Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Daniel H. Wilson

Daniel H. Wilson is an engineer who earned his PhD in robotics at Carnegie Mellon University. His books include Bro-Jitsu, How to Survive a Robot Uprising, Where's My Jetpack?, How to Build a Robot Army, and Robopocalypse.

From Wilson's Q & A about the book:

You have your Ph.D. in Robotics from Carnegie Mellon. Having made the leap from studying robotics to creating an all-out robot Armageddon in ROBOPOCALYPSE, do you believe we will ever see a real robot uprising?

My professional opinion is that robots are not going to rise up and slaughter humankind. Isn't that comforting? Instead, I believe the idea of a robot uprising embodies the thing that we're all really afraid of: our near total dependence on technology for survival. Billions of human beings are alive today thanks to an ancient, towering infrastructure of technology cobbled together over the ages. If this technology were to disappear - or worse, turn on us - how would we survive?

You have said that ROBOPOCALYPSE "explores the intertwined fates of regular people who face a future filled with murderous machines." Cell phones, toy dolls, elevators, and even the "Big Happy" domestic robots turn on their owners and become creepily sinister. In terms of technological advances, are you concerned that computers or robots could eventually "think" on their own someday?

Machines of all shapes and sizes can already think on their own - and that is absolutely wonderful. A robot is only useful because it can think. Artificially intelligent machines make our cars safer, sniff out bombs, and build our favorite products. The sinister part only arrives when we consider that "thinking" also happens to be the only attribute that makes a human useful. I see why that can be a bit threatening, but I think there is plenty of room for thinkers here on planet earth.

One of the most interesting robot battling groups in the book is the Osage Nation in Gray Horse, Oklahoma. You are part Cherokee and grew up in Tulsa. How did your upbringing shape the residents and setting of Gray Horse in the book?

In 1889, the United States government took Indian Territory away from Native Americans and gave it to settlers. Nevertheless, there are...[read on]
Visit Daniel Wilson's blog.

My Book, The Movie: A Boy and His Bot.

Writers Read: Daniel H. Wilson.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, May 30, 2011

Amanda Foreman

Amanda Foreman won the Whitbread Prize for Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire. Her new book is A World on Fire: Britain's Crucial Role in the American Civil War.

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

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

Colm Tóibín. When I read 'The Master', I felt that I had read a true classic. It's so rare nowadays that you have that feeling: it was a privilege to read it.

* * *
Which fictional character most resembles you?

I think that once you become a parent you cease to think of yourself as a hero or heroine. When I was in my twenties, I strongly identified with Jane Austen's 'Emma' – her human failings mixed with a desire to do good.

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

Jean McConville. She's one of the IRA's "disappeared" – a Catholic widowed mother of 10 [secretly murdered by the Provisional IRA in 1972]. She lost her life simply for doing what she thought was right. I want her suffering and her sacrifice to be recognised. I think there should be a memorial garden for her.
Read the complete Q & A.

Visit Amanda Foreman's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Rebecca Makkai

Rebecca Makkai's first story, at the age of three, was printed on the side of a cardboard box and told from the viewpoint of her stuffed Smurf doll. More recently, her stories have been anthologized in The Best American Short Stories 2008, 2009, and 2010, and she has been chosen by Geraldine Brooks for The Best American Short Stories 2011. Her stories have also appeared in Tin House, Ploughshares, The Threepenny Review, and on Public Radio's Selected Shorts. She lives in Chicago with her husband and two daughters.

Her debut novel The Borrower is out from Viking in June 2011.

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

Q. What inspired you to write The Borrower? Did you ever have a friend like Darren?

Of all the characters in the book, Darren might be the most real, although he's an amalgam of several different people I knew in high school and college. Some of their stories ended well, and some ended very badly. I wrote his sections a few years ago, but then in 2010, as I finished editing The Borrower, there was a spate of tragic reports about gay teenagers taking their own lives. It's my strong belief that the media focus wasn't the product of any new trend but rather our sudden national obsession with news stories featuring the words "bully" and "suicide." You start paying attention to those stories, and, lo and behold, they're largely about gay teenagers. I'm grateful, though, for that media blitz, however ephemeral, since some good came of it—notably the "It Gets Better" project, (www.itgetsbetter.org) which I dearly hope that Ian, in his fictional universe, has discovered.

That sad and familiar narrative wasn't quite the spark behind The Borrower, though. I became aware, about ten years ago, of the numerous groups that (like the fictional Glad Heart Ministries) attempt to "turn" gay or gay-identified kids, teens, and adults straight. Of all possible viewpoints on that issue, I was intrigued most by that of an outsider: someone who cared very much about the child at stake but had no legitimate recourse. I think Lucy's is a relatable narrative if only because that's how so many of us feel, hearing reports of children we don't even know who are growing up in hostile environments and finding ourselves utterly unable to help. What we don't have, of course, that Lucy does, is opportunity. What each of us would do if given the chance… I suppose that's a question for the book group after-party.

Q. Lucy and Ian's journey parallels those in both Vladimir Nabokov's Lolita and Mark Twain's The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. Was it difficult to find the right balance?

It was fun to play with those extremes: the delusional, monster kidnapper and his victim, versus the two misfit companions helping each other escape. Lucy isn't sure where she falls on that spectrum, but, being the librarian she is, she sees her whole life through a sort of narrative lens and wants to define herself on those terms.

Nabokov's influence actually helped me through a difficult pass in the writing of this story; I'd gotten Lucy and Ian on the road, but after they got past Chicago the story abruptly lost steam. I dug back into Lolita and saw what I'd forgotten, and what the old master had done so effortlessly: he had them followed. I embraced "Mr. Shades" as a nod to Lolita's Quilty plotline—but even if it hadn't fit my larger thematic motives, I'd still have stolen the idea, because it was such a good, basic one. I'm pretty sure I literally hit myself on the head when I saw it. As soon as Lucy and Ian got a follower, too, I had a triangle—and that's when plots (and life) get interesting.

Of course there's a whole heaping dose of The Wizard of Oz in there, too, and there's even some Ulysses, buried so deep that only the true-of-English-major-heart will find it.

Q. Who are some of your other literary influences?

I've learned about endings from...[read on]
Learn more about the author and her work at Rebecca Makkai's website.

Writers Read: Rebecca Makkai.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Clare O'Donohue

Clare O'Donohue is a freelance television writer/producer. She produced television’s most popular quilting show, Simply Quilts, on HGTV, and went on to produce and write for a variety of television crime shows, including Forensic Files.

Her new novel is Missing Persons.

From her Q & A with Declan Burke:

What crime novel would you most like to have written?

For true crime, I’d love to take credit for IN COLD BLOOD by Truman Capote. It is, hands down, one of the best crime books I’ve read – fiction or non-fiction and has put me off ever writing true crime, since mine would be crap in comparison. For a novel, I’d be happy to have written the worst thing Donald Westlake ever wrote, because even his worst (if such a thing exists) is still really good.

What fictional character would you most like to have been?

Nora Charles in Dashiell Hammett’s THE THIN MAN. She was smart, funny, and could handle her liquor.

Who do you read for guilty pleasures?

Porn. And quilting magazines. And...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, May 27, 2011

Bill Loehfelm

Bill Loehfelm is the author of Fresh Kills, the first winner of the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award, and another novel, Bloodroot.

His new novel is The Devil She Knows.

From his Q & A with Declan Burke:

What crime novel would you most like to have written?

That’s a tough one; there are a lot to choose from. NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN by Cormac McCarthy is one, for sure. It approaches the level of American mythology, the way it examines evil, greed, and violence. Also, CASE HISTORIES by Kate Atkinson, simply because it’s so utterly brilliant and gut-wrenching from the first word. Those two and a lesser-known book called CHEAP TICKET TO HEAVEN by Charlie Smith, about a bank robbing couple on the run through the US. It’s surreal, dark, philosophical, and one of the most unique novels I’ve ever read, crime or not. If I had to pick one, I’d say CHEAP TICKET, because it pushes the limits of the crime novel the furthest.

What fictional character would you most like to have been?

This one is ...[read on]
Learn more about the author and his work at Bill Loehfelm's website.

The Page 69 Test: Fresh Kills.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Laura Harrington

Laura Harrington’s award winning plays, musicals, operas, and radio plays have been widely produced across America, in Canada, and EuropComposee in venues ranging from The Zipper Factory in NYC to Houston Grand Opera to the Paris Cinemateque.

From a Q & A with Dan Blask about her new novel, Alice Bliss:

ArtSake: You’ve written about the exile of Napoleon Bonaparte, about a young couple in the aftermath of 9-11, and about events surrounding the Civil War, WWI, and now the Iraq War. What draws you to the subjects you explore in your drama and prose?

Laura: I write about what obsesses me, the things I can’t stop thinking about. I’m also drawn to the voiceless and the displaced. And I’m deeply disturbed about war and wish that I could do something to make a difference.

ArtSake: On a military spouse-themed blog, an early reviewer of your book wrote of your characters, “As one of the 1% who are being impacted by the multiple deployments, these people are mine.” How did you find your way so believably into the day-to-day reality of a family struggling with military deployment?

Laura: My own family was blown apart by war and it’s something we rarely, if ever, talk about. My father returned from WWII and suffered from what was then called battle fatigue. My mother said, “The fellow I married didn’t come home.” In 1966, both of my brothers enlisted in the Air Force, one out of high school, one out of college. One went to Viet Nam, the other worked with NORAD. My parents were both grieving during those 4 years, as was much of the nation. Those were dark times. And nothing was ever the same again. Our family, as I knew it, was gone; my brothers were both changed by their experiences, and in a chain reaction, all of our relationships were interrupted, and some...[read on]
Read an excerpt from Alice Bliss, and learn more about the book and author at Laura Harrington's website and blog.

Writers Read: Laura Harrington.

The Page 69 Test: Alice Bliss.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Liane Moriarty

Liane Moriarty's latest novel is What Alice Forgot -- it's about a woman who lost a decade of memories.

From her Q & A at Chicklit Club:

What inspired your latest novel, What Alice Forgot?

I read a newspaper article about a woman in the UK who had lost her memory and thought she was a teenage girl. She didn't recognise her husband or children, and she was like a sulky teenager. Her children were upset because she didn't want to cook dinner. I became fascinated with the idea of how your memory is the basis of your identity. I think I was also influenced by the movie, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. It's about an unusual business offering a service that wipes memories of a bad relationship from your mind.

Did you do much research into amnesia?

I bought a whole lot of expensive books about the science of memory and wasted hours confusing myself.

What part of your past 10 years would you most not want to forget? And anything you wish you could?

I wouldn't want to forget so many lovely memories like meeting my husband, or my baby's first smile, or the delirious expression on his face when he ate chocolate for the first time, or my first Mother's Day morning. Then again, I don't want to forget the bad times of the past 10 years, because they make the happy times all the sweeter. I guess...[read on]
Visit Liane Moriarty's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Oscar Hijuelos

Oscar Hijuelos's books include Our House in the Lost World, The Fourteen Sisters of Emilio Montez O'Brien and The Mambo Kings Play Songs of Love.

From a Q & A about his new memoir, Thoughts Without Cigarettes:

In your previous books, you had the freedom of fiction for reinventing episodes from your life. What was it like to write nonfiction, in which you were the protagonist?

Well, first thing, given that memory is so capricious, you can't help wondering if you are getting things right: And while one comes to feel that the "I" being written about is really about yourself, the irony is that time—over the distance of the years—produces a version of events and of yourself so different than who you actually are now, that it seems you are writing about someone else.

You observe that America's Latino/a writers are almost invisible in today's literary scene. Why do you suppose this is so?

Invisible is not the right word—and not my choice. Under-represented, under-appreciated, and under-celebrated in the hallowed halls of high lit would be more appropriate phrases in describing our circumstances. Though Latino writing has experienced peaks, notably in the 1990s, it seems that the predominantly non-Hispanic hierarchy presiding over literary reviewing and prize-giving has been almost ignoring Latino writing in recent years. (For example, just look at the roster of inductees into the American Institute of Arts and Letters: I think the last Latino literature inductee into its ranks was Nicholas Mohr—back in the 1970s!) As for the reasons why, I can only speculate.

Why did the Harlem Renaissance only encompass African American writers, while your memoir illustrates how diverse those blocks north of Columbia (and in east Harlem) truly were?

I think the Harlem Renaissance of the 1920s and 1930s was the product of...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, May 23, 2011

Matthew Zapruder

Matthew Zapruder is the author of three collections of poetry, most recently Come On All You Ghosts; the co-founder of Verse press (now part of Wave Books); and was co-translator of the final work of Romanian poet Eugen Jebeleanu. His poems have appeared in The New Yorker, McSweeney's, Bomb and Paris Review, among other places.

From his Q & A with Carolyn Kellogg at the Los Angeles Times:

Jacket Copy: Your poems include references to pop culture, like Diet Coke, bicycles and White Castle as well as high culture, like Samuel Taylor Coleridge. Do you ever worry that people who get one won't get the other?

Matthew Zapruder: No, not really. Although I do like the idea of someone who only reads Coleridge not knowing what a Diet Coke or bicycle is. "What is this two-wheeled contraption? And this delicious fizzy concoction that won't stretch my waistcoat?" I think a lot of things in poems seem obscure, when if they were in a different form of writing they wouldn't. People would just look them up on Google and go on with their lives.

JC: Do you like reading your poems out loud?

MZ: Yes, although it often makes me feel nervous and self-conscious. I write my poems to communicate with other people, and it is a very powerful experience to actually stand in front of an audience -- or for that matter, sit with one person -- and be in the poem together. Though risky, because if the poem doesn't cross over and make a connection everyone can feel kind of awful. The single biggest change in my own writing over the course of several books has been to be more...[read on]
Check out some of Zapruder's poems available online.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Ken Mercer

Ken Mercer's new novel is East on Sunset.

From his Q & A about Slow Fire, his first novel, with Hector DeJean:

Hector DeJean: What inspired your book?

Ken Mercer: On Independence Day, 2006, my family and I made a trip to a small town in rural northern California.

We’d been to this particular town before: it’s charming, picturesque, and filled with Gold Rush-era architecture.

After unpacking, it quickly became apparent that the town had changed in the two years since our last visit. Homes had fallen into a state of disrepair. Stores were boarded up. People’s faces were covered with sores, as if affected by a biblical plague. The place now had a scary feel.

I asked my wife what the hell was going on, and she told me that it seemed as if the majority of the town’s populace was tweaking on meth.

I was skeptical — at the time I was unaware of the meth epidemic that was sweeping rural America.

When we got back home, I did some quick online research, and discovered that a large clandestine meth lab had just been raided not far from the town. As I dug deeper, I started to get excited by the dramatic possibilities inherent in a fictional small town that is being overtaken by the pernicious influence of a clandestine meth lab. I thought it could be Invasion of the Body Snatchers meets Red Harvest, but written with a modern crime fiction sensibility.

HD: How and why did you start working on this book?

KM: I had been writing about...[read on]
Visit Ken Mercer's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Raffi Yessayan

Raffi Yessayan is the former chief of the Gang Unit in the Suffolk County DA 's Office. He spent eleven years in the DA’s Office, prosecuting violent offenders and has lecturing nationally on the issues of gangs, guns and crime prevention strategies.

His novels include 8 in the Box and 2 in the Hat.

From a Q & A at his website:

Q. Raffi, you were a prosecutor for 11 years. What made you decide to become a prosecutor?

A. When I became a lawyer, I wanted to work at a job where I felt I was making a difference in people's lives, not just bringing home a paycheck. It was rewarding work trying to make neighborhoods safe for people to live, work and play in without fear of violence.

Q. But you are now in private practice as a criminal defense attorney trying to free the same people you fought to put in jail for so many years. Isn't your work hurting the people in the neighborhoods you were trying to make safe?

A. I don't think so. More than anything else, I believe in our criminal justice system. In order for the system to work, we need to have lawyers fighting for the accused and forcing the government to prove its case beyond a reasonable doubt. In my new position as a defense attorney, I am still trying to make a difference in people's lives by ensuring that criminal defendants, especially indigent ones, are treated fairly within the system.

Q. As a prosecutor (at the time of writing Eight in the Box ), how did you justify writing a novel about a serial killer?

A. This is something I...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, May 20, 2011

Alan Sillitoe

Alan Sillitoe, who died of cancer in 2010, was one of the most important British writers of the postwar era. He made his name with the novel Saturday Night and Sunday Morning (1958) and the collection of short stories The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner (1959). From his final interview, with James Walker of arts magazine LeftLion:

Alan, let's talk about your childhood – what was it like growing up in Nottingham?

I lived in Radford, mostly. And it was very good really. It was a jungle. I don't mean a terrible jungle, but a benign jungle where we knew every twist and turn and double alley.

A happy place?

We all felt perfectly safe as kids and it was a good place to grow up actually. We lived about a hundred yards from the Raleigh Factory where we were on munitions during the war. I went to work there in 1942 when I was 14, and stayed for three months, then went somewhere else [where] they were making plywood parts for invasion barges and Mosquito bombers. All I wanted to do was get in the Air Force and bomb Germany. That's all you wanted to do in those days.

You attracted a lot of attention a few years ago by being one of the few authors to support the Iraq War. Given what's happened since, is it a view you stand by?

Not entirely. But to a certain extent, I do, because I believe that giving the people there a say in their own destiny is a good idea. But they don't seem to think so. And now it's very difficult for us to come out of it and leave them on their own. It's a shame they're not more educated, and that religion has such a high place in their life. If it didn't, they'd be alright. But they've buggered it up, really. You can't help some people.
Read the complete Q & A.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, May 19, 2011

R.N. “Roger” Morris

R.N. “Roger” Morris is the author of The Gentle Axe, A Vengeful Longing, A Razor Wrapped in Silk, and The Cleansing Flames--thrillers starring Porfiry Petrovich, the investigating magistrate borrowed from Dostoevsky’s novel, Crime and Punishment.

From his Q & A with J. Kingston Pierce at Kirkus:

What did you see in the Porfiry Petrovich of Crime and Punishment that made you want to promote him as your own fictional protagonist?

In my ignorance, when I first read Crime and Punishment as a callow youth, I think I expected it to be a detective novel, and so I expected Porfiry to be the star. Of course, it isn’t a detective novel, it’s a murderer novel. So I suppose my idea, originally, was to write the novel I’d been expecting to read all those years ago.

Going back to the Porfiry of Crime and Punishment, he only appears in person for a couple of chapters, but his presence looms large over the book. [Rodion Romanovich] Raskolnikov, the murderer, becomes obsessed by the idea of him. Everything in that book is seen through the prism of Raskolnikov. So it was interesting to try to extract a character from that distorted psychological perspective and try to bring it to independent life.

What struck me also is that Porfiry is described a couple of times as a prankster. That, I thought, was fascinating. In the kind of psychological games he plays, the manipulation, the trickery—he’s set the template for a certain kind of fictional detective, including Columbo, apparently. He’s a kind of archetype, so I was very drawn to the idea of trying to re-imagine the original.

Do you feel hampered as the caretaker of a Dostoevsky character? Must you represent Porfiry Petrovich just as the Russian author might have done?

To begin with, I felt a terrible...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Brian Garfield

Brian Garfield is a novelist (author of the cult classics Death Wish and Hopscotch), screenwriter, and an old friend of Donald Westlake's.

From his Q & A about Westlake with Levi Stahl of the University of Chicago Press:

LTS: As you mentioned earlier, Westlake wrote screenplays—including an Oscar-winning adaptation of Jim Thompson's The Grifters. But he never (as far as I know?) wrote any screenplays based on his own material—even as he was never fully satisfied with any of the films that were made from Parker novels. Was there a reason for that?

BG: Several reasons. One, obviously, is that if you've written the novel then you've already told the story. Writing it in another form can be boring. It's much more interesting to adapt someone else's story for the screen—you haven't written it before. Another, probably less obvious, is that if a studio or producer buys your book, then it's their (or his) movie to ruin. If you write the screenplay, you're likely to get blamed if it's a bad movie based on your own novel. As Don said, "If I write a novel, I'm a god. If I write a screenplay, I'm a minor deity."

It may be true that Don was not fully satisfied with any of the Parker films, but he did like Point Blank a lot—we talked several times about director John Boorman's imaginative use of imagery and time, such as the scene in which Lee Marvin is shown waiting in a room, and then is shown waiting in the same room but this time it's unfurnished—like the character's mind. I don't think Don was crazy about the Alcatraz frame for the film's story—it struck him as pretentious—but he liked Marvin and he liked most of what Boorman did with it. Also to some extent he liked The Outfit, partly because of its casting—director John Flynn cast Robert Duvall in the lead, and filled the 1973 movie with film noir actors from an earlier time, such as Robert Ryan, Marie Windsor, Jane Greer, Sheree North, Richard Jaekel, Tim Carey, and Elisha Cook Jr.

The rest of the Parker movies were routine except for Made in USA, and adaptation of The Jugger by Jean-Luc Godard that was incredibly bad—so bad that Don sued Godard in French court, won the lawsuit, and prevented the film from being mass-exhibited in the United States for many years. (You can get a copy now on DVD, but unless you're a masochist it ain't worth it.)

He never sold the Parker character, so the leading man in each of the movies has a different name. This was largely a commercial decision—if you give up the character, you may have given up all the books. (Joe Gores and I ran into that silliness when we tried to sell a Sam Spade screenplay.) But Don remarked more than once that...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Arthur Phillips

In Arthur Phillips's latest novel The Tragedy of Arthur, the protagonist--also named Arthur Phillips--is bequeathed a previously unknown play allegedly written by Shakespeare in 1597. The man who gives him the play (titled The Tragedy of Arthur)--which appears in the novel in its five-act entirety--is his father...who happens to be a con man.

From Phillips's Q & A with Julie Steinberg at the Wall Street Journal:

The Wall Street Journal: How did you go about writing a Shakespearean play?

Arthur Phillips: The experts helped me on later drafts. It was a very technical process. I read all of Shakespeare’s work the order it was written in and compared the source book to finished product. It was a question of vocabulary choices and the rigidity of the rhyme scheme, the number of syllables. I didn’t use any words that he didn’t have access to. I looked at how often he ended an act in a rhyming couplet and the percentage of people who tend to be dead at the end of a history play, for example. The more questions you can ask yourself about his patterns, the more you can find him.

Were you trying to organize the novel that way as well? Shakespeare often portrays events over which the individual has no control, something that happens to Arthur in the book.

It was mostly accidental. I was very conscious of the form in the play and tried to match his structural habits. In the novel, I wanted to have his other plays echoing throughout. When Arthur falls in love, it’s with a “dark lady.” Stuff like that mattered to me.

The book confronts issues of authenticity in the form of a debate on whether Shakespeare wrote all the plays himself. Does it matter for you who wrote them?

I’m...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, May 16, 2011

Anne Kreamer

In the 1990s Anne Kreamer was worldwide creative director for Nickelodeon and Nick at Night. Her new book is It's Always Personal: Emotion in the New Workplace.

From her Q & A with Carolyn Kellogg at the Los Angeles Times:

Jacket Copy: Your book looks at the emotion of the workplace by combining statistical research with what we know about the chemistry of the human brain and body. That seems very... unemotional. Can you tell us a little bit about your approach?

Anne Kreamer: My interest in the subject of emotion in the workplace crept up on me, starting from a very personal point of view, then growing in gradual concentric circles to include statistical research and neuroscience. A few years ago I was chatting with my former colleague, Sara Levinson, who has been a top executive within both deeply male (MTV, the NFL) and deeply female (ClubMom, the women’s group at Rodale publishing) professional environments. She asked me a funny question: Did I know any woman who had never cried at work? While I’d obviously never conducted a crying-on-the-job poll of my friends, I realized that no, I probably didn’t. And certainly I had cried, years earlier, when I was a senior vice president at Viacom’s Nickelodeon and my uber-boss, Sumner Redstone, called me for the first time -- and screamed at me.

With that one cocktail-party question, I set off on a two-year journey exploring emotion – negative emotions, positive emotions, all emotions -- in the modern workplace. I started by conducting informal interviews with former colleagues and friends, which then led me to widen my scope to include hundreds of working Americans on a cross-country tour. I talked to neuroscientists and psychiatrists and psychologists and organizational scholars, but I realized that I also wanted some kind of quantitative baseline, a statistically valid national portrait of emotion on the job, to provide a context for my one-on-one interview findings.

After delving deeper into the relevant literature, I discovered that while there are myriad studies looking at emotion, nearly all were conducted by psychologists or neurobiologists in small, controlled laboratory experiments. Conversely, there were broad anecdotal digests compiled by consultants or social scientists that focused primarily on the skills that might help people to control their problematic emotions. The experimental studies were limited and highly artificial, removed from the multidimensional complexity of actual life at work. And the anecdotal studies tended to lack useful depth. There was nothing I could find that really nailed a basic question: How do Americans experience and express emotions at work these days?

I knew that the kind of research I was interested in would require a substantial commitment of resources, both human and financial, and it occurred to me that one logical place to turn for help would be an advertising agency. After all, agencies and their research departments are in the business of gathering information about regular people’s attitudes and behaviors, and then microscopically dissecting that data to make it illuminating and useful -- which seemed similar to what I was hoping to do with people’s real-life experiences of emotions at work. So I convinced the giant ad agency J. Walter Thompson to partner with me and conduct two national surveys.

Grounding myself in the statistical and scientific allowed me to toggle back and forth between the insights I gained from my own professional experiences and individual interviews and establish fresh connections and understandings of how emotions drive work and vice-versa.

JC: Is it really all right to cry at work?

AK: The short answer is...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Stella Rimington

Stella Rimington joined Britain’s Security Service (MI5) in 1969. During her nearly thirty-year career she worked in all the main fields of the Service’s responsibilities—counter subversion, counter espionage and counter terrorism—and successively became Director of all three branches. Appointed Director General of MI5 in 1992, she was the first woman to hold the post and the first Director General whose name was publicly announced on appointment. Following her retirement from MI5 in 1996, she became a nonexecutive director of Marks & Spencer and published her autobiography, Open Secret, in the United Kingdom. Her novels include At Risk, Secret Asset, Illegal Action, and Dead Line.

From her Q & A with Jordan Foster at Publishers Weekly:

How is the MI5 that Liz Carlyle joins different from the agency you joined in the late 1960s, particularly for women?

When I joined, women were really restricted in what they were allowed to do. It was really a two-tier career system. It was a different era altogether. Women were restricted to dealing with the clerical end, the papers, sorting out the files, doing a bit of intelligence assessment or analysis if we were thought to be quite bright. But the "sharp end" intelligence work—dealing with the sources and doing the sharp end of the investigation—was completely off the map for women in those days. As the '70s came along, with women's liberation and sexual discrimination reform, etc., we women who had degrees and were well educated were actually very similar to the young men that they had started to recruit. Gradually things began to change and we were allowed, rather tentatively at first, to move into more of the sharp end work.

How is Liz's career path similar to yours?

It's broadly similar. Again, you have to cast your mind back to another era. When I joined, it was the height of the cold war. The majority of the service's work was counterespionage, countering the efforts of the Soviet Union and its allies to spy and subvert Western democracies by spreading world communism. But then countering terrorism...[read on]
Read about the fictional character that Stella Rimington thinks most resembles her.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Kevin Brockmeier

Kevin Brockmeier is the author of the short story collection Things That Fall from the Sky, and The Brief History of the Dead and The Truth About Celia, among other books. His latest novel is The Illumination.

From Brockmeier's Q & A with Michele Filgate at Bookslut:

Your second novel, The Brief History of the Dead, was originally a short story. Was that also the case for The Illumination?

Yes and no. In both cases, I knew that I was actually beginning a novel, but I wanted to satisfy the terms of some smaller introductory structure as a way of easing myself into the larger continuing structure of the book. I tend to think of the opening pages of a novel as a testing ground, a place where I can figure out how its sentences will work, its rhythms; answer the questions I have about the balance and motion of its voice; discover the emotional tones it will allow me to use; determine how intimate its intimacies will be; and in general prepare the way for the narrative that will follow.

With The Illumination, it's not that I wrote a short story and then recognized the broader possibilities of the idea; I recognized the broader possibilities of the idea and found a way to broach them in a short (though really rather long: 13,000-word) story. Beyond that, I tried to design nearly every section of the book so that it could stand alone, completely apart from the others. In fact, three of its pieces were originally published elsewhere as self-contained narratives: "Ryan Shifrin" in Tin House, "Jason Williford" in The Toad Suck Review, and the fairy tale embedded in Nina Poggione's section, "A Fable for the Living," in Electric Literature.

One of the things that attracts me to your writing is the blending of literary fiction with genre elements. There’s often a sci-fi/magical realism bend to your work. Why is that? What inspires you to do that?

I think of myself as working within -- or at least aspiring to work within -- the very particular tradition of writers whose books I happen to love. Many of those writers are realists, but many others are fantasists, though it's a toss-up as to whether you'll find their books shelved with the literary fiction or with the science fiction and fantasy. All of them, though, regardless of their genre affiliations, are authors of tremendous vision, great craft, and a complex and absorbing sense of what it means to be alive. All of them write the kind of books that inspire me to emulation.

Aside from that, I suppose I turn to the fantastic or the magical or the strange or the uncanny so often because...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, May 13, 2011

Erik Larson

Erik Larson's new book is In the Garden of Beasts: Love, Terror, and an American Family in Hitler's Berlin: The time is 1933, the place, Berlin, when William E. Dodd becomes America’s first ambassador to Hitler’s Germany in a year that proved to be a turning point in history.

From Larson's Q & A with Seattle Times book editor Mary Ann Gwinn:

Q. Did you want to write about the Dodds, or the period they lived through? How did you find them?

A. It was five-six years ago. I was hard up for an idea — I'm always hard up for an idea, until I get one. I was browsing the history section at the Barnes & Noble [University Village]. I bought "The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich" by William Shirer with some trepidation — it is quite long (1,264 pages). Shirer was in Berlin in the 1930s as a radio correspondent. Reading and realizing that he'd been there, I thought: What would it have been like to go to a party and meet [Nazi leader Hermann] Goering?

Then I came across William E. Dodd's diary at Suzzallo Library [at the University of Washington]. I found Martha's (Dodd's daughter) memoir, and Bella Fromm's (a Jewish journalist who eventually fled Germany). I wondered: How does a culture slip its moorings, to go from the freewheeling Weimar culture to this dark, claustrophobic regime? Why did it take so long for people to take on Hitler?

Q. What drew you to Dodd, a University of Chicago historian who wound up as the American ambassador to Nazi Germany?

A. I liked the fact that Dodd was a completely unlikely candidate for his position. ... He wanted this cush job so he could...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Sara Gran

Sara Gran's new novel is Claire Dewitt and the City of the Dead.

From her Q & A with Declan Burke:

What crime novel would you most like to have written?

Raymond Chandler’s THE LONG GOODBYE. Beautiful, haunting, and exactly what the mystery is is a mystery itself.

What fictional character would you most like to have been?

Well, I like being myself. But Sherlock Homes might have been fun. I would like to be smarter than I am. And Nero Wolfe’s sidekick Archie Goodwin always seemed to have a good time.

Who do you read for guilty pleasures?

I don’t feel guilt about reading. I mean, there’s people killing people out there, Declan, and you think I should feel bad about reading a trashy novel?! But I do enjoy some light reading others would probably like to make me feel guilty for; in contemporary stuff I enjoy the Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child thrillers, and I never get tired of ....[read on]
Visit Sara Gran's website and blog.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Carol Wallace

Carol Wallace is the author of numerous books, including The Official Preppy Handbook, which she coauthored. Leaving Van Gogh is her first historical novel. A graduate of Princeton University, Wallace received a M.A. in art history from Columbia University in 2006. The research for her M.A. thesis provided the foundation for Leaving Van Gogh. From her Q & A with Alexandra Cheney at the Wall Street Journal:

The Wall Street Journal: Within the folds of the book, what is the starkest yet important detail?

Carole Wallace: The contrast between the city and the country outside it. It is so stark in the book. The impulse to escape and get out and see trees and the weather, spring in the country is so strong for Vincent. What doesn’t make it into the book is when he arrived in Paris and then later when one day goes back to Paris from Auver-sur-Oise and he can’t really take it.

Do you think the city was too much for him?

There’s a strong sense of the city that is too much for him. There are too many contacts, too many people to see so he folded up and had to flee. The whole book occurs when had to get out and be in the country. On the other hand his paintings look they way they do live because of the time he lived with his brother in city. He saw how urban scenes were painted. And there’s a kind of dichotomy in his work. He got a great deal out of the city but couldn’t always stand to live there.

What surprised you in researching of the book?

You know what was very gratifying, how...[read on]
Learn more about the book and author at Carol Wallace's website.

The Page 69 Test: Leaving Van Gogh.

Writers Read: Carol Wallace.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Walter Mosley

Walter Mosley is a best-selling author of more than 34 books.

About his 2010 novel, The Last Days of Ptolemy Grey:

At ninety-one years old, Ptolemy Grey is one of the world’s forgotten: by his family, by his friends, by even himself. Marooned in a cluttered Los Angeles apartment overflowing with mementos from his past, Ptolemy sinks deeper into lonely dementia and into a past that’s best left buried. He’s determined to pass the rest of his days with only his memories for company. Until, at his grandnephew’s funeral, he meets Robyn and experiences a seismic shift, in his head, his heart, and his life.

Seventeen and without a family of her own, Robyn is unlike anyone Ptolemy has ever known. She and Ptolemy form an unexpected bond that reinvigorates his world. Robyn will not tolerate the way he has allowed himself to live, skulking in and out of awareness barely long enough to cash his small pension checks, living in fear of his neighbors and the memories that threaten to swallow him. With Robyn’s help, Ptolemy moves from isolation back into the brightness of friendship and desire. But Robyn’s challenges also push Ptolemy to make a life-changing decision that will affect both of them: to recapture the clarity and vigor of his fading mind and unlock the secrets he has carried for decades.
In a Q & A with Rachel Emma Silverman at the Wall Street Journal, Mosley discussed his personal experience with some of the novel's themes:
Wall Street Journal: When was your mother diagnosed with dementia?

For at least seven years, it was apparent that she was having more and more difficulty handling things, and slowly over a period of time, I started taking over responsibilities in her life, paying the checks, making sure that other things were dealt with…They eventually took away her license and I had to find someone to drive her…I think that in my mother’s early 70s, there were markers that showed she was having problems. We were leaving a restaurant and she looked around everywhere and said “I can’t find my keys.” I looked in her purse. They were right there.

Tell me a bit about your family. Were there other family members able to help you?

My father died 17 years ago. I have no brothers or sisters. My mother had no brothers or sisters. My father was an orphan… One of the real challenging issues, it was just me. That was all that was going to take care of this.

…What I was dealing with was very much like parenting, but inverted. Parents automatically know that children need to be protected, physically and emotionally. That’s the whole thing about parenting that’s inverted here. You know your parents in another way — as being responsible, taking care of themselves, as being in charge, and they know themselves in that way, too…You can never do as much for them as they did for you.

Was it tough to communicate with her from afar?

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

Monday, May 9, 2011

Aimee Bender

Aimee Bender is the author of four books: The Girl in the Flammable Skirt (1998) which was a New York Times Notable Book, An Invisible Sign of My Own (2000) which was a Los Angeles Times pick of the year, Willful Creatures (2005) which was nominated by The Believer as one of the best books of the year, and The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake (2010).

From Bender's Q & A with Dennis Nishi at the Wall Street Journal:

Do you think new writers in general have trouble believing in magic? I’ve noticed in popular culture that there seems to be a need to ground everything. Even in imagined worlds like the “Tron” movie, the electronic people eat, sleep and wobble unsteadily. In the original 80s movie, they just existed.

That’s interesting. It’s such a common workshop comment, which is to embody the characters in the place, that I wonder if that’s seeped into screenwriting. I think you’re right in that a movie like that really has to work amazingly on its own terms for people to let go.

You don’t seem to have any problem with turning magic into seamless events in your books.

For me, even in my first book, the pleasures of writing anything magical is that it has to be physical. It has to be grounded and very much in this world. Then, I get to play with all the consequences of this new thing. If somebody has a fire, I still get to talk about fire as opposed to a concept or an idea.

On the other hand, the magic in “The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake” is all internal and in the mind of your protagonist, which can almost come across as metaphor.

The magic was really a way to access the emotional life of Rose, which allowed me to explore the relationships she has with...[read on]
Visit Aimee Bender's website.

The Page 99 Test: Willful Creatures.

Writers Read: Aimee Bender.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Charles Fishman

From David Leonhardt's Q & A with Charles Fishman, author of The Big Thirst:

Q. You call the last 100 years “the golden age of water,” at least in the developed world. But you also say the golden age is over. As you told Terry Gross, on “Fresh Air,” “We will not, going forward, have water that has all three of those qualities at the same time: unlimited, unthinkingly inexpensive and safe.” Why not?

Mr. Fishman: We’re spoiled. Well-designed, well-engineered water systems were built across the United States and the developed world 100 years ago. They worked so well that they literally helped make creative economically vibrant cities possible, and healthy. And those water systems were so successful they became invisible — and they remain invisible.

We just assume when we turn on the tap, the water will be there, and that the water system buried in the ground is doing fine.

Both assumptions are out of date. Population growth, economic development (which changes dramatically how much water people want and use), and climate change are all putting pressure on water supplies — not just in places like Las Vegas or California, but in Atlanta, in Florida, in Spain, across China.

We are going to have to move from an era of unconscious water abundance to an era of smart water — using...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Scott Sparling

From a Q & A with Scott Sparling about his new novel, Wire to Wire:

You’ve been working on Wire to Wire for about two decades. Do you remember where it started? And how has it evolved over the years?

I’ve written about trains – freights – as long as I’ve been writing fiction. The first finished draft was 700 pages of train stuff without much plot. I was following the advice of my first teacher, Jack Cady, who told me to take a couple reams of paper and fill them up, ruin them. Make mistakes – because if you aren’t making mistakes, you aren’t taking risks, and no one will want to read what you write.

Also, in the earliest drafts, nothing was in chronological order. I thought it would be cool if the novel worked the way real memory worked. You don’t have to remember what happened when you were 20 before you can remember what happened the following year. We all have random access memory. So the narrative was like that too. I thought the reader would enjoy putting everything back in order and making sense of things. In fact it drove readers crazy, or drove them away. No one understood what the hell was happening. So every draft got more chronological.

About halfway through the process, I realized it needed a stronger storyline, a real plot. But I had no idea how plot worked, or how to incorporate one. Those rewrites were hard. It was like trying to put plumbing and wiring into a house you’ve already built, when you have no plumbing or wiring skills. It took forever.

Eventually, the train scenes became secondary to other things, like Slater’s attempt at connection, and the power of sex and money.

I’ve seen pictures of you from the '70s—longhaired, draped in denim, and riding freight cars. How much of the novel is autobiographical?

I...[read on]
Visit Scott Sparling's website and blog.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, May 6, 2011

Peter Mountford

From Raphaela Weissman's Bookslut interview with Peter Mountford about his new novel A Young Man's Guide to Late Capitalism:

How did this book come about?

After college, I spent a couple years working for this shady right-wing think tank as one of their token liberals. I made eight bucks an hour, but thanks to some vigorous title inflation I was referred to as an “adjunct fellow” on my later bylines. My previous job had been flipping burgers. Thanks to the title, my work ended up in Christian Science Monitor and other lofty venues that would have ignored me if they’d known I was a 22-year-old fry cook. I knew a very pretty girl in Ecuador and wanted to get back in touch with her, so I took the job to Quito and wrote for the think tank about Ecuador’s ailing economy for a year-plus. After that I quit. Back in the US, I started writing fiction because it seemed like the only sensible thing to do.

I was not one of those savants you hear about, who barf out an immaculate novel on their first attempt. I wrote a ton of awful stuff for five years and then got an MFA at the University of Washington, and that’s when my fiction finally started improving, pretty palpably and abruptly. By the time I graduated, at age 30, in 2006, I’d started winning some awards and getting published, and things kind of moved along, at last.

I’ve long sought ways of exploring my experiences with finance and economics with my writing. Because not only was I a hack economist, but my father worked for the IMF for ages, and my sister is an economist for the OECD. This book was, basically, an attempt to synthesize my fascination with money and international economics with my love of...[read on]
Visit Peter Mountford's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Julianna Baggott

Julianna Baggott's latest novel, written under her pen name Bridget Asher, is The Provence Cure for the Brokenhearted.

From her Q & A with Caroline Leavitt:

The Provence Cure for the Brokenhearted is a novel about the curative powers of place. Do you consider yourself a writer who focuses on place? How does place figure into this novel and your work, in general?

When I read one of the first reviews of the novel -- from Kirkus -- I was struck by the phrase "unabashedly romantic." It seemed like a suitable commentary on the differences between American and French culture. Americans are, generally speaking, "bashedly" romantic; and the French are insistently romantic. The first sentence that came to me in writing this novel was "Grief is a love story told backwards." I wanted to tell an unabashedly romantic novel about that grief, about a woman finding herself again, returning to her senses.

One of the most important things about living somewhere foreign to you is that you can't take for granted what you're seeing, hearing, tasting. It's how we should always live -- no matter where we are -- fully awake to the world around us. But sometimes we shut down to that world. I wanted to describe a character opening up to it. France has always held a certain power over me. I started learning the language at ten when my father was considering a transfer to Geneva. My French is bawdy -- I learned most of it in Parisian bars when in my early twenties -- and I love the language and the food and their unabashedly romantic natures.

You write novels for adults, younger readers, collections of poetry, essays, under your own name as well as two pen names. Talk to us about genre-hopping and writing for different audiences.

Every genre has its burdens, and each demands all of my imaginative efforts. When you write a character over the course of a novel, you are engaging, deeply, in the practice of empathy. Whatever genre and for whatever...[read on]
Learn more about the book and author at Bridget Asher's website and blog.

The Page 69 Test: The Pretend Wife.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Robert Wilson

Robert Wilson is the author of four crime novels set in West Africa featuring Bruce Medway, two thrillers set in Portugal during the Second World War, and a series of four crime novels set in Seville featuring the detective Javier Falcón.

From his Q & A with PBS:

Though you knew you wanted to be a writer from the age of 14, you didn’t necessarily set out to write crime novels. How did it happen, and what about the genre appeals to you?

I had always traveled a lot and after a long trip over a year through Africa I started writing some travel stories. This happened just as travel writing was going out of fashion but a screenwriter friend of mine, who was taking time out to write some crime novels, read my stories and thought they would make a great setting for a series of mysteries. He told me to read Raymond Chandler and Elmore Leonard to get the feel. Both writers were a revelation to me in the ways of classic and contemporary “noir”.

What appeals to me about the genre is that there are no boundaries but the readers do make specific demands on the writers – great setting, strong characters, good plot and a powerful narrative. This is not a bad way to write novels.

You’ve said that books come harder, not easier, now that you’ve been writing for many years—why?

If you want to stand still as a writer, then the books probably would come easier. But if you want to push yourself to new limits, tell stories which contain more and more of the complexities of life, then inevitably you’re going to make life difficult for yourself. I’ve given myself new challenges with every book, some of them technical, others emotional and intellectual. We’re...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Stefanie Pintoff

Stefanie Pintoff is the author of a historical mystery series where early criminal science meets the dark side of old New York. Her debut novel, In the Shadow of Gotham, won the Edgar® Award for Best First Novel and the St. Martin’s Press / Mystery Writers of America Best First Crime Novel Award, while also earning nominations for the Agatha and RT Reviewer’s Choice Awards. Her second in the series, A Curtain Falls, released in May 2010.

Pintoff's new novel Secret of the White Rose releases later this month.

From her Q & A with Ayo Onatade at Shots:

For those of us who don’t know much about you would you mind giving us a bit of background information?

I got the chance of a lifetime when my first manuscript won a writing contest. It was the annual unpublished mystery contest that Minotaur Books sponsors with Mystery Writers of America. And the prize was what every would-be writer desires most a publishing contract. That manuscript was In the Shadow of Gotham. And a year later, it was on bookstore shelves everywhere.

Have you always wanted to write?

Yes – as is probably natural for anyone who loves reading stories as much as I do. And like most fiction writers, I’ve always written extensively – even when I was doing other things.

What were you looking for in a novel that made historical crime fiction so attractive?

I became fascinated by early criminal science and how it was being used to solve crime at the turn of the last century. By 1905, more innovative criminal scientists were beginning to challenge the prevailing opinion that criminal behavior resulted from a flaw of nature – a view popularized by Lombroso’s theory of the “born criminal.” Scientists like my Alistair Sinclair sought to disprove these notions by interviewing and learning from a variety of violent offenders. This practice was not uncommon, but it was highly controversial people worried that if we came to understand the criminal too well, and then we might excuse (and not punish) his or her behavior.

Can you tell us a bit about the characters that you created? Are they based on people that you know?

I came up with a pair of heroes who are flawed and unlikely partners. My criminologist, Alistair Sinclair, is loosely based on one of my law professors at Columbia – someone who was as academically brilliant as he was enamored of the high life in NYC. I conceived of the down-to-earth Simon Ziele to be his perfect foil. Simon’s character is loosely drawn from the best traits of certain people I’ve known. Alistair’s academic learning complements Simon’s street-sense.

What makes a character real for you? Must you work out everything about them before hand or do you just let it flow?

Definitely the...[read on]
The Page 69 Test: In the Shadow of Gotham.

The Page 69 Test: A Curtain Falls.

Read--Coffee with a Canine: Stefanie Pintoff & Ginger.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, May 2, 2011

Stephen Singular

Stephen Singular, is a two-time New York Times bestselling author whose articles have appeared in New York Magazine, Psychology Today, Inside Sports, The New York Times Magazine, Rolling Stone, and American Photo. From 1983 to 1987, he was a staff writer at The Denver Post and his first book, Talked To Death: The Life & Murder of Alan Berg (1987), was nominated for an Edgar Award. Since then, he’s published 18 more non-fiction books about high-profile crimes, social criticism, and business and sports biographies.

His new book is The Wichita Divide: The Murder of Dr. George Tiller and the Battle over Abortion.

From Singular's Q & A with Jordan Foster at Publishers Weekly:

What inspired you to write about the rise of domestic terrorism within the antiabortion movement?

Twenty-five years ago I wrote about [Denver radio] talk show host Alan Berg's murder in Talked to Death. The Berg assassination was domestic terrorism because it carried out a racial and religious agenda. There are similarities [with the Tiller case], but I was more interested in the differences. For years I'd wanted to write a sequel to Talked to Death, but the time wasn't right. Then Dr. Tiller was killed. Sometimes a single crime can illuminate an entire war that a nation has been fighting. This was that crime. I didn't want to write the history of abortion in America or a book that simply laid out the two sides of the debate. My book weaves together Dr. Tiller's career and the evolution of [his murderer] Scott Roeder from a seemingly normal Middle American into a domestic terrorist. But to me the heart of the book is Lindsey Roeder, Scott's ex-wife, who watched in horror as he changed, but couldn't help him. Every story needs someone to root for, and for me, that's Lindsey.

You pinpoint the media as "amplifier[s] for the emotional forces building in the society." How have these outlets helped perpetuate the culture of hate?

The point I want to re-emphasize is that the uncertainty and fear that people feel are real. But these are largely personal emotions and it's the individual's responsibility to manage them. The talk shows and Internet groups have essentially stood this equation on its head. "Here are the issues," they loudly repeat, "and here are the people to blame for what you're feeling. If abortion makes you uncomfortable, hate Dr. Tiller." Terrorists call this...[read on]
Watch Stephen Singular on The Rachel Maddow Show.

Learn more about The Wichita Divide and its author at Stephen Singular's website and blog.

The Page 99 Test: The Wichita Divide.

Writers Read: Stephen Singular.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Christine Sneed

Christine Sneed is the author of the short story collection Portraits of A Few of the People I’ve Made Cry.

From her Q & A with the Evanston Public Library:

EPL: Many of your stories in Portraits explore the perils of romantic love and do so in the context of May-December relationships. Was this a conscious decision or a coincidence? What intrigues you about romantic relationships between women and men much older or younger?

CS: It’s actually a coincidence that four or five of the stories feature May-December romances. I suppose I’m just curious about what draws people to each other, and when there’s such an age gap, it’s even more intriguing. I think I’m most interested in what it is that each character hopes to find in the other that he/she can’t find in someone closer to his/her age.

EPL: Throughout Portraits, many characters become physically or emotionally intimate with virtual strangers. What is it that makes these characters trust a stranger when often they seem to doubt or mistrust themselves?

CS: I think A LOT of people leap into bed and/or relationships with people they don’t really know and shouldn’t be trusting so soon. For one, it’s human nature to be foolishly hopeful. Sometimes a person’s loneliness is also so overpowering that s/he can’t be trusted to make good decisions about...[read on]
Rae Meadows on Portraits of A Few of the People I’ve Made Cry: "These are richly rewarding stories, and I marvel at Christine’s mastery of the story form."

--Marshal Zeringue