Monday, February 27, 2017

Gavriel Savit

Gavriel Savit is the author of the young adult novel Anna and the Swallow Man. From his Q&A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: You've described your novel as a fairy tale, but added that your relationship with fairy tales is "complicated." How would you say Anna and the Swallow Man fits into the fairy tale tradition, and what do you find especially complicated about the relationship?

A: In some important ways, I think our fairy tales are the truest stories we allow ourselves to tell. This is probably because we assume that fairy tales are patently false.

It is, of course, a bit nerve-wracking to write a fairy tale about the Second World War for that reason-- despite the strength of the historical record, it seems that there are all sorts of crazy people invested in dismantling it, and one certainly doesn't want to be implicated in that.

On the other hand, I think it’s important to draw a distinction between truth and fact. Fairy tales are good at truth precisely because they dispense with fact, and without juggling these two perspectives on reality (internal and external respectively), we lose a lot of...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, February 26, 2017

Sally J. Pla

Sally J. Pla's new novel is The Someday Birds.

From her Q&A with Beth McMullen:

Birds and birding are central to this novel. Are you a bird watcher?

When I was a kid, yes. I was an amateur birder. I took it very seriously. I had a bird book, and a notebook for my observations.

My dad mocked me once, when I was tramping around the backyard. He said, “Oh, look! A yellow-bellied sapsucker!” He didn’t know anything about birds or birding, and he thought it was just some funny made-up name to tease me with.

I got super excited. I whispered, “Where? Where?” looking all around — and then he laughed at me.

That crushed me, because there really was such a thing as a yellow-bellied sapsucker, gosh darn it! It wasn’t a made-up bird at all! I showed it to him in my bird book, later on.

But you know, that was one of those childhood tipping-point “moments,” somehow. The moment I first felt really self-conscious. When I realized the intensity of my interests might make me different, different enough to warrant being mocked. Even by my own dad.

My dad is very loving, and he still feels regretful about that incident. In fact, he donated to the Audubon Society last year, because the sapsucker is now endangered. An act of yellow-bellied penance, to make me smile. Because the yellow-bellied sapsucker has been this running thing between us, for about forty years, now!

I know all that plays into...[read on]
Visit Sally J. Pla's website.

Coffee with a Canine: Sally J. Pla & Leo.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, February 25, 2017

Marilyn Singer

Marilyn Singer's many books for children include Echo Echo, Mirror Mirror, Follow Follow, and the forthcoming Feel the Beat. From her Q&A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: Echo Echo is the third of your books of reverso poems. How did you come up with the idea originally, and why did you choose to focus on Greek myths this time?

A: For readers who haven’t encountered it, the reverso is a poem with two halves. The second half reverses the lines of the first half, with changes only in punctuation and capitalization. That second part has to say something completely different from the first.

Reversos work particularly well based on narratives and as such fall into three categories which feature either: 1) one character with two POVs; 2) one character at two points in time; 3) two characters, usually with opposing POVs.

My first two books of reversos were based on fairy tales, which have strong stories, so I could make them fit into one of the above categories. Greek myths also have multi-layered narratives, and they are taught in school. In addition, I’ve always loved them, and so do most students. It was a natural extension to go from fairy tales to...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, February 24, 2017

Glenn Frankel

Glenn Frankel's new book is High Noon: The Hollywood Blacklist and the Making of an American Classic.

From the transcript of his Fresh Air interview with Terry Gross:

GROSS: "High Noon" was released in 1952. Carl Foreman, the screenwriter, who's the main character in your book, initially intended to make a western that would be a parable about the post-World War II world and the importance of the United Nations. But after the blacklist started, he decided to make "High Noon" a parable about the blacklisting era. So in what sense do you see and do - did he see "High Noon" as a parable about that era?

FRANKEL: Well, Carl talked about this later. Of course, he didn't say anything about it at the time...

GROSS: No, of course, yeah.

FRANKEL: ...Because it would have been dangerous to the movie. But I think you basically see it in the way he treats the community. This is set in the fictional place called Hadleyville, which sounds a lot like Hollywood. And what Carl - what the good citizens of Hadleyville do when faced with the threat coming on the train - you know, this bad guy who used to run the town is coming back and he's got three thugs waiting for him. And they're going to seek out and kill the marshal, the lawman, who had resisted them and put him in jail years earlier.

The lawman, Will Kane is his name in the film, played by Gary Cooper, thinks he can rely on the community the same way he did originally when they imprisoned these guys to support him. But he finds - and the core of the movie is him going around from place to place and person to person and to the church during a service and finding that the community is not backing him. There's a sort of moral corruption going on. There's a cowardice.

And he ends up standing alone. And that's exactly, I think, the point that Carl was trying to make, that Hollywood, when faced with these gunmen, thugs, whatever you want to call them of the committee coming back to Hollywood, didn't stand up. He found himself being shunned, friends crossed the street to avoid talking to him, his partners in the little film production company that created "High Noon" - and that was a very creative and interesting little group of people led by Stanley Kramer. He found himself suddenly facing a challenge from them. At first, they were very supportive.

But as time went on and Carl faced...[read on]
Visit Glenn Frankel's website.

My Book, The Movie: The Searchers.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Emily Jeanne Miller

Emily Jeanne Miller's new novel is The News From the End of the World.

From her Q&A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: How did you come up with the idea for the family you write about in The News From the End of the World, the Lake family, and for this novel?

A: For me, a novel comes from so many different places. In 2010 I became an aunt to twin boys—my sister’s kids. We’re twins. I didn’t have kids then and I adored [my nephews]. I had an uncomplicated love for them. Seeing my sister being a parent, [I saw] how much less complicated it is to be an aunt! I had never read about an uncle or aunt. It started as Vance’s story and the niece he adored. He was butting heads with his brother over his niece.

Q: So it started just with Vance’s point of view?

A: Yes, I think it got about...[read on]
Visit Emily Jeanne Miller's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

V.E. Schwab

V.E. Schwab’s new book is A Conjuring of Light, the concluding volume of her Shades of Magic trilogy. From her interview with Ardi Alspach at the B&N Sci-Fi & Fantasy blog:

Fantasy is often a way for a writer to illuminate a truth in our world–what truths are you hoping to illuminate with your writing?

Way to kick it off with a hard question, huh? I don’t ever sit down with a truth in mind. I usually learn it along the way. But I suppose one of the threads in my work is the idea that, more often than not, the world doesn’t hand you a path, you have to be willing to carve your own.

I’ve been to a few of your book events, and one of the topics that’s come up is the theme of all of your work—the idea of the monstrous. Can you tell our readers a little bit more about that?

Well, I’m fascinated by the idea of the monstrous, yes, but digging down, what really intrigues me is simply the other. The outsider. At the heart of every one of my stories are two kinds of outsides–those born into a society who don’t feel they fit, and those who enter a society and are told they don’t fit. I love the differences and similarities, the interplay between people and place, and the inherent tension that...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Camille Pagán

Camille Pagán's new novel is Forever is the Worst Long Time. From her Q&A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: You've noted that the idea for your new novel started with a single line. How did you eventually come up with your characters, James, Lou, and Rob?

A: James was with me from the very first page; I had his voice in my head as I began to write, and I channeled what I thought he would say and do, which then shaped the plot.

Rob was a natural extension of James. I thought: who would be James’ closest friend—and why? It seemed that James would be drawn to someone who was steady and represented stability, which James was lacking. And that person was Rob.

Creating Lou was a more complex process. I knew that James would make the (arguably unavoidable) mistake of falling for Rob’s fiancée, and that they would bond over writing. But it took several drafts for me to understand Lou’s own struggle with stability and trauma from her past.

Q: How was the book's title chosen, and what does it signify for you?

A: I had originally titled this novel...[read on]
Visit Camille Pagán's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, February 20, 2017

Kenneth Robert Janken

Kenneth Robert Janken is the author of The Wilmington Ten: Violence, Injustice, and the Rise of Black Politics in the 1970s. From his Q&A Hannah Lohr-Pearson at the UNC Press blog:

Hannah Lohr-Pearson: Who are the Wilmington Ten and why are they important?

Kenneth Robert Janken: The Wilmington Ten were Ben Chavis, Reginald Epps, Jerry Jacobs, James McKoy, Wayne Moore, Marvin Patrick, Ann Shepard, Connie Tindall, Willie Earl Vereen, and Joe Wright. They were nine black men in their teens and early twenties, many of them still in high school, and a white woman in her thirties, who participated in conflict and protests over the desegregation of the public schools in Wilmington, North Carolina, and were punished with the full force of the law for standing against discrimination. The case of the Wilmington Ten amounts to one of the most egregious instances of injustice and political repression from the post–World War II black freedom struggle. It took legions of people working over the course of the 1970s to right the wrong. Like the political killings of George Jackson and Fred Hampton, the legal frame-up of Angela Davis, and the suppression of the Attica Prison rebellion, the Wilmington Ten was a high-profile attempt by federal and North Carolina authorities to stanch the increasingly radical African American freedom movement. The facts of the callous, corrupt, and abusive prosecution of the Wilmington Ten have lost none of their power to shock more than forty years after the fact, even given today’s epidemic of prosecutorial misconduct. Less understood, but just as important, the efforts to free the Wilmington Ten helped define an important moment in African American politics in which...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Sari Wilson

Sari Wilson is the author of the novel Girl Through Glass. From her Q&A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: Are there any novels about dance that are particular favorites for you?

Astonish Me by Maggie Shipstead is so good and so well-crafted, kaleidoscopic. The Crane’s Dance by Meg Howrey, who was a professional dancer, is wry and moving, and has a real insider’s perspective.

I also really loved Dancer by Colum McCann, which uses the life of Rudolph Nureyev as base for all kinds of exploration into post-World War II Cold War history. I recently read Terez Mertes Rose’s new novel Outside the Limelight and loved its heart and craft. Outside the Limelight got an indie choice in Kirkus. I also have Zadie Smith’s Swing Time on my night table.

Q: How did you come up with the idea for this novel?

A: Well, I started out trying to write a memoir about my childhood ballet experience. Ballet was my great young love. After I stopped training that whole part of my life became locked in a very private place.

One day, I sat down and wrote what is now the entire first part of the novel—and then I cried. So I knew I had something. But...[read on]
Visit Sari Wilson's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Elif Shafak

Elif Shafak is an award-winning novelist and the most widely read woman writer in Turkey. Her books have been translated into more than twenty languages.

From her Q&A with Kate Kellaway at the Guardian:

You were born in Strasbourg, raised by a single mother – how did this affect you?

It had a huge impact. I didn’t see my father much. I met my two half-brothers in my mid-20s. I had to deal with being the other child. My father was a very good father to his sons but a very bad father to me. It took me a long time to accept that someone could succeed in many areas and fail in one. When my mother went back to college, my grandmother raised me. I called her Anne – mother in Turkish – and my own mother Abla, big sister.

And your mother became a diplomat…

This was unusual but she had studied hard, she was a linguist. She never married again. And she was able to do this because my less-educated grandmother supported her.

When did you realise you would become a novelist?

I started writing early because I was a lonely child. My life was boring, the world I created much more colourful. I’m aware of the pull of story land. Stefan Zweig writes about the urge to retreat into writing when the world is going crazy. I understand that but...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue