Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Interview with Olive Arletti

Me: Hello, Olive. Nice to meet you.

OA: Nice to meet you, as well.

Me: I understand that you are a character in Lucky Change.

OA: Yes, I am in charge of Relief Society meetings, you know, the ones that we used to call Homemaking and then Enrichment. I preferred Homemaking meeting myself, but that is probably because I am partial to homemaking and housekeeping.

Me: I hear you are a wonderful housekeeper.

OA: Oh, thank you! I'm so glad somebody noticed. Sometimes I feel that Arthur just doesn't appreciate all that I do.

Me: Many women probably feel that way about their husbands. We probably forget to notice all that they do for us as well.

OA: I suppose so.

Me: I understand you are in the same ward as Karen Donaldson.

OA: Oh my, yes. Don't remind me!

Me: Is there a problem between you and Karen?

OA: Earlier this month we had our regular meeting, you know the one. I don't know why they had to change the name, especially when they didn't change it to anything. I don't like it when they change things. I like a place for everything and everything in its place. I marched into Rex's, I mean Bishop Parley's, office and asked him what my calling was now. I used to be Enrichment Leader. Now I don't even know what to call myself. Person who plans Relief Society meetings that aren't on Sunday? I feel as though an important part of my identity is missing.

Me: I can see how that could be distressing for someone who doesn't deal well with change. Acutally, I sort of understand. That is the calling I have right now, although I'm sure my meetings are very different from yours. I live in Hawaii. We just did an evening we called "Going Coconuts" where we learned how to husk a coconut and all about the history and uses of coconuts. We displayed crafts made from coconuts. Then we had recipes the sisters brought with coconut in them. You should try Lani's Coconut Curry. Good stuff! I made homemade Mounds Bars. They were a little sweet.

OA: So at our last evening Relief Society meeting, which is what I've decided to call them, I had a wonderful fall recipe, Caramel Apple Bread Pudding. The sisters loved it. I had made recipe cards for everyone, hand-done scrapbooked 3-D recipe cards with individual apples and autumn leaves on them.

Me: Of course, those 3-D recipe cards fit so nicely into the recipe file box.

OA: (raising eyebrows) They are meant to be esthetically-pleasing as well as functional. If you have a recipe card holder, they add a decorative touch to your kitchen during the fall season. I swap out a different scrapbooked recipe card in my card holder each month. This one looks very elegant on the counter next to a cornucopia of decorative gourds.

Me: Sounds lovely. So was the meeting a success?

OA: Oh, as always, Karen was there with her outbursts. I am trying to encourage our sisters to eat healthy, so I had the fat-free version of this recipe prepared. Karen, of course, had to comment on that.

Me: What did she say?

OA: She said something like "Oh you take all the fun and the fat out of everything, Olive." All the sisters laughed, of course. They always laugh at Karen. She needs to slim down considerably, but she seems oblivious to that fact. Karen is oblivious to just about everything, come to think of it. Then the next week she came to me and told me she had revised the recipe and put the fat back in it and made a double recipe. She told me how over the course of a week, she ate an entire pan herself--a 13 by 9 pan, mind you. Not an 8 by 8.

Me: So are you going to share the recipe?

OA: Certainly. In a large bowl, combine 1 cup of unsweetened applesauce and 1 cup of fat-free milk, 1/2 cup of brown sugar, and 1/2 cup of egg substitute, 1 teaspoon of vanilla, and 1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon. Fold in five cups of cubed day-old bread and 1/2 cup of chopped peeled apple. Pour into an 8 by 8 baking dish coated with cooking spray. Bake at 325 degrees for 35 - 40 minutes or until a knife inserted near the center comes out clean. Serve warm with fat-free whipped topping and fat-free caramel ice cream topping.

Me: Sounds delicious, but I have to admit, Karen's version sounds interesting as well.

OA: She used 2% milk, two eggs instead of the egg substitute, Hawaiian sweetbread, and whipping cream and regular caramel sauce. And I think she said she threw in some chopped pecans.

Me: Olive, I would love to talk with you further, but I just got an urge to go the grocery store and pick up a few ingredients.

OA: The fat-free version was really quite tasty.

Me: I'll let you know which one I try.

OA: Well, that's fine. Arthur should be arriving home soon, anyway, and I really must go get dinner started.

Me: Perhaps we can chat again. I'd love to get more homemaking tips from you.

OA: Oh, my files are very full. I've got every issue of Martha Stewart Living.

Me: No wonder your home is so lovely.

OA: Why, thank you! Here, let me give you one of the recipe cards. I always make a few extra, for those who don't make it to the meetings.

Me: I understand Karen never misses a meeting.

OA: Oh, I live for the day I can give a housekeeping hint without Karen heckling me with her tips on how to avoid housework.

Me: I'll have to ask her about that.

OA: Prepare for an onslaught. She never runs out of ideas for how to be more of a slob. Oh my goodness, look at the time. The meat has been marinating far too long on one side. I didn't realize we'd been chatting for so long. I must go. I simply must go.

Me: Thank you for your time.

OA: Perhaps we can talk again. I could use somewhere to vent about Karen.

Me: Okay, I'll be in touch later. Enjoy your dinner.

OA: Thank you. I'm sure we shall.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Interview with Bishop Rex Parley

(Just for the record, I am holding my interview with Bishop Parley in his home, in the cozy little interview room he has off the main entrance, with his wife and children in the family room nearby.)

Me: Hello Bishop Parley. I've heard a lot about you. It is nice to meet you in person. You're taller than I expected. I understand you are one of the major supporting characters in Lucky Change.

BP: I was recruited, yes, late one evening when I heard a tapping on the door just as I was getting ready to head home after interview night.

Me: And that would have been Sister Karen Donaldson?

BP: I'm sorry, but surely you understand that I would not divulge what ward members speak to me about in private or even which ward members I meet with.

Me: Well, of course, bishop. What do you feel comfortable telling me about Karen and your interactions with her?

BP: Not much. Besides being a member of my flock, she is also one of my clients in my law practice, so anything you ask me will be a violation of her privacy that I honor as her bishop or it will be covered by attorney/client privilege.

Me: I see. Well, um, it has been nice talking to you.

BP: Karen is a wonderful Primary chorister. Nobody can get the kids to sing like Karen does. She is enthusiastic, cheeerful and the kids all love her.

Me: That's it?

BP: Karen is friendly and faithful and I've always been glad she moved into our ward. We needed Karen. Now that's about all I am willing to say about this dear sister. If there is anything you would like to know about me, I would be glad to answer further questions.

Me: What type of law do you practice?

BP: I'm an estate planning attorney. I am the managing partner of Frost, Bringhurst and McClelland.

Me: It sounds like there is a lot on your plate.

BP: Oh, like being bishop, it isn't a life sentence. I mean, someone else will eventually get the opportunity to serve. Strike that from the record. That makes it sound like I don't enjoy being bishop. I do, it is just that there have been lots of things come up that I never expected, illnesses, deaths, divorces . . .

Me: Karen.

BP: Yes, Karen.

Me: Camille.

BP: I won't discuss my employees either.

Me: That's okay. Camille has agreed to talk with me.

BP: Oh, really? That surprises me.

Me: She wasn't going to, but when she found out I was going to interview Ted Simon, she wanted a chance to share her side of the story.

BP: Might I suggest you interview Ted in a public place.

Me: Thank you for the suggestion. I hear he is a piece of work.

BP: I won't . . .

Me: I know. I know. He works with you. I won't ask you to discuss him. I was out of line.

BP: Thank you for understanding.

Me: Perhaps I should let you have some much-needed family time.

BP: Thank you, that is very gracious of you.

Me: Perhaps we can chat another time when you aren't so busy.

BP: I'd like that. I'd like to tell you about my wonderful wife and my great kids, but right now, you're right that I would really just like to spend some time with them. I see the kids most these days looking down at them from the pulpit at church. Lydia feels like a single parent, I'm sure. When I have free time, I spend it with my wife and kids.

Me: Any parting words about the book?

BP: I think it would be a great way to spend a Saturday curled up on the sofa. Karen definitely has a story to tell. I'm honored to have been part of it.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Interview with Karen Donaldson

My new novel, Lucky Change is coming out fall of 2010 through my new publisher, Cedar Fort. I have decided to interview some of the characters from the book. I am starting out with Karen Donaldson, my main character.

Me: Hello, Karen. Nice to see you. Why don't you tell me a little bit about yourself?

Karen: Well, whaddya wanna know? I was born in Coalville, Utah, and I been a member of the Church all my life. I got two brothers, and I'm the only girl in my family, if ya don't count my mom. I got married right outta high school, and my ex-husband Ray didn't stick around much to help raise our two kids, Delia and Austin. I worked most of my adult life checking out groceries at Smith's Food King in Salt Lake City. I was voted Most Friendly Cashier three months in a row. Wanna see my pins?

Me: I'll take your word for it. I'm sure that even if you hadn't won, it would have been an honor just to have been nominated. So how did you get your own book? Didn't you start out as a fairly minor character in Unfinished Business?

Karen: Yes, I did. That book needed somebody like me that wasn't such a clone of all the other Relief Society sisters with their clean houses and their baked bread.

Me: You mean you don't bake bread?

Karen: I use Mrs. Rhodes frozen dough, and I don't care who ya tell. I don't can fruit, either, and I was refused a subscription to Good Housekeeping magazine. It ain't that I don't want the place t' be clean, if I could find somebody else to clean it, but I have been a single working mom most of my adult life, and when I was home I had to choose between spendin' time with my kids and cleanin' house. I mostly chose my kids.

Me: So is this novel about your poor housekeeping and your kids?

Karen: It ain't. Well, that's part of it, but Bishop Parley told me not to tell too many people about the money, on account of he don't want all my poor relations comin' outta the woodwork wantin' something from me, and I don't know how many people out there are gonna read this blog. Do you have lots of fans?

Me: All over the world. Two in Africa. Hi Pat. Hi Rex. Three in England. A couple in Spanish Fork. Twenty-seven in Arizona.

Karen: Oh, what the heck! I been in this ward in Holladay for most of my grown-up life, and rentin' a basement apartment from the Thompson family 'til I struck it rich and bought the Cironni's house. The Thompsons was such a blessing in our lives. See, Sister Thompson, she shopped at my Smith's and asked me if there was any place she could post this flyer about rentin' out their basement apartment, and I needed a place to live where I could raise my kids that was better than where we was livin' at the time. It turned out that flyer never did get hung up. The Thompsons was good to us. I had my kids in a place where they had good friends and we felt safe.

Me: Did that work out well for you?

Karen: Oh, ya know how it is. Sometimes it did. Sometimes it didn't. Austin, well, he wouldn't want me sayin' much about this, but he fell in love with Adrienne Thompson. But Adrienne was one of them girls not gonna get serious with anybody before he served a mission, so poor Austin had to watch all her other dates come and pick her up. He was always spyin' on Adrienne and her dates from the basement. I mean they went out sometimes, too, but she never tied herself down to just one guy. Austin, he's a good lookin' fella, and the girls in the ward was always flirtin' with him, but Adrienne was the one he was most interested in. Them same girls though, they wasn't quite as acceptin' of Dee. But Adrienne was always nice to my kids, both of them. Maybe that's part of why Austin liked her so much. It's part of why I liked her so much.

Me: So Austin and Adrienne hooked up?

Karen: Oh Austin ain't gonna want me talkin' about his love life on some blog. Ya gotta read the book, I guess, to find out. Not that I need the money no more, but as the author, I understand you've got an upscale lifestyle in Hawaii to keep up.

Me: I haven't had much time to lie around on the beach lately, trying to keep up with your escapades. So you mentioned your ex-husband. Does the deadbeat dad ever show up?

Karen: Ray, yeah, he comes back into our lives, and I tried to let bygones be bygones. Bishop Parley put the fear of God into him. Bishop Parley, he's a lawyer, too, ya know. He's helpin' me with the money. He's the one told me that the key to a good business is to find something no one else is doing and fill a need.

Me: So you started a business?

Karen: Oh, I start businesses all the time. Whenever I figger out something that'll help somebody, I try and figger out what I can do to give them a hand. Lots of people helped me along the way. I'm just spreadin' it around.

Me: Are you an experienced business woman?

Karen: (snort) Nope! But I got Barry. He works with Bishop, um, I mean Mr. Parley. Bishop tells me I gotta call him "mister" at the office, but I sometimes forget. Barry, he's a pit bull with a heart. That's what they say about him down at the lawyer's offices. I'm still mad at him about Las Vegas, though.

Me: What happened in Las Vegas?

Karen: You know what they say about what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas. Only it didn't. The National Enquirer made sure of that.

Me: You were in the National Enquirer?

Karen: Yup! I was bigger than the Bigfoot sightin' in Yellowstone Park.

Me: Do tell.

Karen: Oh, I prob'ly shouldn't talk about that either. See, it don't look good on Barry's record, something about swearin' falsely. He bent one of the ten commandments all outta shape. I got bent outta shape about it, too. Barry, he had a bunch of examples from the scriptures about people not quite tellin' the truth to further God's plans, but it wasn't exactly the same thing. I didn't like it, no how, no way! Me and Barry, we get along pretty good, but sometimes we don't agree on everything. Like he thinks I get too excited when we fly First Class. I can't help it. I just love them hot towels.

Me: Barry is a widower, I understand. Any chance of a romance blossoming there?

Karen: He'd be a lucky man, but he ain't my type. Too erudite. That's one of the vocab words I picked up from hangin' around the law offices too much. I ain't never gonna be erudite, and Barry ain't never gonna understand that a fish stick sandwich is a good dinner.

Me: Is that in the Relief Society cookbook?

Karen: Our ward did one of those and for some reason Sister Arletti didn't ask me for no contributions. Sister Arletti, she's in charge of our Homemaking, um, I mean Enrichment . . . Oh heck, she's in charge of that meeting formerly known as Enrichment. I overheard her once tell Sister Cironni I was the "pain of her life."

Me: That might have been "bane of her life," Karen.

Karen: Oh great, another one to look up! I can prob'ly figger out the meaning, though.

Me: Why does Sister Arletti feel that way about you, do you suppose?

Karen: Oh, Sister Arletti, I think she's kind of OCD about housekeepin' and she don't appreciate me pointin' out the other side of things, like that breathin' in the fumes from the oven cleaner might be more dangerous than what you're cleanin' out. I mean, I just asked why ya clean the oven in the first place 'cause won't the germs die when ya heat it up.

Me: You do have a point there, Karen.

Karen: I got lotsa good points, but Olive, she don't like it much when I bring them up in the middle of her little tidbits of knowledge about housekeeping. She calls them her Housekeeping Hints and she gives out a handout every month.

Me: So your interactions with Sister Arletti are kind of strained?

Karen: She don't really seem to appreciate my contributions.

Me: So why should people buy this book?

Karen: I know this has been said before, but it'll make you laugh, it'll make you cry, it'll make you snort root beer outta your nose.

Me: Well, that's not quite how the saying goes.

Karen: Okay, so I added that last part. I do things my own way.

Me: I can see that.

Karen: God didn't cut us all outta the same cookie cutter.

Me: Thank heaven for that.

Karen: But sometimes you live in a ward where everyone is more alike than different. That's where I come in and shook things up in my ward.

Me: So what would you say is the overall message of this book?

Karen: If ya ain't got charity, nothin' else matters. And don't judge a book by the cover. Not that our book ain't got a cool cover. They even gave me a waist!

Me: But we do.

Karen: Sometimes we pick it up and thumb a few pages, but maybe we miss the good parts and still set it down. You can't judge a book until you've walked a mile in its moccasins.

Me: Uh, right.

Karen: It's my story, sure, but it ain't humble for me to tell ya how great it is. There's a lot of people I care about in this book. It ain't just my story. It's Dee's story, and Austin's, even Ray's. It is Olive Arletti's story and Toni Cironni's story. It's Bishop Parley's story, and Camille's story. It is Lucy and Ellie's story.

Me: Perhaps I need to interview them, as well.

Karen: I would rather my kids tell you about themselves. I bet Austin's mad at me for what I said about him and Adrienne, but it ain't like everybody didn't know about it.

Me: And Delia?

Karen: Talkin' about Dee's boyfriends can get me really depressed.

Me: Okay, we'll let them tell their own stories. Any parting words?

Karen: Nope. As usual, I've probably said too much. Would you do me a favor? If Bishop Parley or Barry Luskin is on your blog list, would you remove them before you send this out?

Me: I'll doublecheck. Thanks for your time, Karen.

Karen: No problemo! See ya later.