Friday, October 24, 2014

Bryan Stevenson

Bryan Stevenson is the author of Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption.

From his interview with Terry Gross:

GROSS: One of the cases that you write about is about one of the children who you represented. He was, I think, 13. And he was in prison for having shot his mother's boyfriend after he witnessed the mother's boyfriend abusing her, and she ended up unconscious and bleeding. And the son wasn't even sure if she was alive. She was kind of out cold for about 20 minutes, bleeding profusely, and I don't know whose gun it was that the boy used?

STEVENSON: It was the boyfriend - the mother's boyfriend's gun that he had hidden away in a dresser drawer.

GROSS: So the boy took the gun, shot and killed the mother's boyfriend. So he's in prison. You're trying to represent him. And you go to visit him, he's uncommunicative. And he finally just kind of breaks down crying and tells you what's been happening to him in prison, which was...

STEVENSON: Yeah, it's one of the real tragedies that we continue to tolerate in this country. I went to the jail and there's this little kid, he's 14 and he's just tiny and he won't say a word. And after 20 minutes of trying to get them to talk to me, I finally went around and got close to him, I said look you got to talk to me. I can't help you if you don't talk to me. And at one point, I leaned on him and I put my arm around him and when I did that he just collapsed into me. And he started crying hysterically, and began telling me nothing about his mom, nothing about the man, but he started talking to me about the jail.

He told me on the first night that he had been there, he'd been hurt by several men and then he told me on the next night he'd been sexually assaulted by several people. And then he told me on the night before I'd gotten there, so many people had hurt him and sexually assaulted him, he couldn't remember how many there had been. You know, and I held that little boy while he cried hysterically for almost an hour and when I left the jail, I couldn't help but think who is responsible for this? And I realized we are. We are a society that has allowed our fear and our anger - we've allowed these false narratives about children being super predators and other such nonsense - to create policies where we are putting children in peril. And I just - I really was never the same after that. We got that little boy out of there and we ultimately got a good outcome for him. But it's, again, one of the ways in which this disconnect has made us a less fair, less just society.

GROSS: What was the outcome that you got because it's not like he was innocent of shooting and killing a man? Doesn't mean he should have...[read on, or listen to the interview]
--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Wendy Davis

Wendy Davis is the Democratic candidate for governor of Texas and author of a new memoir, Forgetting to Be Afraid.

From her Q & A with Caitlin Moscatello at Glamour:

Glamour: You describe your childhood in so much detail—your mom's depression, your parents twice divorcing, financial hardship. And then of course being a young, single mom. How did toughing it out through these hard times shape you as a politician?

Wendy Davis: When my parents divorced the second time, we went from being a very stable family that sat down to dinner at the table at 6 o'clock at night to one with a mom who worked nights and weekends and wasn't able to financially support us in the way that she would have liked. My mom had only a ninth-grade education. And we all had to go to work really young to help her out. I started working when I was 14. And when I became a single mom.... I felt like I was stuck, and I was afraid I was going to be stuck in the very same place that I saw my mother be stuck. And it wasn't until one of my coworkers brought in a brochure to our community college that I began to even think about a path forward. It was hard. I worked a full-time job, I worked a part-time job, and I went to college, while I was raising my daughter as a single mom. But I knew if I didn't put my foot forward on that path, we were going to stay stuck, and the fact that I was able to do it, I hope creates for people who are struggling with some of the same situations in their lives, hope that they too can do it.

Glamour: Earlier this year, parts of your personal story were challenged—specifically, how you paid for law school. Were you surprised that the issue was questioned?

WD: I was disappointed that it was. But, you know, my story is my story. And I know how I was able to achieve the things I achieved. I know, and have always recognized and given credit to many people who helped me along the way, most important of which was my ex-husband Jeff Davis. He was my mentor. He was an incredible support to me in many ways. Together, we created two beautiful, wonderful daughters who are happy and successful. He is...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Lynn Cullen

Lynn Cullen is the author of Reign of Madness, a 2011 Best of the South selection by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and 2012 Townsend Prize finalist, and The Creation of Eve, named among the best fiction books of 2010 by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and an Indie Next selection. She is also the author of numerous award-winning books for children, including the young adult novel I Am Rembrandt’s Daughter, which was a 2007 Barnes & Noble “Discover Great New Writers” selection and an ALA Best Book of 2008.

Cullen's latest novel is Mrs. Poe.

From the author's Q & A with Stephanie Hopkins at Layered Pages:

Stephanie: Hello Lynn! It truly is a pleasure chatting with you today! I really enjoyed your story, Mrs. Poe. What do your cast of characters have in common?

Lynn: Thank you so very much for inviting me to your blog. I’m thrilled for a chance to chat with you—and I’m so glad that you liked Mrs. Poe! H’m, interesting first question. I’d say that what the characters have the most in common is that they all want something they can’t have. To me, one of the most fascinating things about being human is our constant craving for that which is just out of reach. Why do we always want what we can’t have? Not even the Garden of Eden was good enough for Eve. Poe and Frances Osgood were great vehicles through which to explore this common human drive for something more. They wanted fame, fortune, and great love, and it was just beyond their fingertips.

Stephanie: What fascinates you about Frances Osgood?

Lynn: I am bowled over that Frances Osgood tried to support herself and her two daughters with her poetry after her husband left her. She tried to do this in 1845, when only two or three women writers in the U.S. made enough money to live on—and they were newspaper columnists, not poets. Not even Poe was earning enough to live comfortably on his stories and poems. By the way, I learned that Poe was the first American writer to try to support himself solely with his fiction. Previous writers had inherited money, married well, or had other jobs or professions. Frankly, it didn’t work out very well for him. He was reduced to constantly begging for loans from friends and business associates. But back to Frances Osgood: I appreciate how she...[read on]
Visit Lynn Cullen's website.

My Book, The Movie: Mrs. Poe.

The Page 69 Test: Mrs. Poe.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Lisa O’Donnell

Lisa O'Donnell won the Orange Screenwriting Prize in 2000 for The Wedding Gift and, in the same year, was nominated for the Dennis Potter New Screenwriters Award. Her debut novel, The Death of Bees, was the winner of the 2013 Commonwealth Book Prize.

O'Donnell's latest novel is Closed Doors.

From her Q & A at Curtis Brown Creative:

You were a screenwriter for many years. At one point did you decide you wanted to be a novelist?

I was a screenwriter largely working in television. I worked for the BBC and I wrote for Hollyoaks for a while. I enjoyed that experience – storyboarding, working with other people. I didn’t really give up screenwriting, there just weren’t any jobs; so I turned to novel-writing. But even when I wrote my first book and started writing the first lines of the prologue, ‘Today is Christmas Eve. Today is my birthday. Today I am fifteen. Today I buried my parents in the backyard. Neither of them were beloved’, I wasn’t sure whether these words would lead me to write another speculative script or a novel. I decided to write a novel in the end, but I must admit I was a little...[read on]
Learn more about the book and author at Lisa O'Donnell's website.

Writers Read: Lisa O'Donnell.

The Page 69 Test: Closed Doors.

My Book, The Movie: Closed Doors.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, October 20, 2014

Adrienne Mayor

Adrienne Mayor is a research scholar in Classics and History of Science at Stanford University; her book The Poison King, a biography of Mithradates, was National Book Award nonfiction finalist in 2009.

Mayor's latest book is The Amazons: Lives and Legends of Warrior Women across the Ancient World.

From her Q & A at the Princeton University Press website:

What was the most interesting thing you learned from writing this book?

Thanks to modern DNA testing, we now know that a significant number of battle-scarred skeletons buried with weapons in ancient steppe nomad graves belonged to women, the real-life models for Greek myths about Amazons. So Amazons were not just a figment of the Greek imagination, brought to life in exciting myths only to be killed off by Greek heroes. But even more surprising, it turns out that the Greeks were not the only people of antiquity to spin tales about heroic warrior women. And the non-Greek stories of warlike women differ radically from the dark mythic script demanding death for all Amazons. Instead, legendary heroes of Persia, Egypt, and Asia were so impressed with the valor of their female foes that they desired the women as companions in love and war. We are used to thinking of Amazon myths in terms of violence against uppity women, but the ancient evidence also reveals a vision of...[read on]
Learn more about The Amazons at the Princeton University Press website.

The Page 99 Test: The Amazons.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Elizabeth Rosner

Elizabeth Rosner is the author of The Speed of Light, which has been translated into nine languages and was awarded the Harold U. Ribalow Prize administered by Hadassah Magazine and judged by Elie Wiesel. It was short-listed for France’s Prix Femina and the recipient of the Prix France Bleu Gironde. Rosner also received the 2002 Great Lakes Colleges New Writer’s Award for Fiction. Her second novel Blue Nude was named a 2006 Best Book by the San Francisco Chronicle. Her essays have been published by the New York Times Magazine, Elle, the Forward, Huffington Post, and many anthologies. She is a frequent book reviewer for the San Francisco Chronicle and the Los Angeles Review of Books.

Rosner's new novel is Electric City.

From her Q & A with Caroline Leavitt:

What sparked you to write this particular book? How was the process different from any of your other fine novels?

It may seem strange to say this, because my previous two novels are both quite autobiographical (and in fact I often refer to them as "emotionally autobiographical"), but the initial spark for ELECTRIC CITY happened when I realized that I hadn't yet written a novel about the place in which I grew up. At the age of sixteen, after graduating a year early from high school, I got a scholarship to study for a year in the Philippines, and I seized the opportunity to "get as far from home as I could without leaving the planet." (This is a line from one of my poems in GRAVITY called "Keeping Kosher in the Philippines.") The truth is, not writing about Schenectady, New York had a lot to do with having fled from there at a young age, with no desire to return.

And yet, in my late 40s, it occurred to me that I could finally look back at my hometown with a liberating mix of curiosity and forgiveness. Suddenly I became altogether fascinated by the place, discovering that it possessed many more layers of history and personality and cultural complexity than I had ever been able to recognize. I quickly found myself wanting to burrow into those strata as though in search of secret treasures. The process became profoundly research-driven at times, especially because I was incorporating historical figures into my work. This was certainly new for me, often more than a little intimidating. And yet as I had done while creating my previous novels, I also had to...[read on]
Visit Elizabeth Rosner's website.

The Page 69 Test: Electric City.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Val McDermid

Val McDermid, the Scottish crime writer of more than 30 novels, has written a nonfiction book on the history of forensic science, Forensics: The Anatomy of a Crime.

From her Q & A about the book with Linda Geddes for NewScientist, republished in Slate:

How has forensic science influenced your writing up until now?

It helps me to anchor my books in the real world. Everybody knows crimes don't get solved the way we write about them in crime fiction; it's not one grumpy inspector and a sergeant buying the pints. But anything I can do to bolster your suspension of disbelief is valuable. If I tell you the truth about the science, it helps make you think I must be telling the truth about all the stuff I'm making up.

Where do your story ideas come from?

It's things that make me go “wow.” For instance, I once rang up the forensic anthropologist Sue Black at the University of Dundee because I wanted to know what your tattoos would look like if you'd been submerged in a bog for 200 years. She said that when you get a tattoo, the nearest lymph nodes take up the ink. It occurred to me that if the tattoo was made after death, there wouldn't be any staining on the lymph nodes: I had a starting point for...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, October 17, 2014

Lena Dunham

Lena Dunham, who created and stars in Girls, is the author of a collection of personal essays called Not That Kind of Girl.

From her interview with Terry Gross:

GROSS: Some people think that you over share (laughter). And I'm wondering because you do share so much, like, in your memoir and there's so much personal stuff in "Girls," whether it really happened to you or not, whether it's autobiographical or not, a lot of people just assume that it is. So have you ever made anything public that was very personal through your work or through your interviews that you later regretted saying?

DUNHAM: You know, I've thought about this a lot because it's a - it's a challenging thing when you're a person who has a desire, or let's say a compulsion, to share facts about your personal life. If that's the way you process the world is to make creative content based on your personal life, then you have to be really careful about making yourself feel too exposed. But for me the biggest concern is my family and the people that I love. And I feel very, very conscious of making sure that my parents, my boyfriend, my friends don't feel in any way demeaned, exposed or abused by the work that I make. Especially now, there's no writing about someone anonymously. People will pick it apart, they will figure out who that person is. There's sort of no sort of protective measures you can put in place at this point in history to take care of the people you love, so you have to be careful. And so there've been a couple times where I've said things about my parents or about my boyfriend...[read on, or listen to the interview]
--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Rebecca Makkai

Rebecca Makkai is a Chicago-based writer whose first novel, The Borrower, is a Booklist Top Ten Debut, an Indie Next pick, an O Magazine selection, and one of Chicago Magazine's choices for best fiction of 2011. Her short fiction has been chosen for The Best American Short Stories for four consecutive years (2011, 2010, 2009 and 2008), and appears regularly in journals like Harper's, Tin House, Ploughshares, and New England Review.

Makkai's new novel is The Hundred-Year House.

From her Q & A with Claire Zulkey:

The Hundred-Year House was originally titled "Happensack": what were the origins of the first title, and why/how did it change?

The Happensack is the name of the mosaic someone is making in the 1999 section of the book, and it's a crucial piece symbolically as well as plot-wise. (The word "happensack" came from a character's mangling of the word "happenstance" - and so it was also a way of getting the idea of luck into the book's name.) There were two problems with that title: It didn't evoke anything for the prospective reader; and, as my husband finally pointed out, it kind of sounded like some weird slang word for testicles. I really did like it, though. That's still the book's secret name.

What were some of your favorite 1955 artifacts from your research for the book?

A fellow writer told me I should get the Sears catalogues off eBay for any year I was writing about. I found both the 1955 and 1929 ones, and they were both invaluable. 1955 was especially helpful on Paint by Number sets and clothes. I also found an amazing postcard of...[read on]
Learn more about the author and her work at Rebecca Makkai's website, Facebook page and Twitter perch.

My Book, The Movie: The Borrower.

The Page 69 Test: The Hundred-Year House.

My Book, The Movie: The Hundred-Year House.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

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 new book is Doctored: The Disillusionment of an American Physician.

From his Q & A with Evi Heilbrunn at U.S. News & World Report:

In the book, you talk a lot about the business culture of American medicine. What does that mean for physicians today?

"Medicine is a field about caring for other people, so most people go into medicine either because they are fascinated by human physiology either/or because they want to care for people. I don’t believe that people go into medicine to get rich so it's a rude awakening when you have to start thinking about money. [Now] you have to think about the bottom line. It's about attaining a certain base income. Doctors have to start thinking about business things and if you don't want to think about it, you’re constantly reminded. You’re constantly being measured by how many RVUs [relative value units] you're bringing in, so even if you're on the academic side, the employer is reminding you [about money]. That kind of commercial consciousness is invading the profession."

Do you see this knowledge trickling down into medical training?

“When I was a third year resident, I...[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