Monday, December 11, 2017

Matthew J. Salganik

Matthew J. Salganik is the author of Bit by Bit: Social Research in the Digital Age.

From his Q&A at the Princeton University Press website:

Bit by Bit devotes a lot attention to ethics.  Why?

The book provides many of examples of how researchers can use the capabilities of the digital age to conduct exciting and important research. But, in my experience, researchers who wish to take advantage of these new opportunities will confront difficult ethical decisions. In the digital age, researchers—often in collaboration with companies and governments—have increasing power over the lives of participants. By power, I mean the ability to do things to people without their consent or even awareness. For example, researchers can now observe the behavior of millions of people, and researchers can also enroll millions of people in massive experiments. As the power of researchers is increasing, there has not been an equivalent increase in clarity about how that power should be used. In fact, researchers must decide how to exercise their power based on inconsistent and overlapping rules, laws, and norms. This combination of powerful capabilities and vague guidelines can force even well-meaning researchers to grapple with difficult decisions. In the book, I try to provide principles that can help researchers—whether they are in universities, governments, or companies—balance these issues and...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, December 10, 2017

Sofia Grant

Called a "writing machine" by the New York Times and a "master storyteller" by the Midwest Book Review, Sofia Grant has written dozens of novels for adults and teens under the name Sophie Littlefield. She has won Anthony and RT Book Awards and been shortlisted for Edgar®, Barry, Crimespree, Macavity, and Goodreads Choice Awards. Grant/Littlefield works from an urban aerie in Oakland, California.

Grant's latest novel is The Dress in the Window.

From her Q&A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: How did you come up with the idea for The Dress in the Window, and why did you set it in the post-World War II period?

A: As a lifelong seamstress and amateur artist, I’m fascinated with fashion illustration and garment construction.

A number of years ago, I stumbled on historic newspaper accounts of the controversy that greeted French designer Christian Dior’s “New Look” in 1947 after the conclusion of World War II. I had no idea that some Americans resisted the lush new styles that came to symbolize an entire era of fashion.

Combined with my interest in the role of women in the workplace during and after the war, I...[read on]
Visit Sofia Grant's website.

Writers Read: Sofia Grant.

The Page 69 Test: The Dress in the Window.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, December 9, 2017

Chris Holm

Chris Holm is the author of the Collector trilogy, which blends crime and fantasy, and the Michael Hendricks thrillers. His first Hendricks novel, The Killing Kind, was nominated for an Anthony, a Barry, a Lefty, and a Macavity Award and named a New York Times Editors’ Choice, a Boston Globe Best Book of 2015, and Strand Magazine’s #1 Book of 2015.

Holm's latest novel is Red Right Hand, the second Hendricks novel.

From his 2016 Q&A with Steph Post:

Steph Post: I was initially drawn to your book by its striking cover and its title, which I hoped was a reference to Nick Cave’s song “Red Right Hand.” I was, of course, thrilled to see that you included an excerpt from the song in the epigraph for the novel. Did Cave’s song, or its imagery or themes, in any way influence or guide you as you began to write Red Right Hand?

Chris Holm: Very much so. In The Killing Kind, I introduced the Council, which is essentially a criminal UN comprising representatives from every major organized crime outfit in the country, and the Council’s right-hand man. In Red Right Hand, that man—whose name is Sal Lombino (the birth name of the late, great Ed McBain)—and his machinations on the Council’s behalf take center stage. I envisioned him as a chaos agent, an emissary of evil, the prime mover of a vast criminal conspiracy. Or, as Cave puts it:

You’re one microscopic cog
In his catastrophic plan
Designed and directed by
His red right hand

The phrase “red right hand” didn’t originate with Cave, though. He borrowed it from...[read on]
Visit Chris Holm's website.

The Page 69 Test: The Killing Kind.

The Page 69 Test: Red Right Hand.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, December 8, 2017

Ken Scholes

Ken Scholes's latest book is Hymn: The Final Volume of the Psalms of Isaak.

From his Q&A with Martin Cahill at the B&N Sci-Fi & Fantasy blog:

You’ve been very open about the losses that occurred over the course of your work on The Psalms of Isaak, and it’s not hard to see you working through that in this series. What did it mean to keep writing through everything that happened?

I wrote four of these five books through the hardest circumstances of my adult life: between burying my parents and one of my ex-wife’s parents, along with a grandparent, a nephew, a couple of aunts and a best friend, and ultimately, a marriage. I was already fairly familiar with grief and loss, but my experience with them grew exponentially. The part I wasn’t familiar with was the impact the grief and loss would take on my writing process. I didn’t realize there were things that could simply shut down my writing, and that I did not really have control over it. After a long stretch of years where I could pretty much write whenever I wanted to, this was a difficult discovery, and I resisted to the point of making an even bigger, tangled mess.

Of course, one of the benefits is that it was pretty fantastic research to experience so much stress and loss while crafting this particular series, and I think that it lent an air of truth to the story. It makes the loss and grief [of the characters] palpable. And I think...[read on]
Learn more about the author and his work at Ken Scholes's website.

The Page 69 Test: Lamentation.

The Page 69 Test: Antiphon.

The Page 69 Test: Requiem.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, December 7, 2017

Karen L. Cox

Karen L. Cox's latest book is Goat Castle: A True Story of Murder, Race, and the Gothic South. The book focuses on a 1932 murder case in Mississippi, when an African American woman ended up in prison for a crime she didn't commit.

From her Q&A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: How did you research the book, and what did you learn that especially surprise you?

A: There were two things I did at the beginning. I visited Natchez. I went to see it, I wasn’t there to do any research, just get the feel of the town, its geography, its landscape, which I got more and more each time I went.

And the other thing—I started doing basic newspaper research and writing down all the names in the story—the principals, the attorneys, law enforcement, and witnesses. When I really started doing research, I could figure out who they are.

That’s how it began, with newspaper research. Then I began on-the-ground research in Natchez—fire insurance maps to get a sense of where the people lived, court records related to the case of Emily Burns, [the woman who was convicted,] but also records relating to Dick Dana and Octavia Dockery, [eccentric neighbors of the murder victim, who were involved in the case].

One of the places I did research was in an abandoned pie factory in Natchez. Court ledgers were...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Brad Abraham

Brad Abraham is the author of Magicians Impossible, creator of the Mixtape comic book series, screenwriter of the films Fresh Meat and Stonehenge Apocalypse, writer on the television series The Canada Crew, Now You Know, I Love Mummy, and RoboCop Prime Directives, and a journalist whose work has appeared in Rue Morgue, Dreamwatch, Starburst, and Fangoria.

From his Q&A with Steph Post:

What drew you to the genre you write in?

I’ve always been a fan of spy stories, be they in books, movies, or TV shows. Despite largely being billed as an “Urban Fantasy”, I approached Magicians Impossible from the angle of “Espionage Thriller.” It’s very much your classical spy story– the recruit brought into a shadowy world, the battle against a long-standing adversary, the centerpiece mission, the betrayals, the reveal – set in a fantasy world of magic and myth. I grew up on James Bond movies and novels, and those are very much in the book’s DNA. I always wanted to write a spy thriller like Goldfinger or On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, so writing Magicians was a dream come true. I’ll confess I’m not much of a Sci-Fi/Fantasy reader, though I have been getting into it a little more as of late– when writing Magicians I deliberately...[read on]
Visit Brad Abraham's website.

The Page 69 Test: Magicians Impossible.

Writers Read: Brad Abraham (September 2017).

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Stephen R. Bown

Stephen R. Bown's new book is  Island of the Blue Foxes: Disaster and Triumph on the World's Greatest Scientific Expedition.

From Bown's Q&A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: Why did you decide to write about the Great Northern Expedition?

A: I’ve had the idea to tell this story for over 15 years now, but I just didn’t think there was quite enough information to truly bring it alive. It was only in the last several years that additional information about the expedition has been uncovered in Russian archives and translated into English.

But the reason that I was initially interested in the story for so long is that it is simply the most incredible exploration story that I have ever read about.

It involves fascinating personalities such as Peter the Great, the famous naturalist Georg Steller (Steller Jay and Steller Sea Lion) and the legendary commander Vitus Bering (the Bering Strait). The expedition explored Siberia and pioneered the Russian discovery of Alaska. And that is just the background.

The real story, the human element, involves storms, scurvy and shipwreck on an uncharted, uninhabited island in the North Pacific. Then they survived a winter, spring and summer on a tiny island – building shelter and hunting for food even though their gunpowder had been ruined in the wreck.

What is fascinating to me is...[read on]
Learn more about the book and author at Stephen R. Bown's website and Facebook page.

My Book, The Movie: The Last Viking.

The Page 99 Test: White Eskimo.

My Book, The Movie: Island of the Blue Foxes.

Writers Read: Stephen R. Bown (November 2017).

The Page 99 Test: Island of the Blue Foxes.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, December 4, 2017

Alexander Thurston

Alexander Thurston's new book is Boko Haram: The History of an African Jihadist Movement.

From his Q&A at the Princeton University Press blog:

What is Boko Haram?

Boko Haram is a jihadist group, or rather cluster of groups, that emerged in northeastern Nigeria in the early 2000s. The group has called itself by various names, and “Boko Haram” is a nickname given by outsiders—it means “Western education is forbidden by Islam.” The nickname refers to a central theme that its founder Muhammad Yusuf used in his preaching, namely the idea that Western-style education (and democracy) were anti-Islamic. Boko Haram was involved sporadically in violence before 2009, but its transformation into a sustained insurgency occurred that year, when Yusuf and his followers clashed with authorities. Yusuf was killed during the initial uprising, but his followers regrouped under Abubakar Shekau and began to commit regular assassinations and attacks the next year. Boko Haram began to hold significant amounts of territory in northeastern Nigeria in 2014, which prompted Nigeria’s neighbors to intervene more strongly. In 2015, back on the defensive, Boko Haram pledged allegiance to the Islamic State (also known as ISIS and ISIL). Boko Haram continues to stage attacks in Nigeria, as well as in the neighboring countries, especially Niger. In summer 2016, a public schism emerged in the group, with one faction remaining loyal to Shekau and another following Abu Mus‘ab al-Barnawi, who has pledged to reduce civilian casualties and refocus Boko Haram’s efforts on fighting states and militaries. Boko Haram is most infamous for its mass kidnapping of 276 teenage schoolgirls in the town of Chibok, Nigeria in April 2014.

How has the Nigerian government responded to Boko Haram?

The Nigerian government has used a heavy-handed, military-focused approach to Boko Haram. The approach involves serious and systematic...[read on]
Visit Alexander Thurston's blog.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, December 3, 2017

Cristina Garcia

Cristina Garcia's latest novel is Here in Berlin. From her Q&A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: How did you come up with the idea for Here In Berlin?

A: It came about unexpectedly. I went in search of different kinds of stories…looking for Cubans’ relationship with the Eastern Bloc. I didn’t find much, although I tried really hard. I got despondent. I had rented an apartment [in Berlin] for three months!

Then I just got seduced by the city, the archaeology, and its ghosts, people in the interstices of history. It became its own thing. It evolved very slowly. It became a crazy historical excavation though it takes place in the present time.

Q: The novel features a visitor in Berlin and the various characters she encounters. How did you choose the novel’s structure?

A: That was another huge problem! You’re hitting every long night of despair I had! I just kept collecting these stories, finding them in little airholes of the history books I was reading.

At one point there were over 100 of these voices and I then started organizing them. I started ranking them. It was like a Busby Berkeley routine. Then I ended up...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, December 2, 2017

Helen Benedict

Helen Benedict's new novel is Wolf Season.

From her Q&A with Nichole Bernier at the Huffington Post:

Tell me about your research for WOLF SEASON, and where it fits in the spectrum of research and interviews you’ve done on women and the Iraq War.

BENEDICT: Because I had already spent many years interviewing women veterans, I had no need to revisit that. But for Wolf Season, and its precursor, my novel, Sand Queen, I also interviewed Iraqi refugees. They were all either former interpreters, or the spouses of interpreters, women and men. With great generosity, they told me about their lives in and out of war, helping me to create Naema, her son, Tariq, and her husband, Khalil, the Iraqi family in the novel.

Some of the knowledge I needed to write this book did not come from interviews and conscious research, however, but from chance observations and conversations with veterans and Iraqis I know. At times, it can be the slightest thing, something...[read on]
Learn more about Helen Benedict and her work at her official website.

My Book, The Movie: Sand Queen.

The Page 69 Test: Sand Queen.

The Page 69 Test: Wolf Season.

--Marshal Zeringue