Friday, October 9, 2015

Camille Griep

Camille Griep lives just north of Seattle with her partner, Adam, and their dog Dutch(ess). Born in Billings, Montana, she moved to Southern California to attend Claremont McKenna College, graduating with a dual degree in Biology and Literature.

She has since sold short fiction and creative nonfiction to dozens of online and print magazines. She is the editor of Easy Street and is a senior editor at The Lascaux Review. She is a 2012 graduate of Viable Paradise, a residential workshop for speculative fiction novelists.

Griep's first novel is Letters to Zell.

From her Q & A with G.G. Silverman:

GGS: Camille, please tell everyone what Letters to Zell is about, and what inspired you to write it.

CG: Thanks so much for having me here! I so appreciate having the chance to talk writing with you and introduce my very first novel.

At its core, Letters to Zell is the story of three women navigating the expectations of early to mid adulthood. When their mutual friend Zell (Rapunzel) moves away to chase her dream of opening a unicorn preserve, the remaining three princesses grapple with their own hopes and dreams.

Letters to Zell is a project born of a confluence of several events, but mostly my own self-examination. After I took some time off work to write full time, I grappled a lot with expectations. People said the strangest things. Choosing to be childless was a recipe for comments when I was working, but choosing to be childless and working as an artist seemed, for some, to be the epitome of self-indulgence. And I wondered how many other women dealt with those sorts of attitudes on an ongoing basis.

I had expectations for myself, too. What kind of woman would I turn into if I traded my Coach handbags for canvas totes? What kind of partner would I be not contributing to the household income for a few years – should I cook and clean and shop and feel guilty for doing those things while writing and feel guilty while writing for not doing those things.

I also had a lot of people tell me they’d like to...[read on]
Visit Camille Griep's website.

The Page 69 Test: Letters to Zell.

Coffee with a Canine: Camille Griep and Dutchess Marie Siefker-Griep.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Sudhir Hazareesingh

Sudhir Hazareesingh's new book is How the French Think: An Affectionate Portrait of an Intellectual People.

From his Q & A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: You write, "All great nations think of themselves as exceptional. France's distinctiveness in this regard lies in its enduring belief in its own moral and intellectual prowess." How did this belief come to be, and how does it manifest itself today?

A: French universalism has its historical roots in its Catholic tradition, in the golden age of classicism in French art and literature, which also coincided with the absolute monarchy of Louis XIV: this was the era when French language and culture were dominant across Europe.

From the Enlightenment onwards this cultural power also expressed itself through philosophy: France became the primary source of republican and revolutionary ideals about liberty and equality, which spread across the world.

This tradition is still alive today in the French way of thinking about citizenship, which stresses the importance of common values and active engagement with the public realm. After the attacks on Charlie Hebdo in January 2015, four million men and women took to the streets across France.

Q: In the book, you discuss the importance of the salon. What role did the salon play in the development of French intellectual life?

A: The salon was a privileged arena for the development of cultural and philosophical ideas, particularly in the 18th century.

In a time when critical political ideas could not always be expressed openly, the salon provided a safe space where intellectual interaction could take place. It also gave openings to...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Lynn Cullen

Lynn Cullen's new novel is Twain's End.

From a Q & A at her website:

This is the second novel in which you have delved into the life of a major American literary figure. How has the experience of writing Twain’s End compared to that of writing, Mrs. Poe?

My aim as a novelist has always been to examine some of the difficulties we face as humans through the lens of the lives of misunderstood or marginalized historical figures. I’ve been less interested in writing novelized biographies of my famous characters than in using their experiences to write stories that make readers think. Although I work hard at not bending the facts that I uncover during my research, ultimately, I am a novelist, not a biographer. To this end, I seek the unknown in my characters’ personal lives so that I can tell a fictitious story within these gaps.

Twain’s End was a departure for me in that I made less use of these gaps in the known facts than usual, largely because there were fewer gaps. As I did for Mrs. Poe and all my novels, I visited the site of every scene in the book to give the settings an authentic feel. I familiarized myself with Mark Twain’s works, like I did with Poe’s, to get a feel for their thinking. But for this book, I had the added advantage of having access to Isabel Lyon’s diary, written during her years with Samuel Clemens/Mark Twain. Between her observations and Twain’s writings and quotes, I had much more primary source material from which to construct a novel than I’ve ever had. My challenge, therefore, was to connect the dots in the material, draw my conclusions, then illustrate my theories. Samuel Clemens and Isabel Lyon’s real lives were so fraught with the extremes in hardship, success, pain, and joy, that my main mission became...[read on]
Learn more about the book and author at Lynn Cullen's website.

My Book, The Movie: Mrs. Poe.

The Page 69 Test: Mrs. Poe.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Margaret Eby

Margaret Eby is a journalist and critic who writes about books, movies, music, television, and various cultural ephemera. She currently works as the features and essays editor at HelloGiggles, an incubator for young women journalists. Her new book is South Toward Home: Travels In Southern Literature.

From Eby's Q & A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: You write, “Southern writing at its loftiest is a literature of opposition.” Can you say more about why you feel that to be the case?

A: It’s a literature of opposition in many ways. Confronting stereotypes of what it’s like to live in the South with the specific lived experience of these authors, and the opposition of perceived ideas of what it’s like to live in these places.

Most of these writers were not overtly political, with some exceptions, but all had stakes in the South, and they all cared deeply about the political situation in the South, in the civil rights movement, and expressed it in different ways.

Richard Wright expressed it openly. Eudora Welty wrote a beautiful short story, "Where Is the Voice Coming From?", after Medgar Evers’s assassination. They were writing to oppose the complacency of the clich├ęs of the place they grew up in.

Q: You note that your choice of authors to include was “a personal one.” What about these authors especially appealed to you?

A: The original list I had going in of my favorite authors was...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, October 5, 2015

John Banville

John Banville's many books include The Sea, which won the 2007 Man Booker Prize, The Infinities, The Blue Guitar, and several crime novels under the pseudonym Benjamin Black.

From his January 2015 Q & A at his publisher's blog:

Tell us the first thing you do in the morning.

Well now, take a wild guess.

And the last thing you do at night.

Take another wild guess.

What was the last book that made you cry?

Oddly, it was John Updike’s Rabbit at Rest. The death of Rabbit Angstrom affected me deeply, I’m not sure why. I told Updike I had wept at the close, and he remarked with cool irony that he hoped Rabbit’s going wasn’t sadder than the death of Little Nell.

One book you wish you had written.

Molloy, by Samuel Beckett, or almost anything by...[read on]
Learn about the book John Banville most wants his kids to read.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Steven Lubet

Steven Lubet is the Williams Memorial Professor of Law and Director, Bartlit Center for Trial Strategy at Northwestern University School of Law. His books include Fugitive Justice: Runaways, Rescuers, and Slavery on Trial.

Lubet's his new book is The "Colored Hero" of Harper's Ferry: John Anthony Copeland and the War against Slavery.

From the author's Q & A at the Cambridge University Press blog:

Your book traces the life of John Anthony Copeland, Jr. How did you discover the story of such a little-known historical figure?

I first encountered John Copeland when researching my earlier book, Fugitive Justice, about resistance to the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850. Four chapters in that book covered the Oberlin Rescue and focused on the subsequent trials of the rescuers. Copeland was indicted for his role in the rescue, but he was never arrested and therefore did not appear at the trials. I made a mental note to return to his story, which ultimately led to three years of research into his life.

Tell us a bit about Copeland and his place in American history.

African-American resistance to slavery took three forms: flight from the slave states, rescue and support for fugitives, and eventually armed resistance. John Anthony Copeland was one of the few people who engaged in all three. As a child, he fled North Carolina with his parents, eventually settling in Oberlin, Ohio. As a young man, he was one of the leaders of the Oberlin Rescue, in which a fugitive was wrested from the grasp of slavehunters. And of course, he joined John Brown at Harper’s Ferry, in their failed attempt to...[read on]
The Page 99 Test: Fugitive Justice: Runaways, Rescuers, and Slavery on Trial.

The Page 99 Test: The "Colored Hero" of Harper's Ferry.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, October 3, 2015

Dale Russakoff

Dale Russakoff is the author of The Prize: Who's in Charge of America's Schools.

From her Q & A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: You write, “What [then-Newark Mayor Cory] Booker, [New Jersey Governor Chris] Christie, and Zuckerberg set out to achieve in Newark had not been accomplished in modern times—turning a failing urban school district into one of universally high achievement.” Why was Newark selected for this project, and how successful do you believe it’s been so far?

A: Newark was selected because Cory Booker and Chris Christie got together and decided they wanted to make this a national model, and they would need a philanthropist to fund it. It was selected because Cory Booker is an effective fundraiser. He was able to sweep Mark Zuckerberg off his feet.

From what I understand, people close to Zuckerberg and to Booker said there wasn’t a lot of due diligence Zuckerberg put into this. He was pretty wowed by Booker and Christie. It was his first act as a philanthropist.

He had never been to Newark. He thought at the time that you actually could go to an urban district and come up with a model, and solve the educational issues and apply them to [other] cities and change education in America.

That’s how a startup works, but...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, October 2, 2015

Theresa Brown

Theresa Brown, BSN, RN, works as a clinical nurse in Pittsburgh. Her most recent book is The Shift: One Nurse, Twelve Hours, Four Patients' Lives.

From her Q & A with Caroline Leavitt:

I sort of agree with Sheila, in your book, who is disheartened that a doctor tells she has a 20 percent chance of surviving an operation. She prefers not to know. I wonder if there is a way to tell which patients want to know and which don’t? Would or could a hospital ever ask beforehand? I realize that knowledge is power, but isn’t there also a mind-body link? In your experience, do optimistic patients do better than ones who are more negative about their chances?

A: This is a hard question, because for a patient to consent to a treatment or operation they have to give “informed consent,” which means they understand the risks. However, learning that the odds are not in one’s favor can create anxiety and fear, which is fundamentally disempowering. As I portray in my book, if the patient’s nurse can soothe worries about risk that can really help, but nothing can totally take away anxiety about a risky operation. In terms of recovery, though, I haven’t seen that optimism or pessimism makes a difference in how people do, at least not when...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Elizabeth Gilbert

Elizabeth Gilbert's latest book is Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear.

From her Q & A with Elizabeth Day at the Guardian:

You say in Big Magic you were a fearful child. Are you braver now?

I was born a really fearful kid, really anxious, supersensitive. Other words you could use would be “a pain in the ass”. I grew up with a mother who was really strong. It was an interesting collision of these two characters. My mother’s biggest fear was raising daughters who wouldn’t be able to take care of themselves. She knew bad things happened to women who waited for other people to do stuff for them.

We did have this pretty serious battle of wills when I was younger. A psychologist might take issue with her tactics – she certainly wasn’t about embracing vulnerability, talking out my feelings. It was: “Too bad, you have to do this.” More like a coach.

In adolescence, I got bored of being that person who kept trying to prove her weakness and fragility. What a weird battle: to be trying to defend your weakest point! It came to a point where I thought, I don’t want to die on that hill. I owe my mother only everything and nothing more than that.

Do you think women in particular find it harder to take creative risks because they’re too worried about failing?

Sure. In fact, I think it’s possibly the greatest obstacle to women participating in a more vibrant and robust way. Certainly, there’s good old patriarchy and misogyny but...[read on]
Learn about five books that changed Elizabeth Gilbert.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Leslie Pietrzyk

Leslie Pietrzyk is the author of the story collection This Angel on My Chest.

From her Q & A with Caroline Leavitt:
I always ask writers on my blog what sparked them writing a particular book. I know the answer to this, but it’s so moving, I’d love for you to talk about it.

Yes, my first husband died of a heart attack when he was 37 and I was 35, and many of the experiences and the emotional turmoil in THIS ANGEL ON MY CHEST are based on my own life. That said, the book is fiction, and plenty of elements are made up or fictionalized. The opening story, “Ten Things,” was actually written in the throes of grieving, the first thing I wrote after Robb died. I started the rest of the book years later, sparked by a random breakfast conversation at an artists’ colony. Someone mentioned she was teaching a class on the literature of subcultures, and I decided to spend the day writing about a subculture, since the novel I brought to work on wasn’t going anywhere. This ended up being the story “The Circle,” about a young widow’s support group similar to the one I attended for several months. Once in that world, I couldn’t leave, and I scribbled out dozens of ideas for stories exploring that part of my life. I’m so grateful that I was up early enough for breakfast that day.

How difficult was it, after such a loss, to write this book? Did anything surprise you while you were writing?

Almost fifteen years had passed since Robb’s death, so I had a lot of time to grieve and gain perspective. Even so, yes, some of these stories were...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue