Thursday, January 19, 2017

Foz Meadows

Foz Meadows’s books include An Accident of Stars and its forthcoming sequel, A Tyranny of Queens. From her interview with Joel Cunningham (and Keith Yatsuhashi) at the B&N Sci-Fi & Fantasy blog:

It seems like both of you are dealing with traditional fantasy tropes in real ways: urban fantasy and portal fantasy. Were you trying intentionally to subvert them?

Keith: I wasn’t. I fly by the seat of my pants, and it just sort of happened organically.

Foz: So, I have wanted for years to write about someone who goes from our world to another world. As a teenager, it was kind of an escapist fantasy, but I could never get it off the ground. It took an adult look at portal fantasy books, and going, ok, they’re a traditionally safe genre for the protagonist. You’ve got the Pevensies going to Narnia, and they come back, and time has folded up and they’re children again. Dorothy comes back from Oz, and Alice comes back from Wonderland. The thing that always frustrated me as a kid was the denial of consequence. All of these wonderful things they’d learned and done and experienced were held not to have mattered somehow, because the adventure has folded up.

On the other hand, there was a movie in the ’80s called Return to Oz, and it begins with Dorothy being institutionalized, because she’s been talking about what happened in Oz. And it’s this terrifying scene of her being locked up and having to escape, and I loved that, because it felt like, “ok, there is a consequence to this.” So I just wanted to write what I keep calling “an epic portal fantasy with the safeties off.” She’s not magically suspended in time, she’s aware that...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

John Green

John Green's books include The Fault in our Stars and Paper Towns. From his Q&A with Kate Kellaway for the Guardian:

I’ve read that you once wanted to be a preacher? Where were you born and what did your parents do?

I did – although my parents were not very religious. I grew up in Orlando. Dad worked for Nature Conservancy, an organisation that preserves land. My mother was a community activist, working with victims of domestic violence and marginalised young women. My brother and I feel a need to do values-driven work – that is the only way to make our parents proud, they are not at all impressed by me hanging out with famous people. I want to make my parents proud, I have the highest regard for them.

What were you like as a teenager?

I was a poor student but a very engaged reader. I went to boarding school, was quite nerdy and surrounded by other pretty nerdy people. I was troubled in the sense that I smoked cigarettes and drank. In my head, I felt different, on the outside of everything, disconnected from people. I felt like an observer, a tail to a comet rather than a comet. I always felt I wasn’t the protagonist of the story.

Are there any teenagers in your life now?

I don’t know any teenagers and I don’t know much about them. Even...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

David Eric Tomlinson

David Eric Tomlinson's new novel is The Midnight Man. From his Q&A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: How did you come up with the idea for The Midnight Man, and why did you set most of it in the 1990s?

A: I was jogging. Lungs burning, legs hurting. Suddenly an image comes to me: a man running along the railroad tracks that bisect downtown Oklahoma City. Where was this guy running? What was he running from? I spent the next five years trying to answer that question.

I grew up in the manufacturing town of Perry, Oklahoma, and had always wanted to write about the 1995 bombing of the Murrah Federal Building, in Oklahoma City. Perry is where Timothy McVeigh was caught, one hour and 18 minutes after detonating his bomb.

The bombing, I decided would be my subject. Early drafts involved only a few characters. There were several detours and false starts. At one point I was writing flashbacks that followed Timothy McVeigh as he prepared for the event. But it was very dark, too dark, and I ended up cutting all of this.

Eventually the story grew into a more structurally complex but emotionally satisfying one. It takes the social forces of that time and place, personifies them – in five very different characters – and follows each, as he or she struggles with complicated racial, political, and social pressures.

While the historical and political forces of the time are all converging toward a horrifying climax, these five characters are overcoming...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, January 16, 2017

Yaa Gyasi

Ghanaian-American novelist Yaa Gyasi is the author of the debut novel, Homegoing. From her Q&A with Kate Kellaway for the Guardian:

Why trace your story through the generations?

I began Homegoing in 2009 after a trip to Ghana’s Cape Coast Castle [where slaves were incarcerated]. The tour guide told us that British soldiers who lived and worked in the castle often married local women – something I didn’t know. I wanted to juxtapose two women – a soldier’s wife with a slave. I thought the novel would be traditionally structured, set in the present, with flashbacks to the 18th century. But the longer I worked, the more interested I became in being able to watch time as it moved, watch slavery and colonialism and their effects – I wanted to see the through-line.

How did the dungeons make you feel?

I was devastated. I felt immense rage. The dungeons still smell after hundreds of years. There was grime on the walls and a tiny air hole at the top. When they closed the door, there was no light. Hundreds of people were kept there for three months at a time before being sent God knew where. The terror they must have felt – not knowing what was to become of them. You can imagine and you cannot...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Lyndsay Faye

Lyndsay Faye is the author of critically acclaimed Dust and Shadow, and is featured in Best American Mystery Stories 2010. She is a true New Yorker in the sense that she was born elsewhere.

Faye's love of her adopted city led her to research the origins of the New York City Police Department, the inception of which exactly coincided with the start of the Irish Potato Famine. Her second and third novels, The Gods of Gotham and its sequel Seven for a Secret, follow ex-bartender Timothy Wilde as he navigates the rapids of his violently turbulent city, his no less chaotic elder brother Valentine Wilde, and the perils of learning police work in a riotous and racially divided political landscape.

The latest volume in the series is The Fatal Flame.

From Faye's Q&A at The Life Sentence:

Kim: Going back to the role of fire in your books, I’m curious about whether you’ve had personal experience with fire. How did that become a motif?

Lyndsay: Half of this answer is interesting, and the other half is the most boring thing that you have ever heard. The interesting part is that I have PTSD problems because I had a bad accident when I was six years old, so I know what panic attacks look like. I was squished in an elevator shaft.

Kim: Oh my gosh.

Lyndsay: I’m lucky to be alive. I had seventy stitches on the back of my head.

Kim: Whoa.

Lyndsay: So the interesting part is that I know what it feels like to freak out. The other part was in the year 1845, when the NYPD was founded, three hundred buildings burned down. Six million dollars’ worth of property damage. This is in 1845, right? That’s an astronomical figure. The whole downtown was just burned. I thought, what could be a more dramatic circumstance than putting your hero right in the middle of that event? The scarred, damaged but stalwart hero is something that I just poached from the zeitgeist. I thought, okay, he’s in this real historical fire. He’s been fire scarred. Since he’s fire scarred, he cannot return to his job bartending. Since he cannot return to his job bartending, he has to take this job from his brother, whom he thinks hates him and whom he hates almost equally.

Kim: Right.

Lyndsay: In The Fatal Flame, the reason there’s so much fire going on is because I’m a terrible person. Every time I love a character I’m like, what’s the worst thing I could do to them? So when I thought to myself, what’s the worst thing I could do to Timothy investigating a crime that has to do with seamstresses? I thought, arson. He would hate that. I don’t mean to be glib about it because it was very painful to write. I just think it’s better storytelling if the stakes are very high. And it was so satisfying to me to see him grow up to the point that he can follow his brother into a burning building.

Kim: We seem to be really interested in antiheroes right now, and Timothy is...[read on]
Learn more about the book and author at Lyndsay Faye's website.

The Page 69 Test: The Gods of Gotham.

The Page 69 Test: Seven for a Secret.

My Book, The Movie: The Fatal Flame. 

Writers Read: Lyndsay Faye (March 2016).

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, January 14, 2017

Kristen Orlando

Kristen Orlando is the author of You Don’t Know My Name.

From her Q&A at Criminal Element:

In your book, Reagan is a master of mortal combat and weaponry. What type of research did you conduct to make sure Reagan's life was as realistic as possible?

I did a ton of research for this book because, even though it’s a high-concept contemporary novel, I really wanted readers to walk away thinking, “Well … maybe there is a super-secret underground group like the Black Angels in the CIA. Maybe teen spies-in-training like Reagan really do exist!”

I did my own research, but I also spoke with people in the military and law enforcement about the types of weapons my characters would carry in everyday life, on a mission, etc. I even went to a gun range and learned how to shoot a gun for the first time because I wanted to know what it felt like. I wanted to accurately be able to describe the weight of it in Reagan’s hands, the way it knocks you back when you pull the trigger, and the way the sound rattles against your chest. I have to say, guns scare the crap out of me! But, I thought it was really important to learn so that I could really help capture all of those important moments in You Don’t Know My Name.

As far as the mortal combat, I have...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, January 13, 2017

Ruta Sepetys

Ruta Sepetys's most recent young adult novel is Salt to the Sea. From her Q&A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: How did you come up with the idea for Salt to the Sea?

A: My father's cousin knows that I love hidden history and underrepresented stories. She told me about the tragedy of the Wilhelm Gustloff and I was passionate to write not only about the single largest maritime disaster in history, but about the refugee evacuation as well.

Q: You write from the perspectives of four different characters. How did you settle on these characters, and what did you do to differentiate their voices?

A: As I was researching the novel, I traveled to many different countries. I quickly learned that even if human beings experience the same event, they all have different interpretations because we all look through our own unique lens. So I created characters to represent the various lenses I encountered.

Differentiating their voices was...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Shanthi Sekaran

Shanthi Sekaran's new novel is Lucky Boy. From her Q&A with Caroline Leavitt:

I always say every book starts with a yearning. What was yours?

My earliest emotional impulses around this book centered around curiosity. I’d heard about undocumented mothers having their children adopted away from them and I was intensely curious about what the actors in these situations were thinking. I suppose I yearned to get into the heads of people like Rishi and Kavya and Soli (my characters.) I wanted to get past intention—past the benevolent intentions of the adoptive parents, and understand how they came to believe that they could justifiably adopt the children of living and able mothers. I knew that their actions were driven by love, not hostility or hate, but I didn’t understand that love. I didn’t understand how their love could justify...[read on]
Learn more about the author and her work at Shanthi Sekaran's website.

Writers Read: Shanthi Sekaran (June 2009).

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Brad Taylor

Brad Taylor's new thriller is Ring of Fire, the latest in his Pike Logan series. From the author's Q&A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: How did you come up with the idea for Ring of Fire?

A: Actually, it's hard to pin Ring of Fire down to one single idea. The leak of the Panama Papers intrigued me on a strategic level, as well as the redacted pages from the official congressional inquiry into 9/11 about Saudi Arabian complicity.

Beyond that, I'd seen a few intel alerts about ISIS using "toy" drones for attacks, and then that the 15th anniversary for 9/11 had serious threats in play. Luckily, none of them came to pass, but the book itself had many, many different attack points that coalesced.

I wanted to do a traditional intelligence hunt, showing how hard it is to separate the wheat from the chaff when trying to prevent such attacks, and had a myriad of different points to provide inspiration. I always try to weave current, real-world problems into my writing, and...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Thomas Perry

Thomas Perry's novels include the Jane Whitefield series (Vanishing Act, Dance for the Dead, Shadow Woman, The Face Changers, Blood Money, Runner, Poison Flower, and A String of Beads), Death Benefits, Pursuit, the first recipient of the Gumshoe Award for best novel, and The Butcher's Boy, which won the prestigious Edgar Award.

Perry's new novel is The Old Man.

From his Q&A with Robert Rotstein for The Big Thrill:

THE OLD MAN tells the story of Dan Chase, a retired 60-year-old widower who lives in Vermont and who enjoys walking his two large dogs. Yet, Dan isn’t exactly who he seems. What motivates Dan?

As a young military intelligence operator 35 years ago Chase made an ill-considered decision motivated by a misplaced but noble sense of duty. After delivering U.S. aid money to a middleman, he learned the middleman kept the money instead of delivering it to Libyan rebels. He retrieved most of the money and brought it home to the U.S., but his superiors tried to arrest him and blame him for the deaths of the rebels who went unsupplied. Enraged, he held onto the money and disappeared. Thirty-five years later, he has been married and widowed, raised a daughter who’s become a doctor, and lived a good life. But now, someone has come for him—not to arrest him, but to kill him. His motivation now is simply to...[read on]
Writers Read: Thomas Perry.

The Page 69 Test: The Old Man.

--Marshal Zeringue