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"What is Writer's Ink?"

"They are a local organization whose goal is to keep the writing community of San Diego going. I'm on their advisory board, but my main role is hosting First Friday Open Mic.

"We do strictly prose readings. We give a time limit of three minutes for each reading. Most people balk at it at first, but they keep coming back. It only goes for an hour and a half. We get about 30 readers who each bring one little gem and they share it that night. It ends up being fun and fast paced.

"I'm really strict on the time. They call me the time Nazi. But it's come to the point where if anyone goes over everyone reacts. We've started recording them as well. We have a website where people can go on and listen. It's www.firstfridayprose.com ."

"Are the readings open to the public or just to the writers who are reading?"

"We usually have 50 people there listening and 30 who have come to read. It's at the Grove on 30th and Juniper in South Park. We have a lot of fun. We just had our second anniversary in October."

"Violet is the only tragic character in your book. What are the challenges, as a writer, of placing such an element in an otherwise light and hilarious story?"

"I did worry about becoming maudlin with it. Of course, she is more spoken of than actually there until the very end, so I was able to avoid that. I prefer writing humor but I did want it to have a meaningful real quality, because life isn't just fun and games. Violet gave me that little bit of depth, especially for the main character, Ruby."

"All of the Texans I know are incredibly 'State-Proud.' Some of them speak of their state as if it were a country unto itself. What explains that?"

"My father tells me repeatedly that Texas is a republic and that it can become, once again, its own country as it was at one time. I think they stick to that whole John Wayne, 'Remember the Alamo!' thing.

"When I was young I'd go and visit my grandmother, who lived out in the country. My observation was that they are very independent people. They do have to survive in a pretty wild place. There is still a bit of the old West going on there. I think they're just proud that they're still able to do it and that they don't have to conform to what everyone else is doing.

"California has a whole lot to be proud of, and they have so much. They have oranges and wine and great tourist attractions. Texas has its own cowboy version of the same things. I suppose that if Texas were to decide to suddenly secede from the union they would probably do just fine."

"Will any of your Texas relatives be put off by the way you have portrayed them?"

"I don't think so. I mentioned that Loralva is modeled after my grandmother who was married so many times, but I sort of took my grandmother and pieced her into several different characters.

"My family likes the book a lot because they know all the family stuff and they recognize little bits of people we all know."

Readers can hear Ms. Wallen read from Moon Pies and Movie Stars on January 23 at Warwick's in La Jolla at 7:30 p.m.

Viking, 2007, 308 pages, $23.95

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