Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Chris Kraus

Chris Kraus, a writer who began her career in experimental film, is the author of I Love Dick, a novel based on her own life. From her Q&A with Rachel Cooke at the Guardian:

Dick Hebdige is said to be “appalled” by the way you used him in the book. Do you ever feel bad about that?

I never identified him, revealed his surname or the name of his books. So I don’t feel that I’ve done anything wrong. He identified himself in his zeal to denounce the book. I’m not sure why he was so appalled. Really, the whole thing was pretty benign and I would have been pleased to acknowledge him as a collaborator, if he’d wanted it.

Younger women have acclaimed you as a feminist writer. Is this how you see yourself?

I didn’t see myself as a feminist, capital “F”, when I was writing I Love Dick. I thought of myself as a gendered person – a woman – who was writing a book. Those issues of cultural presence, who gets to speak, are important to me. But class is as significant as gender in I Love Dick. Class is...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Colleen Oakley

Colleen Oakley is an Atlanta-based writer and author of the novel Before I Go. Her articles, essays, and interviews have been featured in The New York Times, Ladies’ Home Journal, Marie Claire, Women’s Health, Redbook, Parade, and Martha Stewart Weddings. Before she was a freelance writer, Oakley was editor in chief of Women’s Health & Fitness and senior editor at Marie Claire. Close Enough to Touch is her second novel.

From Oakley's Q&A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: How did you come up with the idea for Close Enough to Touch?

A: As a health journalist, I wrote a few articles about the astronomic rise in allergies the past 20 years— and I was fascinated by the fact that experts and researchers, while they have their theories, really have no idea what’s caused it.

As a novelist, I knew there was a lot there to explore, but I, of course, wanted to take it one step further— what if you were allergic to other people? How would that affect someone, emotionally, to not ever be able to be hugged by their mother as a child, or to hold hands with their first love? Could you even fall in love?

Q: You write the book from the alternating viewpoints of your characters Jubilee and Eric. Did you always plan to do that, or did you originally think of telling it from only one perspective?

When I started I was only planning to write it from...[read on]
Visit Colleen Oakley's website.

Writers Read: Colleen Oakley (March 2017).

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, May 22, 2017

Katherine Heiny

Katherine Heiny's new novel is Standard Deviation.

From the transcript of her Q&A with NPR's Scott Simon:

SCOTT SIMON, HOST: Audra is an artist who's charming, endearing, spontaneous and effusive. Her husband, Graham, is a buttoned-down businessman and a man of routine. What he cherishes about his second wife is also exactly what sometimes exhausts him. Then, his first wife, Elspeth, re-enters their lives. She is composed, deliberate and organized. Her arrival causes both Audra and Graham to reflect on the spark that grew into their love and if it ever flickers a little in the winds of real life. "Standard Deviation" is the first novel from Katherine Heiny, an acclaimed short-story writer, and she joins us in our studios. Thanks so much for being with us.

KATHERINE HEINY: Thank you. It's my pleasure.

SIMON: When the novel opens, the couple, Audra and Graham, are shopping an upscale supermarket in New York. They have a happy life, don't they?

HEINY: I think they have a very good life. The novel is kind of about how much they value what they have.

SIMON: Yeah, and each other, for that matter, when all is said and done.

HEINY: Absolutely.

SIMON: They have a son named Matthew who is utterly devoted to origami. And Matthew, their son, melts my heart. But a son like this can be...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Ed Tarkington

Ed Tarkington is the author of Only Love Can Break Your Heart. From his Q&A with Steph Post:

Steph Post: I'd like to go ahead and start with the coming-of-age theme running through Only Love Can Break Your Heart. At its core, the novel is about Paul, and then his younger half-brother Rocky, coming of age, exploring their identities and learning their places in the world. In this day and age, most novels dealing with these themes are considered YA, but I definitely felt that Only Love Can Break Your Heart was written for adults. Who was your intended audience with the novel and why?

Ed Tarkington: I try not to think too much about audience when I’m writing. I begin with a character and an emotion or conflict and just go from there. Only Love Can Break Your Heart came from a deep-rooted desire to resolve or make sense of some difficult and disillusioning events from my own childhood, so it just seemed natural to tell a story that began in the narrator’s early years and encompassed the ensuing process of growth and reckoning. I think most writers are in search of insight or epiphany regarding the people and events or circumstances that gnaw at them. I still have a fairly romantic view of where writing comes from. The first audience is me. If the text feels true on the page, I figure maybe the people who read the same books I read and love will be moved by the story I’m telling.

Regarding the YA thing: I have to admit, the concept was not something I’d thought about at all until I started traveling to promote Only Love Can Break Your Heart and have met some YA writers and seen them in action at trade shows and festivals and so forth. The YA writers I’ve met are amazing people, and amazingly talented. I know a few novelists who are intentionally writing in that genre and producing incredible work for younger readers. But I know others who, like me and probably you too, just wrote the best book they could about the things they cared deeply about, and then an agent or editor said “we could do well if we pitched this as YA.”

If “Coming of Age” is a YA theme, then The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn is a YA novel. So is...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, May 20, 2017

Chevy Stevens

Chevy Stevens's novels include Still Missing, Never Knowing, That Night, and Never Let You Go.

From her Q&A with Heather Gudenkauf:

Heather Gudenkauf: Your sixth novel, NEVER LET YOU GO, was recently released to rave reviews. It’s the story of a woman and her child who escape an abusive relationship and eleven years later the threat returns. I was immediately drawn into the story of Lindsey and Sophie Nash – you have such a gift for developing real, relatable characters. It’s the age old chicken and the egg story – do the characters come to you first or does the plot?

Chevy Stevens: It’s been different for each book. With STILL MISSING, the premise came to me when I was a real estate agent, working all alone at an open house. I imagined all the terrible thingsthat could happen, and somehow it began to evolve into a book idea. For months I thought about it in the back of my mind. One day I “heard” the character talking in a sarcastic, tough voice. She was telling the story to someone and quickly I realized she was talking to a therapist. Annie wasn’t a big stretch of the imagination because she was a lot like me at that time in my life–dark, unhappy, and trying to find her way through her pain. My third book ALWAYS WATCHING was inspired by Nadine, the therapist from my first two books. I thought she deserved her own story and I wanted to know more about her. NEVER LET YOU GO was an unusual situation for me. I had been working on a different book for nine months and it wasn’t coming together. After talking it over with my editor, I decided to set it to the side and start something new, but I was nervous about finding something fresh, something I could connect to. My editor and I discussed my strengths and the kind of characters I write the best, which so far seem to be blue-collar, hard-working women, who end up in terrible situations and have to use their inner strength, courage, and intelligence to survive. We discussed some jobs that are difficult and not always appreciated, like cleaning houses, and what would be really creepy to find if you were working alone. Then I started thinking about...[read on]
Visit the official Chevy Stevens website.

My Book, The Movie: Still Missing.

The Page 69 Test: That Night.

My Book, The Movie: That Night.

The Page 69 Test: Never Let You Go.

Writers Read: Chevy Stevens.

My Book, The Movie: Never Let You Go.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, May 19, 2017

Daniel Ziblatt

Daniel Ziblatt is the author of Conservative Parties and the Birth of Democracy. From his Q&A with Matt O'Brien at the Washington Post:

What about the rise of cable news—especially the influence Fox News seems to exert on the Republican Party? There were a lot of uncomfortable parallels for me between that and the story you tell about Germany's big media mogul of the 1920s, Alfred Hugenberg, taking their Conservative Party over and pushing it far to the right.

Absolutely. We tend to think that the media technological revolutions we're living through now are the first ones ever, but similar kinds of revolutions took place in the past. And the guys who were at the forefront of those could deploy them for political purposes. So in Weimar Germany, the equivalent kind of media revolution was the emergence of the news wire. That let Hugenberg create a common message across a bunch of newspapers throughout the country, and integrate this right-wing radical message into one. He owned these, and then also took over the party.

The Republican media-industrial complex is a similar thing. I think it's an indicator of the degree to which the party is weak, that you have these outside forces shaping the message of the party and putting real pressure on it. And, again, I can imagine people saying, “Oh, that's so elitist to say that the party should have control over the message,” and I think in some sense that maybe it is. But I'm just trying to point out that there's a cost to this fragmentation.

What about the other big piece of this puzzle: campaign finance?

Well, as the party has lost its monopoly over money, this means that ...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Sandeep Jauhar

Sandeep Jauhar was a Ph.D. student in physics at Berkeley when a girlfriend’s incurable illness made him yearn for a profession where he could affect people’s lives directly. Once situated at a New York teaching hospital, Jauhar wrestled with his decision to go into medicine and discovered a gradual but deepening disillusionment with his induction into the profession. Jauhar’s conception of doctoring and medicine changed during those first eighteen months as he asked all the hard questions about medicine today that laypeople are asking—and reached satisfying and often surprising conclusions about the human side of modern medicine. Today he is a thriving cardiologist and the director of the Heart Failure Program at Long Island Jewish Medical Center. He writes regularly for the New York Times. He lives with his wife and their son and daughter on Long Island.

Jauhar's 2014 book is Doctored: The Disillusionment of an American Physician.

From the transcript of his 2014 interview with Fresh Air's Terry Gross:

GROSS: So because early in your career as a cardiologist you were have trouble making ends meet, you basically tried moonlighting. And you worked for a private practice. And the financial and work arrangement that you had with the head of the practice opened up your eyes to what some of the problems are that doctors in private practice face. So tell us a little bit about the work and financial arrangement that you had there.

JAUHAR: Well, a lot of academic physicians actually do moonlight to supplement their salaries. And I was introduced to a cardiologist who was mainly working in Queens and started working for him both in the hospital by seeing some of his patients in the emergency room for which I was paid a fixed supplement to my salary. And I also worked in his private office as well as satellite offices.

And so I would go on the weekends, see patients, and if the patient's needed cardiac testing, those patients would be referred back to his main office to get stress tests or echocardiograms. And what was made very clear from the beginning is that seeing patients was not financially that rewarding for the practice because seeing a patient, spending 20, 30 minutes with a patient might be reimbursed $80, $90. But sending a patient for a nuclear stress test was much more profitable. A nuclear stress test at the time when I started working was reimbursed roughly $800 to $900 and an electrocardiogram was reimbursed $350 to $400. So the whole point of the practice was to see patients - as many as possible - and order as many tests.

Now I wasn't ordering any of those tests, but I was - I mean, unless the patient really needed it. But I was supervising the stress tests that had been ordered by this physician who I was working with as well as some of his physician assistants. So even though I wasn't ordering the tests, I was in the office while these tests were being performed. And I felt very dirty about it.

GROSS: You felt that a lot of these tests were really unnecessary?

JAUHAR: Well, they were unnecessary. There's no question....[read on]
Learn more about the author and his work at Sandeep Jauhar's website.

The Page 69 Test: Intern: A Doctor’s Initiation.

The Page 99 Test: Doctored.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Renée Rosen

Renée Rosen's latest novel is Windy City Blues.

From her Q&A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: Why did you decide to write about the Chess brothers and the Chicago blues in your new novel?

A: This was definitely a group decision made by my editor, my agent and myself. We all knew that we wanted to do one more Chicago historical novel and we needed a compelling anchor or backdrop.

It was my editor who first said, “What about the blues?” I honestly didn’t know that much about Chicago Blues at the time so I did some preliminary research and it quickly became apparent that any story about the blues had to include the Chess brothers.

I couldn’t have dreamed up better characters than Leonard and Phil Chess. I think what’s so remarkable about their story is that here you have two white Jewish guys, with zero musical abilities of their own, who go on to launch the careers of such icons as Muddy Waters, Howlin’ Wolf, Etta James, Chuck Berry and...[read on]
Visit Renée Rosen's website, blog, and Facebook page.

My Book, The Movie: Windy City Blues.

The Page 69 Test: Windy City Blues.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Ellen Meeropol

Ellen Meeropol's latest novel is Kinship of Clover. From her Q&A with Caroline Leavitt:

I always wonder where the idea for a book comes from? What was haunting you?

Actually, a character from my first novel was haunting me. Pestering me, really. Jeremy was nine years old in House Arrest, and at the end of that book he was left in a vulnerable place. The cult he grew up in had fallen apart and his father went to prison. “Don’t you want to know what happened to me?” he kept whispering. I did want to know. That interest sparked the new novel.

All I knew of Jeremy when I started writing was his nine-year-old self. He had a twin brother and they lived with their mom. Jeremy was the sensitive twin, who had loved to hang out in the family greenhouse and draw plants. Eleven years later, in the new novel, his interest has become an obsession with disappearing plant species.

Like Jeremy, I am haunted by the rapid destruction of our planet and the apparent lack of will on the part of the human species to make the change necessary to turn things around. To write this novel, I re-imagined this character as a college Botany major. As I wrote, Jeremy’s beloved endangered and disappeared plants...[read on]
Visit Ellen Meeropol's website.

See Meeropol's list of five political novels to change the world.

The Page 69 Test: Kinship of Clover.

Writers Read: Ellen Meeropol.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, May 15, 2017

Miriam Busch

Miriam Busch's new children's picture book Raisin, the Littlest Cow (illustrated by her husband, Larry Day). From her Q&A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: How did you come up with the idea for Raisin, the Littlest Cow?

A: Larry came home from work one afternoon with a photograph of a raisin, around which he’d inked a charming adult Holstein – the raisin was the spot on the cow’s back. (He draws advertising storyboards as well as illustrating picture books; this was from an ad campaign.)

“Here’s Raisin,” he said.

Ha. If that spot were truly raisin-sized, I thought, that would be one tiny cow. We had a moment of hilarity as we imagined this tiny cow running across a breakfast table, squirting milk into cereal bowls.

He handed me the art. “There’s a story here,” he said.

Record-screech.

“Absolutely not,” I said. I probably backed away. (Let me just say: I was ear-deep in several manuscript revisions, but even if I weren’t busy, anyone – even my husband - suggesting story ideas sends me running for the hills. Screaming.)

I try to write every morning just to warm up – I usually just ramble around for a few pages before I get to work on my manuscripts. And in my rambling that morning, I wandered back to Raisin.

I found myself asking “what-ifs”: what if Raisin was a calf? What would she want? What if what she wanted was connected to her size? I was...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue