Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Eleni Gage

Eleni N. Gage is the author of the novel The Ladies of Managua. From her Q&A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: In your acknowledgments, you write, “I’m living proof that the most fun way to learn about another culture is to marry into it.” What role did your husband’s family play for you as you wrote this novel?

A: Some people say you don't just marry a man, you also marry his family. But I got an entire country! My husband was the first Nicaraguan I'd ever met; this book would not exist in any form, not even as an idea, without him and his family.

All I knew about Nicaragua before meeting Emilio came from the Saturday Night Live skits in which news anchors reporting on the Iran-Contra affairs took great pride in pronouncing the country's name, showing off the Spanish they learned in Correspondents' Language School.

On one of our early dates, Emilio mentioned that his family moved to the U.S. during the war and I said something like, "Now tell me what that conflict was about again?"

And then on a later date, he told me about his grandmother, whom he's very close to, and who attended high school in New Orleans at Sacred Heart, which many well-off Nicaraguan girls did at the time.

She really did have a clandestine romance with a Cuban that ended when her parents whisked her back to Nicaragua, and that inspired the character of Isabela. That's where her similarities to Isabela end—I invented the specific interactions and incidents in the character's life, including the final scene in the book.

The funny thing is, my grandmother-in-law, who is a real legend in her own mind, totally...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, August 22, 2016

A. Lee Martinez

A. Lee Martinez's latest novel is The Last Adventure of Constance Verity. From his Q&A with Nicole Hill for the B&N Sci-Fi & Fantasy blog:

While each of your books is wildly different in the ground it covers, and the fantasy elements it incorporates, an A. Lee Martinez novel still feels very uniquely and wholly like an A. Lee Martinez novel. Outside of genre terms, how would you describe your style?

The stories share a common theme about finding our place in the world and relying on each other to get through this craziness called life. There’s also the offhand way the books deal with the strange and supernatural. In all the stories, the weird stuff is just part of life. For some characters, it’s literally there from the start. For others, it’s something they fall into and adjust to fairly quickly. The humor in the narrative and character interactions is probably another defining aspect. I don’t set out to write “funny” books, but my books do usually end up having heavy doses of humor. Most of that humor comes not from jokes, but from the peculiar way the characters see their world or the absurdity of the situations they...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Adrian Tinniswood

Adrian Tinniswood is the author of The Rainborowes, Life in the English Country Cottage, and the recently released The Long Weekend: Life in the English Country House, 1918-1939. From his Q&A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: How did you come up with the idea for The Long Weekend, and why did you focus on the period between World War I and World War II?

A: I’ve been in love with the English stately home for most of my life. At different times I’ve been exasperated by its stuffiness. I’ve despaired at the reactionary rose-tinted nostalgia that envelops it.

But all it takes is a glimpse of high chimneys across a park - a twitch upon the thread, to borrow the phrase Evelyn Waugh uses in a different context in Brideshead Revisited - and all the doubts disappear. I can’t explain it.

Part of the traditional view of the country house that I grew up with was that the decades between the wars were a period of decline. And yet it seemed to me that there was a parallel story to be told, of a vibrant social world in which the country house managed not only to survive, but to prosper.

As I say in the preface to The Long Weekend, the period 1918-1939 saw new families buying, borrowing and sometimes building themselves a country house. It introduced new aesthetics, new social structures, new meanings to an old tradition. That parallel narrative saw new life in the country house. And that is...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, August 20, 2016

Kathleen Glasgow

Kathleen Glasgow's new novel is Girl in Pieces.

From her Q&A with Joshua Flores for Germ Magazine:

What inspired you to write such an intense and brutally honest story?

I was inspired to write Charlie Davis’s story because of a girl I saw on the bus with fresh scars on her arms. I never talked to her. I never said, “Hey, I’m just like you; you aren’t alone.” I should have, and I didn’t. I had three goals in writing Girl in Pieces: to talk about how hard it is to be a girl in a world that doesn’t value your intelligence or dreams, only your body type; to write about a girl who doesn’t get better because she meets a boy, but gets to a better place because she works hard to find her voice and live her dreams; and to write the hell out of this story. I think it worked!

When did you first know you wanted to be an author?

It sounds silly, but...[read on]
Visit Kathleen Glasgow's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, August 19, 2016

Cathleen Schine

Cathleen Schine's new novel is They May Not Mean To, But They Do.

From her Fresh Air interview with Terry Gross:

GROSS: This is FRESH AIR. I'm Terry Gross, back with writer Cathleen Schine. Her new novel is about a middle-aged woman, Molly, who's left her husband and home in New York to move to LA to be with the woman she fell in love with. That move has also meant being on the opposite coast from her parents. When the novel opens, Molly's father is very sick, and Molly's mother has become the full-time caretaker.

After Molly's father dies, Molly's 86-year-old mother is left living alone, and Molly feels very guilty about living so far away. The novel is called "They May Not Mean To, But They Do." The 86-year-old mother, Joy, has an old friend, Karl, who she dated when she was young before she'd met her husband. This man was also a friend of her husband's - of her late husband's. And after her husband dies, Joy and this man, Karl, become good friends. And he, you know - he confesses he loves her and that he loved her many decades ago.

And Joy's children are very upset that so soon after their father has died, their mother is spending time with another man. And the children also fear that their mother will become Karl's caretaker. And I think you really hit on a fear there that I know adult children have about parents - and I don't know if the older people themselves worry about this - but if you start a relationship, a couple relationship very late in life, one of you is going to become the other's caretaker pretty quickly probably. And what does that mean? What is that like when you haven't spent decades together? What did you...

SCHINE: Yeah, and...

GROSS: ...What did you go through trying to really understand the children's point of view and the mother's point of view on this late-in-life relationship?

SCHINE: Well, I think for the mother, you know, it's a wonderful moment for her. It's a wonderful recognition that she had a life before where she was beautiful and appealing and alluring and loved as a young woman and to have that resurrected, to have a person from her past who has shared a past with her, to have that born again is a wonderful gift for her.

But she's not an idiot, and she knows...[read on]
Visit Cathleen Schine's website.

Coffee with a Canine: Cathleen Schine & Hector.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Angela Palm

Angela Palm is the author of Riverine: A Memoir from Anywhere but Here. From her Q&A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: Why did you decide to write this memoir, and how did writing it affect the way you thought about your life and about your childhood neighbor Corey, who is serving a life sentence for murder?

A: I spent my 20s thinking nothing significant had ever really happened to me—nothing that was worth writing about. I also mistakenly believed, at that time, that young people’s stories didn’t much matter in the literary world.

When I began talking to people about my upbringing in rural Indiana, revisiting the memories of Corey and of our riverside neighborhood, I realized it was different than most people’s experiences. I began to write about the land itself—using the backdrop of place to inform the memories of that place and vice versa, seeing what epiphanies came from those marriages.

Corey—his life, our relationship, his crime—kept coming to the fore no matter how I tried to minimize it. I had never really dealt with the event in a way that put it to rest.

As I pulled together disparate essays to form a book, I did two things. I went to see Corey in prison—the first time I’d seen him since I was a teenager. I also made a list. An honest list noting every life decision I had made that was somehow connected to him.

The list was longer than I wanted to admit to myself. I let it guide me and embraced the haunting truth of the matter: I had loved a convicted murderer.

With that new truth, I looked back over the memories of us, and tried to balance my own sentimentality toward him with the more difficult realities of his crime and...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Eowyn Ivey

Eowyn Ivey's debut The Snow Child was a finalist for the Pulitzer and an international bestseller. Her new novel is To the Bright Edge of the World.

From her Q&A with Hannah Beckerman at the Guardian:

Your new novel follows a military expedition to map Alaskan territory in 1885. How much of that story is based in historical fact?

A fair amount. There was a real expedition in 1885 led by Henry T Allen. I relied a great deal on his official reports and then there are diaries and letters by one of his expedition members. But I would take threads of things that were said or documented and develop them in ways that would fit into my Wolverine river fantasy world.

The novel comprises fictional journals, letters, photographs and museum caption cards. Was that structure informed by the primary source material?

Yes. Letters and documents add credibility to what would otherwise be an unbelievable story, so I thought they would make it seem more authentic, even though some of the things that happen are...[read on]
Learn more about the book and author at Eowyn Ivey's website and blog.

Writers Read: Eowyn Ivey.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Devin Leonard

Devin Leonard's new book is Neither Snow nor Rain: A History of the United States Postal Service.

From his Q&A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: You write that the idea for this book originated with a story you wrote in 2011 for Bloomberg Businessweek. How did you research the book, and what surprised you most in the course of your research?

A: I did a lot of interviews with current and former people who worked for the Postal Service, and did some digging through the archives. There is a labor museum in Detroit at Wayne State, and I used material from there to write about the strike in the 1970s. I did research in the library of the Postal Service. I read a ton of books.

What surprised me most is the idea that today people think of the Postal Service as an organization that can’t do anything right, but through most of its history, people thought it was great. People counted on getting the mail. I wanted to answer the question of how we go from an agency people loved to one they looked down on…

Q: Benjamin Franklin plays a large role in USPS history. What were some of his most important contributions, and what is his legacy in terms of the postal service today?

A: I’m from Philadelphia. I grew up seeing people dressed as Benjamin Franklin. He’s a symbol of the city; he’s been sentimentalized and commercialized. The Postal Service is always talking about him—he was the first postmaster general.

I was skeptical going into this—Franklin did so many things, what could he have done for the Postal Service? When I did the research...[read on]
Visit Devin Leonard's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, August 15, 2016

Donald Ray Pollock

Donald Ray Pollock is an American writer. Born in 1954 and raised in Knockemstiff, Ohio, Pollock has lived his entire adult life in Chillicothe, Ohio, where he worked at the Mead Paper Mill as a laborer and truck driver until age 50, when he enrolled in the English program at Ohio State University. While there, Doubleday published his debut short story collection, Knockemstiff, and the New York Times regularly posted his election dispatches from southern Ohio throughout the 2008 campaign. The Devil All the Time, his first novel, was published in 2011. His work has appeared in various literary journals, including Epoch, Sou’wester, Granta, Third Coast, River Styx, The Journal, Boulevard, Tin House, and PEN America.

Pollock's new novel is The Heavenly Table.

From his Q&A with Karen Brissette for the Los Angeles Review of Books:

Your work falls into that blurry subgenre of literary fiction with many colorful names: grit lit, hick lit, hillbilly noir, country noir, backwoods noir, rural gothic, etc. Do you have a preferred term for these kinds of stories?

The way I see it, labels are necessary as a way to describe a book or its genre in a nutshell; and though I really don’t have any preference, someone once called my stuff “Southern Ohio Gothic,” and I’m a little partial to that one.

Whatever you call it, why do you think these kinds of stories have been experiencing such a renaissance lately? What do you consider to be the lineage of the genre? Are there any authors you particularly admire that we should also be reading?

I’ve heard some people complain that they’re a little tired of reading fiction set on the East Coast or the West Coast, among the affluent and educated; and a lot of them, maybe because the majority of people or at least readers, live in urban areas, now look upon rural areas and characters as a bit, I don’t know, “refreshing.” Or at least not the same old stuff. As for the lineage of rural gothic, the simplified version as I see it would be Faulkner >...[read on]
Visit Donald Ray Pollock's website.

The Page 69 Test: Knockemstiff.

The Page 69 Test: The Heavenly Table.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Deborah Shapiro

Deborah Shapiro's new novel is The Sun in Your Eyes.

From her Q&A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: Your book deals with female friendship. Why did you choose this topic, and how did you come up with your characters Viv and Lee?

A: Friendship is such rich territory. I wanted to write about a sustained and sustaining relationship that’s not sexual (at least not overtly) but is nonetheless incredibly romantic.

And I wanted to look at a formative relationship over time, taking into account the major life changes that create fissures but also the ongoing, micro-level tensions that are there all along – that paradoxically make it work and make it difficult.

As I was writing, I happened to read a 1973 novel by Eleanor Bergstein called Advancing Paul Newman. I came to know about this book after reading an interview with Claudia Weill, who wrote and directed the wonderful 1978 movie Girlfriends, which explores the ties between an aspiring photographer in New York and her friend, an aspiring writer who gets married, leaves the city, and has a child. (It’s an amazing time capsule of Soho in the late ‘70s).

Weill cited a line from Bergstein’s book as an inspiration. “This is the story of two girls, each of whom suspected the other of a more passionate connection with life.” One thing I love about that book is...[read on]
Visit Deborah Shapiro's website.

--Marshal Zeringue