Sunday, December 21, 2014

Keith Donohue

Keith Donohue is the national bestselling author of the novels The Stolen Child, The Angels of Destruction, and Centuries of June.

His new novel is The Boy Who Drew Monsters.

From Donohue's Q & A with Dorothy Reno at the Washington Independent Review of Books:

Throughout the novel, there are four characters experiencing strange things in the same house, but they only tell each other snippets of what has happened. For instance, when Tim is driving Nick home one night, they see a ghostly man in the road. But Nick denies he has seen it. Why does psychological isolation make a haunting that much more powerful?

This novel is built on a structure that alternates among four point-of-view perspectives. How each of the main characters perceives what is going on, what they choose to hide and reveal from one another, what they choose to believe. Holly and Tim have trust issues with each other, and both try to protect the kids. Nick doesn’t have anyone to confide in, and Jack isn’t exactly forthcoming about what’s going on inside his head. Each one chooses a kind of isolation, and that’s part of what is driving them mad.

There’s a scene where Holly, a non-practicing Catholic, goes back to church. We lapsed Catholics know the day always comes when we have to face the priest. And this got me thinking about Roman Catholicism in American horror: As a foreign national, America feels overwhelmingly Protestant to me. And, yet, no American movie or novel has a haunting scene where the characters say, “We have a ghost situation, better call in the youth pastor.”

I think that might have something to do with the perception of priests as exorcists. There’s something ancient and almost mystical about a priest’s authority. Holly first visits the priest because she longs for someone to...[read on]
The Page 69 Test: The Boy Who Drew Monsters.

Writers Read: Keith Donohue.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, December 19, 2014

Phil Klay

Phil Klay is a graduate of Dartmouth College and a veteran of the U.S. Marine Corps. He served in Iraq’s Anbar Province from January 2007 to February 2008 as a Public Affairs Officer. After being discharged he went to Hunter College and received an MFA. His story “Redeployment” was originally published in Granta and is included in Fire and Forget: Short Stories from the Long War. His writing has also appeared in the New York Times, Newsweek, The Daily Beast, the New York Daily News, Tin House, and The Best American Nonrequired Reading 2012.

Redeployment is his first story collection.

From the Shelf Awareness Q & A at his website:

As you were writing these stories did you always see yourself heading toward an entire collection of war stories, as this is, or did that happen later?

The first sentence I wrote was the first sentence of the book: “We shot dogs.” I didn’t know where I was heading, exactly, but I had a voice and a set of experiences I wanted to write about. Not personal experiences—just things people I had known had gone through that stayed in my mind. And not all of those fit into one story, or one perspective. I found that, to get at the different aspects of Iraq I wanted to explore, I had to approach from all these different angles.

One of the book’s strengths is the many different kinds of soldiers you write about, from lance corporals to officers, from foreign service officers to chaplains, from young to old.

That was very intentional. There’s a long tradition in war literature of veterans coming back and telling it like it is, like Paul Baumer in All Quiet on the Western Front going to his former classroom and telling the students that there’s nothing good about dying for your country. Then there’s a tradition in war literature of vets that goes even further, like Tim O’Brien in The Things They’ve Carried, explaining that sometimes a true war story can’t be believed by those who didn’t experience it because “sometimes it’s just beyond telling.” In both of these cases, the vet writer has the authority of experience, so there’s this divide set up between the veteran understanding of war reality and the civilian ignorance. I think of Robert Graves and Alan Hodge asserting that “by the end of 1918 there were two distinct Britains…the Fighting Forces…and the Rest,” or Siegfried Sassoon telling us that “The man who really endured the war at its worst was everlastingly differentiated from everyone except his fellow soldiers.”

The problem is that within that group of people who have been to war there’s...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Janice Steinberg

Janice Steinberg is an award-winning arts journalist who has published more than four hundred articles in The San Diego Union-Tribune, Dance Magazine, the Los Angeles Times, and elsewhere. She is also the author of five mystery novels, including the Shamus Award–nominated Death in a City of Mystics. She has taught novel writing at the University of California, San Diego extension, and dance criticism at San Diego State University.

Her latest novel is The Tin Horse.

From Steinberg's Q & A with Diana Bletter:

Diana Bletter: How did you move from writing as an arts journalist to writing mysteries and then The Tin Horse, which in a way, is a mystery about two sisters?

Janice Steinberg: I’ve always done both novels and arts journalism, in various combinations depending on what doors were opening for me … or slamming shut. In 1993, I sold a mystery to Berkley, and I focused on mysteries through a five-book series. Then I wrote a thriller. It was my big breakout book! Alas, my agent couldn’t sell it. At a certain point, I was so heartbroken, I thought, okay, universe, what do you want me to do next? A few days later, I got a call from a friend at the San Diego Union-Tribune, saying they needed a dance writer. That led to several years of arts journalism and teaching—novel writing at UC-San Diego extension and dance criticism at San Diego State University. Eventually, I missed the immersive experience of working on a novel. I’d been carrying an idea about a marginal character in the detective classic The Big Sleep. I wanted to tell her story, but didn’t know if I could do it. Even though the idea came from a mystery—and, as the story took shape, there was a mystery element in the missing sister—I realized it had be a much more character-driven novel than I’d ever done. That was terrifying! Which led to......[read on]
Learn more about the book and author at Janice Steinberg's website.

The Page 69 Test: The Tin Horse.

Writers Read: Janice Steinberg.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Marlon James

Marlon James is the author of A Brief History of Seven Killings.

From his Q & A with Brook Stephenson at the Gawker Review of Books:

How did you get into writing?

In a weird way, OutKast kind of did it. Just the idea that you could be an artist and have this body of work that's outside of you. Regardless of what happens to you there's this document. I wanted to make art that was outside of me. That, and also reading books that make me want to write books. Gabriel Garcia Marquez talks about the book that gives permission to the writer. For him it was The Metamorphosis. For me, it was Salman Rushdie's Shame.

Why that one?

I read lots of great books, but that was the book when I said, "All right that's it, I got to write." I think, for me, there's The Book I Should Write and The Book I Wanted to Write—and they weren't the same book. The Book I Should Write should be realistic since I studied English Lit. It should be cultural. It should reflect where I am today. The Book I Wanted to Write would probably include flying women, magic, and all of that. And I didn't think that book was allowed. I remember reading Rushdie's Shame and being appalled by it. The only way you can capture the craziness of a Pakistan-like country is to go into the fantastical and to the ridiculous, and break structure. That gave me permission to write whatever I wanted. Knowing that and then summoning the courage to write that. Even writing in dialect was big for me. For example, writing in Jamaican patois was a big deal because that's not how I was raised. It's not what you speak in school. It's not what you speak in business. It's just backward talking, and the idea of writing an entire novel, or most of a novel, in patois was almost unheard of. But...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Jonathan Eig

Jonathan Eig is the New York Times best-selling author of four books: Luckiest Man, Opening Day, Get Capone, and, most recently, The Birth of the Pill: How Four Crusaders Reinvented Sex and Launched a Revolution. He is currently working on a biography of Muhammad Ali.

From the author's Q & A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: Why did you decide to write a book about the history of the birth control pill, and how did you choose to focus on those particular four people?

A: There’s a long story behind how I came to this topic, which you can read here if you want the whole deal.

The short answer is that I heard a rabbi say more than a decade ago that he considered the birth-control one of—if not THE—most important inventions of the twentieth century, and after I thought it about a bit, it struck me as strange that I knew nothing of how it was invented.

Upon further reflection, it struck me as even more strange that anyone would invent a pill designed to liberate women when it was men who controlled all of science, business and government in the 1950s and when birth control was essentially illegal.

That got my curiosity going. When I began looking into it, I found these great characters at the heart of the story, all of them outsiders, rebels, dreamers, all of them taking on extraordinary risks to accomplish something that many considered impossible.

Choosing these four particular protagonists—Margaret Sanger, Gregory Pincus, Katharine McCormick, and John Rock—was not particularly difficult. Other people played important roles, but these four stood out. Take away any one of them, and there is no pill.

