Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Pamela Rotner Sakamoto

Pamela Rotner Sakamoto's new book is Midnight in Broad Daylight: A Japanese American Family Caught Between Two Worlds.

From her Q & A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: At what point did you decide to write the story of the Fukuhara family, and how long did it take to write and research the book?

A: I met Harry [the son who fought on the American side] in Tokyo in 1994. He eventually told me his story, over four years. He was in San Jose and I was in Tokyo; he would go to Tokyo several times a year, and he would call me to have lunch. Slowly, the story would trickle out.

Part of it may be that he was coming to terms with telling a story he hadn’t told. He was a career military intelligence colonel and wanted to be sure he could tell his story to someone he could trust.

I was doing Holocaust Museum work at the time. I was so fascinated—I was an East Coast Jewish girl raised in the Boston area, and I was never exposed to the [Japanese-American] internment at school.

I said, in 1998, Harry, this would be an important story on multiple levels: Japanese-American relations, the Japanese-American story, your generation, your own legacy for your family….I think you should be thinking about a book…

Harry was the patriarch of the surviving family. They were on...[read on]
Visit Pamela Rotner Sakamoto's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Joe Hill

Joe Hill's latest novel is The Fireman.

From the transcript of his interview with NPR's Rachel Martin:

RACHEL MARTIN, HOST: Novelist Joe Hill has a pronouncement to make.

JOE HILL: The world is really divided into two kinds of people - people who adore plague novels and wimps.

MARTIN: Joe Hill's newest apocalyptic plague novel puts me firmly in the first camp. Here's the premise. A highly contagious pathogen is burning across the country. It's known as Dragonscale for the lovely black and gold marks that appear on your body. Eventually, though, you'll burst into flames.

The heroine of the book is a school nurse named Harper who is infected and pregnant. She is determined, however, to survive her pregnancy. And she knows there's a chance the baby will be born healthy. I ask Joe what it was about Harper that hooked him.

HILL: You know, I'm not sure exactly why I settled on her. I know I wanted to write about pregnancy. I do think it's kind of interesting, the idea of a life forming inside you and hijacking your body's biology to serve its own ends. And when I began to think about the Dragonscale as this kind of living organism painted on your skin that's making use of your biology, I saw a connection to that.

So I sort of wanted to explore almost the way this one woman's body has become a battleground between two opposing forces. The other thing is is Harper is very sunny and optimistic. And so many end of the world stories are grim and bleak, which is totally understandable 'cause it's sort of a grim subject.

But I like the idea of this plague as an unstoppable force pouring over the nation. And I sort of had this picture of Harper as...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, May 23, 2016

David Satter

David Satter's new book is The Less You Know, The Better You Sleep: Russia's Road to Terror and Dictatorship under Yeltsin and Putin. From his Q & A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: You begin the book with an examination of the 1999 apartment bombings in Russia. Why did you choose to start with this?

A: The apartment bombings were actually the most important event in Russian history in the last 25 years. They aren’t understood as such because many in the West are not willing to face the implications…

It’s the greatest political provocation since the burning of the Reichstag. [Russian leader Vladimir] Putin would have had no chance at [taking over] were it not for this attack. Putin was able to depict himself as a savior…

Q: Why would you say people in the West are unwilling to face it?

A: It’s a difficult thing for Western people to imagine. We are accustomed to elections with dirty tricks, or where one candidate will show a nasty picture of another’s wife, or where a candidate will call another nasty names.

But it doesn’t...[read on]
The Page 99 Test: It Was a Long Time Ago, and It Never Happened Anyway.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Chris Cleave

Chris Cleave's latest novel is Everyone Brave If Forgiven.

From his interview with NPR's Lynn Neary:

LYNN NEARY, HOST: Writer Chris Cleave had a false start on the way to his latest novel. Intrigued by his grandfather's World War II experience on Malta, he set out to write a book about Randolph Churchill's visit to the besieged island. But then Cleave realized his own grandfather was much more interesting, so were his grandmothers, who were back in London coping with the Blitz. So in the end, Cleave's World War II novel, "Everyone Brave Is Forgiven," was inspired by his own family's wartime experiences. Chris Cleave joins us now to talk about the book. So good to have you with us.

CHRIS CLEAVE: Hello, Lynn. Thank you for having me.

NEARY: Did your grandparents talk to you much about their war experiences?

CLEAVE: The amazing thing is that they didn't, and not until I asked. I think it's typical of that generation, that they suffered a lot, they endured a lot, they did stuff that we would think of as incredibly brave and then they kept quiet about it, sometimes for 40 or 50 years. That was just part of their makeup. And they wouldn't talk until I went and asked them. And at that point, my grandfather...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, May 21, 2016

Veronica Roth

Veronica Roth's new book is Carve the Mark.

From her Q & A at the Guardian:

What was your source of inspiration that led you to create your new book Carve the Mark?

Carve the Mark started — many years ago! — as a story about a young man who was taken from his family and comes back to them a different person than the one they knew. I was curious about how his family’s expectations would weigh on him, and whether he would ever find a way to fit with them again. In its current form, Carve the Mark doesn’t tell that story exactly — I found myself drawn to different things as I wrote and revised — but there was something about changing because you have to, but not being sure if you’re changing for the better, that really fascinated me. As with any book, particularly a sci-fi/fantasy book, there were many sources of inspiration, but...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, May 20, 2016

Rita Gabis

Rita Gabis is the author of A Guest at the Shooters' Banquet: My Grandfather's SS Past, My Jewish Family, A Search for the Truth.

From her Q & A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: Why did you decide to write A Guest at the Shooters' Banquet, and as you were working on it, how did you separate your roles as author and family member?

A: When I first found out my grandfather was a collaborator of some sort--I didn’t know the extent for some time--the first thought I had was to find out if he was complicit in the death of anyone, had he hurt anyone. I had no idea I was going to write a book about it.

Six months into the research, when I began finding a paper trail [on] his story as a collaborator, [I saw that] what occurred in the border region of Lithuania had a meaning beyond the family story…

I knew I was going to do original research, and my aim was to write a book that would be useful for someone outside the field, who wouldn’t normally be going to the archives…but would be interested in the topic.

Then, in terms of separating the writer and the family member, I spent five years going back and forth between Eastern Europe and Israel. I also spent time in Poland and Germany. I spent time interviewing people. When I was in the field, it was easy to put that [writer] hat on.

At each meeting with interviewees, I quickly identified myself as being the product of a blended family, and explained what initiated the project, and there was a moment when I held my breath and [expected the person] would ask me to leave, but...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Karen Halvorsen Schreck

Karen Halvorsen Schreck is the author of the historical novel Sing For Me, which was praised in a Publishers Weekly starred review. She received her doctorate in English and Creative Writing from the University of Illinois at Chicago, and now teaches writing and literature.

Halvorsen Schreck's new novel is Broken Ground.

From the author's Q & A with Jennifer S. Brown at The Debutante Ball:

Talk about one book that made an impact on you.

I had a fabulous mentor in high school—an English teacher called “Mr. M.” Looking back now, I’d have to say he was fearless. By this I mean: he wasn’t afraid to assign books that drew complaints from his students’ parents (this was a small, private, conservative, faith-based school) and got him into hot water with the administration. “You’ve got to look at the world outside of your Evangelical shoebox.” That’s what Mr. M always said. And if we students weren’t inclined to do so on our own, he’d help us along. For instance: the spring of my junior he assigned A GOOD MAN IS HARD TO FIND AND OTHER STORIES, by Flannery O’Connor. We didn’t just read one or two of O’Connor’s grotesque, morbidly funny, revelatory stories. We read the WHOLE DAMN COLLECTION. I became steeped in her graphic, gorgeous, apocalyptic world of peacocks and pigs, bible salesmen and BBQs, Confederate soldiers and serial killers. And let me tell you: the book rocked my world. I had never read anything like it—such twists and turns of plot and meaning, characters almost cartoon-like in their rendering, and yet utterly believable to me. I understood something I’d never even thought about before, concerning diversity in North American literature—O’Conner and her fiction were Southern, no bones about it, and if she was that, down to her very last word in every sentence, that meant that there were others out there who were informed by their place of origin, not to mention their race, class, culture, and religion ... heck, given O’Conner’s painful struggle with lupus, perhaps even their physicality. And she was a woman. She was a woman! Yet she was not afraid to get dirty or be ugly if that’s what her story demanded. After that, I read...[read on]
Visit Karen Halvorsen Schreck's website.

My Book, The Movie: Broken Ground.

Writers Read: Karen Halvorsen Schreck.

The Page 69 Test: Broken Ground.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Melanie Conklin

Melanie Conklin is the author of Counting Thyme.

From her Q & A with Caroline Starr Rose at Classroom Connections:

Please tell us about your book.

Counting Thyme is the story of Thyme Owens, an eleven-year-old girl whose family moves across the country for her little brother’s cancer treatment. It’s a story about family, friendship, and finding your place in the world when life throws you a curveball.

What inspired you to write this story?

The idea for this story came to me after I read a bunch of middle grade books with protagonists who were facing serious illnesses. I wondered what it would be like to be the sibling of a gravely ill child. I wondered how the conflicts at home would influence the conflicts at school. I thought it would be especially tough if you were just starting middle school, with all of the social pressures involved at that time in life. Thyme’s story grew from there!

Could you share with readers how you conducted your research or share a few interesting tidbits you learned while researching?

In my past life as...[read on]
Visit Melanie Conklin's website, Twitter perch, and watch the Counting Thyme book trailer.

The Page 69 Test: Counting Thyme.

Writers Read: Melanie Conklin.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Michele Wucker

Michele Wucker is the author of The Gray Rhino: How to Recognize and Act on the Obvious Dangers We Ignore. From her Q & A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: You define a Gray Rhino as “a highly probable, high-impact threat: something we ought to see coming, like a two-ton rhinoceros aiming its horn in our direction and preparing to charge.” How did you come up with the concept for this book?

A: It started out with a question—what makes the difference between the people who see a problem coming and do something, and others who don’t.

[I looked at] the Argentine debt crisis and the Greek debt crisis. When Argentina was in a debt spiral, I was a financial journalist. I wrote about a proposal for Argentina to write down a third of what it owed…nothing happened to that proposal, and nine months later, Argentina defaulted, and investors lost 70 percent instead of 30 percent.

Ten years later you have Greece. The numbers were similar, debt was up, GDP and reserves were down, the same dynamic was in play. I wrote a paper for the New America Foundation bringing up the Argentina example, saying Greece was an opportunity to learn from that mistake.

When I published about the Argentina proposal, bankers called me and said, This needs to happen. I needed to ask the question why Greece ended up being able to restructure and Argentina didn’t. I was looking for a way to describe it that was accessible.

The image I came up with was a big rhino…I didn’t know anything about rhinos! [I learned that] white rhinos are not white, and black rhinos are not black. They’re all gray. It’s obvious, but...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, May 16, 2016

Rufi Thorpe

Rufi Thorpe's new novel is Dear Fang, with Love. From her Q & A at the publisher's website:

Q: Can you describe your visit to Lithuania, and what about the country stuck with you enough to set DEAR FANG, WITH LOVE there?

A: I went to Lithuania as part of a writing program with Summer Literary Seminars, run by Mikhail Iossel. I had absolutely zero knowledge or understanding of Lithuania, so I just sort of arrived in a haunted city in the middle of a forest. Lithuania, and Vilnius in particular, is an exceptionally strange place and has a certain reputation and self-image as a pagan, unearthly, magic place. The history is very complicated, the cultural roots are both tangled and deep, the violence and political oppression the country has seen are a bit beyond the American imagination. And there I was, just sort of stumbling through it, thinking, “Why didn’t I know about all this?” I fell in love with it. I suppose setting a book there was just an excuse to learn more about it, a refusal to let the trip end when after a few weeks I had to return to the US.

Q: You undoubtedly have a strong connection to California–you were raised there, much of your first book took place in Corona del Mar and now you are raising your family there. What was it like to write about an entirely new place in this book?

A: In a lot of ways, even though the action of the book takes place almost entirely in Vilnius, I think it is still secretly a book about California, or at least about...[read on]
Visit Rufi Thorpe's website.

Writers Read: Rufi Thorpe (July 2014).

The Page 69 Test: The Girls from Corona del Mar.

My Book, The Movie: The Girls from Corona del Mar.

--Marshal Zeringue