Sunday, October 22, 2017

Elizabeth L. Silver

Elizabeth L. Silver's latest book is The Tincture of Time: A Memoir of (Medical) Uncertainty.

From her Q&A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: You write, "The Tincture of Time is a mantra for anything that poses the proverbial question, 'What if?'" How did you end up choosing that as the book's title, and what else does it signify for you?

A: The title came from a conversation I had with my husband while we were in the NICCU with our daughter. A physician himself, he mentioned that he sometimes writes, “the tincture of time” at the bottom of some patient notes. I stared at him in shock. Sometimes time is the only cure, the only medicine or treatment to a medical ailment, he continued.

We had a long conversation about this topic. It’s not the cliché that time will heal all wounds, because it may for some and may not for others, but rather time as the only answer for your questions. I realized how specifically that applied to...[read on]
Learn more about the book and author at Elizabeth L. Silver's website.

The Page 69 Test: The Execution of Noa P. Singleton.

My Book, The Movie: The Execution of Noa P. Singleton.

Writers Read: Elizabeth L. Silver (July 2013) .

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, October 21, 2017

Kate Winkler Dawson

Kate Winkler Dawson is the author of Death in the Air: The True Story of a Serial Killer, the Great London Smog, and the Strangling of a City.

From a Q&A at her website:

Q: How did you discover these two relatively unknown stories? What first caught your attention and why did you decide to braid them into one narrative?

A: During my senior year of college, I studied in London while working at United Press International, and I fell in love with the city. I feel so comfortable there. When I was searching for compelling stories for my debut book, I discovered the story of The Great Smog was immediately intrigued. The smog was a story that no one had written about—it is one of the most forgotten environmental disasters in history—which made it all the more alluring. I knew I had to write about.

As I was delving into the research, I began digging through newspaper archives for 1953. (The fog happened in December of 1952, but the debates in Parliament began in January 1953) As I searched through the headlines looking for smog news, I began to see headlines like “Murder House” or “Third Body Found.” They were, of course, in reference to John Reginald Christie, one of the most infamous serial killers in history. I began exploring John Reginald Christie’s story and realized that Christie and the fog were two killers with many parallels. The fog ultimately killed 12,000 people and Christie claimed at least eight victims of his own – many by asphyxiation. Individually, each story is fascinating, atmospheric, and creepy—together, they are a writer’s dream.

Beyond this, I also became interested what happened after the...[read on]
Visit Kate Winkler Dawson's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, October 20, 2017

Sara Taylor

Sara Taylor's new novel is The Lauras.

From her Q&A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: How did you come up with the idea for The Lauras, and for your characters Alex and Ma?

A: The Lauras was originally going to be a short story that begins with a small child being kidnapped from their parents’ house. I had planned for it to be slowly revealed that the kidnapper was a relative who had taken the child for very good reasons, but before I could get there it became clear that the narrator I was writing was much older than the four or five-year-old I had envisioned.

I liked that voice too much to throw it away, and I recognised the situation that Alex was in, of not wanting to question the parent in charge not because you think they know what they’re doing but because you’re worried they don’t, as one that I’ve been wanting to explore in fiction, so I went with it. Both of their characters then...[read on]
Visit Sara Taylor's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Hillary Clinton

Hillary Rodham Clinton is the first woman in US history to become the presidential nominee of a major political party. She served as the 67th Secretary of State—from January 21, 2009, until February 1, 2013—after nearly four decades in public service advocating on behalf of children and families as an attorney, First Lady, and Senator. Her new book is What Happened.

From the transcript of Clinton's conversation with Fareed Zakaria:

ZAKARIA: What should Democrats do to try to deal with the reality that there is this cultural anxiety? Is there -- you know, is there any way to connect with it without succumbing to prejudice?

CLINTON: Well, I have said, and I really believe this that I'm not going to give up on the progress of the last 50 to 60 years in our country. We are a fairer, better nation because we have the Civil Rights Act. Because women's rights were recognized and we both knocked down discrimination and created more doors of opportunity, that we are treating gay people with respect and giving them their equal rights as citizens.

That, you know, when you look at freedom of religion, something that was so critical to our constitution why are we scapegoating Muslims? You know? People who are here in our country making contributions. So my view on this is it's a terrible mistake for Democrats or anybody to walk away from these core values and rights.

We have to stand up for them and we have to do a better job, number one, of explaining to people, you are being snookered. But you know what? The real threat to your future is a government that doesn't care about you and is taking actions that will make your life even harder and is favoring the wealthy beyond anything we've ever, ever seen before.

ZAKARIA: But doesn't it distrust you then that you watch here, you make up that argument, that very cogent argument, and he plays with the NFL controversy?

CLINTON: Yes. Yes.

ZAKARIA: Which is purely symbolic.

CLINTON: Right.

ZAKARIA: And it's clearly an attempt to, again --

CLINTON: But look...[read on]
Follow Hillary Clinton on Facebook and Twitter.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Abby Stern

Abby Stern is the author of the new novel According to a Source.

From her Q&A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: How did you come up with the idea for According to a Source, and for your character Ella? Did your own experiences working in Hollywood factor into the story at all?

A: When I first started freelancing for a celebrity magazine and would tell friends both in and out of LA what I did, they were intrigued and asked me a million questions. They couldn't believe I got to go to parties and red carpets to interview celebrities and would sometimes get to hang out after.

As I became more immersed in that side of the industry I got to know other people who did different things at magazines and in my gut I felt like there was a really fun story to tell. I was a huge fan of The Devil Wears Prada and thought the same kind of narrative could work for a Holllywood story so I sat down and started writing.

There is definitely some of me in Ella, good and bad. It's more of the younger version of me. People don't approach decisions they make in life ever intentionally trying to do the wrong thing, but they do. And people aren't always likeable. I wanted to make sure Ella was...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Jonathan Eig

Ken Burns calls Jonathan Eig a "master storyteller." Eig is the author of five books, two of them New York Times best sellers.

His new biography is Ali: A Life.

From the transcript of Eig's Fresh Air interview with Dave Davies:

DAVIES: You know, you're right that in 1965, he was probably the most hated man in America or at least in white America. And then by the '70s, it all began to change. Why?

EIG: It's fascinating to see this happen. And you know, we forget sometimes that Ali was so deeply hated because the Ali of the '70s is very different. When he comes back from his exile, first of all, the war is wildly unpopular. And the - so the - when he began his protest, there was still a, you know, very strong support for the war in Vietnam. But by 1971, people can say, wow, Ali was right; that war has been a disaster. No wonder he didn't want to fight over there.

He also has suffered. He's given up three and a half years of his career and millions of dollars. And then he comes back to the ring. And he fights Joe Frazier, and he gets whooped. I mean, Frazier knocks him on his butt with his vicious left hook. Ali gets up. He keeps fighting. This is one of the greatest and most vicious fights in boxing history. And Ali loses, but he stays on his feet. He survives this thing.

And I think then you begin to see him as a martyr, as a hero, as somebody who gets knocked down and keeps coming back. And he's got to start earning his way back toward another shot at the heavyweight championship. And this is when you begin to see the public attitude changing. There's a - you can't deny...[read on]
Learn more about the book and author at Jonathan Eig's website.

The Page 99 Test: Get Capone.

The Page 99 Test: The Birth of the Pill.

My Book, The Movie: Ali: A Life.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, October 16, 2017

Edward Kelsey Moore

Edward Kelsey Moore's newest novel is The Supremes Sing the Happy Heartache Blues.

From his Q&A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: Did you know when you wrote the first Supremes book that you'd be writing another one?

A: I knew that there was more to the story of the three main characters of The Supremes at Earl’s All-You-Can-Eat when I finished it and I hoped to return to them.

After my first novel was published, I began working on another, not-Supremes-related novel. But ideas for what became The Supremes Sing the Happy Heartache Blues kept interrupting my work on that book. I decided to write the book that wanted to be written.

Q: How do you think your characters changed from the first book to the second?

A: During the five years since the end of the first novel and the start of the second, the main characters have adapted to the altered lives they were left with after the events of the first book.

Odette is the survivor of a serious illness now and she has fully accepted the strange inheritance she received from her mother. Clarice has the career she had always dreamed of. Barbara Jean is with the love of her life.

However, in the second book, they are forced to...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Fiona Davis

Fiona Davis's latest novel is The Address.

From her Q&A with Jennifer Vido at MomTrends:

What inspired you to write The Address, set in the Dakota in New York City?

I love the history of old buildings. I always begin with an architectural landmark when I’m figuring out a new book. Back in the Gilded Age, the Upper West Side of New York was largely undeveloped. The owner and architect for the Dakota took a huge risk in putting up a luxury apartment house that far away from the city proper. I did some research and discovered that the Dakota has a rich history – from the time it was built in the 1880s up to today – full of tragedy, intrigue, and drama. It made for a perfect setting for a work of historical fiction with two timelines.

Let’s talk about the alternating time periods of the story. How much research was necessary in order for the novel to ring true with your readers?

For the story line set in 1884, I read novels and newspapers from the period, as well as books and articles on the Dakota and New York City. I toured the building and got an inside look, from the basement to the top floors where the servants used to sleep. The second timeline, set in the 1980s...[read on]
Visit Fiona Davis's website.

My Book, The Movie: The Address.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, October 14, 2017

Elizabeth Rosner

Elizabeth Rosner's newest book is Survivor Cafe: The Legacy of Trauma and the Labyrinth of Memory. She is the daughter of Holocaust survivors. Her other books include the novels Electric City and The Speed of Light.

From her Q&A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: You begin your new book with what you term “The Alphabet of Inadequate Language.” How did this idea come to you, and why did you start the book this way?

A: One day it just came pouring out of me. Language is something I think about all the time. There’s a chapter called The S-Word, about the problematic issues I have with the word “survivor.” I’m aware of how much we pack into a single word.

The language associated with the Holocaust feels so meager to me, and how we got so casual about it…loaded bombs should be going off every time we say these words. It just became part of the conversation. I started listing words alphabetically that had that kind of condensed power…

It was a compendium of everything I really wanted to cover in the book. I kept wanting to go back and do more, but by putting it at the beginning, it creates a hovering effect, a ghostly umbrella of words introducing you to the scope of the conversation—you’re joining a big conversation, and...[read on]
Visit Elizabeth Rosner's website.

The Page 69 Test: Electric City.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, October 13, 2017

Michael Poore

Michael Poore’s short fiction has appeared in Glimmer Train, Southern Review, Agni, Fiction, and Asimov’s. His story “The Street of the House of the Sun” was selected for The Year’s Best Nonrequired Reading 2012. His first novel, Up Jumps the Devil, was hailed by The New York Review of Books as “an elegiac masterpiece.” Poore lives in Highland, Indiana, with his wife, poet and activist Janine Harrison, and their daughter, Jianna.

Poore's new novel is Reincarnation Blues.

From his Q&A with Bryan Furuness:

This book's got a big hook: Your main character Milo has lived 9,995 lives, and has five more chances to "get it right," or he falls into oblivion. Tell me the origin story of this idea.

This idea came from Arizona.

At Christmastime in 2001, I had this magical visit with my dad and stepmom in Tucson. It seemed that everything we did, everywhere we went presented me with the seed for a story. One of those stories fell into my lap when we drove up to see my stepbrother, Steve, in Phoenix. Steve was--and is--a nationally-ranked bicycle racer, an incredible athlete. He rides up mountains, for Chrissake. He also makes handcrafted prosthetics for people, and he showed us around his shop and office, talking in a general way about his patients. Many of the people he worked with were Native Americans of the Tohono O'odom nation, whom he admired.

Well, this visit instantly flashed into an idea...I remember taking notes all the way home, and it turned into a story titled "Chief Next Lightning's Phantom Hand" (StoryQuarterly #39). The story featured an elderly Tohono O'odham chief who visited a prosthetic specialist (and racer). No matter what anyone did, though, the chief was nearing the end of his life. In fact, his death--which looked exactly like him--was approaching across the Southwest as the story progressed. Sometimes hitchhiking, sometimes catching a bus. Eventually, death caught up with the chief at the picnic table outside his trailer, and they smoked a cigarette together.
That's Part One of the idea.

Part Two took place in Arizona as well, eleven years later. I was on vacation with...[read on]
Visit Michael Poore's website.

My Book, The Movie: Reincarnation Blues.

The Page 69 Test: Reincarnation Blues.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Shanthi Sekaran

Shanthi Sekaran's latest novel is Lucky Boy.

From her Q&A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: You've said that the inspiration for Lucky Boy came from a story you heard on NPR. How did you come up with your characters Soli and Kavya?

A: Soli was the first character I started writing, and it took me a long time to find my way with her. She started out much older than she is now—in her mid-20s, rather than 18—but there’s a naivete to her that felt better situated in an 18-year-old.

I started out by putting her through the motions of plot, while grasping to understand her character, and I struggled with this for a while.

Then I found a way to get to Mexico for a couple weeks, and stayed in a little town outside of Oaxaca. Once I did that, and could physically experience the sort of town that Soli might be from, I began to feel her character more strongly and write her more confidently.

Kavya was an easier character to write, at the outset. Her life isn’t very different from mine. The challenge with her lay in...[read on]
Learn more about the author and her work at Shanthi Sekaran's website.

Writers Read: Shanthi Sekaran (June 2009).

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Ed Lin

Ed Lin's latest book is Incensed. From his Q&A with Evelyn Nien-Ming Chien for Hyphen magazine:

Evelyn Ch’ien: Taiwan is the setting for Ghost Month and your Taipei Night Market series. Could you talk about your exposure to Taiwan?

Ed Lin: My formal understanding of Taiwan came through my parents and then extensive research. Martial law had been imposed, so you couldn’t really talk about Taiwan [politics] until the late ‘80s. The Kuomintang (KMT) had their spies all over the United States, in restaurants and on college campuses. If you were talking about Taiwanese independence or overthrowing the KMT, your relatives back in Taiwan would suffer. They would suddenly disappear or have their passports confiscated, things like that. My father didn’t really talk about Taiwan until martial law was lifted. And then he was like, “Taiwan must be free!”

In that sense, Taiwanese American identity is still developing. Just the fact that you're allowed to have it now is pretty remarkable. I was interviewed by a woman at [the Chinese-language newspaper] China Daily about Ghost Month and I found that really interesting because [China Daily is] basically a Chinese government publication. I asked, “Is it okay to talk about Taiwan?” And she said, “It’s okay to talk about Taiwan.” I couldn’t use the word “Taiwanese,” though. [Laughs.]

One thing that helped me a lot [in my research] was Columbia University Press' "Modern Chinese Literature from Taiwan" series that translated a lot of contemporary and fairly recent Taiwanese works into English. I think I’ve read every single book in the series to date.

I visited Taiwan a few times when I was a kid, but the hardcore research started in 2012. I know someone who works in the music and entertainment industry in Taiwan where there’s often an element of organized crime -- because, how else to scrape the money to record a song? Through that contact, I have been able to talk to people involved in organized crime. I also met this guy online who had been an anti-KMT activist in the ‘70s who was part of a group that filmed themselves spray-painting government buildings and holding protests. There was a whole network that distributed those films to stir up Taiwanese nativist feelings.

So this guy, who apparently was the driver on a number of fire-bombings of government buildings (no one was killed, but...[read on]
Learn more about the book and author at Ed Lin's website.

The Page 69 Test: Snakes Can't Run.

The Page 69 Test: One Red Bastard.

My Book, The Movie: Ghost Month.

Writers Read: Ed Lin (October 2016).

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Tara Sullivan

Tara Sullivan is the author of the young adult novel The Bitter Side of Sweet. From her Q&A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: How did you come up with the idea for The Bitter Side of Sweet, and for your three main characters?

A: When I decide to write a book, it’s because I’ve found an issue that won’t let go of me: some injustice that resonates deeply.

For The Bitter Side of Sweet, it was the idea that children in one part of the world have to work in modern slavery conditions so that children in another part of the world can have inexpensive treats.

Researching the human rights issue leads me to the setting: The Bitter Side of Sweet needed to be set in the Ivory Coast because it is both the largest producer of cocoa in the world and has, at a conservative estimate, over 200,000 children working in unpaid and un-free conditions to do so.

Once I know my setting, I move on to character. Whose voice is the best one to tell the story I need to tell? Whose experience would be most representative of the conditions I want to reflect? For The Bitter Side of Sweet, my answer to those questions led to...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, October 9, 2017

Tim Minchin

Tim Minchin is a Tony Award-winning musician, comedian, actor, and writer. In 2009, he was commissioned by the Royal Shakespeare Company to write the music and lyrics for a stage adaptation of Roald Dahl’s Matilda. Matilda the Musical has won over 50 international awards, including seven Olivier Awards and five Tony Awards. His new children’s book, When I Grow Up, is based on the lyrics of the songs from Matilda.

From Minchin's Q&A with Michael Hogan for the Guardian:

[Minchin] I’m interested in how the world’s changed since I last properly did comedy in 2010.

What’s been your view of that from over in LA?

Pretty bleak. It feels a bit post-jokes. Maybe “Post-Jokes Jokes” should be the name of my next live show. In this post-factual era, the horse called “evidence” seems to have bolted. That horse is in the knacker’s yard. California is obviously a liberal heartland but I really have a problem with this country. They call it populism, but it’s just nationalism. In a global world, nationalism is a fantasy and it’s poison. It used to be appropriate but it’s not any more and we haven’t learned that lesson yet. Trump is a nationalist. Brexit wouldn’t have got across the line without nationalistic philosophies. Even Australia’s stubbornness about gay marriage, which is as upsetting as everything else at the moment, is...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, October 8, 2017

Valerie Geary

Valerie Geary is the author of the novel Crooked River as well as the new novel Everything We Lost. From her Q&A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: How did you come up with the idea for Everything We Lost, and why did you decide to make UFOs a part of the story?

A: There wasn’t one thing that sparked this book, rather assorted bits and pieces coming together at the same time. I was on five weeks of bed rest after breaking a bone in my back and was watching a lot of X-Files. I loved the dynamic between Scully and Mulder, the skeptic and the believer.

I was also thinking a lot about memories, how quickly they change, and about the experiences we have as children, how challenging it can be to interpret those memories many years later. Finally, I wanted to write a book exploring big mysteries and those life questions that don’t always have answers.

I wanted UFOs to play a role in this book from the start, but it wasn’t until I started doing research that I understood what exactly this would look like.

As I dove deeper into the history and the beliefs surrounding ufology, I began to see a lot of similarities between ufology and other more mainstream religions. Having been raised in a fundamentalist religion, and having since left that religion, this...[read on]
Learn more about the book and author at Valerie Geary's website.

Writers Read: Valerie Geary (November 2014).

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, October 7, 2017

Jan Elizabeth Watson

Jan Elizabeth Watson was raised in Maine, where she currently lives, writes, and teaches and which also serves as the backdrop for her novels Asta in the Wings (Tin House Books) and What Has Become of You (Dutton). From her Q&A at Bookmaester:

Who is your favorite character in ASTA IN THE WINGS and why?

I'll always have a soft spot for Asta, the eponymous character of my first novel. She is a seven-year-old girl who, despite living in peculiar circumstances, has an awful lot of my early worldview. I remember being such a serious child, very fanciful and pragmatic at the same time. I was also somewhat critical. I related more to other adults than to other children for the most part but also silently disapproved of the things a lot of adults were saying and doing. It was fun to give voice to that mindset through Asta and to sneak in so many little memories from my own school days and from the neighborhood I grew up in. For instance, in the novel there's a mention of a "Satan church" and a school crossing guard who committed suicide, and both those things happened in my town when I was a child. It was a strange town at that time... lots of weird goings-on that I'm sure inspired me in some way. My friends who grew up with me there can attest to that, I think.

We live in divisive times. Should your religion/politics influence your writing?

This is probably not going to be a popular answer in this particular moment in time, but...[read on]
The Page 69 Test: What Has Become of You.

Writers Read: Jan Elizabeth Watson.

My Book, The Movie: What Has Become of You.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, October 6, 2017

Jessica Brockmole

Jessica Brockmole is the author of the novels Letters from Skye, At the Edge of Summer, and the recently released Woman Enters Left. From the author's Q&A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: How did you come up with the idea for Woman Enters Left, and for your character Louise?

A: When researching and writing historical fiction, I always have more material than I can use in the work-in-progress. Uncovered history, unused bits of research, and unexpected ideas all get jotted on blank index cards and tucked into a box.

When I’m brainstorming a new novel, I pull out my cards, spread them out, and pull together ones that could make a whole story.

Woman Enters Left was the intersection of a few of those cards. Golden Age Hollywood, the House Un-American Activities Committee, Route 66, road travel in the 1920s, the Radium Girls. I plucked these index cards from my stack and thought of how I could tie them all together to make what I hope is a compelling story.

I knew my main narrator would be from the ‘50s and would be from Hollywood, but the story of her genesis...[read on]
Learn more about the book and author at Jessica Brockmole's website, and follow her on Facebook and Twitter.

The Page 69 Test: Letters from Skye.

Writers Read: Jessica Brockmole (July 2013).

My Book, The Movie: Letters from Skye.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, October 5, 2017

Hillary Clinton

Hillary Rodham Clinton is the first woman in US history to become the presidential nominee of a major political party. She served as the 67th Secretary of State—from January 21, 2009, until February 1, 2013—after nearly four decades in public service advocating on behalf of children and families as an attorney, First Lady, and Senator. Her new book is What Happened.

From the transcript of Clinton's conversation with NPR's Rachel Martin:

I'd like to start our conversation about your new memoir by asking you to recount a particular event. This is a campaign event that you did in Mingo County, West Virginia, a town called Williamson. This is coal country, and you had met many voters there weren't happy with you. They were angry over comments that you had made around that time about wanting to "put a lot of coal miners and coal companies out of business." So you knew this was going to be a tough appearance and you wrote in the book the following quote: "All I knew for certain was they were angry, they were loud and they hated my guts." Can you just describe what that day felt like to you and what it signified as you moved forward in your campaign?

Well, it was a particularly difficult, even painful day because I had made clear for years, starting back in my 2008 campaign, that I understood what was happening in the changing fortunes of coal, that were largely global market forces, but also a growing recognition of the challenges that climate change posed. And I had given a number of speeches. I had a very well-developed plan to invest money into the area, and then in the midst of explaining that I said a sentence which I would, you know, I regretfully say, was taken out of context, blown up, and really was a rallying cry for people and others who were running the campaign against me to come out and blow this up out of all proportion. Now my campaign said, really, there's no point going to West Virginia because Democrats haven't won it in years. It didn't matter whether you said something or not, a Democratic candidate was not going to win it. But I felt a personal responsibility to the people in that state who had been good to me in the past, and to my husband, and I also wanted to make clear that I was much more than one gaffe, and I had a very strong commitment to helping them, so off I went to Mingo County, and when I got out of the car, when I got to the health center that I was going to be visiting, there was a large, very vocal demonstration against me, and the people were yelling all kinds of insults and attacks. And in the crowd was a man named Blankenship, who had just been convicted — in fact, was on his way to jail — for the negligent deaths of a number of the coal miners that his company employed. So it was a fraught, really incredibly difficult time. I went inside and met with a group of people who were trying to do what I think we should be doing in communities like the ones I was visiting across our country, particularly in rural and small town America. They were trying to make things better. So this health center, which had been strongly supported with federal dollars, was providing better health care with a particular emphasis on the opioid crisis. We sat and talked through what...[read on]
Follow Hillary Clinton on Facebook and Twitter.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Claire McMillan

Claire McMillan is the author of The Necklace and Gilded Age, which was inspired by Edith Wharton’s House of Mirth.

From her Q&A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: You’ve noted that some of the inspiration for The Necklace came from family memorabilia. How did these letters and journals help lead to the creation of the novel?

A: My husband’s great-grandmother’s scrapbook memorializing the house parties she threw in the 1920s was a useful primary document. Looking at it was almost like looking in a portal as it provided such a direct glimpse into another time.

We moved into a family house about 10 years ago, and the scrapbook had always been in the house. I revisited it a lot while writing the 1920s portions of the book as it helped to get me in the mood of the ‘20s.

I also had access to Amasa Stone Mather’s journals and letters of a grand tour he took around the world in 1907. The...[read on]
Learn more about the book and author at Claire McMillan's website.

Writers Read: Claire McMillan.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Masha Gessen

Masha Gessen's new book is The Future Is History: How Totalitarianism Reclaimed Russia.

From the transcript of her interview with NPR's Scott Simon:

SIMON: Let me begin with a question this blunt. Is Russia and Vladimir Putin trying to cause unrest in the U.S.?

GESSEN: Is he trying to cause unrest in the U.S.? Yes. But, you know, if you are going to - I wouldn't draw the conclusion from it that we know something about collusion during the 2016 presidential campaign.

SIMON: No. But what about the misinformation campaign that we keep discovering more about, hacking, what seems to be just a lot of Russian involvement on a lot of different fronts? Why - what is the Russian interest in causing unrest or consternation in the United States or Western Europe?

GESSEN: Well, actually, I think that causing unrest and consternation is an end in itself. And part of it - part of the goa; is psychological. You know, all of us are interested in seeing our worldviews affirmed. And Russia's worldview - the Russian - the contemporary Russian ideology is that the whole world is rotten. Everybody is corrupt. Everything is for sale. Elections and the United States are just as rigged as they are in Russia. And so sowing the kind of disruption that Russia is sowing first and foremost pursues the goal of...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, October 2, 2017

B.G. Firmani

B.G. Firmani's new novel is Time's a Thief.

From her Q&A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: How did you come up with the idea for Time’s a Thief and for your main character, Chess?

A: First, thank you for this interview—it’s beautiful to have thoughtful readers. There were a lot of different things that smashed up together that led to this book.

One really was the experience of crossing 34th Street right after the NYPD had graduated its cadet class of 2008 and having the streets around me suddenly flooded by a sea of blue—the visual moment of that was so striking.

(I’m trying to remember which of the Kieślowski “Three Colors” trilogy, maybe “Blue,” that has this crazy thing where a group of little girls with pink water-wings suddenly runs into the frame and jumps into the pool—a sort of throwaway incursion that’s just fantastic to the eye.)

It stayed with me, the idea of a character being in an accidentally charged moment and then coming into contact with a piece of “public” information that provides a very private shock to her—in this case, the obituary of Clarice Marr, a woman who has caused the narrator so much pain, right there on the front page of The New York Times.

Another current was that I’d had a notion to write a sort of retelling of Brideshead Revisited in a late 20th century American context—the class outsider captivated by...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, October 1, 2017

Lenora Chu

Lenora Chu's new book is Little Soldiers: An American Boy, a Chinese School, and the Global Race to Achieve. From the transcript of her Q&A with NPR's Mary Louise Kelly:

CHU: There is an element to Chinese culture where you use shame to compel behavior. And that's what I saw in this classroom. But what I did find is there are a few things the Chinese do well. And one of this is this sort of concept of eating bitter in the classroom - you know, hard work pays off in the classroom. I began finding studies that showed that in America, we're more likely to believe in talent and innate ability when it comes to performance in the classroom. And that means we're giving up on some kids because we don't believe they have what it takes.

KELLY: You're talking about a system that values effort over innate talent. Is that so very different from the emphasis that a lot of American schools are increasingly placing on effort, on instilling those values in students - call it grit?

CHU: That's right. The difference that I see is, in the U.S., you don't get universal buy-in. There's a lot of, I would say, parental revolt - when we push our kids harder, we're trying a different way to learn math. There is a fear, in part because we are afraid our kids aren't going to feel good about themselves if they can't get it. And you're not hearing Chinese parents really talk in that way. And what's interesting to me is if you look at the way we Americans look at sports, we believe in that - you know, training, getting faster, working harder contributes to results. And I feel that if we just put a little bit of that attitude into the classroom, we'd....[read on]
Visit Lenora Chu's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, September 30, 2017

Dennis Rasmussen

Dennis C. Rasmussen is associate professor of political science at Tufts University. His books include The Pragmatic Enlightenment.

His new book is The Infidel and the Professor: David Hume, Adam Smith, and the Friendship That Shaped Modern Thought.

From the author's Q&A at Princeton University Press:

Who were David Hume and Adam Smith, and why are they important?

Hume and Smith were eighteenth-century Scots who ended up becoming two of the most significant figures of the Enlightenment, and indeed the entire Western tradition. Hume is widely regarded as the greatest philosopher ever to write in the English language. He’s also among the most provocative of philosophers: a powerful critic of both religion and the capacities of human reason, as well as a forceful champion of commerce and the all-around benefits of civilization. Smith is almost certainly history’s most famous theorist of commercial society, or what we’d now call capitalism—in fact, he’s often hailed as the founding father of capitalism. As his modern interpreters never tire of pointing out, though, Smith was far more than an economist who theorized the invisible hand and championed free trade. Instead, he was a professor of moral philosophy who included political economy as just one of his many intellectual interests, and he recognized—to a greater degree than Hume, as a matter of fact—a number of potential dangers and drawbacks associated with commercial society. It’s truly remarkable that two thinkers of this stature were best friends for most of their adult lives; that’s a big part of what inspired me to write the book.

It’s certainly remarkable that they were best friends, but you go so far as to claim that theirs was the greatest of all philosophical friendships. That’s a big claim.

Yes, it is, but I think it’s a warranted one. In fact, it takes some effort to think of who the closest rivals would be. During the course of writing the book this became something of a parlor game that I played with fellow political theorists, philosophers, and intellectual historians: What was the greatest friendship in the history of philosophy? Most people’s first instinct is to say Socrates and Plato, but given the four-decade age disparity between them, their relationship was probably more one of teacher and student, or perhaps mentor and protégé, than one of equals, and in any case the record of their personal interactions is scant. Ditto for Plato and Aristotle. Locke and Newton admired one another, but could hardly be said to be close friends. Heidegger and Arendt had more of a (stormy) romantic relationship than a friendship, as did Sartre and de Beauvoir (with somewhat less drama). As for Montaigne and La Boétie, Lessing and Mendelssohn, Bentham and James Mill, Hegel and Schelling, Marx and Engels, and Whitehead and Russell, in each of these cases...[read on]
Learn more about The Infidel and the Professor at the Princeton University Press website.

The Page 99 Test: The Infidel and the Professor.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, September 29, 2017

Melissa Scholes Young

Melissa Scholes Young's new novel is Flood.

From her Q&A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: How did you come up with the idea for Flood, and for interspersing historical information about Mark Twain into the story?

A: Flood began as the story of Rose and Laura’s friendship. I wanted to write a female version of Huckleberry Finn and Tom Sawyer. These are friendships with so much history you can’t quit them, even as you covet what the other has. Laura and Rose have known each other their whole lives and they’ve stayed deeply connected even with distance and differences.

At the same time, I was researching the history of the Mississippi River and its running backwards in 1812 because of a series of earthquakes along the New Madrid Fault.

Growing up in Hannibal you hear stories about it, but the facts of how the river determines our daily life, as it did for Mark Twain growing up there, are fascinating. Once I realized the parallels between Twain’s story and Laura Brooks, I intentionally wove them together.

I needed another character, Laura’s high school English teacher, Ms. B, to teach the history as a book within a book for the local Tom and Becky pageant contestants. I wanted Ms. B to be an outsider shining a light on the literature for the insiders. When you grow up in a place like Hannibal, you...[read on]
Visit Melissa Scholes Young's website.

Coffee with a Canine: Melissa Scholes Young & Huckleberry Nacho Finn.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, September 28, 2017

David Litt

David Litt entered the White House in 2011 and left in 2016 as a Special Assistant to the President and Senior Presidential Speechwriter. Described as the “comic muse for the president,” Litt began contributing jokes to President Obama’s speeches in 2009 and was the lead writer on four White House Correspondents’ Dinners. He is currently the head writer/producer for Funny Or Die’s office in Washington, D.C.

Litt's new book is Thanks, Obama: My Hopey, Changey White House Years.

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

GROSS: So when you're writing speeches for President Obama or writing jokes for him, it's not just a question of how the president is going to react, it's also a question of how the world is going to react and how the press is going to react. So I'd like to ask you to give an example of something pretty minor, really, but that ended up getting criticized. And this was - I think it was your, like, your very first speech that you wrote for the president. It was a Thanksgiving Day speech. So tell us the story of that. And by the way, did you have to pardon a turkey in this speech? Is it one of those?

LITT: No. I, somewhat shockingly, managed to never do the turkey pardon. And I don't know how I managed to avoid that one. No, the turkey-pardon speech was always - that was sort of the most pun-laden speech of the year because there's all these Thanksgiving puns. So in some ways, it was fun. And in some ways - every way - it was sort of, by definition, it was sort of the - a festival of dad jokes.

But this was 2011. I was writing the Thanksgiving video address, which is not the most important presidential speech, not by a long shot. But it was my first video that I'd ever written for President Obama. And I treated this thing tremendously seriously. And I thought I had done it. I thought I had done the perfect job of capturing the spirit of Thanksgiving for America. And the problem was that I left out the word God or the Almighty.

And I will say, in my defense, at one point during the video, President Obama talked about giving thanks for blessings. So it's not like he was - you know, these blessings were coming from somewhere. It's not like we hadn't mentioned the idea of the Almighty at all. But this was enough for Fox News to jump on it and start a controversy. And by the time dessert was served, I was with my family, and I remember, you know, everyone was excited for me when we started the meal. And then by the end, it was clear this was going to be a story because Fox ran a Obama-leaves-God-out-of-Thanksgiving-address story.

The conservative media began to pick it up. And then the mainstream press - I use ABC News as an example - they didn't cover the omission of the Almighty in the speech because I think they would've agreed that was not a big deal, but they did cover the controversy. So they ran a separate story about the fact that Fox News had run a story and that conservatives were riled up about this issue. And so you watched as this thing, which wasn't really a story at all, but it was a very small omission - it gradually seeped into the news cycle. And I say that not because I am avoiding responsibility for it.

One of the things I learned as a White House speechwriter is that your job as a speechwriter is not to just write good speeches. Your job is to keep in the back of your mind the fact that there's a whole industry of people trying to take your words out of context. And that's politics. And so you need to write something that - where you read through it and you say, A, are we saying what we want to say? And B, can this, under no circumstances, be misconstrued to say something different? And those kind of dual responsibilities are one of the reasons writing for a president is so difficult.

GROSS: Isn't Thanksgiving a secular holiday?

LITT: (Laughter) Not according to Fox News, it's not. It is true that George W. Bush left God and the Almighty out of...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Terry Newman

Terry Newman is the author of Legendary Authors and the Clothes They Wore. From her Q&A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: Joan Didion is featured on the cover. Why was she selected for the cover, and what do her clothes say about her and about her writing?

A: Joan Didion is an icon in the fashion industry and the cover image by Julian Wasser is timeless. There is a message in my book that finding a style and being yourself is important.

The quote I found from Maya Angelou sums this up: “Seek the fashion which truly fits and befits you. You will always in be in fashion if you are true to yourself, and only if you are true to yourself.”

Didion’s effortless and amazing style stems from her being herself and the shot I used has a simplicity and elegance to it that is perfect. The photo was an obvious choice for me and the first one that came to mind when I started the book. Luckily Julian was keen and let me use it.

Didion uses clothes a lot in her writing – as a way into a subject. For example, when she wrote about the Manson murders in The White Album she uses Linda Kasabian and the story of buying her a dress to go to court as a foil for...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Margarita Engle

Margarita Engle, the national Young People's Poet Laureate, is the Cuban-American author of many verse novels, including The Surrender Tree, a Newbery Honor winner, The Lightning Dreamer, a PEN USA Award winner. Her verse memoir, Enchanted Air, received the Pura Belpré Award, Golden Kite Award, Walter Dean Myers Honor, and Lee Bennett Hopkins Poetry Award, among others. Her other books have received multiple Pura Belpré, Américas, and Jane Addams Awards and Honors, as well as a Claudia Lewis Poetry Award, and International Reading Association Award. Her picture book, Drum Dream Girl, received the Charlotte Zolotow Award for best picture book text.

Engle's latest books include Forest World and All the Way to Havana.

From her May 2017 Q&A with Angelica Shirley Carpenter at School Library Journal:

What was it like to have new Cuban titles, especially your childhood memoir, Enchanted Air, come out just as the United States took action to improve relations with Cuba?

Drum Dream Girl is about perseverance in seeking freedom, so it seems appropriate for a time when women are still struggling for equal rights. Advanced review copies of Enchanted Air arrived on my doorstep during the week when President Obama announced a restoration of diplomatic relations between the United States and Cuba. The book was released very close to the day when the U.S. Embassy in Havana reopened after more than half a century of Cold War hostility. Fortunately, in between those two thrilling moments, I was able to revise the historical note and time line at the end of the book, changing a memoir that had been intended as a plea for peace into a song of thanks.

...

What advice can you offer to parents or teachers who discuss the changes in Cuba with children?

Cuba has been marginalized by the United States for so long that you have to start out with a map, even with adults. The map makes it clear that this country is one of our closest neighbors—and that neighbors can be friends. I’m always saddened when children ask me, “What is Cuba?” instead of, “Where is Cuba?” That means they haven’t studied their close neighbor in class. Recently I met a high school U.S. history teacher who actually asked me...[read on]
Visit Margarita Engle's website.

Coffee with a Canine: Margarita Engle & Maggi and Chance.

My Book, The Movie: The Lightning Dreamer.

My Book, The Movie: Mountain Dog.

The Page 69 Test: Silver People.

The Page 99 Test: Enchanted Air.

The Page 69 Test: Lion Island.

Writers Read: Margarita Engle (September 2016).

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, September 25, 2017

Fiona Davis

Fiona Davis's latest novel is The Address.

From her Q&A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: Your last novel [The Dollhouse] focused on the Barbizon Hotel, and this novel [The Address] focuses on the Dakota apartment building in New York. What made you choose the Dakota this time, and do you see any similarities in the role these buildings played in the history of the city?

A: I chose the Dakota as the Barbizon book was in the pipeline for publication. I was looking around, and nothing was clicking. One day I came up from the subway, and it was glowing, as if it was saying, “Pick me!” [But] with John Lennon, [who lived at the Dakota and was killed outside the building in 1980,] there’s a lot as an author that you don’t want to get into.

Both buildings have changed over time, and both were places of refuge. The Barbizon Hotel was a place young women went to stay as they pursued their careers, and the Dakota was a place for the merchant class to live for upward mobility but they couldn’t get it.

The elite only lived in brownstones, and were not interested in living communally. It was people who were willing to take a risk in an apartment, and the Upper West Side was the Wild West of...[read on]
Visit Fiona Davis's website.

My Book, The Movie: The Address.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, September 24, 2017

Elana K. Arnold

Elana K. Arnold writes books for and about children and teens. Ver middle grade novel, A Boy Called Bat, is a Junior Library Guild Selection. She holds a master’s degree in Creative Writing/Fiction from the University of California, Davis where she has taught Creative Writing and Adolescent Literature.

From Arnold's Q&A at The Booking Biz:

Booking Biz: Where do you get the inspiration for your books?

Elana: Most of my books begin with a question, often based in my own life. For instance, when my kids were much younger, my husband and I made the decision to sell our home and most of our belongings and hit the road in an RV. It was an adventure and a growing experience in so many ways. Years later, when my kids neared adolescence, I wondered, what would happen if we had decided to take them on the road when they were 12 and 9 rather than when they were 7 and 4? Might it not have gone over quite so easily? Thus, FAR FROM FAIR was born.

A BOY CALLED BAT is an amalgam of many parts of my life: my respect and love for the ASD community, my ongoing obsession with unusual pets, and my affection for research, to name a few. Bat’s wonderful teacher, Mr. Grayson, and his wonderful school, the Saw Whet School, are modeled after my brother-in-law and the school he teaches for.

I love life. I love people. I love research and discussion and good food and warm animals plopped into my lap. There is so much, everywhere, to...[read on]
Learn more about the book and author at Elana K. Arnold's website.

The Page 69 Test: A Boy Called Bat.

Writers Read: Elana K. Arnold.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, September 23, 2017

Sarah Shoemaker

Sarah Shoemaker is the author of the new novel Mr. Rochester, which recounts the story of Jane Eyre from Rochester's point of view.

From Shoemaker's Q&A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: What did you see as the right balance between Charlotte Bronte's original story and your own inventions?

A: My intent was to write Rochester’s full story, from his earliest memories to the approximate time that Jane Eyre ends. Since Rochester is nearly 20 years older than Jane, that means that the story of his life before Jane takes more space in the book than his life with Jane does.

I used everything I could find about him that Bronte tells us in Jane Eyre (which is more than a casual reader might think) and then filled in with my own inventions.

My intention, of course, was to...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, September 22, 2017

William Drozdiak

William Drozdiak's new book is Fractured Continent: Europe’s Crisis and the Fate of the West. From his Q&A with Slate's Isaac Chotiner:

Isaac Chotiner: People tend to view [German Chancellor Angela] Merkel as the only thing standing between western democracy and the abyss, but how much do you think the different crises facing Europe are actually the result of her actions, and German actions more broadly?

William Drozdiak: The fact is that she was left alone, basically, to solve all these problems with the absence of leadership from other European countries and even from the Obama administration. She’s dealing with the debt crisis. She singlehandedly had to negotiate the Greek situation with her finance ministers, and then Obama outsourced to her dealing with Putin on Ukraine. She had no support from the feckless leadership in France. She was just overwhelmed and literally exhausted when I saw her.

But the Germans did make big mistakes. I think they pressed too hard on austerity and so now the income gap between North and South in Europe is worse than ever. They did not have a coherent policy on Ukraine because a lot of Europeans, even though they went along with sanctions, were grumbling about all the lost trade and, indeed, even within Germany that was the case. On Brexit, they could have had a deal in which they could have talked David Cameron back from doing his referendum, but not enough was done to let him off the hook. A lot of these problems, I think, resulted from basically Merkel just being overwhelmed.

On refugees, she showed great moral and humanitarian courage...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Claire Douglas

Claire Douglas's new novel is Local Girl Missing.

From her Q&A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: How did you come up with the idea for Local Girl Missing, and for your characters Frankie and Sophie?

A: When I was about 21 (in the mid-1990s) a girl from my street went missing after walking home from our local nightclub. It was a huge thing in our town - the police even came and interviewed me and the friends I was with that night as we would have arrived home around the time she went missing.

A few months later, in a different town not too far away, another young girl was murdered after leaving a club. Both these incidences really affected me and my friend and we promised each other that we would always make sure to leave a club together.

But it got me thinking about how I would have felt if it had been my friend who had gone missing. How would it have affected me all these years later? Would the guilt eat me up? Would I be desperate to know what had happened to her? The idea stemmed from there and ...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Hillary Rodham Clinton

Hillary Rodham Clinton is the first woman in US history to become the presidential nominee of a major political party. She served as the 67th Secretary of State—from January 21, 2009, until February 1, 2013—after nearly four decades in public service advocating on behalf of children and families as an attorney, First Lady, and Senator. Her new book is What Happened.

From the transcript of Clinton's conversation with Fresh Air's Terry Gross:

I think what some people are trying to figure out about your book and your tour, your book tour, is how much of it is about trying to defend our democracy — which you think is under attack, both by Russia but also by part of the right wing in America — and how much of it is just self-justification, like you lost, you're angry, you're specifically angry at some people, and Russia, and, like, where is the line? And I think a lot of people [are] more comfortable with the part where it feels like you're defending American democracy and less comfortable where you feel like you're just in it to justify yourself and to say, "I should've won, I did really win, and I'm really angry that I didn't."

But I think they go hand in hand. Because I don't think you could know the story without me also saying, "Look, I made mistakes", and I talk about...

You do.

All of the mistakes that I made, my campaign made, and I'm happy to acknowledge those, because that was part of the retrospective that I had to go through to write this book. I don't think you can understand what I am most worried about in defending democracy unless you follow along with what happened.

So yes, I do think sexism and misogyny played a role, and it's not just about me — I make that clear. I think voter suppression played a much bigger role than people are acknowledging. That is not going away. I think Comey cost me the election, but it was aided and abetted by Russia, WikiLeaks and all the other things we've now found out about Russia.

So take me out of the equation. I'm not running again. I'm not going to be on the ballot. So take me out of the equation and say, "OK, the mistake she made, maybe we can learn from that, etc., etc. But what do we have to worry about?" I think I do a very clear job of saying here are the things we need to worry about going forward. And I also try to say, "Hey this is something that we all have a stake in." I am fundamentally optimistic about our country, but...[read on]
Follow Hillary Clinton on Facebook and Twitter.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Denise Chanterelle DuBois

Denise Chanterelle DuBois is the author of the new memoir Self-Made Woman, which tells the story of her gender transition. From her Q&A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: Why did you decide to write this book?

A: I never really did intend to ever write this book. In fact, I never intended to ever write a book. Why should I? By 2010 I had reached a point in my life where at age 56, I was just relaxing.

I was enjoying finally becoming Denise, after decades in the closet, experiencing and enjoying classical music for the first time in my life, running/swimming, snorkeling on the beaches and coves on the north shore of Kauai, eating healthy, sleeping well, enjoying a close knit circle of friends, and just reflecting on my life as I watched the yellow sun set into the blue Pacific on the north shore almost every evening.

But something was off and it slowly began to gnaw on me. How could I possibly just end things here? How could I just melt back into society as Denise, take the easy road, not tell my story, and turn my back on others who I knew were out there suffering right now as I once did?

I was in a unique position to write my life story and this was the right time for me. Even if my story ended up saving just one person from checking out for good wouldn’t it still be worth it? Without question worth it!

And then I thought of...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, September 18, 2017

Katy Tur

Katy Tur is a correspondent for NBC News and an anchor for MSNBC. Her new book is Unbelievable: My Front-Row Seat to the Craziest Campaign in American History.

From the transcript of her Q&A with Fresh Air's Terry Gross:

GROSS: ... When you - when he was saying insulting things to you at rallies, what got the biggest, angriest response - angry at you, not at him?

TUR: Definitely December 7, 2015. This was a rally in Mount Pleasant, S.C. It was the day that he announced that he wanted to ban all Muslims from coming into America, even Muslims - at that point during the day, Muslims who might've been serving overseas in our military, Muslims who might've been overseas visiting friends or family, Muslim athletes who might've been, you know, at a match or a meet overseas, anybody, where there were questions about all sorts of well-known people that might not be able to get back into the country.

And this was a real turning point in his campaign. It was a real test of whether or not his support would stick with him. We hadn't had any primaries yet. Nobody had voted. But he was getting these massive crowds. And he was being excused for anything that he said. And this was a test - will his supporters condone him going after an entire religion?

At the time, San Bernardino had just happened a week or two before. People were scared about terrorism. This couple had gone into an office party, and shot it up and killed a number of people. And Donald Trump was saying that the administration in power - the Obama administration - was doing nothing to protect Americans, that they weren't vetting people properly, that they were putting your life at risk. Your family and your sons, your daughters, your wives, your husband, your grandparents are at risk every day because the Obama administration is not protecting you, and the media is complicit in this. So they're not only angry at Washington, they're angry at us, the journalists.

And this was one of those rallies where I felt like it was good to keep a lower profile. So I sat down on the stage - not the stage, the press riser. I wasn't standing up in front of my camera. I wasn't easily seen. I was just sitting, taking notes as he was talking. And we're waiting for him to announce the Muslim ban. He doesn't get to it yet in the rally. And suddenly, just like the first rally, I hear my name - Katy Tur. She's back there. Little Katy, what a lie it was. What a lie she told. And he's pointing at me in the crowd. The entire place turns, and they roar...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Ashley Shelby

Ashley Shelby is prize-winning writer whose fiction and essays have appeared in Slate, The Seattle Review, The Portland Review, Los Angeles Review, J Journal: New Writings on Social Justice, The Drouth (U.K.), Sonora Review, Post Road, Southeast Review, Third Coast, and other literary outlets. She's received the Red Hen Press Short Fiction Award, the Enizagam Short Story Award, the Third Coast Fiction Prize, and was recently named a Pushcart Prize nominee. Her newly released debut novel, South Pole Station, has received praise from Publishers Weekly, NPR, USA Today, Time, Library Journal, LitHub, Booklist, Kirkus Reviews, and Bookpage. It has also been named an Indie Next Pick for July.

From Shelby's Q&A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: How did you come up with the idea for South Pole Station, and for your main character, Cooper?

A: My sister, Lacy Shelby, spent a full year at Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station during the 2002-2003 research season as a production cook. She’s one of a select group of women who has ever spent the entire winter season at the South Pole—she even received a Presidential medal and commendation for this achievement.

Anyway, she would send me letters from Antarctica at a time when I was working as a young editor in New York, and though she was never long on details (discretion is key to life at South Pole), the culture she described captured my imagination.

Climate scientists working alongside carpenters, meteorologists, astrophysicists, and research techs matching wits with janitorial staff, administrators, and dining assistants—what can’t happen in an environment like that?

As for Cooper, she started out sharing some qualities with me—an artist with early promise who felt she hadn’t lived up to those expectations. But, as characters are wont to do, she took on a life and a personality of her own, and transcended the flimsy scaffolding I’d constructed for her.

I am always interested in the artistic imperative, how we obey or ...[read on]
Visit Ashley Shelby's website.

Writers Read: Ashley Shelby.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, September 16, 2017

Franklin Foer

Franklin Foer's latest book is World Without Mind: The Existential Threat Of Big Tech. From the transcript of his Q&A with NPR's Ari Shapiro:

SHAPIRO: (Laughter) In this book, you don't just argue that we should be clear-eyed about the costs of these free services [like Facebook and Google]. You argue that this is actually an existential threat. Explain what that threat is.

FOER: So if you're of a certain age, you have a good appreciation for the ways in which we've all become a little bit cyborg. I grew up using maps and having a sense of direction, and now I have a phone. I used to try to remember numbers, and now I have - I can just call them up instantly. And that's great. But what's happening right now is that we're in a phase of human evolution where we're merging with machines. And...

SHAPIRO: But why is that a bad thing? Like, so what?

FOER: So these companies - it's not necessarily a bad thing. But we're not just merging with machines. We've been merging with tools since the beginning of human evolution. And arguably, that's one of the things that makes us human beings. But what we're merging with are machines that are run by companies that act as filters for the way in which we interact and process the world. And so the values of those companies become our values.

We become dependent on these companies in a way in which...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, September 15, 2017

Kim Zarins

Kim Zarins is the author of the YA novel Sometimes We Tell the Truth.

From her Q&A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: How did you come up with the idea of a modern-day version of The Canterbury Tales, with high school students as the characters?

A: I'm a medievalist and have been teaching Chaucer for years, so when my agent and editors were discussing the possibility of me doing a retelling of Chaucer for teens, I was very keen on the idea. I took it and ran with it. It was such a delight to write.

Q: What did you see as the right balance between the original Chaucer and your own modern update?

A: I was willing to let go of Chaucer's Middle English and historical realities like the Black Death and so on, because I think sometimes if we see period dress, we forget how much we have in common with people from so long ago (think of seeing Shakespeare plays in modern dress—it can be very powerful!).

Modernizing the Tales meant the language and cultural contexts would become more relatable and accessible. (Some readers don't even know it's a retelling until I spill the beans in an Afterword at the end!).

I may not be faithful to Chaucer's Middle English or late-14th century life, but I sincerely hope I am faithful to the themes, issues, and layers within Chaucer's complex text. I wanted the novel to be enjoyable for someone new to Chaucer as well as readers looking for my modern play...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue