Thursday, July 28, 2016

Ethan Michaeli

Ethan Michaeli is the author of The Defender: How the Legendary Black Newspaper Changed America.

From his Q&A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: You worked at The Defender in the 1990s. What did you learn from working there, and why did you decide to write a book about the paper’s history?

A: I didn’t know anything about race in America, African American history, Chicago history, and the history of African Americans in Chicago when I got to The Defender. It all was a blind spot in my education….

The time I spent at The Defender was transformative…I learned about The Defender’s pivotal role in American history. I always felt it deserved a book. I started to get the ambition to write nonfiction, and no one else had told the story and it deserved to be told.

It came to me slowly. At times I thought it would be better to do a memoir about my time at The Defender, but at the end I thought the best way would be to walk the reader through the history of the paper.

Q: You begin the book with a preface set in 2004 featuring Barack Obama, then a senatorial candidate. Why did you choose that episode as the book’s opening section?

A: President Obama really is the end product of more than...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Megan Abbott

Megan Abbott's new novel is You Will Know Me.

From her Q&A with Kat Kinsman of Extra Crispy:

So much of your work is so dark and noir, and I'm trying to imagine the breakfasts of the women in your books.

In the noir world, they always have black coffee and a diner egg. The one meal you see cooked in noir novels is breakfast, because even the men would make their own breakfast. Raymond Chandler often had Philip Marlowe eat eggs and make coffee in the percolator. He had an elaborate percolator routine. One of my favorite noir novels—which was a big influence on me—was Mildred Pierce. She's famous in that for making pie. I always think that pie is a great breakfast. I remember my mom—that gave her permission to eat pie for breakfast, and she loved it. After you have pie for dessert, you can have it the next morning. That does come from...[read on]
Learn more about the book and author at Megan Abbott's website.

My Book, The Movie: The Fever.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Camille Perri

Camille Perri's new novel is The Assistants. From her Q&A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: You’ve worked as an assistant--how did your own experiences factor into the writing of The Assistants?

A: A lot of the book came from my own experiences or funny work-related horror stories fellow assistants shared with me. However, for the sake of humor and entertainment value, I blew up many of those real events and experiences tenfold. I wanted this book to be just like real life, but a little more fun than real life.

Q: Money, specifically student loan debt, is a major theme in the novel. How have readers related to that theme, and do you see the book appealing to a specific demographic, or not necessarily?

A: I’ve found that many people are itching to talk about money. Perhaps because we’re conditioned to think of money-talk as impolite, or because so many of us are stressed out about our finances, or ashamed of being in debt. I do think the book has resonated most with...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, July 25, 2016

Midge Raymond

Midge Raymond's new novel is My Last Continent. From her Q&A with John Wilkens for The San Diego Union-Tribune:

Q: What is it about Antarctica that makes it a good setting for a love story?

A: The character of Deb is a loner, and she’s been unlucky in love. She’s very passionate about animals and the environment, and she feels quite at home there. It’s a place that’s unlike anywhere else on Earth. And I think for people like Deb who don’t feel as if they fit in, it’s the perfect spot. It’s very isolated. But it’s also hard to have a relationship when you are going off to Antarctica all the time.

But when she meets a person there who has discovered Antarctica for similar reasons — Keller’s had a tragedy in his past that left him a little lost and unmoored — they bond. Antarctica is very much a third person in the relationship because it’s such a huge part of who they are.

Q: Penguins are characters in the book, too. Did you have an experience with penguins on your own trip, or was there something about the way they bond that spoke to you?

A: A little of both. I loved watching the penguins when I was in Antarctica. It’s a...[read on]
Visit Midge Raymond's website.

The Page 69 Test: My Last Continent.

Writers Read: Midge Raymond.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Marcia A. Zug

Marcia A. Zug is the author of Buying a Bride: An Engaging History of Mail-Order Matches. From her Q&A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: Why did you decide to write this book, and what do you see as the most common perceptions and misperceptions about these "mail-order matches"?

A: I wrote the book because it’s at the intersection of my two areas of interest, which I’ve been interested in for a long time—I teach family law and immigration law. This is one of the areas that hits both perfectly. I thought about writing it for a while. There was so much, it wasn’t hard to turn it into a book.

The common view of mail-order brides is that they’re desperate, exploited women, that it’s a horrible practice, and we should work hard to reduce it. That was my perception when I went into it.

One difference is that I recognized there was another view of mail-order brides, and I wondered why we had both, why it was [seen as] good before.

I found that the benefits in the past were real, and a lot were the same as modern mail-order brides receive—that as long as there are protections and regulations, this is a really good option for...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, July 23, 2016

Ben Winters

Ben H. Winters's new novel is Underground Airlines.

From his Q & A with Dimana Tzvetkova for Indianapolis Monthly:

Underground Airlines takes place in present-day Indy. The conceit is that the Civil War never happened, slavery continues in a few states, and Indiana exists as a destination on a latter-day underground railroad. What inspired the idea for the book?

I came into my own as a writer with this series of books called The Last Policeman trilogy. In writing those books, I discovered the kind of writer I wanted to be. That specifically involved writing mystery fiction, and imbuing it with, I guess, thematic resonance. You know, finding interesting ways of tackling a mystery so it’s more than just a puzzle and a solution. And like most progressive and engaged people, I found myself increasingly distressed about the things I was reading in the newspaper. Unfortunately, there continues to be a series of alarming, high-profile incidents of police violence in the African-American community. Those two things came together. The idea was to take the metaphorical idea that slavery is still with us and make it literal.

In what ways do you think we could be doing a better job about confronting racism?

Very often, when people think...[read on]
Learn more about the book and author at the official Ben H. Winters website.

My Book, The Movie: The Last Policeman.

The Page 69 Test: The Last Policeman.

The Page 69 Test: Countdown City.

Writers Read: Ben Winters (September 2014).

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, July 22, 2016

Amy Gottlieb

Amy Gottlieb is the author of The Beautiful Possible: A Novel.

From her Q&A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: How did you come up with the ideas for your characters Walter, Sol, and Rosalie, and for the dynamic that exists among them?

A: The novel began with Walter, a traumatized German-Jewish refugee caught between worlds. I was compelled by his poetic sensibility and plowed through early drafts to uncover his story.

Along the way, I stumbled upon the characters of Sol and Rosalie, who are struggling to make their way as a rabbinic couple in a postwar suburban synagogue.

The character of Rosalie was influenced by my mother and her friends, who were pushing against their traditional roles as suburban Jewish wives and mothers in the 1960's and '70s. I grew up listening to their stories and Rosalie's voice was very familiar to me.

Sol was my most elusive character, but I recognized his situation. For 14 years I worked as an editor for rabbis, and heard many accounts of religious doubt, professional ambivalence, and the inherent dissonance between a spiritual leader’s love of tradition and a community that may not understand that passion.

This is Sol’s plight, yet I had to write many drafts to understand how he loved both Walter and Rosalie. Each character is marked by...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, July 21, 2016

J. Aaron Sanders

J. Aaron Sanders is the author of Speakers of the Dead.

From his Q&A with NANO assistant editor Rebecca Devers:

Rebecca Devers: I want to start by congratulating you on Speakers of the Dead. The reviews are exuberant, and I have to agree that it was a fun read, if one can call a tale of corpses and corruption “fun.” I think what made it fun for me was the way the mystery plot was interwoven with what is clearly a great deal of research about nineteenth century New York City. Could you say a little about the process behind a novel like this one? I guess I’m wondering how you approached the balance of historical accuracy and creative license.

J. Aaron Sanders: I’ve said elsewhere that I researched this novel like I was writing another dissertation, and it’s true. I had that same dissertation feeling that every line needed to be backed up by research. In fact, I started researching Speakers of the Dead at the University of Connecticut when I was writing my dissertation. I spent the mornings on my dissertation and the afternoons on the novel. Half of the shelves in my library office were filled with books on violence in contemporary American male fiction writers and the other half were filled with books on Whitman and 19th-century New York. It took some time for me to wrap my head around the period before I could start writing, and even then, I would discover some detail that inflected my understanding of 1843 New York that I then had to account for in the narrative.

As for the tension between historical accuracy and creative license, that was something I had to get comfortable with. In other words, I was...[read on]
Visit J. Aaron Sanders's website.

The Page 69 Test: Speakers of the Dead.

Writers Read: J. Aaron Sanders.

My Book, The Movie: Speakers of the Dead.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Lindsay Hatton

Lindsay Hatton's new novel is Monterey Bay.

From her Q&A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: Why did you choose the Monterey Bay Aquarium—a place where you worked as a high school student--as one of the focal points of your novel?

A: Like many other people, I think the Monterey Bay Aquarium is magic. But to me, it’s a darkish magic. Many of my most formative and dramatic adolescent moments took place there, so in terms of creative fuel, it’s a very rich setting for me.

Q: Why did you decide to include actual historic figures in the novel, and what do you see as the right balance between the fictional and the historical?

A: I feel like it’s impossible to write about Cannery Row without mentioning Steinbeck. At first, he was a very peripheral character in my book but then, the more I researched him (and I did A LOT of research), the more I realized he’d be an amazing foil for Margot, the novel’s protagonist.

The same is true of Ed Ricketts. His real-life exploits and predilections...[read on]
Visit Lindsay Hatton's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Rachel Starnes

Rachel Starnes's new book is The War at Home: A Wife’s Search for Peace (and Other Missions Impossible): A Memoir.

From her Slate interview with Elissa Strauss:

Elissa Strauss: You’ve moved seven times now, had two sons in the process, and likely have three more moves over the next eight years. How’s that going?

Rachel Starnes: I’ve come to see these moves as a necessary evil. I’ve got my routine down now, and my coping strategies in place. But I still dread the effect it will have on my kids. My older son is 5 years old and he is starting to understand that we never go back. Also, while he has no fear of strangers, he has developed a real fear of being seen as a stranger, and it is just gut-punching to deal with that.

Is there something the military could do to decrease the frequency of relocations for families? Or ease the process?

It’s a tough question. There are certain military careers that require less in the way of moving, but my husband wasn’t interested in those careers; he wanted to fly planes. There is this inscrutable bureaucracy that makes the decisions and calls the shots as to where we move, and the whole process can feel very impersonal. In some ways that is good, because it feels like a machine, not a person, is spitting out the assignment. It’s just a roll of the dice.

There is an infrastructure in place to help ease transitions for children and spouses, but it varies in quality from base to base. Still, it’s difficult, which is probably why the homeschool movement is so big in the military. At first I was suspicious of it and how these children are even further separated from civilian culture. But...[read on]
Visit Rachel Starnes's website.

--Marshal Zeringue