Sunday, August 2, 2015

Christy Wampole

Christy Wampole’s debut essay collection is The Other Serious: Essays for the New American Generation. From her Q & A with Michele Filgate for Salon:

In the introduction, you write: “Essays are barometers of the intellect. We are all atmospheric creatures, influenced by the cultural weather around us; the essayist takes it as her role to say something about the way the atmosphere plays upon a person and exerts pressure on the mind and its bearing.” Something I’m always curious about, as a fellow essayist: What gave you the confidence to become an essayist? I feel like it takes a certain amount of belief in your opinions and your personal voice to set your arguments on the page. Have you ever struggled with that, or has that always come naturally to you?

I started to write essays because the form allows you to vent those thoughts that have no other outlet. For me, the diary entry, the short story, or the poem just didn’t cut it because they seemed to lack a certain reflective element that I believe to be the core of the essay genre. Essay writing has been for me a matter of necessity and, in some ways, therapy. I’ve written so many essays that will never see the light of day, crafted purely for myself. I’ve come to the conclusion that thoughts not put down in writing might as well never have been thought.

Regarding those essays that do make their way to the public, it isn’t that I think my opinions are worth more than someone else’s; it’s that I believe everyone should be essaying all the time and I’m simply doing my part in what I wish were a universal project. Sadly...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, August 1, 2015

Naomi J. Williams

Naomi J. Williams was born in Japan and spoke no English until she was six years old. Her debut novel, Landfalls, is a fictionalized account of the 18th-century Lapérouse expedition.

From her Q & A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: What did you see as the right blend of history and fiction as you were writing Landfalls?

A: I tried to hew as closely to known "facts" as I could for this project. Not because I think that's how you're "supposed" to do historical fiction or because I owe it to readers or even to the memory of the Lapérouse expedition.

It was just a challenge I set for myself, a set of constraints around which to work, like the challenge of writing a Shakespearean sonnet, with its particular rules and conventions. I didn't, for instance, make up or conflate any members of the expedition. And I never knowingly altered the timeline of events.

But around those general outlines, I fabricated a lot. I imagined personalities and motivations and emotional baggage, of course.

Many of the women in the book are...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, July 31, 2015

J. Ryan Stradal

J. Ryan Stradal's new novel is Kitchens of the Great Midwest.

From his Q & A with Caroline Leavitt:

What was the idea that sparked this book, the thought that haunted you so you had to write it out?

Great question. I wanted to write a book that my mom would’ve loved had she lived to see it exist. Beyond that, I was driven to write a book set in my home region, with characters that resembled the kinds of people I knew growing up. I hadn’t read anything yet that really nailed that for me, so I figured I’d better write it myself. This one really was heavy with my mom’s influence, though. I thought of her every day while I was writing this. It was like...[read on]
Visit J. Ryan Stradal's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Clancy Martin

Clancy Martin is Professor of Philosophy in the University of Missouri-Kansas City's College of Arts and Sciences, Professor of Business Ethics at the Bloch School of Management. His books include the Pushcart Prize winning novel How to Sell, and a book of philosophy, Love and Lies: An Essay on Truthfulness, Deceit, and the Growth and Care of Erotic Love.

From his Q & A with April Ayers Lawson at VICE:

VICE: Before you were a philosophy professor, you were a jewelry salesman. You "used deception to take the easy way out of selling." It made you miserable, led to a cocaine addiction and extended time in the executive bathroom where you'd stand in front of the mirror with a gun barrel in your mouth. You write: "Though I don't believe in the existence of a soul, exactly, I came to understand what people mean when they say you are losing your soul." Well, what do they mean?

Clancy Martin: I think when we talk about "losing our soul" what we might mean is something like losing self-respect, losing our sense of what matters, losing our hope that we can become better people—maybe even becoming cynical about the whole enterprise of human life. When I was at my lowest, I thought life was no more than struggling to get from one day to the next without killing yourself. If I could have crawled into a cocoon that would have put me to sleep forever I would have done so—or would have wished to do so—and then felt sorry for myself that I didn't. This, for me, was "losing my soul." Forgetting that anyone other than me and my little circle of immediate concerns mattered.

Excessive lying, in my opinion, will do this to a person. Why? I think because, as Adrienne Rich says, "the liar leads a life of unutterable loneliness": Somehow communication with others, when we feel like we are actually talking to one another and not just pretending to talk, restores our belief in the idea that we can become better people. And why is that the case? Because then we remember that other people matter—and that we, as individuals, might matter to them, too. Yes, successful communication requires some dishonesty. But too much dishonesty completely isolates you from other people, and that takes you to a place of complete despair. Someone who has become a habitual liar—as I was when I was in the jewelry business, for example—is a lot like a person coming down off cocaine (something that also happened to me a lot back in those jewelry days). You feel...[read on]
The Page 69 Test: How to Sell.

Writers Read: Clancy Martin.

The Page 99 Test: Love and Lies.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

David Joy

David Joy is the author of the novels Where All Light Tends to Go (Putnam, 2015) and Waiting On The End Of The World (Putnam, 2016), as well as the memoir Growing Gills: A Fly Fisherman's Journey (Bright Mountain Books, 2011), which was a finalist for the Reed Environmental Writing Award and the Ragan Old North State Award for Creative Nonfiction.

From Joy's Q & A with Allen Mendenhall for Southern Literary Review:

Your novel is Where All Light Tends to Go, a story about the underbelly of North Carolina, where outlawing is, the opening lines tell us, “as much a matter of blood as hair color and height.” Tell us how Jacob McNeely, your narrator, came to be.

DJ: I saw Jacob before I heard him. And what I mean is that there was an image before there was a voice. I was at a buddy’s house up in Cashiers and we were standing by his hog pen where he keeps these feral hogs he traps and he was telling me about how, when they’re hunting, they kill some of the hogs with a knife. They bay the hogs with hounds and when the dogs get the pig down the hunter will go in and stab the hog in the heart. So while he was telling me this, an image came into my head, an image of a really young boy doing this. I saw a boy with his father standing behind him telling his son what to do, and this boy watching the light go out of this animal’s eyes and suddenly realizing just how much power a person had over life and death.

That image stuck with me for a long time, and I kept trying to write his story, but I kept getting it wrong. I think I kept trying to force it rather than let him tell me what he wanted to tell me. Then one night I woke out of a dream and Jacob was talking. That’s when I finally got it right is when I...[read on]
Writers Read: David Joy.

The Page 69 Test: Where All Light Tends to Go.

My Book, The Movie: Where All Light Tends to Go.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Ernest Cline

Ernest Cline’s novels include Ready Player One and the follow-up, Armada.

From his Q & A with Jacob Brogan for Slate:

What role do video games play in our lives today?

Human beings are not wired to live the way we live now. We’ve only been living in cities and driving cars and working in cubicles for a few hundred years. Millions of years of evolution have us wired to hunt and gather and form teams and kick ass and conquer territory and be explorers.

That’s the natural human thing, but we don’t get to do that any more, which is why modern life drives a lot of people crazy. We have to work out that hunter-gatherer energy by other means. Some people do it with sports, but I think an even larger group of people does it with video games.

In some ways what you’re suggesting is that video games are more natural than real life.

We’ve mastered nature now. We exist outside nature. Our food can just be packaged and brought to us. We exist in the womb of technology from the time that we’re born, protected by modern medicine, which is...[read on]
Learn about Ernest Cline’s ten favorite science fiction novels.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, July 27, 2015

Kim Stanley Robinson

Kim Stanley Robinson’s novels include the landmark Mars trilogy and the newly released Aurora.

From his Q & A with Steve Paulson for Electric Literature:

SP: Mars One is the project that’s trying to engineer one-way trips to Mars. You know you’re not going to come back. Frankly, it sounds like a suicide mission, and yet tens of thousands of people have signed up for this mission.

KSR: Yes, but they’ve made a category error. Their imaginations have not managed to catch up to the situation. They are in some kind of boring life and they want excitement. Maybe they’re young, maybe they’re worried about their economic prospects, maybe they want something different. They imagine it would be exciting if they got to Mars. But it was Ralph Waldo Emerson who said travel is stupid; wherever you go, you’re still stuck with yourself. I went to the South Pole once. I was only there for a week and it was the most boring place in Antarctica because we couldn’t really leave the rooms without getting into space suits.

SP: Is extended space travel like going to Antarctica?

KSR: It’s the best analogy you can get, especially for Mars. You would get to a landscape that’s beautiful and sublime and scientifically interesting and mind-boggling. Antarctica is all those things and so would Mars be. But I notice that nobody in the United States cares about what the Antarcticans are doing every November and December. There are a couple thousand people down there having a blast. If the same thing happened on Mars, it would be like, “Oh...[read on]
Learn about Kim Stanley Robinson’s ten favorite SF novels and ten favorite Mars novels.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, July 26, 2015

S. M. Hulse

S. M. Hulse received her MFA from the University of Oregon and was a fiction fellow at the University of Wisconsin–Madison. Her stories have appeared in Willow Springs, Witness, and Salamander. A horsewoman and fiddler, she has spent time in Washington, Montana, Idaho, and Oregon.

Hulse's new novel is Black River:

From her Q & A with Stephanie Mezzanatto for Midwestern Gothic:

SM: Black River is your debut novel about a man who returns to his small Montana hometown after receiving news that the man who took away his ability to play his beloved fiddle during a prison riot has been released. You describe the main character, Wes Carver as “a man who always keeps his word, holds strong moral convictions…unforgiving of imperfections…stoic to a fault.” Is Wes Carver loosely based on anyone you know or have known at some point?

SMH: No, he’s not. I’ve never been one to base my characters even loosely on real people, but I certainly know plenty of people who share some traits with Wes. In many ways, Wes—though his story is contemporary—is the quintessential Western man, the sort you might find in an old cowboy movie. His job as a corrections officer has only reinforced his inherent and cultural tendencies toward stoicism and independence, but those aren’t traits that always serve him well during the events of Black River. As the novel unfolds, the reader comes to understand the ways in which Wes’s past has shaped his personality and realizes that he’s a bit more complex than he first appears.

SM: You were inspired to write Black River while reading about the prison riots that took place in the Montana State Prison in the late 1950s. What about the riots inspired you, and sparked the creation of Wes Carver within this setting?

SMH: I’ve always been interested in...[read on]
The Page 69 Test: Black River.

Writers Read: S. M. Hulse.

My Book, The Movie: Black River.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, July 24, 2015

Anna North

Anna North graduated from the Iowa Writers Workshop in 2009, having received a Teaching-Writing Fellowship and a Michener/Copernicus Society Fellowship. Her fiction has appeared in Nautilus, Glimmer Train, the anthology Robot Uprisings, and the Atlantic Monthly, where it was nominated for a National Magazine Award. Her nonfiction has appeared in the San Francisco Chronicle, The Paris Review Daily, Jezebel, BuzzFeed, and Salon, and she is now a staff editor at the New York Times.

North's first novel, America Pacifica, was published in 2011. Her new novel is The Life and Death of Sophie Stark.

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

Q: How did you come up with your main character, Sophie Stark, and why did you decide to make her a filmmaker?

A: I had the idea to write about a character named Sophie Stark years ago, long before I really started the book in earnest. In my mind she was always a filmmaker.

At first I wanted to make her more of a political documentarian, but over time I realized I was less interested in the political aspects of her work than in the personal -- how she relates (and fails to relate) to the people closest to her, how her art intertwines with her identity.

I think I was attracted to the idea of writing about a filmmaker because film feels so different from writing -- focusing on Sophie allowed me to tell a story about a creative person whose skills and outlook on the world are totally different from...[read on]
The Page 69 Test: The Life and Death of Sophie Stark.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Jehanne Dubrow

Jehanne Dubrow is the author of five poetry collections, including most recently The Arranged Marriage, Red Army Red, and Stateside.

From her Q & A with Matthew Thorburn on the Ploughshares blog:

Matthew Thorburn: How did this book come to be? Did you conceive of it as a larger project from the outset, or did it come into focus as you were writing the poems?

Jehanne Dubrow: My mother has told me the stories that form The Arranged Marriage since I was a little girl: her exiled Jewish childhood in Honduras, her experience of being held hostage by a violent man, and her forced marriage in El Salvador which followed that trauma. These narratives are so much a part of me that The Arranged Marriage happened very organically. I wrote fifteen of the collection’s central poems in the first week and then spent the next two years building the rest of the book around those key texts.

MT: Did you find that the prose poem form offered advantages for you when creating this book? How did you decide that these would be predominantly prose poems?

JD: I came to think of these as my “newspaper column poems” and their narrative strategy a sort of poetic reportage. Received and fixed forms would call too much attention to themselves, and so I learned how to write my version of a prose poem—little, safe boxes that could contain trauma and...[read on]
Visit Jehanne Dubrow's website.

Writers Read: Jehanne Dubrow (April 2010).

Writers Read: Jehanne Dubrow (November 2012).

Coffee with a Canine: Jehanne Dubrow and Argos.

--Marshal Zeringue