Monday, November 30, 2015

J.K. Rowling

J.K. Rowling is the author of 15 books, including the seven Harry Potter novels, The Casual Vacancy and, as Robert Galbraith, three crime novels including the recently released Career of Evil. From her conversation with Lauren Laverne, radio and TV broadcaster, and former lead singer of Kenickie, as shared at the Guardian:

LL I wanted to ask you about naming things, because you have an interesting relationship with the power of names. Obviously, having written under different pseudonyms, and having characters with these wonderful, Dickensian, perfectly fitting names.

JR I think they were offering odds of 100-1 that I’d call my son Voldemort. 100-1! It was worth a bet. But you’re right, names are really important. Choosing a pseudonym for Robert Galbraith was a really big deal.

LL How did you do that?

JR Well, when I was a child I wanted to be called Ella Galbraith. So I thought I might be LA Galbraith, but then I didn’t want to use initials.

LL You’d give the game away.

JR Yes, and I really didn’t think it through – there’s also JK Galbraith, the famous economist. It was only after I’d chosen Robert, for Robert Kennedy, who’s my political hero of heroes, that I thought, it’s as though I want to be found! What am I...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Annie Liontas

Annie Liontas' debut novel, Let Me Explain You, was selected by the ABA as an Indies Introduce Debut and Indies Next. She is the co-editor of the anthology A Manner of Being: Writers on their Mentors and the recipient of a grant from the Barbara Deming Memorial Fund.

From the author's Q & A with Daniel Torday for The Rumpus:

The Rumpus: As much as I loved so many aspects of this expansive first novel, I think what grabbed me from the first—from the title, even—is how adept you are at crafting and living inside of a voice. And not just one voice: multiple voices. I’ve always felt a little skeptical of that “find your voice” advice for writers, and I remember feeling really freed in my early twenties when I read an interview with one of my favorite writers who said something like, Your job isn’t to find your voice, but to find a voice, for each character, each book. How did you think about the development of voice for each character here?

Annie Liontas: For a long time, I conceived of voice as this wild, untamed, mythical beast that you wrestled onto the page. I still think it is that, on some level—something you channel rather than create. But voice is also artifice, entirely constructed. When it’s real, when it works, it comes, I believe, from empathy and from truly inhabiting another existence, if not person. As a young writer, I didn’t know any of this; it’s only something I’ve developed through practice. What I knew instinctively back then was that I could “do” voice—that maybe it was all I could do—and so I stayed away from writing programs for a long time. I had heard that everyone ends up coming out sounding the same (not true!) and was afraid I’d lose the one thing I had been given.

With Let Me Explain You, I thought about throwing my voice—a kind of living ventriloquism that gets me out of me and into each of my characters. I discovered fairly quickly that Stavros has a big voice (though his humor came far later). He was so big, in fact, that most early readers suggested I write the entire novel in his voice alone. But I knew this had to be...[read on]
Visit Annie Liontas's website.

The Page 69 Test: Let Me Explain You.

My Book, The Movie: Let Me Explain You.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, November 28, 2015

Derek Haas

Derek Haas's fourth novel featuring the hit man Columbus is A Different Lie. From the author's Q & A with Steph Cha at the Los Angeles Review of Books:

STEPH CHA: Columbus’s philosophy involves finding a connection with his mark, and then severing that connection through the act of killing. There’s something very authorly about this, and it makes me wonder about your relationship with your characters. You’re a writer and, as far as I know, a man of peace. What’s your connection to Columbus? Is he in fact your dark double?

DEREK HAAS: My wife asks me that all the time. There are aspects to Columbus that I share: his fondness of literature and storytelling, his love for his family, his attraction to rogues and underdogs, his joy for his work. I hope I’m more honest than he is. He lies to himself quite a bit, and even more to others. His upbringing was very different from mine. His morals don’t line up with mine. Maybe I should sever the connection!

So where did Columbus come from? What attracted you to the idea of writing a hit man?

I liked the idea of a contract killer who was assigned to kill his own father. I liked the symbolism of him traveling from east to west, from spring to winter, from the birthplace of the nation to the west coast over the course of the first novel. I wanted a name that evoked America, a country born out of violence. Plus, I just like...[read on]
Learn about who Haas has imagined playing Columbus on the big screen.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, November 27, 2015

Dawn Lerman

Dawn Lerman is a board-certified nutrition expert and a contributor to the New York Times Well Blog. Her company, Magnificent Mommies, provides nutrition education to students, teachers, and corporations. She lives in New York City with her two children, Dylan and Sofia.

Lerman's new book is My Fat Dad: A Memoir of Food, Love and Family, with Recipes.

From her Q & A with NPR's Michel Martin:

MARTIN: You know, people are used to the cliche of the Jewish family where food is the center of everything, but you kind of turned that story on its head. Your father couldn't stop eating, and her mother almost seemed to hate food. And you write in the book that growing up, you were always hungry. Tell us a little bit more about that.

LERMAN: Well, growing up, my dad was 450 pounds, and every week, he was on a new diets. And whatever diet he was on, we had to be on to support him. When he was on Atkins, we were on Atkins. When he was on the cabbage soup diet, that's all we ate - was cabbage soup. So I was always hungry. We never had real food in my house. And my mom was a want-to-be actress, and she was always running from auditions. And she only had time for a can of tuna fish over the sink. and she was rebelling against her mother, who cooked obsessively. And she felt - wanted more from her life, and food was just not in that equation.

MARTIN: So why was your father so obsessed with food?

LERMAN: His mother worked in the garment district from the time she was 13 years old. She was a Russian immigrant, and that was the way she showed love to him. She would feed him obsessively. And to him, food meant love, and I think that was his way of stuffing his emotions and not dealing with anything. So he just...[read on]
Visit Dawn Lerman's New York Times blog and Facebook page.

Writers Read: Dawn Lerman.

The Page 99 Test: My Fat Dad.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, November 26, 2015

David Mitchell

David Mitchell's novels include The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet, Cloud Atlas, Black Swan Green, and most recently, Slade House. From Mitchell's interview with Fresh Air producer Sam Briger:

BRIGER: So the first chapter of this book, "Slade House," started out as a story you wrote on Twitter. Why did you want to write a story on Twitter? And why did you decide then to expand the original story into a longer book?

MITCHELL: I wanted to write the story on Twitter because I was a little bit embarrassed of having this Twitter account that my publisher really was only ever using to publicize bookshop appearances and the like. However, I don't really want to tweet about my private life. I don't feel it's that interesting and my privacy is important. So I didn't really have a means to use it as it felt legitimate until I hit upon the idea of using it as a sort of a vehicle for fiction which is what I'm interested about. So I already had the story. I translated it into tweets and then put those out over the course of about two or three weeks last year.

BRIGER: Did you like the restrictions that Twitter placed upon you?

MITCHELL: I like what I had to do to circumvent those restrictions. I view many artistic endeavors as being perhaps an analogist to straitjackets. And the more demonic and torturous the straitjacket is, the more audacious the act of escapology has to be to get out of that straitjacket. And if all goes well, that audacity, that escapology turns into an original manuscript. It's something not quite like something we've read before. And so yeah, it isn't - I like the restrictions. I like what you what to do to get around the restrictions.

BRIGER: The victims of the "Slade House" - right before their souls are going to be devoured, they actually see their souls - like their souls are these - float in front of their faces. And they're these globes. They look to some like tiny galaxies. And each one of them finds that soul beautiful. And not all of these people you have sympathy for. One of them is a corrupt and racist police officer. But since all of them see this all as beautiful, does - that suggested to me some sort of redemption. Was that your intent?

MITCHELL: Every character that I'm asking the reader to root for has to have...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

David Eagleman

David Eagleman is the author of The Brain: The Story of You.

From his Q & A with Stephanie Cross for the Guardian:

You underscore how little conscious control we have over our decisions – will science eventually rule out free will altogether?

There’s a lot of debate about this. There are many neuroscientists who feel that we probably don’t have free will because fundamentally it’s all pieces and parts interacting and it’s difficult to see where you could slip the ghost into the machine.

And you?

Personally I feel like the jury is still out in the sense that our science might still be a little bit too young to understand exactly what we mean by free will; and certainly it’s the case that we have the illusion that we have free will, which means at minimum that would need to get explained. But what we can conclude is that if we have any free will at all, it’s going to be the smallest bit of what’s happening – much smaller than anyone ever intuited about themselves – because who you are comes about as this confluence of your genetics and all the experiences you’ve ever had, and that’s what sends brains off on...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Jonathan Sacks

Rabbi Jonathan Sacks is the former Chief Rabbi of Britain and author of Not in God's Name: Confronting Religious Violence. From his conversation with Fareed Zakaria:

ZAKARIA: One of the things you stress in the book is that every religion has had these seeds of extremism and that it is through this kind of reform that you get rid of it. But you are cautious against the kind of blanket condemnations of Islam. You know, you try to use a very soft touch.

SACKS: Well, Islam is a great faith that's had remarkably wonderful periods of history. In the early middle ages it was the epitome of tolerance. And then Spain, as I say, under the Umayyads, Jews, Christians and Muslims lived together in greater freedom than at any other times in the Middle Ages. Not liberal democracy by our standards, but at least an advance on anything until then. All I can say from Jewish and that matter, Christian history is that when religion turns violent, it begins by murdering its enemies, it ends by murdering its co-religionists. And it then inflicts a self-imposed injury on faith itself. The violence in Judaism internally in the first century caused the catastrophe that took his nearly 2000 years to get over. The violence between Christians, Catholics and Protestants in Europe in the 16 and 17 centuries, led to four centuries of secularization. Religion begins when it chooses the part of violence by assaulting its enemies, but it becomes its own most serious victim.

ZAKARIA: And in a sense the pattern you're describing is exactly what we're seeing where these terrorist organizations began as exclusively anti-Western, but now it's the Sunnis killing the Shia. How does one grow moderates? What is the - what is the path forward? You know, how should particularly westerners view this, you know, what is really an internal debate within Islam. How to help the good guys?

SACKS: Well, you know, what you try and do is try and create...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, November 23, 2015

Susanna Hislop

Susanna Hislop is an actor and a writer and the Artistic Director of Slip of Steel, and is an editor of the online literary quarterly The Junket. Her first book Stories in the Stars: An Atlas of Constellations was BBC Radio 4’s Book of the Week over Christmas 2014. From her Q & A with Caroline Leavitt:

Why do you think we are all so fascinated with the sky?

It’s right on top of us! It engulfs us. It lights us, darkens us, rains on us, shines on us, feeds and kills us: and even now, in an age governed by science and reason, most of us – and certainly me – have absolutely no real sense of what it is or how it works. Mostly it just makes us feel, keenly, our place in some vast and greater truth, or rather chaos or untruth: filling us with magic and fear.

What do stories about the constellations really tell us about ourselves?

I think they tell us about our need to name things. To place things, make sense of things, and also, more darkly, to own things. We like to tell stories – lies in fact – about who we are and how we got here to make us feel as if we mean something. And of course historically, the differing constellation narratives tell us a huge amount about the different societies that invented them (I was particularly interested in tracing the socio-political metamorphoses of the women in stars). Having said that, one of the things I found most incredible researching the book, was how several constellation myths are in fact echoed across continents and time by entirely different people and cultures – these uncanny similarities tell us something essential about what it is to be human, and about the very profound – although in modern society, often ignored – relationship we have with nature, that very physical, animal instinct and understanding of...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Peter Guralnick

Peter Guralnick is the author of Sam Phillips: The Man Who Invented Rock ‘n’ Roll. From his Q & A with Scott Timberg for Salon:

The subtitle of your book is “The Man Who Invented Rock ‘n’ Roll.” I don’t think you’re the first person to call him that, and the phrase served as the title for a documentary years ago. Overall, give us a sense of how important Phillips was to the birth and early evolution of the music.

What I think was remarkable about Sam, besides the fact that from a tiny little storefront studio in Memphis, so much music came out of such a tiny space, from something that was essentially a one-man operation. From Elvis to Carl Perkins to Johnny Cash to Jerry Lee Lewis, [he created] what was essentially the dominant strain of rock ‘n’ roll during the first few years of its existence.

What I think is extraordinary about Sam is that he had a vision for rock ‘n’ roll long before the music existed, long before he was even able to give expression to it… Years before he even conceived of building a recording studio, he conceived a music that could bridge all gaps, that could deny category… An African-American-based music that could leap across the chasms of race and social origin and class. And when he opened his studio, the first hit he had come out was [Ike Turner’s] “Rocket 88.” It doesn’t matter how you label it – the fact is, it was an extraordinary hit, it sold over 100,000 copies.

In his first public utterances, in the Memphis Commercial Appeal, he spoke of that same vision. Of “Rocket 88” being the kind of music that could appeal to all kinds, that could reach a mainstream audience, that could bridge that gap. While the record may not have fully realized what we envisioned for it, that was clearly what he was looking to achieve from the moment he started recording anyone.

He had the same vision for...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Cat Winters

Cat Winters's new novel is The Uninvited. From her Q & A with Sarah Skilton at B&N Reads:

While researching [the ghost story set in 1918] The Uninvited, what was some of the more shocking information you uncovered about the time period?

What shocked me the most was discovering the mistreatment of and violence against German Americans and other immigrants during the WWI period. I set The Uninvited specifically in Illinois because of a real-life lynching of a German-born coalminer named Robert Prager in April 1918. He was killed by a mob of approximately three to four hundred men for purportedly making “disloyal utterances against the United States.” Eleven men went to trial for his murder on June 1918. All eleven were declared “not guilty” and freed. Prager’s murder wasn’t the only 1918 act of violence committed against an immigrant in the name of patriotism, unfortunately. I don’t think we hear enough about the paranoia that gripped the nation during this war, but I think we could learn a lot from it.

Having previously written about the Spanish flu and WWI for your debut YA novel, the critically acclaimed In the Shadow of Blackbirds, was it enjoyable to revisit that era? Are there any aspects of life in that time that you wish were still in play today?

Revisiting the Spanish flu itself was a little dark and intense, but...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue