Thursday, May 28, 2015

Rachel Bach

Rachel Bach is the author of the paradox Series, which starts with Fortune's Pawn, a fast paced, romantic adventure starring Devi Morris, a powered armor mercenary who signs on with the galaxy’s most trouble-prone space freighter in an attempt to jumpstart her career. But while Devi expected the firefights and aliens, this ship holds secrets she never could have imagined, and the greatest danger for this ship guard might just be the very people she was hired to protect.

From Bach's 2014 Q & A with Veronica Scott at USA Today:

Veronica: .... Let's talk to Rachel! What was your inspiration for the Paradox Series?

Rachel: It was a mix of a lot of things: action science-fiction movies like Aliens and Starship Troopers, the StarCraft and Warhammer 40K video games, a ton of novels, particularly Dune and Anne McCaffrey's Crystal Singer trilogy, and of course Firefly. Really, though, the whole reason I started writing the series was because I desperately wanted to read a really action-packed science-fiction romance and I simply could not find one I liked. So, being an author, I decided I'd write the book I wanted myself. My main character, Devi, appeared fully formed a few minutes later, suited up and ready to go. After that, the rest was just really fun details.

Veronica: Who was the most challenging character in the series to write?

Rachel: Believe it or not, Devi. Her voice is hands-down the easiest to write of any character I've ever had, but Devi herself was a real problem for me as a novelist because of the way the books are structured. The Paradox novels are built around the dramatic and multitiered unveiling of a complex and nuanced central mystery, and Devi is, shall we say, not a nuanced girl. Coming up with ways to keep her from getting fed up and just shooting stuff until answers fell out was a constant challenge, and I actually had several moments in the books where I sincerely regretted dropping my most bullish character into this exquisite china shop of a plot. For all that...[read on]
My Book, The Movie: Fortune's Pawn.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Elizabeth Heiter

Elizabeth Heiter likes her suspense to feature strong heroines, chilling villains, psychological twists, and a little bit (or a lot!) of romance. Her research has taken her into the minds of serial killers, through murder investigations, and onto the FBI Academy’s shooting range.

Heiter's latest novel is Vanished.

From her Q & A at My Bookish Ways:

Will you tell us a little about Vanished?

Thank you so much! I’m really excited for Vanished, where my heroine finally gets to tackle the case that drove her to become an FBI profiler in the first place! Eighteen years ago, her best friend Cassie was abducted, the last in a series of kidnappings by the Nursery Rhyme Killer. Cassie was never found, and now another girl has gone missing in Evelyn’s hometown of Rose Bay, South Carolina, and the Nursery Rhyme Killer is taking credit.

It’s the case Evelyn has wanted to solve since she was twelve years old, but it means facing her hometown – where racial prejudices eighteen years ago meant she wasn’t always welcome – and facing the possibility that this time, it isn’t her friend’s abductor at all, but a copycat. The deeper she digs, the more secrets she finds in Rose Bay, and the more likely it becomes that whoever the abductor is this time, Evelyn might be the next to disappear.

What kind of research did you do for the book, especially in order to get into the mind of the Nursery Rhyme Killer?

When I wrote Hunted (Book 1 in The Profiler series), I’d already done extensive research on the FBI and profiling, but I did more for this book, visiting another FBI field office, and digging deeper into the process of profiling. One part of this book that really fascinated me was setting up the idea that the abductions start again after eighteen years. I wanted that possibility to feel real, so I did a lot of research into real serial criminals who went dormant for a long time, then resurfaced. It’s...[read on]
Visit Elizabeth Heiter's website and watch the book trailer for Vanished.

My Book, The Movie: Vanished.

The Page 69 Test: Vanished.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Paolo Bacigalupi

Paolo Bacigalupi's new novel is The Water Knife.

From his NPR interview with Arun Rath:

ARUN RATH, HOST: What if the devastating drought in the west doesn't end? A few years ago, science-fiction writer Paolo Bacigalupi started paying attention to what's been happening to the water supply out here.

PAOLO BACIGALUPI: Lake Powell and Lake Mead were hitting sort of historic lows, and they weren't refilling the way they were supposed to. And Las Vegas was in fact digging deeper and deeper intakes into Lake Mead. And you could sort of see the storyline was already there - this question of scarcity, this question of too many people needing too little water. You know, and so as a fiction writer, you're like, well, what happens next?

RATH: One possibility - the world depicted in Bacigalupi's new novel "The Water Knife." It's a noirish, cinematic sci-fi thriller - sort of "Chinatown" meets "Mad Max." He told me he was inspired by his work in environmental journalism because he realized most people don't get a real sense of danger from news reports or photos of shrinking reservoirs.

BACIGALUPI: You know, there's the blue sky. There's the pretty, white bathtub ring. There's the red rocks. There's the blue water. It doesn't look like a disaster. And so as a fiction writer, you sort of take - here's a piece of information. Let me explain to you exactly why this actually is a disaster. And it's not because the water level is low today. It's because it seems to be going somewhere. And the context is really only if we viscerally understand what the potential future is. Once you understand a potential future - if you live inside of that world, if you live inside of that water scarcity, if you see people reacting, if you see a water riot, if you see a climate refugee or you live in the skin of a climate refugee, suddenly that makes more sense than just, oh, we've noticed that, you know, Lake Mead is now at a historically low level. That's a news item. It's fairly dry and fairly abstract.

RATH: And you paint this - this really bleak, terrible picture of what water refugees in America would be like - basically, if Texas were to dry up...

BACIGALUPI: Right.

RATH: You know, people trying to get to wetter states. You have the whole - the whole Northwest, you know, Washington and Oregon are basically - they have a wall to...

BACIGALUPI: Right.

RATH: ...Keep - keep the thirsty people out...

BACIGALUPI: Right, yeah...[read on, or listen to the interview]
Writers Read: Paolo Bacigalupi (March 2010).

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, May 25, 2015

James Ellroy

James Ellroy's latest work is LAPD '53, is a nonfiction photographic history produced in collaboration with Glynn Martin of the Los Angeles Police Museum.

From Ellroy's Q & A with Kevin EG Perry for Vice:

Did you have a personal favorite of the stories in LAPD '53?

The Mabel Monohan case [the murder of a 64-year-old widow who was thought to be sitting on a fortune in cash]. I went into that in great detail. LAPD assisted on that case, but it was actually a crime from Burbank, an LA suburb which has its own police department. It was made into a ridiculous anti-capital-punishment weeper called I Want To Live! with Susan Hayward, directed by Robert Wise, in 1958. It's got a great jazz soundtrack by Gerry Mulligan, the king of the baritone sax. It's a real hophead soundtrack. It made me want to shoot up.

What was it about that case that made it stand out?

The viciousness of it. They beat an old woman to death for a stash of $100,000 that never really existed. It was also the fact that the two killers, Jack Santo and Emmett Perkins, had killed six people up in Sacramento County, including an entire family: a grocer, his wife, and two of his children. Barbara Graham, Jack Santo, and Emmett Perkins were all sent to the gas chamber in '55.

In the past couple of years we've seen incident after incident where the actions of American police officers have served to increase social tension and unrest. Does the American police need to be reformed?

I don't think the police need to...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Sam Quinones

Sam Quinones's new book is Dreamland: The True Tale of America's Opiate Epidemic.

From his interview with NPR Morning Edition host Renee Montagne:

RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST: ....Since 2001, the number of Americans who die annually from heroin has risen fivefold, according to the National Institutes of Health. The number of those who die each year from painkillers, like OxyContin, has more than doubled. In his new book, "Dreamland: The True Tale Of America's Opiate Epidemic," Sam Quinones chronicles this crisis. The title comes from a community pool in Portsmouth, Ohio, Dreamland it was called, the gathering place at the center of life in the town when America's Midwest epitomized prosperity and promise.

SAM QUINONES: That began to end with the deindustrialization of the Rust Belt, which Portsmouth is a part of - began to fall apart. Jobs began to leave. People began to leave. And finally, Dreamland is closed in 1993, and by about the mid-to-late 1990s, prescription pills are now everywhere. It's a widespread kind of addiction that affects an entire generation in the town of Portsmouth, Ohio.

MONTAGNE: Well, Portsmouth has a probably unhappy designation as the place where the biggest pill mill in the country operated.

QUINONES: Exactly. Portsmouth was the pill mill capital of America, really. They had more per capita in that town than anywhere else in the country. Pill mills are where a doctor prescribes pills for cash without almost any diagnosis of any pain problems or anything like that. Pill mills usually have long, long lines. Portsmouth had a dozen of these, and they prescribed millions of pills a year and was one of the main reasons why so many people got addicted there. The godfather of all that was...[read on, or listen to the interview]
--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Jami Attenberg

Jami Attenberg's new novel is Saint Mazie.

From her Q & A with Caroline Leavitt:

I always want to know what sparked a novel--what was the question that haunted or nagged at you that you wanted to explore with Saint Mazie?

Because she was based on a real person, I knew certain facts about her, and I was curious about the motivation behind them. Like I wanted to know why a Jewish woman would have an interest in the Catholic faith, and why she chose to remain unmarried in her life, and how she became the kind of person who would devote much of her adult life to helping the homeless. Those were the three main mysteries to me: faith, love, and compassion. Pretty big topics – certainly an excellent foundation for a novel.

I loved the structure of the novel, the chorus of voices, Mazie’s diary entries, all forming a tapestry that becomes a living, breathing person. Did you always have this structure in mind and did anything surprise you about it as you were writing?

Initially it was supposed to be just her memoirs. For about nine months, I was certain that would be the structure of the book. But I had to take a little break from writing it because...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, May 22, 2015

Elmore Leonard

From Jon Wiener's interview in 2000 with Elmore Leonard:

JW: Three terrific movies have been made based on your work: Get Shorty in 1995, which I read made 200 million dollars; Jackie Brown in 1996 and Out of Sight with George Clooney in 1998. What was your role — did you write the screenplays?

EL: No. They would ask me what actors I saw in the roles. I would tell them, and they’d say “Oh that’s interesting.” And that would be the end of it. Writing screenplays is not my business. I’ve written half a dozen, and maybe half of those were made. But it was never a satisfying experience. It was just work. You’re an employee. You would be told what to do. Studio execs would cross out my dialogue and put in their dialogue.

JW: And you didn’t like this? They were just trying to help.

EL: Those movies were terrible. They put in the obvious things you had thrown out right away when you were writing.

JW: Quentin Tarantino wrote and directed Jackie Brown, based on Rum Punch.

EL: That’s the one that’s closest to my work, because the first half is all development of the characters. The action of the plot gets going only at that point. Robert Forster worked. I loved Pam Greer. And Samuel L. Jackson...[read on]
See--Ten top Elmore Leonard film adaptations; Ten top Elmore Leonard film adaptations; Elmore Leonard's ten favorite books.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, May 21, 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 a Q & A at her website:

Where did you get the idea for Black River?

While I was living in Montana, I read about a riot that had taken place at the state prison in the 1950s. While that riot bears little resemblance to the one that shapes so much of Black River, I found myself wondering how a single event like that might reverberate through time and space, affecting not only an individual like Wes Carver, but also his relationships with his family, friends, community, and even God. It really took off from there.

Why did you choose to set Black River in a fictional town?

The town of Black River is inspired in part by several real places, but it isn’t simply a real town with a different name, and you won’t find anywhere exactly like it in Montana. Creating a fictional community left me free to shape the town and its history in whatever ways would best help me tell the story of Wes Carver and the other characters in Black River. For example, there is a real Old Montana Prison, and the prison in Black River has a few things in common with it; however, the real riot that took place there in the 1950s shares only one or two details with the fictional 1992 riot that appears in the novel. As a writer, I found it...[read on]
The Page 69 Test: Black River.

Writers Read: S. M. Hulse.

My Book, The Movie: Black River.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Aline Ohanesian

Aline Ohanesian was born in Kuwait and immigrated to So. Cal at the age of three. After getting her MA in History, she abandoned her PhD studies when she realized her heart belonged to the novel. Her writing was a finalist for the PEN Bellwether Award for Socially Engaged Fiction and the Glimmer Train Best New Writers Award.

Ohanesian's new novel is Orhan's Inheritance.

From her Q & A with Caroline Leavitt:

Every novel has a moment of origin, which I always find fascinating. What sparked the writing of this particular book?

I get a little shy when I'm asked to talk about this because for the most part, I'm a real "normal," level-headed person, but the moment of origin for this novel was so out there. I was resting after a sleepless night with my baby when I heard a voice. I could tell it was female and I knew she was old. She said only a few sentences about the futility of words. How they take an event and immediately corrupt it with meaning. I love words and language. I would never say or think something like that. I wrote what I heard down on a scrap piece of paper. I wanted to know who she was and why she didn't want to talk about things. In many ways the whole novel is a pursuit of that woman's voice and story. I never heard anything after that. Not like that.

So I started constructing, using my imagination, but also using the stories my great-grandmother Elizabeth told me about her own experiences at that time. Both my paternal grandparents were also survivors. I wanted to honor them by telling their stories. What's really kind of miraculous is that seven years later, when I got my first review by Kirkus, the reviewer used only one quote from the book. It was the same two sentences that came to me all those years ago. Writing is a lot like construction. There's a lot of structure and thinking involved but in the best of circumstances, there's also a great deal of...[read on]
The Page 69 Test: Orhan's Inheritance.

Writers Read: Aline Ohanesian.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Meredith Zeitlin

Meredith Zeitlin has written two books for young people (so far) and lots of articles for Ladygunn Magazine. She’s also a voiceover artist who can be heard on commercials, cartoons, and TV shows.

Zeitlin's new novel is Sophomore Year Is Greek to Me.

From the author's Q & A at Adventures in YA Publishing:

Meredith, what was your inspiration for writing SOPHOMORE YEAR IS GREEK TO ME?

I had a friend who mentioned that when she was a kid she used to live in Greece with her extended family for months at a time, during the school year. I thought that was such an interesting idea, to be IN school but not at YOUR school. Since the friend was Greek, I figured I’d make my character Greek, too - especially because, with all the recent economic issues in Greece in the last few years, there would be plenty for my character to discover and explore on her journey. I also wanted to continue writing the world I created for my first book (Freshman Year and Other Unnatural Disasters) but through the eyes of a new main character.

What scene was really hard for you to write and why, and is that the one of which you are most proud? Or is there another scene you particularly love?

I don’t want to give anything away, so this is a hard question to answer… but I will say that the scenes between Zona and her dad were both very enjoyable and very difficult for me to write. My own father died when I was 21, and we were very close when I was growing up. In imagining the character of David Lowell I had to think a lot about details I hadn’t reflected on in a long time, and that was not so easy. There’s a scene at the end of the book where Zona is in a very vulnerable position and truly terrified, and it was painful to put myself through those emotions to get the scene just right. I’m very...[read on]
The Page 69 Test: Sophomore Year Is Greek to Me.

My Book, The Movie: Sophomore Year is Greek to Me.

Writers Read: Meredith Zeitlin.

--Marshal Zeringue