Monday, February 28, 2011

Gay Talese

Gay Talese is a journalist and international best-selling author whose works include The Bridge, The Kingdom and the Power, Honor Thy Father, Thy Neighbors Wife, and Unto the Sons.

From his Q & A with David Ulin of Jacket Copy about Talese's book, The Silent Season of a Hero:

[Jacket Copy]: You were sports editor of the University of Alabama student paper, then wrote for the New York Times. But your real breakthrough came with Esquire.

GT: In 1960, I did my first piece for Esquire. Then in 1963, there was a big newspaper strike, and that's where I discovered freedom. Prior to that, I didn't have time to research, and moreover, working for a daily paper, I couldn't travel. I couldn’t go far.

So Esquire was a big thing for me because I had space, but the strike was even bigger. For the first time, I had a sense of what it was like to be a freelance, where I could go out of town and didn't have to be back Sunday night in time for Monday work. I had written a little book called "The Bridge," about the building of the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge, but that was right here. I didn't have to go anywhere. But when I started traveling, during the strike, I went to London to write about Peter O'Toole. It was a big thing, to go to London on expenses.

JC: Perhaps your two most iconic Esquire pieces were about Joe DiMaggio and Frank Sinatra, who, like you, were sons of Italian immigrants.

GT: Yes, but to what degree did I have, by being a son of Italian immigrants myself, an in with these guys? I was not respectfully welcomed by DiMaggio, that's for sure. And the other guy...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Elif Shafak

Elif Shafak is an award-winning novelist and the most widely read woman writer in Turkey. Her books have been translated into more than twenty languages.

From her Q & A with Anna Metcalfe for the Financial Times:

What book changed your life?

I wouldn’t say it was one book; it was the process of reading. I was a very lonely child, bored with life, withdrawn. Books introduced me to a new world and they have never abandoned me.

* * *
Which literary character most resembles you?

Several. Inside us as women we have a little harem of female voices, coexisting and competing. Jo March in Little Women has always been a favourite of mine.

* * *
What book do you wish you’d written?

I was quite jealous of Aravind Adiga’s The White Tiger.

* * *
Can you remember the first novel you read?

A Tale of Two Cities by Dickens. I was at primary school so I don’t know how much I understood but I noticed the characters, the intensity, passion and conflict.
Read the complete Q & A.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Patrick Rothfuss

Patrick Rothfuss is the author of The Name of the Wind and The Wise Man's Fear.

From a Q & A at his publisher's website:

Your first novel, The Name of the Wind introduces the hero (or some may say anti-hero) Kvothe as a larger-than-life living legend.

I don't know if I'd call him larger-than-life. His reputation is larger-than-life, certainly. The man himself is remarkably life-sized. I think that's part of the reason people like him.

How did you create him?

I got the idea for Kvothe after I finished reading Cyranno De Bergerac for the first time. I was completely knocked over by that character. He was passionate, arrogant, witty, clever, a fighter, a poet, a philosopher. He was compelling and interesting, and a bit of a bastard, but you loved him and felt sorry for him. I remember thinking, "Why haven't I ever read a fantasy novel with a character this good?"

Shortly after that I read Casanova's memoirs. That's when I realized that autobiography could be really compelling so long as the person's life is exciting, and their personality is interesting.

Those two things might not have been the seed for the book, they were certainly around when the seed was sprouting....

What contemporary superhero would you put Kvothe up against?


Who would win?

Ah hell. If we're talking about...[read on]
Visit Patrick Rothfuss's website and blog.

Patrick Rothfuss's "The Name of the Wind," the movie.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, February 25, 2011

Sophie Hannah

Sophie Hannah is the author of five internationally bestselling psychological thrillers – Little Face, Hurting Distance, The Wrong Mother, The Other Half Lives and A Room Swept White. Lasting Damage, her latest novel, is out now in the UK.

From her Q & A at the Independent:

Choose a favourite author, and say why you admire her/him

Tana French. Her psychological thrillers are brilliantly written but you also read on, desperate to find something out. For me, that is the winning combination.

* * *
Which fictional character most resembles you?

Somebody in an Iris Murdoch novel who is always getting hysterically emotional and saying things that make no sense - possibly the hero of 'The Sea, The Sea'. People who know me say I do that.

* * *
Who is your hero/heroine from outside literature?

At the moment, Bill Bryson, because he has made it his mission to do something about litter – and I am obsessed with litter. There should be a minimum 20-year sentence for...[read on]
Visit Sophie Hannah's website.

The Page 69 Test: Hurting Distance.

The Page 69 Test: Little Face.

My Book, The Movie: Little Face and Hurting Distance.

The Page 69 Test: The Wrong Mother.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Matt Haig

Matt Haig is the author of The Last Family in England, a UK bestseller narrated by a Labrador; The Dead Fathers Club, a widely acclaimed update of Hamlet featuring an eleven-year-old boy; and The Possession of Mr. Cave, a horror story about an overprotective father. His work has been translated into twenty-four languages.

His latest novel is The Radleys.

From his Q & A with Melissa Mia Hall at Publishers Weekly:

Were you influenced by Boo Radley of Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird?

Yes, Boo, pale-faced, misunderstood suburban outsider, was definitely my inspiration, though I later discovered Radley means "of the red meadow," which can have vampire connotations.

What aroused your interest in vampires?

Vampires are, quite simply, the greatest symbol of forbidden desires and selfish will the human imagination has yet conjured. I find the vampire myth fascinating in all its guises, from Byron and Stoker through '80s guilty pleasures like The Lost Boys to the melodramatic magnificence of the current True Blood. I have always enjoyed vampire stuff without ever having been a full vampire geek. I suppose I love the idea of blood thirst because it can say so much about us, not simply about addiction but about all those desires that can tear a family apart.

Didn't this book originate as a script?

The screenplay and the novel were...[read on]
The Page 69 Test: The Radleys.

Writers Read: Matt Haig.

My Book, The Movie: The Radleys.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Donovan Hohn

Donovan Hohn's new book is Moby-Duck: The True Story of 28,800 Bath Toys Lost at Sea and of the Beachcombers, Oceanographers, Environmentalists, and Fools, Including the Author, Who Went in Search of Them.

From his Q & A at Publishers Weekly:

When did your interest in the lost rubber ducks become an obsession?

Like most obsessions I suppose, mine grew gradually and was kindled by frustration. It seemed so incredible, that I wanted to imagine it with as much verisimilitude as I could muster. When and where did the toys fall overboard? Where did they go, and why? And when I first heard the story, I was about to become a father. Childhood was much on my mind, and in the bestiary of American childhood, there is no creature more iconic than the yellow rubber duckie. I also was preparing to teach Moby-Dick. The incongruity of those yellow icons of childhood, made in China for the bathtubs of America, out there in Melville's sublimely inhuman wilderness of water seemed a kind of riddle.

What were the environmental issues you stumbled upon?

The trail of the toys soon led me to what has become colloquially known as the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. When I first heard of it, the Garbage Patch sounded fabulous, like something out of Jules Verne, a floating junkyard twice the size of Texas. The convergent currents north of Hawaii collect flotsam and jetsam, much of which these days is plastic, and unlike the wooden or metal or rubber flotsam and jetsam of the past, plastic can persist at sea for centuries. Eventually, sunlight breaks it down into fragments, but those fragments remain, flowing through the water column like dust. The currents there deliver more than 20 tons of plastic debris every year.

What was the most frightening moment of your quest?

I'm terrified of...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Maxine Hong Kingston

Maxine Hong Kingston's books include The Woman Warrior, China Men, Tripmaster Monkey: His Fake Book, To Be the Poet and “The Fifth Book of Peace.

From her Q & A with David Ulin about her latest book, the poetic memoir I Love a Broad Margin to My Life:

David L. Ulin: “I Love a Broad Margin in My Life” returns to material you’ve written about previously, particularly in “The Woman Warrior.” Have you ever considered going back and updating any of your earlier works?

Maxine Hong Kingston: I have found things that I could have done better in “The Woman Warrior.” But then I thought: Let the work of one’s youth just stand.

DLU: What would you have done better?

MHK: After I went to China, I saw that the villages there look like pueblos, like any adobe village you could find in Africa or South America. When I wrote the book, I pictured farmhouses the way we have them in the U.S., so there would be a farmhouse surrounded by fields, and then at a distance another farmhouse with its fields. I didn’t realize that all the people lived together in a pueblo and that their common fields were all out there. Everything that one does, in your house, affects the people on the other side of the wall. So I would have written about the villages better. That is a mistake in...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, February 21, 2011

Sharifa Rhodes-Pitts

Sharifa Rhodes-Pitts is the author of Harlem Is Nowhere.

From her Q & A with Antonina Jedrzejczak in Vogue:

How did you decide to write about Harlem—was this a project that has been inside you a long time?

Harlem, and the Harlem Renaissance period, was a concentration of these incredible figures who were so full of ambition and sense of purpose about what their art could do, so I was really attracted to that period of time as a concentration of all these elements. That sense is important to the way Harlem became known as the cultural and spiritual capital of black America. The neighborhood held a sort of drawing force, and not just for artists or politicians, but everyday people who were inspired by what was going on there. My coming from Texas to Harlem kind of mimics that journey that many other people have had.

When did you start writing this book?

When I moved to Harlem in 2002, I was doing extensive freelancing, and there was a lot being published about the neighborhood because of gentrification. I was reading these stories and thinking, Oh, that’s not quite right. And because I was constantly telling stories about what was going on in my neighborhood to one of my editors, he invited me—challenged me—to write an essay about Harlem. When that essay came out in 2004 it got a really strong response, and there were people who said, “You can write a book now.” So there was the internal drive to write, but there was also external encouragement.

What were the questions you were trying to address?

I was always fascinated by...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Kelli Stanley

Kelli Stanley is the author of last year's acclaimed City of Dragons, set in San Francisco, and the recently released The Curse-Maker, set in late first century Roman Britain.

From author J. Sydney Jones' interview with Stanley:

What things about San Francisco and classical Britain make them unique and good physical settings in your books?

Well, San Francisco is a unique, fabled city of unmatched physical beauty, a torrid, fascinating and colorful history, and a sophisticated and diverse melting pot of cultural influences. It’s also captured the imagination of countless creative people—writers, artists, actors. Most people can recognize it immediately—the Golden Gate Bridge is as iconic as the Empire State Building, and more films have been shot here than just about any location outside Los Angeles or New York.

There’s simply no place like it!! As many people in the crime fiction community discovered when they attended Boucheron in 2010.

As for Britain—again, we’re dealing with a land that gave birth to an incredible coterie of creative individuals. If “ley lines” exist, they must run through the UK and San Francisco. And of course, the physical landscape can be breathtaking … when I first saw an English river, I felt like Tolkein had come to life. All the fairy tales and legends and literature, the cultural influences, the history, the mother-country feeling, even the tradition of superb mystery writers … for me, England—or Roman Britain—was as natural a choice as San Francisco.

Did you consciously set out to use your location as a “character” in your books, or did this grow naturally out of the initial story or stories?

As a writer, I try to root myself in reality as much as possible, so setting—and authenticity of setting—is...[read on]
Kelli Stanley's website and blog.

My Book, The Movie: Nox Dormienda.

The Page 69 Test: City of Dragons.

My Book, The Movie: City of Dragons.

Coffee with a Canine: Kelli Stanley & Bertie.

The Page 69 Test: The Curse-Maker.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Brian Greene

Brian Greene's new book is The Hidden Reality: Parallel Universes and the Deep Laws of the Cosmos.

From his interview by David Gelernter at the Wall Street Journal:

Mr. Gelernter: Your book is about the idea of a "multiverse"—that is, multiple universes. But that sounds impossible. If "universe" means "all there is," how can there be more than one?

Mr. Greene: Right, so how can you have multiple "everythings"? It sounds meaningless, like asking whether the number 9 is blue. But lots of recent research in physics has made the canvas of reality look much wider than we ever imagined. Our most refined cosmological theories indicate, for instance, that the big bang, which created our own universe, may not have been a unique event. There may have been (and may still be) various big bangs at far-flung locations, each one creating its own universe. Our "everything" may be just one enormous expanding bubble in a gigantic cosmic bubble bath of universes.

In one of the theories that you describe, there are universes not only apart from ours but identical to it, moment-by-moment. This staggering idea is the result of an amazingly simple argument. Would you explain?

In any finite region of space, matter can only arrange itself in a finite number of configurations, just as a deck of cards can be arranged in only finitely many different orders. If you shuffle the deck infinitely many times, the card orderings must necessarily repeat. Similarly, in an infinite expanse of space, particle arrangements must repeat too—there just aren't enough different particle configurations to go around. And if the particles in a given region of space the size of ours are arranged identically to how they are arranged here, then reality in that region will be...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, February 18, 2011

Iris Johansen

Iris Johansen is the author of numerous crime novels featuring Atlanta, Georgia, forensic sculptor Eve Duncan.

From author J. Sydney Jones' interview with Johansen:

What things about Atlanta make it unique and a good physical setting in your books?

Atlanta is a large cosmopolitan city and yet it has a historical flavor that is unique to the south. It also has a huge influx of other cultures from the Yankees up north and the citizens of the world.

Did you consciously set out to use Atlanta as a “character” in your books, or did this grow naturally out of the initial story or stories?

No, I did not set out to use the setting as a character in the beginning. I did not realize Eve was going to be a series character until after I finished the first book. It came into being as the stories progressed.

How do you incorporate location in your fiction? Do you pay overt attention to it in certain scenes, or is it a background inspiration for you?

No, I do not deliberately use scenes or locations. I use...[read on]
Read more about Johansen's latest novel, Chasing the Night.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Dennis Lehane

Dennis Lehane was born and raised in Dorchester, Massachusetts. His novels include A Drink Before the War; Darkness, Take My Hand; Sacred; Gone, Baby, Gone; Prayers for Rain; Mystic River; Shutter Island; The Given Day; and Moonlight Mile.

Before becoming a full-time writer, Lehane worked as a counselor with mentally handicapped and abused children, waited tables, parked cars, drove limos, worked in bookstores, and loaded tractor-trailers. He lives in the Boston, Massachusetts, area.

From his Q & A with Ali Karim for The Rap Sheet:

Ali Karim: Before this month’s excitement over the UK release of Moonlight Mile, you were busy with the U.S. release of the same novel. Can you tell us a little about the American reception both for this book and its returning characters, Patrick Kenzie and Angela Gennaro?

Dennis Lehane: Folks seem to dig it, and we’d had a long break from each other, so it was nice to hang out again. Amanda McCready [from Gone, Baby, Gone] just popped into my head. I’ve always idly wondered what happened to her, so that probably explains why she successfully lobbied for a comeback.

AK: Despite being a family man now, Patrick has not lost any of his “blue-collar” annoyance with the injustices he sees perpetrated around him on a too-frequent basis. Do you find it cathartic in some way to have Patrick provide social context to your fiction?

DL: Patrick has always been my way of looking at the world through a kind of modernized version of my father’s eyes. My father was working class; I’m the son of a working-class [man], but I’m no longer working class myself. It’s very important to me that Patrick remain working class.

AK: I know in your early work, you stated that you didn’t plot heavily. But did you not have to plot more extensively for Moonlight Mile?

DL:...[read on]
Read about Dennis Lehane's five favorite short story collections and his five most important books.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Stephanie Coontz

Stephanie Coontz teaches history and family studies at Evergreen State College. Her books include Marriage, a History, The Way We Never Were, and The Way We Really Are.

From Coontz's Q & A about her new book, Strange Stirring: The Feminine Mystique and American Women at the Dawn of the 1960s, with Husna Haq at the Christian Science Monitor:

What would Betty Friedan think of Valentine’s Day?

She would certainly hate the way it has been commercialized. One of the most powerful chapters of "The Feminine Mystique" – and one that still rings true to readers today – is called “The Sexual Sell.” Friedan used the internal memos of motivational research firms to expose how marketers fan our insecurities, to persuade us that buying things will satisfy our hunger for meaningful relationships and meaningful work. She would be very critical of the ads claiming that you can solidify your relationship by buying the right gift or find happiness by receiving such a gift.

On the other hand, she would probably welcome the celebration of romantic relationships. Contrary to myth, Friedan was not a man-hater, nor was she anti-marriage. In fact she argued that when women gained confidence in their own abilities and found meaning in their own lives, they would be better partners…

How has love and marriage – and women’s role in it – changed since Friedan wrote her seminal book?

Women’s new economic independence, legal rights, and social status have had paradoxical effects on love and marriage. On the one hand, women feel less pressure than in the past to enter or stay in a relationship that doesn’t meet the full range of their needs. As late as 1967, two-thirds of college women said they would consider marrying someone they didn’t love if he met their other criteria, most of which had to do with financial security, protection, and social respectability. Today most women hold out for love and mutual respect. Women are more willing to...[read on]
The Page 69 Test: Stephanie Coontz's Marriage, A History.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Sarah Pekkanen

Sarah Pekkanen's new novel, Skipping a Beat, releases this month.

From a Q & A about her debut novel The Opposite of Me, published last year:

What was the inspiration for your book? Is it based on any real events in your life?

Nope; it’s pure fiction. I’m lucky to have two brothers I adore, but I’ve always wondered what it would be like to have a sister. I’m fascinated by the rich, complex relationships my friends have with their sisters – so when it came time to write The Opposite of Me, I made the relationship between Lindsey and Alex as messy and loving and complicated and competitive as possible.

I’m also intrigued by the way people get assigned certain labels in their family, like the “smart” one, the “pretty sister,” the “drama queen,” or the “peacemaker.” What if those labels don’t fit how we feel inside? What if they’re all wrong for who we are really meant to be?

What do you think the term “chick lit” means today? Is that what you would consider this story?

I think chick lit refers to fun, smart books about women who are figuring out their choices in life. As in every other genre, there is a wide range of books - some better than others. I’m not sure if The Opposite of Me will be classified as chick lit. I’m just hoping people will think of it as a good book!

Have you had bosses like the ones in the story? Or were you that type of driven employee yourself?

Luckily, I’ve...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, February 14, 2011

Roxana Robinson

Roxana Robinson is the author of Cost, three earlier novels, and three short-story collections, as well as a biography of Georgia O’Keeffe. Four of these were named Notable Books of the Year by the New York Times. Her work has appeared in The New Yorker, The Atlantic, Harper’s Magazine, the New York Times, Best American Short Stories, and Vogue, among other publications.

From her interview with Derek Alger at Pif Magazine:

DA: You were fortunate enough to study with Bernard Malamud.

RR: Malamud was a very good teacher, he was one of the reasons I went to Bennington. The faculty there was phenomenal: I studied with Howard Nemerov and Stanley Edgar Hyman as well as Malamud. Malamud was a very careful teacher, patient and focused. He made us very conscious of the fact that there was no such thing as inspiration, it was work, every day. I admired him very much.

* * *
DA: You went to great lengths to do research for a character in your most recent novel, Cost.

RR: Cost required a lot of research: Alzheimer’s, neurosurgery, and heroin addiction.

One of the characters turned out to be a heroin addict, and he sort of erupted into the narrative. When I found out about him I realized I needed to learn about heroin addicts. I used every kind of research I could – reading, talking to everyone who was connected to that world, and going to meetings of Narcotic Anonymous and meeting the addicts themselves. It was enlightening and humbling.

* * *
DA: Getting back to literature, John Updike was a great influence on you.

RR: When I was in my late teens, I guess, or early twenties, I...[read on]
Visit Roxana Robinson’s website.

The Page 69 Test: Cost.

My Book, The Movie: Cost.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Joshua Ferris

Joshua Ferris is the author of Then We Came to the End and The Unnamed.

From his Q & A with Anna Metcalfe at the Financial Times:

What book changed your life?

Where the Red Fern Grows by Wilson Rawls.

* * *
Who are your literary influences?

There were so many in the beginning that hopefully, with time, and luck, by the end there will be none.

* * *
If you could own any painting, what would it be?

Magritte’s “Les Amants”.

* * *
What book do you wish you’d written?

Nabokov’s Pale Fire.
Read the complete Q & A.

See Joshua Ferris' five most important books.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Karen Abbott

Karen Abbott worked as a journalist on the staffs of Philadelphia magazine and Philadelphia Weekly, and has written for and other publications. She is the author of Sin in the Second City.

From Abbott's Q & A with Randy Dotinga at the Christian Science Monitor about her new book, American Rose: A Nation Laid Bare: The Life and Times of Gypsy Rose Lee:

Q: What's interesting to you about Gypsy Rose Lee?

Her story is the quintessential rags-to-riches story. A half century before Madonna, she knew how to make performance out of desire. There's the timeliness of her story – if Lady Gaga and Dorothy Parker had a love child it would be Gypsy Rose Lee – and the fact that she was this brand before branding existed.

Q: How did you discover her?

I blame everything on my grandmother; I blame all the fun things on her.

She's 92, and she was always telling me stories about growing up in the Great Depression. She told me about a cousin who saw Gypsy Rose Lee in 1935 and said it took her 15 minutes to pull off a single glove. She was so good at it that he would have given 15 minutes more to watch her take off another glove.

Q: There were other strippers at the time, but she stood out. How come?

She has this really...[read on]
Read another interview with Karen Abbott and visit her website.

The Page 69 Test: Sin in the Second City.

The Page 99 Test: American Rose.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Leigh Russell

Leigh Russell is the author of a series of British crime thrillers featuring Detective Inspector Geraldine Steel.

From her Q & A with Michael Lipkin at The Rap Sheet:

ML: I know this is every novelist’s least favorite question, but I’ll ask it anyway: Where do you get your ideas and the material for your stories?

LR: I have no problem finding ideas. I wrote in an article once that I can see dead bodies anywhere. It sounds ghoulish, but it isn’t. Writing crime thrillers is like problem solving, fitting the pieces of a jigsaw together. I start with a body and then the questions follow fast. Who is the victim and what is their story? Then I move on to the next part of the puzzle. What does the reader need to know about the killer? What motivated him or her to kill? Finally, I bring my detective conducting the investigation into the murder, and develop her story. And there you have it--the book has written itself.

ML: Does DI Geraldine Steel represent parts of your own personality and character? If not, where does that protagonist come from?

LR: I write psychological thrillers because people fascinate me endlessly. Although plot drives my narrative, it is character that interests me most. But I genuinely have no idea where my characters come from. They must be a mixture of people I’ve met or observed, but they are never based on anyone I know. They are a complete flight of imagination. I’ve no idea how my killers can be...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Ben Tarnoff

Ben Tarnoff is the author of Moneymakers: The Wicked Lives and Surprising Adventures of Three Notorious Counterfeiters. He has worked at Lapham's Quarterly and graduated from Harvard in 2007.

From his Q & A at

This brings us right around to the subject of your forthcoming book: counterfeiting in early American history. How did this idea first come about?

I first got the idea for my book when researching the Lapham’s Quarterly issue on the history of money. I was reading a lot about counterfeiting, and I came across a book that had just been published called A Nation of Counterfeiters: Capitalists, Con Men, and the Making of the United States by Stephen Mihm. This was right around the time the financial crisis was getting started, so there were a lot of pretty powerful “past in the present” parallels in the story of counterfeiting and early American finance.

What are some of the convergences you found between the forces at work two hundred years ago and the economic fiasco of today?

The broadest parallel is that confidence sustains today’s economy just as it did two or three hundred years ago. If colonial Americans didn’t have faith that a bill of credit equaled a certain quantity of money — that the promise inscribed on its surface would be honored — then the paper became worthless. This is the same spark of faith that powers our system today. Counterfeiters are interesting because they trafficked in this most essential economic fuel – faith. They also reflected the logic of early America’s speculative, debt-driven economic landscape. As I write in the book, counterfeiters were the black margin to the various shades of gray that made up the financial spectrum. In antebellum America, the government didn’t print money: banks did, hundreds and eventually, thousands of different kinds. Many of these bankers didn’t have enough gold and silver to back these bills, as was required by law. So many bankers essentially became counterfeiters, trying to inspire faith in paper promises they knew they couldn’t keep. But as long as everyone accepts these bills without calling their bluff, more and more value is created, and there’s a huge hallucination of riches that everyone conspires to sustain – before it all comes crashing down.

So does knowing the past really help to avert future mistakes, or does it just make the present more interesting?

Well, clearly...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Siobhan Fallon

Siobhan Fallon lived at Fort Hood while her husband was deployed to Iraq for two tours of duty. She earned her MFA at the New School in New York City and now lives with her family near the Defense Language Institute in Monterey, California.

Her new book is You Know When the Men Are Gone.

From a Q & A at her website:

You tell the stories of many different characters, both women and men, mostly at Fort Hood but also in Iraq. How closely are the characters based on real people? How much of your own experience is in this book?

I was inspired by issues that I’ve seen come up again and again when soldiers deploy, but ultimately this is a work of fiction.

Of course there are echoes of my own experience— since our marriage in 2004, my husband and I have lived in four different states, and are currently in the process of moving yet again. Since 2004, my husband has deployed three times, once to Afghanistan, and twice to Iraq. Which means that when I finished writing this collection in 2010, my husband had spent half of our marriage, three of our six years together, being deployed. When he left for his most recent deployment in 2008, our six month old daughter hadn’t even begun to crawl, and when he returned a year later, she was walking, talking, and picking out her own tutus. I think my army spouse experiences, the constant moving around from base to base, the long separations, the children who grow and change while a parent is away, the stress of trying to maintain a healthy marriage when a spouse is in a war zone, might seem strange to the civilian world but are universal challenges faced by all in the military community.

How did you meet your husband? Did you ever think you’d marry a soldier?

I met my husband at my father’s Irish pub, The South Gate Tavern. My dad had been in the Army during the Vietnam War and I was raised right outside of the United States Military Academy at West Point, but...[read on]
Visit Siobhan Fallon's website and blog.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, February 7, 2011

Jonathan Evison

Jonathan Evison is the author of All About Lulu, which won the Washington State Book Award. In 2009, he was the recipient of a Richard Buckley Fellowship from the Christopher Isherwood Foundation.

His new novel is West of Here.

From his Q & A with author Caroline Leavitt:

Where did the whole idea for West of Here come from and how did you manage to seemingly effortlessly juggle all the story and time lines?

Well, I wanted to bring the history of the Olympic Peninsula--the history of America, really--to life on the page. But I didn't want to write a historical novel, per se, rather a novel about history, about footprints, who makes them and who follows them, etc. And rather than employ a wide-angle lens to historicize the material, I wanted my lens to be a kaleidoscope of overlapping limited points-of-view, so that the living history which I sought to create, was democratic. In my experience, most "histories" only tell one side of the story. As far as juggling all those POV's, it wasn't effortless--it was a big fat pain in the ass, but in the end, exhilarating.

Gertie, one of my favorite characters in the book, says that a “person is made up of choices”, an idea which keeps playing out through the book. But how much real choice do you think we have in our own choices, especially when we are hurtling through the forces of history?

Well, for starters, you have the choice to complain or make lemonade, as it were. I think this fundamental choice in outlook has a far-reaching effect on any life, and also on all the lives that touch that life. Determination and optimism are choices, and from what I've observed, they can...[read on]
Visit Jonathan Evison's website.

The Page 99 Test: All About Lulu

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Tess Gerritsen

Tess Gerritsen's latest novel is Ice Cold.

From her Q & A at the Independent:

Choose a favourite author, and say why you admire her/him

Philippa Gregory, because she brings the past so lusciously to life.

* * *

Which fictional character most resembles you?

Maura Isles [a medical examiner from Gerritsen's Rizzoli/Isles series of novels]. I use many details from my own life when I describe hers.

* * *
Who is your hero/heroine from outside literature?

Cleopatra. I can't think of a more fascinating woman. She raised an army, spoke nine languages, led a nation, and seduced two of the most powerful men of her time.
Read the complete Q & A.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Ellen Meeropol

Ellen Meeropol holds an MFA in creative writing from the Stonecoast program at the University of Southern Maine. Her stories have appeared in The Drum, Bridges, Portland Magazine, Pedestal, Patchwork Journal, and The Women’s Times. House Arrest, her first novel, is out this month.

From her Q & A  with writer Caroline Leavitt:

I read that you didn't begin writing fiction until your fifties. Why not? And what jump-started your desire? What was that like?

Some days I wish like anything that I had started writing much earlier. That way, maybe I wouldn’t be publishing my first novel and applying for Medicare at the same time! I’ve always read a lot, and I often thought about writing fiction. For many years I scribbled ideas on napkins and corners of the newspaper and collected them in that “ideas” folder. But it wasn’t until 2000, when I was planning a two-month “sabbatical” so that my husband could write his book, that I realized that it was a perfect time for me to jump in too.

We rented a cottage on that island off the coast of Maine that I mentioned before; there I met my muse and she literally changed my life. I wrote all the time. Three years later, I entered an MFA program and then I took early retirement from my nurse practitioner job. Re-inventing myself in my fifties was both humbling and exhilarating. Regardless of my age and my past life as a competent profession, I was a beginner again, free to experiment and make lots of mistakes. It continues to be a terrifying and liberating experience.

The novel talks a lot about forgiveness, and how whether we actually should forgive. Do you think there ever is anything that is unforgivable? Should compassion rule us more than our laws?

I don’t really have an answer for that question, Caroline. Whether or not to forgive something that feels unforgivable is such a personal decision. If I wanted to tell people how to live, I’d...[read on]
Read about Ellen Meeropol's interview at Publishers Weekly.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, February 4, 2011

Peter Leonard

Peter Leonard is the son of Elmore Leonard, the grand master of crime fiction. He lives in Birmingham, Michigan. His novels include Quiver and Trust Me.

From his Q & A with novelist Declan Burke at Crime Always Pays:

What crime novel would you most like to have written?

THE FRIENDS OF EDDIE COYLE by George V. Higgins. My father, Elmore Leonard, gave me the book right after it came out. He said, “Read this. You won’t believe how good it is.” And he was right.

What fictional character would you most like to have been?

James Bond. Looks like he has a pretty good time.

Who do you read for guilty pleasures?

I read ‘People’ magazine, which chronicles the comings and goings of American movie stars, important stuff like who’s dating whom, where they vacation, what clubs they frequent.

Most satisfying writing moment?

My...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Edward Glaeser

Edward Glaeser is an economist at Harvard. His new book is Triumph of the City: How Our Greatest Invention Makes Us Richer, Smarter, Greener, Healthier, and Happier.

From his 2008 interview with the Wall Street Journal's Kelly Evans:

WSJ: What do you think of Beijing's make-over for the Olympics?

MR. GLAESER: It's amazing to see what they're doing -- it's a recognition by the government that big cities are a vital part of their growth. One of the great ironies is that the impact of the flattening world has not been to empower decentralized rural land, but to strengthen the cities in China and India and elsewhere that are gateways between those countries and the West. It's deeply wise for the Chinese to be pro-urban in terms of development. They're creating space for ideas and human capital to be developed.

Obviously, it's a mixed bag and there are huge pollution issues -- though those are more symptomatic of industries than of urbanization.

I think the Chinese model is much better than the Indian one, [which] has enormous restrictions on development. Dubai, meanwhile, is an amazing place, an incredible bet. It's a large-scale metropolis for the oil region of this world -- maybe that will pay off, or maybe we'll all be getting 200 miles to the gallon and they'll have a lot of empty towers.

WSJ: What other global cities are succeeding? Which ones are struggling?

MR. GLAESER: I'm very drawn by the comparison of Mumbai, which is at the nadir of development policies, and Singapore, which appears to work very well.

Singapore has a highly involved government, which is not altogether surprising and not entirely wrong, given that you've got four million people living in 270 square miles.

They've embraced things like congestion pricing and it's a city that has remarkably uncongested streets -- for 30 years they've pioneered the use of congestion pricing to moderate traffic flows.

There's a lot that's less than ideal about the Singapore government, but on land-use planning the city looks like it's doing a remarkable job, given the problems it faces with having so little land per capita.

I think the relatively laissez-faire approach of Houston...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Blaize Clement

From Blaize Clement's Q & A at The Conscious Cat about her latest novel, Cat Sitter Among the Pigeons:

How did you first come up with the idea for the Dixie Hemingway series?

Actually, I never thought, “I believe I’ll write a mystery series,” it just sort of happened. I lead a workshop every week in which we grab a word and write like crazy for five minutes without any plan. I don’t remember what the word was, but in one of those writing bursts I ended up with scene in which a man drowned in a cat’s water bowl. That became the start of Curiosity Killed the Cat Sitter, which was the first book in the series.

How much of yourself is in Dixie’s character?

Friends tell me that Dixie’s smart-alecky mouth is exactly like mine, but I’m sure they exaggerate. I do agree that she and I share a deep feeling about the importance of family and loyalty. We also share an appreciation for the differences between people’s races, religions, and sexual orientations. We both pretty much think the world would be a better place if people just minded their own business and respected one another.

I was first drawn to your books by the adorable covers. Anything with a cat on it will always get my attention! How important are covers to the success of cozy mysteries like yours?

I think cover art is...[read on]
Visit Blaize Clement's website and blog.

The Page 99 Test: Even Cat Sitters Get the Blues.

The Page 99 Test: Cat Sitter on a Hot Tin Roof.

The Page 69 Test: Raining Cat Sitters and Dogs.

Writers Read: Blaize Clement.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Karen Abbott

Karen Abbott worked as a journalist on the staffs of Philadelphia magazine and Philadelphia Weekly, and has written for and other publications. She is the author of Sin in the Second City.

From a Publishers Weekly Q &A with the author about her new book, American Rose: A Nation Laid Bare: The Life and Times of Gypsy Rose Lee:

Why do you think we need another biography of Gypsy Rose Lee?

I don't consider American Rose to be a biography so much as a microcosm of 20th-century America, told through Gypsy's tumultuous life—it’s "Horatio Alger meets Tim Burton." Here's an awkward kid who is born into nothing, receives very little formal education; spends her entire childhood on the road; is marginally cared for by an erratic, volatile mother; and grows up to become a novelist, a playwright, an actress, an activist, a member of New York's literati, and the most famous entertainer of her time. It's the American dream: the struggle, the setbacks, the ferocious drive and relentless self-invention, the ultimate triumph. Gypsy was a true original, and I hope a new generation can appreciate how unique and genuine she was, especially in this age of manufactured celebrity.Who else but Gypsy Rose Lee would receive a telegram from Eleanor Roosevelt--Eleanor Roosevelt!--that said "May your bare ass always be shining"?

The current movie, Burlesque, starring Cher and Christine Aguilera, has been applauded and derided; What would Gypsy Rose Lee think of the film—and what would she think of Cher?!

I think her reaction to the film would...[read on]
Read another interview with Karen Abbott and visit her website.

The Page 69 Test: Sin in the Second City.

The Page 99 Test: American Rose.

--Marshal Zeringue