Meet Liza Elliott, sociology professor at the Sparkman Center for Global Health at the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB), talented artist, novice songwriter and brilliant author. Her latest novel, 30 – A Supper Club, is a mystery set in the Florida Panhandle involving family secrets that date back to The Civil War. As one Amazon reviewer states, “The author tells this story like an artist paints a picture, building up layer upon layer until the final image becomes focused and complete. I was drawn in and captivated from beginning to end.” Liza is a truly inspiring woman who is a passionate supporter of things near and far, as evidenced by her teachings on Refugee Health Care at UAB as well as her support of the Birmingham local arts community.
Where did you grow up? And what brought you to Bham?
I grew up with 4 brothers and 2 sisters in Chicago and Indianapolis. My husband, Peter Glaeser of Milwaukee, WI, took a job at Children’s Hospital where he is the Division Director of the Emergency Department, Children’s Hospital and Vice-Chair for Pediatrics at UAB.
What do you love most about our fair city?
What I love most about Birmingham is that there is everything a big city has, but the smaller size means it is easier to participate and experience all that is going on. Within minutes you can leave the city and be in some of the most beautiful countryside around. From cultural venues, to shopping to sports, there is no shortage of things to do.
Of course, the people of Birmingham are what make it special and what I love the best. Friendly, helpful, and willing to work hard to make the area better. They are proud of what Birmingham has become and where it can go. The possibilities and potential are endless. I am glad I can be part of it all.
Tell us a little about your book 30A Supper Club.
The story in one sentence: In 30-A Supper Club, sociologist Harley McBride, a longstanding member of a private monthly haute cuisine social club, confronts fraud, illicit affairs and murder within the ranks of the club during her quest to identify a gold coin she found on the beach. 30-A Supper Club is the result of two things I love: walking the beach that is parallel to County Road 30-A in the Florida panhandle, and my own supper club, the Forest Park Supper Club. So one day, as I walked the beach, I imagined finding a gold coin washing up in front of me. The story began to take shape in my head with a found coin and the main character seeking information from her own 30-A Supper Club members. I interviewed experts on historical aspects and made site visits to all the locations in the novel, so while the story is fiction, the history, locations, and the food facts are real.
Any plans for a sequel or other books we can look forward to?
In production now is the 30-A Supper Club The Cookbook. Many readers of the novel asked where they could get the recipes to make the menus for their own parties or supper clubs. A close friend, Nancy Dinsmore of Mountain View, CA, is my partner in cuisine. She and I have tested every recipe and added extras that we think round out the cookbook with basic recipes, such as a perfect pie dough recipe (the secret is butter along with Crisco).
As for Harley McBride, the main character, she will encounter a dangerous, ancient mystery, a new type of supper club in a new city, only to discover a familiar enemy. Her 30-A friends will be along for ride, too, as she takes up the challenge in The Good Land Supper Club, forthcoming.
You are an amazing artist, as well. How has that evolved and where can our readers find your work?
Only after I moved to Birmingham did I have the time and opportunity to learn to oil paint. I discovered Alabama Art Supply, Birmingham’s artist treasure chest of supplies, books, and helpful staff and began to paint. Very soon I realized I needed guidance if I was to paint the representational style, in the manner of Manet, Sargent, or Cassatt. My friend, Martee Hewitt, a beautiful oil painter, suggested I join the atelier of John Lonergan, a master oil painter, from Pell City, AL. So I asked him, volunteering that he could fire me after 2 weeks if I was awful. At the end of the second week of class, he told me I could stay. I have been a member of his atelier since. He is the rare artist who can teach, as well as paint masterpieces of his own.
My work is found at Littlehouse Galleries, Homewood, AL. I will be exhibiting at the Fall 2013 Mountain Brook Art Show in November. For commission portrait or figure paintings, I prefer to be contacted directly.
Did you have any mentors along the way?
John Lonergan is my oil painting mentor. (He also exhibits at Littlehouse Galleries.)
Virginia Caris, a college English professor and professional editor, is my best reader, editor, and friend for my written work. I will send her work to review and she will tell the truth about it every time, good or bad. I trust her. She is so gentle when delivering bad news about something I have written. All writers need an honest friend, and I am very lucky to have her.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?
Best Advice to me for general purposes: Be polite. Be humble. Go explore the world.
Best Advice to me for writing: Show don’t tell.
Best Advice to me for painting: See the source of light, note the values and shapes, then simplify.
What advice would you give to others?
Advice from me: Be kind, be humble, be a life long learner. Make the world a better place.
What is your favorite thing to do to relax?
My favorite thing to do to relax is to read on my back porch with classical or jazz music playing in the background.
Favorite thing to do on a Saturday night?
Saturday nights are good for going out. It could be to a movie, the theater, or symphony. What ever is happening around town.
Favorite local restaurant?
A favorite local restaurant depends on my mood. Bottega Cafe, Hot and Hot Fish Club, Gianmarco’s, Bettola, or Pita Stop are all favorites.
What are you listening to these days?
Right now, I like Macklemore’s “Can’t Hold Us,” Daft Punk’s “Get Lucky,” Hugh Laurie’s new “Didn’t It Rain,” and reacquainting with Gershwin’s piano music.
What books might we find on your bedside table?
Currently, books stacked on my bedside table include, Frank Stitt’s Southern Table, Hero by Michael Korda, a biography of Lawrence of Arabia, Lapham’s Quarterly, Taking it Big by Stanley Aronowitz, which is about C.Wright Mills, and The Women Upstairs by Claire Messud. On the floor, you will also find, A Delicate Truth by John LeCarre, and The Perfume Collector by Kathleen Tessaro.
Do you have any personality quirks or irrational fears?
Personality quirks? Hmm, I love potato chips–Cape Cod Chips are my favorite–and I hate math, but I do like the stories in a word problem. I am a coffee junkie. (Black. Very hot.) Fears? Not having a spare bag of potato chips in the pantry.
If your house was on fire what’s the one non-living thing you would grab?
If I arrived home to find it on fire, I would already have my laptop in the car with me, so I would grab my grandmother’s and my father’s sheet music collection. It is over 100 years old. Fabulous graphic art covers and tunes for the ages.
Name three things you can’t live without (excluding friends, family and God!)…
I can’t live without coffee, a pen and pad of paper in my purse (good for writing or drawing), and my iPhone.
Thanks for sharing, Liza! To learn more about the author or to purchase her book, 30 – A Supper Club, please visit www.redcamelpress.com or www.barnesandnoble.com.
And a big huge thanks to Beth Hontzas for today’s fabulous photos! To learn more about Beth and follow her blog, visit www.bethhontzas.com.