I first heard of Marlise on LAObserved.

After I read Tabloid Prodigy (Marlise worked at the tabs from October 1997 to March 2001), I went looking for a review that articulated my confused feelings about the book. I found it on popmatters.com:

If they gave a prize for the most confused book of the year, Tabloid Prodigy would have to be a top contender.

...[H]her book is written in a simple vocabulary and sentences so basic that I was left wondering if she was still dumbing things down for the kind of audience that wants to learn about celebrities. Either way, the result is confusing. While she writes well about day-to-day details of her job, her attempts at describing wacky office antics or the crazy dynamics of her family fall completely flat.

Kast, a proud Christian, left the Globe after two years because, after being "plagued by doubts" about the ethics of her job, she realizes she's been "lying about who she really is," and needs to come "face to face with her conscience." If this is the case--if she's really ashamed of how she led her life, of the lies she told and the people she harmed--it's hard to understand why the book cover is laid out like a tabloid and covered with flashy pictures of the beautiful young author amid celebrity headlines? Most people who feel they've made shameful ethical compromises don't usually write books about how thrilling it all was.

Even more confusing, Kast has dedicated her book to "my heavenly Father, in whom I put my trust."

Another horny guy beat me to her interview. Normally I wouldn't allow my hormones to pour into my interview, but Marlise does write a lot in the book about preserving the treasure of her virginity.

On page 117, she writes:

Casual dates became routine, sometimes four or five different guys in one week. It was dinner and dancing, or drinks and a movie. Whatever the combo, it was always at night and only went as far as my front doorstep.

Nearly every second date ended in a kiss. And then I never called them again. I provoked with my lips, over-glossing and brushing four times a day, becoming a mouth tease without morning regret.

I had to find out if her virginity was still in tact, and if so, did I have a chance to take it.

(WaPo interview.)

Checking out Marlise's site, I found this self description: "Now based in California, Marlise continues her quest for liquid mountains and untracked terrain as she innocently wanders the world with blissful contentment."

What kind of adult writes like that? I had to find out. I emailed her for an interview and she called me back Monday afternoon (July 30, 2007). Audio.

Marlise says she's kept journals since age seven. "After I graduated college, there was never a question about what I was going to do with my life. I just needed an avenue to make that happen."

"I loved the risk, the adrenalin and the adventure of [working for the tabloids]. It was very entertaining."

"I felt like part of my job was to catch celebrities behaving badly. Public figures have to realize that they are always under scrutiny. At the same time, there were these episodes when I realized I was destroying lives. Look at the Leonardo DiCaprio story. All my sources lost their jobs overnight and Leonardo DiCaprio had to move to a new home."

"At the end of the day, it was unfulfilling. Going into porn shops after Don Johnson, you don't sleep well at night. I pushed away any voice of reason and judgment. My friends, my family, my faith. Anything that would cause me to question what I was doing."

"It's something I have to give credit to Christ for. I feel like my life has been spared on so many occasions. ...I feel like I was protected on some level so I could go and tell my story. Now I attend church regularly and I read my Bible and try to stay focused on my purpose in life and that is to change lives and touch people through my pen."

Luke: "What Christian denomination do you most identify with?"

Marlise: "I characterize myself as non-denominational. I usually attend non-denominational churches. I focus more on the Word and the raw truth..."

Her father, who has a PhD in Philosophy, was a long-time minister for the Assembly of God.

"There were moments when I felt like I was going to marry the editor mentioned in the book -- Caelan Dunmore... Every woman in my family had walked down the aisle on her wedding day [as a virgin]. In giving that away, I think that was part of the reason I began to push Caelan away at the same time."

Luke: "I don't know how I missed that."

Marlise: "In the book, it talks about how I released my power and completely abandoned myself and gave myself to that relationship and everything that goes with it."

Even with these clues and the amazon.com "search inside the book" feature, I still can't find in the book where Marlise gives it up at age 23.

When I ask her for the page, she can't find it either.

After our phone interview, I email Marlise for the page where she loses her virginity. She replies late Monday night:


I just read your blog and was somewhat saddened by your introduction to the interview. Although I considered your questions extremely insightful, I'm not sure I quite understand your ultimate purpose in including me on lukeford.net. The fact that you "wanted a chance at my virginity" is not only insulting but extremely rude and unprofessional. Perhaps you can understand why I have no intention of answering any more of your questions.

Spurred by her email, I eventually found the passage I sought on page 251:

Refusing to play my mind games, Caelan simply called me on my actions. He was forcing the relationship to either bloom or die. And so I surrendered, giving my emotions the freedom to move toward a predictable outcome: a committed relationship and all that entailed. Little by little I knew I was losing my identity by falling in love, but I didn't care. For years, I had been ruled by guilt and pride and religion, something which I could neither explain nor justify to those on the outside.

It reminds me of when at age 18 I was similarly frustrated by the lack of explicitness in the rape scene in Thomas Hardy's Tess of the D'Ubervilles.

At 32, Marlise has never married. "I move around quite a bit. I'm pretty independent. I've never had to rely on anyone. That might cause some men to be intimidated."

On page 269, she writes: "I would forever remain a bride-stalker and never a bride."

Luke: "How do you like being a part of a close-knit community?"

Marlise: "I've always lived on my own so I haven't had to deal with that."

"In Tabloid Prodigy, I lay everything on the table. I have nothing to hide. If there's anything someone wants to know, I'll tell them. I'm not hiding behind any mask. I'm very truthful and open."

Luke: "Are you still an adrenaline junkie?"

Marlise: "Definitely."

Marlise's mom was born and raised in Ghana and her father was born and raised in Losoto, near South Africa. "We never had a lot of money...but my parents would put aside money so we could travel."

"My parents were always risk-takers. The stories they have surpass anything I've gone through."

"They met at age 18 at Bethany Bible College in Calfornia. They married and went back to Africa."

"Embrace who you are and never surrender your uniqueness. I came so close to doing that and in the end I realized my goal was to work my way up the corporate ladder. And once I had done that and arrived at the top, I realized that this is not what it is all about. For me that contentment could only be found in Christ."

"It took a year [after quitting the tabloids] to get my [writing] voice back."

"I look at a lot of my friends and I see that they are stay-at-home moms or in these careers they can't get out. I love my life. If it wasn't me, I'd envy myself. Some people are envious and say, 'I wish I could live that life that you're living.' I say, 'Why can't you?' A lot of people are afraid. It's just about finding what you want to do and completely embracing that. I'm able to find what works for me and make it happen and survive off it. Of course you have to make a lot of sacrifices. I have a home in Carlsbad. A beautiful home, but because I don't receive any royalties off my book until October, I'm living off my savings and my freelance writing. It's difficult. I had to rent out my house and move back in with my parents at 32 years old. It's been great. I love being with my parents and I consider them my closest friends."

"The training ground the tabloids gave me for journalism was incredible. I covered an event Saturday night and I stayed awake until 3:30 to finish the story way ahead of deadline just because I'm deadline driven and I like to turn in my stories really quick."

Luke: "You say that if you were in the same position in 1997, you'd do it all over again. How can you say that knowing the amount of pain your decision gave to your family and it caused you to do all sorts of unethical things?"

Marlise: "If I didn't go through that, I wouldn't be the person I am today. My parents learned a lot about what I went through when they read the book. My mom would walk in and say, 'I can't believe you went through this. I can't believe this happened to you. I can't believe Bobby Brown did this to you.' She'd be angry at what I had to go through but at the same time she is so happy with what I am today."

Luke: "How much pain did it inflict on your family? It certainly seemed to alienate you from your sister."

Marlise: "I pushed them away so I don't think they realized. They were based in Monterey and I was based in L.A., so we were pretty far apart. I don't think they realized everything I was going through until there was that Fugees party and they received a call that I was missing [Marlise writes on page 219 that she passed out in her own vomit in a handicapped stall and wasn't found until eight the next morning] and that I wasn't going to church and that I wasn't doing anything to feed my faith or to strengthen who I was spiritually.

"The person who was hurt the most through all of this was myself. Of course my sister took a big beating as well."

Luke: "Do you think you've been permanently warped by your time working for the tabloids?"

Marlise: "No. I can walk away from it. I've had a lot of time to heal. I can look at it as a chapter in my life that was detrimental to me at the time..."

Luke: "What do you love and hate about your life today?"

Marlise: "I don't think I hate anything about my life. I would love to live in my house. The career path I've chosen, it's difficult to make a good living off of that. I love my freedom and that I get to do what I love."

Luke: "What stories are you most passionate about?"

Marlise: "I like writing about extreme sports. Travel. Human interest stories. Investigative pieces. Going undercover."

Luke: "What percentage of the time are you content?"

Marlise: "Ninety percent. There are times when I get sad and question what I'm doing. I'm working on my next manuscript and it's all in journal format. Five hundred and seventy pages. I have cleaned up and edited a hundred pages of that. I'm thinking, 'Does anyone care about this? Is anyone going to read this?' I start to doubt myself. I start to doubt my writing. I asked my mom, 'Why would anyone want to read this?' She said, 'Because people want to live vicariously through you.'"