Wednesday, July 1, 2015

David Joy

David Joy is the author of the novels Where All Light Tends to Go (Putnam, 2015) and Waiting On The End Of The World (Putnam, 2016), as well as the memoir Growing Gills: A Fly Fisherman's Journey (Bright Mountain Books, 2011), which was a finalist for the Reed Environmental Writing Award and the Ragan Old North State Award for Creative Nonfiction.

From Joy's Q & A with Michael Graff for Charlotte Magazine:

CM: Do you have a reader in mind?

DJ: Myself. I write the book that I want to read.

CM: Does what you write about make you more depressed, or does it help you get through the depression?

DJ: I was writing that book, I can remember walking into walls. My mind was so enveloped into what I was doing that I literally couldn’t see what was in front of me. I can remember when I finished that book, calling my sister, and saying, “It’s going to take me a long time to get out of the darkness I created.”

CM: What would you be doing if you weren’t doing this?

DJ: When I wrote that book, I was...[read on]
Writers Read: David Joy.

The Page 69 Test: Where All Light Tends to Go.

My Book, The Movie: Where All Light Tends to Go.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Patricia Abbott

Patricia Abbott is the author of more than 125 stories that have appeared online, in print journals and in various anthologies. She is the author of Monkey Justice and Home Invasion and co-editor of Discount Noir. She won a Derringer award for her story "My Hero."

Abbott's new novel is Concrete Angel.

From her Q & A with novelist (and her daughter) Megan Abbott at The Life Sentence:

Megan: We were definitely a book-loving household. But how do you think it came to be that we both wrote crime fiction?

Patricia: I’ve sporadically kept a log of books I read. The list is pretty evenly divided between crime fiction and so-called literary fiction. I just gobbled down Ross Macdonald, Margaret Millar, Ruth Rendell, Nichols Freeling, John D. MacDonald, Rex Stout, Patricia Highsmith, Sjöwal and Wahlöö. But my favorite books from more general fiction were also always stories about people pushed to the limit, people who desperately wanted something, be it Jay Gatsby, Lily Bart, or Holden Caulfield, I can’t think of many books that sidestep this yearning. Crime fiction just pushes them a little further. They act in more violent ways, perhaps.

With you, I remember crime first coming in through movies. You watched every noir movie Bill Kennedy (“Bill Kennedy at the Movies,” which aired on WKBD in Detroit) showed on Sundays. Even as an eight- or ten-year-old, you were drawn to them. I especially remember you watching a movie called The Locket.

Megan: The Locket, of course! Freudian noir at its best, and the only movie I can think of with a flashback-in-a-flashback-in-a-flashback. As far as mysteries, as a young kid, I remember beginning with a few Nancy Drews, but not many. But I read a lot of Agatha Christie and we had them all. And all those Alfred Hitchcock and Ellery Queen magazines we used to find for me at used bookstores.

Patricia: But what you were attracted to from a very early age was true crime. Although we never censored your reading, I sometimes wondered how...[read on]
Visit Patricia Abbott's website.

The Page 69 Test: Concrete Angel.

Writers Read: Patricia Abbott.

My Book, The Movie: Concrete Angel.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, June 29, 2015

Kate Atkinson

Kate Atkinson's new novel is A God in Ruins.

From her Q & A with NPR's Ari Shapiro:

SHAPIRO: Do you find that as a more experienced writer you are more able to view the same character as a parent, a grandparent, a child? I find it very difficult to see my parents as anything other than parents, to see my friends' children as anything other than children. But in this book, and others, you see the same person in many, many different phases of their life - all of them credibly.

ATKINSON: You're not old enough (laughter) that's the problem. I think - I always feel very touched by old men and I just - it's so sad the way they're dismissed by younger people because they just cannot see that whole rich life that's been lived. And they cannot see that a little old man who's hobbling along the street is once a baby. He was once a little boy. He was once an incredibly active person. And I find that very poignant. And I think, in this book particularly, it's very much at the forefront of...[read on or listen to the interview]
Learn about Kate Atkinson's top ten novels.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Andrew Roe

Andrew Roe is the author of The Miracle Girl.

From his Q & A with Caroline Leavitt:

What sparked this novel? I always believe there is a question that is haunting the author and the writing is the salve.

I love that phrase: “a question that is haunting the author and the writing is the salve.” I’m going to regularly quote that, if it’s OK with you. And I totally agree!

The question that haunted me for this book was the question of belief, the mystery of belief—and not just religious but also secular belief. As someone who’s not religious, I do appreciate how faith draws people in and serves as such a foundation for their lives, particularly when confronted with death, illness, life challenges, and so on. So I suppose there’s a bit of me going against that old writing chestnut of “Write what you know” and instead choosing to “Write what you don’t know.”

So much of this exquisite novel is about what we believe, what we want to believe, what we need to believe—and why. Why do you think a miracle has so much power?

For me, the book has two types of miracles: the divine, otherworldly kind (which, of course, can never be proven), and the day-to-day, more commonplace kind (which can be verified). Both are powerful, but we might tend to not appreciate the daily miraculous nature in our lives—things like forgiving a parent or spouse, raising a child, or simply being fully present in our lives.

As for the divine kind, I think there’s a hunger, a thirst for these things to be true. But there’s never...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Anthony Breznican

"If you thought high school was hell, has Anthony Breznican got a story for you…," says some guy called Stephen King.

From Breznican's Q & A with Sarah Skilton about his novel, Brutal Youth:

One of my favorite lines in Brutal Youth occurs in chapter two: “Adults never wanted to hear about the heartaches of children. They tended to doubt there was any such thing.” Is that you how you felt when you were a child?

Definitely. Adults often assume any problem a kid has is always fixable. “No big deal. You’ve got your whole life ahead of you.” But really, the troubles we have as kids shape who we are. They harden us. Other times, maybe they make us more empathetic. Sometimes they warp and break us in ways that can never be healed. I’m happy this line stuck out to you, because the final line in the novel is a call-back to this idea. When you tell a kid his or her problems aren’t serious, they decide to hide them and stop trusting you with them.

The line quoted above made me think of Margaret Atwood’s Cat’s Eye (“Little girls are cute and small only to adults. To one another they are not cute. They are life sized.”), as well as Stephen King’s IT, wherein the longer the characters stay away from Derry, the more they forget about the terrifying experiences they had there as children. Were there any books about bullying that inspired you as you wrote?

It’s not a book about bullying, but my wife is a J.M. Barrie collector and Brutal Youth is haunted by the closing lines of Peter Pan. It ends with Peter never changing, even as Wendy grows old, and her children grow old, and their children. The final line is: “… and thus it will go on, so long as children are gay and innocent and heartless.” Heartless! It’s so chilling. What the hell does that mean? I’m not...[read on]
Visit Anthony Breznican's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, June 26, 2015

Christine Sneed

Christine Sneed's latest novel is Paris, He Said.

From her Q & A with Caroline Leavitt:

Paris is such a character in itself--I bet the research was a great deal of fun, no? I realize you were once a student there, but did you return? Did anything surprise you in the way your characters relate to Paris--and the way Paris relates to them?

It was a lot of fun to write about Paris and to do the research for this novel. I’ve been to Paris about a dozen times since 1991, the year I was a student in France (I studied in Strasbourg but took five or six trips to Paris during that year.) I made two trips to Paris, both during the first week in September in 2013 and 2014, while writing this novel. Even though I knew how beautiful a city it was, I hadn’t been there for a number of years before my 2013 trip, and I think it startled me just how beautiful it is.

My main characters, Jayne and Laurent, don’t take their privileged lives for granted in Paris, though Jayne does find herself getting habituated to the city’s many marvels and awe-inspiring beauty after a few months. Laurent is from a village outside of Dijon, which is several hours southeast of Paris, and he has always thought of Paris as a city of wonders, and I wanted that marvelousness to come through on every page, if possible. He is a devout pleasure-seeker, Jayne less so. And it was this disparity in temperament where I tried to make the conflict was most palpable between them.

What was so fascinating about your novel is the way you explore how people navigate what they think they want, and how they discover what they really need, instead. Could you comment on this please?

I don’t think we often truly know what...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Rebecca Makkai

Rebecca Makkai is a Chicago-based author of the novels The Borrower and The Hundred-Year House. 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 book is the story collection Music for Wartime.

From her Q & A with Jennifer Solheim for Fiction Writers Review:

[Y]our first novel, The Borrower, is in part a roadtrip story. And your second novel, The Hundred-Year House, is a romp backwards in time at an artist’s retreat. So, with the thematic focus on memory, grief, and loss, the pervasive sadness in Music for Wartime surprised me. In what ways did you consider tone as the collection took shape?

I did produce new things. The three family “legends” are ones I wrote specifically for the book, and the final story, “The Museum of the Dearly Departed,” was my way of wrapping up the book’s themes. It also plays with some of the family history you’d have learned if you read the book straight through, so it speaks back to earlier parts of the collection.

I think those themes you mention are all themes of my novels, too, even if they’re a bit lighter on the whole. (But are they, really? One’s about a kidnapping, and the other has a huge body count by the end.) I’ve discovered that when I try to write funny it comes out very sad, and when I try to write sad it comes out funny. Maybe that’s my core aesthetic, funny-sad. I mean, despite the loss and gloom I do have stories about reality TV, and a woman who coughs up J. S. Bach, and a dead circus elephant. (And I realize as I type this that dead circus elephants aren’t exactly...[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, June 24, 2015

Jennifer Chambliss Bertman

Jennifer Chambliss Bertman's new novel is Book Scavenger.

From her Q & A at Littlest Bookshelf:

LB Charming moments of friendship and adventure fill the pages of Book Scavenger. What do you feel is the most important scene in the story? Also, what was your favorite scene in the book to write?

JCB Thank you for saying there are charming moments of friendship and adventure! I love both of those aspects of Book Scavenger. As for the most important scene, I don’t think that is for me, the author, to determine. I think that’s up to the reader, and because every reader comes to a story from their own unique perspective there would probably be a variety of answers to that question.

But favorite scene . . . Two immediately come to mind. I love when Emily and James first meet–the whole thing from her going past him multiple times and he keeps changing how he looks, to the puzzle in a bucket, to their actual first conversation. That scene evolved over the many drafts of this book–James sitting on the stairs can be traced all the way back to the very first draft, but then the bucket puzzle element came in around draft five, I believe. So that scene wasn’t written in one sit down stretch–it changed and developed and grew as I began to understand Emily and James and their budding friendship better. So I love that scene both because it establishes the beginning of a great friendship, but also because from my vantage point I can remember the evolution of this book when I read those paragraphs.

The other scene that immediately comes to mind as a favorite is when Emily and her brother go book hunting together toward the end of the story. In contrast to the one I just mentioned, Emily and Matthew going bookhunting was a brand-new scene that I wrote for the last major revision I did for this book (which I believe would be Draft #8). That scene really solidified the heart of the brother/sister storyline for me. It came easily, as if it had been sitting dormant in my brain for years, and it was actually fun to write, which is not usually the case for me. It came so easily, in fact, that I was sure something must be wrong with it. I returned...[read on]
Visit Jennifer Chambliss Bertman's blog.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Charlotte Gordon

Critically acclaimed author Charlotte Gordon's newest book is Romantic Outlaws: The Extraordinary Lives of Mary Wollstonecraft and Her Daughter Mary Shelley. Earlier works include Mistress Bradstreet: The Untold Story of America's First Poet — a Massachusetts Honor book for non-fiction — and The Woman Who Named God: Abraham's Dilemma and the Birth of Three Faiths.

From her Q & A with Kelly Faircloth for Jezebel:

Your book argues that Mary Wollstonecraft’s influence on her daughter has been pretty systematically underestimated. Why do you think that relationship fell out of the historical record?

I think there’s the sort of primitive answer, which is no one really cares. And the ‘70s feminist in me says they were both underestimated as intellectuals and as thinkers and so no one was really interested in Mary Shelley’s literary heritage. And in fact the most important work that happened with Mary Shelley was excavating her from under the dominance of her husband, and no one has been that interested, frankly, in the female lineage, which is what interests me.

I think one of the fascinating things about Mary Wollstonecraft is we almost lost her. It’s thanks to the great women writers of the nineteenth century and early twentieth century that we have any historical records left of Mary Wollstonecraft, because as you know, after she died, her grieving husband wrote this tell-all memoir that scandalized the world. When people knew all the stuff she’d done and the men she’d slept with, et cetera, she became known as even more of a scandalous figure.

Nobody wanted to associate with her. Not early proto-feminists. And so it’s thanks to Elizabeth Barrett Browning, George Eliot and Virginia Woolf that we have kept any kind of record of her.

On another level, I think there was an active campaign to silence the voice of Wollstonecraft for about 125, 150 years. Really she was not studied or taken seriously until second-wave feminism, until the 1970s. And even then, the fashion was to see people as isolated miracles and not place them in their context.

And then, no one I think thought that a mother who had died could have influenced a daughter. People didn’t take into account—again, because they were minimizing who Wollstonecraft was and who Shelley was—that in fact Wollstonecraft was in fact so prolific that all Shelley had to do was read her books over and over and over again—which is what she did—to learn about her mother’s ideas and in fact to idealize her mother in a way that she might not even have done if she had been a normal daughter with a normal living mother where you quarrel and fight. Instead...[read on]
Visit Charlotte Gordon's website.

My Book, The Movie: Romantic Outlaws.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, June 22, 2015

David Sedaris

David Sedaris's books include Naked, Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim and Let's Explore Diabetes With Owls.

From his Q & A with Blake Bailey for VICE:

How do your siblings react to their appearances in your work? Have there been conflicts with the others? Or do you have a policy of letting them see a given piece before?

I always let them see it first, or almost always. I was in Asheville, North Carolina, about ten days ago, and read a new story I had written about my sister Lisa, who is always willing to laugh at herself. She was in the audience that night, and rather than having her read it in advance, I wanted to surprise her with it. When people laugh at a story about one of my family members, they're laughing because the family member in question is funny. They're laughing, most often, at quotes. Lisa knows she's funny. She's not inclined to get up on stage and do what I do, but the laughs I get with that story are hers, and she earned every one of them.

Growing up, were you closer to some siblings than others? Or did alliances sort of form and dissolve over time?

I think it's like this for everyone in a big family. Relationships shift. When I was in junior high school and high school, I was best friends with my sister Gretchen. We were inseparable. When she went off to college, I started spending more time with Lisa. Then Amy and I moved to Chicago and became inseparable. In New York it was still me and Amy. Then I left the United States, and kind of moved back to Lisa, with short forays to Gretchen. I don't see Paul that often, but...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue