Guernica: I don’t think it’s a secret that you’re gay, but I haven’t seen you labelled as a gay writer. Why is that, I wonder? People might say it’s because your novel is about race, and therefore the fact you’re a writer of color comes up. But actually it’s a book about sexuality, too. You paint a great portrait of Floyd, a character, creative in temperament, who is struggling in some ways with his sexuality.--Marshal Zeringue
Ayana Mathis: It’s difficult. I’m wary of being put in boxes. But at the same time, it’s important that I embrace my identity as a writer who happens to be gay, and in my own way I do that. In America, and no doubt elsewhere, we have such a tendency toward the segregation of cultural products. This is a black book, this is a gay book, this is an Asian book. It can be counterproductive both to the literary enterprise and to people’s reading, because it can set up barriers. Readers may think, “Oh, I’m a straight man from Atlanta and I’m white, so I won’t enjoy that book because it’s by a gay black woman in Brooklyn.” They’re encouraged to think that, in a way, because of the categorization in the media.
As for Floyd, he’s certainly a very important character in the book. I couldn’t imagine a book with this many characters in it and one of them not being gay. It would have felt like a glaring and problematic omission for me. But I also wanted to write him as a person, not just a gay person. I found his chapter one of the most difficult to write because I seemed to be tempted to write some kind of coming out story. Many people have done that far better than I ever could, and I found I was relying on reductive tropes—what I was producing was boring, predictable. I had to think about the fact that first and foremost Floyd was a guy, a guy away from home for the first time. I had to resist the temptation to...[read on]
Sunday, May 19, 2013
Saturday, May 18, 2013
Dan Brown's new novel is Inferno.
From his Q & A with Alexandra Alter for the Wall Street Journal's Speakeasy blog:
This is your darkest book to date. It deals with some very grim themes, like the imminent collapse of the human species.--Marshal Zeringue
You can’t write about Dante without writing about darkness. Inferno is the most fascinating of the three canticles. As a thriller writer, it was the one I was immediately drawn to. I’ve written about fine arts but never about literary arts, so Dante called to me as something new, but it’s also safe solid ground for Langdon. It’s such a masterpiece. It’s like the Mona Lisa of the literary world.
You and your publisher have gone to great lengths to make sure the plot remained secret until publication day. How did you research the locations in Florence, like the Palazzo Vecchio and the Baptistery of San Giovanni, without giving away what you were working on?
It’s a double edge sword. On the good side, I now have access to people and locations that I have never had in the past. On the challenging side, if I’m trying to keep things secret, it’s impossible to talk to these specialists without them saying, “Oh my God, you wouldn’t believe who was here today and what he was asking.” So these trips usually take longer than they should, because out of ten things I see, five of them have nothing to do with the book. Five questions I ask have nothing to do with the book. I’m constantly trying to keep people guessing as to what I’m doing and I will spend enormous amounts of time looking at manuscripts and asking questions and people will say, I know...[read on]
Friday, May 17, 2013
Tricia Fields lives in a log cabin on a small farm with her husband and two daughters. She was born in Hawaii but has spent most of her life in small town Indiana, where her husband is an investigator with the state police. A lifelong love of Mexico and the desert southwest lead to her first book, The Territory, which won the Tony Hillerman Award for Best Mystery. Scratchgravel Road, the follow-up to The Territory, was released last month. Fields is currently working on the fourth book in the series, Fire Break, featuring border town Chief of Police, Josie Gray.
From the author's Q & A with J. Sydney Jones:
How do you incorporate location in your fiction? Do you pay overt attention to it in certain scenes, or is it a background inspiration for you?Visit Tricia Fields's website and blog.
I’m very conscious of writing about the region, the desert and my fictional city of Artemis [located near the Big Bend National Park in West Texas]. Each of these influences the behavior and actions of the characters in the books as I have developed them. Dust storms and mud slides, drought and hundred year floods, heat and isolation, these extremes come together inside Josie and define her in ways that she can’t describe, but that she feels at her core. She’ll never leave Artemis. She belongs in the desert.
Of the novels you have written set in this location, do you have a favorite book or scene that focuses on the place? Could you quote a short passage or give an example of how the location figures in your novels?
The first book in the series, The Territory, sets up the premise for all books to come. Following is a paragraph from that book that explains the title, and lets readers know the specific area that the series covers.
“Josie knew prosecuting crimes over international borders was mired in paperwork, frustration, and pools of money her own department didn’t have. Over the past year, as the border violence increased, the trust among the two cities’ law enforcement agencies had deteriorated. Both countries found the other’s legal system lacking. Mexico blamed the American lust for drugs and lack of gun laws, and the U.S. blamed...[read on]
The Page 69 Test: The Territory.
Writers Read: Tricia Fields (November 2011).
The Page 69 Test: Scratchgravel Road.
Writers Read: Tricia Fields.
Posted by Marshal Zeringue at 4:44 AM
Thursday, May 16, 2013
J. Sydney Jones's 2009 novel The Empty Mirror introduced Karl Werthen, a well-off Viennese lawyer and aspiring author who, with real-life criminologist Doktor Hanns Gross, sought to prove that the painter Gustav Klimt was innocent in a series of gruesome local slayings. In the fourth and latest novel in the series, The Keeper of Hands, Werthen, Gross and Werthen’s resourceful spouse, Berthe Meisner, are mixed up in the seemingly disparate cases of a murdered teenage prostitute and an assaulted playwright.
From Jones's Q &A with J. Kingston Pierce for Kirkus Reviews:
I’m intrigued by your use of Hanns Gross, the so-called father of criminology, as a sidekick of sorts for Werthen. Have any of Gross’ descendents contacted you with comments or complaints about your use of their famous ancestor?Learn more about the book and author at J. Sydney Jones' website and blog.
No descendants, but at readings there are usually one or two professional forensics folks who have come because of an interest in Gross. I really do enjoy writing Gross—his powers of deduction are quite phenomenal, but he is such a jerk. Quite oblivious to the feelings of others. He often serves as a comic foil, but his sad relationship with his son, Otto, is a recurring leitmotif of the books, as well. I am most anxious for the future installment when Gross has a post in Prague and teaches, among others, the young [Franz] Kafka. That will be a fun adventure.
The plots of your Viennese Mysteries start with a cultural luminary or two from the city’s past, be it Wittgenstein, Mahler or Vienna’s anti-Semitic mayor, Karl Lueger. The Keeper of Hands ropes authors Arthur Schnitzler and Bertha von Suttner into its story. Why were those two of particular interest to you?
I was not very kind to Schnitzler in this novel, I fear, focusing more on his womanizing than his art. But I am a great fan of his writing, especially the novel Das Weite Land (translated as The Undiscovered Country). I remember watching a BBC adaptation of his Anatol plays just before departing for Vienna as a student, and they obviously informed—at the very least—my expectations of the city. Schnitzler was at the center of the literary Vienna of the time, and...[read on]
Read "The Story Behind the Story: The Silence,” at The Rap Sheet.
The Page 69 Test: The Empty Mirror.
The Page 69 Test: Requiem in Vienna.
The Page 69 Test: The Silence.
Wednesday, May 15, 2013
Glenn Frankel is director of the School of Journalism and G.B. Dealey Regents Professor in Journalism at the University of Texas at Austin.
His new book is The Searchers: The Making of an American Legend.
From the author's Q & A with Deborah Kalb:
Q: What first intrigued you about The Searchers, and why did you decide it would make a good subject for a book?Learn more about the book and author at Glenn Frankel's website.
A: I was always intrigued by The Searchers since I was a boy and I saw it for the first time on the big screen. It was a very unsettling, exciting, challenging film. I saw a lot of Westerns as a kid, and it was the only one that stuck with me. In college, Andrew Sarris taught it at Columbia—he held it up as an example of great filmmaking. I always thought that it was a great American story. When I came back to the U.S. in 2006, I was looking for an American book. I came back to The Searchers. I thought I would undertake a “making of the movie” book. I knew there was something called the “captivity narrative.” I had no idea that The Searchers was loosely based on a true story. It opened up an entire area of research work.
Q: What surprised you most in the course of your research?
A: A couple of things. One was that it turns out to be easier to research Cynthia Ann Parker and Quanah Parker in 19th century Texas than to research John Ford in Hollywood. That was because John Ford didn’t leave much in the way of writing, or explanation of his work. I was putting together pieces of the puzzle. And Texans are so in love with their history that there are so many places [to do research]. It was surprising and interesting. Another thing—you can see all these places. Monument Valley—you can see where Ford filmed. In Texas, you can see…Palo Duro Canyon. In Oklahoma, you can see Quanah Parker’s Star House. As a journalist/historian—I’m not sure which I am at this point—it’s important for me to...[read on]
My Book, The Movie: The Searchers.
Posted by Marshal Zeringue at 2:34 AM
Tuesday, May 14, 2013
Carter Malkasian spent nearly two years in the Afghan district of Garmser, in war torn Helmand province as a political officer for the US Department of State. For the last decade, he has studied war, and written about it, and worked in war zones, including long stints in Iraq's Al Anbar province. The author of Counterinsurgency in Modern Warfare (named by Foreign Affairs as one of the ten books to read on counterinsurgency) and A History of Modern Wars of Attrition, he has also served as the director of the stability and development program at the Center for Naval Analyses. He has a Ph.D. in history from Oxford University. His new book is War Comes to Garmser: Thirty Years of Conflict on the Afghan Frontier.
From his Q & A with John Kael Weston for The Daily Beast:
What’s your inspiration for [War Comes to Garmser]?--Marshal Zeringue
I spent 18 months, in two separate deployments, in Al Anbar, Iraq. When I got back, I always meant to write a book but never found the time. I wrote several short articles and a few research studies but nothing more. It is one of my biggest regrets. The memories faded. The details went grey. When I got home from Afghanistan, I was determined to take the time to write something.
The book follows in the footsteps of Jeffrey Race's War Comes to Long An. Fluent in Vietnamese, Race told the story of a single province in Vietnam over a twenty-year period. His work offered a window into the ground truth of the Vietnam War. War Comes to Long An has a bright red cover, printed by the University of California Press. If that doesn’t scream radicalism, I don’t know what does. That book—tattered and worn—has found its way into my backpack in far off places for the past six years. I hope that War Comes to Garmser can also give the broad view of a small place, and maybe offer similar kinds of insights.
Why did you spend two years in Garmser, and how does this little district fit into the larger strategic picture?
War Comes to Garmser tells the story of the district of Garmser from the 1960s to 2012. Garmser has about 150,000 people, mostly living along the Helmand River in a fertile strip no more than 10 kilometers wide and 7 kilometers long. It is tribal, Islamic, and hot—Garmser means "hot place" in Persian. Pakistan is just a five-hour drive across open desert. For over thirty years, Garmser has been part of larger conflicts that have engulfed Afghanistan as a whole: first, the jihad and the ensuing civil war, then the Taliban, and finally the British and American intervention.
Garmser is...[read on]
Posted by Marshal Zeringue at 3:03 AM
Monday, May 13, 2013
Reed Farrel Coleman's new Moe Prager novel is Onion Street.
From his Q & A with Thomas Pluck at The Big Thrill:
Hi, Reed. For readers who haven’t had the pleasure of meeting Moe Prager, give us the lowdown on him, and what he’s up against in ONION STREET.Visit Reed Farrel Coleman's website.
Moe is both what you’d expect from a hard-boiled ex-cop turned PI and nothing you would expect from one. He’s a deep thinker and has a longstanding struggle with the subjects of God and religion. He has aged through the course of the series and undergone all sorts of growth, change, and tragedy. I thought it was a good time to tell the story of how he went from being an aimless college student in the late ‘60s to a cop. And that’s where we find Moe in ONION STREET. Unlike in the earlier books, this is Moe with no law enforcement experience. We watch him come to grips with the harsh realities of crime.
With the Moe Prager novels, you dive into the past with great realism. When I read THE JAMES DEANS I thought you’d written it in the early ’80s. It really sparked my nostalgia for dirty old Times Square. For ONION STREET you go deeper into Moe’s past, into the turbulent late ’60s. What draws you back, do you see us making the same mistakes, or is it just a richer canvas?
I grew up in the ‘60s, but I wasn’t yet a man. Oddly, in recounting it, I was shocked to recall just how many earth shattering events happened in such rapid succession. In the first six months of 1968 alone there was the Tet Offensive, the Pueblo incident, Martin Luther King Jr and Bobby Kennedy were assassinated. However, what people forget or people who didn’t live through it tend not to realize is that...[read on]
The Page 69 Test: Redemption Street.
The Page 69 Test: Empty Ever After.
My Book, the Movie: The Moe Prager Mystery Series.
The Page 69 Test: Innocent Monster.
Writers Read: Reed Farrel Coleman (October 2010).
The Page 69 Test: Hurt Machine.
Posted by Marshal Zeringue at 4:04 AM
Sunday, May 12, 2013
Joanna Hershon is the author of Swimming, The Outside of August, and The German Bride. Her writing has appeared in One Story, The Virginia Quarterly Review, Post Road, the literary anthology Brooklyn Was Mine, and was shortlisted for the 2007 O. Henry Prize Stories.
Her new novel is A Dual Inheritance.
From Hershon's Q & A at Details:
Details: What inspired this story?Learn more about the author and her work at Joanna Hershon's website.
Joanna Hershon: The initial seed came from my father's best friend from Harvard, a freshman roommate. They remain really close. I grew up with him as kind of an uncle figure—he has amazing charisma and an incredible life story. Their friendship has always fascinated me, but I didn't set out to write a book about them—and that's definitely not what the book is about— I just started thinking about that time in life and that era.
Details: Your male characters are very convincing. Why do you think you write so well from a male perspective?
Joanna Hershon: I feel like I have these connections aesthetically with men. The character of Ed…was like some part of myself. He's so, so not me, yet I'm able to kind of access this guy. He's completely unabashed in his desires and that's really fun as a writer: someone who's completely himself and not trying to be anyone else.
Details: Was it important for you to write a book with a wider reach both thematically and geographically than anything you'd written before?
Joanna Hershon: I don't think I was saying, "Okay I want to write a novel about the larger world," but [after] following these stories, that's just what happened. What's interesting about...[read on]
The Page 69 Test: The German Bride.
My Book, The Movie: The German Bride.
Writers Read: Joanna Hershon.
The Page 69 Test: A Dual Inheritance.
My Book, The Movie: A Dual Inheritance.
Saturday, May 11, 2013
Julie Klausner's new book--her first for young adults--is Art Girls Are Easy.
From her Q & A with Claire Zulkey for WBEZ:
How hard or easy was it to switch gears into YA writing? What challenges did it pose?--Marshal Zeringue
It's completely tough to write a book, period. But switching gears into fiction was absolutely challenging, if only because I had to make sure I wasn't using my own voice the whole time when I was writing—whether it was in the description or in the dialogue. I don't have a lot of experience writing fiction. Part of that is because I have such a loud nonfiction voice. I am who I am. Another element of the challenge of having to sit down and make sh*t up is imagination. As I grow older, I become more and more fearful that I have little to no imagination. The kind of abilities I had as a little kid to just play and make things up as you went along. So, I had to get past that fear to crack the story, and then to write in the voices of the kids I invented. But as far as it being a challenge from a YA perspective, I honestly have to say that I just tried to be true to the material, and I didn't think of the audience as being below or necessarily less sophisticated than somebody I would usually write for. I didn't dumb down my prose—or, I tried not to.
You don't have to give us details (but feel free to), but how much of the book was inspired by your own young adulthood?
I absolutely relate to the main character in the book. I was a very emotionally intense adolescent, very interior. I was eaten alive by my own passions, which were equal parts artistic drive and sexual madness. That's where I drew the inspiration for Indigo's tumult. Her conflict is more internal than it is a concrete struggle with her best friend. She does have some love affair gone sour stuff with her best friend Lucy, but the main plot exists within Indigo, I think. As far as the setting, I did go to a Fine and Performing Arts sleepaway camp, but...[read on]
Friday, May 10, 2013
Charles McCarry's new novel is The Shanghai Factor.
From his Q & A with Jeffrey A. Trachtenberg for the Wall Street Journal's book blog:
Speakeasy: How did you decide on the plot for this novel?--Marshal Zeringue
Charles McCarry: The idea of a dangle—an asset that you dangle in front of the enemy in the hope that he will bite thinking he is doubling somebody when in fact he is being doubled— has been wandering around in my brain for while. A dangle is a bait, but it’s a poisoned bait. You’ve got the enemy in a frame of mind where he believes the agent you are offering to him will work for him, and report on the intelligence service to which he belongs.
The Chinese company at the heart of the novel, which is never identified by name, appears to have unlimited sources of cash and a willingness to do anything to achieve its goals. How realistic a view of Chinese corporate culture is this?
Well, from what I’ve heard it is quite realistic. The subtext is that the Chinese is company is a wholly-owned subsidiary of their intelligence service. That’s the explanation for its dark side. On the surface it operates like a traditional company while running intelligence operations and making money for...[read on]
Posted by Marshal Zeringue at 3:03 AM
Thursday, May 9, 2013
Until 2011, Douglas Brunt was CEO of Authentium, Inc., an Internet security company. He now writes full time and is currently working on his second novel. A Philadelphia native, he lives in New York with his wife Megyn Kelly and their two children.
From a Q & A with the author about his debut novel, Ghosts of Manhattan:
Q: This is your debut novel. Can you describe this experience? What was the most challenging part of the process? The most rewarding?Visit Douglas Brunt's website.
DB: I had an idea for the big picture of the novel from the beginning. Writing the first draft was a pleasure, and as I mentioned, became a way to relax. The hard stages were the many iterations of edits and refinements when I hadn’t yet made writing a career and didn’t have a clear path to anyone other than family ever reading it. The most rewarding part was seeing how much better the novel became after those many iterations.
Q: Ghosts of Manhattan centers around the now-defunct Bear Stearns. What kind of research did you do before writing Ghosts of Manhattan? Why did you choose to base Nick’s story in the year 2005?
DB: I read a number of books about the financial crisis, including Too Big to Fail by Andrew Ross Sorkin and The Big Short: Inside the Doomsday Machine by Michael Lewis, to name two. I worked as a money markets broker for two years in my first job out of college. I also have many friends and acquaintances who work in sales and trading in New York. Many of my friends sat with me to help create a credible backdrop for the novel.
I picked 2005 because the ensuing financial crisis allowed me to address the themes of greed and hypocrisy that I was so interested in. It also let me examine...[read on]
Wednesday, May 8, 2013
Jamaica Kincaid's latest novel is See Now Then.
From her 2012 Q & A with Liesl Schwabe for Publishers Weekly:
In the book, the phrase See Now Then repeats, both gaining and shifting meaning as it does. How much of that reprise comes through revision?--Marshal Zeringue
I write a lot in my head. The revision goes on internally. It’s not spontaneous and it doesn’t have a schedule. You know how some people write every day at a certain point? I’m not like that. I carry something around for a long time. I weigh the words and the sentences. I weigh the paragraphs. The process is much more meditative for me. So, when I put something down on paper, I’ve already edited a lot. I don’t think it’s a very efficient way to work, but it’s the way I do it. I am just very careful with what I put down. You know how if you’re making a gravy or something, the recipe calls for you to simmer until it reduces by two-thirds? I seem to simmer [a book] until it has been reduced by two-thirds.
Mrs. Sweet’s children often seem frustrated by her work as a writer. What were your own experiences balancing motherhood and writing?
Children like their mothers especially to be standing still and watching them, even if they are sleeping. At least that’s how I felt. There’s nothing wrong with the self-interest of children; it’s just the way they are. The mother has to...[read on]
Tuesday, May 7, 2013
From a Q & A with author Nathaniel Philbrick about his new book, Bunker Hill: A City, a Siege, a Revolution:
Q: You are the author of In the Heart of the Sea and Mayflower, among other books. Each takes a piece of history we all think we know about and brings to life aspects that aren’t part of common lore. In BUNKER HILL you do the same. What piqued your interest in Bunker Hill?Read about Nathaniel Philbrick's seven favorite history books.
By writing BUNKER HILL, I’ve actually returned to the subject and the place where my love of history began. When I was in the fifth grade in Pittsburgh I was captivated by Esther Forbes’s historical novel Johnny Tremain. Even after I’d studied American history in high school, college, and beyond, I still found myself longing to know more about what unfolded in and around Boston during the early years of the Revolution. Before settling on Nantucket, my wife and I lived for a year in Boston, and it was while pushing my daughter’s stroller through the crooked streets of the North End that I first began to think seriously about writing about the past. And, as has been true with all my previous books, once I started researching, I quickly realized that the truth about what happened to the inhabitants of Boston during the two and a half years between the Boston Tea Party in December 1773 and the evacuation of the British troops in March 1776 was much more complex, disturbing, inspiring, and just plain interesting than I could have ever imagined.
Q: How have your past books informed your research and writing for BUNKER HILL?
My book Mayflower ends with the horrendous Native-English conflict known as King Philip’s War, which was fought a century before the events described in BUNKER HILL. Almost as soon as I started my research on this book, I began to understand that the American Revolution was as much about the unfinished business associated with that earlier era as it was about issues like liberty, freedom, and taxation without representation. For the farmers in the outlying towns of New England—the ones who fought and died at Lexington and Concord and Bunker Hill—the Revolution wasn’t about their frustrations with Parliament; it was about...[read on]
Posted by Marshal Zeringue at 6:06 AM
Monday, May 6, 2013
With his first internationally published novel, Snow Angels, James Thompson proved himself Finland’s best and most popular representative in the rise of Nordic noir. It was selected as one of Booklist’s Best Crime Novel Debuts of the Year and nominated for an Edgar Award, an Anthony Award, and a Strand Critics Award. His novel, Lucifer’s Tears, has received critical acclaim from all quarters, including starred reviews from Publishers Weekly, Booklist, and Kirkus, and was selected as one of the best novels of the year by Kirkus. Helsinki White was released to critical acclaim in 2012. The fourth book in the series, Helsinki Blood, was published in March, 2013.
From Thompson's Q & A with George Ebey at The Big Thrill:
HELSINKI BLOOD is your fourth novel featuring Inspector Kari Vaara. Can you tell us a little about his background and how he has evolved over the course of the series?Learn more about the book and author at James Thompson's website and blog.
Kari has had a hard go of it. He grew up dirt poor in a small town in the Arctic—the kind of poor where there isn’t always enough food—and was also sorely abused by his father. This instilled in him a desire to help those who can’t help themselves. A compulsive desire, and sometimes he goes far past what is reasonable, or even legal, to accomplish it. His first wife walked out on him. He was a beat cop in Helsinki and was shot in the line of duty while involved in an act of heroism. She was gone when he came home from the hospital.
The bullet wrecked his knee and the chief of police had to retire him or promote him, as he couldn’t continue as a patrol cop. Kari had earned his Master’s in criminal justice and met that qualification, so he was promoted to inspector. He asked to be assigned to his home town. It was a quiet job, running the small police force there, almost a form of retirement, and he stayed, perhaps not happy, but content enough, for a number of years. Then he met Kate. They fell in love and married quickly. Trouble also came quickly. A murder case resulted in a number of deaths, Kari was shot again, this time in the face. Kate miscarried twins. They decided to try for a new start, moved to Helsinki, and he worked in the homicide unit.
The national chief of police had dreams of becoming a sort of Finnish J. Edgar Hoover. He needed people to work outside the law to do it. He recruited Kari. He pushed Kari’s buttons, told him he would focus on saving women from forced prostitution in the slave trade. Kari’s compulsion to help the helpless sucked him in. But he had been lied to. His black ops were about the acquisition of wealth and power, he had inadvertently, an inch at a time, become a collaborator and he was stuck in a position he didn’t want to be in and couldn’t find a way out. I’m avoiding spoilers from this point on.
Health problems changed him and his thinking and behavior, so much so that he became a man...[read on]
The Page 69 Test: Snow Angels.
The Page 69 Test: Helsinki White.
Writers Read: James Thompson (April 2012).
My Book, The Movie: Helsinki White.
Writers Read: James Thompson.
The Page 69 Test: Helsinki Blood.
My Book, The Movie: Helsinki Blood.
Sunday, May 5, 2013
Mary Roach's new book is Gulp: Adventures on the Alimentary Canal.
From her Q & A with Molly Driscoll at The Christian Science Monitor:
Q: You warn readers in your book when things are coming that are a little unpleasant. If you're discussing these topics at events or book signings, do people get grossed out, or do they know what they're in for?Learn about Mary Roach's six favorite books.
A: I was at the San Francisco Jewish Community Center and I think sometimes the audience isn't necessarily Mary Roach people but they're JCC subscribers. The guy who runs the program said he was looking at people in the audience and there was one woman who picked up the edge of her shirt and put it over her mouth or something as if she was going to throw up. So apparently there were people looking a little stricken.
Usually the people who show up at these events are people who know my work and come knowing what to expect or come on an empty stomach.
Q: Some of your questions to scientists were a little unusual. How was the reception from the science community as a whole to your investigations?
A: They were delighted. The exception being, I think Michael Levitt would rather talk about something else by now. [Levitt is an expert in gastrointestinal gas.] He was nice enough to talk to me, but I think he'd rather talk about some of his other work.
The guy, [ecologist] Dick Tracy with the mealworms and the stomach, the whole experiment was really fun. [Roach watched as Tracy tested to see if a mealworm could eat its way out of another animal's stomach.]
Even Rodriguez [the fake name of a prisoner whom Roach questioned about his smuggling of objects in his rectum] enjoyed talking about...[read on]
Posted by Marshal Zeringue at 5:55 AM
Saturday, May 4, 2013
Larry McMurtry is the author of over twenty-five novels, including the Pulitzer Prize-winning Lonesome Dove. His other works include two collections of essays, three memoirs, and more than thirty screenplays, including the coauthorship of Brokeback Mountain, for which he received an Academy Award.
From his Q & A with Noah Charney for The Daily Beast:
You’ve long been considered the leading writer of Westerns, or rather stories set in the old West or in contemporary Texas. But you also write excellent criticism, essays, and screenplays. Are you comfortable with your association as a writer of Westerns?Learn about Larry McMurtry's five best travel books.
Not entirely, no. In the first place, you have to define “Western.” What is a Western? Is it anything set in the West, contemporary or otherwise?
It’s hard for many of us to imagine having written as iconic a novel as Lonesome Dove, winner of the 1985 Pulitzer Prize. How has the legacy of that book affected your career and what you have chosen to write since?
I don’t think about Lonesome Dove very much or very often. It only affected what I chose to write afterwards in terms of the other three books in the Lonesome Dove tetralogy. I would have written the rest of my books, whether or not I’d written Lonesome Dove. I’ve never re-read Lonesome Dove, or given it any real thought.
Many of your books, from Lonesome Dove to Horseman, Pass By, have been adapted for the screen. [Horseman, Pass By was adapted as Hud.] What are your thoughts on the screen versions of your work?
I’ve been very lucky to have mostly fine movies made from my work—most, if not all. I wasn’t crazy about Hud, because...[read on]
Posted by Marshal Zeringue at 7:07 AM
Friday, May 3, 2013
Lisa Black spent the five happiest years of her life in a morgue. As a forensic scientist in the Cleveland coroner’s office she analyzed gunshot residue on hands and clothing, hairs, fibers, paint, glass, DNA, blood and many other forms of trace evidence, as well as crime scenes. Now she’s a certified latent print examiner and CSI for the Cape Coral Police Department. Her latest novel featuring forensic scientist Theresa MacLean is Blunt Impact.
From her Q & A with forensics4fiction:
F4F: I’m sure your day job provides plenty of inspiration for your stories. What else do you draw from when creating scenes, characters, or story ideas?Learn more about the book and author at Lisa Black's website.
Lisa: I poach characters horribly from movies and TV–funny, minor characters, or secondary characters who interested me. Then other ideas just pop into my head and I have no idea where they come from. It’s a huge mix of various pipelines.
F4F: Crime scene investigation can be a physically and emotionally taxing profession. You’ve got the technical side nailed down but are there any topics you find emotionally difficult to write about?
Lisa: I don’t get emotionally involved in much, but there’s a few things I’m squeamish about–I can’t do anything horrible to a child or an animal unless it’s way, way ‘offscreen’. I can’t stand days of torture and buckets of blood. I’m an incredible softy when it comes to the elderly, so I can’t say much of what I’m feeling when it comes to aging parents, even though I should tap that reservoir.
F4F: In your current novel Blunt Impact, your heroine Theresa MacLean has to face some new challenges in protecting a child who witnessed the murder of her mother. Can you give us some insight on Theresa’s character (morality). What makes her tick?
Lisa: Theresa’s got a very firm sense of right and wrong, and a very firm habit of keeping her thoughts to herself. So even though she doesn’t say so, she’s a much stricter judge of other people, and especially herself, than others might guess. People make the mistake of thinking...[read on]
My Book, The Movie: Trail of Blood.
The Page 69 Test: Trail of Blood.
Writers Read: Lisa Black (September 2010).
My Book, The Movie: Defensive Wounds.
The Page 69 Test: Defensive Wounds.
Writers Read: Lisa Black (October 2011).
Writers Read: Lisa Black.
My Book, The Movie: Blunt Impact.
The Page 69 Test: Blunt Impact.
Thursday, May 2, 2013
Peter Rock was born and raised in Salt Lake City. His most recent book is The Shelter Cycle, which concerns the end of the world in Montana in 1990, among other things. His previous novel, My Abandonment, has won an Alex Award, the Utah Book Award, and been published in Germany, Turkey and France. He is also the author of the novels The Bewildered, The Ambidextrist, This Is the Place, and Carnival Wolves, and a story collection, The Unsettling.
From a Q & A at the author's website:
What does the title of The Shelter Cycle mean?Learn more about the book and author at Peter Rock's website.
The church, like any organization, has its own language. Periods of time are often spoken of in terms of "cycles"—e.g. a recovery cycle, a cleaning-up cycle, a settling cycle. "The Shelter Cycle" is how they refer to the period of time between 1987-90, when the shelters were being built. The effects of that effort linger on, so it's possible that this shelter cycle continues to the present day. My book dramatizes the period of the shelters' construction, and also the continuation of that energy.
It would be wrong to conceive of the shelter cycle as a purely physical effort, however; survival happens on many planes. Through high-speed chants known as "decrees," the church aspired to change the world's vibration, to balance karma, and to change bad energy to good. It is not just that emotional turmoil that we feel is similar to physical cataclysm, it is the same. So preparing the shelters and practicing survival skills were running parallel to preparations that were far less visible.
How did real people become involved with your writing of this novel, and how did they change it?
About five years ago, when I was beginning to think about taking on this project, I realized that a young woman I knew—a student at Reed College, where I teach—had been a child in the church during the time of the shelter cycle. Her father had built a shelter for seventy people. She'd graduated and moved back to Montana, and she agreed to meet with me and tell me about that time. Through her generosity, I did over thirty hours of interviewers with ex-members and true believers; in some sense, these conversations confirmed that it was a fascinating topic and also showed me how complicated a project it would be.
The first thing I realized was that the people I was talking to were really...[read on]
The Page 69 Test: My Abandonment.
The Page 69 Test: The Shelter Cycle.
Writers Read: Peter Rock.
Wednesday, May 1, 2013
Nathaniel Rich's new novel is Odds Against Tomorrow.
From his Q & A with Noah Charney at The Daily Beast:
Your new novel, Odds Against Tomorrow, involves probability and mathematics as a driver for the plot. How did you choose that plot mechanism?Visit Nathaniel Rich's website.
“Numbers people” turn to math for the same reasons that readers turn to literature or poetry: for consolation, beauty, mystery, and affirmation. I wanted to write about a character who uses math to make sense of the world around him. Numbers, like words, have their limitations, however, and that was to be part of the story as well.
Also, I wanted to know: what are the odds, exactly, that an asteroid will hit the planet and usher in a global dark age? That a suicide bomber will detonate himself in the middle of Fifth Avenue? That a catastrophic hurricane will bring about the flooding of Manhattan? In order to get to the bottom of these questions you need statistics and some basic calculus. Fiction allows you to follow principles to their most extreme conclusions, so I felt it was important in the novel to pursue math as one of several possible paths to enlightenment.
Describe your routine when conceiving of a book and its plot, before the writing begins. Do you like to map out your books ahead of time, or just let it flow?
I map them out rigorously, but it’s only a matter of time before I veer off the map. So by the end of the novel, when I look back at the outline, it’s as if I’m looking at the map of ...[read on]
Writers Read: Nathaniel Rich (March 2008).
Tuesday, April 30, 2013
Tara Conklin is a writer and lawyer currently living with her family in Seattle, WA. Most recently, she worked as a litigator in the New York and London offices of a corporate law firm but now devotes herself full-time to writing fiction.
Her recently released debut novel is The House Girl.
From Conklin's interview with NPR's Rachel Martin:
On the 19th-century character Josephine Bell and the 21st-century character Lina SparrowLearn more about the book and author at Tara Conklin's website.
Conklin: Josephine is a house slave on a failing tobacco farm in Virginia and she's an artist. She's running from the circumstances of her enslavement, basically, from her master, whom she calls Mister, and her mistress, whom she calls Mrs. Lu ... [Lina's] job is to find a lead plaintiff to lead this slavery reparations lawsuit that her law firm has decided to take on as sort of a special project for a big client of theirs. And so her role is to find a face for the lawsuit — a descendant of an American slave who can speak to the nature of the harm, in lawyer-speak, who can sort of represent this massive, really, you know, unimaginable harm that was slavery in America.
On how her novel addresses revisionist history
Conklin: As I was doing the research, you know, I read a lot of slave narratives, and the thing that just struck me is that, you know, 250 years of slavery and there are so few accounts of what their lives were actually like. And I started thinking a lot about who writes history, and what are the voices that we don't hear, and so that was one of the influences that went into me setting up that situation where [Josephine's mistress] Lu Anne Bell takes credit for Josephine's art and then, over the years, over the decades, Lu Anne achieves a fair amount of fame when, in fact, Josephine was...[read on]
The Page 69 Test: The House Girl.
Writers Read: Tara Conklin.
My Book, The Movie: The House Girl.