Saturday, March 31, 2012

Jonah Keri

Jonah Keri is the author of The Extra 2%: How Wall Street Strategies Took a Major League Baseball Team From Worst to First, about the Tampa Bay Rays.

From his 2011 Q & A with David Leonhardt:

Q. A decade ago, Major League Baseball was still pretty hostile to basic economic thinking, like the idea that teams should use data to find undervalued players. But the success of the low-budget Oakland A’s and Michael Lewis’s best-selling book about them, “Moneyball,” helped change that. Today, some of the biggest-spending teams, like the Yankees and Red Sox, are infused with analytical thinking.

So how did the Rays (with a 2010 payroll of about $72 million) finish ahead of the Yankees (2010 payroll: $206 million) and Red Sox (2010 payroll: $162 million) in two of the last three seasons? What is their edge — the “extra 2 percent” in your title?

Mr. Keri: The Rays look for that extra 2 percent absolutely everywhere. There are all the basic baseball ideas, of course. They dream up ways to build an optimal lineup and they put relief pitchers in position to succeed against certain types of hitters, just like every other team does. But in the Rays’ case, they go much deeper. The manager, Joe Maddon, is more open-minded and intellectually curious than any other manager in baseball. He regularly meets with the “quant guys” in the organization, and is willing to make substantive, enduring changes based on their input.

One great example is something called the Danks Theory. It’s named after a left-handed pitcher named John Danks, a change-up specialist who’s often tougher against right-handed hitters than left-handers, which is unusual in baseball. Erik Neander, the team’s co-head of R.&D. (the fact that the Rays even have an R.&D. division, as if they’re Google or Apple, says a lot), met with Maddon and suggested that the Rays start same-handed hitters against pitchers like Danks. And it worked. Maybe strategies like these amount to two or three wins a season. But when you’re competing against the two biggest, baddest, richest teams in the sport in the Yankees and Red Sox, every little edge counts.

It’s really much more than an on-field idea, though. For instance...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, March 30, 2012

Owen Laukkanen

Owen Laukkanen is the author of The Professionals.  ("Four friends, recent college graduates, caught in a terrible job market, joke about turning to kidnapping to survive. And then, suddenly, it's no joke. For two years, the strategy they devise-quick, efficient, low risk-works like a charm. Until they kidnap the wrong man.")

From his Q & A with The Rap Sheet's J. Kingston Pierce:

J. Kingston Pierce: Did you find it difficult to relate to the motives of your quartet of kidnappers? Could you imagine yourself in their shoes?

Owen Laukkanen: I’m not sure I could ever imagine myself turning to crime to pay the bills, but I did give Pender and his gang a motive to which I could relate. I think there are a lot of young people out there who get out of college and realize the jobs they’d always imagined would be waiting for them aren’t there. They’re taught that a university degree is going to mean financial security, and when they get out into the real world there’s a lot of desperation and disillusionment. What pushes Pender and his gang isn’t unique among members of their generation; their reaction is just a little beyond the norm.

JKP: Having read The Professionals, my guess is you came up with your four abductors before you filled out the rest of your cast. Is that the way it worked?

OL: Pretty much. The book developed ... pretty organically; I created characters on the fly, as the situation warranted. In Pender’s case, that was chapter two, when it came time to give a face to the kidnappers. Certainly, I wrote the first draft with Pender and his gang as my protagonists.

JKP: And then how did you choose your two principal crime-solvers, Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension investigator Kirk Stevens and law school grad-turned-FBI agent Carla Windermere? What...[read on]
Visit Owen Laukkanen's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Eowyn Ivey

Eowyn (pronounced A-o-win) LeMay Ivey was raised in Alaska and continues to live there with her husband and two daughters. Her mother named her after a character from J. R. R. Tolkien's Lord of the Rings.

She works at the independent bookstore Fireside Books where she plays matchmaker between readers and books. The Snow Child is her debut novel. Her short fiction appears in the anthology Cold Flashes, University of Alaska Press 2010, and the North Pacific Rim literary journal Cirque.

From her Q & A with Arifa Akbar at the Independent:

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

It's hard because I have so many but one of my top ones is Louise Erdrich. She has such a poetic voice and her novels look at both what is beautiful and very hard about life.
* * *

Which fictional character most resembles you?

Probably Mary from 'Little House on the Prairie', who always did what she was supposed to. I wish I was more like her sister, Laura, who was mischievous and adventurous.
* * *

Who is your hero/heroine from outside literature?

Fannie Quigley, an Alaskan who was very adventurous. She lived by herself in the 1920s and 1930s, grew her own vegetables, had no fear, and didn't seem to care what anyone thought of what she was doing.
Read the complete Q & A.

Learn more about the author and her work at Eowyn Ivey's website and blog.

Writers Read: Eowyn Ivey.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Elaine Pagels

Elaine Pagels earned a B.A. in history and an M.A. in classical studies at Stanford, and holds a Ph.D. from Harvard University. She is the author of Adam, Eve, and the Serpent; The Origin of Satan; and The Gnostic Gospels, which won the National Book Critics Circle Award and National Book Award. Her new book is Revelations: Visions, Prophecy, and Politics in the Book of Revelation.

From her Q & A with Jana Riess at Publishers Weekly:

How did you become interested in writing about the Book of Revelation?

I never thought I would write about the Book of Revelation. It’s so dense; it’s so complex and puzzling. But then I found I was thinking about a number of themes, one of which has to do with politics and religion. Another part was the question of what is religion. So often religion is identified in terms coined by Christianity as sets of belief. But I had the sense that it not only involves practice, but also emotion and levels of our experience that are almost precognitive. The Book of Revelation is a beautiful case in point, because there’s nothing in it but visions and dreams and nightmares. It helps us understand how religion appeals to people even when it doesn’t seem to make rational sense.

You say in the book that we can begin to understand what John wrote only when we interpret his visions as “wartime literature” in the struggle against Rome.

It is such a strange book, with these terrifying images of...[read on]
Pagels's The Gnostic Gospels is one of Mary Beard's five best books about religious cults in antiquity.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

John Yow

John Yow, a freelance writer based in Acworth, Georgia, is author of The Armchair Birder: Discovering the Secret Lives of Familiar Birds and The Armchair Birder Goes Coastal: The Secret Lives of Birds of the Southeastern Shore.

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

Q: The Armchair Birder has returned! How is this book different from its predecessor, The Armchair Birder?

A: The big difference between this book and its predecessor is that The Armchair Birder Goes Coastal deals not just with different birds but with whole different kinds of birds. The Armchair Birder was about songbirds, the birds of backyard and woodland, whereas the new book is about birds of shore and marsh--wonderful, often strange, birds that youre not going to see hanging around the feeder outside your window.

Q: Why did you choose to focus on the coastal birds?

A: Coastal birds are incredible. Who hasn't watched a brown pelican dive headfirst into the surf from twenty feet high, or been amazed by the beauty and grace of a snowy egret? And the more you find out about these birds, the more fascinating they become. Besides, there are worse things in the world than having to go to the beach to do research.

Q: This time around, you traveled to the birds, journeying from North Carolina's Outer Banks, down the Atlantic coast, and westward along the Gulf of Mexico. In your experience, which place was best for bird watching?

A: Shore and marsh are lovely places, and I was never disappointed. But for diversity of species concentrated in one spot at a particular time, two places stand out:...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, March 26, 2012

Amber Dermont

Amber Dermont is the author of the novel, The Starboard Sea, and the short story collection, Damage Control. A graduate of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, Dermont received her PhD in Literature and Creative Writing from the University of Houston.

From her dialogue with Ali Fisher:

Ali: I would guess that every debut author takes inspiration from other artists, be they authors, musicians, painters, or, say, typographers. Does anyone stick out as a particularly important part of your process?

Amber: Great question! Writers are like magpies thieving for shiny objects, eager for any charm that will help build a better nest. As I began writing THE STARBOARD SEA, I sought inspiration from the painter John Currin and the photographers Tina Barney and Anthony Goicolea. All three of these artists helped me envision the physical and emotional landscapes of the novel: the listless suntanned faces, the splendor of Manhattan penthouses, the caprice of adolescence and the brutal beauty of youth. John Currin often paints society women in sexy, outlandish poses. His portrait of his wife, "Rachel in Fur," served as the muse for my character Brizzey and the redheaded starlet in his masterpiece, "Heartless," helped me bring Diana and Aidan to life. Currin's intimate depiction of two nude sailors, "Fishermen," became a touchstone for Jason's tender and fraught relationship with Cal.

Rachel in Fur CurrinLike Currin, Tina Barney is famous for her arresting images of East Coast aristocracy. "Social Studies," a documentary about Barney's artistic process, reveals the photographer's inscrutable reverence for her wealthy subjects and her commitment to showcasing Upper East Siders in moments of disarming vulnerability. While the characters in Barney's photographs are often stiff and reserved, Anthony Goicolea toys with images of ...[read on]
Read more about The Starboard Sea, and visit Amber Dermont's Facebook page.

The Page 69 Test: The Starboard Sea.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Andrew Motion

Andrew Motion was born in 1952. He began his career teaching English at the University of Hull. He has also been Editor of the Poetry Review, Editorial Director of Chatto & Windus, Poet Laureate, co-founded the Poetry Archive and was knighted for his services to literature in 2009. He is now Professor of Creative Writing at Royal Holloway, University of London. He is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature and lives in London. His latest book is Silver: Return to Treasure Island.

From his Q & A with Boyd Tonkin at the Independent:

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

Edward Thomas... a great favourite all my reading life. Most poets give you a sense of having finished something; but his poems feel as if they still have the electricity running through them.
* * *

Which fictional character most resembles you?

Jim [from Stevenson's Treasure Island] – nature-loving, a bit bashful... ambitious to be in the world, but he doesn't quite know how.
* * *

Who is your hero/heroine from outside literature?

George Mallory, the mountaineer – although I'm sharply aware that many things about him are complicated. He ends up courting death on Everest "because it's there", in the famous phrase, but also because he's driven by a longing for purity exacerbated by the terrible events of the First World War. It's a kind of survivor guilt. I'd like to shake his hand.
Read the complete Q & A.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Lyndsay Faye

Lyndsay Faye is the author of critically acclaimed Dust and Shadow and the newly released The Gods of Gotham.

From her Q & A with novelist Declan Burke:

What crime novel would you most like to have written?

THE BIG SLEEP by Raymond Chandler. “It was about eleven o’clock in the morning, mid October, with the sun not shining and a look of hard wet rain in the clearness of the foothills.” Stare at that sentence for two or three minutes and marvel at its perfection. That book is magical.

What fictional character would you most like to have been?

Dr. John H. Watson. I’d have spent my entire life watching someone be amazing.

Who do you read for guilty pleasures?

I don’t feel much in the way of guilt about my pleasures, truth be told. But I do collect atrociously written Sherlock Holmes pastiches, the more crack and unlikely Victorian celebrity cameos and bodice-ripping covers with floating deerstalker art the better. (Incidentally, I also collect...[read on]
Learn more about the author and her novels at Lyndsay Faye's website.

Writers Read: Lyndsay Faye (May 2009).

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, March 23, 2012

Stacy A. Cordery

Stacy A. Cordery is the author of Juliette Gordon Low: The Remarkable Founder of the Girl Scouts.

From her Q & A with Marjorie Kehe at the Christian Science Monitor:

Q. Why did you choose to write a book about Juliette Gordon Low?

A. I never lost my fascination with her from my earliest moment of awareness in the Brownie circle. I’m sure I had a good troop leader who told us about Juliette Low and I remember being impressed by her deafness and that it did not stand in the way of her creating this organization, participated in by me, my mom, and my grandmother.

On a professional level, my interest stems from being a woman historian. Our mandate is to write women back into history. But here’s a woman, we know nothing about her and she’s created this fundamentally important organization, not just for women, but for the entire nation. So for me, as a historian, how exciting is that, to bring her story to a wider audience?

Q. It seems that one of the most formative events of Low's life was her unhappy marriage. Had she not made an unfortunate choice when it came to picking a life partner, would she ever have founded the Girl Scout movement?

A. The easy argument is that being brokenhearted and having to pick up the pieces of your life brings about the preconditions for an enormous life change. You have to go, "Mwwaaah! What do I do now?" That kind of shakeup does cause people to analyze, reevaluate, to think. On the other hand, one thing I learned from researching Juliette Low's life is that she’s deeply steeped in notions of duty and responsibility and giving back and civic awareness. I don’t think that Juliette Low would have responded as positively to the message of boy scouting and girl guiding had the ground not already been planted with those seeds.

By every standard of her day Juliette Gordon Low at the age of 45 was a failure. She had failed at motherhood (in that she had not become a mother), she had failed at being a wife. But [those seeming failures] also play a role in her saying, “You know, one of the things I like about [scouting] is that there’s a Plan B here for girls." And from the very beginning there was that equal emphasis on...[read on]
Visit Stacy A. Cordery's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Lucy Worsley

Lucy Worsley is Chief Curator at Historic Royal Palaces, the independent charity looking after The Tower of London, Hampton Court Palace, Kensington Palace State Apartments, the Banqueting House in Whitehall, and Kew Palace in Kew Gardens.

Her latest book is If Walls Could Talk, an Intimate History of the Home.

From her Q & A at The New Yorker's book blog:

Early in the book, you say that the “theory that an evil ‘miasma’ carried illness through the ether was terribly important in the history of house-planning.” Can you explain a bit about that theory here, and how it shaped all aspects of homelife?

Prior to the discovery of germs, people thought that diseases were carried invisibly through the air. I think you hear a distant echo of this even today when you hear someone say “don’t sit in the draught, you’ll catch a cold”: well no, you won’t, that’s not how colds are caused, but there’s still a sense that the air can be dangerous. (Even in the nineteen-fifties, my mother wasn’t allowed out of the house by her mother if her hair was wet.) If you believed that the air could make you sick, you would take great care to position your house where there was “good air,” to avoid disease. Where the belief in miasma really caused trouble was in Victorian London, because cholera was spreading through the poor drainage situation. Drains themselves got terrible press because people believed that (a) they weren’t stopping people from getting sick because disease travelled through the air, not infected water supplies, and (b) the bad smells that came out of them were dangerous. In the house of Linley Samborne, the famous cartoonist, in Kensington, London, his wife used to keep the plug in her newly installed washbasin because she was afraid of the “diseases” that might come up from the drains below.
Read the complete Q & A.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

William Boyd

William Boyd's books include A Good Man in Africa, winner of the Whitbread Award and the Somerset Maugham Award; An Ice-Cream War, winner of the John Llewellyn Rhys Prize and shortlisted for the Booker Prize; Brazzaville Beach, winner of the James Tait Black Memorial Prize; Any Human Heart, winner of the Prix Jean Monnet; Restless, winner of the Costa Novel of the Year; and Ordinary Thunderstorms.  His latest novel, Waiting for Sunrise, hits America in April.

From his Q & A with Arifa Akbar at the Independent:

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

My current fan worship is for Anton Chekhov's short stories... In Russia, he is revered as a short story writer who wrote a few plays... As a writer, he is faithless, stoical, humane and honest.
* * *

Which fictional character most resembles you?

I would go back to Chekhov and to Dr Astrov in 'Uncle Vanya'. He is essentially a decent man who is struggling with life's frustrations. Almost anyone can identify with him.
* * *

Who is your hero/heroine from outside literature?

Currently, David Hockney... He is tirelessly inventive and life-enhancing... He's also a nice man, a straightforward Yorkshireman with a very likeable bluntness in him.
Read the complete Q & A.

Learn who Boyd would invite to his dream dinner party.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Hillary Jordan

Hillary Jordan received her BA in English and Political Science from Wellesley College and spent fifteen years working as an advertising copywriter before starting to write fiction. She has an MFA in Creative Writing from Columbia University.

Her latest novel is When She Woke.

From Jordan's Q & A with Jennifer Haupt:

JH: Hannah [the protagonist of When She Woke] is a woman struggling with her own faith as well as the religious values of her culture. What/who was the inspiration for this character?

HJ: Hester Prynne, in part; but Hester's stigmatization by society doesn't cause her to lose or redefine her faith, whereas Hannah's does. I wanted to create a character with as wide an arc as possible, a sheltered, obedient young woman who endures trials so harrowing that they change her utterly and cause her to question everything she has been taught to believe.

JH: Has your own faith been tested in writing this novel? What was the most challenging aspect of developing this story?

HJ: As always, the biggest challenge was inhabiting characters very different from myself. Hannah and her family are evangelical Christians; I'm something else I don't have a name for that involves asking a lot of questions and searching for the divine spark--of compassion, of beauty, of transcendence-within myself and others. Hannah believes that abortion is a crime and an abomination; I believe it's a necessary resort for some women given the society we live in, and that it should be legal, rare and left to each individual to decide for herself. I tried very hard to represent the beliefs of Hannah and her family without...[read on]
Learn more about the author and her work at Hillary Jordan's website and blog.

The Page 69 Test: Mudbound.

My Book, The Movie: Mudbound.

The Page 69 Test: When She Woke.

My Book, The Movie: When She Woke.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, March 19, 2012

Jeffrey Archer

Jeffrey Archer was educated at Oxford University. He has served five years in Britain’s House of Commons and fourteen years in the House of Lords. All of his novels and short story collections---including And Thereby Hangs a Tale, Kane and Abel, Paths of Glory and False Impression ---have been international bestselling books. His latest novel is The Sins of the Father.

From his Q & A with Arifa Akbar at the Independent:

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

RK Narayan. I love his collection of short stories, 'Malguldi Days'. In my view, it's a masterpiece. He will write about a tax collector in a small village and you have to turn to the next page. He has a gift for taking the ordinary and making it very special indeed. A gifted storyteller.
* * *

Which fictional character most resembles you?

Tigger and Sydney Carton [from 'A Tale of Two Cities']. It was Ann Leslie who first called me Tigger and I'm proud to be him.
* * *

Who is your hero/heroine from outside literature?

George Mallory, who in 1924 did, or did not, conquer Mount Everest in hobnail boots and a three-piece suit.
Read the complete Q & A.

See Jeffrey Archer's top ten romans-fleuves.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Michael Mandelbaum

Michael Mandelbaum is the Christian A. Herter Professor and Director of American Foreign Policy at The Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies.

His latest book, co-written with Thomas L. Friedman, is That Used to Be Us: How America Fell Behind in the World It Invented and How We Can Come Back.

From Mandelbaum's Q & A with PulseBerlin:

Professor Mandelbaum, one issue you and Mr. Friedman discuss in your most recent book is the challenge the United States faces in terms of America’s growing deficits and debts. In short, what solutions do you prescribe?

We believe that the United States needs both lower medium- and long-term spending and enhanced revenue to deal adequately with its deficits and debt. The paralysis of the political system, due to the sharp polarization of the two major parties, is responsible for preventing the appropriate measures.

You have said that keeping gas cheap is a failure of political will. Why is this a failure in the States?

Europeans and Japanese tax gasoline far more heavily than the United States does. America and the world would be better off with higher American energy taxes. Taxes are ultimately a political matter.

You’ve shown that America must wean itself from foreign oil. What would be the immediate benefits in terms of foreign policy?

The world won't be able to do without oil entirely for many decades. Reducing American, and therefore global, consumption, however, which is feasible, would reduce the revenues available to oil-producing countries, such as Iran, that oppose Western interests and values.

If a future America is able to wean itself from foreign oil and foreign credit to a considerable extent, what kinds of consequences do you see this having for us in Europe?

Lower American oil consumption would be...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Pam Houston

Pam Houston divides her time between her ranch in Colorado and the University of California at Davis, where she is director of the Creative Writing Program. She has been a frequent contributor to O, The Oprah Magazine, and her writing appears regularly in More and other publications. She in the author of the best-selling Cowboys Are My Weakness.

Houston's new novel is Contents May Have Shifted.

From the author's Q & A with Jennifer Haupt:

Jennifer Haupt: How much of your latest book is autobiographical? Are you the narrator?

Pam Houston: When I was a young writer Tim O'Brien wrote a beautiful book called The Things They Carried in which the main character was named Tim O'Brien. It was filed under fiction, but nowhere on it did it say fiction. It was made of short stories that also hung together in a longer arc that suggested the form of novel. That book made deep artistic sense to me in my formative years.

My books always come from events, people and places I have experienced or at least witnessed, but I also want to be free to mold and shape those events into the most meaningful story, the emotionally truest (as opposed to the most factually accurate) story, which sometimes means merging and shifting and tweaking reality to fit whatever demands the story begins to make on the material.

My editor says, "We want them to think it is Pam, and it is not Pam," and that is exactly how it works in my head too. I couldn't write a character who was "me" even if I wanted to. Language is too limited—it won't sit still, and memory is too shadowy to trust; throw in an average sized dose of pride and shame, and it seems impossible not to fictionalize oneself to a certain extent, even when we are trying with all our might not to. On the other hand this is not a novel in the traditional sense. It is important to me that there was a witnessing presence here, seeing all of these many things, and that that presence is in some sense or another me.

When I wrote my first book, this was the first question everyone asked me. How...[read on]
Learn more about the book and author at Pam Houston's website.

Read--Coffee with a Canine: Pam Houston and Fenton Johnson.

The Page 69 Test: Contents May Have Shifted.

My Book, The Movie: Contents May Have Shifted.

Writers Read: Pam Houston.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, March 16, 2012

Samuel Park

Samuel Park's debut novel is This Burns My Heart.

From his Q & A with Caroline Leavitt:

What part of the creative process makes you want to put knives in your eyes and why?

Writing the ending. The easiest part for me is always writing the beginning. The first forty pages are always a breeze. The middle is also not an issue, although lots of people struggle in the middle. But the ending for me, is always very hard. I rewrote the ending of THIS BURNS MY HEART something like, eight times. I actually wrote three different endings. My editor, agent, and I went back and forth, and it was coming down to the wire. I was rewriting that ending until as late as the night before it was supposed to go to the copyeditor. I think endings are hard because it's hard to write them unconsciously; by then, I know what the book is about, and so it's trickier to shut off the intellect and just create.

If you couldn't be a writer, what would you be doing (and how would you like doing it?)

I would love to be an actor! I really love entertaining people. I did a reading once in Michigan, and afterwards, one of the ladies in the audience asked me, "Have you thought about pursuing the performing arts?" And I thought, "Funny you should ask..." Alas, the world will not have to worry about me unleashing my thespian talents onto it, since I'm quite happy being a writer. Writers are like Bottom, the Weaver in Midsummer Night's Dream: you...[read on]
Learn more about the book and author at Samuel Park's website and blog.

The Page 69 Test: This Burns My Heart.

Writers Read: Samuel Park.

My Book, The Movie: This Burns My Heart.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Tim Hallinan

Tim Hallinan's novels include The Bone Polisher.

From his Q & A with Jochem Steen at Sons of Spade:

Where did you come up with the plot [of The Bone Polisher], what inspired you?

I was arrested for drunk driving in 1994 and sentenced to attend meetings of Alcoholics Anonymous. This curdled my blood. When I thought of Alcoholics Anonymous, I imagined dingy rooms with curling linoleum floors in which a bunch of unshaven, toothless men in raincoats chain-smoked and gummed uninteresting confessions at each other. Sort of like bad film noir, but a lifetime long and without a plot.

But that was not to be. I lived in West Hollywood, which even then had a demographically anomalous number of gay people. When I walked into my first AA meeting, I was expecting a budget production of “The Lower Depths,” but what I got was more like the moment in “The Wizard of Oz” when Dorothy opens the door to reveal that Oz is in color. The room was full of the best-looking group of men I'd ever seen, although some of them were painfully thin. It soon became apparent that quite a few of them were there because they were determined to die sober—AIDS was in full rage then—and others had come to support them. I saw more grace and courage in that first hour than I'd ever seen in such a concentrated period in my entire life. And I learned I was definitely an alcoholic, and that I was in good company.

A lot of the guys in those meetings are gone now. When I started The Bone Polisher, I was thinking of them.

Which scenes did you enjoy writing the most?

The book's climax is a three-chapter-long party, a combination West Hollywood Halloween celebration and a wake. It's got...[read on]
Learn more about the book and author at Timothy Hallinan's website and blog.

The Page 69 Test: A Nail Through the Heart.

The Page 69 Test: The Fourth Watcher.

My Book, The Movie: The Fourth Watcher.

The Page 69 Test: Breathing Water.

Writers Read: Timothy Hallinan.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Lyndsay Faye

Lyndsay Faye is the author of critically acclaimed Dust and Shadow and the newly released The Gods of Gotham.

From her Q & A with crime fiction maven J. Kingston Pierce at Kirkus Reviews:

Dust and Shadow found Sherlock Holmes hunting Jack the Ripper. The Gods of Gotham, while also a historical crime novel, is a creation wholly of your own imagining. Was it harder to compose a book without Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s storytelling template?

Well, I’d never have been able to write a novel in the first place if it hadn’t had a very exact template. I was a double major in English and acting, but I’ve never taken anything resembling a creative-writing course, though I was an editor for the campus literary magazine.

So I’d no idea what I was doing, but Sir Arthur Conan Doyle is one of the greatest storytellers of all time—writing a Sherlock Holmes pastiche essentially gave me an intensive crash course in the basics. And of course, the Ripper crimes actually happened; to an enormous extent the storyline is set. With Dust and Shadow, I was weaving fiction into fact, but what made my great hubris in thinking I could actually complete a novel possible was the fact that the events themselves were linear and inalterable…

To some extent, writing Gods of Gotham was easier because no one was looking over my shoulder, telling me I’d gotten it wrong. But to start with a tabula rasa like that—it’s a terrifying void, creating your own universe. Starting with nothing and conjuring people. It’s the hardest thing I’ve ever done. Holmes and Watson are iconic—you know where they’re at from page one. Gods of Gotham was mythmaking, not retelling, so I had to learn the ropes all over again.

Although Holmes was brilliant, even he faced crime-solving challenges—and that was in the 1880s and later, when there was at least some scientific element to criminal investigations. Your own detective, Timothy Wilde, works in comparative blindness during the 1840s. What research did you do to make the sleuthing practices in The Gods of Gotham accurate?

It was horrendously difficult to dredge up accounts of the day-to-day lives of the first policemen—plenty of people recorded the fact of the NYPD’s formation but not the techniques used. I studied the methods employed by the constables during the Mary Rogers case in 1841, the infamous mystery of the...[read on]
Learn more about the author and her novels at Lyndsay Faye's website.

Writers Read: Lyndsay Faye (May 2009).

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Jonathan Odell

Jonathan Odell is the author of the acclaimed novel The View from Delphi, which deals with the struggle for equality in pre-civil rights Mississippi, his home state. His new novel, The Healing (Nan A. Talese/Doubleday), explores the subversive role that story plays in the healing of an oppressed people.

From Odell's Q & A at the Red Room Library:

Both of your novels investigate the theme of remembering. Why is this important to you?

I used to think that remembering was something that was unchangeable, that you had certain memories and that you carried those memories with you, but through some of the therapy work that I’ve done, I’ve come to believe that how we remember is more important that what we remember. We have choice over how we remember things and most of our lives are dictated by how we see the past. We have a moral responsibility to see the past as truthfully as we can. Sometimes that means changing our minds. Sometimes that means forgiveness. Sometimes that means learning other people’s stories rather than mine, and letting that story contradict my story. So, as a white man when I went back to Mississippi, and I started talking to all these black people who were outside my little white bubble that I lived in as I grew up, and started listening to their stories, I started remembering my own past differently. It was like “Oh, that’s who you were and that’s who I was. I was a little spoiled white supremacist kid and that’s why you reacted the way you did, and that was why you couldn’t stick up for yourselves." Remembering is so powerful. We don’t know who we are, what we’re doing, where we’re going in our lives, until we remember accurately who we were. I think Faulkner said it: “ The past is not dead. It’s not even past” The past isn’t dead, it’s still forming, and we work on it day by day. Memories are very malleable, and we are responsible as adults to take control of our memories, not to just take things down as law from our parents or history books or people we admire. Even though we admire them, they lie to us because they have a different interpretation.

Coming out of the 1960s South, I was raised where Martin Luther King, Jr. was called a communist, where “our black people are happy, it’s the outside ones who are agitators,' where white people were all good-natured, and all those Klan people were just exceptions to the rule. In doing this re-remembering, it’s painful because sometimes you have to go back and emotionally confront the people you love the most because it wasn’t just the evil people telling you this, it was my pastor at church, my parents. The racism that I learned, that was passed to me was toxic, and I...[read on]
Learn more about the book and author at Jonathan Odell's website.

The Page 69 Test: The Healing.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, March 12, 2012

Jonathan Haidt

Jonathan Haidt is a psychologist at the University of Virginia and author of The Righteous Mind: Why Good People Are Divided by Politics and Religion.

From his Q & A with Alison George at Slate:

You've called Republican presidential hopeful Newt Gingrich a very good moral psychologist. What do you mean?

Gingrich is very skilled at manipulating moral sentiments. He understands visceral morality. In the 1990s, he came up with a list of words Republicans should use when talking about Democrats, including "dirty," "sleazy," "cheating." If you talk about "a dirty idea that will bring us down into the gutter," the words are very powerful. Ronald Reagan was a skilled moral psychologist, too. In fact, for the past 30 or 40 years Republicans have known how to talk in ways that push buttons.

Are Democrats less skilled at pushing buttons?

Democrats talk about programs like social security or Medicare but it's not clear to most voters what Democrats' core moral values are.

What should they do differently?

To get folks to vote for you—and go on voting for you—you need to tap into several of their moral foundations. When Barack Obama and the Democrats were changing the health care system, couldn't they at least have put on a show of worrying about cheaters—a concern that is stronger on the right than on the left? Couldn't they have pretended to care about catching all the doctors and lawyers who are in cahoots with patients to rip off the system?

Politics doesn't sound like the typical terrain for a psychologist. How did you become involved?

I began as...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Deborah Feldman

Deborah Feldman was raised in the Hasidic community of Satmar in the Williamsburg section of Brooklyn, New York. She attends Sarah Lawrence College and lives in New York City with her son.

Her new memoir is Unorthodox: The Scandalous Rejection of My Hasidic Roots.

From her Q & A with Tom Blunt at xoJane:

Throughout your story, it’s fascinating to see how even the most private details of a Satmar resident’s life became public knowledge almost instantly, including the details about your wedding night.

There's this Jewish law against gossip, but I don't think anyone in my community loved anything more. It was the one thing that could entertain you or distract you, that wasn't a chore. Especially if you were a woman -- although the men love to gossip just as much, everyone does it all day long. It's the first thing you turn to when you're hanging out with your friends, because it's a safe topic, it's never about you -- you'll only be discussed when you're not there. If someone cheats on their wife or husband, everybody knows; there's just this tacit agreement that no one will call you out on it. Everything you do will eventually become public knowledge, which is why I think a lot of Hasidic people are really afraid to break the big rules: They know there's no way they can keep it a secret. Even if they go over the bridge and change their clothes and end up in a bar somewhere, someone is going to find out.

I was actually in a bar a couple weeks ago on a Friday evening; it was late and I was playing scrabble with friends and listening to jazz, and on my way out I saw three Hasidic men in full regalia, waiting in line to get in. Which is normal -- they try to get in anywhere -- but it was Shabbat, and they weren't supposed to be away from home. They had obviously gone out of the community and gotten into a car and driven there, which is completely against the law. And these are people in the community who are supposed to be very holy and religious! Just as I walked past them, I said in Yiddish that I wished them a good Shabbas, and my friends walking behind me said that the look of panic on the men's faces was indescribable. I run into them everywhere and they look at me and think I'm safe -- that they don't know me -- and when I suddenly speak to them in Yiddish they go crazy wondering "Who are you, and who do you know that I know?"

Is the homosexuality among young Hasidic men that you mention in the book one of those open secrets, or is that tightly guarded?

Everybody knows, it's a big...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Megan Mayhew Bergman

Megan Mayhew Bergman is the author of Birds of a Lesser Paradise: Stories.

From her Q & A with Barbara Chai for the Wall Street Journal's Speakeasy blog:

What was the seed for these stories?

There were a few, but all largely based in a particularly trying time in my life which included the birth of my first daughter, my mother-in-law’s death, my husband graduating from veterinary school, and moving 12 hours north from my home state of North Carolina to rural Vermont. These events happened within a 6-week time frame, and many of the stories grew from anticipating or processing these radical life changes.

How did the collection evolve as you wrote it? Did it come together over the course of many years, or rather quickly?

The collection was written over 3 years. What changed most significantly, for me, was becoming a mother; that shift in selfhood influenced the way I characterized both mothers and daughters; I felt things differently. There was something primal and physical about becoming a mother – never did I feel so aware of my role in the animal kingdom.

There are many female protagonists in these stories. On whom did you model them?

Often my own experiences, or manifestations of my anxiety about becoming a mother, or continuing to populate a planet in decline. There aren’t just female influences here, though. My husband and father-in-law are veterinarians (and my mother-in-law was as well); my dinner table talk gives me ideas for protagonists and inspires many of my stories (and breaks my heart on an almost nightly basis).

I saw myself, and so many women of my generation, trying to...[read on]
Visit Megan Mayhew Bergman's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, March 9, 2012

Matthew Bowman

Matthew Bowman received his Ph.D. in American religious history from Georgetown University in May 2011, and a master’s in American history from the University of Utah. His dissertation, “The Urban Pulpit: Evangelicals and the City in New York, 1880–1930,” was funded by the prestigious Charlotte W. Newcombe Doctoral Dissertation Fellowship. His new book is The Mormon People: The Making of an American Faith.

From his Q & A with Marjorie Kehe at the Christian Science Monitor:

Previously you had mainly studied the evangelical Christian church. Why are you now writing about Mormonism?

[Today we’re seeing] the rise of what has been called “the Mormon moment.” I think it is not the first Mormon moment and will not be the last. But it is one getting more attention.

The Mormon theology – with its narrative of buried golden tablets, a battle between Nephites and Lamanites, Jesus visiting North America – can seem odd to non-Mormons. Is it really more or less unusual than some other religious beliefs?

Mormonism is perceived as being unusual for two reasons. One is that it’s a very small faith. There are about 14 million Mormons in the world. The other thing is that [the church’s teachings] are new. Joseph Smith founded a new religion in the modern world. Smith’s visionary experiences and his scandalous claims to be speaking the words of God in 1840s America seems very freshly provocative to us. But it’s not really so different from Muhammad claiming to speak for God in the desert of Arabia. Or Joan of Arc seeing visions of angels in her farmhouse in medieval France. [Mormonism] has not yet gained the dignity which comes with age.

Mormonism has grown rapidly over the years. Why do converts find it so appealing?

First, Mormonism is...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Nick Arvin

Nick Arvin is the award-winning author of the novel Articles of War, named one of the Best Books of the Year by Esquire, and the story collection In the Electric Eden. A graduate of the Iowa Writers' Workshop, he also holds degrees in mechanical engineering from the University of Michigan and Stanford, and has worked in both automotive and forensic engineering.

His new novel is The Reconstructionist.

From a Q & A at his blog:

When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer?

I’ve always loved to read novels and stories, since I was little. And if for anyone who reads a lot, it’s natural to think about what you would do if you were creating your own stories. The question is whether or not you take the next step and actually try to put those ideas down on paper. Me, I was bored one summer in high school, so I sat down and wrote out a couple of stories. Never looked back.

How long does it take you to write a novel? Short story? (Do you outline?)

When I’m writing, my concern is with getting it right – the sentences, the characters, the plot, and everything else. It’s my opportunity to be a total control freak. I don’t worry too much about speed or quantity, and as a result it takes a long time. I have a novel, The Reconstructionist, [now available], and I spent about six years writing it. My previous novel, Articles of War, took about three years. A short story might take two or three months to get to a point where I think it’s halfway decent, but then over the next few years I will pull it out again to tweak it or rewrite it. I recently published a short story in a literary magazine, and it’s a story I worked on now and again over the last six or seven years. (The story is called “Location,” and it’s about Denver real estate, which is my wife’s field. It’s in a magazine named The Normal School.)

I don’t outline, because when I tried it in the past, but I didn’t find it very helpful. I needed to know where the story was going in my head, and it didn’t seem to make much of a difference whether or not I wrote it down on a piece of paper. But I may try it again the next time I start a novel, because even by my own standards The Reconstructionist seemed to take an awfully long time to write, and I wrote an awful lot of pages for it that didn’t end up in the book. It’d be nice to...[read on]
Visit Nick Arvin's website and blog.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Julianna Baggott

Critically acclaimed, bestselling author Julianna Baggott also writes under the pen names Bridget Asher and N.E. Bode. She has published seventeen books over the last ten years.

After receiving her M.F.A. from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, Baggott published her first novel, Girl Talk, which was a national bestseller and was quickly followed by Boston Globe bestseller The Miss America Family, and then Boston Herald Book Club selection, The Madam, an historical novel based on the life of her grandmother. She co-wrote Which Brings Me to You with Steve Almond, a Kirkus Best Book of 2006.

Baggott's new novel is Pure, her first horror novel, which divides future humans into two classes: those cataclysmically merged with animals, toys, and other people, and the dome-dwelling, authoritarian “Pures.”

From her Q & A with Adam Lipkin at Publishers Weekly:

How did you develop the setting?

I was writing a series of strange, fabulist short stories with characters fused to objects that represented their obsessions. Editors didn’t quite know what to make of them. One of the characters in particular, a young woman with a doll’s head fused to her fist, kept coming back to me. At the same time, I wanted to try my hand at world-building, to create big strange cinematic landscapes. It took a while before I realized that the characters in my literary fabulist short stories belonged in these worlds.

Did present-day class and political strife influence the stratified future you developed?

I’m not the kind of writer who’s able to block out the world around me. I’m mindful of our own haves and have-nots, how our culture often blames and punishes the have-nots. I worry about our precarious economic and political climate. I’m a writer of faith who worries about the intolerance of religion. I look at the past and fear we haven’t learned from it. I believe that humanity is capable of evil as well as great acts of courage and goodness. I have hope. Deep down, I believe in the human spirit, although sometimes...[read on]
Learn more about the book and author at Julianna Baggott's website and blog.

Baggott also writes under the pen names Bridget Asher and N.E. Bode.

The Page 69 Test: Bridget Asher's The Pretend Wife.

The Page 69 Test: Pure.

Writer Read: Julianna Baggott.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Joyce Carol Oates

Joyce Carol Oates is a recipient of the National Book Award and the PEN/Malamud Award for Excellence in Short Fiction. She has written some of the most enduring fiction of our time, including the national bestsellers We Were the Mulvaneys and Blonde (a finalist for the National Book Award and the Pulitzer Prize), and the New York Times bestsellers The Falls (winner of the 2005 Prix Femina Etranger) and The Gravedigger’s Daughter. She is the Roger S. Berlind Distinguished Professor of the Humanities at Princeton University and has been a member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters since 1978. In 2003 she received the Common Wealth Award for Distinguished Service in Literature and The Kenyon Review Award for Literary Achievement, and in 2006 she received the Chicago Tribune Lifetime Achievement Award.

Her recent novels include Little Bird of Heaven, Dear Husband, A Fair Maiden, and Mudwoman.

From her Q & A with Tim Adams for the Observer:

Your new novel, Mudwoman, is about a woman, abandoned on a rubbish tip as a young child, who goes on to become president of an Ivy League university. It has a kind of mythic, subconscious quality; is that how you see it?

Unusually, it did come that way. I was at the Edinburgh festival some years ago and one night I had this dream about a woman who had put way too much make-up on her face and it had dried and cracked and she made a spectacle, a fool of herself. She seemed to be someone at a university with an exalted rank. When I woke up the image seemed quite profound to me. I wrote five or 10 pages very excitedly. I always wanted to go back to find out who the woman was.

One of the themes of the book is that however far we travel, we don't escape our past. Do you have a sense of that yourself?

I do. I grew up in a place not dissimilar from the character in the novel, except that I didn't have her murderous mother. It was a place very different from the one where I live now, which is Princeton, New Jersey. To me the disparity remains a source of wonderment. I think anyone who has made a great leap of class, as many of my generation did, feels something of a yearning for the place and family they came from.

Do you think the need to write is born in those big shifts, the insecurity they bring?

I think all art comes out of conflict. When I write I am always looking for...[read on]
Learn about the book that changed Joyce Carol Oates's life.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, March 5, 2012

William Landay

From a Q & A with William Landay about his new novel, Defending Jacob:

Andy Barber, the narrator and protagonist in your book, is a guy who went to Yale and to work in a DA's office. You also attended Yale before becoming a DA. Any veiled autobiography here?

Well, certainly I drew on aspects of my own life as I was creating Andy, but there's no "autobiography." I never thought of Andy as a stand-in for myself, even when writing in his voice in first person — when I was pretending to be him. Actually, Andy began as an amalgam of several respected, soft-spoken, older trial lawyers whom I met during my years as an assistant D.A. But a funny thing happens as you write: you begin with a real-life model for a character, but you change him a little, then a little more, and at some point the model falls away and the character emerges as his own person. It's a mysterious fission. In the end, Andy did not resemble any of the lawyers I had in mind when I started.

But Andy is my creation and inevitably aspects of him reflect me, probably in ways more intimate than just biography. For all his fluency in the courtroom, he's essentially an introvert, as I am. He is doggedly loyal, especially in his determination not to abandon his son. Does that make him a good father or a good person? I don't know. Readers will have to decide for themselves. But I like him for it. Wouldn't we all like to think our dads (or spouses or friends) would stand by us, no matter what?

Jacob Barber, the accused murderer in your book, is a teenager, an 8th grader who is being tried as an adult. Are 8th graders currently tried this way in Massachusetts? And why that age? What makes a teenager a rich protagonist?

Yes, this is the current law. In Massachusetts, all defendants age 14 or older accused of first-degree murder are tried as adults, and if convicted they receive a mandatory sentence of life without parole.

The trial sequence in Defending Jacob is rendered about as accurately as good storytelling allows. Obviously...[read on]
Visit William Landay's website and blog.

Writers Read: William Landay (May 2007).

The Page 69 Test: The Strangler.

The Page 69 Test: Defending Jacob.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Carol Anshaw

Carol Anshaw is the author of the novels Seven Moves, Aquamarine, Lucky in the Corner, and the newly released Carry the One. She has won the Carl Sandburg, Society of Midland Authors, and Ferro-Grumley awards for fiction, and has been a finalist for the Lambda Literary Award three times.

From her Q & A with Sarah Terez Rosenblum for "Our Town" blog at the Chicago Sun-Times:

OT: Your new book, Carry the One spans nearly thirty years. It’s the story of an accident’s aftermath and its ripple effect.

CA I don’t know if I’ve ever told you this, but I started with these three siblings maybe twenty years ago. I wrote about them —two [stories] appeared in Best American-- but I didn’t know how the stories were going to hook up.

OT That might surprise some people who think you need to write linearly.

CA Oh, no. I never write in a linear way. And I tell students not to. You can only know so much about a book when you first start. I try to get all that down, all that’s available to me. And then see what I need. See what I don’t have. If I just started on page one and went to page two-fifty that would be a deadly process.

OT There’s this scientist who talks about using fractals to write a novel, something like that. He calls it the Snowflake Method. Inherent in what he tells people is this idea that if you rewrite you’re wasting time. So he wants you to outline so much that your book is almost there before you begin to write.

CA Oh that sounds...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Michael H. Hunt & Steven I. Levine

Michael H. Hunt and Steven I. Levine are the authors of a new book, Arc of Empire: America's Wars in Asia from the Philippines to Vietnam.

From their Q & A at the University of North Carolina Press website:

Q: How, as co-authors, did you come upon Arc of Empire's thesis that America's four wars in Asia were actually phases in a sustained U.S. bid for regional dominance?

A: As academic workhorses each of us has been around the track quite a few times. From our teaching and writing over several decades, we got to know the terrain of East Asia pretty well, including its wars. Steve was up on World War II, the Chinese civil war, and Korea; Michael had a longstanding interest in Korea and Vietnam as well how the Philippines war foreshadowed Vietnam. We first co-authored an essay on Asian revolutions and U.S. Cold War policy that was published in 1990 and subsequently reprinted in anthologies. As friends as well as colleagues, we began to discuss pooling our knowledge and finally decided to test our ideas in courses we would teach together at UNC. We started with a small graduate seminar and then offered an undergraduate course twice. Our students really helped us sharpen our perspective and refine our ideas.

Q: In your introduction, you acknowledge that the use of the term empire has long evoked anxiety among Americans debating their role in the world. Why do you choose to give prominence to what might be considered a loaded term?

A: Because it fits our cases. We're not trying to be provocative just to goad our readers. What bothered us was the semantic confusion that has surrounded "empire." Wading into the historical literature convinced us that empire is a perfectly good term if it's used in a clear, grounded way. Once we had a historically based definition, we analyzed U.S. involvement in Asia and concluded that the definition nicely fits the case. There's really no reason to treat it as a taboo when applied to our own country. Moreover, using it invites illuminating comparisons between the United States and other countries with the experience of empire.

Q: How have your students responded to the idea that the four wars considered--in the Philippines, against Japan, in Korea, and in Vietnam--were not separate and unconnected?

A: Most students think...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, March 2, 2012

Reggie Nadelson

Blood Count, Reggie Nadelson's ninth Artie Cohen novel, "finds the Russian-born NYPD detective investigating the death of an ailing Russian woman, one of the few white occupants of a once-grand apartment block in Harlem. Cohen is alerted to the death by an ex-girlfriend who lives there, but when he arrives there's a strange air of something having been covered up."

From the author's Q & A at the Guardian:

How did you come to write Blood Count?

Most of my Artie Cohen novels are set in New York, usually parts of the city on the fringe, or places I want to learn about. Harlem – the so-called "new" Harlem – is in the midst of a second Renaissance, and I was curious about it. It also allowed me to indulge one of my great pleasures – jazz. Finally, I thought it would be fun to set a very enclosed "Agatha Christie" sort of book in New York where instead of a village full of characters you'd have a grand old apartment building, a sort of vertical village.

What was most difficult about it?

Writing. There was a wonderful American sports writer who once said "writing is easy, you just go to the typewriter and slit a vein" or something to that effect.

Oh, and being home writing and trying to remember that you're supposed to eat just one cookie from the box. But, as a food writer friend of mine once said, "What kind of person ever eats one cookie?!"

What did you most enjoy?

Learning my way around...[read on]
See Reggie Nadelson's top ten jazz books.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Liz Moore

Jessica Soffer interviewed Liz Moore for Tottenville Review about Moore's new novel, Heft. The start of the Q & A:


You’re a musician, as well as a writer. In your first book, The Words of Every Song, music was at the forefront. But there are more subtle ways, of course, for music to feature into a text. What role does music play in your writing, in Heft?


You’re a gentleman, as well as a scholar. I miss music. My guitar is sitting in my basement. I have nightmares sometimes that it has cracked in five places because it’s dry down there due to the furnace, but I’m too scared to check on it.

Maybe one day I’ll go back to music and get up a lot of courage and energy and play shows again. For the time being, I am content to be a writer and teacher—but yes, my history of playing music has infected my approach to both.

Writing-wise: I suppose every writer does this to a certain extent, but I am obsessed with the rhythm of my sentences—especially the rhythm of their endings. Sometimes I’ll get the cadence of a sentence in my ear before the words have come; when this happens, I find myself actively searching for words with the required number of syllables and the required stress pattern. For example, the opening sentence of Heft is “The first thing you must know about me is that I am colossally fat.” I like this sentence because of the number of short dull monotonous words at its start, none of which is stressed, followed by the long word “colossally,” followed by the thud of “FAT.” It could not be “The first thing you must know about me is that I am very fat,” nor could it be “The first thing you must know about me is that I am colossally obese.”

Teaching-wise: at times I feel like I’m performing, as I did when I played music. Standing in front of a group of people and trying to get them to pay attention and trying to convey something that’s important to you…there’s a similarity, there. Maybe my years of honing my stage banter have helped me in some way. Maybe not.


Is that how your characters evolve from you, take on a life of their own—through the music of their voices?


I suppose...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue