Sunday, March 24, 2019

Maura Roosevelt

Maura Roosevelt is the author of the new novel Baby of the Family. From her Q&A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: How did you come up with the idea for Baby of the Family?

A: I’ve always been interested in how families are made, and the tales that become family lore.

The novel actually began with a short story that I wrote, that was only about Shelley and how she left college, broke and unsure about her future.

After writing that short story, I began to imagine what Shelley’s life was like in the past, and then I began writing about her family. Roger emerged, and then Nick. And then all these other characters popped up, and I had an early draft of the novel…

Q: As the great-granddaughter of Eleanor and Franklin D. Roosevelt, how much was your creation of the Whitby family affected by your own family’s history?

A: This book is very much a work of fiction—the Whitby family is very different from my own family. The main similarity between my family and the book, though, was that...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, March 23, 2019

Andrew Ridker

Andrew Ridker was born in 1991. His first novel, The Altruists, is out now from Viking/Penguin. It will be published in seventeen other countries. He is the editor of Privacy Policy: The Anthology of Surveillance Poetics and his writing has appeared in The New York Times, The Paris Review, Guernica, Boston Review, The Believer, St. Louis Magazine, and elsewhere. He is currently an Iowa Arts Fellow at the Iowa Writers' Workshop.

From Ridker's Q&A with Rebekah Frumkin at Full Stop:

Rebekah Frumkin: There is certainly no shortage of books about middle-aged white men, but The Altruists stands apart in its thoughtful and frequently comic exploration of Arthur Alter’s contradictory thinking. How did you choose this character to be at the center of your novel’s orbit?

Andrew Ridker: Growing up, I read a lot of these great postwar novelists – the Great American Narcissists as David Foster Wallace would call them – and it’s just a very interesting thing to read those books and be a twentysomething in 2019. I find the artistry to be phenomenal, they had a huge impact on me, but there’s no question that some facets of those books haven’t aged super well. And now we find ourselves living in very different times with different people around us. For me, Arthur was a chance to take a character you’d find in one of those books and place him in a context that was alienating to him, to decenter that patriarchal figure without completely jettisoning him. I wanted to drag that kind of writing...[read on]
Visit Andrew Ridker's website.

Writers Read: Andrew Ridker.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, March 22, 2019

David Wallace-Wells

David Wallace-Wells is the author of The Uninhabitable Earth: Life After Warming.

From his Q&A with Amy Brady for Guernica:

Guernica: Let’s begin by discussing the speed at which climate change is happening, which you say is greatly misunderstood.

David Wallace-Wells: One of the largest and most problematic misunderstandings that we have about climate change is that it’s slow, that it unfolds on a timescale of many decades, or even centuries. Even [climate scientist] James Hansen’s big book about climate change is called Storms of my Grandchildren. But the truth is that half of all emissions produced from fossil fuels have taken place in the last thirty years—an astonishingly short amount of time. I’m thirty-six years old. I remember what it was like thirty years ago. My life contains the whole trajectory of this story that took us from a relatively stable climate to where we are now, on the very brink of climate catastrophe. This has all happened since Al Gore published his first book on warming and since the United Nations established the IPCC report.

Guernica: Do you see our understanding of climate change evolving as its effects grow worse?

Wallace-Wells: There are more people now that understand that climate change is real and happening—quite a lot of people, actually, and the numbers are growing. But what’s not yet clear is...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, March 21, 2019

Keely Hutton

Keely Hutton is a novelist, educational journalist, and former teacher. She is the recipient of the Highlights Foundation Writers Workshop scholarship at Chautauqua. She has worked closely with Ricky Richard Anywar, the founder of the international charity Friends of Orphans who was a child soldier in Ugandan warlord Joseph Kony's Lord's Resistance Army, to tell his story in her first novel, Soldier Boy.

From Hutton's Q&A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: How did you end up working with Ricky Richard Anywar on Soldier Boy, and why did you decide to write it as a novel rather than as nonfiction?

A: In March 2012, my cousin, John Fay, emailed me about his friend, Ricky Richard Anywar, a man he’d met while working with non-profit organizations in Africa.

Ricky had been trying for over eight years to find a writer to tell the story of his time as a child soldier in notorious warlord Joseph Kony’s Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), but no one would take on the project.

Although Ricky’s story of survival captured my attention, I politely declined John’s request that I speak with Ricky three times. I believed a story as important as Ricky’s deserved both a published author with name recognition and a writer with life experiences similar to Ricky’s. I was neither.

Fortunately for me, my cousin emailed again about Ricky, and even went as far as involving my mother in his push to make the Skype call happen. Finally, I agreed, and Ricky and I scheduled a time to chat.

Five minutes into our first Skype conversation, I was certain of two things: 1. Ricky’s story needed to be told. and 2. even though I still questioned if I was the writer to tell it, I knew I wanted to help Ricky and his work at Friends of Orphans in northern Uganda in any way I could.

I agreed to ...[read on]
Visit Keely Hutton's website.

The Page 69 Test: Soldier Boy.

My Book, The Movie: Soldier Boy.

Writers Read: Keely Hutton (July 2017).

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, March 20, 2019

William J. Burns

William J. Burns is president of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. He retired from the U.S. Foreign Service in 2014 after a thirty-three-year diplomatic career. He holds the highest rank in the Foreign Service, career ambassador, and is only the second serving career diplomat in history to become deputy secretary of state. Burns's new book is The Back Channel: A Memoir of American Diplomacy and the Case for Its Renewal.

From his Q&A with Isaac Chotiner at The New Yorker:

When you look at the last two years, you could argue that we haven’t had a huge war compared to what we had in previous Administrations, and the world seems to be chugging along. People are angry at us more, but fundamentally things are O.K., and that gives you a certain amount of hope about American foreign policy, even if you have a bad man in the White House. Or you could argue that groundwork has been laid for future problems. How do you view those two options, or am I thinking about it wrong?

I think we’re doing a lot of corrosive damage to ourselves in the world over the last couple of years. I would emphasize that the drift in American diplomacy certainly was not something that was invented by Donald Trump. Throughout the post-Cold War era, I think we oftentimes tended to downplay the importance of diplomacy in the way in which we exercise leadership in the world, despite a number of accomplishments over those years. But I think what we’re doing now is digging a pretty deep hole for ourselves internationally, and what I worry about is that eventually we’ll stop digging, and we’ll climb back to the top of the hole, but we’ll look out at a landscape that has hardened in a number of ways against our interests.

The biggest concern I have is that what Trump has really turned on its head is the notion of enlightened self-interest. And again, we pursued that very imperfectly over the years, and I try to be honest about all the ways in which I got things wrong. But the Administrations of both parties thought we had one thing that sets us apart from lonelier powers like China and Russia, and that’s the capacity to invest in alliances and mobilize other countries, whether it’s to deal with challenges to regional order or big overarching problems, like the one existential problem that faces us today, which I’m convinced is...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, March 19, 2019

Ayesha Harruna Attah

Ayesha Harruna Attah is the author of the novel The Hundred Wells of Salaga.

From her Q&A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: You note that you were inspired to write this novel by your own family history. How did your great-great-grandmother's story lead to your writing the book?

A: While drawing up our family tree with my father, I learned that my great-great-grandmother had been enslaved in West Africa. I didn’t know much about slavery within the African continent at that point and I wanted to find out more about what that could have looked like and what my ancestor would have gone through.

Q: How did you come up with your characters Aminah and Wurche?

A: Aminah was inspired by my great-great-grandmother, so her spirit was modeled on the closest person to her that I got to meet: my father’s mother. She was a quiet woman, but one could tell that she had a strong spirit.

Wurche was inspired by a line I read in a book called Salaga: The Struggle for Power, by J. A Braimah, which said that princesses from this particular region could choose whomever they wanted to be their lovers, even if the man were...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, March 18, 2019

Michael E. Mann

Michael E. Mann is a noted climate scientist and Distinguished Professor of Atmospheric Science at Pennsylvania State University. From the transcript of his Q&A with Steve Curwood for PRI's Living on Earth:

CURWOOD: So, you're famous research-wise for doing what some folks would call paleoclimate work. That is, you look back at what happened hundreds, thousands of years ago to say what might be happening in the future. Talk to me about that. And why did you become intrigued with that?

MANN: Yeah. So what we did is we used all the natural archives that we could get our hands on: tree rings, of course, tell us something about past conditions related to tree growth -- rainfall and temperature. So we can glean information about climate from the thickness and even the density of the rings in tree cores from sort of continental, extratropical locations. Tropical trees aren't useful for tree ring research. So you're only getting information really from the extratropical continents, and that's not the whole planet, right? So you need to fill in those gaps. Well, we do that by using other data like ice cores, which come from high latitudes or even in some cases the tropics, at very high elevations, like Mount Kilimanjaro or in the Andes. So now you're starting to fill in those gaps. You've got the tropics, you've got the polar regions, then the oceans; well, we can turn to corals. The calcium carbonate skeleton of a coral contains, typically, annual growth rings. And we can look at the isotopes of oxygen in those growth rings; that tells us something about the seawater that that coral was growing in. And so what our project was about was taking this increasingly rich information coming from scientists around the world producing these different kinds of records, and assimilating them into a single reconstruction of past large-scale temperature patterns around the globe. Now to us, the most interesting thing about those reconstructions was what we could learn about the regional patterns of past climate -- the El Nino phenomenon; what happened during the largest prehistoric eruptions. It was those sort of regional patterns that we were really interested in, what they could teach us about climate dynamics. But what ended up becoming by far the single most prominent aspect of that research was what happens when you average over all of the regions, you average away a lot of those interesting details. And you come up with one number for each year, the average temperature of the Northern Hemisphere. And we could plot that back in time. And when you do that, what you see is that it was relatively warm about 1000 years ago. And then we descended into the depths of the Little Ice Age, in the 17-, 18-, 1900s; and then we see this warming spike, of the past century. And it is so sharp that it takes us well outside of the range that we see over the past thousand years. So laid on its side, it looks like, you know, the sports implement that we refer to as a hockey stick. And that's...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, March 17, 2019

Daniel Golden

Daniel Golden is the author of the 2006 book The Price of Admission: How America’s Ruling Class Buys Its Way into Elite Colleges—and Who Gets Left Outside the Gates.

From his interview with Isaac Chotiner for The New Yorker:

Colleges obviously still rely a lot on legacy admissions. Are they relying on it less than a decade or two ago, and might this lessening be causing legacy admissions or the rich and famous to be more desperate to get their kids in by any means necessary?

Actually, regarding legacy admissions, what’s happened in the last couple decades is two contrasting things. The first is that, yes, the percentage of legacies admitted has declined. It’s less of a guarantee of admission than it used to be. On the other hand, the over-all acceptance rate at these √©lite schools has declined even more. So legacy, proportionally, is a bigger advantage than it once was. If you take a typical Ivy League school, maybe twenty or thirty years ago, they might admit two-thirds of legacy applicants. Now they might admit one-third of legacy applicants. But, at the same time, their over-all acceptance rate has probably gone down from between twenty and twenty-five per cent to between five and ten per cent. So, proportionally, being a legacy is even more of an advantage. But, in any particular case, a legacy is less likely to get in than they used to.

Now, the pressures over all are generally working a little bit the other way. They are working for the benefit of donors rather than to their detriment. What’s happened is that other sources of income for universities have stayed level or declined. The percentage of small, grassroots donors—alumni who give a little bit—has declined, and universities are more dependent on big donations, the kind that often carry a kind of admissions tit for tat. Similarly, there hasn’t been big growth in terms of federal funding for research and other sources of income for universities. So universities are actually more dependent on...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, March 16, 2019

Dana Czapnik

Dana Czapnik is a 2018 NYSCA/NYFA Artist Fellow in Fiction from The New York Foundation for the Arts. In 2017, she was awarded an Emerging Writers Fellowship from the Center for Fiction. Czapnik earned her MFA at Hunter College where she was recognized with a Hertog Fellowship. She’s spent most of her career on the editorial side of professional sports including stints at ESPN the Magazine, the United States Tennis Association and the Arena Football League. Her debut novel, The Falconer, will be published by Atria Books, an imprint of Simon & Schuster, in January of 2019. A native New Yorker, she lives in Manhattan with her husband and son.

From Czapnik's Q&A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: How did you come up with the idea for The Falconer, and for your character Lucy?

A: I’ve always known I wanted to write a bildungsroman about a young woman like Lucy. I’d never read about a female athlete in literary fiction and I think the experience of being a woman in a space that’s been traditionally occupied by men is a way to open the door to writing about gender and navigating womanhood.

I also knew I wanted her to be a young woman who is open to the world, even as she’s often times questioning it. My favorite young male characters are ones who are searching for their own philosophy and grappling with the injustices of the world. I wanted to write a book that creates the space for a young woman to have that same experience.

I also was interested in writing about New York in the early ‘90s, just before the money started to...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, March 15, 2019

Jessica Chiccehitto Hindman

Jessica Chiccehitto Hindman is the author of Sounds Like Titanic: A Memoir. Her recent writing has appeared in McSweeney's, The New York Times Magazine, Brevity and Hippocampus. She holds a BA in Middle Eastern studies and an MFA in creative nonfiction writing from Columbia University, and a PhD in English from the University of North Texas. She teaches creative writing at Northern Kentucky University, where she recently won the Outstanding Junior Faculty Award. In her spare time she enjoys cooking (Italian), dancing (Beyoncé), and dreaming up clever Halloween costumes (Large Hadron Particle Collider).

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

SIMON: You were in an orchestra that played music on tour 2002 to 2006, but the music you played was not what the audience heard.

HINDMAN: That's right. I am a pretty good, amateur high school violinist. But when I performed for this orchestra, the microphone in front of me was off and a CD recording of a much more talented violinist was being blasted towards unsuspecting audiences.

SIMON: "Sounds Like Titanic" because the music sounded like...

HINDMAN: "Titanic" (laughter).

SIMON: ...Like the theme from the film "Titanic," right?

HINDMAN: Yes, absolutely - the 1997 film. Yes.

SIMON: But it wasn't that music.

HINDMAN: Yes, I think a few notes shy of whatever copyright infringement that would be.

SIMON: And you identify this person always as a composer. And I guarantee you, I have been all over the Web trying to figure out who this is, as I'm sure any reader would, because this - you guys performed a series of concerts for PBS over the years.

HINDMAN: Yes, that's correct. Yeah.

SIMON: So why do you...[read on]
Visit Jessica Chiccehitto Hindman's website.

The Page 99 Test: Sounds Like Titanic.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, March 14, 2019

Mike Winchell

Mike Winchell is the author of Electric War: Edison, Tesla, Westinghouse, and the Race to Light the World, a new book for young adults. From his Q&A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: Why did you decide to write about Thomas Edison, Nikola Tesla, and George Westinghouse, and how would you describe the dynamic among them?

A: To be honest, nonfiction wasn’t really on my radar initially. I had always written fiction, but after shopping a couple projects with my agent we had a conversation and she recommended I explore writing nonfiction.

She saw something in my writing that indicated my voice would translate nicely to narrative nonfiction. I must admit, she was right. I took to it immediately.

The Gilded Age is such a fascinating time period because our country was spreading its wings when it came to science and invention. I knew a decent amount about the war of the currents already, but as I started delving deep into my research, I knew this was a story that needed to be shared with young adults.

I think young people are only told about “the great Thomas Edison” in the typical classroom, and I feel it’s important to share the true story with them. If ever there was a man who was corrupted by competition and cutthroat capitalism, it was Thomas Edison.

The fire in his eyes with regards to his main competitors, Nikola Tesla and George Westinghouse, became a raging inferno. Edison stopped at nothing to...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, March 13, 2019

William Boyle

William Boyle's new novel is A Friend Is a Gift You Give Yourself.

From his Q&A with Gabino Iglesias at Southwest Review:

Gabino Iglesias: Your work is tied to the atmosphere, accents, and psychogeography of New York City. Do you rely on memories and knowledge acquired by living there or do you research everything you write about?

William Boyle: Mostly memories and knowledge, which is why I tend to stick to the places where I’ve lived and spent the most time. This book is set in the part of Southern Brooklyn where I grew up and where my family still lives (as all of my books are), but it also moves to the Bronx neighborhood where my wife’s family is from and then outside the city to a Hudson Valley town where her family now lives. I’m back home often, so occasionally I’ll do something that resembles research to make sure I’m getting a place right or to map things out or even just pick up details, but mostly I’m digging up things I remember or relying on things that have been burned into my memory. The voices are always there.

GI: A Friend Is a Gift You Give Yourself subverts the mob narrative by focusing on the women who live on its periphery. That said, you have a series of narratives about Cosa Nostra members in the book, including their deaths. Why did you decide to make the three main characters women trapped in and, in some ways, shaped by this context?

WB: The book was always going to be about...[read on]
Visit William Boyle's website.

My Book, The Movie: Gravesend and The Lonely Witness.

The Page 69 Test: Gravesend and The Lonely Witness.

Writers Read: William Boyle (September 2018).

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, March 12, 2019

Serene Jones

Serene Jones is the first woman to head the Union Theological Seminar and author of Call It Grace: Finding Meaning in a Fractured World.

From her Q&A with Isaac Chotiner at The New Yorker:

Let’s say you were sitting in a plane, and the person next to you says, “What’s your faith, and do you believe in God?” They don’t know who you are. What is your first response?

If they mean by that question, do I believe in the God of Heaven and Hell, who judges and sentences those who act against God to eternal damnation, or do I believe in the God of the Southern Baptist Convention and all of its prohibitions, then I would have to say no. That’s not the God I believe in. I don’t believe in God in that sense. But if God is understood as a descriptor of what I refer to as our ultimate destiny in love, then, yes, I really do believe that.

In the book, you write, “But if you mean believing the universe is ultimately loved by a divine reality that is greater and more wonderful than we can begin to imagine, and that in this reality we find our ultimate destiny, the purpose of our existence, then yes.” Forgive me, but what does this mean?

The fact that that statement is hard to grasp is part of the nature of that statement, because God, as I understand it, isn’t something we can ever pin down or grasp like we can describe any object or entity. But what I’m trying to point toward in that statement is the belief that the ultimate—and I use this word gently—the ultimate truth about all existence is that it is beloved. It is valued in and of itself for itself, not because of...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, March 11, 2019

Katrina Carrasco

Katrina Carrasco is the author of The Best Bad Things. From her Q&A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: How did you come up with the idea for The Best Bad Things, and for your character Alma?

A: Alma is the product of my personal interests combined with historical details. I wanted a queer main character through whom I could explore gender and sexuality in the 1880s, and a female character who was unabashedly physical and hungry — for food, sex, violence, etc. (In fiction — as in life — women are often constrained in terms of what they can do and the desires/emotions they can express.)

On the historical side, I was interested in the disbanded Pinkerton’s Detective Agency Women’s Bureau. For a time the agency employed female spies, but when it was decided spying was not “women’s work,” the female agents were dismissed.

What would happen, I thought, if several highly trained female spies were suddenly out of a job and not too happy with how they’d been treated by authority? Alma came out of a mix of all these factors.

Then I needed to find a setting that was as interesting as she is — and my research into the real-life opium smuggling and related corruption in Port Townsend showed me it was...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, March 10, 2019

Sheena Kamal

Sheena Kamal was born in the Caribbean and immigrated to Canada as a child. She holds an HBA in political science from the University of Toronto, and was awarded a TD Canada Trust scholarship for community leadership and activism around the issue of homelessness.

The Lost Ones/Eyes Like Mine is her debut novel, followed by the sequel, It All Falls Down.

From Kamal's conversation with Karin Salvalaggio for Bookanista:

KS: Nora Watts is difficult to pin down. She doesn’t react to situations in a way most people would consider normal. It makes her interesting but also unpredictable. She reminds me of Isabelle Huppert’s character in the film Elle. If you haven’t seen it, you should. Can you tell us a little bit more about Nora’s background and what inspired her character?

SK: Going into the first book of the series, I knew that Nora was going to be a loner, a misfit, a troubled soul. Nora used to work for a small private investigation outfit in Vancouver. She’s not a licensed investigator herself, but she did a lot of the off-books work for them because she has a knack for discerning lies. At the beginning of It All Falls Down, Nora’s skills from that world are put to use as she looks into her father’s death, which happened many years ago. Her character is largely inspired by my interest in writing a more diverse and representative Canada, and also by my fascination with blues music, which I often use as a tool to get into her head.

A surprising number of people warm to Nora even when they sense they shouldn’t. I’m referring to private investigator Brazuca and the Detroit detective Sanchez specifically, but there’s also Harvey, Simone, Kovak and a host of other characters. People seem to want to protect her, sleep with her, confide in her or kill her. What do you suppose it is about Nora’s character that provokes such extreme reactions?

Nora lives life on her own terms and doesn’t care much about others’ opinions of her. People have strong reactions to her – mostly negative. However...[read on]
Visit Sheena Kamal's website.

The Page 69 Test: The Lost Ones.

My Book, The Movie: It All Falls Down.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, March 9, 2019

Soniah Kamal

Soniah Kamal's new novel is Unmarriageable.

From her Q&A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: Why did you decide to write an updated version of Pride and Prejudice set in Pakistan?

A: There were no stories written in English and set in Pakistan when I was growing up and these were something I longed to read alongside Judy Blume, L.M. Montgomery, and Enid Blyton. As such, I used to transpose stories I read, so English scones would become Pakistani samosas, etc.

As soon as I read Pride and Prejudice, a tale which seemed to be quintessentially Pakistani with its marriage-obsessed mother, themes of close friendships and sisterhood, and biting social satire, I knew that I wanted to read a Pakistani version in the form of a parallel retelling. I decided that, if I could, I would write it one day.

Q: What do you think modern-day Pakistan and the England of Jane Austen's time have in common?

A: Women in Regency England lived terribly constrained lives. They could not own property or, unlike servants, if they were from the middle class and above, they could not work for a living. Marrying well was literally their means to survival.

This is not the case at all in...[read on]
Visit Soniah Kamal's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, March 8, 2019

Andrew G. McCabe

Andrew G. McCabe served as deputy director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation from February 2016 to January 2018. He began his career at the FBI in 1996, working first as a street agent on the Eurasian Organized Crime Task Force, and eventually as its supervisor. Later, he led the FBI's Counterterrorism Division, the National Security Branch, and the Washington Field Office, and was the first director of the High-Value Detainee Interrogation Group, which developed new methods for lawfully and effectively questioning suspected terrorists. He lives in Virginia with his wife Jill, their two children and a dog.

McCabe's new book is The Threat: How the FBI Protects America in the Age of Terror and Trump.

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

GROSS: This is FRESH AIR. And if you're just joining us, my guest is Andrew McCabe, who's written a new memoir called "The Threat: How The FBI Protects America In The Age Of Terror And Trump." And he had a long career in the FBI. And when James Comey was fired as director, Andrew McCabe became acting director.

Another thing you write about in the book, you participated in some of the presidential daily briefings that President Trump received. These are the briefings at which he gets all the intelligence reports that he needs to start the day. Give us a sense of what those briefings were like, how he responded, questions he asked, or things that he understood or things he didn't understand and how that affected the actions he took or didn't take.


MCCABE: Yeah. So let me just be clear. So the president's daily brief - or, as we refer to it, the PDB - is something that we looked at every day. And then, three times a week, we would gather with the leadership from the Department of Justice, so the attorney general, the deputy attorney general, some other folks who do national security work in the department. And we would go over the intelligence products in the PDB and, you know, other matters.

The president also received the PDB on those days, presumably. I was not present for the president's review of the PDB on a daily basis. My knowledge of the president's consumption of intelligence really came from more targeted or directed briefings that we prepared and delivered to the White House, so for things like homeland security sessions and briefings on particular issues, like the one I relate in the book concerning the Russian dachas.

It was a challenge. It's always a little bit of an adjustment as you have a new administration. Understanding how the president and his senior staff prefer to receive intelligence is a - there's always a period of kind of adapting to that new style, those new preferences. But what we saw with this administration to me, from my perspective, was very different.

The president was - it was challenging to get his attention on intelligence during these briefings. It was reported to me as challenging to keep his - you know, to keep him focused on the issue at hand. He's a - as I said earlier, he's a person who likes to kind of jump from topic to topic and often winds up discussing things that were, you know, not on the table or not on the agenda.

GROSS: Did you feel like he comprehended what he was being told about the intelligence?

MCCABE: Well, certainly not in the instance that I relate in the book.

GROSS: Tell us about that story.

MCCABE: Sure. So this had to do with the infamous Russian dachas, which were two properties, one in New York, one on the Eastern Shore of Maryland, that were maintained by the government of Russia and purportedly for the purpose of giving their diplomats some place to - you know, to relax and kind of go on vacation. It was our strong feeling in the FBI that the Russians were using those locations for intelligence purposes, which is a violation of what they're supposed to be doing there. Both were kind of closed and reclaimed by the United States under the Obama administration.

And during the Trump administration, the Trump administration needed to decide whether they would continue to close those facilities or they would turn them back over to the Russians. So we felt very strongly that they should...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, March 7, 2019

Pam Houston

Pam Houston's new book is Deep Creek: Finding Hope in the High Country.

From her Q&A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: You write, "This book has been an effort to write my way to an understanding of how to be alive...in the final days, if not of the earth, then at least of the earth as I've known her." What initially inspired you to write Deep Creek, and how did writing the book affect you?

A: I wanted to honor this piece of ground that has healed me, parented me and grown me up into an adult, this piece of ground that taught me how to take responsibility for something larger than myself. That was the original impulse.

Over the last decade of thinking about it and writing it, I, like many people, have become increasingly aware of the climate trouble our planet is in, and that hard truth, that the earth is dying at our hands and we need to figure out how to be in that dying, is probably, whether we know it or not, the most all encompassing reality of our lives.

Loving and losing my beloved animals, dogs and horses has taught me how to be with the dying, how to love the dying right up until the moment of death and beyond, and I think that is what is being asked of us for the earth right now. We need to...[read on]
Visit Pam Houston's website.

Coffee with a Canine: Pam Houston and Fenton Johnson.

The Page 69 Test: Contents May Have Shifted.

My Book, The Movie: Contents May Have Shifted.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, March 6, 2019

Snowden Wright

Snowden Wright is the author of the novels Play Pretty Blues and the newly released American Pop. He has written for The Atlantic, Salon, Esquire, and the New York Daily News, among other publications. A former Stone Court Writer-in-Residence, he lives in Atlanta, Georgia.

From Wright's Q&A with Matthew Turbeville at Writers Tell All:

MT: What about this novel made you decide to base it around a “pop” or “soda” company? I always am asked by people from other states, other regions, if I call something pop or soda. How do you feel the title, and the industry the novel concerns, has been developed by your writing?

SW: So funny you should ask this question. Lately I’ve been asked by people, to paraphrase, “How can you name this book American Pop when in the South, where it’s set, nobody calls soda ‘pop.’”

I’ve answered them by explaining that the second word of the title has multiple meanings and subtexts, all of which I intended: soda, popular culture, popularity, explosion, “pop” as in “goes bust.” In other words, American Pop isn’t just about soda. It’s about America and all the myriad ideas wrapped up in the concept of it. It’s about a family and all the myriad elements wrapped up in the concept of one.

That said, the soft-drink industry is, of course, a major part of the novel. It’s the mechanism by which I tried to explore, providing as much entertainment as possible, the ideas of America and the elements of a family. “Why read fiction? Why go to movies?” I quote in the novel from an issue of Beverage Digest, “[The] soft drink industry has enough roller-coaster plot-dips to make novelists drool.”

MT: What books and authors have truly influenced you? What books and authors do you return to time and time again? What book helped you with creating and executing this novel?

SW: Got a couple hours? Because...[read on]
Visit Snowden Wright's website.

The Page 69 Test: American Pop.

Writers Read: Snowden Wright.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, March 5, 2019

J. Albert Mann

J. Albert Mann is the author of five novels for children. She has an MFA from Vermont College of Fine Arts in Writing for Children and Young Adults. Her new work of historical fiction about the early life of Margaret Sanger is What Every Girl Should Know. Born in New Jersey, Mann now lives in Boston with her children, cat, and husband listed in order of affection.

From Mann's Q&A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: Why did you decide to write this novel about Margaret Sanger’s early life, and why as fiction rather than nonfiction?

A: The real reason I wrote about Margaret Sanger is that when I was in college and dating my college boyfriend, he invited me to his house. I went to Marymount in Manhattan. The house was a brownstone, with a plaque on the outside of the building.

We had a wonderful dinner, and after dinner his stepmom said, Why don’t you take Jen on a tour of the house, including the basement? We went down to the basement, and there was a strange table with stirrups. He said this was the first clinic of Margaret Sanger’s in Manhattan.

I said, Who was Margaret Sanger? I was on birth control at the time, and I was using the privilege in one of the places where she began to hand out that privilege. This was in the late ‘80s, early ‘90s.

I never forgot that moment, or her, and I do write fiction, but I never considered writing about Sanger until a few years ago when I picked up Ellen Chesler’s book [about Sanger] again.

I could never get past her childhood. It’s who she ends up becoming. There were...[read on]
Visit J. Albert Mann's website.

The Page 69 Test: What Every Girl Should Know.

Writers Read: J. Albert Mann.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, March 4, 2019

William Boyle

William Boyle's new novel is A Friend Is a Gift You Give Yourself.

From his Q&A at The Book Spine:

Congratulations on your upcoming release, A Friend Is A Gift You Give Yourself, I couldn’t get enough of it. The main characters are three strong-willed women. Were they inspired by anyone in particular?

Thanks so much! There are bits and pieces of people I’ve known in these characters, people from around my neighborhood in Brooklyn or in the Bronx where my wife’s family is from, but I’d say they’re equally, if not more so, inspired by actors I love in movies I love. Gena Rowlands in Gloria was an inspiration, as was Geena Davis in The Long Kiss Goodnight. I thought often of Michelle Pfeiffer in Married to the Mob. Everything I write, in some ways, is inspired by Edie Falco and Marisa Tomei. I thought of Susan Sarandon and Helen Mirren a lot. I definitely saw Jessica Lange as Mo.

A Friend Is A Gift You Give Yourself definitely has a big screen feel to it. Several movies and TV programmes get a mention in your new book. What’s your all-time favourite TV show and movie?

Oh, wow. It’s tough to narrow it down. Twin Peaks is my all-time favorite show, but there are many others I love: The Sopranos, The Wire, Deadwood, and Freaks and Geeks especially come to mind. As for movies, it’s an even tougher call. My list of favorites is constantly shifting and changing. I love...[read on]
Visit William Boyle's website.

My Book, The Movie: Gravesend and The Lonely Witness.

The Page 69 Test: Gravesend and The Lonely Witness.

Writers Read: William Boyle (September 2018).

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, March 3, 2019

Elizabeth Letts

Elizabeth Letts's new novel is Finding Dorothy.

From her Q&A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: What first got you interested in the life of Maud Gage Baum, and were you always a fan of The Wizard of Oz?

A: I vividly remember my first time seeing The Wizard of Oz when I was 4 years old—the local TV store opened their doors to the public so that neighborhood folk could watch it on a color TV.

But I knew nothing about the life of L. Frank Baum and his wife Maud until I was reading the book aloud to my son a few years ago and I noticed anew how strong and vivid the female characters were. I wondered why I knew nothing about the author of such a famous story.

That was when I discovered the Gage women—his wife, Maud, and his mother-in-law, Matilda Joslyn Gage. I was intrigued to learn that Baum’s wife was raised to be very modern and independent by her mother, a famous suffragist and close friend of Susan B. Anthony.

But it wasn’t until I saw a photo of Maud Baum on the set of the 1939 movie with actress Judy Garland that I realized I had a story to tell.

Maud was a widow by then, strong-minded, but as an older woman it could not have been easy to make her voice heard in male-dominated 1930s Hollywood, and Judy Garland was barely 16 when she seem to capture the very essence of hope when...[read on]
Visit Elizabeth Letts's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, March 2, 2019

William Davies

William Davies is the author of Nervous States: Democracy and the Decline of Reason. From his interview with The New Yorker's Isaac Chotiner:

About that conflicted public realm: you start one chapter of the book talking about President Trump and the crowd size at his inauguration, and you use this as an example of our contested reality. But is this a contested reality? Or is it a reality that everyone agrees on but one group of people is lying about? I would assume that if you gave everyone in the Trump Administration truth serum, they would all acknowledge that Trump’s crowd size was smaller than Obama’s. I think that a lot of Trump supporters enjoy the fact that Trump says his crowd size was bigger than Obama’s, but if you gave them truth serum, they would also acknowledge that it wasn’t. Let’s say I’m right about this. It seems to me that we’re not, then, arguing over reality.

In that sort of thought experiment, I probably don’t disagree. What I found very fascinating about the whole issue was that the park service no longer offered official estimates of the crowd size. There was no official data on this, and this is because they didn’t want to become embroiled in the controversy over the Million Man March. But crowds, in general, are things that lack very simple measurement devices. So, our ability to resolve these arguments doesn’t work in quite the same way. I’m not disputing that Trump’s crowd wasn’t much smaller than Obama’s.

I know you’re not. But is there actually a dispute about the crowd size? Or is everyone actually in agreement, but one side is just lying and doesn’t care and is doing it for their own end?

That may be true. But then the question is: Why are they doing that? What they’re doing is attacking the very idea that there might be a neutral basis for resolving political disputes. That’s more my point: they’re trying to undermine the possibility of that kind of political argument proceeding in a rational way. I think to understand the mentality of the nationalists, or the populists, there has to be some appreciation of the fact that there is hostility toward the very institutions that might potentially resolve disputes in some sort of consensual way.

I think what they want to do is to damage the very instrument through which we settle disputes at all. I mean, obviously, in online spaces, that is troll culture. It’s a way of seeing what are otherwise civil, perhaps quite heated, but ultimately quite neutrally comprehensible disputes and making it impossible for those arguments to even take place in any kind of reasonable way by saying that black is white, which is a bit like...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, March 1, 2019

Vanessa McGrady

Vanessa McGrady's new book is Rock Needs River: A Memoir About a Very Open Adoption.

From her Q&A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: Why did you decide to write about your experience with an open adoption and at what point did you decide it would become a book?

A: Well, to begin with, personal essays are my favorite things to write, and when major stuff happens to me, I try to make sense of it through story.

I wrote about Bridgett and Bill, my daughter’s birth parents, living with us for The New York Times’ parenting blog as it was happening. And after that, it kept feeling like it was a bigger story, and I thought it would be maybe a short e-book, so I just kept writing.

I had so much help shaping it and forming it into a longer, book-length piece with the help of my agent, Cheryl Pientka. And there were times when I wondered if there was enough there for a full volume, but I guess that depends on where you stop and start the story.

My editor, Carmen Johnson, also helped on the other end of it all to bring it up to where it needed to be. One of my favorite parts of the book happened when Carmen asked me to write more about my own parents, and it felt very appropriate to do that on my 50th birthday. It’s in the beginning of...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, February 28, 2019

Ana Raquel Minian

Ana Raquel Minian is an associate professor of history at Stanford and the author of the book Undocumented Lives: The Untold Story of Mexican Migration. From her Q&A with Isaac Chotiner for The New Yorker:

What is it about this moment in U.S.-Mexico relations regarding immigration that you think is interesting or unique?

Since 2008, there’s actually been net negative migration. So, what we see now is a lot of anti-Mexican rhetoric, for example, when Trump ran his campaign, we heard him say that Mexicans were coming in and they were probably criminals and rapists. But of course what he did not mention was that more Mexicans are leaving the country than coming in.

Mexican migration had grown steadily and increasingly since the end of the bracero program, especially undocumented migration. That was a guest-worker program that started in 1942, in which Mexican workers could come, work legally in the United States for short periods of time, and then return to Mexico. It continued until 1964. Undocumented folks were used to coming in the bracero program, and once the program ended, and they could no longer continue to come legally to the United States, they simply did so without papers. And migration continued to grow until 2008. So, in terms of what’s unique about this historical moment, in terms of Mexican migration, it’s that the rhetoric continues to be very anti-Mexican even though...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, February 27, 2019

Elinor Lipman

Elinor Lipman is the award-winning author of many novels, including The View from Penthouse B and The Inn at Lake Devine; one essay collection, I Can't Complain; and Tweet Land of Liberty: Irreverent Rhymes from the Political Circus. She lives in New York City.

Lipman's new novel is Good Riddance.

From her Q&A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: How did you come up with the idea for Good Riddance, and for the 1968 high school yearbook at the heart of the novel?

A: It began with a chance purchase at a flea market in Stormville, New York. My significant other, who’d grown up in England without yearbooks (at least not at the Quarry Bank School in Liverpool) bought it proudly for $12 when I wasn’t looking. “Why would you want this?” I asked. “Americana,” he said.

When he got it home and studied it, he realized that the book had belonged to the teacher and yearbook advisor to whom it was dedicated. As he studied it, he saw that she had attended reunions faithfully, and had made notes. Eventually I went through every page. But the story and the hanky-panky are...[read on]
Visit Elinor Lipman's website.

The Page 69 Test: The Family Man.

The Page 99 Test: I Can't Complain.

The Page 69 Test: Good Riddance.

Writers Read: Elinor Lipman.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, February 26, 2019

David Wallace-Wells

David Wallace-Wells is the author of The Uninhabitable Earth: Life After Warming.

From the transcript of his interview with Fareed Zakaria:

ZAKARIA: So, David, what makes you so worried, so alarmist, now? It feels like there's an urgency to what you're writing.

DAVID WALLACE-WELLS, NEW YORK MAGAZINE: We're headed for some really bleak outcomes. So if we don't change course on fossil fuels, by the end of the century we'll get to about 4 degrees of warming. That would mean total global economic damages of $600 trillion, which is double all the wealth that exists in the world today. The U.N. says it would mean hundreds of millions of climate refugees, perhaps as many as a billion climate refugees.

It would mean twice as much war as we see today because there's a relationship between temperature and conflict. And that happens at the national level. It also happens at the individual level. So rates of murder and rape would go up. It has an impact on agricultural yields. It has an impact on public health because mosquitoes will be flying ever farther afield.

For all of these reasons, it is an all-encompassing problem. It changes, or threatens to change just about every aspect of modern life as we know it. And we have it within our power to change that course and to pull up short of 4 degrees, well short of 4 degrees, but we've done so little to signal that we're serious about that, that it makes me worried that we won't do enough in time to avert some of these catastrophic impacts.

ZAKARIA: But do you know the basic problem is with this -- with this analysis, which is that even you said, at the end of the century. So the problem is that, you know, it's -- the costs are very long-term for, you know, not doing something. And the pain is very short-term for doing something, carbon taxes, massive shift in your lifestyle, things like that. So at the end of the day people just don't worry about stuff that's so far in the future.

WALLACE-WELLS: Well, I think that we're beginning to learn that...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, February 25, 2019

Eva Hagberg Fisher

Eva Hagberg Fisher is the author of How To Be Loved: A Memoir of Lifesaving Friendship.

From her Q&A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: What impact did writing the memoir have on you?

A: I’m a very slow real-time emotional processor, so I didn’t have a TON of feelings while I was writing it - though when I first drafted the first 100 pages (which we ended up cutting, it was like 99 percent relationship drama that didn’t need to be in the book!) I had a hard time distinguishing between the past and the present and got a little torn up and ashamed.

After that, the impact was overwhelmingly positive. The book started feeling like my friend. My editor was the only other person who was reading it, and it felt like this very intimate secret project that I got to do whenever I wanted to, which was often.

I had a fantasy that I was going to write by holing up in a cabin somewhere, but instead I was very pragmatic about just writing for an hour here or there, going over scenes, seeing if they worked.

I feel like I became a much better writer by working with my editor - it mostly felt like a really intense technical challenge; I knew the pitfalls I wanted to avoid and the emotional notes that I wanted to hit. And then feeling like I’d done that was really gratifying.

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

A: I hope they feel like...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, February 24, 2019

Michael E. Mann

Michael E. Mann is a noted climate scientist and Distinguished Professor of Atmospheric Science at Pennsylvania State University. From his Q&A with Samantha Page for Cosmos:

Is a change in the way that we view climate change and the way that we talk about it going to keep us from those apocalyptic scenarios that we’re all kind of worried about?

All of these threads have come together in an almost perfect storm, if you’ll forgive the pun, that is creating a potential tipping point in the public consciousness.

There’s a race between two tipping points. The tipping point of the public consciousness, which we want to see, and the tipping point in the climate system that we don’t want to see and that we’re coming perilously close to. For example, the melting of major ice sheets and the global sea-level rise that would entail.

It’s a race between our ability to mobilise the public and policymakers to action and the increasingly devastating impacts of climate change we will see the further we go down this road of fossil fuel burning. That’s really the challenge, to turn this ship around as quickly as possible.

But we’re not going to avert all of the dangerous impacts of climate change. If you live in Puerto Rico or California, just about anywhere around the world – Australia is dealing with unprecedented summer heat right now, devastating heat and flooding events. Some bad stuff is already happening.

The challenge here is to...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, February 23, 2019

Roxanne Veletzos

From Deborah Kalb's Q&A with Roxanne Veletzos, author of The Girl They Left Behind:

Q: Your novel is based on your own family history. What did you see as the right balance between the fictional and the historical as you wrote the book?

A: I must admit this did not come easily. Much of Romania’s history at the time was complex and volatile, and challenging at times to balance against the intensely personal stories of two families and the daughter they share.

In the end, I had to be careful not to encumber the plot, but rather to thread historical developments with a delicate hand, in a way that supported the characters’ experiences.

Q: How much did you know about your family's history as you were growing up?

A: I was 11 or 12 when I first found out that my mother was adopted—although it wasn’t until a few years later when our family moved to California that the full details of her adoption became known to me.

I remember my mother tearfully revealing one day, that as a toddler, she had been abandoned on the steps of an apartment building in late January of 1941, just as the nation’s capital had erupted into a wave of violence against the Jewish population, which later became known as the Bucharest Pogrom.

Unfortunately...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, February 22, 2019

Don Winslow

Don Winslow's The Border is a follow-up to his 2005 novel The Power of the Dog and 2015’s The Cartel. From the author's Rolling Stone Q&A with Sean Woods:

Do you ever hear from any people in the narco world? Narcos or DEA, about your books…

Sure.

What do they say?

You know, for the most part they say I get it right, which is gratifying. I’ve heard the DEA gives the book out to agents who are going to that part of the world. I know that certain law enforcement agencies do. Other DEA people have been angry with me, about the anti-War on Drugs stance that I’ve taken.

What about the narcos?

Sometimes, sometimes. Look, I don’t wanna get into this too deeply, you know what I mean? Because I don’t want, in any way, to compare myself with Mexican journalists who’ve been killed covering this story. I dedicated Cartel to them. I dedicated The Border to one recently.

But yeah, you know, you get threats. I don’t like talking a lot about it, because my family reads these things, and I don’t wanna upset them. I’m a little more aware of my surroundings than I used to be...[read on]
Learn about Winslow's hero from outside literature.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, February 21, 2019

Rachel Lynn Solomon

Rachel Lynn Solomon's new YA novel is Our Year of Maybe.

From her Q&A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: How did you come up with the idea for Our Year of Maybe, and for your characters Sophie and Peter?

A: Initially, I wanted to explore the aftermath of a kidney transplant between best friends because I’m fascinated by organ donation and can’t imagine a more selfless act.

As I grew to know my characters better, though, I wondered if this selfless act did actually include a bit of selfishness. Sophie, the donor, is in love with her best friend Peter, the recipient, and part of her hopes that after the transplant, he’ll love her back. It’s a very small part, she acknowledges -- but it’s still there. I wanted to dig deep with all those messy feelings.

Sophie and Peter evolved during the writing process, but Sophie was always more introverted, always very attached to Peter. And Peter was always more curious about the world beyond their friendship -- and yet he feels an immense amount of guilt because it's thanks to Sophie that he's able to...[read on]
Visit Rachel Lynn Solomon's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, February 20, 2019

Andrew McCabe

Andrew G. McCabe served as deputy director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation from February 2016 to January 2018. He began his career at the FBI in 1996, working first as a street agent on the Eurasian Organized Crime Task Force, and eventually as its supervisor. Later, he led the FBI's Counterterrorism Division, the National Security Branch, and the Washington Field Office, and was the first director of the High-Value Detainee Interrogation Group, which developed new methods for lawfully and effectively questioning suspected terrorists. He lives in Virginia with his wife Jill, their two children and a dog.

McCabe's new book is The Threat: How the FBI Protects America in the Age of Terror and Trump.

From the author's conversation with The Atlantic's Natasha Bertrand:

Bertrand: Before Robert Mueller was appointed, Trump met with the Russian ambassador and foreign minister in the Oval Office, where he disclosed classified information. How did you react when you found out about that conversation?

McCabe: It was the latest in a string of head-scratching, completely shocking events. For counterintelligence investigators, the idea that the American president would have a Russian foreign minister and his media into the Oval Office and that he would make a comment like that—a comment that so clearly undermined the effectiveness of his chief law-enforcement and intelligence agency—was just confounding.

Bertrand: That reminds me of a passage that jumped out at me in your book: “He thought North Korea did not have the capability to launch such missiles. He said he knew this because Vladimir Putin had told him so … the president said he believed Putin despite the PDB [Presidential Daily Briefing] briefer telling him that this was not consistent with any of the intelligence that the US possessed.” How do you explain that?

McCabe: It’s inexplicable. You have to put yourself in context. So I am in the director’s chair as acting director. My senior executive who had accompanied the briefer to that briefing, who sat in the room with the president and others, and heard the comments, comes back to the Hoover Building to tell me how the briefing went. And he sat at the conference table, and he just looked down at the table with his hands out in front of him. I was like, “How did it go?” And he just—he couldn’t find words to characterize it. We just sat back and said, “What do we do with this now?” How do you effectively convey intelligence to the American president who chooses to believe the Russians over his own intelligence services? And then tells them that to their faces?

Bertrand: Does this strike you as the behavior of someone who’s compromised?

McCabe: I mean, it...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, February 19, 2019

Barry Eisler

Barry Eisler spent three years in a covert position with the CIA's Directorate of Operations, then worked as a technology lawyer and startup executive in Silicon Valley and Japan, earning his black belt at the Kodokan International Judo Center along the way. Eisler's bestselling thrillers have won the Barry Award and the Gumshoe Award for Best Thriller of the Year, have been included in numerous "Best Of" lists, and have been translated into nearly twenty languages.

Eisler's latest novel is The Killer Collective.

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

Q: How did you come up with the idea for The Killer Collective?

A: It started with three separate series: the John Rain assassin series; the Ben Treven black-ops series; and the Livia Lone Seattle PD sex-crimes detective series. The universes in those series started overlapping with The Detachment—Rain and his partner, former Marine sniper Dox; Treven and Daniel Larison, a killer from the Treven book Inside Out.

And then Dox and Livia paired up in The Night Trade. So it was just a short leap to full-on Avengers: Infinity Wars territory…

But describing it that way makes it sound less organic than it really was. Because first, with Rain, he’s always trying to retire—to kill his way out of the killing business—and he never seems to make it. So there’s always a story there.

And the relationship between Livia and Dox from The Night Trade was really interesting. Oil and water, in some ways, and yet a powerful underlying connection.

And I started wondering…what would happen if Livia, in the course of her Seattle PD sex-crime detective duties, uncovered something so big that she was targeted in an attempted hit? Would she...[read on]
Visit Barry Eisler's website.

The Page 69 Test: Livia Lone.

The Page 69 Test: The Killer Collective.

Writers Read: Barry Eisler.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, February 18, 2019

Ian Rankin

Ian Rankin's latest novel is In a House of Lies.

From his Q&A with Angus MacKinnon of Islay Book Festival:

AM: The Rebus novels have charted how Scotland has changed over the course of the three decades you have been producing them. What would you say were the biggest changes that have taken place over that time?

IR: The whole structure of the police has changed in Scotland, from having eight regional authorities to having one overarching organisation called Police Scotland. The way that murder inquiries are organised has changed and of course the technology available has changed hugely. If you go back to the early Rebus books, the computer is still not widely available. People tend not to have them in their homes even and certainly in the police station there would be very few available. DNA analysis is not widely used. All this kind of stuff. That has all changed and Scotland has changed with it. Rebus has changed. He has got older. He is now retired, he is no longer a serving police officer, he has some health issues. The world tends to make less sense to him. He looks around in a state of bewilderment at things that happen. The world has moved on but has he moved on with it substantially? He is a bit of a dinosaur in some ways, he has an older way of doing things and an older way of looking at the world.

I guess if we talk about changes in Scotland, the biggest change in my lifetime and certainly in the time of the Rebus books has been devolution. And who knows what happens next? The thing is I’m not a science fiction writer so until stuff has happened I cannot speculate or write about it. Brexit gets a very brief mention in the latest book but that is as much as I can do, I can’t write about Brexit until it has actually happened and I know what it means. I can’t write about independence until it happens because I’m not a sci-fi writer.

All this flux, all the uncertainty in the world. It is not easy for writers to deal with that. The real world at the moment seems so incredible that fiction writers are scratching their heads and going, ‘Well how do I make sense of this?’ You know, what place is there for fiction in this wildly-seeming fictional world.

AM: You’ve often said that you set out planning to write the Great Scottish Novel rather than to be a crime writer. It is not too late for you to have a go at summing it all up, what you have seen and what Rebus has seen in one novel? Philip Roth addressed a lot of the issues we’ve had in Scotland in American Pastoral and that seemed to predict the coming of Trump. Would a bit of you like to kill off Rebus and do something like that?

IR: I think the whole sequence of Rebus novels is...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, February 17, 2019

Eugenia Kim

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

From her Q&A with Brendan Dowling for Publiclibrariesonline.org:

Can you talk about how your own family’s experience during the Korean war served as the inspiration for this story?

My family’s story is very close to that experience and actually it’s probably a little worse. My uncle took his family south to Busan, but rather than doing it in the summer, as portrayed in the book, he did it in January, when the Chinese joined the battle and Seoul was overtaken. He traveled south with an oxcart with his family in the dead of winter, so that was worse. My parents lost touch with him—not just for a couple of days [as in the book], but for six months. I just learned that recently after reviewing some of my father and mother’s papers. I had no idea it was that long. No wonder my mother wrote in her journal how much heartache she was suffering because they couldn’t find them. They eventually found them in a refugee camp after some order was restored in South Korea and the Red Cross was making lists. My mother [in America] managed to dispatch a friend with a truck to pick them up and take them the rest of the way to Busan. But even after that she didn’t know where they were in Busan, as there was no mail service quite yet. It took them that entire six months to get in touch and for my mother to be able to send packages to them.

You mentioned your mother’s journals. In the book, we get to learn about the character of the mother through her journals. Were those inspired by your mother’s journals?

They are her journals. They’re mostly in Korean. My sister, who’s the one who came over, translated them for me.

So the journals in the book are your mother’s writing?

I was able to incorporate them. Of course, it was a judicious picking of what was there. She didn’t write a lot of narrative. Mostly she...[read on]
Visit Eugenia Kim's website.

The Page 69 Test: The Kinship of Secrets.

Writers Read: Eugenia Kim (November 2018).

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, February 16, 2019

Debra Jo Immergut

Debra Jo Immergut is the author of The Captives.

From her Q&A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: How was the novel's title chosen, and what does it signify for you?

A: The Captives was not my original title. It was one of a list of new possibilities that I sent my editor after Ecco purchased the book and we really got to work on it.

We all thought it did what a title should do--encapsulate the story, but without giving too much away. The reader understands early on that Frank and Miranda are both captives of their pasts, and Miranda is clearly a captive of the corrections system.

But then the title takes on additional shadings as the reader travels through the book's pages. So we all felt like it was the perfect choice for this work.

Q: Did you need to do much research to write the book?

A: The most important research I did was visiting and working in prisons. I tutored and taught incarcerated people, and I was in...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, February 15, 2019

Jo Perry

Jo Perry's new novel is Dead is Beautiful.

Frome the author's Q&A with The Irresponsible Reader:

Whatever one might think about Charlie (your protagonist we know best), there’s no denying that Rose is what most of your readers connect to. You recently posted something brief to Facebook about Rose’s origin — can you talk a little more about that?

During the scorching summer of 2008, I came upon a dusty, thirsty, exhausted, frightened dog that someone dumped in crowded home improvement store parking lot. I drove her home (she fell asleep immediately on the front seat of the car) and––after some listless attempts to find a home for her because we were strictly cat people––we were hers and we named her Lucy.

From the first moment she met me, Lucy upended my life, revealed new worlds and introduced me to people who have become deep, cherished, important friends. Lucy’s constancy, her sweetness despite being neglected and abused, her patience with me, a total dog-novice idiot, her sense of humor, her wisdom and her benevolence changed me completely. I experienced the bottomless, endless goodness dogs give us, and witnessed the casual and not so casual cruelties which human beings visit upon dogs hourly and daily.

The experience of knowing/experiencing Lucy, and Lola, the second dog who appeared to us, is the basis for Dead Is Better and the other books in the series—so yes, in general ways, Lucy is...[read on]
Visit Jo Perry's website.

Coffee with a Canine: Jo Perry & Lola and Lucy.

My Book, The Movie: Dead is Better.

The Page 69 Test: Dead is Better.

My Book, The Movie: Dead is Best.

The Page 69 Test: Dead is Best.

My Book, The Movie: Dead Is Good.

The Page 69 Test: Dead Is Good.

Writers Read: Jo Perry (July 2017).

--Marshal Zeringue