Saturday, July 20, 2019

Courtney Maum

Courtney Maum is the author of the novels Costalegre, Touch, I Am Having So Much Fun Here Without You, and the handbook Before and After the Book Deal: A writer’s guide to finishing, publishing, promoting, and surviving your first book, forthcoming from Catapult. Her writing has been widely published in such outlets as BuzzFeed; the New York Times; O, the Oprah Magazine; and Poets & Writers. She is the founder of the learning collaborative, The Cabins, and she also runs a service called “The Query Doula” where she helps writers prepare their manuscripts and query letters for an agent’s eyes.

From Maum's Q&A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: Why did you decide to write a novel based on the lives of art collector Peggy Guggenheim and her daughter, Pegeen?

A: I was originally researching Peggy Guggenheim for a different project, and it was in that research—reading Peggy’s memoirs and so forth—that I noticed the erasure of her daughter, Pegeen.

It wasn’t that Pegeen wasn’t in the memoirs, or that her mother denied her existence or anything, it’s just that when the topic of her daughter did come up, (which was rarely), Peggy didn’t seem to ascribe much importance to her existence. Pegeen was like an accessory that Peggy remembered to wear out of the house once in a while.

This marked me. My feelings were hurt for her, for Pegeen. And I started thinking about what it would be like to have “modern art” as a rival for your mother’s love. What it would be like to be forced to move all over the world, to have your formal education halted, in order for your mother to protect the artists she most cherished.

I decided to answer these questions, to explore what life in the 1930s would have been like for...[read on]
Visit Courtney Maum's website.

The Page 69 Test: I Am Having So Much Fun Here Without You.

The Page 69 Test: Touch.

The Page 69 Test: Costalegre.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, July 19, 2019

William Boyle

William Boyle's new novel is A Friend Is a Gift You Give Yourself.

From his Q&A with Steph Post:

What was the most difficult scene in any of your novels for you to write? How did you manage it?

There’s a scene in A Friend Is a Gift You Give Yourself that starts out as a long screwball set piece and descends into chaos and violence. That was the hardest (and yet most fun) thing I’ve ever written. There were a lot of moving parts, a lot of characters to keep track of. This was especially a challenge given that I tend to like keeping things small (“Fewer moving parts mean fewer broken pieces,” as David Bazan sings.) The other challenge there was the tonal shift from screwball comedy to violent tragedy. I studied one of my favorite films, Something Wild, to see how Jonathan Demme accomplished it so...[read on]
Visit William Boyle's website.

My Book, The Movie: Gravesend and The Lonely Witness.

The Page 69 Test: Gravesend and The Lonely Witness.

Writers Read: William Boyle (September 2018).

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, July 18, 2019

Cate Holahan

Cate Holahan's newest book is One Little Secret.

From her Q&A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: How did you come up with the idea for One Little Secret, and for your cast of characters?

A: My two daughters, ages seven and nine, had asked to join their friends at sleepaway camp for the first time ever. Camp wasn’t something I’d experienced during childhood. So, like any good journalist-turned-over-protective mom, I began researching the heck out of various facilities in Maine.

As I journeyed down the Internet rabbit hole of camp articles, I stumbled upon a 2016 New York Post piece about parents going wild after sending their kids to camp for the summer. Reading it gave me the idea of a group of kid-free type-A parents, with lives more entangled than they realize, behaving badly and...[read on]
Visit Cate Holahan's website.

Coffee with a Canine: Cate Holahan & Westley.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, July 17, 2019

Catherine Chung

Catherine Chung was born in Evanston, IL, and grew up in New York, New Jersey, and Michigan. Writing has been her life-long passion, but as an undergraduate she indulged in a brief, one-sided affair with mathematics at the University of Chicago followed by a few years in Santa Monica working at a think tank by the sea.

Eventually she attended Cornell University for her MFA, and since then she and her books have been given shelter and encouragement from The MacDowell Colony, Jentel, Hedgebrook, SFAI, Camargo, The University of Leipzig, VCCA, UCross, Yaddo, Civitella Ranieri, The Jerome Foundation, the Ludwig Vogelstein Foundation, and the Constance Saltonstall Foundation. Her brother, Heesoo Chung, has also given her a bed and fed her lots of ice cream at criticał times.

Chung is the recipient of a National Endowment for the Arts fellowship and a Director’s Visitorship at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton. She was a Granta New Voice, and won an Honorable Mention for the PEN/Hemingway Award with her first novel, Forgotten Country, which was a Booklist, Bookpage, and San Francisco Chronicle Best Book of 2012. She has published work in The New York Times, The Rumpus, and Granta, and is a fiction editor at Guernica Magazine. She lives in New York City.

Chung's new novel is The Tenth Muse.

From her Q&A with Steph Cha for Guernica:

Guernica: The Tenth Muse is a book framed by both storytelling and math. Math problems become parables; the story of a theorem becomes the story of several lives. I’m interested in how you use these two methods of describing the world, and how you see them playing off of and interacting with each other.

Catherine Chung: The physicist Freeman Dyson once famously (among mathematicians at least) compared mathematicians to birds and frogs. He said the mathematicians who are birds survey everything from up above, and delight in mapping far vistas and getting a sense of the big picture, whereas frogs live in the mud and see the objects around them in all their tiny, complex details, and that is their understanding of the world. I’ve always thought that’s a good description of writers as well, and that the metaphor can probably extend to any field of study or kind of person. We’re all trying to understand the world from our different perspectives, from where we stand and how we look at the world—whether it’s grand and sweeping, or intimate, detailed, and granular. It’s good to remember that our individual ways of seeing the world are never the whole picture, and that, taken together, they give us a richer, more comprehensive sense of not even what the world is, but how we might apprehend it.

So I just wanted to give some sense of that in this book, to play with how the vast and the intricate are always at play in any moment. To view a life in terms of the sweep of history that encompasses it, but also at the personal level. And the ways different points of view—the mathematical and the scientific, but also the...[read on]
Visit Catherine Chung's website.

Writers Read: Catherine Chung.

My Book, The Movie: The Tenth Muse.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, July 16, 2019

Margaret Verble

Margaret Verble is an enrolled citizen of the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma. Her first novel, Maud's Line, was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize. She lives in Lexington, Kentucky.

Verble's new novel is Cherokee America.

From her Q&A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: Cherokee America is inspired by your own family history. What's the blend between the fictional and the historical in the novel?

A: The plot lines of Cherokee America are pure fiction. To my knowledge, none of the characters based on real people ever got themselves into the kind of messes I’ve created for them in the book.

However, the fiction is planted in real locations, life histories, and relationships. For instance, the bawdy house is real. I’ve been on its porch many times. And the ominous black thunder cloud that appears over the Bushyhead detachment of Cherokees as they start their journey on the Trail is a documented fact.

Also, Nannie Cordery, who carried the same name in real life, really was, as a small child, picked up by the Cherokees somewhere in Arkansas. But was she given away accompanied by a ham? Not to my knowledge. That’s...[read on]
Visit Margaret Verble's website.

My Book, The Movie: Maud's Line.

Writers Read: Margaret Verble (March 2019).

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, July 15, 2019

David B. Coe/D.B. Jackson

D.B. Jackson is the pen name of fantasy author David B. Coe. He is the award-winning author of more than twenty novels and as many short stories. His newest novel, Time’s Demon, is the second volume in a time travel/epic fantasy series called The Islevale Cycle. Time’s Children is volume one; Jackson is working on the third book, Time’s Assassin.

From his Q&A with Claire O’Dell:

Tell us about The Islevale Cycle and, about Time’s Demon in particular.

The Islevale Cycle is a time travel/epic fantasy series that tells the story of Tobias and Mara, Walkers – time travelers – who Walk back through time hoping to prevent a devastating war. Upon their arrival in the past, however, the assassination of their sovereign traps them in a dark misfuture with the only survivor of the assassination plot: the sovereign’s infant daughter. They have to keep the princess safe as the assassins seek to finish their work, and as the two of them seek to reestablish the rightful line of ascension to the throne.

That’s a very basic overview – there’s a lot more to the story than that: subplots, secondary characters, a romance or two, lots of intrigue. In short, I tried to blend in all the ingredients readers might hope to find in a sprawling epic fantasy. The first book, Time’s Children, came out last October. Time’s Demon is the second book in the trilogy, and as such it deepens the story and introduces new perils and conflicts, while also starting to resolve certain key plot points. Tobias, Mara, and the infant princess, Sofya, are on the run, pursued by the sovereign’s killers. They are aided by a variety of characters – humans and “demons,” or Ancients, as they’re called in Islevale. In particular, this second book focuses on Droë, a Tirribin, or time demon, who is fascinated by human love in general, and infatuated with Tobias in particular. She seeks to help him, but she’s deeply jealous of Mara. And since Tirribin are deadly predators, this is a...[read on]
Visit D. B. Jackson's website and blog.

The Page 69 Test: Thieftaker.

The Page 69 Test: Time’s Children.

Writers Read: D.B. Jackson.

The Page 69 Test: Time’s Demon.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, July 14, 2019

Andrea Bobotis

Andrea Bobotis's new novel is The Last List of Miss Judith Kratt.

From her Q&A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: How did you come up with the idea for The Last List of Miss Judith Kratt?

A: My novel is based on a murder that happened in my family two generations before me. It was a story I'd heard all throughout my childhood, and I think I had to write it down in order to free myself of it.

Q: The novel takes place in a South Carolina town--how important is setting to you in your work?

A: Very important! I would go so far as to say that setting is a separate character in my novel. The fictional town of Bound, South Carolina, is small and insular enough to provide a perfect breeding ground for the secrets and intense family dynamics that drive the plot.

What's more, my novel is set in the late 1980s, when the textile industry is beginning to collapse in the South, with flashbacks to the onset of the Great Depression, when dependence on cotton deepened economic loss. Ultimately, the decline of ...[read on]
Visit Andrea Bobotis's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, July 13, 2019

Thelma Adams

Thelma Adams is the author of the historical novel Bittersweet Brooklyn, the bestseller The Last Woman Standing and Playdate, which Oprah magazine described as “a witty debut novel.” In addition to her fiction work, Adams is a prominent American film critic and an outspoken voice in the Hollywood community. She has been the in-house film critic for Us Weekly and The New York Post, and has written essays, celebrity profiles and reviews for Yahoo! Movies, The New York Times, O: The Oprah Magazine, AARP.com, Variety, The Hollywood Reporter, Parade, Marie Claire and The Huffington Post. Adams studied history at the University of California, Berkeley, where she was valedictorian, and received her MFA from Columbia University. She lives in upstate New York with her family.

From Adams's Q&A with Yona Zeldis McDonough for the Lilith blog:

YZM: How about the historical accuracy of your other novel, Bittersweet Brooklyn, which deals with the mafia back in the East?

TA: There’s a lot of fact to Bittersweet Brooklyn, a novel that had the working title Kosher Nostra. I based it on my grandmother, the late Thelma Lorber Schwartz, and her infamous older brother Abraham “Little Yiddle” Lorber. While he became a relatively low-level fixer in the Jewish mob, Murder Inc., she’s the book’s focus. They were schleppers, the American-born children of immigrants who left Drohobych, Ukraine in the late 19th Century. Abie’s shameful stories, or the facts of his criminality, were not frequently shared by my father, Abie’s nephew. I don’t think he knew the full extent of his uncle’s crimes and associations.

Strangely, I knew even less about the other, quieter brother, Louis. I discovered that the man for whom my father Lawrence was named was a genuine war hero. In contrast to his older brother Abie, Louis channeled his violence into...[read on]
Learn more about the book and author at Thelma Adams' website.

The Page 69 Test: Playdate.

My Book, The Movie: Playdate.

The Page 69 Test: Bittersweet Brooklyn.

My Book, The Movie: Bittersweet Brooklyn.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, July 12, 2019

Chris Tebbetts

Chris Tebbetts's new YA novel is Me Myself & Him.

From his Q&A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: How did you come up with the idea for Me, Myself, and Him, and for your character Chris?

A: The prologue of this book—where Chris passes out doing whippets behind the ice cream store where he works—is autobiographical. I first wrote about it as a short piece of creative nonfiction but then started to wonder what might happen to a character in the same position.

My first idea was that it would be a traditional novel, following Chris (who I named after myself, to reflect the combination of memoir and fiction I was using), who gets shipped off to live with his famous but difficult father in California for the summer as a result of his drug-fueled accident.

However, as I pecked away at that idea, and wrote… and wrote…and wrote… I just couldn’t seem to get Chris on that plane to California. It was like the story wanted him to stay home in Ohio, and I wasn’t quite sure why.

After some further writing and exploring, that notion eventually led me to writing a dual narrative where we follow Chris through two different outcomes. In one thread of the story, Chris is busted for...[read on]
Visit Chris Tebbetts's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, July 11, 2019

Mike Jay

Mike Jay has written extensively on scientific and medical history. His books on the history of drugs include High Society: Mind-Altering Drugs in History and Culture and The Atmosphere of Heaven. He lives in London.

Jay's new book is Mescaline: A Global History of the First Psychedelic.

From his Vice Q&A with Max Daly:

I was surprised to find out the Plains Indians took mescaline. Can you tell me more?

The Plains Indian peyote ceremony developed when the tribes were taken into forced captivity on the reservations. Before then, it was known only to those who visited the areas of Mexico and southern Texas where it grew—mostly Apache bands such as the Lipan and the Mescalero. But after the Texas-Mexico railroad opened in 1881, peyote from Texas began to reach the Comanche, Kiowa, and Apache reservations in Oklahoma.

Following the Ghost Dance ceremonies in 1890, which were suppressed after the massacre at Wounded Knee, communal singing and dancing was banned on the reservations. Peyote ceremonies took place in tipis, away from the prying eyes of government agents. Participants ate peyote buttons, usually dried, while seated all night around a central fire, purified with prayers, tobacco, and incense, and sang songs accompanied by a drum and rattle that passed around the group. Songs were channeled during the ceremonies and different traditions and forms of ritual evolved.

For men who had been brought up as warriors, the peyote meeting became a microcosm of their vanished world. Peyote worship preserved their culture and identity and nurtured an ethos of self-respect, particularly abstinence from...[read on]
Visit Mike Jay's website.

The Page 99 Test: Mescaline.

--Marshal Zeringue