Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Jeff Abbott

Jeff Abbott's new novel is The Three Beths.

From his Q&A with Matthew Turbeville at Writers Tell All:

MT: Where did your idea for The Three Beths come from, and would you mind talking about what it’s been like writing more everyday thrillers about women characters, especially starting with your last novel Blame, which was also welcomed with amazing acclaim from your peers and critics alike? What made you decide to go outside yourself and write about these women characters, and do you have a favorite?

JA: Well, first, the idea for The Three Beths came from a couple of different places. I thought about those missing persons cases you sometimes hear about where the police are convinced that a loved one or a relative had a hand in the disappearance, but they can prove nothing. So the accused, and the rest of the family, has to go on with their lives. What would it be like to be living inside that family, to be loyal to a missing parent and yet to also be loyal to the parent who is accused of murder? What goes on behind those walls? And then the other idea came from doing a search on social media once for an old friend, and seeing exactly how many hits I got just typing in her very common first name. . .it struck me that if I wanted to find a number of Beths, or Jeffs, or Michelles, that was easy to do. And then, because I write crime fiction, I wondered…[read on]
Learn more about the book and author at Jeff Abbott's website.

The Page 69 Test: Trust Me.

The Page 69 Test: Adrenaline.

The Page 69 Test: Downfall.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Rob Dunn

Rob Dunn is a professor in the Department of Applied Ecology at North Carolina State University and in the Natural History Museum of Denmark at the University of Copenhagen. His new book is Never Home Alone: From Microbes to Millipedes, Camel Crickets, and Honeybees, the Natural History of Where We Live.

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

GROSS: Cats and dogs. So many people have pets. What kind of microbiology do they introduce into our homes?

DUNN: So cats and dogs - and especially dogs - have a huge impact on what's in your home. And so if we were to swab your computer screen, Terry, and then look at look at which microbes were on the computer screen, about half of the variation between what's on your computer screen and somebody else's computer screen is whether or not there has been a dog in that room. And so they affect the microbes everywhere in the house. Their microbes drift up and around all over the place.

And so we can actually identify whether or not there's a dog in the house just based on the microbes 99 percent of the time. And cats have an effect, too, but it's more subtle. They seem to bring both bacteria and some fungi, and they make some things more rare. And it's hard to know just exactly which effect, what sort of effects the dogs and cats and their microbes are having. And they can be very complex. But one of the things we see is that people, especially in urban environments with dogs, tend to have kids who are less prone to allergy and asthma.

And one of the things that we think may be happening is that the dogs are actually a vehicle for the connection of those kids to just a little bit of nature, that in these environments in which we've isolated ourselves so much from the rest of the world, that the dirt on a dog's paw may be enough connection to forestall allergy and asthma, at least a little bit. We don't see that effect with cats. But with dogs, it's pretty strong. And by the same token, dogs in rural environments seem to have less effect on allergy and asthma, and we think that's because in rural environments, you're getting so many other exposures to nature that the dog matters...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, November 12, 2018

Sam Wiebe

Sam Wiebe is the author of Cut You Down, Invisible Dead and Last of the Independents, and the editor of the Vancouver Noir. Wiebe lives in Vancouver.

From his Q&A with Dana Gee for the Vancouver Sun:

Q: You are a crime writer by trade, so I was wondering looking back, are there books that terrified you?

A: Red Dragon by Thomas Harris and Zombie by Joyce Carol Oates. Both make you identify with very unpleasant people.

Q: What must a story be to be classified noir? What are the key elements?

A: Dennis Lehane called noir “working-class tragedy,” and I think there’s some truth to that. It’s about bad things happening to people a lot like us.

Q: What are the clichés that should be avoided when writing these types of stories?

A: It’s only a cliché if you do it poorly. A femme fatale in 2018 with a predilection for shoulder pads and venetian blinds would be silly. But a character well-versed in sexual psychology? Endlessly fascinating.

Q: Vancouver is not typically considered a noir type place, but that assumption is very wrong, right?

A: Dead wrong. Noir is about...[read on]
Visit Sam Wiebe's website.

My Book, The Movie: Invisible Dead.

The Page 69 Test: Invisible Dead.

The Page 69 Test: Cut You Down.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, November 11, 2018

Matthew D. Hockenos

Matthew D Hockenos is the author of Then They Came for Me: Martin Niemöller, the Pastor Who Defied the Nazis.

From his Q&A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: Why did you decide to write this biography of Martin Niemöller?

Today few Americans recognize the name Martin Niemöller (1892-1984). Many people, however, are aware of the German pastor’s famous post-World War II poetic confession:

First they came for the Communists, and I did not speak out – Because I was not a Communist.
Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out – Because I was not a Trade Unionist.
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out – Because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for me – and there was no one left to speak for me.

I wanted to take a closer, more critical look at the man behind the celebrated quotation.

Then They Came for Me tells the whole story of Niemöller’s life: his conservative Protestant upbringing in Germany; his experience commanding German U-boats in World War I; his animosity toward liberals and Jews; his initial support for Nazism; his later struggle with Hitler; his incarceration in Nazi concentration camps; and finally, his embrace of pacifism and peace movements during the Cold War.

On a lighter note, the book also portrays Niemöller as a loving father of seven children (two of whom died in World War II), a caring husband, a devoted pastor, and a charming albeit...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, November 10, 2018

William R. Newman

William R. Newman is the author of Newton the Alchemist: Science, Enigma, and the Quest for Nature's "Secret Fire". From his Q&A at the Princeton University Press blog:

People often say that Isaac Newton was not only a great physicist, but also an alchemist. This seems astonishing, given his huge role in the development of science. Is it true, and if so, what is the evidence for it?

The astonishment that Newton was an alchemist stems mostly from the derisive opinion that many moderns hold of alchemy. How could the man who discovered the law of universal gravitation, who co-invented calculus, and who was the first to realize the compound nature of white light also engage in the seeming pseudo-science of alchemy? There are many ways to answer this question, but the first thing is to consider the evidence of Newton’s alchemical undertaking. We now know that at least a million words in Newton’s hand survive in which he addresses alchemical themes. Much of this material has been edited in the last decade, and is available on the Chymistry of Isaac Newton site at Newton wrote synopses of alchemical texts, analyzed their content in the form of reading notes and commentaries, composed florilegia or anthologies made up of snippets from his sources, kept experimental laboratory notebooks that recorded his alchemical research over a period of decades, and even put together a succession of concordances called the Index chemicus in which he compared the sayings of different authors to one another. The extent of his dedication to alchemy was almost unprecedented. Newton was not just an alchemist, he was an alchemist’s alchemist.

What did Newton hope to gain by studying alchemy? Did he actually believe in the philosophers’ stone, and if so, why? And what was the philosophers’ stone exactly?

Newton’s involvement in alchemy was...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, November 9, 2018

Meghan MacLean Weir

Meghan MacLean Weir's new book is The Book of Essie.

From her Q&A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: How did you come up with the idea for The Book of Essie?

A: I wrote Essie at a time when my parents had moved in with my husband and me to help care for our children. We were incredibly lucky, but it was also challenging at times to be living with my parents as an adult, and it made me reexamine what it had meant to me, growing up, to be the daughter of a small-town Episcopal priest and to always feel as if I was being watched and judged and reported on.

Essie is under much more scrutiny than I ever was, given that her family is on a reality show and so is watched by the whole country rather than just the parishioners at her father's church, but I think that makes it more interesting for the reader, that the stakes for her are so high.

I also wanted to tell a story that would reflect on the ways in which...[read on]
Visit Meghan MacLean Weir's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, November 8, 2018

Reid Hoffman

Reid Hoffman is an entrepreneur and investor. In 1998, he was a founding Board member and executive vice president of PayPal. In 2003, he co-founded LinkedIn, the world’s largest professional networking service. He was an angel investor in Facebook and Zynga, and in 2009, he became a partner at the venture capital firm Greylock Partners. He currently serves on the boards of Airbnb, Apollo Fusion, Aurora, Coda, Convoy, Entrepreneur First, Gixo, Microsoft, Nauto, and Xapo, as well as not-for-profits Kiva, Endeavor, CZI Biohub and Do Something. Hoffman's latest book is Blitzscaling: The Lightning-Fast Path to Building Massively Valuable Companies.

From the transcript of Hoffman's Q&A with Fareed Zakaria:

ZAKARIA: Let me ask you about politics. You have been pretty active, and you say a lot of people who are in business share some of your dismay with what Trump stands for and what he's doing but they don't want to -- they don't want to say anything. Why?

HOFFMAN: Well, I think, you know, the classic thing is, "Hey, it's business; I've got a responsibility to shareholders; I have a responsibility to customers," and all of that. But I actually think that -- I have this phrase, "Spiderman ethics: With power comes responsibility."

And so I think, personally, that's it's part of having business leaders; you need to speak up about that future that you can see for all of us and you need to have your voice be heard. And so I have leaned into politics unlike ever I have done before because I think it's so dangerous, the path we're on, and we need to correct.

ZAKARIA: What do you say to people who point out that the Trump administration is presiding over, you know, record unemployment levels -- in other words, record lows; growth seems strong; what are you complaining about?

HOFFMAN: So I think there's at least two things. So one is I think Obama and the previous administration did a lot of good things. And so I think there is a tailwind from that. But I also think that people are underfactoring the amount of stimulus and just debt that's going into propping this up. And so they're using subsidies to try to block the impacts of tariffs and other kinds of things. And so I think we are taking a loan against the future that we need to be very cautious about....[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, November 7, 2018

Martha Freeman

After graduating from Stanford University, Martha Freeman worked as a newspaper reporter, copy editor, substitute teacher, college lecturer, advertising copywriter and magazine writer before finding her true calling as a writer of children's books. She has since written more than 20 books for children. Freeman's new children's picture book is If You're Going to a March.

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

Q: What inspired your new book, If You're Going to a March?

A: Like a lot of people, I have found myself going to a lot of marches since January 2017. To make lemonade out of the situation -- this is a good thing. I think many of us were complacent and the current political situation has shaken us awake. (Shaken us "woke"?)

At these marches, there were a lot of kids. Since many of the issues (gun violence, family separation, climate change) disproportionately affect today's kids today and as representatives of future generations -- this made sense.

But I thought young children especially might not know what to expect at a march, and might not know the larger significance of political action in a democracy even if they'd been to one or two. I also thought parents could use a book like mine as a jumping off point for...[read on]
Visit Martha Freeman's website.

My Book, The Movie: Strudel's Forever Home.

The Page 69 Test: Strudel's Forever Home.

Writers Read: Martha Freeman (January 2018).

The Page 69 Test: Zap.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, November 6, 2018

Peter Sagal

Peter Sagal is the host of NPR's Wait Wait... Don't Tell Me! and author of the new book, The Incomplete Book Of Running. From the transcript of his Q&A with NPR's Ari Shapiro:

SHAPIRO: Your personal record for a marathon was three hours and nine minutes.

SAGAL: Yes, it was. I'm so glad you brought that up because otherwise I would have had to.

SHAPIRO: (Laughter) You did it at age 46.

SAGAL: I did.

SHAPIRO: And you write in the book, I had shown at least to myself that time and age are not walls but fences, and fences can be jumped. That was 2011.


SHAPIRO: It's now 2018.

SAGAL: It sure is.

SHAPIRO: Do you still believe that time and age are fences that can be jumped?

SAGAL: What I was trying to do with that race is I had started seriously running at age 40, which is when according to all the studies your athletic performance begins to decline no matter what else you do. And it became very important to me to see if in fact I could at least delay that. And I did it. And it remains inspirational to me. But now that I'm some years older, I know that kind of time is behind me. So my emphases these days are different. I'm not running as fast as I used to or as long as I used to, but I'm still doing it almost every day.

And I think that in the future, although I will run until somebody or something stops me, I'll be doing it for different reasons. And those reasons will have more to do with...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, November 5, 2018

Ian Rankin

Ian Rankin's latest Rebus novel (the 22nd) is In a House of Lies.

From his Q&A at the Guardian:

Which writers most influenced your writing?

Muriel Spark was a huge influence. The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie – one of my favourite books ever – led me down this rabbit hole because Miss Jean Brodie is descended from a real-life Edinburgh character, William Brodie, who was gentleman by day and thief by night. So he became one of the influences for Jekyll and Hyde. Another influence was a book called Confessions of a Justified Sinner, by James Hogg, which is one of the first serial-killer novels.

Is there a book you really wish you’d written yourself?

A Dance to the Music of Time, by Anthony Powell. That book was a fascinating primer for me in how to write a sequence of books with the same cast of characters, and having the main character age along the way. This notion that life is a dance to the music of time – if you’re writing a series it’s...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, November 4, 2018

Kathleen Hall Jamieson

Kathleen Hall Jamieson is the author of Cyberwar: How Russian Hackers and Trolls Helped Elect a President.

From her Q&A with Slate's Isaac Chotiner:

Isaac Chotiner: What leads you to be confident enough to make the judgment that Russian interference likely provided Trump’s winning margin?

Kathleen Hall Jamieson: There are so many different pathways by which the effect on the electoral outcome could have been achieved that the likelihood that some combination of them achieved it is relatively high, and two of the three individual pathways are of themselves significant enough that they could have accomplished that end.

What are those pathways?

The first, which is the one that is the weakest of the arguments, is the Russian social media interventions.

First, they reached 126 million Americans that we know of through Facebook, and there was reach as well, although not that substantial, on other platforms.

Second, the message aligned with Donald Trump, because my argument isn’t that they put new messaging in, but rather that they amplified messaging that was already there. For example, you find very strong anti-immigrant appeals. You also find attacks on Hillary Clinton, or I should say on her candidacy, but also on Hillary Clinton the person, that are consistent with the Trump attacks. She’s corrupt. She’s lying. She should be in prison.

Isn’t this then a way of saying, “Well, you know. Trump could have spent slightly more money, and amplified his message, and that would have made the difference?”

Yes, because the argument about the impact of social media is that it increased the balance of the messaging in a way that on the margins would have made the difference. It is not an argument about new messaging.

What I argue is that there’s strong evidence that they were trying to mobilize evangelical Christians who were white, conservative Catholics, and they were trying to mobilize veterans and military households. Those are...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, November 3, 2018

Michael Caine

From Michael Caine's NPR interview with Ari Shapiro:

SHAPIRO: I'd like you to take us back to your youth, if you would. You were 6 years old when you were evacuated from London during World War II in the Blitz.


SHAPIRO: How did that experience shape the person you've become?

CAINE: It shaped it in a couple of ways actually. Mentally, I lived on a farm for six years, and I got a great education. And there was also another thing about - the war was an incredible thing for all of us in one way. And, I mean, talk about use the difficulty, which is my motto.

SHAPIRO: Use the difficulty.

CAINE: Yeah. Yeah, use the difficulty. But using the difficulty was - in the war, the only food you could get was organic food because they used all the chemicals in explosives. And so for six years, all we had was organic food. And there was no sugar. And all these things that we worry about so much now - in the war, you couldn't get them. So we all grew up sort of very healthily in the war.

SHAPIRO: Before the war, you were poor, malnourished. You say you had rickets. And the war actually helped you become a strong, tall, healthy person.

CAINE: Oh, yeah. Well, I came from a slum in London. And London then was very...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, November 2, 2018

Eugenia Kim

Eugenia Kim's new novel is The Kinship of Secrets.

From her Q&A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: You write that the The Kinship of Secrets was inspired by your own family's story. At what point did you decide to write this novel?

A: When I went to Korea in 2010, my second time, I did some book events for The Calligrapher’s Daughter. My sister, Sun, joined me there and while I had some vague idea of writing a continuation to The Calligrapher’s Daughter, I was somewhat resistant and I wasn’t sure what the story might be.

We took a train to Busan, to look at the neighborhood where my sister spent the war years, and on that train ride I asked her what it was like for her to have come to America at age 11.

I was 6 when she came to the U.S., so I wasn’t aware of why she’d been separated from the family (the Korean War and problems with U.S. immigration) for 10 years. I had assumed that she, like many immigrants, were eager to come to America.

But her answer to my question was, “It was the blackest day of my life,” and...[read on]
Visit Eugenia Kim's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, November 1, 2018

Lou Berney

Lou Berney's new novel is November Road.

From his BookPage interview with G. Robert Frazier:

Author Ivy Pochoda describes November Road as a novel that defies categorization—as part love story, part gangster story, part cross-country adventure. How would you describe it?

I love Ivy’s description of November Road. I didn’t set out to write a novel with so many different elements, but I know I’m drawn—as reader and writer—to stories that have a lot going on, a lot of layers, a lot of characters colliding with each other. I used to worry that was a weakness of mine, as a writer, but now I just kind of embrace it. There’s a quote, I think it’s from Don Quixote, I love: It’s better to lose by a card too many than a card too few.

Your hero, Frank Guidry, isn’t exactly a good guy. How did you tackle making him a person that readers could ultimately root for?

Frank Guidry is definitely not a good guy. But that doesn’t mean he can’t be likable and engaging and complicated, so I worked hard to make him all that. Most importantly, though, I needed to make him capable of change. I didn’t know until I wrote his last chapter if Frank actually would change, but I really wanted him to—and...[read on]
Learn more about the book and author at Lou Berney's website.

The Page 69 Test: Gutshot Straight.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Sarah McCoy

Sarah McCoy is the New York Times, USA Today, and international bestselling author of Marilla of Green Gables; The Mapmaker’s Children; The Baker’s Daughter, a 2012 Goodreads Choice Award Best Historical Fiction nominee; the novella “The Branch of Hazel” in Grand Central; and The Time It Snowed in Puerto Rico.

Her work has been featured in Real Simple, The Millions, Your Health Monthly, Huffington Post, Read It Forward, Writer Unboxed, and other publications. She has taught English writing at Old Dominion University and at the University of Texas at El Paso. She lives with her husband, an orthopedic sports surgeon, and their dog, Gilbert, in Winston-Salem, North Carolina.

From McCoy's Q&A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: How did you end up writing this novel about Marilla Cuthbert, the character from the famous book Anne of Green Gables?

A: I had just completed another novel called Pride and Providence, which sold internationally. I was in the process of changing North American publishing houses.

While getting to know potential new publishers, the executive editor at William Morrow/HarperCollins gave me a call. She asked me, “What do you really want to write next, Sarah? What’s something that you’d only dared dream about but really excites you?”

I’d never had an editor take an active role in the brainstorming part of book development. It was wholly refreshing.

So I followed her instructions and the first idea that came to mind was… Marilla Cuthbert. I’d always been fascinated by her as a prominent yet only partially known character in my beloved Anne of Green Gables series. I grew up with the books and was obsessed with everything related.

Marilla of Green Gables was a novel that...[read on]
Learn more about the book and author at Sarah McCoy’s website, Facebook page, Instagram page, and Twitter perch.

The Page 69 Test: Marilla of Green Gables.

Writers Read: Sarah McCoy.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Jonathan Weisman

Jonathan Weisman is the author of (((Semitism))): Being Jewish in America in the Age of Trump. From his Q&A with Marilyn Cooper at Moment magazine:
Is there something different about anti-Semitism compared to other forms of bigotry and racism?

I think that the odd distinction between run-of-the-mill bigotry and anti-Semitism is that the anti-Semites imbue Jews with enormous power. I get the feeling that most anti-Semites don’t know a lot of Jews, because if they did, they would see us for the human beings that we are. It’s very hard, if you meet me, to see me as this all-powerful being. They look around them and they see people who are different from them. They see blacks, they see Latinos, they see first-generation Muslims, brown-skinned people, and they have a belief that these people are inferior to them, to white people.

Then they wonder: How come I feel like these inferior people are beating me?

How come I feel so downtrodden? This is the great myth of “white genocide.” You hear it all the time from the alt-right. Then they wonder, who is perpetrating white genocide? How could white genocide be perpetrated by these people who are inferior to me? Somebody powerful must be pulling the strings. The Jews are the people who are orchestrating it all, because...[read on]
Visit Jonathan Weisman's website.

My Book, The Movie: No. 4 Imperial Lane.

Writers Read: Jonathan Weisman (October 2015).

The Page 69 Test: No. 4 Imperial Lane.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, October 29, 2018

Gary M. Pomerantz & Bob Cousy

Gary M. Pomerantz is the author of The Last Pass: Cousy, Russell, the Celtics, and What Matters in the End. From the transcript of his--and Bob Cousy's--interview with NPR's Scott Simon:

SIMON: Gary Pomerantz, let me turn to you first. What, in addition to their sheer excellence, what set apart this Celtics team in their times?

POMERANTZ: Well, we can look at the Hall of Fame and nine of them are members. That's almost two full rosters. And, you know, Bob Cousy, Bill Russell - what was exquisite to watch, Scott, was Russell getting the rebound, turning and throwing the outlet past to Cousy, sometimes before, you know, Russell's feet had hit the ground, and then Cousy turning, taking that photograph in his mind of where players were. And he was the gold standard on running the fast break.

SIMON: Bob Cousy, the Celtics were integrated, black men and white men playing for the same team at a time so many other enterprises in America weren't.

COUSY: I'm 90 years old. I still, Scott, I cannot understand why you hate one person because of the color of their eyes or their skin or their hair and therefore you hate all people who have that color hair or - you know what I mean? It's so irrational, but I give the credit, really, to...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, October 28, 2018

Eugenia Cheng

Eugenia Cheng is the author of The Art of Logic in an Illogical World.

From her Q&A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: In your new book, you write of today's argumentative world, "Is all hope lost? Are we doomed to take sides, be stuck in echo chambers, never again agree? No." Why do you feel that way?

A: I feel this way because I almost always feel able to understand and sympathise with people even when I completely disagree with them.

Often when I think about it very logically I can see that we are not fundamentally that different, it's just that small difference in fundamental beliefs develop into big differences in real life, a bit like someone braking on the highway causing a huge tailback hours later. It is hard to prevent the traffic jam but easier to stop someone braking unnecessarily.

Q: How do you define logic?

A: Logic is a process of rigorous deduction, where you start with some statements, and see what definitely has to be true as a result of those statements, not because of tradition, hope, statistics, or past evidence, but by something...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, October 27, 2018

Katharine Weber

Katharine Weber grew up in New York City and has lived in rural Connecticut since 1976, when she married the cultural historian Nicholas Fox Weber. (They have two daughters and a grandson.) She also spends parts of the year in West Cork, Ireland, and in London. She is the author of five previous novels and a memoir.

Weber's latest novel is Still Life With Monkey.

From her Q&A with Caroline Leavitt:

Ottoline, the helper monkey, is one of the most charming creations in all of literature, I believe. I know you did extensive research with real monkey helpers. How much of your research is Ottoline, and how much did you build on and create?

I spent several years educating myself about capuchin monkeys in their natural habitats, and also about the training of capuchins to make them helper monkeys capable of providing “helping hands” to disabled people. Capuchin monkeys are the smartest New World monkeys, and they are capable of learning more than fifty commands for switching on lights, turning pages, picking up dropped phones and remotes and so on – all skills that allow disabled people to have more autonomy and independence and privacy. Training consists on a great deal of monkey see, monkey do.

The Primate Institute in New Haven of my novel is fictional, but there is an actual Monkey College at Helping Hands, in Boston. (You can see great monkey videos on their website, I spent some time behind the scenes at Monkey College, and then, well after I had completed a first draft of the novel, I was introduced, by a mutual friend, to Kent and Nancy Converse and Kent’s monkey helper, Farah. They were generous in allowing me to spend time with them to deepen my sense of life with a monkey helper, and after several visits we had begun to develop what is now an enduring friendship. The novel is ...[read on]
Visit Katharine Weber's website.

My Book, The Movie: Still Life With Monkey.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, October 26, 2018

Deborah Hopkinson

Deborah Hopkinson is the author of D-Day: The World War II Invasion That Changed History, a new book for kids. From her Q&A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: Why did you decide to write a book about D-Day?

A: Although I’ve written two previous books about World War II, students kept asking for more! I’ve found young readers fascinated by World War II. And, in fact, so was I at that age.

Also, it seemed to me that I wanted to understand the invasion of Normandy better. It was, after all, not only one of the defining events of the war, but of the 20th century. Little did I know what I was getting myself into; just as the operation itself was massive, so was the research.

Q: How did you select the individuals you focus on in the book?

A: I find that one of the challenges in writing narrative nonfiction for young readers is to not have so many voices or individual stories that the work becomes overwhelming or confusing.

It’s also helpful to have first-person accounts or memoirs written fairly close in time to the events. These tend to be more vivid and detailed, as opposed to often-told stories many years later.

With that in mind, I searched for...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, October 25, 2018

Ari Berman

Ari Berman is the author of Give Us The Ballot: The Modern Struggle For Voting Rights In America. From the transcript of his Fresh Air interview with Terry Gross:

GROSS: Ari Berman, welcome back to FRESH AIR. Before we talk state by state and get into specifics, is it a coincidence that there are voters being purged or asked for IDs that many citizens don't have in several states?

ARI BERMAN: It's not a coincidence. And let me just give you the big picture of what's happening with voting rights right now. So since the 2010 election, 24 states have implemented new restrictions on voting. So nearly half the states in the country have tightened their voting laws to do things like require strict forms of photo ID to cast a ballot or make it more difficult to register to vote or to cut back on early voting periods or to close polling places or to purge the voting rolls. And many of these restrictions on voting are playing out now in the 2018 elections in critical states like Georgia, North Dakota, Kansas, et cetera, where there are very close elections.

GROSS: So is it a coincidence that all this is happening?

BERMAN: It's not a coincidence. This has really been a major strategy within the Republican Party. After the 2008 election, when Republicans gained control of a number of really important states in 2010, they began to introduce a wave of new restrictions to tighten access to the ballot. Then those efforts were basically given a green light by the Supreme Court when it removed a critical part of the Voting Rights Act in 2013 in the Shelby County v. Holder decision and said that those states with the longest histories of discrimination no longer had to approve their voting changes with the federal government. That allowed states in the South that previously had to prove their voting changes with the federal government - places like Texas and Georgia and North Carolina and Alabama - to implement these new restrictions on voting. So I think you're seeing a national effort by the Republican Party to try to restrict voting rights, and it's...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, October 24, 2018

Fox Butterfield

Fox Butterfield is the author of In My Father's House: A New View of How Crime Runs in the Family. From the transcript of his NPR interview with Ailsa Chang:
CHANG: So at the beginning of this book, you state a stunning statistic - I couldn't believe it when I read it - that as little as 5 percent of families are behind half of all the crime in the U.S. When did you start thinking about crime as a family affair? I know you covered criminal justice for quite some time.

BUTTERFIELD: I covered criminal justice for The New York Times for almost 15 years, and I had written a previous book about a black family with multiple generations of criminals. And I wanted to find a white family which could illustrate this because some of the studies were done so long ago that most of the - all the people in some of the studies - from the one in Boston, for example - were all white. And I wanted to see if I could take race out of the equation to disentangle race from crime.

CHANG: So let's talk about the family you focused on in this book. They're the Bogles. They're white, as you already mentioned. They're poor. You trace this family all the way back to right after the Civil War, and you discover 60 members of this family ended up in prison or jail or some juvenile reformatory, which is just staggering in and of itself.

BUTTERFIELD: Yes, it sounds like something out of ...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, October 23, 2018

Jennifer Salvato Doktorski

Jennifer Salvato Doktorski's latest young adult novel is August and Everything After.

From her Q&A with Deborah Kalb:
Q: How did you come up with the idea for August and Everything After, and for your character Quinn?

A: My ideas begin with a character and a voice. The first thing a character “says” to me usually becomes the first line of my story. In this case, it was Quinn telling me why she started wearing her grandmother’s old cat-eye glasses.

Quinn’s backstory is a sad one. The death of her best friend, for which she feels responsible, left her broken and damaged and uncertain about her future. I wanted this to be a story about the summer Quinn makes herself whole again.

I love the album August and Everything After by the Counting Crows. Lyrically and musically the songs reminded me of Quinn, and the...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, October 22, 2018

Phoebe Robinson

Phoebe Robinson is the author of You Can't Touch My Hair: And Other Things I Still Have to Explain. From the transcript of her Fresh Air interview with Terry Gross:

GROSS: OK. You also say, in your book, that you made jokes when you were starting that you wouldn't dream of making today. Can I put you on the spot and ask you for an example of a joke you wouldn't dream of making today?

ROBINSON: Yeah. I had this one joke that I used to do pretty early out. And I took all my early, like, stand-up clips off YouTube because who needs to see that train wreck? I don't. I was just Dunkirking (ph) it up. But anyway, so the joke basically is I was watching the slavery documentary with a white friend of mine. And it got like really awkward. And I was, like, oh, don't worry about it. I - because I'm lighter skin, I would've been in the house. And it always got a laugh. And I would, like, go and, like, make jokes about, like, you know, me and Thomas Jefferson. And it always just kind of like - now I'm like, are you kidding me, dog?

GROSS: (Laughter).

ROBINSON: Why would you ever make that? It's so ignorant. And it's so just kind of, like, you know, when you're early, you're like, oh, I got to be provocative. I have to be edgy. I have to, like - if I'm going to talk about race, I have to do it in, like, this crazy way that I think has never been done and make people uncomfortable or make people, like, really just, like, kind of laugh out of, like, shock rather than laughing out of, like, truly, like, enjoying that joke thoroughly.

And that is a joke where I'm like, maybe you, like, just don't need to joke about slavery like that. I'm sure there's a great slavery joke. But I haven't cracked that nut yet. And it's...[read on]
You Can't Touch My Hair: And Other Things I Still Have to Explain is among Maeve Higgins's favorite funny essay collections.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, October 21, 2018

Abbi Waxman

Abbi Waxman's latest novel is Other People's Houses. From her Q&A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: How did you come up with the idea for Other People's Houses?

A: I knew when I was writing The Garden of Small Beginnings that I wanted to write a book about a mom with older kids. I had written the opening chapter much earlier, and then got back into Garden, so it was always sitting there.

I live in Larchmont, the neighborhood both books are set in, and there's always so much going on under the surface.

Q: You tell the story from various characters' perspectives. Did you know going into the writing who would end up being your primary point-of-view characters?

A: I knew I wanted to center the story around a middle aged, slightly overweight woman who was...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, October 20, 2018

John Kerry

John Kerry is a decorated Vietnam veteran, five-term United States senator, 2004 Democratic presidential nominee, and US Secretary of State for four years. His new memoir is Every Day Is Extra.

From the transcript of Kerry's interview with Fareed Zakaria:

FAREED ZAKARIA: Let's get right into it with the former Secretary of State, John Kerry. He is the author of a new memoir, "Everyday is Extra." I want you to start by explaining the title. It comes out of your service in Vietnam.

JOHN KERRY, FORMER SECRETARY OF STATE: It does. It's augmented by life itself but service in Vietnam assured a lesson with my crew and I and others I know who have been there that if you're lucky enough to survive and you come home and so many other good people didn't you feel a gift. You have a sort of sense of responsibility about how you should live your life because you are fortunate. And it's a gift to be able to have a life of purpose; to be able to get things done and to always recognize the degree to which you are bless because of that.

It's also a lesson that there are a lot of worse things in life than losing an election or losing a debate or whatever, but I think it puts a lot of things in perspective and importantly it encourages you to maximize the days you have. So I think those of us who live with that sense are lucky and it's a way of trying to encourage other people to realize you don't have to go to war to have that sense. Anybody who's had cancer or anybody who's had an accident or whatever, you learn how fragile things are and I think it's a great philosophy by which to live....[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, October 19, 2018

Brian Murphy

Brian Murphy is the Russia and East Asia editor at The Washington Post. He is the author of four nonfiction books, including The Root of Wild Madder: Chasing the History, Mystery and Lore of the Persian Carpet and 81 Days Below Zero: The Incredible Survival Story of a World War II Pilot in Alaska’s Frozen Wilderness.

Murphy's new book is Adrift: A True Story of Tragedy on the Icy Atlantic and the One Man who Lived to Tell about It.

From his Q&A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: You write that you first learned something about this story in an exhibit about shipwrecks. How did that eventually lead to your writing Adrift?

A: The first thing, of course, was that the exhibit mentioned a single survivor. This meant there was likely some kind of diary or personal account stashed away in an archive or family records.

It became quickly apparent there was enough for a compelling story that had never been told in full. The survivor, Thomas W. Nye, was front-page news at the time when shipwrecks (without a survivor to tell the tale) were often relegated to short items in the press.

But the research soon led me to wider narratives and subplots. Early 1856 was a terrible period for North Atlantic ice. It was one of the worst in generations, according to some ship captains.

At least three other vessels went down around the same time as the John Rutledge, the ship in Adrift. More than 830 people lost their lives in the North Atlantic in the span of eight weeks. Amazingly, one of the owners of the John Rutledge was aboard one of the other ships that went down.

Irish emigrants accounted for most of those lost at sea during that horrible stretch. This created another element in the book. I wanted to...[read on]
Learn more about Adrift, and follow Brian Murphy on Facebook.

The Page 99 Test: Adrift.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, October 18, 2018

Abigail DeWitt

Abigail DeWitt's new novel is News of Our Loved Ones.

From her Q&A with Yona Zeldis McDonough at the Lilith blog:

YZM: You write so beautifully and intimately about France—what is your connection to the country?

AD: Thank you! I’m a dual citizen of France and the U.S. My mother was a young, French, theoretical physicist when she came to the States in the late 1940s to study at the Princeton Institute for Advanced Study. She’d lost half her family in the D-day bombings and intended to go home after two years to re-join her three surviving siblings, but instead, she met my father and married him. Still, she was deeply committed to helping rebuild France after the war, so, to make up for marrying an American, she founded the École de Physique des Houches in the French Alps. She and my father taught at the University of North Carolina, but we spent every summer in France so she could run the institute and we could know our relatives.

My mother’s family was very close-knit, and, though they admired my father, it broke their hearts that my mother had moved to the States, that my sisters and I seemed more American than French. Most of them did not speak English, and our French was never quite as good as our English. I loved France, but also felt a step behind there, and I was haunted by my family’s war experiences. For a long time, because I often failed to “get” things in French, and because my family’s grief about the war was both pervasive and unacknowledged, I thought of France as...[read on]
Visit Abigail DeWitt's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Norman S. Poser

Norman S. Poser is professor emeritus at Brooklyn Law School and author of the new book, The Birth of Modern Theatre: Rivalry, Riots, and Romance in the Age of Garrick. From his Q&A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: You write that this book emerged from research on a previous book about a prominent 18th century judge. What intrigued you about the theater during that period?

A: I became interested in 18th century theater from working on my biography of Lord Mansfield, who presided as judge in several legal disputes involving theater people. The people, particularly Charles Macklin and Samuel Foote, had colorful personalities.

Also, theater people were friends of Mansfield. The more I learned about the actors and theater managers of that time, the more they interested me.

Q: Why did you start the first chapter with a description of a 1741 performance of The Merchant of Venice?

A: Macklin's portrayal of Shylock was revolutionary. It was a new acting style, which was a forerunner of the Method acting of people like Marlon Brando. Also, I felt that Macklin's own account of that evening in 1741 was...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Martha Brockenbrough

Martha Brockenbrough is the author of the soon-to-be-released Unpresidented: A Biography of Donald Trump.

From her Q&A with Shannon Maughan at Publishers Weekly:

What is Unpresidented, and what compelled you to write it?

Unpresidented is a biography of Donald Trump that reaches back before he was even born, to his grandfather’s immigration to the United States and expulsion from Germany for dodging the draft. I cover how his dad started his business and the trouble his dad encountered with the law at various times to how Donald established himself in Manhattan, when he first developed political aspirations—it’s much earlier than you would imagine—all the way up through the election and the tumultuous first year-and-a-half or so of his presidency.

I had just finished writing a biography of Alexander Hamilton and I absolutely fell in love with the form and became even more deeply interested in the founding of our nation and the constitutional principles than I had been before. I started my career as a journalist. And I also taught First Amendment to students so it’s long been an interest.

Donald Trump’s campaign and election astonished me, for lots of reasons, and after he was elected, I immediately wanted to write a biography, but it took me about a year or so to understand what the most useful book would be for young readers. To connect it back to Alexander Hamilton a little bit more, Hamilton died because he was afraid of an Aaron Burr presidency. He thought Aaron Burr had shifting political principles. Aaron Burr’s finances were also in trouble and Hamilton thought that made him susceptible to influence from foreign governments. He said that no one in Burr’s financial situation could make a living as president, because they didn’t get paid much. Hamilton thought Burr was a demagogue. As I was researching that, I was noticing the parallels between Aaron Burr and Donald Trump, right down to the combover; Aaron Burr had small ears. There are things that might not necessarily make it into the book, but certainly Aaron Burr also had...[read on]
Visit Martha Brockenbrough's website.

The Page 69 Test: The Game of Love and Death.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, October 15, 2018

Rebecca Makkai

Rebecca Makkai's new novel is The Great Believers.

From her Q&A with Jennifer Solheim at Fiction Writers Review:

Jennifer Solheim: I’m going to make a jerk move by asking a deceptively simple question to begin. The raison d’être of The Great Believers is the story of the AIDS crisis in 1980s Chicago. You had the idea before the 2015 Paris attacks to set the contemporary narrative there. But then this leads me to wonder: why Paris?

Rebecca Makkai: Actually, Paris came first. But it was 1920s Paris, which is now only a subplot in the book (and we’re never there in scene). I wanted to write about a woman who’d been an artist’s muse around WWI, and things evolved from there. (This was all before I even started writing; for every novel, I spend a few months stewing on things and working it out mentally, and it was during this time that it really shifted to being a book about AIDS.) When I realized—quite a way into the process—that I wanted a contemporary narrative in there as well, it made sense to me to bring things full circle and have Paris in...[read on]
Learn more about the author and her work at Rebecca Makkai's website, Facebook page and Twitter perch.

My Book, The Movie: The Borrower.

The Page 69 Test: The Hundred-Year House.

My Book, The Movie: The Hundred-Year House.

My Book, The Movie: The Great Believers.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, October 14, 2018

Hazel Gaynor

Hazel Gaynor's new novel is The Lighthouse Keeper's Daughter.

From her Q&A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: The Lighthouse Keeper's Daughter was based at least in part on historical figures. How did you learn about Grace Darling and what made you decide to focus your new novel on her?

A: I first learned about Grace Darling and her heroic rescue of survivors of a shipwreck in my early school years. There was something about her Victorian clothing, her isolated existence on a remote island lighthouse, her bravery - and her name - that really captured my imagination.

As a novelist, I wanted to know more about her. Who was the real person behind the chocolate-box heroine she became? I wanted to understand the complex young woman who struggled beneath the glare of her unwanted fame.

I felt there must be more to her story, and I was right! While visiting my family in Northumberland in 2015, I stumbled across...[read on]
Visit Hazel Gaynor's website, Facebook page, and Twitter perch.

The Page 69 Test: The Girl Who Came Home.

My Book, The Movie: The Girl Who Came Home.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, October 13, 2018

Elana K. Arnold

Elana K. Arnold's new novel is Damsel.

From her interview with Joy, Children’s Programming Director at Brazos Bookstore in Houston:

JOY: First let me say that it was quite interesting to read this book within the context of our current fiery political and societal landscape: The #Metoo movement. The aggressive movement working to overturn Roe v. Wade. The endless list of powerful men whose flagrant misogyny is finally being called out for what it is. And of course everything that has been going on with the Kavanaugh Supreme Court hearings as I finalize this interview… You have said that DAMSEL is about ‘waking up female in the man’s world.’ Can you talk a bit about why you chose a form of fairy tale narrative to tell this story? Were there any particular fairy tale or fairy tale retellings that inspired your process?

ELANA K. ARNOLD: Yes, we have all been lit aflame by our current landscape, and even more true, perhaps, is that the fire-hot coals of our discontent have been fueled by the massive bellows of our current landscape. My idea began with a dragon, and dragons live in fairy tales, so it seemed natural to let DAMSEL evolve in that direction… but almost immediately I saw how effective it is to take today’s very current problems—misogyny, rape culture, gaslighting—and illuminate them by setting them in a time and place that isn’t the here and now. Of course, our problems aren’t new problems—they’re the underpinnings of many of the European fairy tales I grew up reading. As far as inspirations, this book is probably the result of having read Goldman’s PRINCESS BRIDE, King’s EYES OF THE DRAGON, and Rice’s CLAIMING OF SLEEPING BEAUTY on...[read on]
Visit Elana K. Arnold's website.

The Page 69 Test: Burning.

The Page 69 Test: A Boy Called Bat.

Writers Read: Elana K. Arnold (March 2017).

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, October 12, 2018

Diane Chamberlain

Diane Chamberlain's new novel is The Dream Daughter.

From her Q&A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: You note in the acknowledgments for The Dream Daughter that you've thought about writing this story for years. What finally made you decide the time was right, and what was the initial inspiration for the book?

A: My previous career was as a hospital social worker in a maternity unit, way back in the early ‘80s. Sometimes I think about the babies who didn’t make it back then, and how today’s advances (especially with regard to preemies) would keep them not only alive but thriving.

Thinking about that led to the idea: what if a woman pregnant in 1970 learns that she could save her unborn baby’s life by traveling to the future for a procedure?

I had a few other books [and] I was afraid my editor wouldn’t go for this one so I put it on the back burner for quite a while. But when I told her the story, she said “wow!” I’ll always be...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, October 11, 2018

Michael Lewis

Michael Lewis's latest book is The Fifth Risk.

From his NPR interview with Ari Shapiro:

SHAPIRO: In each part of the government that you look at, you tell the story of what happened during the transition between Election Day and the inauguration. And in each case, the story is pretty much the same. What happened?

LEWIS: Well, what happened was before the election, the Obama administration had spent the better part of a year and a thousand people's time creating, essentially, the best course ever created on how the federal government works and what the problems are in each of these departments with the idea that the day after the election, hundreds of people from the new administration would roll in and get the briefings and learn what the problems were and how they dealt with them.

And the Trump administration just didn't show. I mean, across the government, parking spaces were empty, and nice little finger sandwiches that had been laid out went uneaten and briefing books went unopened to the point where, when I roll in a few months later, I'm the first person who's heard the briefing that the Trump administration was supposed to get.

SHAPIRO: And when the Trump administration ultimately did send some people, or one person, there was a pattern in the kinds of people who showed up.

LEWIS: Well, the real pattern was everybody who showed up was a Trump loyalist, and very few of them had any kind of qualifications for the jobs they were being sent into. And the spirit with which they approached was...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Cynthia Leitich Smith

Cynthia Leitich Smith's new YA novel is Hearts Unbroken.

From her Q&A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: You write that the novel is partly "an exploration of speech--journalistic, political, artistic, religious, and interpersonal, as well as speech rooted in hate..." What do you hope readers take away from this aspect of the book?

A: I hope that they consider the costs and possibilities of their words, the power of their voices and the need to use that power responsibly in every aspect of their lives. Which of course includes making amends when the words they choose are the wrong ones.

Q: The novel takes place in Kansas. How important is setting to you in your work?

A: Setting is critical. I’m a sense-of-place writer, and the majority of my stories are set in locations I know well. There’s an expression “I know where you’re coming from.” It means “I understand you.” Think about how we equate that.

My protagonist Louise grew up in Cedar Park, Texas, which is outside Austin, where I now make my home. (Incidentally, I’m a regular author visitor to the YA reading group at Cedar Park Public Library.)

She moves to suburban northeast Kansas, where...[read on]
Visit Cynthia Leitich Smith's website.

Writers Read: Cynthia Leitich Smith (March 2009).

The Page 69 Test: Feral Curse.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, October 9, 2018

Alice Walker

Alice Walker's new collection of poems is Taking The Arrow Out Of The Heart.

From her interview with NPR's Scott Simon:

SIMON: Well, we've heard wonderful things about you, of course. I'd like to begin with - if you could read us a section of your poem about your beloved Oakland called "Loving Oakland."


(Reading) If gentrifiers do not despoil it, which means getting rid of poor and black and people of color people, Oakland can be what it has been for a long time, an urban paradise. It is a place where the young blond woman crossing the street in front of your car would look like a threat to the neighborhood, except she's frowning over some deep issue in her inner life and wearing outrageous vivid blue shoes. It is a place where, as you sit on the grass by the lake, a tall black man of a certain age strolls by blowing his saxophone. You smile and bow. He bows back with his horn. His day is mellow. He's in the sun. He has given mellowness and sun free of charge to you.

SIMON: If I might ask you about that first line, if gentrifiers do not despoil it, are you concerned that Oakland might be improved, as they say, at the cost of a lot of people?

WALKER: Yes. In fact, it's happening as we speak. So many huge buildings, apartment buildings, forcing the people out. And so many, now, people living in tents - you know, so many homeless people. There are a lot of brokenhearted souls, you know, in Oakland who've lived there all their lives. I just...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, October 8, 2018

Abigail DeWitt

Abigail DeWitt's new novel is News of Our Loved Ones.

From her Q&A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: You write that the story you tell in News of Our Loved Ones was inspired by your own family history. At what point did you decide to write the novel?

A: For a long time, I’d thought about writing the story of my aunt who died on D-day and the story of my great-uncle who was saved by his own painting. I did write those stories, and then, a while later, I was drawn to write the story of the half-American girl walking on the beach.

I began to see how the three stories were connected, so I thought of writing a collection of linked stories, but the more I wrote, the more I saw that the meaning of each story depended on all the other stories and that what I was writing was a novel with multiple points of view.

I never know what I’m writing until I write it, so in that sense it’s not exactly a decision. I begin by following a character and seeing where that character leads me—it could be into a novel or a short story about that character, or it could be into a novel or story about a completely different character. The original character could turn out to be simply a character who “introduces” me to someone else.

My best writing begins as...[read on]
Visit Abigail DeWitt's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, October 7, 2018

Rebecca Traister

Rebecca Traister's new book is Good and Mad: The Revolutionary Power of Women's Anger.

From her NPR interview with Rachel Martin:

MARTIN: You lean into history in this book. And it's full of examples of men's anger being laudable, creating admirable political change. The Boston Tea Party is a great example. What historically was so threatening about women's anger?

TRAISTER: Well, in part, that anger of the founding - our founders, who were the white men chafing against their lack of representation and who were angry and protested in ways that we understand correctly to - this is our revolutionary moment. But when they made their new nation, they codified some of the very inequities that they themselves were angry about with regard to the British government. So they built the nation on slavery and the disenfranchisement of women.

MARTIN: You referenced the racial dynamic of the Me Too movement earlier. But I want to ask again because women who speak out are condemned in the broader culture under many circumstances. But there is an outsized penalty for women of color who do so. Do you think those voices are being heard loudly enough in this moment?

TRAISTER: I think it's almost impossible for us to conceive of the voices of women of color as being heard loudly enough because...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, October 6, 2018

Jake Burt

Jake Burt's new book is The Right Hook of Devin Velma.

From his Q&A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: How did you come up with the idea for The Right Hook of Devin Velma?

A: The notion sprang from my own trepidation toward social media. When my first novel came out, I joined Twitter, established a webpage, etc.

I was nervous about it, and I think that discomfort led me to explore ideas of fame, publicity, and family in a new way - hence Addison Gerhardt, the (VERY) reluctant emissary and Devin Velma, the eager experimenter.

They're two sides of the same coin, launched into a situation they couldn't possibly have prepared for. It was a ton of fun thinking about how they'd react to it. I hope that comes across in the novel!

Q: What do you hope kids take away from the book?

A: The message I'm hoping kids take away is...[read on]
Visit Jake Burt's website.

The Page 69 Test: Greetings from Witness Protection!.

Writers Read: Jake Burt (November 2017).

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, October 5, 2018

Michael Kinch

Michael Kinch is the author of Between Hope and Fear: A History of Vaccines and Human Immunity.

From his NPR interview with Susan Brink:

The first attempts to control smallpox go back at least 1,000 years and didn't involve vaccines. Can you describe those attempts?

Smallpox was probably killing a half a million people a year in Europe alone. The medical community had adopted a practice called nasal insufflation. You could take a little bit of the material from a smallpox scab, turn it into a powder and have a child snort it into the nose. Or you could intentionally scrape the skin and put material from a smallpox pustule under the skin of a healthy individual. That was called variolation. Those procedures caused smallpox, and people got sick. But far fewer of them died because most people would get a less virulent form of disease than if they were infected through exposure to a smallpox patient. Those who survived were then immune to smallpox.

How do you suppose people even thought of doing those disgusting things with scabs and pus?

You have to make assumptions. Maybe someone who was caring for a person with smallpox got a cut, and the cut got infected with pus from the patient. Then the caretaker noticed that afterward, they were immune to smallpox infection.

Variolation and nasal insufflation worked reasonably well, but they were not vaccines. What is a vaccine?

A vaccine is...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, October 4, 2018

Peter Nathaniel Malae

Peter Nathaniel Malae's new novel is Son of Amity.

From his Q&A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: How did you come up with the idea for Son of Amity, and for the family you write about?

A: I was driving home from a 500-word writing session for my last novel, Our Frail Blood, down a pretty isolated country road that leads to my neighborhood. I had a CD of CCR on and was kind of disappearing into the music, as I sometimes do as a form of recovery after a day of digging through a scene.

Anyway, this one song of theirs, “Run Through the Jungle,” opened up on the radio. It starts with this sort of long deep yet piercing guitar chord that sounds almost like a hell-bound demon moaning about being hell-bound, and as it was really stretching out, I thought, Wouldn’t that be crazy to be sitting in a movie theater in the dark when this sound comes on full blast, and then when the song starts into its riff eight seconds later the film opens with a close-up to a guy’s face. He’s driving up from a faraway place, you discover, to confront his sister’s rapist.

Once I got this “image,” I had about two minutes until I reached my home. By the time I turned off the car, about 75 percent of the novel’s major plot points had already filled in for me, a skeletal story, if you will. From there it was just a matter of slapping on muscle and skin, and getting the story’s...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, October 3, 2018

Alyssa Palombo

Alyssa Palombo's new novel is The Spellbook of Katrina Van Tassel: A Story of Sleepy Hollow.

From her Q&A with Meghan Masterson:

Tell us about your inspiration for The Spellbook of Katrina Van Tassel.

I had been casting about for an idea for my third book for a couple months when I came up with it – the idea hit me like a ton of bricks, basically. I was in the shower at the time, and suddenly I had the idea for a feminist retelling of “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow”, with lots of historical detail, and one that would answer the question that Washington Irving leaves somewhat open-ended in the original: what did happen to Ichabod Crane? Immediately I could hear Katrina’s voice, and the title came to me at the same time. I got out of the shower, basically did a happy dance in my bathroom, and started writing that day. Halloween is my favorite holiday, and I love all things creepy and spooky, so this book was a pure joy to write because it gave me a chance to play with all that.

What three words would you use to describe Katrina?

Determined, spoiled, and loyal.

Did you face any unexpected challenges or pleasant surprises while working on this book?

I was definitely...[read on]
Visit Alyssa Palombo's website.

The Page 69 Test: The Violinist of Venice.

The Page 69 Test: The Most Beautiful Woman in Florence.

Writers Read: Alyssa Palombo (May 2017).

--Marshal Zeringue