Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Adele Griffin

Adele Griffin’s new novel is The Unfinished Life of Addison Stone.

From her Q & A with Daniel Ehrenhaft, the Editorial Director of Soho Teen:

Daniel Ehrenhaft: I already know the answer to this one (dinner is involved), but I must ask, anyway: What was the genesis of The Unfinished Life of Addison Stone?

Adele Griffin: This has to be one of my favorite genesis stories. The Unfinished Life of Addison Stone is a New York art fable with its own New York publishing “back fable.” You and your lovely wife, Jessica Wollman, came over to our home for a dinner that ended up being one of those go-late, talky nights about every topic from the Edgar Awards to Edgar Winters (true! as you know!). At some point we were discussing our enchantment with books about bands—The Velvet Underground, The Ramones, The Sex Pistols.

You mentioned And I Don’t Want to Live this Life and I mentioned Ciao! Manhattan, the George Plimpton / Jean Stein biography of Edie Sedgwick. I confessed that I’d always wanted to write a modern Edie story, only this time starring a Banksy-type stunt artist. “That’s an amazing idea,” you said. “Do this book now, and with us!” And I agreed—although on Saturday night, I was playing pretty fast and loose with proclamations and cheesecake dessert.

Monday morning, my agent, Charlotte Sheedy, called to tell me there was a contract draft from you in her inbox. That same day, you sent me very encouraging note to take this risk. It was my, “if not now, when?” carpe diem moment. I jumped.

DE: Related, what (or who) were your biggest influences in putting the novel together?

AG: When I was writing Addison, my mind kept holding on two moments; a spring day in 1986 and again in 1996. The ’86 memory was...[read on]
Learn more about the book and author at Adele Griffin’s website and Facebook page.

Read--Coffee with a Canine: Adele Griffin and Edith.

Writers Read: Adele Griffin (June 2011).

Writers Read: Adele Griffin (November 2012).

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Richard Dawkins

Richard Dawkins, one of nonfiction's bad boys, is the author of 2013's An Appetite for Wonder, the first volume of what will be a two-part memoir.

From his Q & A with Rowan Hooper for NewScientist (reprinted at Slate):

RH: [One] battle of yours has been against group selection—the idea that evolution works by selecting traits that benefit groups, not genes. You destroyed that paradigm, but then it came back again.

RD: Something else came back under the same name. If you look carefully, it turns out to be things like kin selection rebranded as group selection. That irritates me because I think it is wantonly obscuring something that was actually rather clear.

I think part of why it came back is political. Sociologists love group selection, I think because they are more influenced by emotive evaluations of human impulses. I think people want altruism to be a kind of driving force; there's no such thing as a driving force. They want altruism to be fundamental whereas I want it to be explained. Selfish genes actually explain altruistic individuals, and to me that's crystal-clear.

RH: What subjects currently interest you in evolutionary biology?

RD: I'm fascinated by the way molecular genetics has become a branch of information technology. I wonder with hindsight whether it had to be that way, whether natural selection couldn't really work unless genetics was digital, high-fidelity, a kind of computer science. In other words, can we predict that, if there's life elsewhere in the universe, it will have the same kind of ...[read on]
Richard Dawkins is Lee Child's hero (outside of literature).

Learn about Richard Dawkins's five favorite books.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, July 21, 2014

Lorrie Moore

Lorrie Moore has written three novels (Anagrams, Who Will Run the Frog Hospital? and A Gate at the Stairs), and four collections of short stories (Self Help, Like Life, Birds of America, and Bark).

From her Q & A with Deidre at Your Hidden Shelf:

DM: Some stories [in Bark] are overtly political and some have a political backdrop. There’s a mood of disappointment overall in the book, a coming to a stage in someone’s life where one’s been through a significant amount of loss. How much of that is cultural and how much is personal experience?

LM: I think that’s what stories are reckoning with. In a sense they’re tiny little narratives of injury and of disturbance and three of the stories have public events in their background. So the first story [“Debarking”] has the invasion of Iraq which was driving everyone crazy in 2003 which was when I wrote the story. (And it was fact checked by The New Yorker so if anyone thinks I got the facts wrong they’ll have to take it up with The New Yorker.) That was really a huge thing and I’m not sure it was sufficiently appreciated by people in other countries how crazy-making that was for most Americans. It was really a hard time. And then we have the worn out intelligence analyst in “Subject to Search” and then there’s the guy that is just so happy that Obama is about to be elected [“Foes”]. So those are the three out of eight that have those kinds of public events in them. But that’s just true to how one lives. It’s not as if you live without those things in your life. So is there regret and rue and all of that? Sure, but there always is. I think there were in other collections of mine as well. But nobody stabs anyone! There’s a stabbing in the first collection and in the third collection someone jumps out a window. And someone shoots someone in Birds of America. So there are no real weapons here. I think it’s a ...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Jeff Abbott

Jeff Abbott's latest book in the Sam Capra series is Inside Man.

From the author's & Minutes with J.T. Ellison:

Set your music to shuffle and hit play. What’s the first song that comes up?

The melancholy, spacey song “Twilight Zone” by Dr. John, from his Babylon album from 1969. I admire his career longevity.

Now that we’ve set the mood, what are you working on today?

The fifth Sam Capra novel. Sam Capra is a former CIA agent who owns bars around the world, and continually finds himself drawn into the dark, shadowy world of international crime. Sam is very much a guy who comes to the aid of those in need. He’s tough and smart, but he’s also rather young—in his mid-twenties—and he isn’t quite as experienced as he thinks he is.

What’s your latest book about?

INSIDE MAN is the fourth Sam Capra novel, where Sam goes undercover into a criminal family in order to find out the truth behind a friend’s death. Shakespeare’s King Lear was a clear influence on this story: the leader of the family is dividing his business empire between his three very different children, and if Sam makes one wrong move, he’s dead. Of course nothing goes as he plans—and nothing about this family is as it seems. I wanted to write a big international intrigue story that was wrapped up inside a big...[read on]
Learn more about the book and author at Jeff Abbott's website.

The Page 69 Test: Trust Me.

The Page 69 Test: Adrenaline.

The Page 69 Test: Downfall.

Writers Read: Jeff Abbott (July 2013).

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Matthew Quick

Matthew Quick is the author of Silver Linings Playbook and other books.

From his Q & A with Mark Flowers for School Library Journal:

All of your books center around characters with varying levels of mental illness. Can you talk about your inspiration for those characters?

I spent most of my life confused about why I had certain feelings. I didn’t have a vocabulary to talk about those feelings, because I grew up in a blue collar neighborhood, and the men in my life were largely from rough neighborhoods in Philly—they were taught to suppress emotions. So when I started to feel anxious or depressed, what I learned to do is you push that as far down as possible and you soldier on. So when I started to write Silver Linings Playbook, I started to write about mental health, and it wasn’t necessarily an intentional thing. As I created Pat’s voice [the book’s narrator], I realized it was fiction, but I was starting to address a lot of things that I hadn’t addressed before. And of course when I published Silver Linings, I was [asked], “Why are you writing about mental health?” And it was terrifying at first, but it was very freeing. And I had friends who were coming up to me and saying, “How did you know about this stuff? Because, [I felt this,] too.” Even people in my family...[read on]
Visit Matthew Quick's website.

The Silver Linings Playbook is among Lauren Passell's top eleven best Manic Pixie Dream Girls, Jill Halfpenny's six best books, the Barnes & Noble Review's five top books on football, and the eight book adaptations that won 2013 Golden Globe awards.

The Page 69 Test: The Silver Linings Playbook.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, July 18, 2014

Adam Nevill

Adam Nevill's new novel is The House of Small Shadows.

From his Q & A with Justin Steele:

Puppets, taxidermy and dolls are all rather sinister. What served as your inspiration behind this piece? Are these all things that have creeped you out over the years?

HOUSE OF SMALL SHADOWS is the first novel in which I have made a concerted effort to use my childhood fears, fascinations and imaginings, specifically in the area of the strange secret lives of effigies and imaginary companions. There has always been a certain type of grotesque imagery relating to puppets, dolls and mummified creatures that appears in my fiction, and I may have been unconsciously working my way to devoting an entire book to this in HOUSE OF SMALL SHADOWS.

Reading the blurb it seems House of Small Shadows is going to be a haunted house/possessed doll story, but in reading it I was very pleasantly surprised to see that it was anything but conventional, and was a great example of weird horror. Are you a reader of weird fiction? When you set out to write this novel did you know from the start it was heading in that direction or did it just take you there?

Thanks, Justin, for the appreciation and open mind. The novel isn’t a Puppet Master slash-and-stalk B Movie, or possessed Chucky doll story, or anything like that really (though Karen Black being pursued through her apartment by a voodoo doll in Trilogy of Terror, that I saw when much younger, was an inspiration for this book). It aimed to be less obvious and more dreadful but also magical. Assumptions can be problematic in horror, I think; there are cinematic triggers for nearly everything now. Maybe horror in film and television even creates expectations for readers. But I think this my most idiosyncratic and strange story, and perhaps the most genuinely weird tale since Apartment 16. This approach was not contrived for the sake of weirdness, but if you dig deep enough and are honest about what disturbed you, and disturbs you, you will most probably hit a seam of the truly weird naturally.

The primary challenge I had with this book was placing the imagery, notions, feelings, ideas, and visual fragments that had been stored in my memory and imagination from my first memories into youth, into a novel-length narrative. I had ...[read on]
Visit Adam Nevill's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, July 17, 2014

James Lee Burke

James Lee Burke's latest novel is Wayfaring Stranger.

From his Q & A with Camille Perri at Esquire:

What book were you surprised you loved? What book were you surprised you hated? And what book are you most ashamed you've never read?

I have loved many books and have hated none. I fell in love with books through the WPA book mobile program. When I was a kid, public libraries were in short supply, but each Thursday an old bread truck with shelves built along the walls visited our dead-end street. This was a great treat for kids whose parents seldom had spare money for books. I loved the Hardy Boys just as the girls in our neighborhood loved the Nancy Drew series. I also loved Richard Halliburton's Book of Marvels. For me, reading became a lifetime pleasure as well as necessity.

The only way to learn how to write is to read. The only way to learn human history is to read. The key to all our problems lies in books. Also there can be no democracy without an educated electorate. This is why all demagogues and dictators despise books and those who write and read them.

I've read many books whose content I'm repelled by. John Wesley Hardin's autobiography is one of the best accounts ever written about the life of a sociopath. Books allow us to know our enemies. On occasion I receive mail from irate readers who proudly tell me they are so angered by the content of my work that they have destroyed every one of my books in their possession. I have always been tempted to explain...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Elizabeth L. Silver

Elizabeth L. Silver grew up in New Orleans and Dallas and currently lives in Los Angeles. She holds a BA from the University of Pennsylvania, an MA in Creative Writing from the University of East Anglia in England, and a JD from Temple University Beasley School of Law. She has taught ESL in Costa Rica, writing and literature at several universities in Philadelphia, and worked as a research attorney for the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals.

From Silver's Q & A about her latest novel, The Execution of Noa P. Singleton, with Caroline Leavitt:

I'm always interested how a novel sparked? A college dropout on death row for murder--where did that come from? How did The Execution of Noa P. Singleton come into being?

After years of writing fiction and toying with a variety of day jobs in writing-related fields, I switched directions, and in my late-twenties, attended law school. I entered my third year of law school and took a course in capital punishment, where I learned about the death penalty from some of the country’s top anti-death penalty attorneys in Austin, Texas. The course included a clinic component in which I worked on a clemency petition, visited death row, interviewed inmates and met with a handful of victim family members with my supervising attorneys. I also attended a symposium at the Texas State Capitol where several lawyers, journalists, filmmakers, and a solitary victim’s rights advocate spoke about the problems with the death penalty as it related to one potentially wrongful execution. Only one person on the dais represented the voice of the victim, surprisingly, and she was the mother of a victim ten years later still struggling with her position. While listening to each person express a different perspective on the issue, the complicated relationship between a mourning parent trying to forgive and an admittedly guilty inmate struck me as an intricate and conflicted bond ripe for exploration. It wasn’t about guilt or innocence necessarily, but instead about the fragility, doubt, and unease in each of these people. I also knew that I wanted my protagonist to be intelligent, self-educated, and someone with whom readers may be able to relate, despite her residence and status. Instantly, my new project was borne, although at that point, I wasn’t sure the body it would occupy or the story that would carry it along. I rushed home, and over the next few months before the bar exam, wrote the first and last chapters of the novel.

A lot of this extraordinary novel occurs in prison. Did you do research? What was that like? Did anything surprise you and turn the plot of the novel in a way you didn't expect?

Most of my research came from...[read on]
Learn more about the book and author at Elizabeth L. Silver's website.

The Page 69 Test: The Execution of Noa P. Singleton.

My Book, The Movie: The Execution of Noa P. Singleton.

Writers Read: Elizabeth L. Silver.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Kim Church

Kim Church's short stories and poetry have appeared in Shenandoah, Mississippi Review, Painted Bride Quarterly, Prime Number Magazine, the Norton anthology Flash Fiction Forward, and elsewhere. A Pushcart Prize nominee, she has received fiction fellowships from the North Carolina Arts Council, the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts, Millay Colony for the Arts, and Vermont Studio Center.

Born and raised in Lexington, North Carolina, Church earned her B.A. in English from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro and her J.D. degree from UNC School of Law. She has taught writing workshops in a variety of settings, from college classrooms to death row. She lives with her husband, artist Anthony Ulinski, in Raleigh, where she divides her time between writing and law.

From a Q & A with Church about Byrd, her first novel:

Why this book?

There was a character I wanted to know, so I had to write her. She needed the space of a novel.

Why this character? Where’d she come from?

Years ago I was having dinner with a man who told me, as casually as he might have asked me to pass the salt, that he’d fathered a child who had to be given up for adoption because he and the mother “waited too long.” I don’t know why he told me; it was an unexpected story delivered in an offhand way. All I could think was, what about the mother? What a different story if she were the one telling it—assuming she would tell it. How would that feel, going through life without the child you’d carried and given birth to? Doing it by choice?

I didn’t know any woman who’d gone through this. I’d never even read about such a character in a book.There are books about mothers; books about women who want to be mothers but can’t; books about women who are somehow forced to give up children. But not, to my knowledge, a book about an independent, capable woman deciding to give up her child.

So I wrote one.

With Addie, I set out to write a character who is profoundly ambivalent about motherhood, and whose decision not to be a mother is tested in the most profound ways.

Are you worried people will try to use your book to support political agendas you may not agree with?

Readers always...[read on]
Visit Kim Church's website.

Writers Read: Kim Church.

The Page 69 Test: Byrd.

My Book, The Movie: Byrd.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, July 14, 2014

Dennis Tafoya

Dennis Tafoya's latest novel is The Poor Boy's Game.

From his Q & A at Robb Cadigan's blog:

Tell us, when did you know you wanted to be a writer? When did you know you were one?

I’ve been writing since I was a kid. I started writing horror and science fiction inspired by movies and TV shows and the short stories I loved when I first started reading, by guys like Ray Bradbury and Robert Bloch. There were a lot of monsters, a lot of dinosaurs lurking in remote canyons in the desert. Demons that passed through portals or holes from other dimensions. When you’re a certain kind of kid there’s a lot of cataclysmic stuff in your head trying to get out.

I don’t think I accepted that I was a real writer until I was walking from Penn Station to the Flatiron Building to meet my editor for the first time. Before I had an agent and contract I think writing was something I didn’t let myself consider a serious aspiration. It was a desire I kept hidden for all the reasons we hide things that really matter to us – fear of failure, fear of ridicule for wanting something that seems beyond the normal possibilities of a life defined by work and family and a high school diploma.

What creative work most recently inspired you?

I’m constantly looking for cool stuff to light up the creative parts of my brain. I love...[read on]
Learn more about the author and his work at Dennis Tafoya's website.

The Page 69 Test: Dope Thief.

Writers Read: Dennis Tafoya (June 2010).

--Marshal Zeringue