Thursday, September 3, 2015



During a brutal L.A. heatwave, four people are murdered in the Hollywood Hills, and Nikki Easton's best friend Darla Ward has disappeared. The police think she might be one of the victims.
In her relentless search for the truth, Nikki discovers the hidden side of her friend's life, laying bare secrets buried before Darla was born, and uncovering widening layers of corruption that reach far beyond Hollywood to the highest levels of government.

"Maxine Nunes crafts an outstanding tale of friendship, murder, love, and betrayal in her impressive debut, Dazzled... Nunes' writing is top-notch from start to finish, and the increasingly suspenseful plot comes together with meticulous precision." --ForeWord Reviews


Maxine, how long have you been a writer?

I’ve written or edited for a living my entire life, starting with my first job out of college at Random House. It was an amazing place to be. I read manuscripts and wrote jacket copy and rubbed shoulders with the authors I’d always idolized. But after that — like Nikki Easton, the heroine of Dazzled — I traveled around a lot and was very, very lucky because I kept stumbling into writing jobs. But the most fun I ever had — and the best training ground for fiction — was writing quickie potboiler romances. I was in my twenties, and I wrote ten of them — one a month to pay the rent.

What's your favorite thing about the writing process?

Rewriting, once I have the first draft. I put a lot of work into plotting — it’s the armature everything else is built on — but that’s the tough part for me. Then, once I have the structure — and I know that the work I put in on a chapter is crucial to the whole — I can start to do what I love. Making scenes come alive, creating resonant settings, honing the language. I’ve had so many people praise the plot surprises in Dazzled, but for me the biggest surprises often come from the unexpected interplay of words and images.

How long is your to-be-read list?
Hah! Endless. When it comes to reading purely for pleasure, I’m totally impulsive. Mood of the moment. I’ve been on a Scandinavian mystery jag recently and just finished all the Martin Beck novels, which still seem very modern even though they were written back in the sixties. I’ve also been rereading a bunch of books by Tom Wolfe, because when it comes to both style and nailing the single detail that says everything, he’s pretty phenomenal. So that’s all for fun.

But I also belong to a reading group that likes to take on the tough books, the ones you might not get through on your own. We were not afraid of Virginia Woolf, we read are all seven volumes of Proust’s In Search of Lost Time, wrestled with Gravity’s Rainbow (which, on my own, I would have put down after the first chapter], and a lot more. The people in this group are pit bulls when it comes to tackling the hard stuff.

If you could only watch one television station for a year, what would it be?
A couple of years ago it would have been HBO. Now I’d have to say Showtime, because they’ve got Ray Donovan and Homeland. But I’d probably cheat and sneak over to Lifetime when I get a jones for Project Runway.

How do you feel about Facebook?
At the moment, I’m monumentally bored with it.

For what would you like to be remembered?
The epic novel I haven’t written yet about New York in 1968.

If you had a swear jar, would it be full?
OMG, I’d be a billionaire!

What's the biggest lie you ever told?

“I don’t care.” It’s almost never true.

What is the most daring thing you've done?

Fighting to free my ex-husband from prison in a foreign dictatorship. That was quite an experience. And I plan to use it for a Nikki Easton mystery!

You absolutely should! 
Where is your favorite library, and what do you love about it?
The main branch of the New York Public Library. New York is my hometown, it’s the antithesis of Los Angeles, and the library somehow embodies that. You can feel all the gorgeous complexity of the city and its history when you sit in the reading room — those amazing windows, the intricately carved wood that frames the ceiling murals. And the most amazing thing: hundreds of New Yorkers, and they’re all quiet! 

You can be any fictional character for one day. Who would you be?
Don Draper on a good day.

Excellent choice. 
What's your relationship with your cell phone?

As close as you can get short of an implant.

Do you have a favorite book?

Almost every book by Philip Roth. I’m heartbroken that he’s stopped writing. The Alexandria Quartet by Lawrence Durrell. I was obsessed with those books when I was in my late teens and recently reread Justine, which I found just as amazing as I did then — the lushness, the sensuality, the complexity, the language. And I love mysteries — there are so many by really great writers — it’s my favorite form of escape.

Mine too! 
How about a favorite book that was turned into a movie? Did the movie stink?
Most movie adaptations do reek, but one that really worked was The Big Sleep. Chandler’s books hit all the reading pleasure centers. And the movie is also a classic. William Faulkner wrote the screenplay (which famously has a giant plot hole in it, but the film is so good no one seems to mind), Howard Hawks directed, and Bogart and Bacall are electric.

What are you working on now?
Two books. One is a Nikki Easton mystery that takes place in Lisbon — and I hope to travel there this fall. I’m also working on that New York novel I mentioned earlier. It does have a murder, but the story is told from multiple points of view, and right now it’s a monster I’m trying to tame.

Lightning round:
Cake or frosting? Frosting! I can totally do without the cake.
Laptop or desktop? Laptop.
Chevy Chase or Bill Murray? The young Chevy Chase, the old Bill Murray.
Emailing or texting? Burned out on both, so face-to-face over a glass of wine.
Indoors or outdoors? Outdoors.
Tea: sweet or unsweet? Sweet if it’s chai, unsweet for anything else.
Plane, train, or automobile? Trains still feel like an adventure, but I live in LA, which means I live in my car.



What’s real? Darla used to ask me. How do you know what’s real? I never understood the question. But then I didn’t have platinum hair and cheekbones that could cut glass, and no one ever offered to buy me a Rolls if I spent one night naked in his bed. Darla was a brilliant neon sign flashing pure escape. You almost didn’t notice that those lovely green eyes didn’t blaze like the rest of her. She was both main attraction and sad observer at the carnival. Something had damaged her at a very young age. We never talked much about it, but we recognized this in each other from the start. Isn’t that what friendship is?

The week she disappeared was as extreme as she was. Triple-digit heat in late August and wavy layers of smog suffocating the city. By ten in the morning, it was brutal everywhere, and on the sidewalks in front of the homeless shelter, with the sun bouncing off the film crew trailers and the odor of unwashed bodies and general decay, it was a very special episode of hell. Beneath an archway, a tall man with a filthy blanket draped over his head rolled his eyes heavenward like a biblical prophet. Or a Star Trek castaway waiting to be beamed up.

In one of those trailers, where air conditioning brought the temperature down to the high nineties, I was being stuffed into a fitted leather jacket two sizes too small. Perspiration had already ruined my makeup and the dark circles under my eyes were starting to show through.

Heat keeping you up, hon? the makeup girl had asked. I’d nodded. Half the truth.


Maxine Nunes is a New Yorker who's spent most of her life in Los Angeles. She has written and produced for television, and currently writes for several publications including the Los Angeles Times. Her satiric parody of a White House scandal won the Pen USA West International Imitation Hemingway Competition.

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