Sunday, May 27, 2018

Michael Chabon

Michael Chabon's newest book is Pops: Fatherhood in Pieces.

From his Guardian interview with Alex Preston:

If Manhood for Amateurs was about taking on responsibility, Pops feels like it’s about letting go as your kids grow up.

Eventually, one of the things you come up against as a parent is the limitation of your importance in your kids’ life. They go off and forge relationships and make families by choice, in one way or another. You recede and dwindle in importance. If you are parenting properly, you’re parenting yourself out of a job.

In the introduction to Pops, you recall a long-ago conversation with an older author who told you that you had to choose between being a great novelist or a father.

I realised I wasn’t interested in the question of balancing one’s art and one’s life as a parent. I’m not saying it isn’t a problem, but I was trying to consider a different question – what difference does it make in the end, either way? Either your books will be forgotten or even if you are remembered in 100 years, you...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, May 26, 2018

L.M. Elliott

L.M. Elliott is the author of the new YA historical novel Hamilton and Peggy! From the author's Q&A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: Why did you decide to focus on Peggy Schuyler, the sister-in-law of Alexander Hamilton, in your new book?

A: My editor, Katherine Tegen— who is so gifted at spotting groundswells in cultural trends and interest—suggested I do something about Hamilton, given the national fascination with Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Pulitzer Prize winning musical.

I didn’t want to touch Hamilton himself, as he’s become sacrosanct legend now. I also didn’t want to rehash the Alex-Eliza romance so beautifully depicted in Miranda’s work and already explored in a half-dozen novels. So, I looked for minor characters, those Rosencrantz and Guildenstern style witnesses to a much beloved and known narrative.

It actually was easy to choose—what about “AND Peggy,” I thought, the littlest sister who makes a tantalizing brief appearance in the Schuyler Sisters Song (by my count given only 36 solo words) and then is gone. The actress playing her doubles as Hamilton’s lover Maria Reynolds in the musical’s second half.

Of course, I had to find out if “AND Peggy” warranted a whole novel. My first quick-hit bit of research revealed family lore that...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, May 25, 2018

Alma Katsu

Alma Katsu's latest novel is The Hunger.

From her Chicago Review of Books Q&A with Greer Macallister:

Greer Macallister: The Hunger is billed as a reimagining of the Donner Party “with a supernatural turn.” Why a horror twist on this famous historical tragedy?

Alma Katsu: I can understand why anyone would think that what happened to the Donner Party was bad enough; does it need any embellishment? But as a storyteller, the opportunity was too good to pass up.

The Donner Party holds a special place in the American imagination. Here are the facts: In the late summer of 1846, the Donner wagon train headed down a little-known route in the hope that it would cut hundreds of miles off the trek to California. Instead, it took them through a hellishly impassable landscape that put them weeks behind schedule. Just as they arrived at the last mountain pass standing between them and their destination, the worst storm of the century descended. Out of food and already pushed to the point of starvation, they had only one choice if they wanted to survive.

With that alone, you have the makings of a great tale. Add to it the stories of the men and women in the wagon party: why did they decide to pull up roots, leave family and friends behind and make an incredibly long, hard journey through the wilderness? Some were looking for a new start or better opportunities, yes, but some were running away from trouble, debt, or disgrace.

Now you have an even better story.

It wasn’t until I started the research that I realized...[read on]
Learn more about the book and author at Alma Katsu's website.

The Page 69 Test: The Taker.

My Book, The Movie: The Hunger.

The Page 69 Test: The Hunger.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, May 24, 2018

Tyler Wetherall

Tyler Wetherall's new book is No Way Home: A Memoir of Life on the Run.

From her Q&A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: You note that you’ve been working on this book for many years, and that it took different forms. What initially made you want to write about your family, and how did you decide on a memoir in the end?

A: My dad wanted to find a ghostwriter to write his story. I was working as a magazine journalist in London, and I didn’t want anyone else to write our story. All those years he was in prison, he was writing a manuscript, and he would send me chapters to read…

He was keen as well, and I quit my job in London and moved to Los Angeles. I interviewed him every day. It was a special time for us both. I was only 24 then, and thought I could write this in a year. Then you realize you don’t know how to write a book.

I realized that telling his story almost made me feel angry at him again, and that we’ve heard the story of the male kingpin whose wife and children [were sidelined]. I wanted to tell [that less-told aspect of] the story.

I was trying to recreate scenes from the 1970s and I didn’t have the experience [to do that]. I started writing what...[read on]
Visit Tyler Wetherall's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Margo Jefferson

Margo Jefferson is the author of Negroland: A Memoir, which won a National Book Critics Circle award, (for autobiography) and was shortlisted for the Baillie Gifford prize, and On Michael Jackson.

From her Guardian Q&A with Arifa Akbar:

You write that Michael Jackson, since his death, has been rehabilitated into the music canon – that “he got it all back with his art” after his death. Do you think we can separate his music, wonderful as it was, from the allegations that dogged him?

No, we can’t. But his death allowed the canon simultaneously to reacknowledge the greatness of his art and to look at him as a damaged, harmed, and harming person. I have to live with, and keep analysing, this contradiction. In deciding I love Michael Jackson I take it all in – his music, the crimes he may have committed, his inner turmoil. I need the pleasure and the complications he gives me. As F Scott Fitzgerald said: “The test of a truly first-rate intelligence is to hold two opposing ideas in mind at the same time and still retain the ability to function.”

Jackson the child star was thrown into an adult world and abused by his father but you also call him a pioneer. Can he be both victim and pioneer?

I’ve long been interested in child stars. It’s a fascination that goes back to watching Shirley Temple, but in his case, a gifted child star becomes an equally gifted adult, and a ground-breaking figure. Was he a victim? He was conscripted by a domineering father into very tough, demanding work. There are accounts of the hours of rehearsing he did and the travelling. But he was also pioneering. The black child in American culture tended to be seen as someone too young to be dangerous yet. He was the male version of Topsy from Uncle Tom’s Cabin or the hired “piccaninny”. What he managed...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Margaret Bradham Thornton

Margaret Bradham Thornton's new novel is A Theory of Love. From her Q&A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: How did you come up with the idea for A Theory of Love, and for your characters Helen and Christopher?

A: If I try to distill that question, I would say the idea of my novel came from a seagull and a circus performer. One day I was walking along the beach and I saw a seagull in the dunes and it was clear it was in distress and was dying. And there was nothing I could do, and I knew to go near it would only cause further distress.

And as I walked away I thought about how many animals spend most of their lives alone and most die alone and it made me wonder about the human condition: what is it that makes us want to be with another person.

About the time that I was thinking about this question I traveled to Cuba. I was so amazed by the grandeur of Havana that I wanted to read about its history so when I returned I contacted an antiquarian bookseller to see what might exist about this period and I got sidetracked by one of their books.

It was the memoir of a circus performer who had joined the circus as an orphan when he was seven and traveled extensively in Cuba in the 1830s and ‘50s.

Instead of finding a colorful description of Cuba and other places he had traveled, I found...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, May 21, 2018

Michael Pollan

Michael Pollan's latest book is How To Change Your Mind: What The New Science Of Psychedelics Teaches Us About Consciousness, Dying, Addiction, Depression, And Transcendence. From the transcript of his Fresh Air interview with Terry Gross:

GROSS: This is FRESH AIR. And if you're just joining us, my guest is Michael Pollan. You probably know him from his books about food, like "The Omnivore's Dilemma," and "The Botany Of Desire," which is also about how plants can influence the mind. And his new book takes that a step further. It's a history of psychedelic drugs, including how they're being used today in research settings. And the book is called, "How To Change Your Mind: What The New Science Of Psychedelics Teaches Us About Consciousness, Dying, Addiction, Depression, And Transcendence."

So I want to ask you how all of this has affected your food life.

POLLAN: (Laughter).

GROSS: Seriously. 'Cause you've written about eating plants, you've written about eating animals. Are you eating any differently than you were before using psychedelics? Because you also talk about feeling that the plants in your garden have a spirit. I don't know how that translates to eating them.

POLLAN: (Laughter). Well, one of the really interesting things that happens to some people on psychedelics is that their sense of nature changes. And nature becomes more alive. They're almost animistic. And so I've always had this sense that plants have their own point of view or subjectivity, and that we're not the only perceiving subject on the planet and that's our arrogance to think so. And that was for me an intellectual conceit, but it became real on this psilocybin trip I had, a different psilocybin trip, where I was outdoors for most of it. And I had a sense of that there were spirits in all the plants, and that they were looking back at me in some sense.

I know how wacky that sounds. But they were benign. I was in my garden, and I felt part of it. I felt like another creature among other creatures - you know, that there were many spirits here and I was one of them, and they were others and they were communicating to me. But I still eat them. (Laughter). I mean, you have to eat plants, you know? You can give up on animals. And I've never thought plants...

GROSS: Have you given up on animals?

POLLAN: Almost. I'm a kind of a very reluctant carnivore. I...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, May 20, 2018

Rebekah Frumkin

Rebekah Frumkin's new novel is The Comedown. From her Q&A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: How did you come up with the idea for The Comedown, and for the two families you write about?

A: I came up with the idea for something that would become this book when I was 21 and feeling sort of hungover after a night spent in what we'll call "high spirits."

I was sitting on my bed in my dorm room and reading over a scene I'd written about a type-A project manager at a hedge fund who puts on his high-tech performance wear and goes for a run.

How hilarious would it be, I thought, if this guy were my brother? He'd be so angry about my collegiate debauchery. That project manager became Leland Jr. and the college-aged recipient of his animus Lee. That was the origin of the Bloom-Mittwoch family.

The Marshall family came when Reggie, cornered into selling coke, emerged as more than a foil to Leland Sr.'s madness. Natasha had always been around as the arch academic and would-be widow of Reggie, so it only made sense that...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, May 19, 2018

Alex Segura

Alex Segura is a novelist and comic book writer. He is the author of the Pete Fernandez Miami Mystery novels, all via Polis Books.

Segura's new novel is Blackout.

From the author's Q&A with A. J. Frost at The Beat:

AJ FROST: Hi Alex! So nice to chat with you. Your new mystery novel, Blackout, I would argue, is your most ambitious yet. There are more dips and dabs between time periods and emotions. Where did the story and emotional tone for this new book come from?

ALEX SEGURA: Hi AJ! Well, first off, thanks for saying that. It means a lot. The story was a byproduct of the stuff I was reading—partially for “research” but mostly because I was interested in the topics. Stuff like cults, politics, Miami cold cases, and so on. Once I was through some of that, the kernel of the plot or mystery cropped up, and it dovetailed nicely with the emotional arc I wanted to give our detective, Pete Fernandez. I knew I wanted this to be a turning point for him, a chance to look back on his past and come to terms with it, so he could finally start living, as opposed to just wallowing in this “middle” state, feeling bad about his past mistakes and not feeling like he deserved to be part of the world.

FROST: This is our fourth go-around with Pete and, while he’s gotten better, he still travels around with a multitude of inner demons. As a writer—let alone a writer of hard-boiled crime yarns—what’s the most alluring and most demanding aspect of creating a flawed hero like Pete?

SEGURA: I think it is grist for the mill. I’m not interested in writing about the iconic hero, the perfect man or woman. Complex, flawed characters interest me as a reader; those are the books I gravitate toward. I’m keen to show Pete’s progression from passed out drunk when we meet him in my first novel, SILENT CITY, to now. And the journey isn’t over. In BLACKOUT, Pete’s better: he doesn’t drink and he’s working as private investigator. But he’s still...[read on]
Visit Alex Segura's website.

The Page 69 Test: Blackout.

Writers Read: Alex Segura.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, May 18, 2018

Anshel Pfeffer

Anshel Pfeffer, a senior correspondent and columnist for Haaretz, is the author of the new book Bibi: The Turbulent Life and Times of Benjamin Netanyahu. From his Q&A with Slate's Isaac Chotiner:

What do you think [Netanyahu']s long-term plan is for the region, both in regard to the Palestinians and the Iranians? Is it anything other than the status quo, which looks to many liberals in America like a deteriorating one?

Netanyahu would disagree with the word deterioration. He sees the situation as Israel’s standing in the region improving. He sees its military advantage over its neighbors increasing, and it has increased partly because Israel is continuing to improve its military technology and partly because the countries around Israel have been consumed by chaos. So there is no real military rival to Israel in the immediately surrounding Middle East, not including Iran. And its economy is growing at a record pace, and the prosperity of Israelis has increased. So he is not seeing a deterioration. And at the same time, he is seeing the leaders of Saudi Arabia and Egypt, the two main Arab nations, getting closer to Israel over their joint enmity and rivalry with Iran, and the fact that the Saudis and Egyptians are much more prepared to openly disregard the Palestinian issue. So as far as he is concerned, the status quo is improving, and all us liberals and leftists who have been saying for 51 years that the occupation was unsustainable are being proved wrong because it is eminently sustainable. He doesn’t address the situation of Palestinian rights or the issue of what it is doing to Israeli society and democracy being a nation that holds another nation in subjugation. Those matters don’t really concern him.

Occasionally he has to deal with something that happens in Gaza, but he believes they are passing episodes where the world will be angry for a few days and then go on to other things.

His long-term plan is to get peace through deterrence, not a peace through compromise, and he believes the Palestinians will...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue