Friday, April 30, 2010

Thomas Kaufman

Sandra Ruttan interviewed Thomas Kaufman about his new novel, Drink the Tea. Part of their dialogue:

Your debut novel, Drink the Tea, has a lot of layers to it. For you, what came first? Plot or character?

It starts with character. In the case of Drink the Tea, at first it was one of the antagonists that most interested me. Then Gidney’s character began to come through. I don’t use an outline, so understanding the characters is crucial. I find that writing successive drafts is like developing a print in a darkroom. You’re under a red light, looking a blank sheet of paper, there’s nothing there, then gradually an image comes to the foreground. Writing about Gidney and company was very much like that.

* * *
Without losing the plot, you manage to throw in some background on the problems with youth homes and even touch a little on the various types of behavior intervention plans used to deal with kids with behavior problems. Did you intend to make a commentary on the issues with youth homes and facilities, and the various philosophies that are tested out on young people? Where does your interest in the topic stem from?

Story comes first. I don’t editorialize. My background in documentary film keeps me from doing that. I present the details of Gidney’s childhood. The readers can draw their own conclusions. Having said that, I think people reading Drink the Tea may come to believe that the system in place is not doing nearly enough to provide protection to the children who most need it.

I grew interested in this subject from a good friend in the film business. She grew up without a father, and when her mother had a nervous breakdown and had to be hospitalized, there was no place for my friend to go but one of these kiddie jails I write about in Drink the Tea. She got tossed in with some hard-core delinquents, drug addicts, and mentally ill children. Her stories were terrifying, but...[read on]
View the trailer for Drink the Tea, and learn more about the book and author at Thomas Kaufman's website and blog.

The Page 69 Test: Drink the Tea.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Robert Whitaker

Robert Whitaker is the award-winning author of The Mapmaker’s Wife, Mad in America, On the Laps of Gods, and the newly released Anatomy of an Epidemic.

From his interview with Jed Lipinski at Salon:

Psychiatric drug use is a notoriously tough subject for writers, because of all the contradictory research. Why wade into it?

In 1998, I was writing a series for the Boston Globe on abuse of psychiatric patients in research settings. I came across the World Health Organization’s outcomes study for schizophrenia patients, and found that outcomes were better for poor countries of the world -- like India, Colombia, Nigeria -- than for the rich countries. And I was startled to find that only a small percentage of patients in those countries were medicated. I also discovered that the number of people on disability for mental illness in this country has tripled over the last 20 years.

If our psychiatric drugs are effective at preventing mental illness, I thought, why are we getting so many people unable to work? I felt we needed to look at long-term outcomes and ask: What does the evidence show? Are we improving long-term outcomes or not?

But you claim in the book that psychiatrists have long known that these drugs can cause harm.

In the late 1970s, Jonathan Cole -- the father of American psychopharmacology -- wrote a paper called "Is the Cure Worse Than the Disease?" that signaled that antipsychotics weren't the lifesaving drugs that people had hoped. In it, he reviewed all of the long-term harm the drugs could cause and observed that studies had shown that at least 50 percent of all schizophrenia patients could fare well without the drugs. He wrote, "Every schizophrenic outpatient maintained on antipsychotic medication should have the benefit of an adequate trial without drugs." This would...[read on]
Read an excerpt from Anatomy of an Epidemic, and learn more about the author and his work at Robert Whitaker's website.

The Page 99 Test: Anatomy of an Epidemic.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Molly Ringwald

Molly Ringwald lives and works in New York City and Los Angeles. Her new book is Getting the Pretty Back: Friendship, Family, and Finding the Perfect Lipstick.

From her Q & A with The Barnes & Noble Review:

The Barnes & Noble Review: What made you write this book, rather than, say, a straight-up memoir or some other sort of book?

Molly Ringwald: Well, I didn't really want to write a straight-up memoir because I don't feel like I'm ready. I feel like I'm at this halfway point in my life. If I wrote a straight-up memoir, I'd just have to go and write another one later. The book really came about because I was turning 40 and there was kind of this crazy oh my god, how is it possible that I'm turning 40? thing. And I realized there were no books like the one I wanted to read. Anytime that I've gone through anything in my life, I've always felt like I could turn to a book that offers guidance and solace, and I'm not even talking about self-help books necessarily. But there was nothing fun and stylish and inspirational about being a woman, rather than a girl. That's why I wanted to write this particular book -- and why it's in color and illustrated by Ruben [Toledo]. I wanted it to be a colorful, beautiful, fun, sexy little book.

BNR: What was the process of writing the book like? Did you work with anyone else on it?

MR: No. It's all me. It was daunting, to say the least. I've never written a book before. Everything I've ever written has been, you know, a 2,000-word limit. So it was challenging. My husband [Panio Gianopoulos] is a writer and an editor, so he was very helpful in keeping me on track. I had this 500-word-a-day target, or two hours, whichever came first. And as long as I could commit to that, usually once I got myself in the seat, I would usually write, like, 1,500 words or 2,000 words. They add up after a while, if you do it all the time.

BNR: It's just getting over the psychological hurdle.

MR: Yeah. It was just little by little, brick by brick. It took a little longer than I had anticipated because...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Ian Johnson

From a Q&A with Ian Johnson, author of A Mosque in Munich:

Q: We're inundated with books on Islam and Europe and so on. Why another?

A: Two reasons. The simplest is because this story is important and hasn't been told before. It starts in World War II with the Nazis deciding they could use Muslims to fight the Soviet Union. Then, after the war, the very same group of Muslims are recruited by the CIA to do the same thing--fight the Soviets by using Islam. This group is then taken over by the Muslim Brotherhood, which uses Munich as a beachhead to spread into the West. This is twenty years before Afghanistan and the muhajadeen; it's the prequel to a lot of what's gone on since. Plus this continues right up to the present. The Muslim Brotherhood still plays a key role in setting a radicalized agenda for Islam in Europe. It's no coincidence that the mosque in Munich is associated with many major terrorist attacks in the West, including the two attacks on the World Trade Center. As our governments try to figure out how to deal with Islam, we need to know our own history first.

Q: So it's important.

A: To be honest, my roots are in journalism and I like colorful stories. This is a really strange one with memorable characters. The people involved are so bizarre that they sound like the start of a joke: you have a brilliant Nazi linguist, a CIA man who's a nudist and a radical Muslim on the lam…

Q: I'm afraid to hear the punch line. You...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, April 26, 2010

Douglas Corleone

Douglas Corleone is the winner of the 2009 Minotaur Books/Mystery Writers of America First Crime Novel Award. A former New York City criminal defense attorney, he now lives in the Hawaiian Islands with his wife and son. His new novel is One Man's Paradise.

From Corleone's Q & A with Julia Bodeeb:

How Did You Get the Idea for the Novel?

The seeds for "One Man's Paradise" were planted with the Natalee Holloway story in Aruba, specifically with the sensational, around-the-clock national news coverage surrounding Natalee's disappearance. The modern media, and one cable commentator in particular, play a role as antagonists in "One Man's Paradise."

The media essentially chased Kevin Corvelli out of New York, and they continue to work against him once he arrives in Hawaii. Fortunately, the events that led to Kevin's move to Hawaii were nothing like the events that led to mine. Still, much of the plot is based on my own experiences as a criminal defense attorney in New York City, and as a newcomer to the Hawaiian Islands.

Is the Protagonist in "One Man's Paradise" like You at all? If So, How?

I'd like to say no, but people who know me would probably disagree. In many ways, Kevin Corvelli is an exaggeration of me. He's more neurotic, more impatient, and more impervious to threats. Like most protagonists, Kevin is larger than life. The thing is, he knows...[read on]
Visit Douglas Corleone's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Jehanne Dubrow

Jehanne Dubrow is the author of three poetry collections, most recently Stateside (Northwestern University Press 2010), which describes her experiences as a "milspouse." Her first book, The Hardship Post (2009), won the Three Candles Press Open Book Award, and her second collection From the Fever-World, won the Washington Writers' Publishing House Poetry Competition (2009). Finishing Line Press published her chapbook, The Promised Bride, in 2007.

From her Q & A with Serena Agusto-Cox:

1. How would you introduce yourself to a crowded room eager to hang on your every word? Are you just a poet, what else should people know about you?

I suppose one of the most interesting things about me is my nomadic childhood. I was born in a little town in Northern Italy and grew up in Yugoslavia, Zaire, Poland, Belgium, Austria, and the United States. Oh, and when I twenty years old, I played a gangrenous valley girl in the movie An American Werewolf in Paris (sadly, I ended up on the cutting room floor). I still remember my line: “Claude’s parties are wack!!!”

2. Do you see spoken word, performance, or written poetry as more powerful or powerful in different ways and why? Also, do you believe that writing can be an equalizer to help humanity become more tolerant or collaborative? Why or why not?

For me, written poetry has the emotional force expected of spoken word and performance poetry, while also having a life on the page. I haven’t seen evidence that writing makes us more tolerant or collaborative. Writers tend to be a critical bunch—our craft depends on having a sharp eye and a small sliver of ice in the heart.

3. Do you have any obsessions that you would like to share?

I have an odd mix of obsessions...[read on]
Read "Against War Movies" and sample other poems by Jehanne Dubrow, and visit her website and blog.

Writers Read: Jehanne Dubrow.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Stephanie Cowell

Stephanie Cowell is the author of a new novel, Claude & Camille.

From her Q & A at

What do you think made the public dislike Impressionist art so much at first?

The public was much more involved with art then in those days before radio or television. The old Academic School of Art they knew was like a photograph; every blade of grass was painted precisely and the pictures were often of kings, gods and religious scenes. Everything was very still; it did not move. And even though Monet's early works were hardly as loosely painted as his great water lily paintings, the public did not understand. They felt the paintings were unfinished; they weren't interested in quick brush strokes capturing light on everything. Then finally a few began to understand and buy but it took a long time.

Did Auguste Renoir and Claude Monet really take work painting murals on cafe walls?

Renoir...[read on]
Read an excerpt from Claude & Camille, and learn more about the book and author at Stephanie Cowell's website and blog.

The Page 69 Test: Claude & Camille.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, April 23, 2010

Mark Terry

Mark Terry is the author of three Derek Stillwater novels, The Devil's Pitchfork, The Serpent's Kiss, and The Fallen, as well as two standalone novels, Dirty Deeds and Dancing in the Dark.

From his Q & A with Julia Buckley:

Your new book, The Fallen, has received much praise, and the Lansing Journal suggests that you write “like Lee Child on steroids.” Is this true? Are your books about action first and foremost?

That was a particularly flattering comment from the Lansing State Journal. Well, “action first and foremost,” I’m not sure. But they are very action-oriented and I really have no problem calling Derek Stillwater, my main character, an action hero. I tend to describe them as action-adventure thrillers, although they’ve been called political thrillers and even espionage thrillers.

This book is your third Derek Stillwater novel. Tell us a bit about this character.

Derek Stillwater, PhD, is a troubleshooter for the Department of Homeland Security. His particular areas of expertise are chemical and biological terrorism. He is a former Special Forces expert in biological and chemical warfare. That’s his resume, but he’s a bit neurotic, something of a hypochondriac, has some superstitious tendencies (he believes in luck, both good and bad, wears ju-ju beads, a St. Sebastian’s medal (patron saint of plagues), and a four-leaf clover). He has panic attacks. His parents...[read on]
Read chapters 1-6 of The Fallen, and learn more about the book and author at Mark Terry's website and blog.

The Page 69 Test: The Fallen.

My Book, the Movie: The Fallen.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Aifric Campbell

Aifric Campbell is the author of The Semantics of Murder and The Loss Adjustor.

From her Q & A with Boyd Tonkin for the Independent:

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

John Updike, especially the Rabbit novels. It's his celebration of the everyday – the grace and humour with which he tells the story of an ordinary man.

* * *
Which fictional character most resembles you?

When I'm talking back at a TV programme, Ignatius Reilly in John Kennedy Toole's A Confederacy of Dunces, shouting "They should all be lashed!" Or else Richard Fords Frank Bascombe (from The Sportswriter), trying to figure out the world while walking the dog.

* * *
Who is your Hero or heroine from outside literature?

I've got a soft spot for Captain Scott [of the Antarctic]. Maybe it's an Irish thing – I've always been fascinated by heroic death.
Read the complete Q & A.

See Campbell's top ten list of favorite jobs in fiction.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Michael Harvey

Michael Harvey's new novel is The Third Rail.

From his Q & A with Julia Buckley:

Your narrator tells his story in first person, but we get a bad guy’s perspective in third person. Why did you choose a double point of view?

Good question. My first two books, The Chicago Way and The Fifth Floor, were both written in the first person, from Michael Kelly’s point of view. I enjoy writing in Kelly’s voice and wanted to keep him in the first person. My plot for The Third Rail, however, called for multiple crime scenes that unfold almost simultaneously across the city. In order to maintain and feed the dynamics of that story line, I felt it was critical to get into the killer’s head at certain points and allow him to drive the action forward. So I kept Kelly in the first person, and used the third person for my killer.

This decision is not without risk. But I figure nothing ventured, nothing gained. I will be interested in readers’ reaction to the switching. Did it bother them? Did they like it? Did they even notice? We’ll see.
Read the complete interview.

Visit Michael Harvey's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Heidi W. Durrow

Heidi W. Durrow has won the Lorian Hemingway Short Story Competition and the Chapter One Fiction Contest. She has received grants from the New York Foundation for the Arts, the American Scandinavian Foundation, and the Lois Roth Endowment and a Fellowship for Emerging Writers from the Jerome Foundation. Her writing has been published in Alaska Quarterly Review, the Literary Review, and others.

From Mary Westbook's Q & A with Durrow about The Girl Who Fell from the Sky, her debut novel:f

The point of view revolves between several characters. Did you always envision the story told in this way, with this particular group of characters telling the story?

The book began as a third-person recounting—told from Rachel’s perspective—Rachel all grown-up. The problem was I couldn’t figure out what had happened to her beyond her adolescence. I didn’t have a take on what her perspective would be about the fateful day on the rooftop after having gone to college, for instance, or marrying, or falling in love. I knew that the story of the novel would be her growing consciousness of what that accident meant to her. I realized I needed to tell it from her perspective—first-person present tense. Her character warranted an immediacy. The other characters slowly developed when I realized how unreliable Rachel was. She had to be. She was only slowly coming to understand her place in the world.

Were certain characters easier to access?

I created Laronne to give Nella an advocate. It was imperative that Nella be humanized in the way a friend could. I created Jamie/Brick because I think every tragedy needs a witness. In life, really, when something bad happens, you need to have someone who says, “Yes, a bad thing has happened.” Roger grew out of a similar need—I wanted the father figure to explain his absence. There are so many missing fathers out there; I can’t explain [why they’re gone]. I gave Roger a chance to explain. And Nella had to have a chance to speak for herself. It was important for the reader to...[read on]
The Page 69 Test: The Girl Who Fell from the Sky.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, April 19, 2010

Tom Rachman

Tom Rachman's debut novel is The Imperfectionists.

From a Q & A at his website:

What is The Imperfectionists about?

Set in Rome, The Imperfectionists is a novel told in linked stories about the private lives of the reporters, editors and executives at an international English-language newspaper as they struggle to keep their publication—and themselves—afloat. Kathleen, the tough editor-in-chief, experiments with betrayal in her open marriage. Arthur, the lazy obituary writer, is transformed by a tragedy at home. And Abby, the besieged financial officer, finds that that her job cuts and her love life are intertwined in unexpected ways. Out in the field, the veteran Paris reporter goes to desperate lengths for his next byline, while an inexperienced new Mideast stringer is seeking terrorists to interview. In the shadows is the isolated young publisher whose actions may determine the future of every employee at the paper. The Imperfectionists touches on the decline of newspapers and the rise of technology, but above all it is about these characters and their peculiar stories.

How did you come up with the idea for this novel?

The Imperfectionists came to me in stages, starting with the characters, who wandered into my imagination surprisingly well-formed, even down to their eyeglasses and the stains on their shirts. I organized them, placed them in a setting I knew, a news organization, and watched what happened, sometimes nudging them, sometimes nudged by them. The stories took life as I wrote them, the outcomes...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Bill McKibben

Activist and writer Bill McKibben is the award-winning author of The End of Nature and The Age of Missing Information. His new book, Eaarth, argues that our planet already has been irrevocably remade by human activity.

From McKibben's conversation with Kai Ryssdal at Marketplace:

Ryssdal: This book, for those who can't see it out there, the title is "Eaarth" with the unconventional spelling of e-a-a-r-t-h. Help me out there.

McKibben: The conceit is that we really have built a new planet. Substantially different enough from the one that we were born onto to warrant a new name. This earth that we live on now has 5 percent more moisture in the atmosphere than the one 50 years ago. Its oceans are turning steadily acid. We're seeing dramatic increases both in drought and in deluge, enough so that we've really begun to alter not only the ecological fabric of the planet but the economic fabric as well.

Ryssdal: It kind of feels on a day-to-day basis like the same old place.

McKibben: It does until something happens. I recount the story of our small town, and the fact that summer before last we had the two biggest rainstorms ever recorded there. That kind of storm is now happening in some place around the world every single day. This is a different world. It so far doesn't feel entirely different. It just feels a little different.

Ryssdal: So how do we recalibrate? Do we just get used to living smaller and less complicated and closer to home?

McKibben: Well, that's...[read on]
Read about McKibben's six favorite books.

The Page 69 Test: Bill McKibben's Deep Economy.

Visit Bill McKibben's official website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Jason Vuic

Jason Vuic is an assistant professor of modern European history at Bridgewater College in Bridgewater, Virginia, and author of The Yugo: The Rise and Fall of the Worst Car in History.

From his interview with Kai Ryssdal of Marketplace:

Ryssdal: How did it come to pass that this car wound up in the United States? It's not your V8, gas-guzzling muscle car, that's for sure.

Vuic: Well, there were really three factors that brought the Yugo to the United States. One was that in the 1980s, Japanese and American manufacturers completely vacated the very low end of the market. Low-cost cars were simply not profitable.

The second thing was Yugoslavia itself. It was an independent communist country that the United States wanted to support. It deprived the Soviets of the Mediterranean Sea and Mediterranean ports, so we tried to bring over Yugoslav goods and aid the government in any way. I mean, the Yugo wasn't paid with taxes, but our ambassador drove around Belgrade in a yellow Yugo with little American flags on the hoods.

And then third, there was Malcolm Bricklin. He's this phenomenal entrepreneur -- he's great at starting businesses, getting people excited, getting the press excited. He founded Subaru of America and then moved onto a Canadian car, which failed miserably. So he's known for these great early successes, and then, catastrophic failures. And that was one of the reasons the Yugo came over; it was the next Brooklyn venture.

Ryssdal: What was it, as that car got here, I mean, people went bananas for this thing.

Vuic: Absolutely. It opened in about 50 dealers and about 1,050 cars were sold in a single day. There were lines at some dealerships 10 deep. People were buying cars sight unseen. And they called it "Yugo mania," believe it or not.

Ryssdal: And the sticker price was...[read on; listen to the interview]
Visit The Yugo Facebook page.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, April 16, 2010

David Fulmer

David Fulmer talked about his Storyville novels with J. Sydney Jones. A small part of the interview:

What things about historical New Orleans make it unique and a good physical setting in your books?

Storyville, New Orleans was completely unique in American history. It was legally-sanctioned red light district that was completely corrupt and yet completely controlled. There was a cast of characters I’ve never encountered anywhere else: madams, prostitutes high and low, rounders, musicians, and all the rest.

Geographically, it was the right place in the right city at the right time. The heavy air, the river, the rain, all help me to recreate this evocative world.

Did you consciously set out to use New Orleans as a “character” in your books, or did this grow naturally out of the initial story or stories?

Settings – especially historical settings – come...[read on]
Learn more about the author and his work at David Fulmer's website.

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: Lost River.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, April 15, 2010

P.W. Singer

P.W. Singer is a Senior Fellow at the Brookings Institution; at 34 years old, he's the youngest person ever to hold that position. He's written for or appeared on a wide variety of media, from "60 Minutes" to the New York Times. He has worked for the Pentagon and Harvard University, and in his personal capacity, served as the coordinator of the defense policy advisory task force for the Obama campaign. In his previous two books, Singer foretold the rise of private military contractors and the advent of child soldiers - predictions which proved to be all too accurate.

His latest book is Wired for War: The Robotics Revolution and Conflict in the 21st Century.

From his Q & A with Mark Medley for the National Post:

Where did the idea for this book come from?

I could say that the spark came while laying in bed, staring at my Battlestar Galactica bedsheets, but I got rid of those around the age of 10.

A couple of years ago I started noticing things that were fascinating and troubling at the same time. From the Roomba robot vacuum cleaner that patrolled my floors to the unmanned planes that my friends in the US Air Force were using to patrol Afghanistan, humanity has started to engineer and use technologies that were fundamentally different from all before. Our creations were not just linking us together, but now acting in the world without us.

I felt myself living at the time of the most important technologic and weapons development since the atomic bomb. One could even argue that the rise of these digital warriors was more significant, in that robotics alters not merely the lethality of war, but the very identity of who fights it. The end of humans’ monopoly on war surely seemed something momentous, which historians would talk about centuries from now, if humankind is so lucky to still be around.

Yet, for something so seemingly important, no one was talking about it. Time and again, I was struck by this disconnect. For example, as I reference in the book, I once went to a major conference in Washington, DC on “the revolution in military affairs.” The speakers included many of the most notable scholars in the field, as well as several key political and military leaders. And yet, over the course of several hours of pontificating on what was supposedly new and exciting in security issues today, not one mention was made of these new technologies, that we had some 7,000 robotic drones in the air, and another 12,000 on the ground, not even a single word. So that set me off on my journey.
Read the complete interview.

The Page 99 Test: Wired for War.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Alafair Burke

Alafair Burke's acclaimed series featuring NYPD Detective Ellie Hatcher includes Dead Connection and Angel’s Tip.

From her Q & A with Jennifer Vido:

Jen: The suspect in 212 is Sam Sparks. A Donald Trumpish kind of character who believes himself to be above the law, he irks Ellie from the get-go. If this character were Samantha Sparks, would Ellie have reacted in the same way? Why or why not?

Alafair: What a terrific question. It recognizes that women are often their harshest critics. In this case, however, I think Ellie would have reacted the same. Sparks gets under her skin not because he's a man, but because he's part of an extremely elite class that she knows does not accept her kind and that she'll never be a part of. I don't want to say too much, but Sparks turns out to be more than he appears.

Jen: Without giving too much away, the essence of the plot centers on some girls getting caught up in a prostitution ring via the Internet. I was shocked by my own sense of naiveté when it came to this topic. How are social networking sites such as MySpace, Facebook, and Craig's List a crucial part of the mainstreaming of the sex industry?

Alafair: What the book explores (in an entertaining way, I hope) is the mainstreaming of today's sex industry. Walking on corners has been replaced by ads in Craig's List, and ads on Craig's List don't seem so different to some young women from social networking sites. At the same time, the dating world has become courser, as many girls routinely "hook up" with free-spending guys on the assumption that there's no future, just an expensive night. As Eliot Spitzer's escort has since explained, she didn't see a big difference between hooking and what she and her friends had already been doing.

Jen: In terms of the storyline how does the role of technology help as well as hinder Ellie's investigation? With prepaid, disposable phones and unidentifiable IP addresses, how can today's law enforcement effectively protect our citizens? In your opinion, are they able to remain one step ahead of the criminals? Or, are they constantly just trying to keep up?

Alafair: Technology...[read on]
Watch the 212 video trailer, and learn more about the book and author at Alafair Burke's website and blog.

The Page 69 Test: Dead Connection.

The Page 69 Test: Angel’s Tip.

The Page 69 Test: 212.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Ian McEwan

Ian McEwan's new novel is Solar.

From his interview about the book with Alexandra Alter of the Wall Street Journal:

Michael Beard, your protagonist, ends up at the center of a media storm for his comments about the differences between male and female brains. You've been slammed in the press for your comments about Islam and other subjects. Why did you decide to put your character through something similar?

We have a very rackety, partisan, sometimes very intrusive press. One of the things they love to be is indignant. People might have in the past loved sex; I think they now love indignation more. Indignation seems to thrill. So a media storm is often driven beyond all reason, people taking offense or people huffing and puffing. So that all found its way in, plus my own experience, plus friends like Martin Amis and Salman Rushdie, Christopher Hitchens. I didn't have to do any research for that.

Did writing about it help you see it in a more comic light?

There is something hilarious about a press storm, and when you're in it you don't think it's funny. It's about you, but when it's gone, it's a bit like a gale blowing through your house and your hair is blowing in one way and your shirt's coming off your back and all the papers ripping across the room, and then it suddenly stops. It's like a typhoon that moves to the next town, and you almost miss it.

Are you surprised by the amount of attention your remarks get?

I'm...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, April 12, 2010

David Goodwillie

From a Q & A with David Goodwillie about his new novel, American Subversive:

Q. How did you come to write American Subversive?

A. I was initially interested in how my generation—now in their late twenties and thirties--was reacting (or not reacting) to a changing America. On the one hand, our country, in the new century, is still the envy of the world—it’s only superpower, a beacon of freedom. At the same time, so many things seem headed in the wrong direction—culturally, politically, economically. The book’s two main characters, Aidan and Paige, developed out of this dichotomy. They’re well educated and similar in age, and yet they see America, and their place in it, incredibly differently. I wasn’t interested in liberal and conservative, rather apathy versus engagement, cynicism versus sincerity. How should the next generation act (and react) in a country flying on autopilot at a dangerous altitude? Have we learned any lessons from the past? And can a single person still affect change in a country run by opinion polls and mass consensus? With my two main characters staking out such extremes, I realized pretty quickly that plot would involve bringing them together, not just physically, but temperamentally. They would come to save each other--or at least try. Once the characters and themes were established the plot came quite naturally, and the book became far more suspenseful than I ever envisioned (which is never a bad thing). It also became quite research intensive. I’m a stickler for facts, even in my fiction, and I ended up speaking with all kinds of experts, from an FBI ordnance specialist to a former member of the Weather Underground. It was important that the book “feel” real, that the reader could envision these events actually occurring.
Read more from the Q & A, including about Goodwillie's five favorite books of all time.

Visit David Goodwillie's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, April 11, 2010

D. J. Taylor

D.J. Taylor’s novels include Trespass and, newly released in the U.S., Ask Alice. His book Orwell: The Life won the Whitbread Biography Prize in 2003. His latest book in the U.K. is At the Chime of a City Clock.

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

What book changed your life?

Orwell’s essays. It was Orwell’s voice that got me; it was like he was saying, “I wrote this for you.”

* * *
Which literary character most resembles you?

One of the struggling hacks in George Gissing’s New Grub Street.

* * *
Who would you like to be stuck in a lift with?

Christopher Hitchens. It would be jolly nice to have a full 20 minutes of “the Hitch” in full flow.

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

Thackeray’s Vanity Fair.
Read the complete Q & A.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Jon Land

Andrew Peterson interviewed Jon Land for ITW. A sample of their dialogue:

You're good friends with David Morrell of the famous Rambo series. How did that come about? You've had numerous discussions with David about the role of the "thriller hero." Are there certain lines you feel thriller heroes shouldn't cross when pursuing their goals (the bad guys.)

(Laughs) Now that's a funny story! David Morrell was one of the writers (along with Stephen King, Clive Cussler and Robert Ludlum) who made me want to write thrillers. So I'm at the first ThrillerFest in Phoenix, I don't know anybody, and one morning after working out he and I ended up in the hotel gym whirlpool together. And I realize here I am talking to one of my idols, and he couldn't be more kind or gracious. No one has done more for our form or genre than David, who's proven that thriller writers can be terrific novelists as well. Which brings me to your next question. One of the things I've really explored in both my last two books, THE SEVEN SINS and STRONG ENOUGH TO DIE, is the nature of ambiguity in my heroes. Both Michael Tiranno and Caitlin Strong have plenty of demons in their closets, defined as much by their flaws as their strengths. Both will go as far as they have to get what they want. They don't define any limits for themselves when it comes to preserving their own moral codes, but they pay a steep price for that.

I really like Caitlin Strong, a modern day Texas Ranger. What is like writing a female lead role? I think you've got her personality perfectly portrayed--I was going to say "you've got her nailed" but that just doesn't sound right! I'm hoping we'll see more stories with Caitlin?

Well, first and foremost...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, April 9, 2010

Victoria E. Bynum

Victoria E. Bynum is the author of The Long Shadow of the Civil War: Southern Dissent and Its Legacies.

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

Q: There seems no end to books about the American Civil War. What does The Long Shadow of the Civil War offer that is new?

A: Although Civil War books about the home front are not new, this is a new sort of home front study that focuses on three communities from three different states. Rather than close with the war and Reconstruction, The Long Shadow of the Civil War follows individual Unionists and multiracial families into the New South era and, in some cases, into the twentieth century. This historical sweep allows the reader to understand the ongoing effects of the war at its most personal levels.

Q: What led you to combine three Civil War home fronts, all noted as areas of violent disorder, in one study? Why these three?

A: Most basically, I combined them in order to provide in-depth comparisons of the communities within the same volume. But there's more to it than that; the communities have important links to one another. The North Carolina Piedmont was the ancestral seedbed of migration into what became Jones County, Mississippi. Later, East Texas attracted many non-slaveholding Mississippi families seeking a less-developed piney woods region.

All three regions exhibited fierce Unionist activity during the Civil War, with brothers fighting in separate deserter bands across state lines in two of the communities. So, combining them in one study provided a wonderful opportunity to identify common characteristics of Southern Unionism, while also showing how different geographic settings influenced the nature of the inner civil wars.
Read the complete Q & A.

Visit Victoria Bynum's website and blog.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Emily Woof

Emily Woof has acted in such films as The Full Monty, Velvet Goldmine, and Wondrous Oblivion.

Her debut novel, The Whole Wide Beauty, will be published in the US in May by W.W. Norton.

From her Q & A with The Independent:

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

Richard Ford is one of my favourite writers, and I really love Chekhov; he is so kind to all his characters.

* * *
Which fictional character most resembles you?

The cute answer is that I would apsire to be Mrs Dalloway but I probably end up being more like Mrs Pepperpot.

* * *
Who is your hero/heroine from outside literature?

Some of the mums that I know that manage life brilliantly, working and looking after the kids and running a home and staying sane.
Read the complete interview.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Mark Terry

Mark Terry is the author of three Derek Stillwater novels, The Devil's Pitchfork, The Serpent's Kiss, and The Fallen, as well as two standalone novels, Dirty Deeds and Dancing in the Dark.

From a Q & A at his website:

Who are your influences?

Presumably this question refers to literary influences, otherwise I have to say my parents, my brother, my sister, my wife, my children, my dog, every teacher I've ever had, every person I've every met, every book I've ever read...

In terms of literary influences, I got my inspiration to try writing from an essay by Stephen King called something like "The Making of a Brand Name." But the writers who most influence my writing style and the types of stories I like to write are Robert B. Parker, Sue Grafton, David Morrell, the late Ross Thomas, John Sandford, Dick Francis. I like what I guess you could call a propulsive type of writing--I want the plot to move right along, in other words. But the list of writing influences never really ends and it's best not to get me started unless there's a cold beverage in front of me. In which case I'd be glad to talk books for hours or until the bartender kicks us out. Randy Wayne White, Peter Lefcourt, J.A. Konrath, Elmore Leonard, Lawrence Block, Paul Levine...
Read the complete Q & A.

Read chapters 1-6 of The Fallen, and learn more about the book and author at Mark Terry's website and blog.

The Page 69 Test: The Fallen.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

James Hynes

From James Hynes' brief Q & A with Gregory Cowles at the New York Times:

“Next” has an amazing ending, which keeps us guessing until the last page. In their reviews for The Times, Janet Maslin and Claire Messud both allude to it without giving anything away. But in the age of spoilers on the Internet, how can you keep the ending secret from readers determined to track it down?

The short answer is, you probably can’t. The day after Janet Maslin’s review of the book ran, I checked the traffic on my Web site, and Google Analytics told me that out of all the search terms that led people to the site, two-thirds of them were variations on “James Hynes Next spoilers.” Not to give anybody any ideas or anything. Spoilers have always been with us, of course: years ago, I was waiting in line for the opening night of “The Empire Strikes Back,” and some jackass leaving the previous showing — I still don’t know if he did it deliberately, or he was just excited — blurted out “Darth Vader is Luke’s father!” It’s just that now, of course, you don’t have to wait for serendipity to happen, you can go looking for somebody to ruin it for you. And I’m no better than anybody else: a friend of mine e-mailed me about a recent film that has a similar ending to my book’s, but she wouldn’t tell me what it was, and in 30 seconds, I was reading the ending on the Internet. The best I can do to discourage people is leave you with this parable from my favorite Peanuts cartoon: it’s a Sunday strip, and Charlie Brown is watching TV. Lucy comes up behind him and says, “What are you watching?” And Charlie Brown says, “ ‘Citizen Kane.’ I’ve never seen it before.” Lucy waits a few excruciating panels, savoring the moment. Then she says, “Rosebud was his sled,” and walks away, and Charlie Brown goes (what else?), “Aaaaaggghhh!” This exquisitely agonizing scenario encapsulates the entirety of the spoiler experience: it’s awful when it happens, but it’s probably inevitable. All you can do is ask yourself, would you rather be Lucy or Charlie Brown? Not much of a choice, I grant you, but wouldn’t you prefer at least the hope of pleasure to the cheap and fleeting satisfactions of meanness? (And to your readers who have never seen “The Empire Strikes Back” or “Citizen Kane,” my profound apologies.)
Read the complete Q & A.

Read an excerpt from Next, and learn more about the book and author at James Hynes's website and blog.

Hynes is the author of The Lecturer’s Tale, Wild Colonial Boy, Publish & Perish (all New York Times Notable Books of the Year), and the novel Kings of Infinite Space. He lives in Austin, Texas.

The Page 69 Test: Next.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, April 5, 2010

Philip Kerr

Scottish novelist Philip Kerr is the author of the acclaimed Bernie Gunther crime series and other novels. From his interview with crime fiction maven J. Kingston Pierce at The Rap Sheet:

JKP: What was your original conception of Bernie Gunther, and how do you think he’s evolved since that point? Is he still the man you imagined him to be in 1989?

PK: I wanted a German Everyman figure. That’s what I wanted him to be. That’s what he still is. … He’s a vehicle for political insight and philosophical conjecture. And for my own black sense of humor. ... I think of him as a little like Christian in The Pilgrim’s Progress. He’s weighed down by a great burden called sin; he’s looking for the shining light; he mounts the hill of difficulty; and along the way he meets Apollyon.

JKP: Would he be somebody you’d like to know as a friend?

PK: Lord, no. Bernie is like me in that he doesn’t have any friends. … I don’t feel the lack of friends, you understand. What I do doesn’t really encourage friendship. My only real friend is my wife. I seem quite friendly, however. I smile and chatter away and can work a room. Anyway, Bernie is an extension of my own inadequate personality, so I can’t imagine being friends with myself.

JKP: At what point did you realize you were writing a crime-fiction series? And were you hesitant about taking on such a project?
Read the complete interview.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Sandra Beasley

Sandra Beasley won the 2009 Barnard Women Poets Prize for I Was the Jukebox, selected by Joy Harjo. I Was The Jukebox is out this month from W.W. Norton.

From her Q & A with Vrzhu:

Vrzhu: I like the going back to older poets you mentioned. Who's the earliest poet you find yourself going back to, or sympathetic with? Besides just experience, is there some way you have these poets (like Hopkins or Eliot) come alive for you?

Sandra Beasley: In Fall 2009 I taught a writing class at the Corcoran College of Art + Design; teaching is an exception, rather than the rule. I soon realized that contemporary poets who I found interesting, based on the ferocity of voice, did not engage the students; what they liked were poets who offered something structural they could unlock. William Shakespeare, Seamus Heaney. On one hand, they disdained the technical terminology of meter and rhyme; on the other hand, they sat up in their chairs when I could prove that the craft techniques served a higher thematic purpose. The week we looked at elegy, we considered poems by both Dylan Thomas and Marie Howe. Thomas's villanelle is all about thundering imperative; Howe's is all about ambivalent dialogue. I love Marie Howe, but they preferred Dylan Thomas. It was a challenging dynamic, and it made me think a lot of which "older" poets I loved, and why. I think T. S. Eliot and William Carlos Williams have a lot to offer with repeat visits. They also have just enough texture in their biographies to provide grit, without so much drama (a la Anne Sexton or Ted Hughes) as to be distracting.

Through a series of coincidences, 2009 was also a year of Emily Dickinson for me--scads of exposure to her biography--which makes me newly aware of her feistiness, her pride, her calculations of correspondence with Thomas Wentworth Higginson. She was no fool and no simple recluse. Those short, lyric poems must be understood as telegrams, composed in the Morse code of a rock skimming along the surface of a much deeper lake. Whitman, on the other hand, took some basic philosophical beliefs and stretched them out on the loom of societal experience. I think he was as savvy as he was smart. It's funny how often these two poets are paired in literary critique as an asexual Odd Couple. They come alive to me in the sense that the older I get, the more I understand their writings in the context of biographical pressures. Some days it feels like a great insight. Some days it feels like a terrible fallacy.
Read the complete interview.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Michael Chabon

From Michael Chabon's recent conversation with Bobby White for the Wall Street Journal:

WSJ: The Bay Area has been home to writers such as Jack London and Jack Kerouac, who were known for their wilderness and countercultural writing. What are Bay Area writers known for these days, and how has the local literary scene evolved?

Mr. Chabon: The diversity here makes it difficult to pin down what writers here are collectively known for, but I can say it's a very vibrant and fun and collegial scene. There are all sorts of social events that occur that allow a very fluid communication between people. Part of the collegiality comes from how there is an interconnectedness among the different institutions that put on literary events.

If I were pressed and had to point at something as the embodiment of San Francisco's literary culture, I would point to Dave Eggers and his operation, which is at the heart of the scene. (Mr. Eggers, author of the best seller "A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius," has founded a nonprofit focused on improving literacy.)

WSJ: What many of those writers in the past had in common was that they were poor. Can starving writers afford to be in the Bay Area these days?

Mr. Chabon: The cost of living...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, April 2, 2010

R.L. Stine

R.L. Stine's many books include Say Cheese and Die!, Be Careful What You Wish For, Monster Blood, and Night of the Living Dummy.

From his interview with Andrew Peterson for ITW:

As a kid, you read horror and watched horror movies. Why do people enjoy being scared--why do we read horror novels and watch horror films?

We all like to have creepy adventures and face untold horrors--when we know we're safe at the same time. We all have that wonderful feeling of relief when we wake up from a nightmare and realize it was only a dream. Horror movies and books allow us to enjoy the nightmare because we're aware the whole time that we're not experiencing real horrors.

This is a metaphorical question, but do you ever get emails from parents who've caught their kid reading your books under the covers with a flashlight--after lights out? How do you respond?

I receive many letters from parents who tell me their kid never liked to read--and then they caught them reading Goosebumps or Fear Street under the covers late at night. That's always a thrill for me. You know, my career really isn't about terrifying kids--it's all about motivating them to read.

If you could change one thing or aspect of the publishing industry, what would it be and why?

I'd...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, April 1, 2010

David Aaronovitch

David Aaronovitch is a British journalist and Times of London columnist. His new book is Voodoo Histories: The Role of the Conspiracy Theory in Shaping Modern History.

From Aaronovitch's Q & A with Thomas Rogers at Salon:

What prompted the book?

There is a specific moment I mention in the book, when a very intelligent man turned to me during this long car journey and with a kind of mischievous pleasure tried to convince me that the moon landings never happened. I listened to him about the photographic reasons why so-and-so shot was impossible and something else couldn’t happen — I found myself wondering what the attraction of this was for him. To fake something like the moon landing would be incredibly difficult if not completely impossible. Why do clever people believe dumb things?

People put an enormous amount of resources and commitment into these stories, and large numbers of people believe them. A Venezuelan professor recently claimed that the United States caused the Haiti earthquake with an underground nuclear test. What kind of background evidence is there for that? None. But these kinds of stories are ubiquitous.

In recent years, people like the birthers and the 9/11 truthers have gotten a lot of press coverage and pop-cultural play. Are we in a new golden age of conspiracy theories?

I think we live in a more conspiracist period. There’s no question there are more of them, and they’re more global, and they take off more quickly. They’re also more complex and relate to virtual communities rather than real ones. I think it’s because of global interdependence. We live a global period, and there’s a huge temptation among people to believe there is a master plan, because otherwise the suggestion is we’re interdependent and the world is chaotic — and that’s a mindfuck.

There are entire societies where the default position is to believe in conspiracy theories, like in...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue