Friday, December 9, 2016

Megan Shull

Megan Shull's newest novel for kids is Bounce. From her Q&A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: You’ve said that the idea for Bounce came from various inspirations, including the movie Groundhog Day and a documentary project called Where Children Sleep. How did you unite these ideas into one novel?

A: Yes! Here’s the story: I came across a stunning collection of photos by James Mollison, a documentary photographer. The exhibit, now a book, called Where Children Sleep features portraits of children around the world, and their bedrooms.

The project was conceived as a way to highlight childhood poverty and the side-by-side single snapshot comparison—that juxtaposition of poverty and privilege, is incredibly striking. So much of who we are and how we turn out to be is grounded in our story of origin and the family that we land in….

And yes, the 1993 film Groundhog Day was certainly kindling for Frannie’s journey. One of the things I love about the film is that the story is so tight that there’s not really a need to understand the “rules” behind the magic (waking up over and over and over again reliving the same day) that drives the story forward.

You end up so invested in the transformational journey that you sort of...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, December 8, 2016

Timothy Hallinan

Tim Hallinan’s newest mystery featuring Junior Bender is Fields Where They Lay.

From the author's Q&A with John Wilkens for The San Diego Union-Tribune:

Q: How do you know when something is funny?

A: I laugh. Since I don’t know it’s coming, I will frequently write a sentence and laugh out loud. I think Junior has a fundamentally comic sensibility, by which I mean he pretty much refuses to go to tragedy. Originally that was the only dichotomy, the mask for tragedy and the mask for comedy. There was no mask for normal. He goes to comedy in many instances because he’s not really comfortable with who he is. He’s has problems with being the thief. It’s cost him his wife, it’s cost him his child, but as long as he can laugh he’s OK.

Q: What’s your feeling about the state of the crime novel these days?

A: I think we’re in a golden age. Some of the stuff that’s being written is just so good. Not only that, the reach is so broad at this point, and we’ve gotten through the post-’90s hangover where everybody had to be a recovering alcoholic and living in a Dumpster. There were all these tragic P.I.s. Now I think we’re back to the idea that a crime story is the chance to ask a lot of interesting questions and to do it in a form that readers instinctively understand. And because...[read on]
Visit Timothy Hallinan's website and blog.

The Page 69 Test: A Nail Through the Heart.

The Page 69 Test: The Fourth Watcher.

My Book, The Movie: The Fourth Watcher.

The Page 69 Test: Breathing Water.

The Page 69 Test: Crashed.

My Book, The Movie: Crashed.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Alex Beam

Alex Beam's new book is The Feud: Vladimir Nabokov, Edmund Wilson, and the End of a Beautiful Friendship.

From his Q&A with Deborah Kalb:
Q: How would you describe their [Wilson-Nabokov] friendship?

A: It was very beautiful. It’s no accident those letters [between them] were printed twice. It’s not only beautiful, it’s erudite, very candid. It’s the friendship every writer wants, the kind of friendship you’re lucky to have—people who like you and your work but can offer honest criticism.

The sense now is that a lot of the friendship was expressed itself through letters. That assigns it a slightly different quality—it could be the 18th century. We can’t see or hear their conversation, but we can savor the letters.

Q: So was it really a disagreement over Nabokov’s translation of Eugene Onegin that caused the friendship to end?

A: The book, which is blessedly short, in...[read on]
Visit Alex Beam's website and Twitter perch.

My Book, The Movie: Gracefully Insane.

The Page 69 Test: Gracefully Insane.

The Page 99 Test: Great Idea at the Time.

The Page 99 Test: American Crucifixion.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Hugo Drochon

Hugo Drochon is a historian of nineteenth- and twentieth-century political thought and a postdoctoral research fellow at CRASSH, the Centre for Research in the Arts, Social Sciences, and Humanities, at the University of Cambridge.

His new book is Nietzsche's Great Politics.

From Drochon's Q&A with Joe Humphreys at The Irish Times:

We tend to think of Nietzsche’s Übermensch as a perfected, almost supernatural individual. What sort of ruler did Nietzsche envisage for the ideal state?

“What is most important about the term Übermensch is the prefix: ‘über’ or ‘over’. For Nietzsche life was the perpetual overcoming of itself, and in this more precise sense the Übermensch are those who shall overcome modern mankind.

“Nietzsche’s rulers, if we can call them thus, would not themselves be strictly speaking Übermensch, but would attempt to set up a society within which the Übermensch could come into existence.”

How, in Nietzsche’s view, was democracy a product of Christianity, and does his analysis raise questions about the stability of democracy in what is arguably a post-Christian Europe?

“Democracy, on Nietzsche’s terms, is the extension of slave morality into politics, as it promotes the values of the many over the few. It transforms the metaphysics of equality before God into the metaphysics of political equality. But what if, as Nietzsche notoriously announces, ‘God is dead’? What if people no longer believe in the transcendental religion that provided a metaphysical underpinning for belief in universal political equality?

“This is not to say, as has often been understood, that Nietzsche rejects democracy as a whole. He is...[read on]
The Page 99 Test: Nietzsche's Great Politics.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, December 5, 2016

Steven Johnson

Steven Johnson is the author of Wonderland: How Play Made the Modern World. From the transcript of his interview with Fareed Zakaria:

ZAKARIA: So the basic argument of this book seems to be that fun is incredibly productive, innovative and changes the world?

JOHNSON: Yeah, and we have this tendency, when we think about what are the forces that are driving history, to assume that those forces are the desire for conquest and power or affluence or survival. And that is obviously part of the story. But it turns out that, really, a surprising amount of change in society, both technological innovation and political change, social change, comes out of this other side of our humanity, which is the desire to be delighted or amused or to be in this kind of playful state. And many things that start as toys and games end up triggering all these changes that you would never, kind of, anticipate from the start.

ZAKARIA: So some of this is even just things like wanting to have a cup of coffee?

JOHNSON: Right.

ZAKARIA: Explain how that translates into something much bigger?

JOHNSON: So coffee comes to the European capital, particularly to London, around 1650, 1660, and tea arrives right around the same time. And this is important partially, we should say, just because it changed the diets of Europeans who had basically been drinking alcohol all day long. They would drink beer for breakfast...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, December 4, 2016

Alyson Richman

Alyson Richman's new novel is The Velvet Hours. From her Q&A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: The Velvet Hours was inspired by a true story. Can you describe how much of the novel is historically based, and how you balanced the historical and the fictional as you wrote it?

A: The novel came about after I read a newspaper article about an apartment in Paris that been mysteriously shuttered for over 70 years and had once belonged to an elusive courtesan by the name of Marthe de Florian.

When the apartment was opened, it resembled a time capsule. Thick veils of dust covered sumptuous antiques and gilded mirrors. Most striking of all was a magnificent portrait by the 19th century Italian painter Giovanni Boldini of Madame de Florian that hung over the marble fireplace. Adding to the allure, love letters, written by the artist, were found in Marthe’s vanity.

No one knows why Marthe de Florian’s granddaughter, Solange Beaugiron closed the apartment during World War II, but as a historical novelist I knew I had plenty of rich material to create a novel.

Factually, we know the apartment was located in the ninth arrondisement of Paris on La Square Bruyere, but other than that, the information is rather scarce.

What we do know is that “Marthe de Florian” was...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, December 3, 2016

Sarah Domet

Sarah Domet is the author of The Guineveres.

From her Q&A with Caroline Leavitt:

Your premise, four girls all with the same name, abandoned at the same time, is genius. So what was haunting you in your life when you thought about this? Was there a question that you were wrestling with?

At the time I wrote The Guineveres, I was thinking about how much the stories of young women matter, but also how frequently our culture downplays their experiences, often as a way to elevate "more important"--or what I see as "more public"--stories. At the same time I was writing this novel, I was also reading Lives of the Saints, which only confirmed my suspicions. While stories of the male saints often described the valiant public deeds of these men, stories of female saints quite frequently highlighted the ways these women were left to privately suffer in their bodies. For female saints, their bodies became their best tools and weapons of faith, and so we see them refusing sex and marriage, marring their beauty with lye, starving themselves, sleeping on beds of stone and glass, and otherwise inflicting bodily pain. I was interested in exploring female embodiment as both limitation and possibility, and where better to investigate these questions than in girls on the cusp of womanhood?

I began writing The Guineveres shortly after I had taken a job that landed me in a town far away from family and friends. The novel seemed to spring, too, out of this personal experience of alienation and loneliness. As...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, December 2, 2016

Jonathan W. Stokes

Jonathan W. Stokes's new novel for kids is Addison Cooke and the Treasure of the Incas. From his Q&A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: How did you come up with the idea for your main character, Addison Cooke?

A: Addison Cooke is basically who I wish I was as a 12 year old! Addison is much more clever than I ever was, and probably ever will be. He is also far braver than I am, and better at coming up with a witty quip under pressure.

I suppose there is a sort of wish-fulfillment in writing dialog for him. I may not be able to sweet talk my way into the first class cabin of an international flight, but I can have Addison do it.

Q: The book focuses on an adventure involving Incan treasure. What kind of research did you need to do and did you learn anything that especially surprised you?

A: The book was pretty thoroughly researched, particularly in the copyedit where everything was fact-checked. I think I most enjoyed learning about the actual history of the lost treasure of the Incas.

The true story is pretty incredible. Francisco Pizarro could have become one of the richest people in the world, but...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Lisa Napoli

A journalist for over thirty years, Lisa Napoli was among the pioneering team of reporters at the New York Times who covered the early days of the dot-com era.

Her new book is Ray & Joan: The Man Who Made the McDonald's Fortune and the Woman Who Gave It All Away.

From Napoli's interview with NPR's Scott Simon:
SIMON: He put the hamburger on the assembly line. What was the great idea that Ray Kroc had that made what we now know as McDonald's possible?

NAPOLI: Well, actually, it was two brothers in the desert of California who had the idea of expediting the preparation of hamburgers and milkshakes and french fries. So Ray took this idea. He loved the idea of fast food, and he wanted to propagate the McDonald's all across America. And so the brothers who developed the formula didn't really care to go through the hassle of franchising it. So Ray decided that he would sell franchises all across the country. He convinced them to let him do that.

SIMON: Take us back, please, to that first moment in which Ray and Joan met and sparks flew but, inconveniently, they were married to other people.

NAPOLI: Yeah. That's a problem, isn't it? Ray was trouncing around the Midwest selling franchises. And he walked into the Criterion Restaurant in St. Paul, which was a very elegant place. And in the center of the restaurant was a beautiful, blond woman - 26 years younger - and she was playing the organ. She was hired to entertain the diners. And Ray walked in hoping to sell a franchise to the owner of the restaurant and instead was sidetracked by this beautiful woman. He was a pianist himself, so...[read on]
Visit Lisa Napoli's website.

Writers Read: Lisa Napoli.

The Page 99 Test: Ray & Joan.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Rachel Starnes

Rachel Starnes's new book is The War at Home: A Wife’s Search for Peace (and Other Missions Impossible): A Memoir.

From her Q&A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: What do you think are some of the most common perceptions and misperceptions about military spouses?

A: I’m so glad you asked that question because it’s been on my mind a lot lately. Less than one half of one percent of the population of the United States currently serves in the military. That means that many people don’t come into regular and sustained contact with someone currently serving.

Instead, much of our exposure to the military is through what we see on the news or in movies or on social media, and many of those outlets perpetuate certain stereotypes about who serves in the military, why they serve, how they vote, and what struggles they face.

And it’s been my experience that however narrow those assumptions are about service members, they get even narrower when the conversation turns to their spouses.

I think many of us are assumed to be entirely unconflicted about our roles, or patriotic and subservient to our husbands and the unique demands of their careers in a way that makes us seem like we’re from another era.

The fact of the matter is that military spouses are...[read on]
Visit Rachel Starnes's website.

The Page 99 Test: The War at Home.

--Marshal Zeringue