Also, each of these four truly qualified as...[read on]
Learn more about the book and author at Jonathan Eig's website.

The Page 99 Test: The Birth of the Pill.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, December 15, 2014

Lisa Morton

Lisa Morton is a screenwriter, author of non-fiction books, award-winning prose writer, and Halloween expert. Her work was described by the American Library Association’s Readers’ Advisory Guide to Horror as “consistently dark, unsettling, and frightening,” and Famous Monsters called her "one of the best writers in dark fiction today." Her novels include The Castle of Los Angeles, Malediction, and Netherworld. A multiple Bram Stoker Award® winner, she lives in North Hollywood, California.

From Morton's Q & A at Days with the Undead:

Welcome Lisa. Now let’s get to the questions… Tell us about your zombies? If the dead were to rise, do you think you’d stand a chance against them?

Probably not. In the Zombie Apocalypse books, the zombie virus can be spread by a bite or even just a scratch. I’m a klutz and always the first one to get whatever flu’s going around, so I’d probably be toast early on.

What was your first experience with zombie media? Was that experience was drew into writing the genre?

It was a midnight showing on opening night of...[read on]
Visit Lisa Morton's website.

My Book, The Movie: Netherworld.

The Page 69 Test: Netherworld.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, December 14, 2014

William Landay

William Landay's latest novel is Defending Jacob.

From his Q & A with Nina Darnton at the Huffington Post:

Your book, "Defending Jacob," features a father who will do anything to save his son. My book, "The Perfect Mother" portrays a mother who will do anything to save her daughter. Both parents ignore whatever clues they don't want to see. And in both cases, the spouse is more suspicious. Do you think it's a parent's obligation to defend his or her child at any cost?

No, certainly not. Of course every parent has a duty to her children, to love and support them, but every parent also has a duty to her neighbors, her fellow citizens -- to protect them from harm, to see that the laws are obeyed. (I'm speaking here of moral duties as well as legal ones.) In most cases, those private and public duties never conflict; by being good parents we are also being good citizens. But there are cases where the two roles can't be reconciled. That is certainly the situation in Defending Jacob. If a parent were to prevent the conviction of a murderer who happens to be her child, would she be morally complicit in the next murder the child commits? What if she knew (with as much certainty as any parent can have in these cases) that the child was...[read on]
Learn more about the book and author at William Landay's website and blog.

The Page 69 Test: Defending Jacob.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, December 12, 2014

Wayne Harrison

Before working as a corrections officer in Rutland, Vermont, Wayne Harrison was an auto mechanic for six years in Waterbury, Connecticut. A first-generation college student, he began in his mid twenties as a criminal justice major before getting turned on to creative writing by mentor and friend Jeffrey Greene. He later received an MFA from the Iowa Writers’ Workshop.

Harrison's fiction has been featured on NPR’s All Things Considered. His short stories appear in Best American Short Stories 2010, The Atlantic, Narrative Magazine, McSweeney’s, Ploughshares, Crazyhorse, The Sun, Columbia: A Journal of Literature and Art, FiveChapters, New Letters and other magazines. His fiction has earned a Maytag fellowship, an Oregon Literary fellowship and a Fishtrap Writing Fellowship. He teaches writing at Oregon State University.

Harrison's debut novel is The Spark and the Drive.

From his Q & A with Caroline Leavitt at The Rumpus:

The Rumpus: You were kind of a bad boy in your youth (you tried to sell a kilo of cocaine you found in a police auction car) but you became an acclaimed author, husband, and father, a life you might never have expected. But were there ever inklings of this life when you were little? A love of reading, of listening to stories? And does the way your life worked out make you believe in fate at all?

Wayne Harrison: My mother is always telling me things happen for a reason, and finally I think I’m becoming a believer. For instance, without the trouble—the crimes I escaped punishment for, the near alcoholism, the car racing that forced me to register my Chevelle in another state, close friends dying and going to jail—I wouldn’t have turned to law enforcement to straighten myself out. Without that intention, I wouldn’t have started college, wouldn’t have taken a creative writing class junior year, wouldn’t have lived in Iowa for two years and realized I wanted no more snow or humidity, wouldn’t have met my beautiful wife on the west coast and been blessed by our two lovely daughters, and by teaching jobs that enabled me to support a pretty severe writing addiction. There is a safeguarding. I’m feeling pretty sure of that these days.

I wish I could credit voracious reading as my primary training...[read on]
The Page 69 Test: The Spark and the Drive.

Writers Read: Wayne Harrison.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Gary Krist

Before turning to narrative nonfiction with The White Cascade and City of Scoundrels, Gary Krist wrote three novels--Bad Chemistry, Chaos Theory, and Extravagance--and two short-story collections--The Garden State and Bone by Bone.

Krist's new book is Empire of Sin: A Story of Sex, Jazz, Murder, and the Battle for Modern New Orleans. From his Q & A with Michael Causey at Washington Independent Review of Books:

Could this kind of story have happened in any other American city? Chicago, New York, even Hot Springs, Arkansas, all had their crazy law-breaking subcultures around the Prohibition era. How was this period in New Orleans different than in other cities?

The unique thing about Storyville is that it was a legally tolerated red-light district. Certainly there were many other cities with a policy of unofficial tolerance of vice — in the form of police and politicians turning the other way for a small monetary consideration — but prostitution in Storyville could be practiced openly and without fear of the frequent cosmetic crackdowns that occurred in other cities. There was even a published directory called the Blue Book that conveniently listed all of the prostitutes and their brothels. As a result, I think the vice culture in Storyville was conducted in a far more businesslike way and was therefore somewhat less degrading for both sex workers and their customers (at least in the early years of the district’s life). And the reason this district grew up in New Orleans and not elsewhere lies in the city’s Franco-Latin roots. That heritage gave New Orleans a much more tolerant, cosmopolitan attitude toward activities that were considered inevitable expressions of...[read on]
Learn more about the book and author at Gary Krist's website.

The Page 69 Test: The White Cascade.

Writers Read: Gary Krist (May 2012).

The Page 99 Test: City of Scoundrels.

The Page 99 Test: Empire of Sin.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

David Gordon

David Gordon was born in New York City. He attended Sarah Lawrence College and holds an MA in English and comparative literature and an MFA in writing, both from Columbia University. His first novel, The Serialist, won the VCU Cabell First Novelist Award and was a finalist for an Edgar Award. His second novel, Mystery Girl, was picked as one of The New Yorker’s best books of the year. His work has appeared in The Paris Review, the New York Times Magazine, and other publications. He has worked in film, fashion, publishing, and pornography.

Gordon's latest book is the story collection White Tiger on Snow Mountain.

From his Paris Review Q & A with Dwyer Murphy:

White Tiger on Snow Mountain is your first story collection. Did you approach the stories differently than you would a novel?

In conceptual terms, I do think there’s a difference, at least for me. A story usually comes into my mind like a three-dimensional object—something I can see and feel and rotate. I’m often completely wrong about what the object is, but it’s still there. Whereas a novel is more like a set of directions for a road trip to California, with a planned stop in, say, Colorado and a visit to the Grand Canyon. The truth is I have no idea what’s going to happen along the way or whether I’ll even get there, but I have this general sense of direction and an end I hope to reach.

Now that the stories are completed and assembled, are you surprised at any of the themes or images that crop up?

I wrote these stories over a period of years, so some of the thematic echoes that people point out seem fairly straightforward for somebody who’s been writing for a long time—you deal with certain recurring ideas and problems. But then there are very specific echoes that I wasn’t aware of, and those are really interesting to me. My protagonists eat a lot of Chinese food and go to a lot of caf├ęs. People tend to have cats in my stories, and the women have long fingers. I have no idea where this stuff comes from. I have no lost love with long fingers. I guess...[read on]
Visit David Gordon's blog.

The Page 69 Test: The Serialist.

Writers Read: David Gordon (July 2013).

The Page 69 Test: Mystery Girl.

The Page 69 Test: White Tiger on Snow Mountain.

--Marshal Zeringue