Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Sonia Shah

Sonia Shah is the author of Pandemic: Tracking Contagions, from Cholera to Ebola and Beyond.

From her Q & A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: You write that "for most of the twentieth century, the conventional wisdom...was that developed societies had vanquished infectious diseases for good." What were the key factors leading to the discrediting of this belief?

A: Probably HIV, which first came to national attention in the early 1980s. It came along with a flurry of other novel pathogens that routed our medications: new forms of influenza, coronaviruses like SARS, Ebola and others.

Q: In the book, you note, "Many experts believe that a cholera-like pandemic looms." Why did you focus much of the book on cholera, and why do many experts believe a similar pandemic will arise?

A: Only a handful of pathogens have been able to cause pandemics in modern times. Among them, cholera stands alone--it has caused no fewer than seven global pandemics, and the latest one is going on right now.

The conditions that allowed cholera to cause pandemics--human invasion of wildlife habitat, urbanization, acceleration of global trade and travel, weakening of public protections--are...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, May 30, 2016

Stephanie Danler

Stephanie Danler's new novel is Sweetbitter.

From the transcript of her interview with NPR's Rachel Martin:

MARTIN: So let's talk about sex.

DANLER: Yeah, I'd love to.

MARTIN: Let's (laughter).

DANLER: I love to write about it, I love to talk about it.

MARTIN: So talk to me about how you figured out technically how to write a good literary sex scene.

DANLER: Oh my God, I love that question. So yes, sex is the undercurrent of the whole book because what we're really investigating are Tess' appetites across the board and also her becoming more of a woman, this transition from girlhood to womanhood. And sex is a big part of that - or figuring out lust and desire.

So I knew I wanted - it was essential to the novel that I write a sex scene. And you have all of these technical choices as a writer, which is, am I going to fade to black? What kind of language am I going to use? Like, how far am I going to go with this? And there were drafts in which I went much further.

MARTIN: Where are those?

DANLER: Oh, God.


DANLER: There'll be another novel down the line. You'll know. You'll know when you see them. And then I went back and I thought, what is true of Tess' voice? This entire book is in the first person. You have this 22-year-old girl. And what is true of her voice? What matches her experience? Sometimes...[read on]
Visit Stephanie Danler's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, May 29, 2016

Elizabeth Wein

Elizabeth Wein was born in New York City, grew up abroad, and currently lives in Scotland with her husband and two children. She is an avid flyer of small planes. She also holds a PhD in Folklore from the University of Pennsylvania. Her books include the acclaimed Code Name Verity, Rose Under Fire, and Black Dove, White Raven.

From her Q & A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: You write, "I see myself as slipping plausible characters and situations into a historical setting without changing the actual facts--a bit like a discreet time traveler." As you wrote this particular book, what did you see as the right blend of the historical and the fictional?

A: Actually, the most fictional thing about the book is the characters and their home. It’s 1930. Take the most unlikely American family possible: a black woman and a white woman and their children – give them the most unlikely of jobs, aerial photography – and take them to the most unlikely of places, the invented village of Tazma Meda in the Ethiopian highlands. It wouldn’t have been impossible, but it would have been unlikely.

I loved developing the unlikely family. I based Rhoda and Delia, the grown-ups, on my mother and her best friend in Jamaica, where we lived for three years when I was in elementary school. My mother Carol and her friend Rona raised their babies together for a couple of years, sharing clothes and chores, and often plunking their children into the same baby buggy or playpen.

I loved figuring out a plausible back-story for these two women that would allow them to work and...[read on]
Visit Elizabeth Wein's website and blog.

The Page 69 Test: Black Dove, White Raven.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, May 28, 2016

Viet Thanh Nguyen

Viet Thanh Nguyen won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction for his novel, The Sympathizer. From the transcript of his interview with Terry Gross:

GROSS: Viet Thanh Nguyen, welcome to FRESH AIR. Why did you want to write this novel from the point of view of a spy?

VIET THANH NGUYEN: Well, when my agent told me I should write a novel, the first thing that came to me was a spy novel and partly it was because it's a genre that I really enjoy and I wanted to write a novel that was actually entertaining, that people would actually want to read because I knew that I would also be dealing with a lot of very serious political and literary matters. And then the other inspiration for that was that there really were spies in South Vietnam that rose to the very highest ranks of the South Vietnamese bureaucracy and military.

And there was a very famous spy named Pham Xuan An who was so important that during his time as a mole he was promoted to a major general by the North Vietnamese. And he was friends with people like David Halberstam and all the important American journalists. And they had no idea that he was a communist spy who had studied in the United States. So all these factors were in my mind.

GROSS: The war in Vietnam was central to your whole family's story. Your parents are from the north of Vietnam and fled to the South in the mid-50s when the country was divided. They were teenagers then. Why did they choose to leave North Vietnam and flee to the South?

NGUYEN: Well, they were part of a great migration of about 800,000 North Vietnamese Catholics who had been persuaded by their parish priests that the communists were going to massacre them or at the very least persecute them. And that idea...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, May 27, 2016

Brendan Jones

Raised in Philadelphia, Brendan Jones took the Greyhound west at the age of 19, ending up in Sitka, Alaska. He graduated from Oxford University, where he boxed for the Blues team, then returned to Alaska to commercial fish. He was a general contractor for seven years in Philadelphia, before heading back to Sitka, where he now lives, commercial fishing and renovating a WWII tugboat.

Jones's new novel is The Alaskan Laundry.

From his Q & A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: Do you think this novel could have been set somewhere other than Alaska, and how important is setting to you in your writing?

A: Alaska represents both end of the line, and land of new beginnings. It is a gateway that some don’t quite step through. Each country (even state) has similar lands where the imagination plays strongest. Bretagne in France, Galicia in Spain, Scotland in Great Britain, Siberia in Russia, Inner Mongolia, and so forth.

So this novel could have been set elsewhere, but not in the United States. If the novel played out in Montana, I couldn’t have taken advantage of...[read on]
Visit Brendan Jones's website.

Writers Read: Brendan Jones.

My Book, The Movie: The Alaskan Laundry.

Coffee with a Canine: Brendan Jones & Colorado.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Jeremy Whitley

Jeremy Whitley is a comic book writer and artist, perhaps best known as the creator of the series Princeless. From his Q & A with EmbraceRace co-founder Melissa Giraud:

Melissa: Thanks so much for writing the Princeless series! What were you trying to do in regard to race with the story?

Jeremy: In part, I wanted my daughter to be able to see a character that looked like her in the story. I’m white, my wife is black, and my daughter is mixed race. There’s already not a lot of representation in comics for girls of color.

Also, I remember my wife and I being kind of excited about “The Princess and The Frog” [Disney’s 2009 movie featuring a black princess], and then actually watching it and being hit with, Whoa, this isn’t quite what I was looking for!

And that’s become a trend with me. Why I write the books I write is I find that I’m looking for something and it doesn’t seem to exist. I start working on it and sometimes it turns into a thing, sometimes it doesn’t. In the case of Princeless, it’s proven to be something that a lot of other people were looking for as well.

Melissa: Why start with Princesses at all; why not a superhero?

Jeremy: A lot of kids like princess stories, they’re looking for them whether that’s what we want them to read or not. Those kids are bound to read about princesses, they want to read about princesses. So starting with a princess and ...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Pamela Rotner Sakamoto

Pamela Rotner Sakamoto's new book is Midnight in Broad Daylight: A Japanese American Family Caught Between Two Worlds.

From her Q & A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: At what point did you decide to write the story of the Fukuhara family, and how long did it take to write and research the book?

A: I met Harry [the son who fought on the American side] in Tokyo in 1994. He eventually told me his story, over four years. He was in San Jose and I was in Tokyo; he would go to Tokyo several times a year, and he would call me to have lunch. Slowly, the story would trickle out.

Part of it may be that he was coming to terms with telling a story he hadn’t told. He was a career military intelligence colonel and wanted to be sure he could tell his story to someone he could trust.

I was doing Holocaust Museum work at the time. I was so fascinated—I was an East Coast Jewish girl raised in the Boston area, and I was never exposed to the [Japanese-American] internment at school.

I said, in 1998, Harry, this would be an important story on multiple levels: Japanese-American relations, the Japanese-American story, your generation, your own legacy for your family….I think you should be thinking about a book…

Harry was the patriarch of the surviving family. They were on...[read on]
Visit Pamela Rotner Sakamoto's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Joe Hill

Joe Hill's latest novel is The Fireman.

From the transcript of his interview with NPR's Rachel Martin:

RACHEL MARTIN, HOST: Novelist Joe Hill has a pronouncement to make.

JOE HILL: The world is really divided into two kinds of people - people who adore plague novels and wimps.

MARTIN: Joe Hill's newest apocalyptic plague novel puts me firmly in the first camp. Here's the premise. A highly contagious pathogen is burning across the country. It's known as Dragonscale for the lovely black and gold marks that appear on your body. Eventually, though, you'll burst into flames.

The heroine of the book is a school nurse named Harper who is infected and pregnant. She is determined, however, to survive her pregnancy. And she knows there's a chance the baby will be born healthy. I ask Joe what it was about Harper that hooked him.

HILL: You know, I'm not sure exactly why I settled on her. I know I wanted to write about pregnancy. I do think it's kind of interesting, the idea of a life forming inside you and hijacking your body's biology to serve its own ends. And when I began to think about the Dragonscale as this kind of living organism painted on your skin that's making use of your biology, I saw a connection to that.

So I sort of wanted to explore almost the way this one woman's body has become a battleground between two opposing forces. The other thing is is Harper is very sunny and optimistic. And so many end of the world stories are grim and bleak, which is totally understandable 'cause it's sort of a grim subject.

But I like the idea of this plague as an unstoppable force pouring over the nation. And I sort of had this picture of Harper as...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, May 23, 2016

David Satter

David Satter's new book is The Less You Know, The Better You Sleep: Russia's Road to Terror and Dictatorship under Yeltsin and Putin. From his Q & A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: You begin the book with an examination of the 1999 apartment bombings in Russia. Why did you choose to start with this?

A: The apartment bombings were actually the most important event in Russian history in the last 25 years. They aren’t understood as such because many in the West are not willing to face the implications…

It’s the greatest political provocation since the burning of the Reichstag. [Russian leader Vladimir] Putin would have had no chance at [taking over] were it not for this attack. Putin was able to depict himself as a savior…

Q: Why would you say people in the West are unwilling to face it?

A: It’s a difficult thing for Western people to imagine. We are accustomed to elections with dirty tricks, or where one candidate will show a nasty picture of another’s wife, or where a candidate will call another nasty names.

But it doesn’t...[read on]
The Page 99 Test: It Was a Long Time Ago, and It Never Happened Anyway.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Chris Cleave

Chris Cleave's latest novel is Everyone Brave If Forgiven.

From his interview with NPR's Lynn Neary:

LYNN NEARY, HOST: Writer Chris Cleave had a false start on the way to his latest novel. Intrigued by his grandfather's World War II experience on Malta, he set out to write a book about Randolph Churchill's visit to the besieged island. But then Cleave realized his own grandfather was much more interesting, so were his grandmothers, who were back in London coping with the Blitz. So in the end, Cleave's World War II novel, "Everyone Brave Is Forgiven," was inspired by his own family's wartime experiences. Chris Cleave joins us now to talk about the book. So good to have you with us.

CHRIS CLEAVE: Hello, Lynn. Thank you for having me.

NEARY: Did your grandparents talk to you much about their war experiences?

CLEAVE: The amazing thing is that they didn't, and not until I asked. I think it's typical of that generation, that they suffered a lot, they endured a lot, they did stuff that we would think of as incredibly brave and then they kept quiet about it, sometimes for 40 or 50 years. That was just part of their makeup. And they wouldn't talk until I went and asked them. And at that point, my grandfather...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, May 21, 2016

Veronica Roth

Veronica Roth's new book is Carve the Mark.

From her Q & A at the Guardian:

What was your source of inspiration that led you to create your new book Carve the Mark?

Carve the Mark started — many years ago! — as a story about a young man who was taken from his family and comes back to them a different person than the one they knew. I was curious about how his family’s expectations would weigh on him, and whether he would ever find a way to fit with them again. In its current form, Carve the Mark doesn’t tell that story exactly — I found myself drawn to different things as I wrote and revised — but there was something about changing because you have to, but not being sure if you’re changing for the better, that really fascinated me. As with any book, particularly a sci-fi/fantasy book, there were many sources of inspiration, but...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, May 20, 2016

Rita Gabis

Rita Gabis is the author of A Guest at the Shooters' Banquet: My Grandfather's SS Past, My Jewish Family, A Search for the Truth.

From her Q & A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: Why did you decide to write A Guest at the Shooters' Banquet, and as you were working on it, how did you separate your roles as author and family member?

A: When I first found out my grandfather was a collaborator of some sort--I didn’t know the extent for some time--the first thought I had was to find out if he was complicit in the death of anyone, had he hurt anyone. I had no idea I was going to write a book about it.

Six months into the research, when I began finding a paper trail [on] his story as a collaborator, [I saw that] what occurred in the border region of Lithuania had a meaning beyond the family story…

I knew I was going to do original research, and my aim was to write a book that would be useful for someone outside the field, who wouldn’t normally be going to the archives…but would be interested in the topic.

Then, in terms of separating the writer and the family member, I spent five years going back and forth between Eastern Europe and Israel. I also spent time in Poland and Germany. I spent time interviewing people. When I was in the field, it was easy to put that [writer] hat on.

At each meeting with interviewees, I quickly identified myself as being the product of a blended family, and explained what initiated the project, and there was a moment when I held my breath and [expected the person] would ask me to leave, but...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Karen Halvorsen Schreck

Karen Halvorsen Schreck is the author of the historical novel Sing For Me, which was praised in a Publishers Weekly starred review. She received her doctorate in English and Creative Writing from the University of Illinois at Chicago, and now teaches writing and literature.

Halvorsen Schreck's new novel is Broken Ground.

From the author's Q & A with Jennifer S. Brown at The Debutante Ball:

Talk about one book that made an impact on you.

I had a fabulous mentor in high school—an English teacher called “Mr. M.” Looking back now, I’d have to say he was fearless. By this I mean: he wasn’t afraid to assign books that drew complaints from his students’ parents (this was a small, private, conservative, faith-based school) and got him into hot water with the administration. “You’ve got to look at the world outside of your Evangelical shoebox.” That’s what Mr. M always said. And if we students weren’t inclined to do so on our own, he’d help us along. For instance: the spring of my junior he assigned A GOOD MAN IS HARD TO FIND AND OTHER STORIES, by Flannery O’Connor. We didn’t just read one or two of O’Connor’s grotesque, morbidly funny, revelatory stories. We read the WHOLE DAMN COLLECTION. I became steeped in her graphic, gorgeous, apocalyptic world of peacocks and pigs, bible salesmen and BBQs, Confederate soldiers and serial killers. And let me tell you: the book rocked my world. I had never read anything like it—such twists and turns of plot and meaning, characters almost cartoon-like in their rendering, and yet utterly believable to me. I understood something I’d never even thought about before, concerning diversity in North American literature—O’Conner and her fiction were Southern, no bones about it, and if she was that, down to her very last word in every sentence, that meant that there were others out there who were informed by their place of origin, not to mention their race, class, culture, and religion ... heck, given O’Conner’s painful struggle with lupus, perhaps even their physicality. And she was a woman. She was a woman! Yet she was not afraid to get dirty or be ugly if that’s what her story demanded. After that, I read...[read on]
Visit Karen Halvorsen Schreck's website.

My Book, The Movie: Broken Ground.

Writers Read: Karen Halvorsen Schreck.

The Page 69 Test: Broken Ground.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Melanie Conklin

Melanie Conklin is the author of Counting Thyme.

From her Q & A with Caroline Starr Rose at Classroom Connections:

Please tell us about your book.

Counting Thyme is the story of Thyme Owens, an eleven-year-old girl whose family moves across the country for her little brother’s cancer treatment. It’s a story about family, friendship, and finding your place in the world when life throws you a curveball.

What inspired you to write this story?

The idea for this story came to me after I read a bunch of middle grade books with protagonists who were facing serious illnesses. I wondered what it would be like to be the sibling of a gravely ill child. I wondered how the conflicts at home would influence the conflicts at school. I thought it would be especially tough if you were just starting middle school, with all of the social pressures involved at that time in life. Thyme’s story grew from there!

Could you share with readers how you conducted your research or share a few interesting tidbits you learned while researching?

In my past life as...[read on]
Visit Melanie Conklin's website, Twitter perch, and watch the Counting Thyme book trailer.

The Page 69 Test: Counting Thyme.

Writers Read: Melanie Conklin.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Michele Wucker

Michele Wucker is the author of The Gray Rhino: How to Recognize and Act on the Obvious Dangers We Ignore. From her Q & A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: You define a Gray Rhino as “a highly probable, high-impact threat: something we ought to see coming, like a two-ton rhinoceros aiming its horn in our direction and preparing to charge.” How did you come up with the concept for this book?

A: It started out with a question—what makes the difference between the people who see a problem coming and do something, and others who don’t.

[I looked at] the Argentine debt crisis and the Greek debt crisis. When Argentina was in a debt spiral, I was a financial journalist. I wrote about a proposal for Argentina to write down a third of what it owed…nothing happened to that proposal, and nine months later, Argentina defaulted, and investors lost 70 percent instead of 30 percent.

Ten years later you have Greece. The numbers were similar, debt was up, GDP and reserves were down, the same dynamic was in play. I wrote a paper for the New America Foundation bringing up the Argentina example, saying Greece was an opportunity to learn from that mistake.

When I published about the Argentina proposal, bankers called me and said, This needs to happen. I needed to ask the question why Greece ended up being able to restructure and Argentina didn’t. I was looking for a way to describe it that was accessible.

The image I came up with was a big rhino…I didn’t know anything about rhinos! [I learned that] white rhinos are not white, and black rhinos are not black. They’re all gray. It’s obvious, but...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, May 16, 2016

Rufi Thorpe

Rufi Thorpe's new novel is Dear Fang, with Love. From her Q & A at the publisher's website:

Q: Can you describe your visit to Lithuania, and what about the country stuck with you enough to set DEAR FANG, WITH LOVE there?

A: I went to Lithuania as part of a writing program with Summer Literary Seminars, run by Mikhail Iossel. I had absolutely zero knowledge or understanding of Lithuania, so I just sort of arrived in a haunted city in the middle of a forest. Lithuania, and Vilnius in particular, is an exceptionally strange place and has a certain reputation and self-image as a pagan, unearthly, magic place. The history is very complicated, the cultural roots are both tangled and deep, the violence and political oppression the country has seen are a bit beyond the American imagination. And there I was, just sort of stumbling through it, thinking, “Why didn’t I know about all this?” I fell in love with it. I suppose setting a book there was just an excuse to learn more about it, a refusal to let the trip end when after a few weeks I had to return to the US.

Q: You undoubtedly have a strong connection to California–you were raised there, much of your first book took place in Corona del Mar and now you are raising your family there. What was it like to write about an entirely new place in this book?

A: In a lot of ways, even though the action of the book takes place almost entirely in Vilnius, I think it is still secretly a book about California, or at least about...[read on]
Visit Rufi Thorpe's website.

Writers Read: Rufi Thorpe (July 2014).

The Page 69 Test: The Girls from Corona del Mar.

My Book, The Movie: The Girls from Corona del Mar.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Kate Hilton

Kate Hilton is the author of The Hole in the Middle and Just Like Family (2017). She also co-authors a non-fiction blog, The Pen Pal Project. Before turning to fiction, Hilton worked in law, higher education, public relations and major gift fundraising. She has an English degree from McGill University and a Law degree from the University of Toronto. She is a working mother, a community volunteer, a voracious reader and a pretty decent cook. Hilton lives with her family in Toronto, where she is working on her third novel.

From Hilton's Q & A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: You've said your character Lil emerged first as you started working on the book. How would you say she and your main character, Sophie, represent their respective generations of women?

A: I think that Sophie is quite typical of her generation of working women. In writing about her, and the stress that she experiences in her multiple roles as mother, wife, daughter, friend, boss, and employee, I wanted to capture something universal about Generation X.

In particular, I was interested in how the promise of feminism had been realized, or not, for women in my age group. Many women my age report incredible pressure to excel on all fronts, and there are a number of excellent non-fiction books that discuss this phenomenon, such as Overwhelmed by Brigid Schulte. I wanted to explore these conflicts in fiction, through one representative woman (Sophie).

Lil Parker, on the other hand, doesn’t feel the same pressure to conform to the social norms of her generation. The death of her first husband, and her inheritance, has given her freedoms that few other women her age have had. This freedom, in turn, has given her an outsider’s perspective that allows her to comment on Sophie’s efforts to conform to a modern definition of perfect…[read on]
Visit Kate Hilton's website, Facebook page, and Twitter perch.

Writers Read: Kate Hilton.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, May 14, 2016

Sophie Kinsella

Sophie Kinsella is best known for her chick lit "Shopaholic" books. Her new YA novel is Finding Audrey. From the author's Q & A with Guardian site member Wanderer378:

In Finding Audrey, Audrey has to make a documentary for Dr Sarah. If you made a documentary about your life, what would it contain?

It would feature a lot of scenes where I sit in coffee shops, apparently doing nothing at all, oblivious of anything else, then scribble down some dialogue. It would also have lots of scenes of me racing around the house looking for my keys!

Are your characters inspired by anyone you meet in real life?

I think I’d be lying if I said I’d completely made up the Turner family! All authors take inspiration from the people who are around them – even sitting in coffee shops you overhear things you want to put in your novels. Strangers, your family, your friends and you end up in your characters – there’s a characteristic in Audrey’s mum, Anne – a desire to keep her family together - that I definitely share with her.

In Finding Audrey, or any other of your books, which character do you mostly connect with?

Well, in Finding Audrey, I was surprised to find...[read on]
See: Sophie Kinsella's six best books.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, May 13, 2016

Carrie Brown

Carrie Brown's latest novel is The Stargazer's Sister.

From her Q & A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: Why did you decide to write a novel about Caroline Herschel, and what did you see as the right balance between the historic and the fictional?

A: My introduction to the Herschels, born 12 years apart in the late 1700s in what is now northern Germany, came in the most glancing way: a three-minute radio broadcast from the program StarDate, produced by the McDonald Observatory in Austin, Texas.

I happened to catch the program one morning driving my kids to school and learned that William had been assisted throughout his extraordinary career as an astronomer by his younger sister, Caroline: she was less than five feet tall, her face scarred by smallpox, and she had little formal education.

When she was 22 years old, William rescued her from what likely would have been the sad fate of a spinster daughter at her mother’s beck and call and brought her to England to help him.

That three-minute radio program, with its poignant information about Caroline – standing at her brother’s side night after night, even in the coldest weather, feeding him from her hand, so that he would not be required to move his eye from the eyepiece of the telescope -- was for me the equivalent of what Nabokov called the “divine detail,” or what Henry James called the “rich principle of the note.”

Out of such details a whole world -- no matter how far vanished -- might be built or restored.

As the writer Thomas Mallon has said, in the term “historical fiction,” nouns always trump adjectives.

I set out with The Stargazer’s Sister to write a novel, not a biography – I’d be no good at the latter, frankly; I enjoy the imaginative exercise and freedom of a novel -- and in writing the story I made various changes, large and small, to the historical record, trying to tell the story artfully. (V.S. Naipaul famously said, “It’s all in the art; you get no credit for living.”)

Still, though, despite changing dates, conflating or inventing secondary characters, omitting events and imagining others, I wanted to stay close to what felt to me like the heart of Caroline’s life, which was that serving as her brother’s assistant was the best thing that could ever have happened to her … but that it was not without emotional complications for her.

Sometimes I made changes to the historical record for purposes of narrative design, an impulse to shape the material for purposes other than historical accuracy.

Yet for all the changes – omissions and inventions – I...[read on]
Learn more about the book and author at Carrie Brown's website.

My Book, The Movie: The Last First Day.

The Page 69 Test: The Last First Day.

Writers Read: Carrie Brown (October 2013).

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Richard Russo

Richard Russo's new novel is Everybody's Fool. From the transcript of his Fresh Air interview with Terry Gross:

GROSS: ... I want to ask you about the title of your new book "Everybody's Fool." So it's a sequel to "Nobody's Fool." So you knew you wanted to call this "Everybody's Fool" and how, like, title resonates. And you had to have a reason to call it that.

And so you actually Raymer, the police chief, saying at some point I'm so tired of being everybody's fool. Did you know you had to give some character that line (laughter) in order to have the title that you needed?

RUSSO: Well, it was nice when it turned up. I had the opportunity to do so. But I'm sitting here in the studio, of course, looking at the cover of my book which says "Everybody's Fool." And there's a name right below that, and it's Richard Russo.


RUSSO: So I leave you to contemplate what may or may not be an irony (laughter) here. I only mention it because it occurred to me.

GROSS: That's hilarious. I hadn't thought of that.

RUSSO: (Laughter).

GROSS: On that note...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Andrew Nagorski

Andrew Nagorski's new book is The Nazi Hunters.

From his Q & A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: Why did you decide to focus on the Nazi hunters, and how did you research the book?

A: As a foreign correspondent, I often found myself examining the legacy of the war and the Holocaust. After the Nuremberg and Dachau trials, the victors in World War II were quick to turn their attention to the Cold War and largely lost interest in bringing Nazi criminals to justice.

Defying that trend, a relatively small group of men and women known as Nazi hunters dedicated their lives to making sure that there was some measure of justice—and fought against forgetting.

The hunted, those who participated in mass murder, are always a subject of morbid fascination. But I feel strongly that the hunters also deserve our attention. They are the ones who made Germans and so many others acknowledge and deal with their recent past, which is the first step towards learning the lessons of history.

Of course the era of Nazi hunting is coming to a natural end soon because there will no more Nazi war criminals still living. As a result, the story of the hunters and the hunted can now be told almost in its entirety. As a writer, I saw this as an opportunity to weave a narrative spanning the whole postwar era.

To do so, I needed to meet the surviving Nazi hunters in Europe, Israel and the United States and get their first-hand stories—or, in the case of those who had already died, reconstruct their stories from new research and, at times, interviews with people who knew them. The connections between these individuals and their often daring actions were far more extensive than most people realize.

For instance, Fritz Bauer, a German judge and prosecutor from a secular Jewish family, provided the key tip to the Israelis that led to their capture of Adolf Eichmann in Buenos Aires in 1960. I was also able to interview Rafi Eitan, the Mossad agent who was in charge of the commando unit that seized Eichmann.

Jan Sehn, a Polish investigative judge whose family was of German descent, interrogated Auschwitz commandant Rudolf Höss before he was hanged. He then...[read on]
Learn more about the writer and his work at Andrew Nagorski's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Reece Hirsch

Reece Hirsch is the Thriller Award-nominated author of four thrillers that draw upon his background as a privacy attorney, the latest of which is Surveillance.

From Hirsch's Q & A at My Bookish Ways:

Will you tell us what fans of the Chris Bruen series can expect from Surveillance? What inspired you to write the series?

Readers who have followed the Chris Bruen series know that I write fast-paced thrillers that touch upon scary, cutting-edge privacy and security issues, from cyberwarfare and deadly computer viruses, to state-sponsored hackers to, in “Surveillance,” NSA domestic surveillance.

The Bruen series was inspired by the issues that I deal with in my day job as a privacy and cybersecurity attorney. Much of my work involves helping companies respond to and prevent security breaches committed by hackers and cybercriminals. While my work isn’t nearly as exciting, or as hazardous, as Chris Bruen’s, I do know attorneys who do some of the things that Bruen does. For example, a few years ago I was giving a presentation with a colleague and I asked him where he was headed next. He told me that he was flying to Amsterdam to knock on the door of a hacker, in coordination with a local law firm and law enforcement, to try to recover a client’s stolen intellectual property. That story became Chapter 2 of “The Adversary,” which introduces Bruen as a character. Of course, in my version there’s a body count.

What makes Chris such a compelling character? Will you tell us more about him?

Chris’s background as a teenage hacker and a former Department of Justice cybercrimes prosecutor makes him uniquely qualified to combat cybercriminals. He’s also a cancer survivor with a case of survivor’s guilt because his wife was not...[read on]
Visit Reece Hirsch's website.

The Page 69 Test: The Insider.

The Page 69 Test: Surveillance.

Writers Read: Reece Hirsch.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, May 9, 2016

Mingmei Yip

Mingmei Yip is the author of a Secret of a Thousand Beauties, The Nine Fold Heaven, and most recently, The Witch's Market.

From her Q & A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: Do you usually know how your novels will end, or do you make many changes along the way?

A: Unlike some writers, I do not plot out the entire novel before I start to write. Instead, what I need is an idea that excites and intrigues me.

I’ll give two examples. Once I attended an academic lecture where the speaker talked about hongfen kulu, skeleton women. The term refers to scheming women, so beautiful that they could destroy men and turn them into skeletons.

Skeleton woman is a term from a very wicked period of Chinese life. I’d heard it as a child when the adults talked in hushed tones about these evil, but irresistible women.

Right in the middle of the lecture I decided that my next novel would be about these skeleton women. Many of these women used their charms to serve as spies, a kind of life I knew nothing about.

I started doing research about them and, fortunately, was able to find some old books about these brave, though treacherous, people. Though most were men, there were two or three women, as beautiful and scheming as one could hope for!

Another example is my new novel, The Witch’s Market. I wrote the entire novel...[read on]
Visit Mingmei Yip's website.

My Book, The Movie: Secret of a Thousand Beauties.

The Page 69 Test: Secret of a Thousand Beauties.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, May 8, 2016

Susan Crawford

Susan Crawford grew up in Miami, Florida, where she spent her childhood adoring her older sister, reading mysteries in a hammock strung between two Banyan trees, and collecting lizards, baby skunks and other odd, exotic creatures.

She later moved to New York City and then to Boston before settling in Atlanta to raise three amazing daughters and to teach in various adult education settings. A member of The Atlanta Writers Club and The Village Writers, Crawford works for the Department of Technical and Adult Education and is a member of her local planning commission. She lives in Atlanta with her husband and a trio of rescue cats, where she enjoys reading books, writing books, rainy days, and spending time with the people she loves.

Crawford's new novel is The Other Widow. From her Q & A at The Writing Well:

Q. Your first book dealt with mental illness in that your main character suffered from bi-polar condition. This book the insurance investigator is an Iraqi War veteran with PTSD. What is it about psychological issues that you are drawn to write about in your stories? Why is that compelling for you as a storyteller?

Susan: It’s almost impossible to get through life without some kind of psychological issue unless you live in a box, which would create even more psychological issues, actually! I think many mental illnesses are the result of horrific experiences – normal reactions to abnormal situations that change the lens through which we see the world. Maggie, for example, has PTSD because she nearly died, because she was in a war zone, because she couldn’t help her friends. People are often judged for being different, for seeing things differently, so basically they’re stigmatized for...[read on]
Visit Susan Crawford's website.

The Page 69 Test: The Other Widow.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, May 7, 2016

Tracy Chevalier

Tracy Chevalier's new novel is At the Edge of the Orchard.

From her Q & A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: How did you come up with the idea of the Goodenough family, and what surprised you most in the course of your research for At the Edge of the Orchard?

A: I was reading a book by Michael Pollan called The Botany of Desire.

In it there’s a section about Johnny Appleseed and apple trees in 19th-century Ohio, and about how most of the trees Appleseed sold actually produced sour apples used for making cider and applejack.

If you want sweet apples you have to graft trees from other sweet-producing trees, and Appleseed didn’t believe in grafting. So the whole healthy-lifestyle myth that grew up around him was just that – a myth.

That was what surprised me the most – how different reality was from the stories about him. In reality settlers were drunk a lot, as it was such a difficult life.

This made me imagine a couple fighting over apples – one wanting to grow sweet, the other sour. The book grew from that. Johnny Appleseed is not the main character, but he plays a small, significant role – basically as Sadie Goodenough’s...[read on]
Learn about Tracy Chevalier's favorite author.

See: Tracy Chevalier's six best books.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, May 6, 2016

Tessa Arlen

Tessa Arlen, the daughter of a British diplomat, had lived in or visited her parents in Singapore, Cairo, Berlin, the Persian Gulf, Beijing, Delhi and Warsaw by the time she was sixteen. She came to the U.S. in 1980 and worked as an H.R. recruiter for the Los Angeles Olympic Organizing Committee for the 1984 Olympic Games, where she interviewed her future husband for a job. She lives in Bainbridge Island, Washington.

Arlen's new novel is Death Sits Down to Dinner.

From her Q & A at Austenprose:

Comparisons of your novels to Downton Abbey were inevitable. When were you first inspired to write a mystery novel, and why did you select Edwardian era English aristocrats and their servants as your main characters?

I have always loved English history and in particular the short window of time we call the Edwardian era (1901-1914). It was an era of great innovation in all areas, but there was a tremendous leap forward in fine arts, the arts and crafts movement and the performing arts. The last decades of the 19th and the first decades of the 20th centuries saw huge innovations in communication, transportation and manufacturing, but I think the early 1910s were rich in societal changes: the fight for the women’s franchise became decidedly nasty with the breakaway from women’s suffrage movement of the Women’s Social and Political Union (Suffragettes). The Irish were becoming more assertive about Home Rule; there was a Liberal government hell bent on social reform and taxing the landowners to provide funds for those changes, and the House of Commons broke the power of veto in the House of Lords which meant that bills for social reform could be passed more quickly. But the rich had...[read on]
Visit Tessa Arlen's website.

Coffee with a Canine: Tessa Arlen & Daphne.

The Page 69 Test: Death of a Dishonorable Gentleman.

My Book, The Movie: Death of a Dishonorable Gentleman.

The Page 69 Test: Death Sits Down to Dinner.

My Book, The Movie: Death Sits Down to Dinner.

Writers Read: Tessa Arlen.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, May 5, 2016

Eileen Pollack

Eileen Pollack's new novel is A Perfect Life.

From her Q & A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: How did you come up with the idea for A Perfect Life, and were the characters based on real people?

A: I came up with it years ago, in the 1980s. My then-husband was doing his Ph.D. research at MIT at the lab of Dr. David Housman, who was working to find the gene for Huntington’s chorea.

I was fascinated by the role of a woman, Nancy Wexler, who was finding families who carried the gene for Huntington’s. Nancy herself was at risk for the disease.

Her mother had died of Huntington’s…Nancy’s father had funded a foundation to carry out research. Nancy had a sister who was also at risk.

Her story is so fraught. Everybody wondered if she had inherited the disease. It would be the first marker for an inherited gene. If she took the test [that was developed], she would know [if she would develop the disease], but there was no cure. I was very interested in Nancy and her decision: would she marry or have children?

Also, there was Arlo Guthrie. His father, Woody Guthrie, died of Huntington’s, and he also was 50-50 for the disease. He did fundraising for the disease. I thought, what if they fell in love with each other?

I knew the biology from living with my husband, and I have a background in physics. I was...[read on]
Visit Eileen Pollack's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Don DeLillo

Don DeLillo's new novel is Zero K. From the transcript of his NPR interview with Scott Simon:

SIMON: Let's set your - the scene of your novel a bit. Jeffrey Lockhart is summoned to this place called Convergence by his father Ross who's a famous billionaire. He is very devoted to his second, younger wife Artis and he wants to join her. How does this story proceed?

DELILLO: I think the essence of the novel is that Ross Lockhart wants to join Artis even though he is not on the verge of dying himself. Artis went into the cryogenic process because she was near death anyway. But he is a healthy man in his 60s. This is an incredible development, of course, in his life and in his son's life. The point is that this is a completely illegal process and takes place in the deepest physical levels of the Convergence, in an area known as Zero K.

SIMON: And do you write about this because you think we're on the course - in human affairs?

DELILLO: Science and technology are on that course. And I think they have been for quite a while. I can only expect that it will continue, perhaps, in a more refined manner. But I ought to add that I did not do a great deal of research. I did what was necessary.

SIMON: This place Convergence, which you sketch in so beautifully, raises the most essential questions of human existence. And I don't mind saying - as a reader, it can be a little creepy. But...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Eric Jay Dolin

Eric Jay Dolin is the best-selling author of the award-winning Fur, Fortune, and Empire; Leviathan, which was chosen by the Los Angeles Times and Boston Globe as a best book of the year; and When America First Met China.

Dolin's new book is Brilliant Beacons: A History of the American Lighthouse.

From the author's Q & A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: Why did you decide to write a history of American lighthouses, and what would you say lighthouses symbolize in this country?

A: After my last book, When America First Met China, my long-time editor at W. W. Norton, and the head of sales, wanted to know if I was interested in writing a book about American lighthouses.

I was intrigued. Although I had seen a few lighthouses, I knew absolutely nothing about their history. So, I asked for time to think it over, and do some research.

The more I read, the more excited about the topic I became. Every day was a revelation. I literally had no idea how important lighthouses were to American history, and how many threads of the American experience could be woven into this book.

Far from being just a story about lighthouses, it was a story about colonial commerce, nation building, war, technological innovation, engineering feats, disasters, storms, tragedy, personal sacrifice, and inspiring determination, as well as poetry, art, and hope.

After about a month, I knew this was a book I wanted to write, so I submitted a formal proposal, and the book was born.

Lighthouses symbolize beauty, permanence, safety, societal altruism, rugged individualism, and economic security.

The beauty comes from their elemental form, grand towers of brick, stone, iron, and cement, starkly etched against the sky. Nearly every one is unique, with a character all their own.

Permanence is due to their longevity. Even though many lighthouses have been demolished, either by humans or nature, most have endured for scores, if not hundreds of years.

The main purpose of lighthouses is...[read on]
Learn more about the book and author at Eric Jay Dolin's website.

The Page 99 Test: Fur, Fortune, and Empire.

The Page 99 Test: When America First Met China.

The Page 69 Test: Brilliant Beacons.

The Page 99 Test: Brilliant Beacons.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, May 2, 2016

Theresa Kaminski

Theresa Kaminski is Professor of History at the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point where she teaches courses in American women’s history. She is the author of Citizen of Empire: Ethel Thomas Herold, An American in the Philippines and Prisoners in Paradise: American Women in the Wartime South Pacific.

Her latest book is Angels of the Underground: The American Women who Resisted the Japanese in the Philippines in World War II.

From Kaminski's Q & A at DailyHistory.org:

If someone asked you to quickly summarize your book, what would be your 2 minute elevator version?

Angels is about the incredible risks American women took and the impossible choices they made to not only survive a wartime enemy occupation, but to undermine the Japanese occupation and help others survive it as well. It’s a World War II story few people know.

Your previous historical works have also focused on the Philippines and the South Pacific. How did you become interested in the Philippines?

From the academic side of my life, I have been fascinated with imperialism and colonialism, the kinds of hierarchies they establish and reinforce, and what that all means to the people who experience them. As an American historian, this interest directed me to the Philippines. I was especially intrigued by the women who decided to move so far away from the States to be a part of this imperialist enterprise.

From the personal side of my life, my father, who enlisted in the U.S. Army when he turned 18, always spoke fondly of the Philippines. He was stationed there for a time after World War II, so his experiences were with postwar rebuilding. I was glad he had positive memories, but when I became a historian, I wanted to...[read on]
Learn more about Angels of the Underground at Theresa Kaminski's website.

The Page 99 Test: Angels of the Underground.

Writers Read: Theresa Kaminski.

My Book, The Movie: Angels of the Underground.

Coffee with a Canine: Theresa Kaminski & Hugo.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, May 1, 2016

Jillian Cantor

Jillian Cantor's latest novel is The Hours Count.

From her Q & A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: The novel's title comes from a Pablo Picasso quote about the Rosenbergs, which you include in the book. Why did you choose that as the title?

A: My editor actually found this quote and suggested it as a title. I was about halfway through writing the first draft at the time and I absolutely loved it.

I loved that it was a real quote about the Rosenbergs but also that it applied to Millie’s life as a mother. I never really understood the expression the days are long but the years are short until I had kids! (And you see this expression makes it into the book as Millie reflects on her own life as a mother to two boys).

I kept thinking about the fact that Ethel didn’t get to see her sons grow up, all the hours and small moments she missed with them, and how those are the things that really count as a mother. I think the title really gets at...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue