Thursday, May 31, 2007

Alafair Burke

Alafair Burke's new novel, Dead Connection, releases in July.

BookBitch interviewed her in May.

From the Q & A:

BB: Michael Connelly and Robert Crais tend to hide oblique references to one another's books within their own books. Laura Lippman claims she hides references to Robert B. Parker's books within her own. Your new book, Dead Connection, has a thinly veiled reference to the main character that is in most of your father's books, and let's face it, you share your name with one of his characters. Do you think your father will be referencing your characters in any of his books? Do you see this as an ongoing or one time only thing?

AB: I have tremendous fun with all of the crime fiction cross references. I was so delighted to see that in Lee Child’s new book, Jack Reacher spends two nights with a Portland prosecutor named Samantha, a reference to my earlier series character, Samantha Kincaid.

In past books, I’ve referred to Jack Reacher and Harry Bosch. In Dead Connection, Ellie Hatcher notices a woman reading Laura Lippman’s To the Power of Three. I hadn’t planned on bringing my father’s character, Dave Robicheaux, into Dead Connection. But when Ellie needed to contact a law enforcement officer in New Iberia, it only made sense that it should be Dave. After so many years of reading my father write the fictional Alafair Robicheaux, writing Dave’s voice was a blast.

I have no idea if the cross-over will ever happen again. Can you imagine Dave Robicheaux in New York? What a great story.
Read the entire interview.

Visit Alafair Burke's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Tara McKelvey

Tara McKelvey is the author of Monstering: Inside America's Policy of Secret Interrogations and Torture in the Terror War.

Ken Silverstein interviewed her for Harper's Magazine.

Their opening exchange:

The general story of the abuses at Abu Ghraib has by now been well covered. What has the media missed?

The media only focused on the photographs. They missed the fact that the abuse was systematic and that the worst things were not even shown in the pictures. That’s what my book is about: what happened beyond the frame of the Abu Ghraib photos. Thousands of detainees have gone through U.S.-run facilities in Iraq, but thousands more — anyone held for less than fourteen days — were never registered or tracked. Human-rights reports and interviews I conducted show that some of the worst abuses took place at short-term facilities — a police station in Samarra, a school gymnasium, a trailer, and places like that, where individuals were held for up to two weeks. It’s also important to remember that reports from the International Committee of the Red Cross, as well as numerous military documents, show that 70 to 90 percent of the detainees had no information that would have been useful to the troops.
Read the entire interview.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Sean Chercover

John Kenyon interviewed Sean Chercover, author the terrific debut crime novel Big City, Bad Blood, at Things I’d Rather Be Doing.

Part of their dialogue:

TIRBD: This has the feel of the first book in a series. Were you conscious of that throughout, or did you drop things in later in the writing process as you began to flesh out ideas for subsequent books?

SC: It was always my goal to make Ray Dudgeon into a series character. After the fist draft was completed, I actually found myself taking things out, more often than dropping them in. I'd look at a scene and I'd say, "Don't need it here; save it for the next book," and I'd cut and paste it into another document. I wanted Ray to remain at least a little bit of an enigma, who we'd get to know over a series of books, and I didn't want Big City, Bad Blood to get bogged down in backstory.

You've said in other interviews that your idea for the second book featuring Ray changed a bit because of the things he experienced in Big City, Bad Blood. Assuming more bad things befall him in subsequent books, are you putting an expiration date on your character by taking these things into account?

I think it's a pretty safe bet that bad things are gonna happen to Ray in subsequent books, but I don't want to be sadistic about it. I mean, he really goes through hell in the first book. But it's a good question. I don't have a specific expiration date, but it is important to me that Ray grow and evolve as a character. Which means one of a number of things… He may get to the point where he just can't (or doesn't want to) do this for a living anymore, so he leaves Chicago and takes over the charter fishing business from his grandfather on St. Simons Island. Or he may come to a tragic end, either physically or mentally. Or he may find a way to do the job, while avoiding the really powerful bad guys and the really dangerous situations. In any of those scenarios, the series has a finite lifespan. But how long will it take him to get to that point? Six books? Ten books? More? I have no idea.

And of course there is another, even more horrific scenario: At some point, people may not want to read about him anymore.
Read the entire interview.

The Page 69 Test: Big City, Bad Blood.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, May 28, 2007

Jasper Fforde

Jasper Fforde has a new novel releasing this summer: Thursday Next: First Among Sequels.

In 2005 Simone Swink interviewed Fforde for January Magazine.

Part of the interview:

Who or what inspires you when you write?

Personally I have a great deal of fun doing it, which is an inspiration in itself really. It really allows me to daydream, as in "schooldream" which is daydreaming with ink and get paid for it which is something I don't say to schools when I go in and talk to them.

The inspiration comes from everywhere, from what I grew up with. There's so much silliness and nonsense in the world that we regard as normal working procedure. The satirical point of the view may be to counterpoint that. The way we look at classics has been hijacked by the intelligentsia -- Shakespeare is highbrow and seen as something clever people do, which isn't right at all. I basically pull inspiration from everywhere ... I'm interested in lots of stuff.

Read the entire profile.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Sebastian Faulks

Stanley Pignal interviewed the novelist Sebastian Faulks for the Financial Times.

A few of the questions and answers:

What’s the last book you couldn’t finish?

The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown.

* * * * *

What is the last thing you read that made you laugh out loud?

The government’s Iraqi WMD dossier.

* * * * *

What book changed your life?

Sons and Lovers by D.H. Lawrence.

Read the entire Q & A.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, May 25, 2007

Vicki Hendricks

Vicki Hendricks's new book Cruel Poetry is new in bookstores this month.

Here are a couple of exchanges from an interview in which she talks about an earlier novel, Iguana Love:

In Iguana Love Ramona has a voracious sexual appetite -- do you think that women will have a difficult time coming to terms with her sexuality?

People told me something similar about Sherri in Miami Purity, and I was surprised. These are first-person narrators, so the reader is privy to all their inner thoughts. I really don't think either woman falls outside the normal range -- near the top, perhaps. A man would be considered "virile," with a similar capacity for sex -- maybe we need a word for a woman with their degree of heat, because I don't think it's unusual.
* * * *
What about Ramona Romano makes her the predatory female that she becomes in Iguana Love?

Ramona becomes predatory in response to Enzo's manipulation, which she has allowed to overcome her through her obsessive love for him. Enzo and Ramona are two of a kind, both in need of challenge, both bored by easy pickings, both like the reptile, the iguana, that cannot love and, therefore, presents a challenge. If the cold-blooded reptile or person ever returns love, the challenge is over and the positions reverse. Ramona is the iguana to her soon-to-be ex-husband, and Enzo is the iguana to her. Iguana love makes the world go 'round and 'round.
Read the entire interview.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Lev Raphael

Julia Buckley recently interviewed Lev Raphael.

Part of the interview:

Aside from seven Nick Hoffmann mysteries, you’ve authored fiction and non-fiction, and your “stories and essays are on university syllabi around the U.S. and in Canada; [your] fiction has been analyzed in books, scholarly journals and at scholarly conferences, including MLA.” Do you have a work that you consider your best? Or do you have an “I don’t love one child more than another” philosophy?

Because I write so many different kinds of things, I have lots of favorites. I think the new mystery,Hot Rocks, has the best plot. I think the story “The Tanteh” in my collection Secret Anniversaries of the Heart is my best story. I’ve done hundreds of reviews, and I know the one I did of an Alan Furst book, a very long one, for Boston Review, was my best. Then there’s the literary historical novel I recently finished that really still blows me away — I never expected to work in that genre, but when the idea hit me last April, it wouldn’t let me go. I’ve never written anything this complex, and it’s definitely the strongest novel I’ve done.
Read the entire interview.

Visit Lev Raphael's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Brent Ghelfi

From an interview with Brent Ghelfi, author of the forthcoming Volk's Game:

PC: When did you first become interested in Russia?

BG: Russia first hit my radar screen in high school (late-seventies) when I read War and Peace. I started reading the other great Russian writers and, for the first time, read excerpts from Solzhenitsyn's The Gulag Archipelago. Around this time I also read his classic One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich. I think this short novel captures prison life during those years better than anything else I've read. The name Volkovoy comes from a character (a prison guard) in that book. I first visited Russia in the mid-eighties while still a student. My overwhelming impression of the country then was the color gray. Foreboding buildings, pale citizens in dark clothes, musty hallways, a shared bathroom with standing water covering the tiled floor, vinegary food. The world was changing, but we certainly didn't know it, and I don't think the people we came into contact with had any idea either. I suspect the fanciful notion that the Soviet Union would dissolve within a decade would have seemed absurd to nearly everyone in Moscow at the time, including me.
Read the entire interview.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Leslie Schnur

From a Q & A with Leslie Schnur, author of Late Night Talking:

Where did you get the idea for this book?

I am obsessed, to say the least, with rude behavior. My kids beg me to ignore it when we see it, my husband thinks I'll get shot one day. I have, sometimes, gone too far, and have been rude myself in the quest for justice. But, for some reason, I think it is my duty, my calling, to rid the world of rudeness, one annoying person at a time.

So when it was time to write my second novel, I knew it had to be about a woman who felt the same way, who dreams of becoming a rude behavior avenger. But, since I love romantic comedy, since my favorite books and movies are about romantic longing, about searching-and perhaps finding-your soul mate, I knew it had to be written in this spirit.

My protagonist, Jeannie Sterling, is from Berkeley, where I grew up. Though my family was quite different from hers, some of Jeannie's experiences and the references to growing up in the 70's in the Bay Area come from my memories.

As a writing teacher once said to me, "It all goes into the stew."

So, using His Girl Friday, with Rosalind Russell and Cary Grant, as a model, I devised a story about love and righteousness, about pursuing justice while fulfilling the desires of the heart.
Read the entire Q & A.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, May 21, 2007

Victor Gischler

Steve Allan recently interviewed Victor Gischler at Noir Writer.

Part of the interview:

Noir Writer: Criminologist Lonnie Athens has stated that people who have never experienced violence should not write about it. He was talking about sociological studies, but I think he would extend that to crime fiction as well. Do you think his statement is true or is he full of shit?

Gischler: Oh ... probably full of shit. Speaking just for myself, the violence in my novels has a pulp cartoon quality. I think there are times when imagination trumps experience. Other authors can successfully transfer their experiences to the page. I respect that, but it's not where I live.
Read the entire interview.

The Page 69 Test: Victor Gischler's Shotgun Opera.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, May 20, 2007

David Edgerton

David Edgerton is the author of The Shock of the Old: Technology and Global History Since 1900, which opens with an inscription from Bertolt Brecht:

I stood on a hill and I saw the Old approaching, but it came as/ the New./ It hobbled up on new crutches which no one had ever seen before/ and stank of new smells of decay which no one had ever/ smelt before. Bertolt Brecht (1939) from ‘Parade of the Old New’.

Edgerton answered some questions for the OUP blog, including:

OUP: Why did you pick Bertolt Brecht for the inscription of The Shock of the Old?

David Edgerton: Because it rather brilliantly captures the complex relation between new and old, and how we can easily get it wrong. It also reminded me of an epigraph I used in my first book, England and the Aeroplane: ‘Progress stalks with warhead and prosthesis’. That came from another German-language writer, Karl Kraus. I have some lines from Robert Musil lined up for my next book …

OUP:What will the next book be about?

Edgerton:My next book will be a new account of science, technology and industry in Britain in the second world war, for Penguin.

OUP: What inspired The Shock of the Old?

Edgerton: For years I felt that lots of assumptions underlying our thinking about technology and history weren’t quite right. These thoughts developed over the years, mostly in lectures, but I got a chance to write them up for the great French historical journal the Annales. The reaction to that paper convinced me that I was on to something. A second important influence was traveling to India, Malaysia, Argentina and Uruguay in the mid-1990s. These visits made obvious the need for a global history of technologies in use, as well as providing many examples of long-lived machines. What was in a sense obvious about technology in these countries applied just as much to Britain or the USA, but was not so visible there.

Read more from the Q & A.

The Page 69 Test: The Shock of the Old.

Writers Read: David Edgerton.

--Marshal Zeringue

Bella DePaulo

From a Q & A with Bella DePaulo about her book, Singled Out: How Singles Are Stereotyped, Stigmatized, and Ignored, and Still Live Happily Ever After:

What was the inspiration for your book?

I was inspired by a lifetime of personal experiences as a single person. What was striking about my experiences is that they did not fit with the prevailing cultural portrayal of singlehood. Stereotypically, as a single person, I should have been miserable, lonely, selfish, immature, and desperate to find my way to coupledom. I wasn’t. But I was treated as if I fit all of those descriptions.

How and why did you start working on this book?

The first step toward writing this book – and beyond that, embracing consciousness-raising about singles as the defining passion of my life – was to find out whether my own experiences as a single person were shared. Very tentatively at first, I began to ask other singles whether (for example) they believed they were excluded from social events because they were not coupled or were asked to work at unpopular times by colleagues and bosses who assumed they had nothing better to do. Sometimes I initiated such a conversation at a social event, while talking to one other person. A predictable sequence ensued. The other person had plenty of stories. Then, others at the event heard our conversation and joined us. The discussion continued over the course of the evening. Then, the next day, I often had emails from people describing other experiences they forgot to mention the night before.

Next, I began to study singles, and their place in society and in science, in earnest. I conducted studies, read extensively, and taught a course on the topic. I began to receive invitations to speak about singles. I was also awarded grant money to continue my research. Then I was invited to write the target article for a double-issue of a journal that was dedicated exclusively to the study of singles. Ten sets of scholars from a variety of disciplines wrote comments on my target article, and my co-author and I wrote a response.

By then, I was also recognized by people in the media as someone with expertise on the topic of singles. I was quoted in newspapers such as The New York Times and The Washington Post. Major newsweeklies such as Business Week ran cover stories on singles in which I was quoted. The year 2004 was a Presidential election year, and singles were the new hot demographic. My op-ed, “Sex and the Single Voter,” was published in The New York Times.

It was time to write my book.
Read the entire Q & A.

The Page 69 Test: Singled Out.

My Book, The Movie: Singled Out.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Boris Akunin

Stanley Pignal interviewed the essayist, literary translator, and fiction writer Boris Akunin for the Financial Times.

A few of the questions and answers:

What is the last thing you read that made you laugh out loud?

by A.A. Milne - some 45 years ago.
* * *
Which author would you most like to review?

Anton Chekhov.
* * *
What book changed your life?

Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson.
Read the entrie interview.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, May 18, 2007

Elmore Leonard

Elmore Leonard recently talked to Duane Swierczynski of Philadelphia City Paper about Up in Honey's Room, Leonard's 41st novel.

Part of their exchange:

CP: Do you have an end point in mind [when writing a novel]? Or is it total improvisation?

EL: No, I'm always making it up as I go along. The first 100 pages seem to work, because I'm introducing characters, and we find out what their angle is. But then from 100 — and I always think of it that way, in three parts — but from 100 to 200 is when I have to do a little plotting. And I don't want the plot to be obvious. I want the reader to wonder what's going to happen and be surprised at what develops. Because now in that second act some of the secondary characters will get into action. And then, of course, the third act, in the past my manuscripts all run around 350-360 pages, around in there. So once I approach page 300, I have to start thinking of the ending. And there are always several different ways you can end it. I choose one that I like and just go for it.

CP: Have you ever had a situation where a character didn't want to … well, go anywhere?

EL: Yeah. And when I finish a book, and I wonder what they're doing now. They become so real to me — I know them better than I know some friends even. That's always important, of course — they've got to move the plot. But that's the fun of it. To make it up as you go along. I don't want to use a formula.

Read the entire interview.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Marcus Noland

Devin Stewart recently interviewed Marcus Noland, co-author (with Howard Pack) of The Arab Economies in a Changing World.

Part of their exchange:

Devin Stewart: Tell me about this book. It is coming out very shortly. You mentioned to me earlier that it was divided up into several very, very hot topics. Can you just give us an overview of the book?

Marcus Noland: Sure. We argue that looking at the Middle East region as a whole, which we define as from Morocco in the west to Iraq in the east, that the principal challenge facing the region over the next decade or two is job creation. The demographics of the region are such that labor force growth is on the order of 3.5 percent a year. That is without increases in female labor force participation, which in fact has been rising. Given plausible assumptions about investment capital deepening and productivity, we calculate that the region as a whole will have to grow at a pretty steady rate of 5.5-6.0 percent a year over the next decade or so to absorb all that labor and create jobs.

Now, one of the principal ways that countries have rapidly expanded employment in the past is through a process of outward-oriented development. That allows countries to rapidly expand production in labor-intensive manufacturing or services sectors.

But the second driver that we identify in the book is globalization. Here the region's track record has not been good outside the petroleum sector. So while there is a demographic imperative to create jobs, one of the main ways that countries have done it in the past, through a successful process of globalization, is a question mark.

That uncertainty is deepened by the politics of the region, which combine in a unique fashion authoritarianism and political stability. So, while there is a kind of stability on the surface, we argue that these regimes may in fact be brittle and that there is a possibility for very abrupt political change. And as you know, the political opposition in most of these countries has an increasingly religious orientation.

So those things put together — a demographic imperative to create jobs, a questionable track record on globalization, and some deep uncertainty about political transitions — all work to create a very serious set of challenges for the region over the next decade or so.
Read the entire interview.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Michael Allen Dymmoch

Julia Buckley interviewed "Michael Allen Dymmoch on How She Became a Mystery Writer, A Blogger, and a Student of Life."

Part of the interview:

You have four novels with cat references in the title (well, two are cat, one is “tiger,” and one is “feline.”) Do you like cats? Is there a significance to the repeated theme?

Actually all of the books in the John Thinnes/Jack Caleb series were submitted with cat titles. Incendiary Designs was supposed to be called Cats Burning (no actual cats were injured in the production of that story) but St. Martin’s refused to publish it under that title. In those books, cats are a metaphor for detectives, who have a great deal in common with feline hunters.

Cool. What made you start writing mysteries? When did you start?

Just for the hell of it, I took a screenwriting course and had to write a screenplay about something. I’d seen a bad police/buddy film and decided to try to write a better one. That became a screenplay for The Man Who Understood Cats, which no one in Hollywood would look at. On Barbara D’Amato’s advice, I novelized the story and entered it in the Malice Domestic contest. After the story won the contest, my editor asked if I was going to write a sequel. What can you say to that but “yes”?
Read the entire interview.

My Book, The Movie: Michael Allen Dymmoch's Death in West Wheeling.

The Page 69 Test:
Michael Allen Dymmoch's White Tiger.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, May 14, 2007

Joseph Finder

Ali Karim recently interviewed Joseph Finder, whose new novel Power Play is due out in August.

Part of their dialogue:

AK: I’ve heard a few things already about Power Play, your book for 2007. Care to tell us a little more?

JF: I think it’s my most exciting novel yet -- honestly! I’ve taken the sort of office-intrigue stuff of my last novels ... and moved it all way out of the office. The result is an action-packed story with a relentless pace. I was inspired by my favorite TV show, 24. I saw how you could maintain a breathless pace but at the same time have well-fleshed-out characters, and I thought, Lemme try that! Basically, [Power Play] is the story of a group of high-powered corporate guys -- the top officers of an aerospace company -- who go off on one of those offsite retreats to do “team-building” at a very high-end, luxurious lodge in the wilderness. No phones, no cell phones, no BlackBerries, no Internet. They’re totally cut off from the rest of the world. [Theirs is] also a company in trouble. Their brand-new CEO is a woman, and the whole leadership team is men, and they resent her. Plus, there are rumors of corruption going on, which the female CEO is threatening to uncover. And all of a sudden, a gang of backwoods hunters crashes in and takes them all hostage. And the hostages have no way to call for help. Among the hostages is one young guy, Jake Landry -- a last-minute addition, who wasn’t supposed to be there in the first place. And he turns out to be the only one who’s willing to risk his life to try to save everyone else. I think it’s a pretty cool story.
Read the entire interview at The Rap Sheet.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Tara Ison

BookFox interviewed Tara Ison, author of A Child Out of Alcatraz and, more recently, The List.

The interview opens:

BookFox: The two main characters in "The List", Isabel and Al, both see the world through particular frames – Isabel sees the world through medical spectacles, while Al views the world through a movie camera. How did you prepare yourself to channel such film-centric and medical-centric characters?

Tara Ison: I began with a rough idea of who Isabel and Al were, but they really developed as I researched their backgrounds, specifically the medical workings of the heart/eye/hand, and then a crash course in cinema history/technology. Studying facts and figures, for me, is like a treasure hunt – it provides the foundation for a character’s specific frame of reference and knowledge base, but also offers insight into how a character views the world, that “lens” the characters look through. I like the feeling of a core metaphor for each person, the defining characteristic you then develop and expand outward. Isabel is so frightened by the mess of simply “feeling” things and giving in to that, she really needs the assurance of what can be proven, tested, scientifically observed; Al relies on the more emotional/visceral/visual experience of life, but he’s still stuck in a kind of passivity, he wants to observe life rather than commit to participating. And writing the novel in alternating Isabel/Al chapters helped ground me in each character’s point of view.

Read the entire interview.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, May 11, 2007

Stacey Richter

Aaron Gilbreath interviewed Stacey Richter, author of the story collections Twin Study and My Date with Satan, for The Portland Review.

The opening exchange:

Aaron Gilbreath: Many of your book’s stories start with incredible first lines. “We must love nature, and we must rape nature for Satan!” in “Goal 666;” “She smiled when she saw me coming, the Bitch, she smiled and stuck her fingers in her mouth.” in “The Beauty Treatment;” “It’s a boozy night, and the regulars are practically dry-humping the bar –” in “Rules for Being Human.” As a reader, how quickly do you lose interest in a story when the intro fails to move or pull you in?

Stacey Richter: I like things to start well. It is important to me. I think the first page or first paragraph should contain everything that’s in the story thematically, and lots of times when I read a story I love I go back and read the first page again. And although I’ll almost always finish a story once I start it, I do form an impression quickly. I can bore easily, but I usually try to keep going and let the writer redeem herself. I’m more likely to get angry at awkward grammar or something that doesn’t sound musical than a subject that’s not interesting to me. I’ll get more frustrated with the writer if there’s a long sentence with too many clauses and awkward descriptions than if it seems like a story I’ve read before; I’ll think, “Oh, that’s ok, let’s see what this writer does with it.”

Read the entire interview.

The Page 99 Test: Twin Study.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Robert Ferrigno

Ali Karim recently interviewed Robert Ferrigno, author of Prayers for the Assassin, winner of the 2006 Gumshoe Award for Best Thriller of the Year.

From their exchange:

AK: So, tell us a little how you came upon this unusual story you told in the groundbreaking Prayers for the Assassin.

RF: I started it shortly after 9/11, when everyone was torqued and angry and certain that victory was easy. I started wondering, as authors with rather bleak points of view are wont to do, what would happen if the West lost? This was actually a radical position to take, the U.S. having the greatest and most sophisticated war capability on the planet. So I tried to imagine how it could happen, and that led me to the belief that while we couldn’t be defeated militarily, we could lose on a very different battlefield. We could lose because of an internal weakness, a failure of vision, a failure to see beyond the next television show, the next launch of some crap product designed to make our lives shiny and bright and fun-fun-fun. In a generation-long struggle, don’t count on technology to win the war; it’s going to take tenacity and strong belief. Most of us in the West have very short-term event horizons. Muslims fight to the death over theological differences that happened over 1,000 years ago. Americans can’t remember who won the Academy Award for Best Picture last year.

So that was the impetus: the potential for losing the war and the effect losing would have. I also wanted to write about a protagonist who has lost his faith and feels that loss acutely. A tough guy that has to continue on, making it up as he goes along, choosing right from wrong without any guidance other than his own morality. I had always wanted to write about this kind of character, and it’s kind of ironic that when I finally did it, the faith he had lost was Islam. My protagonist is Rakkim Epps, an elite Fedayeen warrior who aches when he hears the call to prayer, knowing he is no longer part of the faithful.
Read the entire interview at The Rap Sheet.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, May 9, 2007

Katherine Min

Katherine Min's debut novel Secondhand World was published by Knopf last year.

Here's part of a Q & A with Min from the publisher's website:

Q: Congratulations on your first book. When did you first realize that you wanted to be a writer?

A: I was, I’m afraid, an incorrigible liar when I was a child. The truth just didn’t hold appeal for me. And the lies I told were literally unbelievable, like that I was really Swedish but had had some sort of operation to disguise myself. From such ignoble beginnings, one has no choice but to become a fiction writer — or a felon, I suppose. I started writing stories when I was around six, and by the time I was twelve, when other girls dreamed of their wedding day or prom night, I dreamed of publishing a Borzoi book with Knopf. So, I’m living proof that some dreams do come true.

Q: Which authors are your biggest influences?

A: Two books that made deep impressions on me as a young writer were It Happened in Boston? by Russell H. Greenan, and Ghosts by Ursula Perrin. On my writing desk: The Great Gatsby, To the Lighthouse, Madame Bovary, Lolita, The Dubliners, Revolutionary Road. Contemporary authors I am consistently amazed by: Marilynne Robinson, Alice Munro, Jeffrey Eugenides, J.M. Coetzee, Elizabeth Strout, James Salter, Chang-rae Lee, Graham Swift.
Read the entire Q & A.

See--The Page 69 Test: Secondhand World.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, May 8, 2007

Victoria Redel

Victoria Redel is the author of Loverboy (Graywolf 2001, Harcourt 2002), Where the Road Bottoms Out (Knopf), and a collection of poems, Already The World (Kent State University Press).

Her new book is The Border of Truth.

Small Spiral Notebook's Felicia Sullivan interviewed Redel last year. Part of their exchange:

Felicia Sullivan: Who are some of your writing or literary/poetic inspirations? Which writers/poets do you revere?

VR: I read a lot. I feel that I'm reading all the time and still I have enormous, horrible, gaping holes in my reading life. It makes me sad. I love Dickinson and Shakespeare and Hopkins and Frost and Ahkmatova and I love so many of the poets I read when I first fell in love with poetry: Adrienne Rich, Phillip Le vine, William Bronk, Elizabeth Bishop, Jack Gilbert, Auden, Gerald Stern, James Wright -- I'm leaving out so so so many -- Gwendolyn Brooks, Muriel Ruykeyser, Ai, Kinnell, (perhaps you're thinking I should be stricter in my reverence) I remember the excitement I felt going into a bookstore and seeing on the shelf a new collection by say, C.K. Williams. It was like hunger, really. And I'd sit on the floor of the bookstore reading trying to figure out what he was up to in this collection. Then, always the great turbulence: was I going to buy it or resist spending the money for the book. I admit I sprang for the book most of time.

Oh, I haven't even talked about fiction (Where to start? Okay, say Flannery O'Connor to start) Or art (. Or dance (Balanchine, Pina Bausch).

I know so many people who claim to be disgusted with what is being written today. Sure, there's no shortage of junk, no shortage of books that are impoverished, have the basest expectations of readers. But I think there is remarkable, adventurous work being done. I'm awed, humbled all the time by new work I read. Go to the store and buy books by: Ralph Angel, Marie Howe, Dawn Raffel, Christine Schutt, Ben Marcus, Diane Williams, Mark Slouka, Michael Klein, Amy Hempel, Jason Shinder, Sheila Kohler, Douglas Glover, Gordon Lish, Garl Lutz, Noy Holland, Ishiguro, Mary Ruefle, Penelope Fitzgerald, David Rivard, Terese Svoboda. And I haven't even gotten to Cormac McCarthy or Grace Paley whose books you should also run out and buy.

Read the entire interview.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, May 7, 2007

Mil Millington

Mil Millington's novels include A Certain Chemistry, Things My Girlfriend and I Have Argued About, and Love and Other Near-Death Experiences.

Danuta Kean interviewed him about Love and Other Near-Death Experiences and "why there is humour in near-death experiences."

Kean's interview-article opens:

After 9/11 a story quickly circulated about a man who should have been at his desk in the Twin Towers as the plane hit. Instead he was in a shop exchanging the shirt his mother had bought for his birthday. His mother's poor fashion sense saved his life.

Similar stories of lives saved by random chance circulated in 2005 after the Asian Tsunami, the 7/7 bombings, Hurricane Katrina and the Asian Earthquake. It proves that our lives hang on mundane threads, says pink-haired author Mil Millington. "That man is alive because his mother was in a shop thinking, 'Do I get the green or the purple shirt?'" he says in his flat Midlands accent.

It also proves that the theme for Mil's latest novel, Love and Other Near-Death Experiences, could not be more prescient. Is that coincidence? No, says the convinced atheist, he has wanted to tackle the subject for a long time: the attack on the Twin Towers seems to have set off a chain of thought that resulted in the novel. "Even when I was writing my first book back in 2001 I was interested in the idea of randomness," he says. "I am fascinated by the basic questions of why am I here, what is happening and do I have any control over where I am going?"
Read on.

The Page 99 Test: Love and Other Near-Death Experiences.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, May 6, 2007

Allan Guthrie

Allan Guthrie's latest book, Hard Man, releases in the U.S. in June. Sandra Ruttan interviewed him for Spinetingler Magazine.

Here's a taste:

Sandra: How do you define noir?

Al: It depends what day of the week it is, but since it's Tuesday, I'll offer my most straightforward answer: noir is non-supernatural horror.

Sandra: There's a lot of pain in HARD MAN, a lot of violence. Where does your interest in writing about those themes come from?

Al: Yeah, apparently there's a lot of violence in HARD MAN. Everybody says so. I didn't notice until it was pointed out to me. But that might be because by the time anybody read HARD MAN I was well into the next book, which is much more violent. I actually think that HARD MAN isn't any more violent than my previous books, but it feels like it is because the writing's better. For instance, in HARD MAN there's a scene where Rog goes to visit Wallace with the intent of shooting him. One thing leads to another and there's a scene that lasts several pages which is apparently extremely violent. But if you read it over, the violence is almost all in Rog's head. All that happens is that a gun is placed against the stitches of someone's lip. That's it. Almost a cosy, really (ahem).

Interesting you mention pain, though. I believe that writing's about creating sensory experiences. If a character's eating a hamburger, I want the reader to taste it. So if a character's in pain, I want the reader to feel it. Violence in my books always hurts. And it always has a lasting effect. None of this getting knocked unconscious and waking up two minutes later with a little bump that's completely forgotten about ten seconds later. That annoys me almost as much as gratuitous scenery. I also try to write from the point of view of the victim where possible. But even my aggressor's get hurt. Hit somebody with your bare fist and you're liable to break a finger. In my books, anyway.

As to where my interest in writing about violence comes from, it probably started with the Bible (seriously). Deuteronomy is one of the most relentlessly violent books I've ever read, and as for all the suffering in the New Testament... I also love Jacobean Revenge drama, and guzzled loads of Middleton and co when I was at school. Shakespeare, too. Check out TITUS ANDRONICUS. And the body count in Hamlet's pretty high. I like drama. I like reading and writing about characters placed in extreme situations. That often involves violence. Also, HARD MAN is a modern revenge tragedy. Couldn't write one of those without it being violent. That'd be like asking Jack Bauer to relax, go home, take a bath. What'd be the fun in that?
Read the entire interview.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, May 4, 2007

Denise Mina

Steve Allan recently interviewed Denise Mina at "Noir Writer."

Part of their dialogue:

Noir Writer: When did you know you wanted to be a novelist?

Mina: I was in a damp bed sitting, listening to pigeons coo on the roof and reading Zola when I was struck by some phrase or turn of the story and thought what a wonderful thing it would be to do with your life, to touch another human being like that.

Noir Writer: How has your background in law influenced your work?

Mina: Well, I went into law to try and save the world and effect a social revolution. It made me see how much the workaday process knocks the passion out of people and made me want to do something else. Possibly bar maiding. I think the law is a thinking style and I am quite belligerent. Also, saves you from doing a lot of background research.
Read the entire interview.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, May 3, 2007

Marc Acito

Marc Acito's debut novel, How I Paid for College: A Novel of Sex, Theft, Friendship and Musical Theater, won the Ken Kesey Award for Fiction, was selected an Editors' Choice by the New York Times, and is in development at Columbia Pictures. He is an irregular contributor to All Things Considered, the New York Times, and Live Wire Radio.

Here's part of a Q & A from his website:

Who are your five favorite authors, and why?

There are four authors whose laundry lists I’d read if they were available, because I’ve already read everything else they’ve written:

1. Agatha Christie. Despite the fact that I don’t write genre mysteries, I continually return to her books to relish their page-turning, corkscrew tight plots. I still find them totally absorbing and love to get lost in them.

2. Dorothy Parker. The best comedy for me is the kind that is born out of emotional pain. Parker writes about dark emotions in a light way. I aspire to do the same in my work. I think of it as making a soufflé out of garbage.

3. David Sedaris. Likewise, Sedaris mines his own dysfunction with an eye for the absurd detail, and I strive to do the same. Readers of my column, ‘The Gospel According to Marc’, which is also first-person and non-fiction, have often compared my voice to his, and I’m flattered by the comparison.

4. Christopher Isherwood. I’m endlessly fascinated by bourgeois oppression. I just can’t get enough of stories about uptight people losing their inhibitions, (I’m especially fond of Merchant-Ivory costume dramas and movies in which teenagers lose their virginity.) I love the way Isherwood fictionalized his own experiences.

I’m also a big admirer of Nick Hornby, J.K. Rowling, Michael Chabon, Alan Gurganus, Toni Morrison, Michael Cunningham and Chuck Palahniuk. My guilty airplane reads are Dan Brown, John Grisham, Michael Crichton and E. Lynn Harris.

Of the famous dead writers, I regularly return to Dickens, Austen and Forster, all of whom make me laugh out loud.
Read the entire Q & A.

Check out the Page 99 Test: How I Paid for College.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, May 2, 2007

Shane Gericke

Shane Gericke, whose new book Cut to the Bone releases on June 5th, talked to Julia Buckley about his debut novel, Blown Away, back in November.

Part of the interview:

Your one-line grabber for [Blown Away] is “Special Forces-trained serial killer rampages ritzy Chicago suburb in psychopathic quest to annihilate rookie cop Emily Thompson.” First of all, great action verbs, Shane! Second, it reads like a headline, heaven forbid. Is this the newsman in you emerging even in mystery sales?

Somebody smarter than me once said, Past is prologue. I agree. I spent 25 years as a newspaper editor and writer, primarily at the Chicago Sun-Times, before abandoning that perfectly good paycheck to write books. The skills that make a good newsman—persistence, observation, willingness to ask questions, writing fast and accurately, accepting editing not as an insult but seeing the forest for the trees, ability to translate sounds, sights and smells into taut, readable prose, and ability to drink gallons of bad coffee without staying awake all night—are superb training for book-length writing.

Besides, I loved writing headlines. My all-time favorite was “Jerked to Jesus,” for a news story about an execution by hanging. If those three words didn’t make you read the story, you’re brain dead. I didn’t write it, of course — waaay before my time — but I wish I had.
Read the entire interview, and visit Shane Gericke's website.

--Marshal Zeringue