true. But I think I get more out of reading than I used to because of that. It’s not just entertainment any more, but a really great book will teach me something too.

4) What vacation would be most inspiring to you as a writer?

A solitary beach hut with a plug for my laptop. Waves lapping must remind me of my cat’s lips smacking and I get lulled into a great writing zone.

5) What is one of your strangest / most quirky author experiences?

The Pulpwood Queen Book Club. When my hardcover came out I was invited to participate in their big once a year extravaganza for all the chapters across the country. I’ve never seen so much leopard skin clothing, rhinestones, and diamond tiaras. Those women really know and love their books though!

More on the author: Amy has studied with a number of acclaimed writers, including Janet Fitch, author of White Oleander. She has taken those talents cultivated in the workshops of these great writers and brought them to her own creative writing classes at UC San Diego Extension. Amy also hosts an open mic night in San Diego, Los Angeles and New York called Dime Stories Live, in collaboration with the national public radio show airing this summer. Visit her website at:

Thanks Amy! Have a great fourth of July weekend, everyone.


  1. Great interview and really fun questions.....

  2. Her book sounds good. I know that my husband and I can't watch a movie or T.V. show without discussing the 'writing' and 'characters.' If we happen to read the same book, we discuss it like that too.

  3. I'm tempted to buy one but since Amazon is refusing to deliver your book to me I may have to give up reading and resort to watching television instead.

  4. Funny, I read Moon Pies and Movie Stars a couple months ago while I was out sick from work....then I just finished your book, (with tons in between) and found this post about MP&MS. Loved them both (Love your sarcastic wit!-and the reference to stool softening music) In fact I also have walked the PKD walk, for a friend of a friend-a few years ago, in Busse Woods. Thanks for helping w/awareness of PKD ....Now I organize the AFSP Out of the Darkness walk in the same woods, so I can't do both in the fall. :) Take care, looking forward to your next book. I added Driving Sideways to my book list on my blog