Thursday, April 19, 2018

Alma Katsu

Alma Katsu's latest novel is The Hunger.

From her Cheek to Geek Q&A with Chris:

When I finished the last page, I came out with a sense of hope and a whole new respect for the Donner Party. Even though it is historical fiction, I felt like I knew and admired these people more than ever before. You were really able to bring them to life for me. I’ve seen the same thing happen in friends that I’ve recommended The Hunger to. Everyone comes out with a newfound interest and respect for the Donner Party. Although The Hunger is historical fiction, was there something happening currently that made you feel that this story would resonate so well with an audience? What initially drew you to these characters and the need to tell their story?

First, let me say I’m so glad you enjoyed the book and thank you for the thoughtful review and for recommending it to your friends. It’s gratifying to know it’s the kind of book that readers want to talk about. It’s been interesting to see the response to the novel—starting out, you don’t know whether modern readers want to read about something like the Donner Party. Or maybe they’ll think they already know the story.

Like most Americans, I’d heard about the Donner Party but didn’t know the facts. I think “not really knowing” has created a mystique around it. I’d always been fascinated by it, but it wasn’t until I started doing the research that I knew I wanted to write about it. The story of the Donners isn’t just what happened at the end when they were trapped in the mountains, out of food, and facing the bleakest of circumstances. In a way, it’s not even what happened along the 2,000-mile trail. It’s the story of...[read on]
Learn more about the book and author at Alma Katsu's website.

The Page 69 Test: The Taker.

My Book, The Movie: The Hunger.

The Page 69 Test: The Hunger.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

David Ricciardi

David Ricciardi new novel is Warning Light.

From his Q&A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: How did you come up with the idea for Warning Light, and for your character Zac Miller?

A: Advanced technology is great, but as individuals and as a society, we've become very dependent on it.

I decided to yank the hero out of his comfortable life and put him in a dangerous, remote location to see how he survives. Zac is a desk jockey. A fit, smart, and determined desk jockey, but still a desk jockey. I hoped he was someone readers could identify with and say, "Wow. What would I do if that ever happened to me?"

Q: Did you know how the book would end before you started writing, or did you make many changes along the way?

A: I knew exactly how it would end before I started writing, but a funny thing happened on the way to the ending...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Frederic Wehrey

Frederic Wehrey is the author of The Burning Shores: Inside the Battle for the New Libya. From his interview with NPR's Mary Louise Kelly:

KELLY: The event of course that dominated front pages here in the U.S. about Libya was the death of Chris Stevens...

WEHREY: Absolutely.

KELLY: ...The U.S. ambassador to Libya who was killed in Benghazi in 2012. You knew Chris Stevens.

WEHREY: Briefly. Briefly. Not that well, but...

KELLY: Oh.

WEHREY: ...We crossed paths at the embassy.

KELLY: As you sifted through and tried to investigate those much-investigated events, what strikes you? What leapt out?

WEHREY: Well, the great tragedy of this was that Ambassador Stevens was so committed to outreach to the Libyan people and to a particular practice of diplomacy that really meant getting out on the street and meeting people from all walks of life. And the great tragedy of that attack was that it constrained that approach. It curtailed it. There was a tremendous retreat or retrenchment of America's diplomatic presence.

And part of that was understandable for the need to safeguard lives. But part of it, unfortunately, was the partisanship - that this became so politicized back in Washington, D.C., that it affected America's ability to engage on the ground in Libya. And that's what I really took away from talking to Libyans, who said, look; what happened to you after this attack? And this is a real tragedy 'cause Chris would've...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, April 16, 2018

Debra Dean

Debra Dean's new book is Hidden Tapestry: Jan Yoors, His Two Wives, and the War That Made Them One. From her Q&A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: How did you first learn of the story of Jan Yoors and his family, and why did you decide to write this as nonfiction rather than fiction?

A: A good friend of mine, Mitchell Kaplan, and I were standing in his bookstore one day and he said, “I’ve got your next book.” People say this to authors a lot, and it’s never, ever true – except this once. Mitchell’s sister is a documentary filmmaker and had met Marianne and Annabert Yoors when she was researching a film on polygamy. He started telling me this amazing story, and I was hooked.

My previous work has all been fiction and my novels—The Madonnas of Leningrad and The Mirrored World—are historical fiction, so it’s reasonable to expect that I would fictionalize this story as well. But in historical fiction, the fiction is created in the gaps between history, those blank areas where we no longer know what happened and so are free to invent.

In this case, though, there weren’t...[read on]
Learn more about the book and author at Debra Dean's website and Facebook page.

Writers Read: Debra Dean (September 2012).

