Saturday, October 31, 2009

Carla Buckley

Carla Buckley is the author of the forthcoming debut novel, The Things That Keep Us Here (February 2010).

From a Q & A at her website:

Why did you choose to write about an avian influenza pandemic?

A: Being married to a scientist allows me unfiltered access to some pretty amazing information. At the time, my husband was conducting research into bird flu and regularly bringing home frightening reports. One night, I had a nightmare so vivid that I called my sister the next morning to share. After I was done speaking, there was silence. Then she said, "This is the story you need to write." That story became THE THINGS THAT KEEP US HERE.

Do you keep emergency supplies on hand?

A: When I realized the only thing I could do to prepare was stockpile food and water, I went to the grocery store and loaded up my cart. Twice. I also made sure to stock up on pet food, batteries, flashlights, a first aid kit, including respiratory masks, and things to keep my kids entertained if we ended up being quarantined—books, paper, craft supplies. I figured if we didn't end up needing any of it, we could recycle through them, and I could replenish when flu season returned.

Does the current H1N1 pandemic worry you?

A: I've done too much research for THE THINGS THAT KEEP US HERE to be complacent. In fact,...[read on]
Visit Carla Buckley's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, October 30, 2009

Ellen Hart

Ellen Hart's latest Jane Lawless mystery (Volume 17), The Mirror and the Mask, releases in November 2009.

From a Q & A at her website:

Q: You've been compared to P.D. James, Agatha Christie, Ruth Rendell and Amanda Cross. You're a five time winner of the Lambda Literary Award for Best Lesbian Mystery, and a three time winner of the Minnesota Book Award for Best Crime Fiction. With 24 books under your belt, let's take a moment and look back. What made you first want to write a mystery?

A: The short answer is, I've always loved a good crime novel. When I was a kid, my parents bought me the entire Sherlock Holmes canon and—because I have a terrible memory—I could read the stories again and again, never remembering who did what to whom. The longer answer is that, for most of my adult life, I've wanted to try my hand at writing a novel. Actually, if I'd chosen a profession early in life, I probably would have done something with music. But living, as it often does, took me elsewhere. I ended up at a religious college in California majoring in theology. And what does a woman do when she has a degree in theology from a fundamentalist church? She marries a minister. Since that wasn't a option for me, I finally decided to go to school to become a chef.

I have a sneaking suspicion, however, that many people who love to read also secretly want to write—and that was exactly my situation. The problem was that although academic writing might have come easily for me, creating fiction (sustaining plot, character, tension, etc., for 65,000 plus words) was an entirely different matter. I'd never taken a creative writing class, but in 1987 I got an idea for a novel—a mystery. I wrote about 200 pages before I realized I didn't have a clue what I was doing. At that point, I knew I needed help. Intuitively, I made a good decision. I started reading mysteries voraciously, taking the books apart, seeing how the characters were developed, how plots were constructed, how clues were dropped, how tension was built. I teach mystery writing now and I tell my students to do the same thing. By reading mysteries, you begin to digest the format. Mysteries have a very specific architecture. They're very tight. As a matter of fact, someone once said the mystery is to fiction what the sonnet is to poetry. I believe that's accurate.

Q: What writers influenced you?

A: Well, P. D. James—first and foremost. I think she's a master and I truly admire her work. Then there's...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Chelsea Cain

Chelsea Cain interviewed Chelsea Cain for The Oregonian. The Q & A opens:

O: Tell us a little bit about the book [Heartsick, her first novel featuring Portland detective Archie Sheridan and Gretchen Lowell, a beautiful and brutal serial killer].
CC: It’s a thriller about a Portland detective who led the hunt for a beautiful serial killer for ten years. She captured him and tortured him for ten days before mysteriously turning herself in and saving his life. Now it’s two years later. She’s in jail and he’s addicted to pain pills, and there’s another serial killer on the loose, and the detective is called off medical leave to lead the search for the new killer.

O: Sounds funny.

CC: I know. It’s a departure.

O: Do you worry that fans of your gentle and nostalgic Sunday column in this paper will be put off by how dark and violent the book is?

CC: A little, yeah. The book’s got a very different tone. But the characters are witty and I hope that Oregonians will enjoy reading a book with corpses that wash up in familiar surroundings.

O: One of the killer’s victims is a student at Cleveland High School and several scenes in the book take place there. What do you have against Cleveland?

CC: Nothing. I participated in Literary Arts’ Writers in the Schools program several years ago, and I served a two-week residency at Cleveland. I loved it. I had this group of incredibly smart students that could writer better than I can. When I needed a high school for the plot, I chose Cleveland because I’d spent time there and could conjure some details. For the record I also kill students from Lincoln and Jefferson.

O: At one point in the book you describe torturing a victim by pulling out her intestine with a crochet hook. Do you worry about contributing to the culture of violence?
CC: I would worry about the war we’re fighting in Iraq and Saw III and the 24-hour news channels, before I blamed our culture of violence on books.

O: You’re evading the question. You have a...[read on]
Learn more about the author and her work at Chelsea Cain's website and blog, and at

The Page 99 Test: Sweetheart.

The Page 69 Test: Evil at Heart.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Jessica Brody

Jessica Brody is the author of two adult books from St. Martin’s Press (Love Under Cover and The Fidelity Files) and two forthcoming young adult books from Farrar, Straus & Giroux (The Karma Club and My Life Undecided).

The Fidelity Files is now in development as a television series from the producer of the Academy Award-winning Best Picture, Crash.

From a Q & A at Brody's website:

How did you get the idea for The Fidelity Files?

The concept for this book came to me when I was attending a happy hour at a bar in Los Angeles. I was there with a friend and a bunch of her colleagues, some of which were married. I found myself curiously observing the interactions between the single and non-single co-workers as their behaviors gradually declined from professional to something else entirely. Something hardly capable of being described as “appropriate.”

Some of the disturbing things that I witnessed as I watched alcohol cloud people’s judgment and the bar environment offset any trained workplace behavior upset me on a profound level. I secretly wished that someone would tell the “conveniently” absent significant others about what their husbands/wives/boyfriends/girlfriends/fiancés really did while attending these “obligatory” and supposedly “uneventful” work-related functions. But I certainly wasn’t going to be the one to do it. I was brave enough to think it…but not exactly brave enough to go knocking on people’s doors with bad news. You know what people tend to do to “the messenger.”

So instead I created a character whose job and purpose in life was to do just that. To reveal the truth to anyone who wanted to know. To knock on all the doors that I never had the courage to knock on. An invincible superhero-esque woman whose quest is to fight against the evils of infidelity. But of course, she soon finds out…she’s not as invincible as she once thought.

In a sense, the “Ashlyn” character of the book is the mask that I always wanted to wear. A façade behind which I could hide as I watched my fantasies of exposing the truth come to life on the page. I believe we are all afraid of feeling vulnerable on some level. We all fear the painful emotions that come with betrayal. My greater purpose in writing The Fidelity Files was to explore these fears so that I could offer a message of faith and hope despite them. Because if someone who makes their living as a fidelity inspector can believe in love despite everything she’s seen, it shouldn’t be...[read on]
Watch Brody's award-winning book trailers and visit her online at

Writers Read: Jessica Brody.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Elizabeth Zelvin

Elizabeth Zelvin is the author of Death Will Get You Sober and Death Will Help You Leave Him.

From her Q & A at Lost in Books:

Q. First, thanks for agreeing to answer my questions. I want to start off with the protagonist, Bruce Kohler, who narrates the books. Many mystery writers have protagonists who struggle with alcoholism, but you have one who is a recovering alcoholic. Why did you approach the character from this point?

A. Apart from being a writer for my whole life and loving mysteries, my primary reason for writing these books was and is that I have something to say about recovery, which is a remarkable process of transformation that takes great courage and honesty on the part of those who recover. The first book, Death Will Get You Sober, is dedicated to them.

Q. You are a psychotherapist in addition to being a writer. How much do you draw upon your experiences for the books while still maintaining client confidences?

A. Besides being a psychotherapist, I spent fifteen years working in and then directing alcoholism treatment programs. My private practice, both in a conventional therapy office (more than fifteen years) and now as an online therapist (almost ten years), has included many clients who have been affected by addictions, codependency, and compulsive behaviors such as eating disorders and compulsive spending, either in themselves or people they love, as well as adult children of alcoholics, sexual abuse survivors, and survivors of other kinds of family dysfunction. My characters are fictional. I would never write about a real particular client. But a lot of recovering people have written to say how much they appreciate my getting it right. Recovery is my briar patch—if you remember Brer Rabbit, that’s...[read on]
The Page 99 Test: Death Will Get You Sober.

The Page 69 Test: Death Will Help You Leave Him.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, October 26, 2009

Lisa Patton

Lisa Patton is a Memphis, Tennessee native who spent four years as a Vermont innkeeper--until three sub-zero winters forced her back to the South. Her new novel is Whistlin' Dixie in a Nor'easter.

From a Q & A at her website:

What was the inspiration for Whistlin’ Dixie in a Nor’Easter?

I really was an innkeeper in Vermont. Even better, a Southern innkeeper in Vermont! After surviving three sub-zero winters and discovering Vermonters don’t bury their dead in the winter, suffering from vampire bugs bites on the back of my neck, and enjoying a four-week summer where I still had to wear a coat at night, I knew I had a story to write.

How has your personal life experience influenced this book? What similarities do you have with Leelee Satterfield?

The first thing that comes to my mind is the way southern girls are brought up, at least in my era. We were taught to be agreeable and polite. I’ve heard people criticize southern women for not saying what’s on their mind. That’s because we are taught from a young age to be great hostesses and make everyone feel comfortable. It might not be the best way, but it’s what we’ve learned. Sure, there’s a bit of me in Leelee. I get caught up in the same trap of sacrificing my needs for everyone else’s and wanting people to like me. Like Leelee, I’m a work in progress. Then again, so are most of my closest friends.

The best thing about Leelee is her fun side. Leelee gets herself into all kinds of messes – largely because of the choices she makes. She’s Lucy Ricardoish. I’m the same way and while that sometimes makes for a crazy personal life, it sure produces some...[read on]
The Page 69 Test: Whistlin' Dixie in a Nor'easter by Lisa Patton.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Dean Koontz

From a Q & A with Dean Koontz at his publisher's website:

Your books are full of details about how things work in the real world—like life in a monastery in Brother Odd, the management of a great Bel Air estate and the intricacies of police work in The Face. Your Heart Belongs to Me is rich with details about medical conditions and heart transplants. Since you don't specialize in one kind of novel, how do you learn about all these different things? Do you engage in a lot of Internet research?

I never go on-line. My writing schedule and other obligations keep me busy 18/7. The other six hours, I sleep. I know that I am a potentially obsessive personality and that it's easy to become obsessed with one aspect or another of the Internet, until hours a day are consumed by it. Therefore, I stay away. I do most of my research from books and publications, and by conducting interviews with specialists in whatever fields my story will touch upon. One of my assistants is on-line, and in a pinch, if I can't turn up a fact I need, she can get it for me. As a high-school and college student, I hated research and libraries. I always shamelessly made up the facts in reports that I wrote, and cited nonexistent books by nonexistent writers in my footnotes. And I always got away with it! But as a novelist, I've been surprised to find that I greatly enjoy doing research. I think the difference is--in school, they told me what I had to learn, and I bristled at authority; when I chose the subject, I proved to be an industrious autodidact.
Read the complete Q & A.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Kate Mosse

Kate Mosse’s first novel, Eskimo Kissing, was published to great acclaim in 1996, followed in 1998 by the bio-tech time-travel thriller, Crucifix Lane. Her short stories and articles have appeared in a range of print media including France magazine. Her Labyrinth was a New York Times bestselling novel and a popular and critical success on an international scale. It won the Best Read category at the British Book Awards 2006, was #1 in UK paperback for six months — selling nearly two million copies — and was the biggest selling title of 2006. Sepulchre, the second in Mosse's Languedoc Trilogy, followed in Labyrinth’s footsteps and was an international bestseller, hitting the #1 spot in the UK and bestseller charts in several countries.

From "One Minute With: Kate Mosse" in the Independent:

Choose a favourite author, and say why you like her/him
Agatha Christie for stamina, professionalism, puzzles, characterisation and sense of place. T S Eliot for his lyricism, his mysticism, the beauty of his language and his enduring ability to capture a moment with the bare minimum of literary fuss.

* * *
Which fictional character most resembles you?

I'd like to say Nancy Drew for her energy or Edith Wharton's Antonia for her courage and steadfast nature or Sarah Waters' Sue Trinder or Scherazade. But in truth, I'm more the bookish librarian or quiet Mum rather than a leading literary lady.
Read the complete Q & A.

The Page 69 Test: Sepulchre.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, October 23, 2009

Lee Horsley

At The Rap Sheet, novelist Megan Abbott interviewed Lee Horsley, Senior Lecturer in English at the Lancaster University. Her publications include the newly released The Noir Thriller, Political Fiction and the Historical Imagination (1990), and Fictions of Power in English Literature 1900-1950 (1995) as well as recent articles on crime fiction published in Clues and Modern Fiction Studies. Part of the interview:

MA: You point out that in the 1930s novels, noir characters’ fates are consistently dictated by economic hardship, while in the post-World War II period, fate is determined by difference--characters feeling out of place or alienated. In contrast, you write, in 1980s and ’90s noir, rather than being lured into an enticing underbelly, protagonists are seduced by the promise of a commodity-rich lifestyle (e.g., Bret Easton Ellis, Elmore Leonard, Charles Willeford’s Hoke Mosley novels). What is the role of economics in more recent noir? Has there has been another shift?

LH: Again, you’re effectively prompting me to think through my arguments. In my reading of 21st-century noir, I was most struck by a pervasive preoccupation with the performance of gender roles. But if I revisit the texts I chose to discuss there, I can also, of course, see prominent economic themes running through all of them. In Charlie Huston’s Caught Stealing, Hank [Thompson]’s ordeal is set in motion by money--a quest for a “fabulous object” modeled on The Maltese Falcon--and Huston ultimately allows money to transform things for his long-suffering protagonist. In your own Queenpin, the spectacular female performances are part of a power struggle, but the novel is also a potent tale of the protagonist’s desperation to escape impoverished origins.

So--yes, the role of economics is still strongly apparent, as it has been (in one way or another) through the whole of literary and cinematic noir. But the emphasis does shift, and I think that probably, in the new millennium, crime writers have to some extent become less preoccupied with the Thatcher-Reagan era and its impact on the economic life of both Britain and America. In talking to one of my postgraduates about his dissertation this summer, I thought he’d come up with an interesting observation about some of the political novels of the ’90s, in which he argued that there was a Gothic sense of entrapment by the economic crimes of the ’80s. Novels like [Iain Banks’] Complicity and [Ellis’] American Psycho are particularly striking in this respect, with violence spiraling out of an economic context that is also harshly satirized.

It is this satire of economic perfidy, I think, that is largely absent from the 21st-century noir I have read. Greed and savage competition are taken for granted as part of the circumstances governing life, but our attention isn’t focused on the metaphoric significance of the various forms of consumption, acquisitiveness, and materialism represented. At its most extreme, satire of this kind can be seen, for example, in the Swiftian tactics of Ellis’ novel, profoundly disturbing in its accumulation of commodities and consumers, anti-aging eye balm and honey almond body scrub, Soprani jackets, Ralph Lauren shirts and “a tie from Agnes B. still covered with flecks of someone’s blood.” However ... given that I’ve just come across a Neutrogena/Nivea advertising feature on Amazon called “So you’d like to ... have the American Psycho facial treatment,” one has to wonder yet again about...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Anne Rice

Anne Rice's new novel is Angel Time: The Songs of the Seraphim. From a Q & A at her publisher's website:

Q: You've written about many kinds of immortal or supernatural beings. What inspired you to turn to angels in this new book?

A: I have always been fascinated by the idea of angels—these perfect beings who are God's messengers, sinless, bold, and unfathomable to the human mind. I was deliciously challenged to be biblically correct about them, and theologically correct: to present Malchiah as truly perfect, yet sent to interact with my hero Toby, and commissioned therefore to take a human body and reflect human emotions and respond to Toby's human emotions.

Q: How did imagining a character like Malchiah the angel differ from creating one like the vampire Lestat?

A: Well, again, Malchiah is perfect and sinless. And to make such a character appealing is a challenge; he has to reflect God's love for human beings, God's compassion. He's not sent to judge Toby; he's sent to guide him to salvation, and to enlist Toby in working for the angels on earth. He must feel things; he must have a personality, but with marvelous theological constraints. Doing Lestat was entirely different: Lestat is sinful and ferociously human, a rebel who wants to be good at being bad; a rebel who is seeking redemption but turning away from it all the time. There is a certain joy in writing about Malchiah because he is sent from God. There was never a perfect joy in writing about Lestat: Lestat...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Laura Lippman

Victor Gischler interviewed Laura Lippman in November 2004. Part of their dialogue:

Victor Gischler : Sometimes I think of titles of short stories but then don’t write the stories. Like “In the Hell of Bad Candy.” I like that one. Can you share some of your discarded titles? Tell us about the “thinking of a title” process.

Laura Lippman: I’m not sure I can say it’s discarded, but I’ve long insisted that my memoir will be called “Shaved Meats, Piled High.” I saw it on the menu of a lunch place near the morgue.

I suck at titles. And when I was in the newspaper game, I sucked at so-called “art heds,” which were the equivalent of titles. A few titles have been obvious (”In a Strange City” for a book about Poe’s Baltimore legacy), but most have been hard-fought. I always feel it’s cheating, to title the book after it’s finished. It seems to me that real writers know the title going in. But I almost never do and it’s getting worse.

That said, I can do short story titles. I’m going to write one called “Hindsight” for Dublin Noir and “A Case of Montrachet” for Baltimore Noir.

If you could have a super power what would it be and why?

Empathy Girl, capable of knowing what other people are feeling. Actually–I may really have this. I’m not kidding. Every now and then, when conditions are right–on very bright, clear days–I experience the illusion that I am inside the heads of people I see on the street. And it’s really painful because it turns out that a lot of people are very sad and lonely.

As fast as you can, name five “warm” things…GO!

Hot Pockets. Cashmere. My...[read on]
Laura Lippman's new novel is Is Big Trouble.

Victor Gischler's latest novel is Vampire a Go-Go.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Amanda Little

Amanda Little's new book is Power Trip: From Oil Wells to Solar Cells--Our Ride to the Renewable Future.

From her Q & A with Laura Fitzpatrick at Time magazine:

You point out that despite increasing awareness of our dependence on oil, energy still feels like a distant, impersonal issue to a lot of us. Why do you think that is?

The media measures America's energy crisis in terms of megawatts and barrels of oil and pounds of carbon dioxide. This cold, abstract, technical problem is so emotionally immediate in our lives, and we don't tend to recognize that — it's almost too obvious. I spent 10 years or so reporting on energy and the environment: criticizing, analyzing, examining our failure to act on a federal level. And then I began to realize that on a personal level, I was implicated in these problems far more than I ever realized. I took this tour around my office to look at how many fossil-fuel by-products were cluttering my life. It was pretty much everything: what I was wearing, my desk, my keyboard, my cell phone, my corn muffin, my veggie burger, my magazines. Everything in my midst was oil-derived.

That's a pretty overwhelming list. If it's so hard to make a dent in your carbon footprint, is there a risk that people will just throw up their hands?

I was worried that the results of my adventure into the heart of the energy crisis would be despair and defeat. In fact, I ended up feeling overwhelmingly optimistic. We figured...[read on]
Visit Amanda Little's website and blog.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, October 19, 2009

Rick Mofina

Rick Mofina is a former crime reporter and the award-winning author of several acclaimed thrillers. He's interviewed murderers face-to-face on death row and patrolled with the LAPD and the RCMP. His true-crime articles have appeared in the New York Times, Marie Claire, Reader's Digest and Penthouse. He's reported from the U.S., Canada, the Caribbean, Africa, Qatar and Kuwait's border with Iraq.

Two exchanges from Mofina's interview with Jon Jordan:

JON: What’s the strangest experience you’ve had as a reporter?

RICK: There’ve been many. One quiet night I was working alone in the newsroom on the cop beat when a call came in for me. It was a convicted murdered who was calling from prison. From the psych ward. I didn’t know him, but I had written about him. That night he confessed to me how he tricked his way to get access to a telephone because he needed to talk to somebody outside of the institution. So, I said, talk. He then went into to every detail, every vile, disgusting detail, of how he abducted two young women then held them hostage in a suburban home. Then he told me exactly how he murdered one but decided to let the other live. He was not remorseful, or even emotional. He just wanted me to have a clear accounting. Then he hung up. My spine rattled for hours after. I had trouble sleeping that night. That’s only one strange experience from the beat.

* * *
JON: What is the biggest difference in writing techniques between the novels and your reporting, aside from the obvious fact and fiction aspects?

RICK: Novels allow you to drill deeper. To probe a person’s thoughts. Journalistic objectivity, in that sense, goes out the window. Journalism still allows you to convey many things against impossible deadlines. Still, some of the best writers, and copyeditors who help them, are found in newspapers. But crime fiction allows you to go deeper into characters, themes, the actual soul of a story. And maybe on that level you do get closer to some universal truths. For example, a news story in good hands can convey quite powerfully how sickened a homicide detective is, say, over a child murder. But the novelist can take you further. The novelist can take you into the detective’s heart, make you feel what he or she feels witnessing an autopsy, or informing an inconsolable parent, or questioning a lying suspect, or grappling with their own anguish at night when their head touches the pillow and sleep is a fugitive.
Read the complete interview.

Visit Rick Mofina's website. His books include Every Fear, A Perfect Grave, Six Seconds, and Vengeance Road.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Jonathan Lethem

At the Wall Street Journal, Alexandra Alter interviewed Jonathan Lethem about his new novel, Chronic City. Part of their dialogue:

Most of your books are set in Brooklyn. "Chronic City" is set in the Upper East Side. How did you get to familiar with this particular neighborhood?

I took a semester off [of college] and came back to the city. I was around here a lot then. I think of that period because I formed this very important friendship, that informs the book very strongly, with this kind of legendary semi-reclusive rock critic named Paul Nelson… I was working at Brazen Head books on 84th Street, a little tiny book store. All of the used bookstores I ever worked at eventually became laundry mats. I know of at least three where that's true.

You have described "Chronic City" as your most unprecedented work. What do you mean by that?

I guess it sounds exactly like the kind of word that you should let other people apply to your work and not offer up yourself. But I meant it in regards to how I've come to think about what my job is… After "Motherless Brooklyn," I had the opportunity to write all kinds of things. And some of them were irresistible…. When I stopped being flattered and intrigued, I had to figure out, ok what should I be writing? I thought, the answer is always, I should write the thing that if I don't write it, it wouldn't exist… Maybe I could write a realistic social epic of the Upper East Side; it's possible that I could do that. I feel that I've acquired a lot of those tools and inclinations, but to merge it with the dream-life material, I feel that's my...[read on]
Visit Jonathan Lethem's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Rachel Cusk

Rachel Cusk was born in 1967. She is the author of the memoirs The Last Supper and A Life’s Work: On Becoming a Mother, and of seven novels: Saving Agnes, which won the Whitbread First Novel Award; The Temporary; The Country Life, which won a Somerset Maugham Award; The Lucky Ones, which was shortlisted for the Whitbread Novel Award; In the Fold; Arlington Park, which was shortlisted for the Orange Broadband Prize for Fiction; and The Bradshaw Variations. In 2003, Cusk was chosen as one of Granta’s Best of Young British Novelists.

From her Q & A with Anna Metcalfe for the Financial Times:

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

Gogol’s Dead Souls and Wells Tower’s Everything Ravaged, Everything Burned, although they were different kinds of laughter.

* * *
Who are your literary influences?
DH Lawrence, Thomas Mann, Anton Chekhov, Virginia Woolf.

* * *
What book do you most wish you’d written?

Jane Smiley’s The Age of Grief. You can only wish you’d written a book it would have been possible for you to write.
Read the complete Q & A.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, October 16, 2009

Richard Dawkins

The British scientist, atheist and controversial author of The God Delusion Richard Dawkins' new book is The Greatest Show on Earth: The Evidence for Evolution. From his Q & A with Thomas Rogers at Salon:

You say in the beginning of the book that you would like to convince people that creationism is not a feasible or a viable belief system, but you also make it clear that you're not a big fan of creationists.

That's putting it mildly, yes.

Doesn't that make it difficult for a creationist to read this book without feeling insulted? Won't that hurt your goal?

No, I'm not really aiming it at creationists. I don't think they read books anyway, except for one book. It's aimed at the intelligent layperson who does read books and who vaguely knows a little bit about evolution and who vaguely knows that there are creationists and maybe even vaguely thinks that he's a creationist himself, but who is curious and wants to know the evidence.

It's just that the evidence is so enthralling, it's so exciting. It is so wonderful that here we are on this planet and we understand why we're here. And it's just a sort of ecstatic feeling to understand why you exist, and I want to share that feeling with....[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Bernhard Schlink

Bernhard Schlink was born in Germany. He is the author of the internationally best-selling novel The Reader, which was an Oprah's Book Club selection.

From his Q & A with Anna Metcalfe at the Financial Times:

What book changed your life?
The first of several books that changed my life was Stendhal’s The Red and the Black.

* * *
Who are your literary influences?

I particularly like Gottfried Keller, Theodor Fontane, Raymond Chandler and James M Cain.

* * *
What book do you wish you’d written?

Raymond Chandler’s The Long Goodbye.
Read the complete Q & A.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Therese Walsh

Therese Walsh is the author of the newly released debut novel, The Last Will of Moira Leahy. From a Q & A at her website:

Q: Many families encounter guilt, deception, and loss. Were you interested in these themes before you began working on the book? What interested you in them? (Irene McGarrity)

TW: When I first sat down to write this story in 2002, I didn’t have a single thing planned regarding theme, but by the time I started the big rewrite in 2005, I understood that this book was about acceptance. To fully explore acceptance, I had to explore its opposite; denial can and does lead to things like deception, loss, guilt and more.

I don’t know why acceptance became the main theme. Maybe because I’m an introvert and somewhat of a social nerd. Or maybe it’s just what the book needed.

Q: The Last Will of Moira Leahy is the tale of a woman's journey, both physical and emotional. As Maeve explores Rome, she also explores her relationships with others and her understanding of herself. Did you envision both of these journeys from the beginning, or did one grow out of the other as the story developed? (Amy Atwell)

TW: Both, actually. When I began writing this story in 2002, I was a total “pantser,” meaning I let the plot unfold however the muse thought it should. It was partly because of this, and because this was my first attempt at writing long fiction, that the story turned into a bit of a mess. When I decided, in 2005, to completely rework the story, I knew that the physical and emotional journeys fit together; that much had emerged in the first version. I planned things more purposefully the second time around, though, and used an outline.
Read more of the Q & A.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Christina Baker Kline

From a Q & A with Christina Baker Kline about her novel, Bird in Hand:

Interviewer: Bird in Hand is about “Four people, two marriages, one lifelong friendship. Everything is about to change.” Where did you get the idea to explore these themes in your latest novel?

Christina: Bird in Hand opens with a car accident that sets in motion a series of events that changes the (interconnected) lives of four people. It moves forward in the present day through the alternating perspectives of these four characters, and it also moves back in time through their perspectives to a specific moment in the past.

The story of Bird in Hand emerged slowly, from a number of sources, but it first began as a “What if?” question.

Just over ten years ago I moved from New York City to Montclair, New Jersey with my husband and two young boys. After many years of relying on subway trains and taxis, suddenly I was driving on unfamiliar (and confusing) highways, with not only my own precious human cargo in the backseat but other mothers’ as well. Late at night, I’d terrify myself with “What If” questions, such as: what if something happens to one of these children, my own or someone else’s? What if somehow I’m responsible? As I turned these kinds of questions over in my mind, I realized – with the writer part of my brain – that it would be a lot more useful and less neurotic to use them as material than to keep pointlessly obsessing.

At the same time, my husband, David, and I were, like many of our friends, adjusting to many life changes: a new house, a new lifestyle, two small children, loss of autonomy for both of us, some loss of identity for me, a stressful job for him, a commute into the city. We weathered these storms, but I wanted to write about the complexities many couples deal with at this stage of their lives, whether or not they come through intact.

In the novel, you have four characters, whose lives are intertwined. Alison and Claire, who are best friends even though Claire is having an affair with Alison’s husband, Charlie. You also write about Ben, Claire’s husband, who desires children and admires Charlie and Alison’s marriage. Was it difficult to write about four characters and keep them all straight? Do you favor any characters over the others?

It was actually exhilarating to move from one character to another in this novel. I loved all of them equally. Flaubert famously said, of the vain, shallow, adulterous heroine of his most famous novel, “Madame Bovary, c’est moi” – and that’s exactly how I felt with these characters. I found that I sided with...[read on]
The Page 69 Test: Bird in Hand.

Learn more about Christina Baker Kline's work at her website and her blog, A Writing Life: Conversations about the Creative Process.

Read--Coffee with a Canine: Christina Baker Kline & Lucy.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, October 12, 2009

Stella Rimington

From "One Minute With: Stella Rimington," an interview by Arifa Akbar in the Independent:

Choose a favourite author and say why you like her/him

One of them is Dorothy L. Sayers and the Lord Peter Wimsey books. I admire her ability to create mystery plots. I really enjoy the character of Lord Peter Wimsey who she writes slighly tongue-in-cheek.

* * *
Which fictional character most resembles you?

My own creation of Liz Carlyle. I subconsciously created a character who resembled me. She's a female MI5 officer in her thirties, as I used to be.
Read the complete Q & A.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Stuart M. Kaminsky

Crime novelist Stuart M. Kaminsky died October 9, 2009. J. Kingston Pierce posted an appreciation of Kaminsky's work at The Rap Sheet.

From Pierce's 2002 interview with Kaminsky in January Magazine:

I read somewhere that you hadn't planned to write Bullet for a Star. Rather, you wrote it out of frustration after an official biography of Charlton Heston, on which you'd been working, was cancelled. Tell me more about the circumstances there.

I had proposed a biography of Heston to Henry Regnery, in Chicago. The editor at Regnery said he wasn't interested in an unofficial biography, but that he was quitting Regnery to become an agent. He wanted to know if I wanted to be his client. He became my agent and remained so for 25 years. In any case, he suggested I get in touch with Heston. I did so through his sister, who worked with me at Northwestern University, which Charlton Heston had attended. Heston agreed. My agent got a contract. I worked on the project with Heston for about a year. It was great. Then Heston informed me that he had decided to publish his journals in addition to the book he and I were working on. My agent and publisher said this violated our contract. I said it was Heston's life, that he was an honorable man, and if he wanted to publish his journals instead of the bio, it was all right with me. Heston graciously paid me for my time and effort, and I signed an agreement that I would never release any of the more than 100 hours of taped interviews I had done with him and others.

All of this brings me to the summer I expected to be working on the Heston book and found myself with nothing to do. My agent had told me to forget about fiction, but I wrote Bullet for a Star in two weeks and sent it to him. By the way, my original title for the book was Murder in Black and White. St. Martin's liked the book, asked me to make it longer, which I did, and they published it.
Read the complete interview.

See "First Thoughts on Kaminsky’s Last Day," by J. Kingston Pierce.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Amy Reed

Courtney Summers interviewed Amy Reed about her debut YA novel, Beautiful.

The novel is, Summers writes, "an incredibly intense story about a thirteen-year-old girl named Cassie, who makes the decision to sit with wild and troubled outsider Alex, at lunch. From that moment on, the life Cassie had slowly unravels and twists and turns into something much darker, something much less certain from there." From the Q & A:

What made you decide to write Beautiful?

I think I had wanted to write a story like Beautiful since I was young. In a lot of ways, it is my story. Much of it is based on my own life. I think if you did a survey of first novels, you’d find that a huge percentage of them are highly autobiographical. As a writing student, I was told to write what I know. The period of my life that Beautiful portrays was undoubtedly one of the most formative in my life, and I guess I was ready to dive into it, to let it out.

Beautiful is a jarring, raw and devastating portrayal of a thirteen-year-old girl who falls down the rabbit hole, no holds barred. Did you find it an emotionally draining book to write? If so, how did you see the book through to its last page and when you were finished, did you need to regroup?

My experience writing Beautiful was actually kind of the opposite of what you’re describing. While it was a very emotional process and I cried often while writing certain scenes, it felt more empowering than draining, like an emotional release, a liberation. Writing the last chapter was probably the most profound experience I had during the process. By giving Cassie a little hope, a little spark of redemption, I felt somehow healed myself.

That’s fantastic; that it was so empowering for you. One thing I most enjoyed about Beautiful was that you didn’t villanize Alex, who is really the catalyst for the self-destructive path Cassie takes. She seems just as lost and confused in her own way. Was it important to you as you wrote?

Absolutely. I don’t believe in...[read on]
Visit Amy Reed's website and blog.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, October 9, 2009

Michael Chabon

From Barnes & Noble Review contributor Cameron Martin's email interview with Michael Chabon, about his newest book, Manhood for Amateurs: The Pleasures and Regrets of a Husband, Father, and Sons:

Barnes & Noble Review: The majority of the essays in this collection first appeared in Details magazine. How did that column originate? Did you and the editors hash out a template for the type of material you'd regularly address or were you given carte blanche?

Michael Chabon: I was first approached by the magazine's editor in chief, Dan Peres, back in early 2001. At the time I didn't feel that a monthly column was a burden I wanted to assume. When Dan came back to me four years later with the same proposition, I eagerly accepted. Evidently something had changed during the interval. The births of two more Chabon children, with their associated expenses, may have had played a certain part.

From the beginning there was no set subject or theme. Peres and Details were incredibly generous and tolerant and supportive, and I never got any kind of directive or guidance to try to tailor my pieces to please a particular readership, or anything like that.

BNR: In "The Story of Our Story," you said the birth of your brother, when you were five, signaled the beginning of your storytelling career. "I had learned to work a record player, tell lies, read the funny pages, and feel awkward at parties. But it was not until that morning, in early September 1968, that my story truly began. Until my brother was born, I had no one to tell it to." If you'd been an only child, how do you think your interest and confidence in storytelling would have evolved? Would it have developed later, as you made school friends? Were other influences -- your parents, other relatives -- in line to foster this interest, or do you think it would have been nipped in the bud without the presence of a younger sibling who saw you in a "heroic light"?

MC: This is one counterfactual that is really difficult to imagine. Certainly many of our best storytellers have been only children, so it's not like it's a sine qua non. And...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Jake Adelstein

From a Q & A with Jake Adelstein, author of Tokyo Vice: An American Reporter on the Police Beat in Japan:

Has anything changed with regard to sex trafficking in Japan in the recent past?

Japan should be given credit for really cracking down on the sexual trafficking and exploitation of foreign women. Unfortunately, this has prompted the scumbags who rule the human-trafficking world to set their sights on domestic victims, usually runaway teenage girls.

I'm on the Board of Directors of Polaris Project Japan, a nonprofit organization that set up hotlines several years ago for foreign human-trafficking victims. We are now receiving many calls from teenage girls who are being blackmailed or coerced into prostitution. Of course, these girls also provide fodder for child pornography and neo-child pornography, which Japan still produces in great amounts.

It would be nice to see Japan create some real shelters for teenage runaways rather than just driving them into the arms of the bad guys.

In Tokyo Vice, there is a price placed on your head by a certain yakuza faction. Can you travel freely in Japan today?

I wish I knew the answer to this one. I'm still nominally under the protection of the Tokyo Metropolitan Police Department. The faction I pissed off, the Goto-gumi, has been split into two groups. Goto Tadamasa, their leader, is now allegedly retired and a Buddhist priest. He was a notorious yakuza gang boss, very wealthy, and known to decimate his enemies—even public figures. He may be officially retired, but cars belonging to the Goto-gumi have been showing up parked around my neighborhood. You can recognize them by their...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Mary Jane Clark

From a Q & A with Mary Jane Clark, bestselling author of Dying for Mercy and other media thrillers:

Q: What inspired you to begin writing?

A: I had written non-fiction for years in the form of news stories for television broadcast. It was only after I became a single mother that I decided to try my hand at fiction. The kids were really little at the time and I'd write early in the morning before they got up, after they went to bed at night and whenever they weren't with me. It took me two years to write the first book, two years to re-write it and then the manuscript sat on a shelf in my closet for another two years before it finally sold.

Q: You work for CBS News; do you draw a lot of inspiration from your work there? What is one of the most exciting stories you worked on? Is fact truly stranger than fiction?

A: Having worked at CBS News for almost three decades, of course, I am influenced by my experience there. It is an exciting world, full of the unexpected. Over the years, I've had the privilege of working on so many things: presidential conventions, papal visits, royal weddings, celebrity funerals, terrorism attacks, executions, fires, floods, hurricanes and tornadoes. The news world never gets boring. Every day brings fresh developments, a different set of unexpected, almost unbelievable circumstances. So many times, a...[read on].
Learn more about the book and author at Mary Jane Clark's website.

The Page 69 Test: Dying for Mercy.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Glen David Gold

Glen David Gold’s 2001 debut, a fictional biography of American illusionist Charles Joseph Carter, Carter Beats the Devil, became a bestseller. His latest work, Sunnyside, also combines fact and fiction and opens with the drowning of Charlie Chaplin.

From his Q & A with Anna Metcalfe at the Financial Times:

What book changed your life?

Robertson Davies’ Fifth Business. He merges fiction with history so his work makes you feel educated.

* * *
Who are your literary influences?

Henry James, Paul and Jane Bowles, Jack Kirby, Billy Wilder, Charles Portis, Buster Keaton, [John] Dos Passos and just a tiny bit of Mark Twain.
Read the complete interview.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, October 5, 2009

Nancy Mauro

Nancy Mauro is the author of New World Monkeys. From her interview with Sarah Seltzer for Publishers Weekly:

You worked in advertising for a while. Were you always interested in writing fiction?

I've worked in advertising for over a decade, but I was always writing. The pleasure of the weekend was a short story. I eventually decided to leave the industry, return to grad school and try creative writing full time. The program I did was a three-year hiatus and a safe place to really kind of sit and write and focus. It was the space I needed to try a longer-format piece.

How did you come up with some of the more out-there ideas—the boar named “Sovereign of the Deep Wood” and Lloyd the town pervert?

I haven't had the experience of befriending a peeping Tom, but...[read on]
Visit Nancy Mauro's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Lise Eliot

Two exchanges from Lise Eliot's interview with Salon's Tracy Clark-Flory about Eliot's new book, Pink Brain, Blue Brain: How Small Differences Grow Into Troublesome Gaps -- and What We Can Do About It:

After starting school, girls quickly surpass boys when it comes to reading and writing skills. Why do these academic differences so quickly reveal themselves?

Girls, there's no question, talk more to each other even in preschool and toddler years. There are more words exchanged than between two boys. Magnify that over a couple years and you have more girls going to school with more verbal skills. With boys, you see the same thing with spatial skills, throwing things, building things and playing video games. Being aware of these different cognitive domains can help us as parents and teachers provide each child with more of a rounded experience early in life. It's important to not give preschool children too much choice about what activity they do, because then you have kids separating by gender and only reinforcing their strengths.

* * *
Should parents encourage boys to play with dolls?

Learning to be nurturing is important for everybody. Most people are going to grow up to be parents, whether they're boys or girls, so it's certainly something worth learning. Across cultures, children show a natural tenderness toward infants. It's stronger in girls than boys, but it...[read on]
Visit Lise Eliot's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Richard Powers

In 2008, the novelist Richard Powers "became one of the first nine people in the world to have his entire genome sequenced —a process that involves mapping out and analyzing some six billion DNA nucleotides," Alexandra Alter writes in the Wall Street Journal. "The experiment showed, among other things, that Mr. Powers, 52 years old, shares genetic traits with the Yoruba population of Ibadan, Nigeria, and that his 11th chromosome carries a longer version of the DRD4 gene, which predisposes him to seeking out new experiences.

"The revelations helped shape Mr. Power's latest high concept novel, "Generosity." The book centers on a Chicago writing professor who discovers that his student, an Algerian refugee, may have a genetic condition that makes her abnormally happy."

From Alter's Q & A with Powers:

The Wall Street Journal: Why did you write another novel about genetics, a subject you wrote about 18 years ago?

Mr. Powers: Everything has changed since that book. We now have a complete map of the human genome. We are doing therapies and interventions that you could not have imagined back then. The field itself has changed from one that did primary research to one that is delivering products… My book is interested in looking at the next step—the slippery slope between medical treatment and medical enhancement.

You had your own genome sequenced two years ago as part of an assignment for GQ magazine. What was the most surprising thing you learned?

I learned that I had 26 genetic variants that greatly increased my risk for cardiovascular problems. I kind of knew that, because all the males in my family die of heart disease before the age of 50. On the other hand, I have 11 variants that increased the risk of Alzheimer's; I didn't know that before. The flip side is, I also possess 18 of 24 known possible risks for obesity, and my body mass index is borderline starvation. My sister's nickname for me throughout life has been...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, October 2, 2009

Mark Arsenault

Mark Arsenault has been a reporter since 1989 and most recently covered state politics for The Providence Journal in Rhode Island. Gravewriter was his first thriller in the Billy Povich series; the sequel, Loot the Moon, releases this month.

From Arsenault's Q & A about Gravewriter with New Mystery Reader:

NMR: You're also a journalist, and it seems more than likely that you have seen more than your share of possible plots for a good novel. Why, instead of creating a macho kick butt character that travels the world and exposes conspiracies, did you choose to create one who has crashed and burned and now writes obits?

When the fiction world runs low of macho butt-kickers, I’ll pick up the slack.

In the meantime, I prefer Billy Povich, the Everyman action hero. He takes a punch better than he delivers one, and he’s taken a lot of them, but there’s a special kind of toughness in a person like that.

NMR: Billy's choice of self-destruction is gambling; why does he continue with it after all he's lost, besides the obvious reasons of addiction?

MA: I know a lot of addicts. They are ABOSOLUTELY POSITIVE they will win this one last wager.

NMR: It's refreshing that you chose to focus on Billy's relationships with his father and son, leaving out the romance factor. Was this a hard sell to your publisher?
MA:...[read on]
Visit Mark Arsenault's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Matthew Dicks

From a Q & A with Matthew Dicks, author of Something Missing:

You’ve been a Boy Scout, a pole-vaulter, a bassoonist, a teacher, a McDonald’s manager, a DJ, and a reporter. How did these roles prepare you for the role of novelist?

Some of these roles certainly helped me more than others, but most probably helped me to become a more persistent, creative person, two qualities that have served me well in my role as a novelist.

As a McDonald’s manager, I went to work from 4 AM until 2 PM five days a week, managing mostly non-English speaking employees, while also attending college full-time. Around this time, I also launched my DJ company, with no previous experience in the industry. Just a desire to hang out with my best friend and make some money. To combine the three endeavors effectively required a great deal of persistence and creativity.

As a teacher, I have learned that never giving up on a student and trying everything within my means to reach a kid, including some occasionally unorthodox methods, can often yield surprising results. Again, persistence and creativity can win the day.

I took up the bassoon in an attempt to flee the flute, the first instrument that I learned to play. Being the only male flutist in my school and still unaware of the benefits of hanging around large groups of female flutists, I jumped at the opportunity to learn to play the bassoon, but taking up an instrument so late in my schooling required quite a bit of persistence in order to play well.

As a Boy Scout, persistence and creativity are a must. My friends and I would literally walk into the woods with a sleeping bag, some food, an axe, and a ball of twine and spend days building and sleeping in shelters that rivaled some homes that I see today. When I became lost in the mountains of New Hampshire for two days as a teenager, I was more relaxed and at ease than when I was in algebra class, because I knew that persistence, knowledge and a little creativity would allow me to survive.

The pole vaulting, however, had perhaps the greatest impact on my role as a novelist. In choosing pole vaulting candidates, our track and field coach took all of his sprinters, myself included, and identified the two who were crazy enough to run as fast as we could with a fifteen foot fiberglass pole in our hands and then, without slowing, jam that pole into a metal box in the ground while simultaneously throwing our bodies into the air. This is how I have learned to approach my books. Dispensing with planning and outlining, armed with just the glimmer of a character or a plotline, I begin writing, pounding away at the keyboard with little concern for where I might be going or what might happen to my story. Reckless abandon...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue