Thursday, May 5, 2016

Eileen Pollack

Eileen Pollack's new novel is A Perfect Life.

From her Q & A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: How did you come up with the idea for A Perfect Life, and were the characters based on real people?

A: I came up with it years ago, in the 1980s. My then-husband was doing his Ph.D. research at MIT at the lab of Dr. David Housman, who was working to find the gene for Huntington’s chorea.

I was fascinated by the role of a woman, Nancy Wexler, who was finding families who carried the gene for Huntington’s. Nancy herself was at risk for the disease.

Her mother had died of Huntington’s…Nancy’s father had funded a foundation to carry out research. Nancy had a sister who was also at risk.

Her story is so fraught. Everybody wondered if she had inherited the disease. It would be the first marker for an inherited gene. If she took the test [that was developed], she would know [if she would develop the disease], but there was no cure. I was very interested in Nancy and her decision: would she marry or have children?

Also, there was Arlo Guthrie. His father, Woody Guthrie, died of Huntington’s, and he also was 50-50 for the disease. He did fundraising for the disease. I thought, what if they fell in love with each other?

I knew the biology from living with my husband, and I have a background in physics. I was...[read on]
Visit Eileen Pollack's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Don DeLillo

Don DeLillo's new novel is Zero K. From the transcript of his NPR interview with Scott Simon:

SIMON: Let's set your - the scene of your novel a bit. Jeffrey Lockhart is summoned to this place called Convergence by his father Ross who's a famous billionaire. He is very devoted to his second, younger wife Artis and he wants to join her. How does this story proceed?

DELILLO: I think the essence of the novel is that Ross Lockhart wants to join Artis even though he is not on the verge of dying himself. Artis went into the cryogenic process because she was near death anyway. But he is a healthy man in his 60s. This is an incredible development, of course, in his life and in his son's life. The point is that this is a completely illegal process and takes place in the deepest physical levels of the Convergence, in an area known as Zero K.

SIMON: And do you write about this because you think we're on the course - in human affairs?

DELILLO: Science and technology are on that course. And I think they have been for quite a while. I can only expect that it will continue, perhaps, in a more refined manner. But I ought to add that I did not do a great deal of research. I did what was necessary.

SIMON: This place Convergence, which you sketch in so beautifully, raises the most essential questions of human existence. And I don't mind saying - as a reader, it can be a little creepy. But...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Eric Jay Dolin

Eric Jay Dolin is the best-selling author of the award-winning Fur, Fortune, and Empire; Leviathan, which was chosen by the Los Angeles Times and Boston Globe as a best book of the year; and When America First Met China.

Dolin's new book is Brilliant Beacons: A History of the American Lighthouse.

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

Q: Why did you decide to write a history of American lighthouses, and what would you say lighthouses symbolize in this country?

A: After my last book, When America First Met China, my long-time editor at W. W. Norton, and the head of sales, wanted to know if I was interested in writing a book about American lighthouses.

I was intrigued. Although I had seen a few lighthouses, I knew absolutely nothing about their history. So, I asked for time to think it over, and do some research.

The more I read, the more excited about the topic I became. Every day was a revelation. I literally had no idea how important lighthouses were to American history, and how many threads of the American experience could be woven into this book.

Far from being just a story about lighthouses, it was a story about colonial commerce, nation building, war, technological innovation, engineering feats, disasters, storms, tragedy, personal sacrifice, and inspiring determination, as well as poetry, art, and hope.

After about a month, I knew this was a book I wanted to write, so I submitted a formal proposal, and the book was born.

Lighthouses symbolize beauty, permanence, safety, societal altruism, rugged individualism, and economic security.

The beauty comes from their elemental form, grand towers of brick, stone, iron, and cement, starkly etched against the sky. Nearly every one is unique, with a character all their own.

Permanence is due to their longevity. Even though many lighthouses have been demolished, either by humans or nature, most have endured for scores, if not hundreds of years.

The main purpose of lighthouses is...[read on]
Learn more about the book and author at Eric Jay Dolin's website.

The Page 99 Test: Fur, Fortune, and Empire.

The Page 99 Test: When America First Met China.

The Page 69 Test: Brilliant Beacons.

The Page 99 Test: Brilliant Beacons.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, May 2, 2016

Theresa Kaminski

Theresa Kaminski is Professor of History at the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point where she teaches courses in American women’s history. She is the author of Citizen of Empire: Ethel Thomas Herold, An American in the Philippines and Prisoners in Paradise: American Women in the Wartime South Pacific.

Her latest book is Angels of the Underground: The American Women who Resisted the Japanese in the Philippines in World War II.

From Kaminski's Q & A at

If someone asked you to quickly summarize your book, what would be your 2 minute elevator version?

Angels is about the incredible risks American women took and the impossible choices they made to not only survive a wartime enemy occupation, but to undermine the Japanese occupation and help others survive it as well. It’s a World War II story few people know.

Your previous historical works have also focused on the Philippines and the South Pacific. How did you become interested in the Philippines?

From the academic side of my life, I have been fascinated with imperialism and colonialism, the kinds of hierarchies they establish and reinforce, and what that all means to the people who experience them. As an American historian, this interest directed me to the Philippines. I was especially intrigued by the women who decided to move so far away from the States to be a part of this imperialist enterprise.

From the personal side of my life, my father, who enlisted in the U.S. Army when he turned 18, always spoke fondly of the Philippines. He was stationed there for a time after World War II, so his experiences were with postwar rebuilding. I was glad he had positive memories, but when I became a historian, I wanted to...[read on]
Learn more about Angels of the Underground at Theresa Kaminski's website.

The Page 99 Test: Angels of the Underground.

Writers Read: Theresa Kaminski.

My Book, The Movie: Angels of the Underground.

Coffee with a Canine: Theresa Kaminski & Hugo.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, May 1, 2016

Jillian Cantor

Jillian Cantor's latest novel is The Hours Count.

From her Q & A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: The novel's title comes from a Pablo Picasso quote about the Rosenbergs, which you include in the book. Why did you choose that as the title?

A: My editor actually found this quote and suggested it as a title. I was about halfway through writing the first draft at the time and I absolutely loved it.

I loved that it was a real quote about the Rosenbergs but also that it applied to Millie’s life as a mother. I never really understood the expression the days are long but the years are short until I had kids! (And you see this expression makes it into the book as Millie reflects on her own life as a mother to two boys).

I kept thinking about the fact that Ethel didn’t get to see her sons grow up, all the hours and small moments she missed with them, and how those are the things that really count as a mother. I think the title really gets at...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, April 30, 2016

Lauren Belfer

Lauren Belfer's new novel is And After the Fire.

From a Q & A at her website:

What draws you to historical fiction?

My father taught history, and my mother taught art and is still an artist, so history and creativity have always been part of the fabric of my life. From discussing history with my father throughout my childhood, I learned to place myself into different historical eras and to imagine what living in those times would have felt like. As I became a writer, I wanted to use my knowledge and love of history to portray how the events of the wider world affect the course of individual lives.

* * *
Did you always want to be a writer?

I decided I wanted to be a writer when I was six years old. I started out by writing short stories about magical animals and also about princesses – but strong princesses who ruled their kingdoms and rode into battle on white horses. In high school, I began to write poetry, which I submitted to literary magazines. I received rejection letters from all the best places.

Once I was out of college, I still wanted to be a writer, but I had to earn a living at the same time. So I got up early, before going to work, and wrote for an hour or so. I worked in a variety of jobs: in the photo department of a newspaper, at an art gallery, as a paralegal at several law firms, as an associate producer on documentary films, even as a fact-checker at magazines. Having a wide variety of jobs is terrific for a fiction writer, because...[read on]
Visit Lauren Belfer's website.

Writers Read: Lauren Belfer (July 2010).

The Page 69 Test: A Fierce Radiance.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, April 29, 2016

Anita Hughes

Anita Hughes was born in Sydney, Australia and had a charmed childhood that included petting koala bears, riding the waves on Bondi Beach, and putting an occasional shrimp on the barbie. Her writing career began at the age of eight, when she won a national writing contest in The Australian newspaper, and was named "One of Australia's Next Best Writers." (She still has the newspaper clipping.)

Hughes received a B.A. in English Literature with a minor in Creative Writing from Bard College, and attended UC Berkeley's Masters in Creative Writing program.

Her novels include Monarch Beach, Market Street, Lake Como, French Coast, and Island in the Sea.

From her Q & A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: How did you come up with the idea for your characters Juliet and Lionel in Island in the Sea, and why did you decide to have the characters work in the music business?

A: Actually, first I came up with the idea of setting the book in the music industry, then I came up with the characters. I wondered what it would be like to be a famous songwriter who writes love songs but has been betrayed in love. Could you still write about love?

Then, I thought, what if a beautiful young woman appeared who held your career in your hands and you began to fall in love with her. I also threw in Lionel's boss as the person who betrayed Lionel and the man who Juliet answers to.

Q: The novel takes place on the island of Majorca. How important is setting to you in your writing, and could this novel have taken place in another location?

A: Setting is...[read on]
Learn more about the book and author at Anita Hughes's website.

My Book, The Movie: Market Street.

My Book, The Movie: Lake Como.

My Book, The Movie: French Coast.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Fred Kaplan

Fred Kaplan's new book is Dark Territory: The Secret History Of Cyber War. From the transcript of his interview with Daniel Zwerdling for All Things Considered:

ZWERDLING: So let's jump ahead in history now. We all know that hacking has become a part of life. You write that there was a huge turning point in the kinds of cyberattacks almost exactly two years ago.

KAPLAN: That's right. A couple years ago, Sheldon Adelson - who is the majority stockholder of Vegas Sands Casinos and a well-known right-wing political supporter with very pro-Israel views - made a statement at a public forum saying that if the Iranians didn't get serious on getting rid of their nuclear weapons, that maybe we ought to drop an atomic bomb in the middle of the desert and say if you don't stop this, the next bomb we drop is going to be on Tehran.

So in retaliation for that, the Iranians hacked into his casino chain, causing tens of millions of dollars' worth of damage - melting their hard drives, stealing a lot of data about Social Security numbers, and then planting on everybody's screen, don't make statements like this about weapons of mass destruction.

So this is a new wave in cyber war done not for espionage, not for money, not to get military secrets, but to affect the political speech of individuals or corporations. When you hack into a casino - you know, if you're looking for money, there's a lot of money there that you can get. The Iranians didn't take a dime. They even stole credit cards to...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Renée Rosen

Renée Rosen's latest novel is White Collar Girl. From her Q & A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: How did you come up with the idea for White Collar Girl, and for your main character, Jordan Walsh?

A: After I finished What the Lady Wants, my editor, agent and I started brainstorming on what my next book should be.

We were all intrigued by the idea of the Chicago Tribune and the Daley Machine, but it wasn’t until I met Marion Purcelli, a woman who started at the Tribune in 1949 as a “copyboy,” that the story really began taking shape. Marion took me under her wing, sharing many wonderful stories of her days at the paper.

Jordan Walsh and her mentor Mrs. Angelo are both based on Marion Purcelli, and after meeting her, the book pretty much wrote itself. I really did not know what would happen from one chapter to the next. The characters took the story and ran with it and I was just along for the ride.

Q: You’ve written three historical novels about Chicago. How did the writing and research process compare this time with the previous two?

A: The biggest difference between this book and my previous novels, Dollface, which was set in the 1920s, and What the Lady Wants, set in the Gilded Age, is that ...[read on]
Visit Renée Rosen's website, blog, and Facebook page.

The Page 99 Test: Every Crooked Pot.

My Book, The Movie: Dollface.

The Page 69 Test: Dollface.

Writers Read: Renée Rosen (November 2014).

The Page 69 Test: What the Lady Wants.

My Book, The Movie: What the Lady Wants.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Peggy Orenstein

Peggy Orenstein's books include the New York Times best-selling memoir, Waiting for Daisy; Flux: Women on Sex, Work, Kids, Love and Life in a Half-Changed World; SchoolGirls: Young Women, Self-Esteem and the Confidence Gap; and Cinderella Ate My Daughter: Dispatches from the Front Lines of the New Girlie-Girl Culture.

Her new book is Girls & Sex: Navigating the Complicated New Landscape. From her Q & A with Isaac Chotiner at Slate:

A lot has been written about the way porn has influenced the expectations of boys. Can you talk about how is has influenced the expectations of girls?

In fact, my understanding is that Time magazine is about to have a cover story on that, like, next week or something.

It affects girls in a few ways. It affects how they look at their own bodies: are they good enough, are they adequate, are they going to please their partner because they aren’t like the girls in porn, things like that.

A lot of girls would say to me—and, this really began to irritate me, not at the girls, but just at the fact that they had to think about this—“My boyfriend wants to know why I don’t moan during sex like the girls in porn.” I got so irritated at that that I started dropping my journalistic remove, and I would say, “Look. It’s a movie. Movies need soundtracks. If people didn’t moan, it would be a silent movie. That’s why they’re moaning like that.” That was kind of like a revelation. They’re like, “Oh, I never thought of it that way!”

I think that porn has also probably been responsible for the rise in...[read on]
The Page 69 Test: Waiting for Daisy.

The Page 99 Test: Cinderella Ate My Daughter.

Writers Read: Peggy Orenstein.

--Marshal Zeringue