Thursday, July 31, 2008

Jonathan Segura

Scott Butki interviewed Jonathan Segura about his debut novel, Occupational Hazards.

Two questions from the Q & A:

What writers do you most hope to be compared to favorably? In your nightmare scenario (and I think every writer has this scenario) who would you be compared to?

Radar dropped Elmore Leonard, which I was happy to read. PW dropped Arthur Nersesian, which was also nice. Both of them also dropped Chuck Palahniuk, and I suppose I wouldn't kick him out of bed, either. But, man, would it break my @!$%#ing heart if I read something like, “It’s like the staid love-child of that nutty night when Garth Stein and Nicholas Sparks slipped Danielle Steel a roofie at Brother’s Lounge…"

Your book draws from your experience as a journalist in Omaha, right? When did you work there and what did you cover?

I was a reporter and editor at the Omaha Weekly from 2000-2002. I also freelanced for The Reader in Omaha before I got the staff gig at the Weekly. The Weekly was a life-altering experience for me as a writer and as a person--I had a great editor in John Heaston, and because we had such a small staff, I was cranking out 3,000 to 4,000 words a week. I met a lot of weird, wonderful people. Most of what I did was covering city hall and courts. Some cops stuff. Throw in the occasional feature or profile. It was a lot of work, and we’d often be in the office closing an issue until 3 in the morning. Good times.
Read the complete interview.

The Page 69 Test: Occupational Hazards.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Ed Lynskey

Declan Burke interviewed Ed Lynskey at Crime Always Pays.

The interrogation opens:

What crime novel would you most like to have written?

HELL HATH NO FURY by Charles Williams, a 1953 noir classic about a smouldering small town and the desperate characters living there and double-crossing each other.

What fictional character would you most like to have been?
Read the entire Q & A.

Ed Lynskey is the author of Pelham Fell Here, The Dirt-Brown Derby, The Dirt-Brown Derby, Out of Town a Few Days, and A Clear Path To Cross (all detective mysteries). His work has also appeared in The Atlantic Monthly, Washington Post, and New York Times.

The Page 99 Test: Pelham Fell Here.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

David Fulmer

Tim Whitaker of Philadelphia Weekly interviewed David Fulmer about his latest novel, the highly-acclaimed The Blue Door.

Whitaker's introduction and the first exchange:

“At 10:30 on the night of March 24, 1962,” begins the opening passage in The Blue Door, David Fulmer’s newly published mystery. “Eddie Cero walked out the back door of the Southside Boxing Club in Philadelphia with a bloody bandage over his eyebrow and $40 cash in his pocket.” Fulmer’s absorbing tale is of Philadelphia boxer turned private investigator Eddie Caro, who decides to find out on his own what happened to a popular soul singer in the city who disappeared without a trace. Caro gets involved with the singer’s secretive sexy sister, and his story quickly turns alternately violent and passionate, all against a vivid Philadelphia backdrop. Fulmer, who has previously written mysteries based in New Orleans and Atlanta (where he now resides), says he may author more mysteries based in Philadelphia in the future.

How did this story come to you?

“Growing up there was this guy in my hometown who left for Philly to become a club fighter. He was just so bad. The way he walked, the way he moved. He had presence. He was a character that just stayed with me. The first scene in the book, where he’s coming out of the club, was just dictated to me from somewhere. I have no idea where. I don’t plot my books out like a lot of mystery writers. I start with a location, which in this case was Philadelphia in the early ’60s, and of course characters.”
Read the entire interview.

Read Chapter One from The Blue Door and learn more about the author and his writing at David Fulmer's website.

David Fulmer is the author of, among other works, the acclaimed Storyville mysteries featuring Creole detective Valentin St. Cyr. The first volume of the series, Chasing the Devil's Tail, was a finalist for the Los Angeles Times Mystery/Thriller Book Prize and the winner of the Shamus Award for Best First P.I. Novel.

My Book, The Movie: David Fulmer's "Storyville" books.

The Page 69 Test: The Dying Crapshooter's Blues.

The Page 99 Test: The Blue Door.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, July 28, 2008

Ayelet Waldman

Curled Up with a Good Book's Luan Gaines interviewed Ayelet Waldman, author of Love and Other Impossible Pursuits, about her novel.

The opening exchanges from the interview:

Luan Gaines: What was your inspiration for Love and Other Impossible Pursuits?

I wanted to write about the loss of a child. I lost a baby quite late in a pregnancy -- a very different situation, but a terrible one for us. For years I was writing around this loss, dealing with it in various ways, but I finally confronted it head on in the novel.

Emilia is emotionally raw after the loss of her newborn. What is the purpose of her route through Central Park, avoiding the mothers with children on the way to William's preschool?

She needs the park -- it's her refuge, her solace. But it's full of babies, and every baby reminds her that hers is gone. She retreats to the park, but it's a terribly ambivalent experience because it fails to provide the comfort she needs.

You inhabit the emotions and turmoil of this protagonist. How did you research the grieving and angry young mother?

That was a work of imagination and experience, not research. When I lost my baby, I was in a support group and we were all devastated -- laid waste by loss. And we were all really, really angry.
Read the complete interview.

The Page 69 Test: Love and Other Impossible Pursuits.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, July 27, 2008

John Darnton

Dick Donahue of Publishers Weekly interviewed John Darnton about his new novel, Black & White and Dead All Over. Their first exchange:

PW: Your murder mystery is set at the New York Globe. Are you concerned that people will think it’s the New York Times, or do you hope they’ll think that?

JD: I have to say I employed some clever disguises. For example, everyone knows that the New York Times in its old building was on West 43rd St. between Seventh and Eighth Avenues. The New York Globe, however, is on West 45th St. between Seventh and Eighth Avenues. So you see there’s no connection whatsoever. I thought anyone looking at the book jacket would realize that, unimaginatively, I’ve spent my whole life with the same singular institution, the Times, so there’s no way I could write a book that wouldn’t somehow refer back to the Times. And in a way the Times is perfect for the kind of vehicle I wanted to do, because it is, in my estimation, kind of a perfect setting to describe both what’s happening to the newspaper business today and to recall the glories of what it was like when I first began, in 1966. But if you’re referring to libel, I’m not worried. The characters are—well, some might be, in a certain sense, identifiable, but most are composites of types that are familiar to any newsroom around the country.
Read the complete interview.

Visit John Darnton's website.

The Page 99 Test: Black and White and Dead All Over.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Steven Wingate

Steven Wingate is the author of Wifeshopping.

From the transcript of a June 2008 interview with Wingate by Arsen Kashkashian:

AK: Hi, I’m Arsen Kashkashian of the Boulder Bookstore and I’m talking with Steven Wingate, the author of the short story collection Wifeshopping, which will be coming out in July. Steven, I wanted to ask you a few questions. The title, Wifeshopping, could apply to many of the stories in the collection. It’s a very varied collection, stylistically, and with many different characters, and yet you have the theme of men looking for relationships throughout the book. How did that come about?

SW: The collection came about between about 1992 and 1999, between the end of an unsuccessful marriage and the beginnings of a successful one, and I wrote a whole bunch of stories during that time. Probably two dozen stories that were all clustered around this idea of searching for love, because I think both psychically and imaginatively I was really trying to figure out what the love thing was and how relationships worked and why they didn’t work. So out of that big bunch of stories, over the years and years, I just pulled out the best, and those are the thirteen in the collection.

AK: You’ve ended that stretch of time married, and yet your characters do not have a similar fate.What was the difference between you and your characters?

SW: I think if there’s one thing I’ve learned from working with these characters and writing about these characters, and also from living, it’s [read on].
Visit Steven Wingate's website.

Writers Read: Steven Wingate.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, July 25, 2008

Nalini Jones

Nalini Jones was born in Newport, Rhode Island, graduated from Amherst College, and received an M.F.A. from Columbia University. Her work has appeared in the Ontario Review, Glimmer Train, Dogwood, and Creative Nonfiction's "Living Issue." The paperback edition of her story collection, What You Call Winter, is due out in early August.

From a Q & A at the publisher's website:

Q: WHAT YOU CALL WINTER is a collection of stories, but not in the traditional sense… the characters in the different vignettes are all neighbors, relatives, and friends, and many of them reappear in several stories, giving the reader a vision of their community as a whole. Did you always intend for the book to come together this way?

A: I always envisioned a community that functioned that way — people who recognized each other, families who brought up their children together. But in my first version of the book, only a small cluster of stories were connected; others floated off on their own. When I reread that draft with my editor, we found that many of my own preoccupations in writing about the neighborhood cropped up again and again. It seemed as if I could explore them better — in more intricate and substantive ways, but also more succinctly — if I worked with a smaller, tighter cast of characters. I began to try to draw everything closer together. At first I didn’t realize that would mean leaving some stories behind and rewriting several others entirely. But as I was revising, I saw certain new possibilities for stories that had been isolated. It wasn’t so much that bringing them together connected the collection as a whole, but that story by story, those connections began to yield opportunities to think about the characters and their predicaments in unexpected ways. Everything began to feel a little richer.

Q: Your characters all live in (or once lived) the same, vividly imagined Catholic neighborhood near Mumbai. Why did you choose to write about such a place? Have you always been drawn to India as a setting for your work?

A: My mother is from a Catholic neighborhood just outside of Mumbai, and as children, my brother, sister and I visited family regularly. When I grew older, I began to go on my own. But I never lived there, so aspects of life that my mother and her family took as commonplace seemed endlessly intriguing to me. That became an enormous challenge for me when I was writing. I had experienced my mother’s community only as an outsider, but to write fiction, I had to conceive of it from the points of view of people who lived there, who could speak languages I can’t speak. I ended up creating a new place, with a name and street map all its own. I gave this neighborhood, which I called Santa Clara, schools, hospitals, churches, parks, a post office. I no longer had to try to accurately represent the real community where I had been a foreigner. Suddenly, with Santa Clara, I could concentrate on bringing something to life instead.
Read the full interview.

Visit Nalini Jones' website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Siri Hustvedt

Siri Hustvedt is the author of The Sorrows of an American and other books.

Anna Metcalfe of the Financial Times put a few questions to Hustvedt, including:

What book changed your life?

Crime and Punishment by Dostoyevsky. It's a book of overwhelming feeling and of the relentless interrogation of ideas.

* * *

What book would you give to someone who had time-travelled from another era, to paint a picture of the 21st century?

Don DeLillo's Underworld . He has a tremendous gift for insight into contemporary western culture.
Read the entire Q & A.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Michael S. Gazzaniga

Michael S. Gazzaniga is the director of the University of California–Santa Barbara's SAGE Center for the Study of the Mind, as well as its Summer Institute in Cognitive Neuroscience. He serves on the President's Council on Bioethics and is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and the Institute of Medicine of the National Academies. His publications include The Ethical Brain: The Science of Our Moral Dilemmas and the newly released Human: The Science Behind What Makes Us Unique.

From his Q & A at

If you could be reincarnated for one day to live the life of any scientist or writer, who would you choose and why?

That's easy. Richard Feynman. I knew him, knew what he was like but never could be him in the sense of how he apprehended phenomena. To have a sense of how he grasped the world and its relationships would be a stunning experience. He once spent a sabbatical year in the laboratory of the great biologist Max Delbruck. He toiled in the lab everyday doing experiments and at the end of year he gave a seminar to the Caltech biology department reporting on his studies. At the end he said, "Thanks for a great year but I am going back to physics. I don't think like a biologists and I would never be any good." Well, I realized then and as I do now, I will never be able to grasp such things as quantum mechanics and the other geometrical relationships Feynman saw and that is an unhappy fact about my own brain. I would like that for a day although I doubt it would change my psychological life much at all.
Read the entire Q & A.

The Page 99 Test: Human: The Science Behind What Makes Us Unique.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Kerry Cohen

Kerry Cohen received an MFA in creative writing from the University of Oregon and an MA in counseling psychology from Pacific University. She is a practicing psychotherapist and the author of the young adult novel Easy and a new book, Loose Girl: A Memoir of Promiscuity.

From her interview with

Share an interesting experience you've had with one of your readers.

Before the book even came out, lots of people were indignant about the fact that I had dared to refer to myself as promiscuous when I had only slept with 40-plus guys. People were really pissed about this! At least three relatively well-known bloggers wrote very mean, personal attacks, essentially accusing me of being a disgusting attention whore who had not earned a book. Well over 250 commenters came on to agree. Some said things like, "I sleep with 40 guys per year. Where's my book contract?" Many were sickened that I had written two books on the subject (one is a young adult novel). At first I felt pummeled. I expected some backlash and misunderstanding, but not the level of personal hatred I was seeing. After I dropped my defenses, though, I realized how ridiculous the whole thing was. I mean, they were pissed at my number. My slut stats. It actually shows how much my story gets misconstrued and molded into more familiar discourse, and it's a good entryway into more constructive discussion.

I can't say what will hurt or feel right for another person. I only know that of the 40-some-odd boys and men I had sex with, maybe two or three were fulfilling situations. The rest made me feel like crap. Only one could be defined as rape — meaning, I actively didn't want that one to happen — but most all the other sex felt just as violating and self-destructive. And yet I chose it. I kept choosing to have sex, not from a place of natural sexual desire, or just because I was attracted to a guy and wanted to get with him. I was having sex from a place of terrible desperation. Every single time I did it because I needed the sex, and his interest in me sexually, to mean I was worthwhile and lovable.
Read the entire interview.

The Page 69 Test: Loose Girl.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, July 21, 2008

John McFetridge

Linda L. Richards featured John McFetridge in an Author Snapshot at January Magazine.

Richards' introduction and one item from the profile:

Though The Toronto Star recently described John McFetridge as Canada’s answer to Elmore Leonard, in some ways that doesn’t even begin to cover it. If anything, McFetridge’s voice is colder, starker than Leonard’s, something likely due the fact that this Made-in-Canada author wears his nationality like a Hudson’s Bay blanket. McFetridge is one of a new breed of Canadian crime fictionists, building neo noir that seems touched by both the humor and self-consciousness of life north of the 48th.

Publisher’s Weekly called McFetridge’s most recent book, Everybody Knows this is Nowhere, a “noir love song to Toronto,” while in an early review for Quill & Quire, Sarah Weinman also chose the Leonard comparison, saying that “both writers seamlessly mix the police procedural with perp procedural to underscore the parallel lives of members of the opposing teams. But where Leonard tends to favour Hollywood-homicide banter, McFetridge keep the quips to a minimum, preferring punch to panache. As a result, the only time his prose gets purple is when fists are flying.”

Clearly, and like a growing number of his readers, one gets the idea that Weinman understands that this is an author everyone knows is going somewhere.

* * *
What inspires you?

Character, it’s all about the people. I spent a long time avoiding writing about people I knew, about their stories and situations, but the older I got the more I wondered, why? No one else seemed to be telling their stories, certainly not very many trying to do it in their voices (which is also my voice). So, I’m inspired by the people I’ve met, my friends.
Read on.

The Page 69 Test: Dirty Sweet.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Jess Winfield

The introduction and first exchange from Kelly Hewitt's interview with Jess Winfield:

Jess Winfield's My Name is Will: A Novel of Sex, Drugs, and Shakespeare is a tale of two men one is the tale of graduate student Willie Shakespeare Greenberg who, with superpsychedelic mushroom and a pound of marijuana in his possession, attempts to finish his thesis and prove his theory about Shakespeare's secret Catholicism. The other character is Will Shakespeare himself who, in the months leading up to his wedding, encounters his own psychedelic substances, attractive women amidst a secret attempt to deliver a mysterious package to a Catholic dissident. Winfield's narrative is lively, his tale of Willie Greenberg and William Shakespeare provides a very different and entirely exciting view of Shakespeare and his work.

Kelly Hewitt: So, the moment I ready your biography I knew that the first question had to be about your stint as a writer of Saturday morning cartoons. Which ones did your write for and what was that like?

Jess Winfield: I worked on a dozen or more series, everything from hard-edged action series like Incredible Hulk and Iron Man for Marvel (boring) to Donald Duck and Mickey Mouse cartoons at Disney (fun) to the Emmy-award winning comedy Disney's Teacher's Pet (rewarding!). By the end of my 10-year stint in animation, I was producing as well as writing. Wrangling a couple hundred half hour episodes from conception to broadcast, I learned a lot about story structure... but also about the importance of revising, revising, revising until the last moment the product goes out the door. I learned not to become attached to every word I write, and the importance of workshopping material thoroughly (this also a holdover from my days in the theater). Producing also gave me a taste of marketing, promotion, art direction, design, new media, product tie-ins (I actually got to give creative notes on Lilo and Stitch Happy Meal toys... and, absurdly, pasta shapes! "I think the Stitch macaroni won't hold cheese very well...") These are all things that have been helpful in preparing and selling my novel.
Read the full interview.

Visit Jess Winfield's website.

The Page 69 Test: My Name Is Will.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Michael Pollan

Michael Pollan's books include In Defense of Food: An Eater's Manifesto and The Omnivore's Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals.

San Francisco-based journalist Kate Cheney Davidson recently interviewed Pollan for Yale Environment 360.

One exchange from the Q & A:

e360: So how does this latest book, In Defense of Food, fit within your genre of nature writing?

Pollan: After An Omnivore’s Dilemma a lot of people said, “Well, aren’t you preaching to the choir?” I hated hearing that. I wanted to write a book that didn’t preach to the choir, which brought in a whole other circle of readers. I set out to write as popular and accessible and short a book as I can write. The subtitle is “An Eater’s Manifesto,” and it is a political book. Its motto: “Eat Food. Not Too Much. Mostly Plants.” isn’t exactly “Workers of the World Unite,” but in its own quiet way the goal is to invite people to this movement who might not think they have a stake in it.

In general people are motivated by their sense of personal health. This is why people began buying organic food. It wasn’t to change the world, most of them. It was really because they thought they would be safer eating this food than industrial food. So health is a very important way in with people.

But my message in this book is that your health is inseparable from the health of whole food chain that you’re a part of. That was the sort of stunning thing I learned writing both books — that there’s a direct connection between the health of the soil, the health of the plants, the health of the animals, and you as eater. We’re not just eating piles of chemicals that we can get from anywhere. All carrots are not created equal. Some of them are actually more nutritious than others. How the animals were raised has not just a bearing on their health, but on your health.

So that, I think, is the kind of the covert politics of the book: that your health is not bordered by your own skin, and that you must take a broader view of it if you’re really concerned. We have science now to back this up: that the healthfulness and the nutritiousness of the food you eat really depend on how it’s grown, not what it is.
Read the entire interview.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, July 18, 2008

Richard Ellis

Scientific American's David Biello spoke with Richard Ellis, author of Tuna: A Love Story, about the problems facing the chicken of the sea.

A couple of their exchanges:

What is happening to the tuna generally?

The biggest and most spectacular [tuna] is the bluefin, and it is also the one that is most in trouble. But there are many smaller species that are hunted very strenuously, [such as yellowfin, which are] in many cases overfished and in many cases they're not. Tuna in a can, for example, labeled white meat tuna, it's from a fish called an albacore. It's the only tuna that can be labeled white meat tuna and it's not in trouble. Light meat tuna is skipjack: it's the most popular food fish in the world, just think of the cans of tuna in the world. And it's also not in trouble... But the ne plus ultra of tuna is the bluefin and it's in trouble because it is probably the favorite food of the Japanese.

What is so special about the bluefin tuna?

The bluefin tuna is one of the fastest, largest, smartest, most highly evolved fish on Earth, and it undertakes epic migrations... Admire it as I do, after all my book is called Tuna: A Love Story, I still eat it. And other people love it, not because it's fast or beautiful or intelligent, but rather because they like to see it on a plate...
Read the entire Q & A.

The Page 99 Test: Tuna: A Love Story.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Megan Hustad

Jessica Armbruster of City Pages interviewed Megan Hustad, author of How to Be Useful: A Beginner's Guide to Not Hating Work.

The first exchanges of the Q & A:

CP: How did you come up with the idea to distill career advice from sources as old as 200 years?

MH: Basically, I like going to library and checking out books that no one has looked out since 1973, and taking notes. That, for me, is a good time and writing a book was a way to get paid doing that. Also, I was a history major, and I wanted to see know what ideas had withstood the test of time; if there was any continuity, not just from year to year, but generation to generation, and economic cycle to economic cycle.

CP: How does career advice from the 1800s hold up today? Has the workplace really changed so little?

MH: What I like about the early stuff, especially advice from the late 1800s, is that it was so blunt about what you could expect to encounter in an office. At the time, the idea of the office and the businessman was a new concept. I think nowadays we do young people a disservice when we tell them they can have any job they want if they apply themselves; to just "be yourself." Being yourself isn’t always the answer though. Your boss might not give a shit about what you read last weekend, about your sky trip, or your photography habits. When working in an office people need to understand that it’s hierarchical, and people need to be trained to do it properly.
Read the complete interview.

Read an excerpt from How to Be Useful, and learn more about the book and author at Megan Hustad's website.

Writers Read: Megan Hustad.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Timothy Hallinan

Timothy Hallinan has lived off and on in Southeast Asia for more than twenty years. He is the author of eight published novels and one nonfiction work on Charles Dickens. The Fourth Watcher is the second book in the Poke Rafferty novels of Bangkok that began in 2007 with A Nail Through the Heart.

The opening of his interview with New Mystery Reader contributor Dana King:

DK: You clearly have a deep affection for Thailand and its people, yet are not bashful about exploring and describing the worst of it. You’ve also traveled extensively in that part of the world. How did you come to choose Thailand for the Poke Rafferty stories?

TH: Actually, Thailand came before Poke. I’d been living there off and on for about sixteen years, wishing I could write about it but nervous about two things: Not truly understanding the culture, and not speaking Thai well enough to know how (or whether) the Thais were different when there were no foreigners around. (It took me eight novels to get up the courage to write a scene between two women without a man present – the one in this book between Rose and Noi – for the same reason.)

And then I spent New Year’s Eve 1998 walking the city, from about 10 PM to 9 AM. I walked everywhere, but mostly off the main drags. And Poke came into my mind: a travel writer who writes about the places that are beyond the margins of the well-worn tourist paths. And I immediately realized that he’d already written a couple of books, Looking for Trouble in the Philippines and Looking for Trouble in Indonesia, and that he’d written them from an external, fairly superficial perspective. But when he got to Thailand, the place gobsmacked him, as it did me, and he suddenly found himself in a culture to which he actually wanted to belong.

But the important thing, from a writing standpoint, was that he didn’t belong And because he didn’t belong, he didn’t have to understand everything; he could make mistakes about the people and the lives they live. And he spoke only elementary Thai. Those things were very liberating for me. Suddenly, I didn’t have to be the guy who could write the Wikipedia entry on Thailand. My character was just another clown trying to find his way in. He was going to get things wrong from time to time.

Until he washed up in Thailand, he’d always looked at the places he wrote about as though they were department-store window displays, separated from him by a pane of glass, and now he had to find a way to the other side of the glass. And he was doing it out of love, which was very appealing to me: he loved the country, he loved the culture, and, inevitably, he came to love a couple of individual people. And the longterm health of his relationship with those two people depends largely on whether he can really get through that pane of glass.
Read the entire interview.

Learn more about the author and his work at Timothy Hallinan's website and his blog.

The Page 69 Test: A Nail Through the Heart.

The Page 69 Test: The Fourth Watcher.

My Book, The Movie: The Fourth Watcher.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Katie Hickman

Katie Hickman is the author of The Aviary Gate, a novel set in late sixteenth century Constantinople in the harem of the Turkish Sultan, Mehmet III.

From a Q & A at Hickman's website:

Q: How did you come to write a novel set in a sultan's harem?

A: Actually, I started the novel with two characters: John Carew, a master cook, and Jamal al-Andalus, an Arab astronomer. The more I thought about them, the more I realized that one of the only plausible settings in which these two might meet would be in late-sixteenth-century Constantinople. It was only then, when I was researching this period, that I came across the diary of the Elizabethan organ maker Thomas Dallam (which really exists, by the way), with its famous account of how he saw through a hole in the wall in the sultan's harem and watched the women playing there. I began to imagine what might happen if someone else had been there with him--John Carew, as it turned out--and if when that second person looked through, he saw someone he knew. What then?

Q: Please describe the research you did. Did you travel to Istanbul? And are there any parallels between your discovery process and that of your character, Elizabeth?

A: I went four or five times to Istanbul, a city which I love very much. The first time, thirteen years ago now, I lived there for a month so that I could really get a feel for the place. I stayed in a wonderfully eccentric hotel, and couldn't resist getting my character, Elizabeth Staveley, to stay there too! Her experience of being haunted by the person she is researching--the English slave girl Celia Lamprey--is something I became very interested in when I was writing historical biographies myself. Biographers live in such close imaginative proximity with their subjects that it's very hard sometimes to stop yourself feeling that they are really there, just behind you.
Read the complete Q & A.

The Page 69 Test: The Aviary Gate.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, July 14, 2008

Karen Essex

Karen Essex, an award-winning journalist and a screenwriter, is the author of Kleopatra, Pharaoh, and the international bestseller Leonardo’s Swans, which won Italy’s prestigious 2007 Premio Roma for foreign fiction.

Her new novel is Stealing Athena.

From a Q & A at the publisher's website:

Q. How did you decide to write about the Elgin Marbles?

I first saw the Elgin Marbles in 2001 at the British Museum when I went to see an exhibit about Cleopatra. I was researching my novel Kleopatra and I wandered into the Duveen Gallery where the marbles are housed. I listened to the story behind the marbles on the audio guide and had an intuition that it would be good fodder for a novel. When Susan Nagel's biography of Mary Nisbet, Countess of Elgin came out in 2004, I eagerly read it and was blown away by Mary's contribution to the acquisition of the treasures, and also by the absence of references to her in the sources. I thought, hmmm, another woman who defied society's idea of how a woman should behave and paid a steep price for it–and was forgotten. I got very excited about writing about her.

Q. What did your research for Stealing Athena entail?

I am definitely a research freak. I'm the sort of writer who thinks that if she doesn't know everything, she doesn't know anything.

Stealing Athena was difficult to write simply because of the enormity of the research. It was crucial for me to understand the Ottoman Empire, the British Empire, Napoleon, the French Revolution, the Golden Age of Pericles, and all the ensuing cultural studies that would have impacted the people in those civilizations and time periods. I have posted a selected bibliography on my website, but it doesn’t begin to encompass all my sources. And of course, I also visit the pertinent locations in all of my novels to do as much onsite research as possible, in addition to soaking in the atmosphere and breathing the air. That’s the really fun part. I like to literally share molecules with my characters.
Read the full Q & A.

Read excerpts from Stealing Athena, and learn more about the author and her work at Karen Essex's website.

The Page 69 Test: Stealing Athena.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Michael Harvey

Michael Harvey is the creator, writer, and executive producer of the television series Cold Case Files, as well as an Academy Award-nominee for his documentary Eyewitness, and is a former investigative reporter for CBS. And he wrote The Chicago Way.

From a Q & A at the publisher's website:

Q: Where did the idea for THE CHICAGO WAY come from?

Good question. I had around about a hundred pages of this novel sitting in the back of a drawer for about two years. I pulled that out in April of 2006 and decided I wanted to finish it. At that time, I had a beginning and an end with not much else in between. So I just decided to sit down and write.

I let the characters start talking and they told me where to go with the story. The specific plot lines are all fictitious. I have, however, had a lot of contact with cops, killers, prosecutors, and forensic types. through my work as a journalist and documentary producer. That experience, to some extent, informs the entire manuscript and hopefully adds an air of authenticity to the novel.

Q: You are the creator of the highly popular television show Cold Case Files. How did you come to be involved in that show?

The year was 1997. I was working away on a variety of documentary projects both for television and film. My work covered a range of topics, everything from the Holocaust to life inside the Clinton White House. The bulk of my documentary work, however, focused on the inner workings of the criminal justice system. (This was before CSI and its progeny.) Most of the general public had never heard of DNA, except through the prism of the OJ Simpson trial. As I talked to prosecutors and detectives and saw what was going on, it became apparent that the science of forensic DNA was going to change the criminal justice system in a way that was fundamental and unprecedented. I’m no genius but I figured we might want to pay attention to that.

The specific angle of cold cases was really a story-telling decision. The idea that a box of evidence could sit on a shelf for decades and then suddenly be pulled down, dusted off and mined for the name of the killer had a lot of appeal. I always thought of it as the “ultimate whodunit.” To that end, the first hour was written and shot in a film noir style. We thought that would give the show a unique identity and allow us to ramp up the atmospherics.

Cold Case Files was an immediate ratings hit. The network ordered a slate of shows and we were on our way. I produced and wrote the first ten to fifteen hours. As the work load increased, I moved into a executive producer role, overseeing a wonderful team of producers, editors and photographers. Cold Case Files has been twice nominated for a Prime Time Emmy for best non-fiction series.
Read the entire Q & A.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Denise Hamilton

From a Q & A with Denise Hamilton, about her new novel, The Last Embrace:

There is an underlying feminist message in The Last Embrace. What do you hope some female readers will gain from "meeting" Lily Kessler?

I think Lily was emblematic of her time, as are many of the other female characters in this book. They've tasted freedom and independence during the war, it's given them self-confidence, and now they're trying to navigate through an increasingly conservative post-war era that would like them to give up much of the freedoms they've learned to enjoy. I wanted to dramatize that conflict. I also love the dramatic possibilities inherent in a group of young women all living under one roof and trying to make it as Hollywood actresses. They're vying for stardom, for boyfriends, they're 'silky and competitive as cats yet they also take the time to help each other. It's a very conflicted kind of friendship, but it seems very real to me, not sugar-coated.

Noir has traditionally been an overwhelmingly male genre where female characters are portrayed as sexpots and femme fatales. In The Last Embrace, I've tried to reimagine that macho male noir territory with a variety of female characters - starting with Lily Kessler - who are every bit as capable as the men, but without the swagger. Even though they're plunged into a very dark swirl of intrigue, there's a basic life-affirming optimism that prevails, a ray of light that pierces the cynicism and fatality that would triumph in traditional noir.
Read the complete Q & A.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, July 11, 2008

Jane Finnis

Jane Finnis is the author of three Aurelia Marcella mysteries, starting with Get Out or Die and A Bitter Chill. The third book in the series, Buried Too Deep, has just been released.

Last year, Julia Buckley interviewed Finnis about her work. The first exchanges from their interview:

Your mysteries, Get Out or Die and A Bitter Chill, are set in First Century Roman Britain. Living in England as you do, were you always fascinated by the Roman ruins in your country? Or did this setting emerge generally from a love of history?

I’ve always found history fascinating. I remember as a small child marveling at the straight Roman roads in East Yorkshire where I was brought up, and being awed by the mediaeval Minster at York, where we went every year for the Christmas Eve carol service. Then when I was about thirteen, I read Robert Graves’ wonderful pair of books, I Claudius and Claudius the God, and from then on I was hooked on Ancient Roman history, and I still am.

Your heroine’s name is Aurelia Marcella. What sort of research did you do to place Aurelia authentically in the ancient world?

I did, and still do, a mass of research on the Roman Empire in the first century AD. I love research, so it’s no hardship. I read hooks, by modern historians and also by classical writers; I use the Internet (but one needs to be cautious here, because some websites are richer in enthusiasm than scholarship;) I pick the brains of experts, and find people very generous with information.
Read the entire interview.

Read an excerpt from Buried Too Deep, and learn more about the author and her work at Jane Finnis' website and her blog, the Lady Killers.

The Page 69 Test: Buried Too Deep.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, July 10, 2008

M. Gigi Durham

Meenakshi Gigi Durham is an associate professor of Journalism and Mass Communication at the University of Iowa. For more than a decade, she has been conducting research on adolescent girls and the media.

Katharine Mieszkowski of interviewed Durham about her new book, The Lolita Effect: The Media Sexualization of Young Girls and What You Can Do About It.

The first exchange from the Q & A:

Why is grown-up sexuality being marketed to younger and younger girls?

I don't think that anybody can pinpoint the single reason, but I think there are a number of trends that can give us some clues about it. The '90s were prosperous. In the mid-'90s there was a lot of disposable income floating around and tweens became a very important niche market for a number of industries. One research firm Euromonitor posits tweens spending $170 billion in 2006. So, this is a wealthy little group of people.

Marketers realized they could create cradle-to-grave consumers by marketing products to kids very early. Then, they would develop brand loyalties, and consumer practices that they would sustain throughout their lifetimes. It was very profitable to start marketing these products to very young kids.

Also, as women have made tremendous gains politically and in the workforce, grown women are moving away from this traditional model of femininity where women are supposed to be docile and passive. And little girls still conform to that very traditional ideal of femininity. So I think that increasing attention is being focused on little girls as embodying ideal femininity.
Read the entire interview.

The Page 99 Test: The Lolita Effect.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Zoë Ferraris

Zoë Ferraris moved to Jeddah, Saudi Arabia in the aftermath of the first Gulf War. She lived in a conservative Muslim community with her then-husband and his family, a group of Saudi-Palestinians. In 2006, she completed her MFA in Fiction at Columbia University. Her debut novel, Finding Nouf (published as Night of the Mi'raj in the UK) won the First Prize for mystery fiction at the Santa Barbara Writers Conference and is now being published in fifteen countries.

From a Q & A at her website:

First of all, I think people would like to know your connection to Saudi Arabia, so they don’t think you’re making this all up.

Well, actually, I made it up. But there’s also a lot of real Saudi Arabia in the book.

When I was nineteen, I got married to a Saudi-Palestinian Bedouin. We met in San Francisco, and I fell completely in love with him. He was hilarious and brilliant and over-the-top zany. He had come to America to study English. He told his parents that once he was fluent, he would go back to Jeddah. So he never became fluent. Learning English – actually, he called it “Languish” – was just going to have to take forever.

We got married and had a daughter. The day she was born, he decided that we had to visit his family in Jeddah. Just a short visit, you know, to show off his new wife and kid. We wound up staying for almost a year. It turns out that you can’t just visit for a week or two. You have to stay until his mother stops having heart episodes every time you go to the airport.

So you didn’t get along with your mother-in-law?

Not after... [read on]
Read an excerpt from Finding Nouf, and learn more about the book and author at Zoë Ferraris' website.

The Page 69 Test: Finding Nouf.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Carrie Vaughn

Carrie Vaughn is the author of four novels about a werewolf named Kitty.

From a Q & A at

Q: For the benefit of those of us new to your work, without giving too much away, give us a taste of the story that is KITTY AND THE MIDNIGHT HOUR and its sequel.

Carrie Vaughn: Here's my one-sentence tagline for the book: Kitty is a werewolf who starts a talk radio advice show about the supernatural. I get a lot of raised eyebrows with that description. The stories themselves are about Kitty coming to terms with being a werewolf, learning to stand up for herself, and dealing with social and political dynamics surrounding the various supernatural and non-supernatural elements in her life. In the second book, the stage gets bigger--she's the country's first werewolf celebrity and has to deal with that as well.

Q: Have you always had an interest in the paranormal?

Carrie Vaughn: [read on]
Learn more about the author and her work at Carrie Vaughn's website and journal.

The Page 99 Test: Kitty and the Silver Bullet.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, July 7, 2008

Kerry Cohen

Kerry Cohen received an MFA in creative writing from the University of Oregon and an MA in counseling psychology from Pacific University. A practicing psychotherapist and the author of the young adult novel Easy, her new book is Loose Girl: A Memoir of Promiscuity.

From a Q & A at the publisher's website:

Q: What is a loose girl?

A: A loose girl is a girl who has been badly emotionally hurt and attempts to ease that hurt through male attention and sexual behavior. She yearns to feel worthwhile, which she usually defines as worth loving. She is not wantonly or gratuitously trying to get sexual attention. She doesn’t simply “want it.”

Q: What sparked your intense need for attention, and why do you think sex seemed like the way to fulfill it?

A: It began with not getting enough attention at home, a circumstance that stemmed from my parents’ unique personalities and limitations, and also from broader factors like my parents’ divorce and my mother’s moving to the Philippines to pursue her career. These events coincided with my sexual awakening—I was 11 and 12—so I was keenly tuned in to what seemed to make me feel better emotionally. Sex and male attention were right there. They came after me, really. It would have taken more effort to resist than to give in and feel for awhile like I was loveable.

Q: At what point did you realize that you had a different relationship with male attention than other women did?

A: [read on]
Visit Kerry Cohen's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Jill Bialosky

Jill Bialosky's collections of poems are Subterranean (Alfred A. Knopf, 2001) and The End of Desire (1997). Bialosky is also the author of the novel House Under Snow (2002) and The Life Room (2007) and co-editor, with Helen Schulman, of the anthology Wanting A Child (1998).

Her third collection of poems, Intruder, is due out in October.

From a Q & A at her website:

Q: The Life Room opens with an epigraph from Anna Karenina, and the careful reader of your novel will find many allusions to Tolstoy's classic throughout. Could you discuss The Life Room's relationship to Anna Karenina the novel, and Eleanor's relationship to Anna Karenina the character?

A: When I was a young reader first embarking on a literary education the models in literature for women protagonists who had to struggle between passion and domestic responsibility were Anna Karenina, Madame Bovary, Edna Pontellier, and Lily Bart, among others. Passion was terminal; female protagonists swept up in love affairs ended up killing themselves. The message was that abundance of feeling led to tragedy. If women in novels were not killed off by their creator, they struggled like Isabel Archer in Portrait of a Lady to define themselves against erotic desire and the confines of marriage. I wanted to create a contemporary hero who does not have to die for her passions. We live in a time where adultery seems commonplace, certainly not a crime that would allow a woman to lose her social standing, her children. And yet, internally what are the risks? Are they any less? In The Life Room I set out to create a character that struggles with her sense of morality but ultimately does not have to relinquish her sense of self.

Tolstoy's masterpiece was in the back of my mind when I embarked on writing The Life Room. At the onset of the novel Eleanor Cahn has been invited to attend a conference and present a paper she's written on Anna Karenina. Before she goes to Paris her life is one way. Once in Paris, among other things, she reconnects with an old love from her past and her worldview is suddenly altered. She discovers that her assumptions about Anna Karenina have been false. Now she sees Anna's plight through a different light. I'm interested in the conceit of how perceptions of a work of art change depending on the reader or viewer's perspective. In Anna Karenina Tolstoy explored spiritual questions. Similarly, when Eleanor's domestic life as a wife and mother is jeopardized, she finds herself in a spiritual crisis. As far as other similarities between the two novels, I can't claim much. Tolstoy's novel is a tragic epic. The Life Room is an interior exploration of selfhood.
Read the entire Q & A.

Visit Jill Bialosky's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, July 5, 2008

David Maraniss

David Maraniss' new book is Rome 1960: The Olympics That Changed the World.

From a Q & A at the publisher's website:

Q. What is especially compelling about the 1960 Summer Olympics?

A. What attracted me to Rome, what made it special in my mind, was the uncommon combination of legendary athletes, the tension of the cold war, the beauty of the setting, and the issues that arose during the 18 days of competition. With the entire world on the same stage at the same time, I saw the opportunity to weave the drama on the playing fields with the political and cultural issues that were emerging then.

Q. You say in the book that the 1960 Summer Olympics marked the passing of one era and the dawning of another. What do you mean by that?

A. In so many ways, the 1960 Olympics marked a passing of one era and the birth of another. Television, money and doping were bursting onto the scene, changing everything they touched. Old-school notions of amateurism, created by and for upper-class sportsmen, were being challenged as never before. New countries were being born in Africa and Asia, blacks and women were pushing for equal rights. For better and worse, one could see the modern world as we know it today coming into view.
Read the full Q & A.

Visit David Maraniss' website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, July 4, 2008

Michelle Gagnon

Michelle Gagnon's debut thriller The Tunnels was published in the United States and Australia, and was an IMBA bestseller. Described as "Silence of the Lambs meets The Wicker Man," the story involves a series of ritualized murders in the abandoned tunnel system beneath a university.

The following book in the series, Boneyard, depicts a cat and mouse game between dueling serial killers in the Berkshires.

From a Q & A at Gagnon's website:

Q: How did you come up with the title Boneyard?

A: While researching serial killers, I read a few books on Ted Bundy (if you ever want to catch some strange looks, spend an hour in the OB's office eight months pregnant, highlighting passages of a book on raising serial killers. The receptionist quickly learned to move me to the front of the line so I wouldn't disturb the other expectant mothers). One of the books referenced a nickname given to the location where they found the remains of Bundy's earliest victims; they called it a "boneyard." The minute I saw that I thought, Dang, that's a great title.

Q: Why serial killers?

A: Now that I've written two books centered on serial killers, I guess I do seem a little obsessed! I think that when it comes down to it, crimes of passion or for money are sadly things that most people can relate to. We've all experienced those intense emotions, or have been in a difficult situation, so that sort of homicide makes sense to us (though it's obviously still tragic). But for someone to snatch a total stranger, torture and then kill them—that's [read on].
Visit Michelle Gagnon's website.

The Page 69 Test: The Tunnels.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Martin Clark

Martin Clark’s first novel, The Many Aspects of Mobile Home Living, was a New York Times Notable Book and a finalist for the Stephen Crane First Fiction Award. His second novel, Plain Heathen Mischief, prompted The Charlotte Observer to call him “a rising star in American Letters.”

From a Q & A about his new novel,
The Legal Limit:

Q: Can you tell us a little about the title of this book? It seems “The Legal Limit” has multiple meanings here?

A: Several friends and early readers have noted that this title is not as rococo or obviously colorful as my prior choices—The Many Aspects of Mobile Home Living and Plain Heathen Mischief—and while it isn’t quite as flashy, I do think it provides a very good three-word summary of the book’s bigger themes. Without giving away too much, it’s fair to say the story deals with the rift that sometimes occurs between hidebound, black-letter law and simple justice. It touches on the fact that the court system is ill equipped to handle certain difficult situations, and it asks readers to make a fundamental judgment about how we want our courts and juries to decide issues that dramatically affect peoples’ lives. On another level, the title references .08, the legal limit for DUI in Virginia, and the resolution of a borderline drunk driving case is a fairly important part of the novel.
Read the entire Q & A.

Visit Martin Clark’s website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Rick Shenkman

Rick Shenkman is the editor and founder of George Mason University's History News Network, and author of the recently released Just How Stupid Are We? Facing the Truth About the American Voter. From a Q & A with the author at U.S. News and World Report:

What made you first ask the question, "Just how stupid are we?"

There's been no issue more important in the last generation than 9/11 and the Iraq war, and Americans didn't understand basic facts about it. I found that very disturbing, and I wanted to explain how to account for that and then how to have an intelligent conversation about this. It's a very sensitive subject. I want us to be able to sit down, calmly review the evidence, and one, like alcoholics, admit we have a problem; and, two, try to figure out how we remedy that problem.

What evidence most concerned you?

Even after the 9/11 Commission, a majority of Americans believed there were weapons of mass destruction in Iraq even after the Commission said there weren't. Only a third of Americans understood that much of the rest of the world opposed our invasion. Another third thought the rest of the world was cheering our invasion, and a third thought the rest of the world was neutral. If you're going to get that much wrong about the most important issue facing us, it's hard to have much confidence in our democracy.
Read the complete Q & A.

The Page 99 Test: Just How Stupid Are We?.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Duane Swierczynski

Last year, Duane Swierczynski, author of The Blonde as well as "other books about crime and vice and exploding heads," interviewed Jamie Malanowski, author of The Coup.

Turnabout being fair play and all that, Malanowski has now interviewed Swierczynski about his latest book, Severance Package.

The introduction and first exchange:

Fans of crime novels who don’t know the name Duane Swierczynski would do well to make the acquaintance. Duane has just published his latest novel, Severance Package, a funny and exciting tale of mayhem that updates the Ten Little Indians idea, subtracting some of the whodunit, adding several vats of plasma, and, most interestingly, adding in lots of anxieties about modern office culture. It was a fun read, perfect for the pool, a tad less perfect for your cubicle, and I'm delighted to recommend it. Duane took some questions from us last week.

PLAYBOY: You've written an excellent crime novel (The Wheelman) and an excellent, uh, mad scientist mass murderer novel (The Blonde), both of which took place on the scenic beaches and mountains of Philadelphia. Severance Package also takes place in Philly, but almost entirely within the confines of a single office building. Where did you get the idea for this novel? Is there a part for Steve Carrell?

DUANE: You’ve just pinpointed why I love setting novels in Philly—all of the beaches and mountains! Actually, this bastard child has many fathers. One was the Valerie Plame case. I wondered what it would be like to work for a company that was a front for a spy ring… and you had no idea. (Because that would be me. Totally.) Also, I’ve had the unfortunately experience of having to fire someone, and it struck me how much it was like a professional hit—you pick the time, the place, the method, then BLAM. A person’s life is changed forever. So I thought, gee, what if this whole thing were a bit more literal? And… okay, I admit it. It’s a naked plea for Steve Carrell’s attention. (Steve. Call me.)
Read the entire Q & A.

--Marshal Zeringue