The Page 69 Test: The Mirrored World.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, April 15, 2018

Juno Dawson

Juno Dawson is a YA novelist and author of the memoir The Gender Games. Her latest YA novel is Clean.

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

Drugs, sex and swearing feature highly in Clean, so what makes it a young adult novel?

The publishing world tends to focus more on the “young”, less on the “adult”. But I spend lots of time with teenagers and they’re truly the broadband generation. They’ve been online all their lives and seen things that would make milk curdle: beheadings, graphic violence, hardcore porn. Shielding them is never going to work. What makes this book YA is that it tackles issues in a non-judgmental way. We know these things exist, so let’s talk about them. I don’t think people will have a problem with how I’ve handled addiction. What might cause a fuss is [protagonist] Lexi’s positive attitude to sex. She clearly enjoys it. We never teach girls that sex should be enjoyable for them. That’s one thing porn absolutely doesn’t do. Pornography is not sex education.

Lexi’s heroin use is vividly portrayed. Do you have first-hand experience?

No. I was the most well-behaved adolescent, then went straight from university into being a primary schoolteacher. That’s not a job you could do half-cut. By the time I moved to Brighton a few years ago, I felt I’d missed my window to misbehave. So I....[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, April 14, 2018

Charles Soule

Charles Soule’s debut novel is The Oracle Year. From his Q&A with Ross Johnson at the B&N Sci-Fi & Fantasy Blog:

There’s a lot going on in the book (in a good way). You’ve got presidential politics, you’ve got televangelists, you’ve got like assassins. They’re going all over the world. I’m curious about the inception of the story. Did the story start out with scope, or is that something that built over the process of writing? Was it always that big?

It was always that big. The genesis behind the novel was really…it was partly that when I started writing it, I was still working as the lawyer and comics hadn’t blown up the way they subsequently have for me. It hadn’t become apparent that I could make a career, but I was working on it and trying really hard and, and fitting it around the edges like I do, like we spoke about earlier. And, so, I would have given a lot to be able to ask the question. Will this work out? Will this turn into something? Will I have the life that I want to have? And I figured that while that was my question at the time, everybody in the world has a question like. Whether it’s: Will I ever see her again? Will I ever achieve this goal that I’ve been working for? Will he get better? Whatever the question is, everybody has one.

And so I thought the appearance of a prophet in the world, Somebody who could hypothetically answer those questions would have massive ramifications all over the world in all kinds of societal structures: from politics, economics, to pop culture, to everything. And I wanted to write a book that explored that in as much detail and on as many levels as I could. I wrote about...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, April 13, 2018

Robert Kuttner

Robert Kuttner's new book is Can Democracy Survive Global Capitalism? From the transcript of his April 2018 interview with Fresh Air's Terry Gross:

GROSS: So let me move on to a different chapter here. The Congressional Budget Office reported this week that the national debt is expected to reach more than $33 trillion by 2028. I don't know if you know the answer to this, but how much of that estimate is because of the recent tax cuts?

KUTTNER: Well, the reason tax cuts are $1.5 trillion over 10 years, supposedly some of that will be made up by increased economic growth, although there's no evidence for that. The Republicans have played this game going back to Ronald Reagan. You enact a tax cut. You claim that the benefits will be so great that they will pay for the cost of the tax cut. That's known as supply-side economics.

And when that turns out not to be true, you discover the peril of the deficit. And then you cut a whole bunch of domestic programs to try and fill in some of the cost of that deficit and rising debt. So that was done under Reagan, was done under Bush one, under Bush two. And now the same script is being repeated under Trump. And the obvious answer is to repeal much of the tax cut if we're really concerned about deficits and debts.

GROSS: The House is going to vote on Thursday on a constitutional amendment to require balanced budgets. I realize that probably won't become a constitutional amendment, but is it the same people who were behind the tax cuts that now want to ask for a balanced budget amendment?

KUTTNER: Of course. And it's complete inconsistency, some might say hypocrisy that one week you increase the amount that needs to be borrowed - which is to say the national debt - by $1.5 trillion, and then a few weeks later, you're horrified that, oh, my goodness, that's actually going to increase the deficit. And we better have a balanced budget amendment. And, of course, if you ever had a balanced budget requirement, you would never have been able to have that tax cut.

I think the sponsors of the tax cut are vulnerable because...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, April 12, 2018

Anna Yen

Anna Yen's new novel is Sophia of Silicon Valley.

From her Q&A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: How did you come up with the idea for Sophia of Silicon Valley, and for your main character, Sophia?

A: The idea for the book was inspired by two things. First, Steve Jobs had passed away and a lot of things were being written and/or produced about him that I didn’t find to be accurate (or fair) at all.

I wanted to show the world my perspective, as someone who used to work closely with him, that he was an incredible mentor and role model if you knew how to listen, observe and absorb.

And that’s actually probably true of anyone you interact with — we all have room to grow and learn from others but we have to look beyond the surface layer and sometimes, put on some really thick skin.

The second reason is that I had just been diagnosed with a recurrence of cancer so I was of the mindset, “What is my legacy?”

I have young nieces and nephews - and I wanted to...[read on]
Visit Anna Yen's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Adam Winkler

Adam Winkler is a professor of constitutional law at the University of California, Los Angeles. He is the author of We the Corporations: How American Businesses Won Their Civil Rights (2018) and Gunfight: The Battle over the Right to Bear Arms in America (2011).

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

DAVE DAVIES: Adam Winkler, welcome to FRESH AIR. You tell many, many cases of corporations going before the courts and saying, if we were a person, we would have this right - the right to sue here, the right to freedom of speech, you know, the right to exemption from unreasonable searches and seizures. And they would argue that those rights ought to be afforded to corporations and businesses as well as people.

Is there ever any evidence that when the Constitution was drafted and the Bill of Rights, the founders thought of these rights as going to businesses as corporations as well as people?


ADAM WINKLER: There's no evidence that the framers ever intended the Constitution to protect business corporations, too. You can go through all of the ratifying conventions. The issue is just never raised. And in fact, the founding generation harbored a certain hostility towards corporations with Jefferson condemning what he called the aristocracy of our moneyed corporations.

And indeed, if we think about some of the key incidents in the revolutionary era, the Revolution was in part a revolt against a powerful corporation, too. We think of...[read on]
Learn more about We the Corporations at the publisher's website.

Adam Winkler, a professor of constitutional law at the University of California, Los Angeles, has been featured on CNN and in the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, and The New Republic.

The Page 99 Test: Gunfight.

The Page 99 Test: We the Corporations.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Ruth Downie

Ruth Downie is the author of a series of mysteries featuring Roman Army medic and reluctant sleuth, Gaius Petreius Ruso: Medicus, Terra Incognita, Persona Non Grata, Caveat Emptor, Semper Fidelis, Tabula Rasa, Vita Brevis, and the newly released Memento Mori.

From Downie's Q&A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: How did you come up with the idea for Memento Mori?

A: The hot springs at Bath – Aquae Sulis to the Romans – are a wonderful place to visit and I’ve wanted to set a book there for years. It was just a case of finding a story.

Initially I thought I’d base the murder mystery on the curses that angry visitors dropped into the spring in Roman times. Then I looked closer and realised there must have been much more going on in Aquae Sulis in terms of religion, politics and power, not to mention some very impressive water engineering. So in the end, the curses only formed a part of the story.

The sacred spring had to be central, though: the hot waters were the reason for the town’s existence, so...[read on]
Learn more about the book and author at Ruth Downie's website.

The Page 69 Test: Caveat Emptor.

The Page 69 Test: Tabula Rasa.

The Page 69 Test: Vita Brevis.

The Page 69 Test: Memento Mori.

Writers Read: Ruth Downie.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, April 9, 2018

Kelly Robson

Kelly Robson’s new time travel adventure is Gods, Monsters, and the Lucky Peach. From her Q&A with Ilana C. Myer at B&N Sci-Fi & Fantasy blog:

Many readers, including me, get excited at the idea of time travel. In Gods, Monsters, and the Lucky Peach, time travel is a vehicle for the exploration of themes about past and future, and what each owes the other. Can you talk about how this idea developed?

I’m a big Connie Willis fan, and her time travel stories have been a major influence on me. The great thing about time travel is concept is wide open. Every writer creates their own time travel rules to suit the stories they want to tell.

Connie’s really interested in the role of fate in the daily lives of people, so her time travel stories contain a lot of misplaced messages and calls for help that aren’t heard until the very last moment. I’m interested in something different.

What really gets me going is economics, in the broadest sense. When I say “economics” I don’t mean money. I mean what we owe to each other. This can take a lot of forms, from person to person, group to group, generation to generation, nation to nation, culture to culture, or between the past, present, and future. How do we interact? How do we behave responsibly, care for others, ensure our actions are moral and ethical, even under the most complex circumstances?

In our world right now, the biggest illustration of a failure to care for each other, or to recognize the humanity of others, is...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, April 8, 2018

Kate Hannigan

Kate Hannigan's new children's picture book is A Lady Has the Floor: Belva Lockwood Speaks Out for Women's Rights. From the author's Q&A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: Why did you decide to write a picture book about women's rights activist Belva Lockwood?

A: When Belva Lockwood first came to my attention, I was researching a book about Nellie Bly. I was so surprised to read about “the lady candidate” that I dropped the Nellie project and jumped right into learning about Belva and her campaign for president in 1884.

As I found out more about her—that she’d accomplished so much and was somewhat ignored by the mainstream suffragettes—I wanted to share it with the world. First woman on the ballot for president, first woman admitted to the bar of the Supreme Court, first woman to argue a case before the Supreme Court.

Belva faced daunting hardships and formidable obstacles along the way. She’s...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, April 7, 2018

Kiley Roache

Kiley Roache's new novel is Frat Girl.

From her Q&A with Kate Chesley for the Stanford Report:

Where did the inspiration for Frat Girl come from? How much did you draw from the Stanford experience?

The initial idea for Frat Girl came about when a male friend from my freshman dorm jokingly bet me $50 dollars to rush a fraternity. Although I did not end up taking him up on this, I started thinking about what that experience would be like for the first woman to join such a traditionally masculine group.

The book is set at a fictional school called Warren University, and while I share some similarities with the main character, Cassie Davis, there are also many ways we are different. The characters, setting and plot of the story are all made up.

However, I would say that the emotional truth of the story is based on my experience at Stanford. Like the characters in the book, throughout college I have made deep friendships, fallen in love, taken intellectually exhilarating classes, been encouraged by rock star mentors and found my true self. I think that the emotions I have felt and the lessons I have learned throughout Stanford are reflected in the book, and I...[read on]
Visit Kiley Roache's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, April 6, 2018

Peter Swanson

Peter Swanson's new novel is All the Beautiful Lies.

From his Q&A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: How did you come up with the idea for All the Beautiful Lies, and why did you set it in Maine?

A: I've had the basic idea for All the Beautiful Lies running through my head for many, many years. I always thought it would be a classic whodunit in which a son discovers his deceased father's secret life. And I always pictured it set in a coastal town.

When I wrote The Kind Worth Killing, a portion of that novel is set in the fictional town of Kennewick, Maine. And when I began to finally write All the Beautiful Lies I knew that it would be set in that same town.

Q: The novel is told from a variety of different perspectives. Did you write the book in the order in which it appears, or did you focus more on one character at a time and then move things around?

A: I always write my novels in the order in which I think they will appear, although...[read on]
Visit Peter Swanson's website, Facebook page, and Twitter perch.

My Book, The Movie: The Kind Worth Killing.

The Page 69 Test: The Kind Worth Killing.

Writers Read: Peter Swanson (February 2015).

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, April 5, 2018

Madeleine Albright

Former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright's new book is Fascism: A Warning. From the transcript of her Fresh Air interview with Terry Gross:

GROSS: Let's talk about what's happening in the United States. I want to read a passage that you write in your book, "Fascism: A Warning," a passage about President Trump. You write (reading) we've never had a president, at least in the modern era, whose statements and actions are so at odds with democratic ideals. Trump has spoken harshly about the institutions and principles that make up the foundation of open government.

In the process, he has systematically degraded political discourse in the U.S., shown an astonishing disregard for facts, libeled his predecessor, threatened to lock up political rivals, bullied members of his own administration, refer to mainstream journalists as enemies of the American people, spread falsehoods about the integrity of the U.S. electoral process, touted mindlessly nationalistic economic and trade policies and nurtured a paranoid bigotry toward the followers of one of the world's foremost religions.

Do you think that President Trump has the instincts of an authoritarian leader?


ALBRIGHT: I think that he is the most anti-democratic president that we have had in modern history and that his instincts are really in that direction. And I think that that's what worries him. And the passage that you read really does show that what he's trying to do is undermine the press and has disdain for the judiciary and the electoral process and minorities. And I think that his instincts are not ones that are democratic. And he is interested basically in, I think, exacerbating those divisions that I talked about. And so I am very concerned. And basically, this is - you know, I'd written the book because I have picked up that phrase, see something, say something. And I am seeing some things that are the kinds of things that we've seen in other countries. And so I'm saying...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, April 4, 2018

Viola Shipman

Viola Shipman is a pen name for Wade Rouse, a popular, award-winning memoirist. Rouse chose his grandmother’s name to honor the woman whose charm bracelet and family stories inspired him to write his debut novel, The Charm Bracelet, which is a tribute to all of our elders. Rouse lives in Michigan and writes regularly for People and Coastal Living, among other places, and is a contributor to All Things Considered. His new novel is The Recipe Box.

From Shipman's Q&A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: You note that your grandmother's kitchen helped inspire this novel. How did you create your character Sam and her family?

A: Yes, I grew up in her kitchen, asking questions as I tugged at the hem of her crisp white aprons embroidered with bright strawberries or pretty flowers.

My tiny grandma and her little kitchen seemed larger than life to me as a child: A vintage oven anchored one side, while sparkly countertops were engulfed by a bread box that held Little Debbies and Wonder Bread slices.

But the most prized possession in her kitchen was her recipe box. After my grandma died, my mom inherited my grandmother’s recipes. After my mom passed, I became the keeper of those recipes and memories.

Her original recipe box – which my grandfather, a woodworker, made for her – helped inspire the family in the novel because I learned about our family through the food my grandmother made. A brilliant baker, my grandma told stories as she cooked.

The character of Sam is based not only on myself but also on...[read on]
Visit Viola Shipman's website.

My Book, The Movie: The Charm Bracelet.

Writers Read: Wade Rouse (March 2016).

The Page 69 Test: The Charm Bracelet.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, April 3, 2018

Chelsey Johnson

Chelsey Johnson's new novel is Stray City.

From her Q&A with Caroline Leavitt:

I always want to know what haunted a writer (or propelled them) to write a specific novel. What was it for you?

So many things. I was driven from the outset by homesickness, by thinking about home and where you end up and why. The book actually originated from Ryan’s story, so I was writing about Bemidji, the town in northern Minnesota where my mom’s family is from, an hour from where I grew up. I feel deeply tied to northern Minnesota and yet I don’t know if I could ever return there to live, so I wrote my way through that tortured love and curiosity. Then I left Portland, and I didn’t mean to—it was supposed to be a one-year teaching gig that then turned into another and another—so I turned to Andrea’s perspective and wrote frantically, furiously trying to render the world I missed so much, trying to capture what it was, both so I could reinhabit it and also because I started to suspect I might not be able to go back to it, and I didn’t want to forget what it had been like. I’d never known a community or a city-love like that. But I also didn’t want the writing to be sentimental or nostalgic—I wanted to capture the contradictions and frustrations of...[read on]
Visit Chelsey Johnson's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, April 2, 2018

Anthony Grooms

Anthony Grooms is the author of Bombingham: A Novel and Trouble No More: Stories, both winners of the Lillian Smith Book Award for fiction. Born in Charlottesville, Virginia, he has taught writing and American literature at universities in Ghana and Sweden and, since 1994, at Kennesaw State University in Georgia.

Grooms's latest novel is The Vain Conversation.

From his Q&A with Margaret Evans for Lowcountry Weekly:

You’ve written a novel based on a “true story” – the murder of four people in 1940s rural Georgia. How did you come across this story and what about it captured your imagination?

I first learned of the story of the Moore’s Ford Bridge lynching from a news article in the Atlanta Journal and Constitution in 1991. The article was about Clinton Adams, who claimed to have witnessed, as a 10-year old, the murder of two black couples by local white people, including the police. What interested me about the story was that Adams, a white man, had kept the story a secret for over 40 years, and for all those years what he saw had tormented him. He was a witness who, until the article, had no means to tell his story. Even now, as he has been in the news recently since the FBI has closed the investigation into the case, he talks about his witnessing as...[read on]
Visit Anthony Grooms's website.

Writers Read: Anthony Grooms.

My Book, The Movie: The Vain Conversation.

The Page 69 Test: The Vain Conversation.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, April 1, 2018

Bart Ehrman

Bart Ehrman is a distinguished professor of religious studies at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. His new book is The Triumph of Christianity: How A Forbidden Religion Swept The World. From Ehrman's Fresh Air interview with NPR's Terry Gross:

GROSS: So your book on how Christianity spread through the world begins with how you started to feel doubt about your faith when you were in college. Why start your book there, with your personal doubt when you were a young man?

EHRMAN: Yeah. I debated how to start the book. And it occurred to me that in the ancient world when Christianity was taking over the religious scene, it was destroying the other religions in its wake. And people rarely think about what that meant for the people who supported these other religions. They were seeing their religion evaporate in front of their eyes.

And I realized that I had had a similar experience, that my religion had evaporated before my eyes and had been destroyed, not by an opposing religion but by my studies, by my scholarship. And I remembered the kind of anxiety and the frustration that I felt when that was happening, and it made me think, well, that's actually probably similar to what other people were feeling in the ancient world.

GROSS: But in the ancient world, a lot of pagans converted to Christianity. So they were substituting one belief system for another, whereas you had to live with perpetual doubt.

EHRMAN: Well, that's right. And they were substituting one thing for another. But in another sense, I...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue