Friday, April 28, 2017

Jeff Giles

Jeff Giles new young adult novel is The Edge of Everything.

From his Q&A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: How did you come up with the idea for The Edge of Everything, and for your characters Zoe and X?

A: I was still working at Entertainment Weekly when I started thinking about giving a young adult novel a shot. I knew that I wanted it to be a blend of fantasy and reality (more on this in a second).

And then, one day at work, an opening scene popped into my head: A 17-year-old girl goes into a blizzard to save her little brother and their dogs, and stumbles on two men fighting on a frozen lake.

One of the guys is trying to drown the other in a hole in the ice. The girl doesn’t want to see anyone die that way—so she gets involved, and it changes her life. The more I thought about the scene, the more it felt like something I could build on.

The next step was just trying to figure out who everyone in the scene actually was. I decided to set the book in Montana because I’ve spent a lot of time here.

The girl became Zoe, who has just lost her dad, and the “murderer” turns out to be a bounty hunter from a Hell-ish dimension called the Lowlands, who’s come to Montana to take an evil soul.

When I was thinking about what sort of hell I wanted the Lowlands to be, I thought it would be interesting if no one had names, because...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Peter Tinti

Peter Tinti is co-author, with Tuesday Reitano, of Migrant, Refugee, Smuggler, Savior.

From his Q&A with Phil Treagus for The Reading Lists:

Which book has had the biggest impact on your career so far? How did it impact it?

George Packer’s memoir of his time as a Peace Corps Volunteer in West Africa, The Village of Waiting, had a profound impact on my career. I was a fan of Packer’s writing and reporting when I was an undergraduate student, and I had no idea that he was ever a Peace Corps Volunteer or that he wrote a book about his Peace Corps experience. I stumbled across The Village of Waiting as I was preparing to start my own stint as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Mali, West Africa. It was just so much more honest and insightful than any of the other “westerner in Africa” books people were recommending to me. It would be interesting to revisit the book now that I am older, having spent several years living and working in West Africa, but at the time, as I was preparing to embark upon a pretty significant life event, the book resonated with me. More than anything, it made me want to write.

What book have you recommended the most to friends and family?

I am almost never asked for book recommendations. Given that there is so much good TV being made these days, it seems like I only ever get asked “what shows are you watching?” That said, I tell people who enjoy shows such as The Wire, Justified, and Breaking Bad that they should check out Elmore Leonard, George Pelecanos, and Don Winslow. Those guys are...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Marsha Forchuk Skrypuch

Marsha Forchuk Skrypuch is the acclaimed author of over sixteen picture books and novels. Her earlier picture books include Enough, Silver Threads, Daughter of War, Aram's Choice and The Best Gifts. She won the Silver Birch Fiction Award for Making Bombs for Hitler and the Red Cedar Award for Last Airlift: A Vietnamese Orphan's Rescue from War.

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

Q: How did you come up with the idea for Making Bombs for Hitler?

A: It’s been in my mind for a long, long time. Both of my in-laws survived World War II in Ukraine and [a friend’s] parents survived under similar circumstances. I was hearing stories, but never seeing it in books—it made me curious.

I didn’t start on this topic until many years later [after my first book]—I couldn’t get people to talk to me. If they were found out, they could be sent to the Soviet Union, and later they were still afraid. Under Putin’s regime, too, it was not much better. People who escaped from there are...[read on]
Visit Marsha Forchuk Skrypuch's website.

My Book, The Movie: Making Bombs for Hitler.

Writers Read: Marsha Forchuk Skrypuch.

The Page 69 Test: Making Bombs for Hitler.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Yascha Mounk

Yascha Mounk is a Lecturer on Political Theory at Harvard University's Government Department and author of a new academic book, The Age of Responsibility: Luck, Choice and the Welfare State.

From his December 2016 Q&A with Zachary Laub for the Council on Foreign Relations:

Are illiberal politicians and states more effective messengers than their liberal counterparts?

It’s always easier in politics to be critical than to be constructive. But the establishment has to take this as a serious wake-up call, and they face a difficult task. They have to communicate clearly that many things about how the political system has functioned for the last twenty-five years need to change, and to be a credible messenger on this, they have to show that they really are dismayed with the status quo. At the same time, they need to combine this criticism with a positive vision for what measures they want to enact to improve people’s lives, and to make a passionate case for what about the current system needs to be preserved—liberal norms like the separation of powers or the insistence on treating all citizens equally.

We’ve seen a lot of cross-border connections among these parties, like Brexit leader Nigel Farage campaigning for Trump in Mississippi. How are these parties and candidates linked?

First are the empirical linkages. Russia is financially supporting a lot of radical parties in the West, both on the far left and far right. And of course Russia’s email hacks helped get Trump elected.

But that matters less than what sociologists would call diffusion. Five years ago, I was already worried about people falling out of love with democracy....[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, April 24, 2017

Randy Susan Meyers

Randy Susan Meyers is the bestselling author of Accidents of Marriage, The Comfort of Lies, and The Murderer’s Daughters. Her books have twice been finalists for the Mass Book Award and named “Must Read Books” by the Massachusetts Center for the Book.

Meyers's new novel is The Widow of Wall Street.

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

Q: How did you come up with the idea for your new novel, and how closely are Jake and Phoebe based on Bernie Madoff and his wife, Ruth?

A: The idea did come just when the Madoff case first broke, and it fascinated me. How do you pull something like that off? As I saw all the people he had fooled, these were not naïve people! I thought, what is it like to be this family, and I didn’t think Ruth had done it. When everyone started hammering on her, I wondered, what is it like to be her?

I started doing a lot of reading. Some books came out immediately, but the book that really had me was The Wizard of Lies by Diana Henriques, a New York Times reporter. I read it six times. I found the details of how it was done incredible.

I was fascinated on two levels—very much on a human level, what would it be like to wake up and realize your marriage of 40 years was based on a huge lie?

And how it was done fascinated me, to the point that the book took a long time. I started reading court records…I had to let all that research go and start writing the book.

The hardest part was...[read on]
Learn more about the book and author at Randy Susan Meyers' website.

The Page 69 Test: The Murderer's Daughters.

The Page 69 Test: The Widow of Wall Street.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Neil deGrasse Tyson

Neil deGrasse Tyson, Michael A. Strauss & J. Richard Gott are the authors of Welcome to the Universe: An Astrophysical Tour. From their Q&A at the Princeton University Press blog:

What is the Cosmic Perspective?

NDT: A view bigger than your own that offers a humbling, yet enlightening, and occasionally empowering outlook on our place as humans in time, space, on Earth and in the Universe. We devote many pages of Welcome to the Universe to establishing our place in the cosmos – not only declarations of that place, but also the reasons and the foundations for how we have come to learn how we fit in that place. When armed with a cosmic perspective, many earthly problems seem small, yet you cultivate a new sense of belonging to the universe. You are, in fact, a participant in the great unfolding of cosmic events.

What are some of the takeaways from the book?

NDT: If you read the entire book, and if we have succeeded as authors, then you should walk away with a deep sense of the operations of nature, and an appreciation for the size and scale of the universe; how and why planets form; how and why we search for planets orbiting around other stars, and alien life that may thrive upon them; how and why stars are born, live out their lives and die; what galaxies are and why they are the largest organizations of stars in the universe; the large scale structure of galaxies and space-time; the origins and future of the universe, Einstein’s relativity, black holes, and gravitational waves; and time travel. If that’s not enough, you will also learn about...[read on]
See Neil deGrasse Tyson's 6 favorite books.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Cammie McGovern

Cammie McGovern's latest book is Chester and Gus.

From her Q&A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: How did you come up with the idea for Chester and Gus?

A: There was a wonderful in-class “therapy dog” in my son’s second grade classroom who all the kids loved. My son would come home with funny stories about how the kids included “Brody” in reading time and math and dealt him cards to play Uno with them.

When I finally asked the teacher about the dog’s background, she told me he had failed out of service dog training and she just brought him to school with her because he was too young to leave at home alone. He wasn’t really a “therapy” dog but she had to admit, he was so smart and so sensitive, he’d performed that job many times during the course of that year.

It got me thinking about all the amazing jobs dogs do for people and how connected they are to the sense of “having a job.” Watching Brody in action, it seemed very clear to me that Brody was continuing the work he was born to do but...[read on]
Visit Cammie McGovern's website.

Writers Read: Cammie McGovern (July 2014).

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, April 21, 2017

Jerald Podair

Jerald Podair is professor of history and the Robert S. French Professor of American Studies at Lawrence University in Appleton, Wisconsin. His new book is City of Dreams: Dodger Stadium and the Birth of Modern Los Angeles. From the author's Q&A at the Princeton University Press blog:

In your book, you discuss the political cultures of New York and Los Angeles in the years following World War II. How did they differ?

JP: I think the very different political cultures of New York and Los Angeles determined that Walter O’Malley would get what he needed—affordable land on which to build his privately financed ballpark—from one city but not from the other. New York’s municipal politics in the 1950s featured a strong orientation toward the public sector and organized labor that, while not necessarily anti-capitalist in nature, did not offer an entrepreneur like O’Malley a particularly sympathetic atmosphere. This meant that when he asked for assistance from New York City officials in acquiring land parcels in Brooklyn that were beyond his individual financial means in order to construct a stadium with his own funds, he was branded—unfairly, in my view—as seeking a “giveaway.” But in Los Angeles, publicly owned land at Chavez Ravine overlooking downtown was made available to O’Malley in exchange for property he owned elsewhere in the city. Los Angeles officials were thus willing to do what their counterparts in New York were not.

In my view, this was because the political culture of Los Angeles—where the statist reforms of the New Deal had less staying power than in New York—was more hospitable to businessmen, especially one like O’Malley whose private undertaking promised to advance the public good. In New York, the focus was almost obsessively on O’Malley’s profits; that the city would benefit from a new Dodger ballpark was deemed of lesser importance. In Los Angeles, the weight accorded these considerations was reversed. In deciding a taxpayer suit seeking to void the Dodger Stadium contract in favor of O’Malley, the California Supreme Court said as much. The Dodgers were permitted to make money on the deal, the court ruled in 1959, as long as there were tangible benefits accruing to the people of Los Angeles. Those benefits—a world-class stadium, not to mention millions of dollars in property taxes paid by the privately held stadium—were enough to justify state assistance to a private entrepreneur. O’Malley moved to Los Angeles for this very reason. Although O’Malley was a businessman and not a philosopher and probably would not have used the term “political culture” to explain his decision to leave New York, this is clearly what he had in mind. Had New York’s political culture been different, he...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Carol Weston

Carol Weston's new book is Speed of Life.

From her Q&A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: How did you come up with the idea for Speed of Life, and for your main character, Sofia?

A: For me, a novel is like a plant. It grows slowly and needs a lot of tending and pruning. I came up with the idea for Speed of Life because I knew a young mother in Spain who died of an aneurysm.

While I missed my friend, my heart broke for her young daughter. I’m an advice columnist and I often hear from girls who are grieving and are utterly bereft and at sea. So I wanted to shine a light on that terrible abyss but also to give hope.

Sometimes girls email me at Girls’ Life and say, “My dad died a month ago and I’m still sad. When will I get over it?” The answer is that you never get over the death of a beloved parent, but...[read on]
Visit Carol Weston's website.

The Page 69 Test: Ava and Pip.

The Page 69 Test: Speed of Life.

Writers Read: Carol Weston.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Alyssa Mastromonaco

Alyssa Mastromonaco is the author of Who Thought This Was a Good Idea?: And Other Questions You Should Have Answers to When You Work in the White House.

From the transcript of her interview with Fresh Air's Terry Gross:

GROSS: This is FRESH AIR, and if you're just joining us my guest is Alyssa Mastromonaco. Her new memoir "Who Thought This Was A Good Idea?" is about working for President Obama as director of scheduling and advance at the White House from 2009 to 2011 and then as assistant to the president and deputy chief of staff for operations in the White House from 2011 to 2014. She's now an executive at A & E networks and a contributing editor at Marie Claire.

So another thing that you had to do as deputy chief of staff is work with agencies like the Department of Defense to run classified construction projects and maintain the continuity of government exercises, exercises so that if there's a nuclear attack or if Washington floods or the president is incapacitated, everyone knows what to do.


MASTROMONACO: Exactly.

GROSS: Just mentally, emotionally, what was it like for you to be in charge of planning for the absolute worst?

MASTROMONACO: Oddly, it was actually very reassuring when you sit down with the folks who, again, from administration to administration keep this process alive and have this information. You know, you sit down, and they brief you. And you're like, oh, wow, if something happens, actually everybody does know what to do. And so I found it - on the one hand, it's very heady. You're like I can't believe that I'm seeing what would happen if a nuclear missile was launched from X and how long it would take to get here and what happens.

But it is comforting to see that these processes are pretty well socialized. Everybody knows them. You know, the 25th Amendment has been one of the funnier things that happens is you obviously notify the speaker of the House and the majority leader, minority leaders in Congress. And we realized that the - when we actually ran the exercise that all of the fax numbers were wrong because people didn't really use faxes anymore. So that was - we're like, oh, we should get new fax numbers. And you sort of do what's called validating the exercise every couple of years if you haven't used it in real time. You sit down, and you do what's called an exercise. And you run through all the steps to make sure nothing's changed, the fax numbers are still there and that the documents are still valid and don't need to be updated.

GROSS: Can you tell us what your role was supposed to be in case of the worst, like, where you would be and what your job would be?

MASTROMONACO: If - I can't really talk about what my job would be - but in both - in a scenario of the president being incapacitated, say, he needed to have surgery, I sort of ran the process, the many steps of the 25th Amendment and sort of bringing that to life. And then the - in, like, worst case scenario, if the president had to go some place, I would have been part of the crew that was evacuated with him.

GROSS: What was the closest you got to having to enact one of those plans?

MASTROMONACO: Goodness. Oh, I would say it was when the president had his...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Ellen Meeropol

Ellen Meeropol's new novel is Kinship of Clover.

From her Q&A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: How did you come up with the idea for your new novel, and for your character Jeremy's relationship with plants?

A: I already knew Jeremy from my first novel, House Arrest, where he was a sensitive and shy 9-year-old. I wanted to see how he had grown, how he had survived his oddball childhood, so I imagined him 11 years later as a college biology major.

I had become very concerned about climate change, was reading widely about the science and politics, and that reading no doubt informed Jeremy’s obsession with plant species loss.

Writing Jeremy’s magical connection with plants just happened. That’s the beauty of the writing process, that we can open ourselves to ways of seeing and telling that are not our usual language.

The first day I wrote a scene with the plants burrowing under Jeremy’s skin, I was sitting with a group of writers in a library “writing room.” I was totally surprised by the actions of the plants. While I...[read on]
Visit Ellen Meeropol's website.

See Meeropol's list of five political novels to change the world.

Writers Read: Ellen Meeropol (February 2011).

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, April 17, 2017

Yewande Omotoso

Yewande Omotoso's latest novel is The Woman Next Door.

From her Q&A with Caroline Leavitt:

I always think authors are haunted by something before they start writing a book. What was haunting you with The Woman Next Door?

Many things! I was around my grandmother just after my grandfather died and it got me thinking about what it is to be of that age, late 70s, 80s, to have so much of your life behind you. And then I began to dwell on that more. I wondered in particular what it might be like to be in the last years of a life that has largely been unfulfilling. The sense that the quality of the life you have lived will have some bearing on your experience of these final years. I wondered how late is too late - for friendship, for redemption.

I loved these two cranky old ladies feuding and then finding just enough of a chip of light to find something in common. Was there ever a moment in the book when you didn't think this would happen for them?

I didn't take it for granted that it would but I understood that part of the project of writing the book was to sit with this question on every page, to wonder it as I wrote their stories. I had to really balance this. I couldn't lie about what is possible for two such women but I also felt nervous about...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Teri Kanefield

Teri Kanefield's new book for older kids is Alexander Hamilton: The Making of America.

From her Q&A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: What do you think of Hamilton’s emergence as a pop culture phenomenon?

A: It’s fabulous! To quote former President Obama, the Broadway musical Hamilton is “a civics lesson our kids can't get enough of.”

Q: What are some of the ideas people tend to have, right or wrong, about Alexander Hamilton?

A: The most common misconception of Hamilton was that he was a monarchist who wanted to return to a British-style aristocracy.

The misconception came about because the Jeffersonians took control of the government and basically held it until the Civil War, so their views were the dominant views.

They believed northerners, bankers, and industrialists were nothing more than British-style aristocrats, while planters and farmers embodied the true spirit of America. They disliked Hamilton’s policies, and...[read on]
Visit Teri Kanefield's website.

The Page 99 Test: Guilty?: Crime, Punishment, and the Changing Face of Justice.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, April 15, 2017

Jeff Guinn

Jeff Guinn's latest book is The Road to Jonestown: Jim Jones and Peoples Temple. From the transcript of his interview with Fresh Air's Terry Gross:

GROSS: Like some other demagogues, Jim Jones became very obsessed with sex. And it's a kind of interesting revealing part of the story that I want to talk with you about. His wife, Marceline, had severe back problems which were worsened by pregnancy and childbirth. And so she could not participate in a full sexual life. And he used that as an opportunity to take on a mistress, a member of the cult. And then after that, more mistresses and eventually kind of whatever women he wanted, you know, in the cult. What did he use to justify that to himself and to the women?

GUINN: It's sad. And it's wrong. But it's also true that throughout history, and certainly up to the modern day, men in positions of power take advantage of women who need their support in some way or another. Jones convinced himself about the same time that he and Marceline couldn't have regular sexual relations anymore that it was vital for the cause that Jim Jones be fulfilled in every way possible, and that includes sexually.

He would swear to followers who knew what he was doing that he's not doing it for himself. He's doing it for the cause, that if it makes him feel better, healthier, more energetic, that's important. He would also claim sometimes he was having sex with these women to help raise them up out of themselves, that they didn't have enough self-respect that lying with Father would make them feel that they were special. And in at least one or two cases, it actually had that effect.

He also had sex occasionally with men within the organization. And when this would happen, he would often say he was...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, April 14, 2017

Christina Baker Kline

Christina Baker Kline is the author of the novel A Piece of the World (2017), about the relationship between the artist Andrew Wyeth and the subject of his best-known painting, Christina’s World. Kline has written five other novels — Orphan Train, The Way Life Should Be, Sweet Water, Bird in Hand, and Desire Lines — and written or edited five works of nonfiction.

From Kline's Q&A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: You write, “For many reasons, [A Piece of the World] was the most difficult book I’ve ever written.” What are some of the reasons why?

A: It was the first book I’d ever written about a real story. Orphan Train was real, but my characters were fictional. The characters in A Piece of the World are based on real people, and some of the people in the novel are alive today. I had to enter with eyes wide open.

The fact that it’s a true story made other things more difficult. In real life, Christina Olson did things I would not have chosen as a novelist, but because I was trying to stick with the facts, I had to work backwards from the consequences of her actions.

Q: So what did you see as the right blend between the actual Christina Olson and your fictional character?

A: That part was fairly easy. I set the task of...[read on]
Visit Christina Baker Kline's website.

Coffee with a Canine: Christina Baker Kline & Lucy.

The Page 69 Test: Bird in Hand.

Writers Read: Christina Baker Kline.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Nahid Siamdoust

Nahid Siamdoust's new book is Soundtrack of the Revolution: The Politics of Music in Iran. From her Q&A with The Iranist:

THE IRANIST: Why would the Iranian government ban music after 1979 only to allow it later on?

NAHID SIAMDOUST: We really have to understand Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini’s views on this, within the given circumstances of the time. In the summer following the revolution, Khomeini spoke to Radio Darya and called for the elimination of music altogether, saying it corrupted Iran’s youth. He was referring to the pop music that dominated state airwaves before the revolution. But not long before his speech, one of Khomeini’s dearest protégés, Ayatollah Morteza Motahhari, had passed away. Some people at state radio had made a song commemorating Motahhari and played it for Khomeini. The song was “Shahid-e Motahhar” (The Pure Martyr). Khomeini loved it so much that he requested to see its makers. In that meeting, Khomeini said, “I don’t cry much, but I cried when I heard your song. This is the most beautiful kind of music and if you continue making this kind of music, I will support you.” Until that point, rhythmical music was banned on state media. But after Khomeini’s statement, music started being produced again, not just marches or nohe-khuni (religious lamentation), but music with rhythmical passage—some even reminiscent of...[read on]
Visit Nahid Siamdoust's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Sara Lövestam

Sara Lövestam, a writer as well as a huge jazz music fan, lives in Sweden.

Her novel Wonderful Feels Like This is now available in English.

From Lövestam's Q&A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: How did you come up with the idea for Wonderful Feels Like This, and for your characters Steffi and Alvar?

A: I was actually thinking of this jazz musician, Povel Ramel, who was also a comedian who wrote (and sang) very witty and quirky lyrics. He's kind of old school, but I really enjoyed his songs when I was a young girl.

One day, a few years ago, I started talking to a male friend of mine about Povel Ramel. He was very surprised when I said I really liked him and knew all his lyrics. Turned out, in his mind anyone who likes Povel Ramel is an old man.

So I began to ask around: Who do you think of when you imagine "a person who likes Povel Ramel"? Everyone had the same answer: An old man.

So I asked myself: What is it about Povel Ramel that makes old men like him so much but that also, evidently, attracts a young girl to his music and lyrics? And those old men and the young girls that like him, what do they have in common that attract them all to Povel Ramel?

That's how the thought of writing this book came up - I wanted to explore a friendship between a young and an old soul, solely based...[read on]
Visit Sara Lövestam's website.

My Book, The Movie: Wonderful Feels Like This.

The Page 69 Test: Wonderful Feels Like This.

Writers Read: Sara Lövestam.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Robert Wilder

Robert Wilder is the author of a novel, Nickel, and two critically acclaimed essay collections, Tales From The Teachers’ Lounge and Daddy Needs A Drink, both optioned for television and film.

A teacher for twenty-five years, Wilder has earned numerous awards and fellowships, including the inaugural Innovations in Reading Prize by the National Book Foundation. He has published essays in Newsweek, Details, Salon, Parenting, Creative Nonfiction, plus numerous anthologies and has been a commentator for NPR’s Morning Edition.

From the author's Q&A at the Leaf Storm Press website:

What’s the story behind your latest book, NICKEL?

NICKEL is based on over twenty years teaching teenagers as well as having two of my own. One of the most rewarding moments as a teacher is when you read the work of a quiet or quirky kid and you see that he or she has this wild (and often quite funny) interior life. I’ve also witnessed how much my students have had to deal with—divorce, death, illness, violence, loneliness, neglect, and I marveled at how they coped. When I started writing NICKEL, I heard Coy’s voice as an amalgamation of so many of intriguing kids I’ve known over the decades. I just followed that voice as honestly as I could.

What do you admire most about today’s teenagers?

So much. I love: 1) the way my daughter Poppy can send me a song by some obscure band that is exactly what I need to hear at the time, 2) the deep-rooted empathy of my son London, 3) the incredible creativity and possibility of a young artist, 4) the way a sharp kid can spot a liar a mile away, 5) the ability of a student to discover something new in a text I’ve read over 20 times, 6) teenage fortitude to withstand...[read on]
Visit Robert Wilder's website and Facebook page.

The Page 99 Test: Daddy Needs A Drink.

My Book, The Movie: Nickel.

Writers Read: Robert Wilder.

The Page 69 Test: Nickel.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, April 10, 2017

Jennifer Ryan

Jennifer Ryan's new novel is The Chilbury Ladies' Choir.

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

Q: You write that some of the inspiration for the book came from your grandmother's stories about World War II. How much was drawn from her experiences and how much from your own imagination?

A: I like to think of historical fiction as the coming together of all the different threads of experience, from the tales told by my grandmother to the hundreds of books I read about the Second World War, all condensed into a general understanding in my mind in which I could let my imagination run free.

Some of the plot lines in the novel came directly from my grandmother, such as the choir and the parties, and others came from some of the old ladies I interviewed, such as the Women's Voluntary Service, the baby swap, and how everyone kept morale up with jokes and singing.

The memoirs and journals provided a lot of the atmosphere, of how it would have been like to live in a war situation, as well as the consensus about the status of women, sexuality, the upper classes, and homosexuality.

When I began to create Chilbury, I wanted to write a story that...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, April 9, 2017

Billy Collins

Billy Collins is the author of twelve collections of poetry, including Aimless Love (2013) and The Rain in Portugal (2016).

From his Q&A with Joy Biles for The Writer's Almanac:

You said something once, and it always stuck with me. You may or may not recall. Actually two things. One: Always put your best poems first in a book. And two: Avoid a poem with cicadas. I’m paraphrasing. But ever since I heard you say this, I notice poems with cicadas everywhere — every fourth or fifth chapbook has a poem mentioning them. They were not there before you pointed it out; I’m sure of it. It’s a curse on the poetry world that once seen cannot be unseen.

More importantly, I now always read the first five pages of any poetry collection, even if I end up skipping to other pages from there. Why put the best poems first? I think one might want to spread them around. How do you determine what is the “best” poem — or the ones to put first? Do you want readers to approach your collections sequentially?


Here are the two ways to arrange the poems in a manuscript: a) when you submit a ms, front-load it. Put all your best poems right up front. (If you can’t tell which ones are your best, it’s too early for you to be thinking about publication.) Editors are among the few people who read mss from front to back; if you catch their interest early, they might just keep reading. b) after your ms has been accepted, tell the editor you’d like to change the order of the poems. An editor doesn’t want to get in the way of that, leaving you free to fiddle the poems into some kind of “creative” order. Remember that what editors are looking for above all else in a manuscript is a reason to stop reading it.

Don’t get me started on cicadas. When I see one, I...[read on]
Learn about Billy Collins' six favorite books.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, April 8, 2017

Yoojin Grace Wuertz

Yoojin Grace Wuertz was born in Seoul, South Korea, and immigrated to the United States at age six. She holds a BA in English from Yale University and an MFA in fiction from New York University. She lives in northern New Jersey with her husband and son.

Wuertz's debut novel is Everything Belongs to Us.

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

Q: You've said that your inspiration to write this book came, at least in part, from your father's comments about his time at Seoul National University, and that the book became "the bridge between my parents and me." What do your parents think of the novel, and what do you feel you learned about their lives before they arrived in the United States?

A: My parents are thrilled with the book and the reception so far, which means the world to me. I overheard a family friend joke to my mom after my book launch event, “Now you’ll have to write a book about your daughter to tell your side of the story!” and my mom replied, “No, I’m happy with what she wrote. She already wrote my story.”

I should add that the book is fiction and the events pertaining to the characters are made up, but the historical and cultural details of this generation are deeply researched, largely with their help. Perhaps that’s what she meant when she said I told her story.

What I learned about my parents is that they’ve seen more in their lifetimes, and adapted to more changes culturally, economically, socially, politically, than I will likely ever be required to in mine.

Sometimes the transitions were less than smooth, which...[read on]
Visit Yoojin Grace Wuertz's website.

My Book, The Movie: Everything Belongs to Us.

The Page 69 Test: Everything Belongs to Us.

Writers Read: Yoojin Grace Wuertz.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, April 7, 2017

Mary Gaitskill

Mary Gaitskill's new book is the essay collection Somebody with a Little Hammer.

From her Q&A with Laurel Nakadate for Interview magazine:

NAKADATE: When you were going through your essays and deciding which ones would appear in the book, did you have a sort of "this is your life" moment as you went through the essays from, say, the early '90s?

GAITSKILL: I did. It was more, oddly, a manner of tonality than subject matter. There were certain tones that I would never use now and that seemed very foreign to me. I think, as we go through life, we can sometimes, while still staying essentially true to ourselves, pick up mannerisms or modes of expression that are like curlicues. And there was a lot of that that I recognized sometimes. And I remembered, sometimes dimly, why those phrases felt so tasty to me, why that particular curl felt so good to me. But from my point of view now, it was almost inaccurate. It changed the meaning of what I was saying in a way that it seemed like...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Rebecca Schuman

Rebecca Schuman's new book is Schadenfreude, A Love Story: Me, the Germans, and 20 Years of Attempted Transformations, Unfortunate Miscommunications, and Humiliating Situations That Only They Have Words For.

From her Q&A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: Why did Kafka become such a longtime passion for you, and how did it lead you to your fascination with all things German (given that, as you state in your new book, he wasn't German)?

A: Wow, great question. My relationship with Kafka has changed so much, and my relationship to the German language--and, by extension, culture--is directly traceable back to him.

My original attraction to Kafka was what, I think, attracts a lot of brainy-but-misunderstood teens: He was SO good at depicting this primal, visceral, almost desperate alienation from everyone around him. He was sort of the first-ever goth kid who nobody understands, you know?

There's this really short story (one of many he wrote) called "Bachelor's Unhappiness," about coming home to an empty house and having only a forehead to smack with your hand, and that just pierced directly into my soul when I was a teenager, largely ignored by boys (except for one REALLY important one, as the book reveals).

When you feel like nobody understands you, the best thing in the world is to find someone else to be misunderstood with. For me, that person was Franz Kafka.

But as I began to study him seriously, I realized that...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Sara Flannery Murphy

Sara Flannery Murphy grew up in Arkansas, where she divided her time between Little Rock and Eureka Springs, a small artists’ community in the Ozark Mountains. She received her MFA in creative writing at Washington University in St. Louis and studied library science in British Columbia. She lives in Oklahoma with her husband and son.

Murphy's newly released first novel is The Possessions.

From her Q&A with Haley Weiss for Interview magazine:

HALEY WEISS: I'd like to talk about what spurred you to write this. Did one element come first, like a character, or was it a broader interest in grief and this idea of possession?

SARA FLANNERY MURPHY: I think it really began more with the idea of The Elysian Society itself. I started with the very broad notion of this organization where people could come and reconnect with their lost loved ones. I was fascinated at first just by the idea of what would this mean? Who are the people who come here? But also, the workers themselves, they definitely interested me a bit more than the clients because there's that intimacy involved in performing this service for other people, and yet they remain unknown to you—that mix of doing something very, very personal but for people who don't know you very well, and ideally will never know you that well.

After kind of thinking about that for a while, I was interested in the idea of...[read on]
Visit Sara Flannery Murphy's website.

My Book, The Movie: The Possessions.

The Page 69 Test: The Possessions.

Writers Read: Sara Flannery Murphy.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Ruth Franklin

Ruth Franklin is a book critic and former editor at The New Republic. She has written for many publications, including The New Yorker, Harper’s, The New York Times Book Review, The New York Review of Books, and Salmagundi, to which she contributes a regular film column. She is the recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship in biography, a Cullman Fellowship at the New York Public Library, a Leon Levy Fellowship in biography, and the Roger Shattuck Prize for Criticism. Her first book, A Thousand Darknesses: Lies and Truth in Holocaust Fiction (Oxford University Press, 2011), was a finalist for the Sami Rohr Prize for Jewish Literature.

Franklin's new book is Shirley Jackson: A Rather Haunted Life.

From her Q&A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: Why did you decide to write a biography of Shirley Jackson, and did your impression of her and her work change as you worked on this project?

A: I've always loved Jackson's writing, especially The Haunting of Hill House, her classic ghost story, and We Have Always Lived in the Castle, her last and most mysterious novel. And of course no one forgets "The Lottery."

But it was actually Jackson's domestic work--her memoirs about her life as a mother--that made me decide to write her biography.

There's a story she tells in her first memoir, Life Among the Savages, about checking into the hospital to deliver her third child. The clerk asks her to state her occupation, and she says, "Writer." (This was only a few months after "The Lottery" was published to enormous sensation.) And the clerk replies, "I'll just put down housewife."

To me, this story perfectly encapsulates what it must have been like to be a writer like Jackson at a time when there was very little social support for that choice. It made me want to learn more about how she navigated that inherent tension.

I'd say my initial impressions of her and her work...[read on]
Visit Ruth Franklin's website.

The Page 99 Test: Shirley Jackson.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, April 3, 2017

Steph Post

Steph Post’s new novel is Lightwood.

From her Q&A with The Thoughtful Dog:

TD: Your new book, Lightwood, opens the day Judah Cannon gets out of prison after three years and no one is there to pick him up. Within a day, he’s thrust back into the family business that landed him in jail. Lightwood is faithful to the gritty noir novels but also has some southern gothic twists in the charismatic religious leader Sister Tulah character. Can you talk a little about the inspiration for this book given there are surprising elements in it?

SP: Thank you! And I think you nailed it- Lightwood walks the line between Southern lit and noir and I’m sure the combination comes from my love of dark, subversive Southern fiction. I really enjoy writing about north central Florida, where I grew up. With Lightwood, I wanted to explore the dynamics of an established crime family. It’s hard to say where an ‘inspiration’ comes from, as the process of a novel’s inception is such a complex yet fluid one. The setting, obviously, comes from an area I’m familiar with. The narrative arc is somewhat classical but definitely inspired by sagas such as The Godfather. I’ve always been interested in counter-culture groups and I’m sure the Scorpions’ bike club comes from that and from growing up around motorcycles. And Sister Tulah? Well, I’ve always been fascinated with the Pentecostal religion as I’m one generation removed from the church myself. I wanted to explore the concepts of faith and power and fear, but do so in the crime genre. When all of the pieces began to fall into place, Sister Tulah just seemed...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, April 2, 2017

Christina Kovac

Christina Kovac is the author of The Cutaway: A Thriller.

From her Q&A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: You spent many years working in TV news. How much was The Cutaway based on your own experiences?

A: Every single street I wrote about, I’ve walked on. The newsroom wasn’t one where I had worked, the people weren’t people I worked with, and Virginia certainly isn’t me! But this could definitely happen—this set of circumstances, these types of people. They’re all composite characters.

The story that got me thinking about the politics behind crimes against women was the Chandra Levy case. I did work on that. This isn’t close to that, but it’s an aspect of people using access to further their career. You try to hold onto the humanity of the victim. Those pressures are very real. But no one is real [among the characters in the book].

Q: How did you come up with the idea for your main character, Virginia?

A: I was a young mother and 9/11 had just happened. Tim Russert pulled us into the office and said, We need to plan in case of another attack. My husband is also in TV, and he said, Obviously, you have to take care of the children. I said, I have to work too.

It became clear after all the chaos, missing pickups at day care, that...[read on]
Visit Christina Kovac's website.

My Book, The Movie: The Cutaway.

The Page 69 Test: The Cutaway.

Writers Read: Christina Kovac.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, April 1, 2017

J. Kael Weston

John Kael Weston represented the United States for more than a decade as a State Department official. Washington acknowledged his multi-year work in Fallujah with Marines by awarding him one of its highest honors, the Secretary of State’s Medal for Heroism.

Weston's 2016 book is The Mirror Test: America at War in Iraq and Afghanistan.

From the transcript of the author's interview with Fresh Air's Terry Gross:

GROSS: This is FRESH AIR. And if you're just joining us, my guest is J. Kael Weston, author of the new war memoir "The Mirror Test." He served seven consecutive years in Iraq and Afghanistan between 2003 and 2010. He was working as a State Department official and political adviser. Prior to that, he led American efforts in the U.N. Security Council to freeze and block al-Qaida-linked assets. He received the secretary of state's medal for heroism.

I think it's fair to say that the most personally devastating part of the war for you was when 30 men, 30 Marines and one Navy corpsman, died in a helicopter clash over the Anbar desert in Iraq. They were all killed. And you hold yourself responsible for the mission they were on and, therefore, consider yourself responsible for their deaths. That's a terrible burden to carry. What was the mission? And what was your goal in creating that mission?

WESTON: We had an Iraqi election coming up in January of 2005. So Marine leaders and I were in Fallujah trying to come up with the best strategy to allow, you know, those purple finger moments if we remember the Iraqi voters. And in a province as big Iraq, we had a couple of options. One option was to just focus on the two primary population centers, Fallujah and Ramadi, which had the support of a top general - in fact, General Dunford who's now the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. And it was a very logical, wise policy.

And then there was the other side of the argument, which I advocated. And that was we needed to go wide rather than just deep. We needed to give more Sunnis in Anbar, more Iraqis the opportunity to vote. And I believe that because one, politically, if you're a tribal leader in a small community and Marines have not protected your polling site and your people can't vote, the day after the election, you may point a finger at the Americans or at the election commission and say, you know, my people didn't have the chance to vote for me. So there was that practical side.

The problem was - and here's where the conscience comes in - is that the Sunni leaders had been telling me they were going to boycott the election. So I basically overruled the staff officers. And it was a political issue. It was a State Department issue. And so we decided to go wide. And that is the mission they were on, flying low and fast over a dark, cold desert, and one of the helicopters crashed. And to make tragedy even more tragedy, the lives were lost and, sure enough, very few voters voted. I also think that, you know, responsibility and accountability in wartime goes to...[read on]
Visit J. Kael Weston's website.

The Page 99 Test: The Mirror Test.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, March 31, 2017

Deb Olin Unferth

Deb Olin Unferth's new story collection is Wait Till You See Me Dance.

From her Q&A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: What themes do you see running through the whole collection?

A: I guess one thing I feel is something I write about a lot…is that there’s always someone trying to help someone else and being inadequate at it, or not supposed to do it….

I feel that’s in a lot of stories. It’s the way I’ve lived my life. My last book [Revolution] was about when I was 18 and went to Central America to try to join a revolution with my boyfriend. Now I run a prison program here in Texas…. How do I teach these people who are so different from me? It’s a bigger challenge than I’d thought.

I’m trying to help people and animals—I’m a vegan; it’s a huge thing in my life. Every time I try to help it ends up a mess [especially earlier on]--a lot is based on...[read on]
The Page 99 Test: Revolution.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, March 30, 2017

Dave Zeltserman

Jacob Stone is the byline chosen by award-winning author Dave Zeltserman for his new Morris Brick series of serial-killer thrillers. His crime, mystery and horror fiction has won top praise and has been translated into six languages. His novels Small Crimes and Pariah were both named by the Washington Post as best books of the year. Small Crimes topped National Public Radio's list of best crime and mystery novels of 2008 and is being made into a feature film.

Stone/Zeltserman's latest novel is Deranged, the first Morris Black thriller.

From his Q&A with Emma R. Murphy for the Needham Times:

How did you get your start writing novels?

While in school and later working as a software engineer, I never would've imagined having a story or novel published. But I always read a lot from very early on—first science fiction and fantasy, and then mystery and crime fiction, and at different times I'd be drawn to writing. My early attempts were pretty bad, but somewhere along the way I found my voice and started writing short stories that I thought could be published, and when they were, I started my first novel, "Fast Lane," which was a pitch-black noir crime novel. I was working sixty hours a week as a software engineer then, and it took two years to write it in whatever spare time I could find, but eventually "Fast Lane" was published, first in Italy, and then by a micro-press in the US.

Where do you get ideas for your books? 

The ideas for my short stories and novels come from...[read on]
Visit Dave Zeltserman's website.

My Book, The Movie: Deranged.

The Page 69 Test: Deranged.

Writers Read: Jacob Stone.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Michelle Brafman

Michelle Brafman's latest book is Bertrand Court. From her Q&A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: Would you describe the book as a novel or as linked short stories, and why?

A: It's most accurate to describe Bertrand Court as a collection of linked stories, but it definitely has an arc, which is expressed via life’s passages. The book opens with a story narrated by a fetus and proceeds to explore: a couple’s burning desire to conceive, a disastrous bris, a kindergartner’s birthday party mishap, a fading politico’s midlife torpidity, and an heiress’s desperate search for meaning.

In the final chapter, on the eve of his 50th birthday, an upstanding father and husband subconsciously risks his marriage because he is terrified of his mortality and wants to destroy...[read on]
Visit Michelle Brafman's website.

My Book, The Movie: Bertrand Court.

The Page 69 Test: Bertrand Court.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Bruce Feiler

Bruce Feiler's new book is The First Love Story: Adam, Eve, and Us. From the transcript of his Q&A with NPR's Michel Martin:

MARTIN: I could argue that this is, perhaps, the most challenging of the books that you have asked people to kind of reconsider the biblical story. But I'm really interested to know how people are responding to it and if they feel appreciative that you've given this new opportunity or are people just kind of, look, you know, you can't change my mind about this? This is one of the arguments that some people make about why they've walked away from organized religion because they feel that all it really does is kind of provide the warrant for suppressing certain people and particularly women.

FEILER: There's a fascinating paradox to me about religion that we don't talk about a lot. And that is that nothing has been more aggressively discriminatory against women than organized religion. And exactly the moment in the last whatever hundred years, 50 years, 15 years where religion has become voluntary, who could have blamed women for...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, March 27, 2017

Jessica Anya Blau

Jessica Anya Blau's books include The Summer of Naked Swim Parties, Drinking Closer to Home, and The Wonder Bread Summer.

Her latest novel is The Trouble with Lexie.

From Blau's Q&A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: How did you come up with the idea for The Trouble with Lexie, and for your main character?

A: The story started after I met a man who had just come out of prison. I asked him what he’d gone in for and he said he had been addicted, broke into someone’s house, and stole drugs from their medicine cabinet.

I said something dumb and simple, like, “Bummer.” And he said, “The problem wasn’t so much that I had stolen the drugs. The problem really was that I had fallen asleep on the bed of the owner of the drugs.”

Those two sentences stuck with me and I used versions of them in the opening scene of The Trouble with Lexie. From that moment on, I was asking myself, who is this person who was so desperate she took these drugs and crashed on this bed?

Essentially, I worked backwards. I found the place where she was (passed out on the bed) and wrote the whole book as a way of getting her to that bed.

The more I wrote, the more she became a version of me....[read on]
Learn more about the book and author at Jessica Anya Blau's website, Facebook page, and Twitter perch.

Coffee with a Canine: Jessica Anya Blau and Pippa.

The Page 69 Test: The Wonder Bread Summer.

My Book, The Movie: The Wonder Bread Summer.

The Page 69 Test: The Trouble with Lexie.

My Book, The Movie: The Trouble with Lexie.

Writers Read: Jessica Anya Blau.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, March 26, 2017

John Scalzi

John Scalzi's new novel is The Collapsing Empire.

From his interview with NPR's Petra Mayer:

You've said that the book — and its title — aren't a reference to any kind of current events in the U.S., but as I read it I kept thinking there had to be some kind of historical parallel, some great empire that fell when its trade routes failed or its ports silted up. What was your inspiration?

In fact I did think very generally about the "golden age" of European exploration, roughly corresponding to the 15th through 17th centuries, in the sense that the empires that rose out of that era were wholly dependent on natural forces (wind, ocean currents, rivers) to move their ships and shape their destinies with regard to trade and exploration. We're so used to having at least some mechanical control of our travel that it's hard to put oneself back into a mindset where travel took months, not hours, and was not always a safe and predictable thing.

So there was no one particular empire in our past I was borrowing from, but rather, a whole historical gestalt, and...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, March 25, 2017

Sharon Begley

Sharon Begley's new book is Can't Just Stop: An Investigation of Compulsions.

From her Q&A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: Why did you decide to write about compulsions, and what do you see as the best definition of the term?

A: It’s from casual observation, mostly in my work life. Just a few years ago, it was obvious nobody could go anywhere or do anything—a trip to the cafeteria or the ladies’ room—without their phone attached to them, as if it’s an oxygen tank.

I was watching that, and…asking why that is. Many of the things we do are because they’re fun, but this was very different. We’re attached to our phones, or hoarding, or [expressing] manifestations of OCD because if we didn’t do them, we would be puddles of anxiety. It’s all about keeping anxiety at bay.

I was trying to get experts to explain the difference between addictive and compulsive behaviors…When I got to people who did understand it, [the idea was that] compulsion arises from an anxiety…Addictive behavior arises because...[read on]
The Page 69 Test: Sharon Begley's Train Your Mind, Change Your Brain.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, March 24, 2017

Timothy Snyder

Timothy Snyder is a professor of history at Yale University and the author of numerous books of European history, most recently, On Tyranny: Twenty Lessons from the Twentieth Century. From the English version of an interview with Matthias Kolb published in Süddeutsche Zeitung on February 7, 2017:

You wrote an article for Slate in November, comparing the rise of Donald Trump with the rise of Adolf Hitler. Why did you feel the need to publish such a piece?

It’s very important that we use history to our advantage now, rather than finding in history taboos and ways to silence one another. The history of the 1930s is terribly important to Americans (and Europeans) right now, just as it is slipping from our memories. I was not trying to provoke one more fruitless series of conversations about comparability. I was trying to help Americans who were generally either shocked (people who voted against Trump) or surprised (people who voted for him, who generally thought he would lose) find their bearings in a new situation. The temptation in a new situation is to imagine that nothing has changed. That is a choice that has political consequences: self-delusion leads to half-conscious anticipatory obedience and then to regime change. Anyway, I didn’t actually compare Trump to Hitler, I didn’t use these two names. What I did was to write a very short history of the rise of Adolf Hitler to power without using his name, which might allow Americans to recognize certain similarities to the moment they themselves were living through. I know that these comparisons are a national taboo in Germany, but at the moment its rather important that Germans be generous with their history and help others to learn how republics collapse. Most Americans are exceptionalists, we think we live outside of history. Americans tend to think: “We have freedom because we love freedom, we love freedom because we are free.” It is a bit circular and doesn’t acknowledge the historical structures that can favor or weaken democratic republics. We don’t realize how...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Cara Hoffman

Cara Hoffman's latest novel is Running.

From her Q&A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: You note that Running was inspired by your own time in Athens in the late 1980s. Did you plan for a long time to write a novel with that setting, and how did you come up with your three main characters?

A: Running is a novel that's gone through many drafts. I began taking notes for the novel when I was 19 years old living in a hotel in the red light district of Athens and working as a runner.

The three main characters are based on people I knew. Running is illegal work--basically hustling tourists to stay in low-end hotels in exchange for a free room and a small commission. It was a good way to live for free if you wanted to travel for long periods of time.

I love Athens--it's gorgeous, gritty, and complex and I always knew I would write about it. Athens is the city where I became...[read on]
Visit Cara Hoffman's website.

Writers Read: Cara Hoffman (March 2011).

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Peter Singer

Peter Singer's books include Ethics in the Real World: 82 Brief Essays on Things That Matter.

From his Q & A with Linch Zhang for the Huffington Post:

Linch: One of your largest focuses as a public figure is emphasizing the harms of climate change and the need to do something about it. I’m guessing this is probably not a question you ever get outside of effective altruism(EA) circles, but what is the rationale for emphasizing climate change? As a sanity check, depending on various estimates, climate change kills between 150,000 and 400,000 people a year, and is projected to approach 600,000 in 2030. This is no doubt extremely horrifying. But at the same time, roughly the same number of people die from malaria every year, while climate change gets far more attention, and seems harder to solve. At the margins, why should a concerned aspiring effective altruist or a HuffPost reader focus on mitigating climate change instead of malaria or other highly neglected problems?

Singer: The number of people dying from malaria is, fortunately, declining, while the number dying from climate change is, unfortunately, increasing. And it could get much worse after 2030, so that within decades, the numbers dying or becoming refugees could reach the tens or even hundreds of millions. That’s the most important reason to...[read on]
Peter Singer is Ira W. DeCamp Professor of Bioethics at Princeton University. He is the author, co-author, or editor of more than thirty books, including Animal Liberation, widely considered to be the founding statement of the animal rights movement, Practical Ethics, and One World: Ethics and Globalization.

Visit The Life You Can Save website, Facebook page, and Twitter perch.

The Page 99 Test: The Life You Can Save.

The Page 99 Test: The Most Good You Can Do.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Sara Blaedel

Sara Blaedel's latest novel is The Lost Woman. From her Q&A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: Your new novel The Lost Woman focuses on the issue of assisted suicide. Why did you decide to look at that issue, and how is it viewed in Denmark?

A: As is the case in the USA, the subject of assisted suicide is hugely controversial in Denmark. There is a great and growing debate about legalization. Some 70 percent of the population are in favor, but the government is staunchly against passing laws to enable Danish citizens to legally assist the afflicted who wish to end their lives in their suicidal acts.

There is also a deeply personal element for me, with regard to my decision to explore assisted suicide in The Lost Woman. I lost my parents four years ago, which was crushing for me.

During my mother’s illness, she spoke frequently and at length about her desire to control when her life would end. She referred, constantly, to no longer feeling like or being herself.

Of course, the discussion was heartbreaking and unthinkable for me for quite some time. I couldn’t think about losing her, let alone being involved in any way with hastening her passing.

I tried...[read on]
Visit Sara Blaedel's website.

Writers Read: Sara Blaedel (February 2016).

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, March 20, 2017

Kevin N. Laland

Kevin Laland is Professor of Behavioural and Evolutionary Biology at the University of St Andrews, U.K. His book is Darwin’s Unfinished Symphony: How Culture Made the Human Mind.

From a Q&A with the author:

What does this book have to say about animal intelligence?

Our research into animal behavior has established that mammals, birds, fishes and insects all acquire knowledge and skills through social learning. Mostly animals copy useful things, such as how to find and process food, but social learning can generate extraordinary habits. For instance, capuchin monkeys possess habits of sucking of each other’s body parts, whilst some chickens have a taste for cannibalism. Animals can be highly innovative. For instance, apes have contrived clever means of extracting palm hearts from trees with vicious spines, whilst gulls have devised the habit of catching rabbits and killing them by dropping them onto rocks. From these foundations, human culture evolved through a runaway autocatalytic process in which innovation, social learning, tool use, and brain expansion fed back on each other.

Animals can be smart, but humans are clearly far more intelligent. Why is that?

Studies of how the brain evolved in primates suggests...[read on]
Visit the Darwin’s Unfinished Symphony website.

The Page 99 Test: Darwin's Unfinished Symphony.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Kathleen Rooney

Kathleen Rooney is a founding editor of Rose Metal Press, a publisher of literary work in hybrid genres, and a founding member of Poems While You Wait, a team of poets and their typewriters who compose commissioned poetry on demand. She teaches English and Creative Writing at DePaul University and is the author of eight books of poetry, nonfiction, and fiction, including the novel O, Democracy! (Fifth Star Press, 2014) and the novel in poems Robinson Alone (Gold Wake Press, 2012). With Eric Plattner, she is the co-editor of René Magritte: Selected Writings (University of Minnesota Press, 2016 and Alma Books, 2016). A winner of a Ruth Lilly Fellowship from Poetry magazine, her reviews and criticism have appeared in the New York Times Book Review, The Chicago Tribune, The New York Times Magazine, The Rumpus, The Nation, the Poetry Foundation website and elsewhere. She lives in Chicago with her spouse, the writer Martin Seay.

Rooney's new book, her second novel, is Lillian Boxfish Takes a Walk.

From Rooney's Q&A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: You write that Lillian Boxfish is based on a real advertising woman and poet named Margaret Fishback. How did you decide to write a novel based on her life, and what did you see as the right balance between history and fiction?

A: [My friend Angela McClendon Ossar] happened upon Fishback's papers, she knew instantly that Fishback...would appeal to me as a person, and that her comedy in both her ads and her light verse would appeal to my sensibility.

Thanks to Angela, I got to be the first non-archivist to work with her materials. But it took me almost a decade to decide what form my work on Fishback would take.

The key that let me decide--and that also let me strike that balance between history and fiction--was my own love of flanerie: aimless walking through an urban environment. I knew that if I let my Lillian Boxfish be a city walker, I could free myself up to do the imaginative work necessary to make it a novel.

Q: What type of research did you need to do to recreate the decades you write about, and was there anything that especially surprised you?

A: I tried to follow the rule of...[read on]
Visit Kathleen Rooney's website.

The Page 99 Test: Live Nude Girl.

The Page 99 Test: For You, for You I Am Trilling These Songs.

My Book, The Movie: For You, for You I Am Trilling These Songs.

My Book, The Movie: Lillian Boxfish Takes a Walk.

Writers Read: Kathleen Rooney.

--Marshal Zeringue