Thursday, February 28, 2013

Rebecca Miller

Writer and filmmaker Rebecca Miller’s most recent book is Jacob’s Folly.

From her Q & A with Annasue McCleave Wilson at Publishers Weekly:

Is your writing influenced by the work of your father, Arthur Miller?

You can’t escape being influenced by your parents, whoever they are. I don’t know if he’s my literary father as much as my biological father, but I do think his natural economy... There’s a kind of moral inquiry in my work that isn’t completely foreign to what he was doing.

How much do you collaborate with your husband [actor Daniel Day-Lewis]?

He’s not my very first reader because I want a story to be finished enough that I know it’s something I can stand behind. He’s a wonderful reader, very honest, wonderful in terms of [understanding] humanity—what people would really do.

Will you make Jacob’s Folly into a movie?

No, I don’t think I’ll be making it into a film anytime soon, or maybe ever. It was a very hard book to...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Megan Abbott

Megan Abbott's latest novel is Dare Me.

From her Q & A at BOLO Books:

BOLO Books: Your two most recent novels, The End of Everything and Dare Me, feature more contemporary settings, smaller towns, and younger protagonists and yet I would be very hesitant to call them Young Adult novels. What is it about the girls in these stories that make them suitable characters for your brand of story, which is geared more towards adult readers? What is it about the threshold to adulthood that is so ripe with dramatic potential?

Megan Abbott: The passage from innocence into experience is probably the constant across all my books and we see it most strikingly in adolescence. It’s the age at which we truly “make” ourselves or let ourselves be made by others. Our friendships, rivalries, crushes, humiliations—they all create us, and with a fervor you never get at any other age. Everything seems to matter so much. Also, I think many of us are still pretty uncomfortable with acknowledging some of the darker feelings of girls at that age—desire, aggression, jealousy. But I find that such ripe terrain.

And better to write about it than to live it—I think it’s the hardest age of all and I’d...[read on]
Visit Megan Abbott's website.

The Page 69 Test: Bury Me Deep.

The Page 69 Test: The End of Everything.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Emily Bazelon

Emily Bazelon's new book is Sticks and Stones: Defeating the Culture of Bullying and Rediscovering the Power of Character and Empathy.

From her Q & A with Emily Yoffe at Slate:

Emily Yoffe: What was the most surprising thing your reporting turned up?

Emily Bazelon: One piece of research in particular helped me understand why kids bully—how that can be a rational, if unfortunate, choice. Robert Faris at U.C. Davis mapped social networks in a few different high schools, and he showed that kids behaving aggressively—not physically, but socially—use gossip, exclusion, and attacks on other kids’ reputations to help themselves move up the social ladder. It turned out that for most kids, it didn’t work, in terms of increasing status, to attack someone much weaker. But if you picked on someone near you in the social hierarchy who was a possible rival, that often had a social benefit. It is sort of depressing but important to understand, I think. People ask: Why do kids act this way? But kids are doing what anyone would do: maximizing their social influence. So then the question is: How do we upend this?

Yoffe: Is it even realistic to think you can upend it? Aren’t you talking about a pervasive part of human nature?

Bazelon: Aggression is endemic to human nature, and we wouldn’t want to stamp it out. Kids are not always going to be nice to one another. But bullying is a certain kind of harmful aggression. The agreed-upon definition is that it’s verbal or physical aggression that is repeated over time and involves a power differential. It’s one kid lording it over another, and because it persists, the victim can find it particularly devastating. We can help kids realize this kind of aggression is not the norm, and in the end, it’s not the best way to advance socially, either.

One school I write about did a survey, and the results showed that 90 percent of students there did not exclude other kids at the lunch table. So they put this information on posters around the school, and the incidence of exclusion dropped even further. There’s an analogy here to the campaign against drunk driving. When I was in high school, I felt it was a tiny bit cool to drink and drive. There wasn’t a strong message about how dangerous and wrong it was. But parents, schools, and the media have succeeded in impressing that on kids, and now they are less likely to do it—and the death rate from drunk driving among young people has gone down significantly. There are social problems that seem intractable, but...[read on]
Writers Read: Emily Bazelon (September 2007).

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, February 25, 2013

Andrew Solomon

Andrew Solomon is the author of The Irony Tower: Soviet Artists in a Time of Glasnost, A Stone Boat, The Noonday Demon: An Atlas of Depression, winner of fourteen national awards, including the 2001 National Book Award, and Far From the Tree: Parents, Children and the Search for Identity.

From his Q & A with Jeremy Adam Smith of the Greater Good Science Center:

Jeremy Adam Smith: Why did you write this book?

Andrew Solomon: Twenty years ago my editors at the New York Times asked me to write about the deaf on the grounds that I had done a lot of reporting about foreign cultures and this was a foreign culture in our midst.

I immediately saw parallels between the experiences of deaf people, with their claim on culture that was questioned by the outside world, and gay people, who had made a similar claim. And I found that most deaf children are born to hearing parents, and that most gay children are of course born to straight parents. I wrote a lot about the ways in which in exploring the deaf experience I found this resonance with my own experience as a gay man.

Then a few years later a friend of a friend of mine had a daughter who was a dwarf, and I heard her asking all the same kinds of questions that hearing parents of deaf children asked themselves: “Do I bring her up to be friends with other dwarfs? Do I tell her she just like everyone else, only she’s shorter? What is the approach supposed to be here?”

As I listened to that experience, I suddenly saw this recurring theme: this idea of parents who perceive themselves to be normal and children who perceive themselves to be different—and parents who don’t know how to deal with these children who are different. If it’s true...[read on]
See Andrew Solomon's five top books about family love.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Glenn Frankel

Glenn Frankel is director of the School of Journalism and G.B. Dealey Regents Professor in Journalism at the University of Texas at Austin.

His new book is The Searchers: The Making of an American Legend.

From the author's Q & A at

DxJF: What prompted you to write the book?

GF: I’d loved The Searchers since I first saw it as a child and for perhaps 20 years I thought I’d love to write about it. Eventually, I started thinking about a coffee table book for the 50th anniversary in 2006, but then I got sidetracked by another foreign assignment for The Washington Post. When I got back from overseas, I wanted to write an American book, and nothing seemed more American than The Searchers. What I didn’t realize was that what began as a simple book about the making of a movie in 1955 would expand into a multi-generational epic spanning 150 years and the entire Southwest.

DxJF: What are the significant differences between the Alan LeMay fictional presentation of the Cynthia Parker story vs. the Ford’s film version of The Searchers? And how does Cynthia Ann’s real story compare to each?

GF: Alan LeMay took the original story, changed the date from 1836 to 1868, combined Cynthia Ann’s tale with that of several other abductees from other times and places, and then shifted the focus from the victim to the relatives who searched to find her. Ford faithfully uses the spirit of LeMay’s novel but shifts some significant parts to fit his needs. The uncle who heads the search becomes the central figure, most notably because he’s played by John Wayne and Wayne dominated every movie he was in. The novel is a powerful piece of work but it’s unrelentingly dark and grim, and Ford leavens it with a tablespoon of cornball humor. Finally, and perhaps most important, Ford raises to the surface all of the racial and sexual tensions that underlie the book. He gives Martin some Indian blood, thus making one of the heroes a “half breed.” And he makes clear that Ethan [played by John Wayne] is searching for Debbie not to restore her to the family but to kill her because she has grown into a young woman and, willingly or not, has had sex with a Comanches.

In both the novel and the film...[read on]
Visit Glenn Frankel's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Camille Paglia

Camille Paglia's latest book is Glittering Images: A Journey Through Art from Egypt to Star Wars.

From her Q & A at Powell's Book Blog:

Who are your favorite characters in history?

I was obsessed with Napoleon during my childhood in the suffocatingly chirpy Doris Day 1950s. I was entranced by Napoleon's fabulous form-fitting military uniforms, which I saw in paintings vividly reproduced in Courvoisier cognac ads in magazines. For Halloween when I was eight, I wore a splendid black, white, and red Napoleon costume and two-cornered hat made by my ingenious parents. (Transgender personae were definitely not the norm back then.) However, as the decades passed and I learned more about Napoleon, disillusion set in. Sometimes war is necessary, but not for vanity and imperialism.

An even bigger craze of mine was Amelia Earhart, whom I spent three years researching in high school in the early 1960s. It was through her that I discovered the thrilling first phase of feminism, when women strove to achieve at the high level of men and didn't get bogged down in resentment and self-pity. In the bowels of the Syracuse public library, I plowed through sooty newspapers and magazines from the 1920s and '30s (not yet on microfilm), wrote hundreds of letters of inquiry, and visited all sorts of Earhart-related places on side trips from family vacations — including the white frame house that was her birthplace in Atchison, Kansas. I briefly met her elderly sister near Boston and had a private appointment with a Smithsonian official to examine Earhart's medals, stored in a vault at the National Air Museum in Washington, D.C.

A record of my Earhart period is my letter to the editor of Newsweek (July 8, 1963) protesting the absence of women in the U.S. space program and demanding "equal opportunity for American women," as Earhart had fought for. Next to my letter (which was the lead item), the magazine published a strong photo of Earhart in her leather flying jacket. I was in high school at the time. It must be noted that this letter appeared the same year as...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, February 22, 2013

A.J. Jacobs

A.J. Jacobs is the author of four New York Times bestsellers, including The Year of Living Biblically (about his quest to follow all the rules of the Bible); The Know-It-All (about his adventure reading the encyclopedia); and Drop Dead Healthy (about his attempt to become the healthiest person alive).

From his Q & A with Alicia Oltuski for Beyond The Margins:

AO: You’ve posed nude for Esquire, where you’re an editor, you’ve stolen and replaced eggs from a pigeon’s nest to fulfill a biblical commandment, you’ve chewed blueberries an exhausting number of times before swallowing them to more properly glean nutrients and taste, and you’ve let a stranger watch you sleep even though your doctor didn’t make you. My point is that you don’t spare yourself as a subject. How does this approach shape you as a writer?

AJ: For me, the best way to research a topic is to dive in and immerse myself in it. If I were writing about France, I would read maps and census data and history books. But I’d also want to go to France and taste the almond croissants. So that’s the way I try to write about every topic. If I’m writing about the Bible, I want to live the Bible — grow a beard, wear sandals and turn the other cheek (or take an eye for an eye, whichever seems more appropriate).

AO: Which one of your projects so far has most enduringly changed your life?

AJ: Probably ‘The Year of Living Biblically.’ Just to give one example: It taught me the importance of gratitude. I am now much more aware of the hundreds of things that go right every day, and I try not to focus on the four or five that go wrong.

AO: The Ed Helms resemblance–that’s a thing, right?

AJ: Ha! I’ve never heard that. But I’ll take it. I do get mistaken for McLovin in...[read on]
The Page 69 Test: The Year of Living Biblically.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Julianna Baggott

Julianna Baggott's new novel is Fuse, the sequel to Pure.

From her Q & A at Powell's Books Blog:

If someone were to write your biography, what would be the title and subtitle?

Oh, poor biographer, weedy and pale. I wish you'd latched onto someone greater, who heaved around more literary weight, drank too much, caused scenes in restaurants, and slept with movie stars. Alas, sweetheart, lowest-ranking PhD candidate in your tidal pool, you've chosen me. Or maybe some sympathetic professor said, "Go with Baggott. No one's talked about her work at all, that I know of." And so you rummage my books for meaning. You access my old emails — oh, the coughing kids, the parent-teacher conference sign-ups, the dog groomer appointments — my God, that collie had a sensitive digestive system — and, sure, a few quips — some even with the writers you wish you'd chosen. But you're in too deep now. You've finally read all the books (why did I have to be so prolific?), and you've jotted notes about my codependent relationship with my husband: "They seem to love each other…" You stare out a window. Here, let me help. Baggott: A Study in Daily Dithering Mess. Buckshot: A Career That Makes No Sense. Julianna Baggott: A Cautionary Tale of a Wannabe Hermit. Don't work too hard on this. In fact, abandon the cause. Take a walk and keep walking. Join a commune. Take up acupuncture. Go get some sun. I'm okay with becoming dust.

What fictional character would you like to date, and why?

I've always loved T. S. Garp. I loved him from the start — from when he was in high school, that is, in his singlet in the dank, fungal stink of the gym's wrestling pads. I loved his mother — her asexual candor, her lack of all pretense. I'd have married him, you know, even though we were both writers. And I'd have never slept with the "gradual" student. I don't like...[read on]
Visit Julianna Baggott's website and blog.

The Page 69 Test: Pure.

Writer Read: Julianna Baggott.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Roger Hobbs

From Sam Coggeshall's Portland Monthly Q & A with Roger Hobbs, author of Ghostman:

What was your inspiration for this novel? Why crime fiction?

I got the idea for Ghostman the summer after my sophomore year at Reed. I was walking home late after a movie when I came across an armored car depot. It was a plain white unmarked building with rows and rows of armored cars parked out front. I sneaked up and touched a few, and my mind started whirling—what do you think I would need to rob one of these? That night I went home and wrote the first chapter of what would become Ghostman.

Portland is such a writers’ town. Does anything about the city contribute to your style of writing or your choice of subject material? The long winters or the rain, say?

The thing that I love most about Portland isn't the rain, but the darkness. Even when the sun comes out, it's never bright here. Nobody wears sunglasses. During the winter months, Portland is submerged in a perpetual twilight—and that's a fantastic atmosphere for a crime writer like me. I like to work at night to avoid distractions, and Portland's quiet, dark, industrial silence definitely helps me set the mood. I love listening to the...[read on]
Visit Roger Hobbs's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Melanie Benjamin

Melanie Benjamin is the author of Alice I Have Been (2010), The Autobiography of Mrs. Tom Thumb (2011), and the newly released The Aviator's Wife.

From her Q & A with Molly Driscoll at the Christian Science Monitor:

Q: What about historical figures makes you want to focus a novel around them?

A: Now that I've got three under my belt, I can sense a pattern. The first one, "Alice I Have Been," was just kind of blindly stumbling across what I thought was an interesting story. But I think I am looking for women who were well-known in their time, or for a short period of time, and have kind of fallen off the public's collective consciousness.

And I also am looking for women who I suspect are not entirely truthful with the historical record or even to themselves – not intentionally, maybe. I think I'm attracted to those stories where I suspect there are a lot of locked doors and hidden closets that we haven't explored.

Q: What have readers or people you know been most surprised by about Anne [Morrow Lindbergh, wife of aviator Charles Lindbergh, and the protagonist of The Aviator's Wife]?

A: I think a lot of people were surprised primarily to hear of her aviation exploits. During the height of their fame in the early '30s, they were Lindy and Anne together, one breath, and she was certainly admired for her aviation and her exploits at that time. Though I think even at the time, everyone assumed it was Lindy doing everything and Anne was tagging along. Certainly female reporters would not ask her about her skills as a pilot, they would ask her how she was going to set up housekeeping in the plane.

I think that what happened was the kidnapping [of the Lindbergh's baby] so...[read on]
Learn more about the book and author at Melanie Benjamin's website.

The Page 69 Test: Alice I Have Been.

The Page 69 Test: The Autobiography of Mrs. Tom Thumb.

My Book, The Movie: The Autobiography of Mrs. Tom Thumb.

Writers Read: Melanie Benjamin (August 2011).

The Page 69 Test: The Aviator's Wife.

Writers Read: Melanie Benjamin.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, February 18, 2013

Chloe Hooper

Chloe Hooper's new novel is The Engagement.

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

Who are your literary influences?

Are influences the same as writers I like? They are Graham Greene, Janet Malcolm, Charlotte Brontë and JM Coetzee.
* * *

If you could own any painting, what would it be?

They’re not paintings but I love Alexander Calder’s studies of the circus, full of dash and dare.
* * *

Who would you choose to play you in a film about your life?

Rita Hayworth.
* * *

What’s the strangest thing you’ve done when researching a book?

Fishing in a small tin boat in crocodile-infested waters. My host had perfect confidence that if he didn’t hurt the crocodiles, they wouldn’t hurt him.
Read the complete Q & A.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Domenica Ruta

Domenica Ruta's new book is With or Without You: A Memoir.

From a Q & A at her website:

In With or Without You, you focus heavily on your mother’s influence on your life. What important lessons have you learned from her?

I feel so lucky to have had a mother who could laugh so deeply. For her, and for us, comedy was a rich psycho-spiritual experience. As a genetic gift, I can’t think of anything more important to my survival. I see so many people in this world who live as though a storm cloud hovers overhead; I’ve never had that problem, because my mother armed me with this sublime sense of humor. Like athleticism, it is in part something you are born with, but also something that needs nurturing to develop. It’s the precondition for finding beauty–humor clears away the brush, tills an open space in the mind so that instances of beauty can be seeded and grow. For me it is so necessary in the process of making art and a happy life.

If you could go back in time and talk to your teenage self, what would you say?

This is hard. I’m tempted to beg her to get sober. Preserve those brain cells you are about to slaughter for next decade and a half! You’ll read Faulkner and for a moment touch the divine–you’ll “get” it, what he’s doing, how you can do it, too–then you’ll forget it all a second later. All of your best ideas–the human frailty of your friends and teachers, the searing connections between mind and body, the metaphors echoing everywhere as though in a universal song–will evaporate as soon as you have them. You won’t learn as much as you can! You won’t grow!

But then again, I needed...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Dean Koontz

When Odd Apocalypse, bestselling suspense author Dean Koontz's fifth novel in his Odd Thomas series about a fry cook with paranormal abilities, came out in the summer of 2012, the author submitted to a Q & A with Irene Lacher for the Los Angeles Times.

Part of the Q & A:

I gather Odd Thomas is your most popular character. Why do you think that is?

I think it's because he's unique to the genre he's in. There were people in my publishing life who were not enamored of Odd Thomas when I turned in the first novel and really didn't want me to write another. And it was my new publisher who said, "I love this. Let's get back to this and round out the series," which is supposed to be seven books.

I think a number of things make him appealing. It's the mix of suspense with humor, the supernatural with gritty realism, and also his humility. Because this is a series of seven books about somebody's journey to perfect humility, and that's what sets him apart from your usual action hero. Now the biggest problem will be when I get to that seventh book and he completes his journey and is a person of complete humility, how am I ever going to write that because I have no experience with complete humility?

So the ending isn't the ending of the character's life? It's the end of his journey in humility?

Let's not say whether it's...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, February 15, 2013

Ann Cleeves

Ann Cleeves's latest book (now out in the UK) is Dead Water, her fifth Shetland novel.

From her Q & A at the Independent:

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

This is impossible and changes every time I'm asked. At the moment it's Christopher Fowler. I love the wit and playfulness of his Bryant and May books. As I get older I'm drawn by old people behaving outrageously.

* * *

Which fictional character most resembles you?

Jo in 'Little Women'. Not very original. I'd guess lots of female writers would choose her.
Read the complete Q & A.

Ann Cleeves's website and online diary.

The Page 99 Test: Raven Black.

The Page 99 Test: White Nights.

The Page 99 Test: Red Bones.

The Page 69 Test: Blue Lightning.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Lachlan Smith

Lachlan Smith is an attorney and the author of Bear is Broken.

From his Q & A with Lenny Picker at Publishers Weekly:

What attracted you to the practice of law?

The law drew me from a young age, because of my mother, who went to law school when I was a kid, commuting a hundred miles each way to St. Paul from our home in western Minnesota. I was immensely proud of and inspired by her achievements (she eventually became a judge) and her deeply compassionate search for fairness.

How has your fiction writing changed since you became a lawyer?

By the time I started law school, I’d become bored with myself as a so-called “literary writer.”Achieving distance from the academy helped me rediscover my love for storytelling, and writing became fun again.

Where did this book come from?

The idea began to germinate after my first year of law school.I was working...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Lee Child

Lee Child is the author of the Jack Reacher thrillers.

From his June 2012 Q & A with J. Kingston Pierce of The Rap Sheet:

JKP: You’ve been good about not criticizing the casting of 5-foot-7-inch actor Tom Cruise to portray 6-foot-5-inch Jack Reacher in a movie version of One Shot. But if you had been asked to cast the role instead, would you have gone in a different direction?

LC: Don’t forget I worked 20 years in TV drama, which is the first cousin of movie production, so I was always realistic about the process. I was thrilled to get Cruise, and beyond thrilled when I saw what he was doing. Book fans with preconceptions are going to be weirded out for the first few minutes, and then they’ll love the next 120 to death.

JKP: There’s plenty of violence in your books. Yet they’re popular with women. Those two facts don’t seem to jibe. Can you explain?

LC: I think they...[read on]
Learn about Lee Child's hero from outside literature and the fictional character he would most like to have been.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Cathy Marie Buchanan

Cathy Marie Buchanan's new novel is The Painted Girls.

From her Q & A with NPR's Scott Simon:


Just who is the "Little Dancer, Aged 14" - the actual girl, cast in two-thirds of her life size, in Edgar Degas' sculpture? That little dancer was Marie Van Goethem, one of three sisters left to fend for themselves after their father dies and their mother devotes much of what she earns as a washerwoman toward absinthe to dull her days. But it's the era of Belle Epoque in Paris, a time remembered for gaslights and glitter. Cathy Marie Buchanan has written a novel that tells the story of the sisters behind the masterpiece, "The Painted Girls." And Cathy Marie Buchanan, author of the previous bestseller, "The Day the Fall Stood Still," joins us from the CBC studios in Toronto. Thanks so much for being with us.


SIMON: Did you see one of the wax reproductions that are in museums around the world and say, there's a novel?

BUCHANAN: What happened was I was watching a documentary that focused on "Little Dancer, Aged 14." And I learned about sort of the seedier side of the Paris opera and also about the pervasion of the young girl, Marie van Goethem, who modeled for the sculpture. It certainly flew in the face of my notions about ballet as a sort of a high-minded pursuit. And I became quite fascinated with the idea of telling this young girl's story.

SIMON: And help us understand the Paris Opera Ballet at the time. For example, there were "protectors and admirers" I put that in quotes, euphemisms that would come to the ballet.

BUCHANAN: Many of the young girls at the ballet were...[read on...or listen to the interview]
Learn more about the book and author at Cathy Marie Buchanan's website.

The Page 69 Test: The Painted Girls.

My Book, The Movie: The Painted Girls.

Writers Read: Cathy Marie Buchanan.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, February 11, 2013

Sara J. Henry

Sara J. Henry is the author of the Troy Chance series of mysteries: Learning to Swim and A Cold and Lonely Place.

From her Q & A at BOLO Books:

BOLO Books: One of the hallmarks of a great series is its characters. In both of your novels you have populated the fictional world with a whole group of fascinating characters beyond your main character of Troy Chance. How did you go about coming up with them and did you know which would be sticking around to re-appear in future books and which were only transitory?

Sara J. Henry: In the first novel, many of the early characters were loosely based on people I’d known in the Adirondacks. But then the character Jameson stepped onto the scene, and came alive all on his own. Once that particular Pandora’s Box was opened, more characters popped out, alive and well.

I always knew that this was a series, and that many of the characters would reappear. Of course I knew that Troy’s brother Simon would, and by the time I had finished the first book I had a vague idea he might meet Troy’s reporter friend Alyssa at some point – I like the idea of bringing those two together. Readers particularly loved Troy’s friend Baker and her roommate Zach, and there was even a “Team Philippe” and “Team Jameson.”

For the new book, A Cold and Lonely Place, it was fun to watch the characters evolve. Jessamyn, Troy’s roommate, turned out very different than I first imagined her, and Win, the victim’s sister, became more of a main character than I’d expected her to be. I love letting characters develop and help direct the story line – I’ve learned just to...[read on]
Visit Sara J. Henry's website and blog.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Michael Northrop

Michael Northrop is the author of three YA novels—Gentlemen, an American Library Association/YALSA Best Book for Young Adults, Trapped, an ALA/YALSA Readers’ Choice List selection and an Indie Next List pick, and Rotten, which comes out on April 1, 2013—and the middle grade novel Plunked.

From his Q & A with Brittney Breakey at Author Turf:

What’s your favorite sport?

This question ... makes perfect sense to me. I’d have to say football. I love baseball, too, but I played football all through high school and almost went to college for it. And the Patriots break my heart less often than the Red Sox, so yeah: football.

Which member of your family has had the greatest influence on your current way of thinking?

My mom. My parents got divorced when I was eight or so, and my mom raised my brother and me. She was an amazing person and had a huge influence on me. She passed away when I was 28, but I still sort of consider myself a momma’s boy (and proudly, too).

What punctuation mark best describes your personality? Why?

Parentheses: I qualify everything (well, almost everything).

What is something you have that is of sentimental value?

I take some small memento from...[read on]
Learn more about the book and author at Michael Northrop's website.

Writers Read: Michael Northrop (March 2011).

Writers Read: Michael Northrop.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Gil Reavill

Gil Reavill's new book is Mafia Summit: J. Edgar Hoover, the Kennedy Brothers, and the Meeting That Unmasked the Mob.

Mafia Summit is the true story of how a small-town lawman in upstate New York busted a Cosa Nostra conference in 1957, exposing the Mafia to America.

From Reavill's Q & A with Randy Dotinga at the Christian Science Monitor:

Q: This was a summit meeting of Mafia types. Was it a board of directors meeting?

A: That's the corporate metaphor that a lot of people use. But that's not quite accurate. It was much more loosely organized than that corporate image, more of a group of like-minded individuals with similar interests and goals and similar concerns.

But there was a national organization of the mob. It was created by Lucky Luciano in 1931, and it really gripped the underworld from that time from 1931 to Apalachin, the golden years for the national syndicate.

Q: What did the governing commission do?

A: The commission controlled the mob to the degree that it tried to eliminate random violence, to keep the level of violence down to an acceptable minimum.

It was sort of a don't-scare-the-horses strategy to have the business run smoothly and stay out of the headlines as much as they could. That was Lucky Luciano's insight: blood in the streets isn't good for business.

Q: Could the commission decide that someone needed to be killed?

A: This was only about made guys. You had to go to the commission and say, "This guy did this wrong, and I want permission to rub him out," and they'd say yea or nay.

When it first happened to a guy over an unsanctioned hit, it was cause for...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, February 8, 2013

Andrew Wilson

Andrew Wilson's new book is Mad Girl's Love Song: Sylvia Plath and Life Before Ted.

From his Q & A with Callie Beusman at Interview magazine:

CALLIE BEUSMAN: Plath mythologized herself, was mythologized by her lovers, and continues to be mythologized by casual readers and academics. I'm interested in how much of this is through Plath's doing and how much happened after she became a literary figure.

ANDREW WILSON: She did constantly mythologize herself, as did many of the people who knew her. I think it's really fascinating, because she did open herself up—like she says—like an anatomical Venus so her psyche could be exposed for all the "peanut-crunching crowd" to see. That opens up to this tendency, this desire, for us to mythologize her. She obviously saw herself as some kind of Electra figure. She also saw herself as Alice in Wonderland, and, to some extent, as Isabel Archer—so not just mythological characters, but fictional characters as well. But also I think it's important to remember that, fundamentally, she was a real person living at a real time. The reason that I call my book Mad Girl's Love Song is really not to call her mad as in the insane sense, but to refer to the fact that she was an angry young woman, and that sense of feminine anger really comes through in her journals and her poetry. I think that many, many women and many people connected with Plath's poetry and her work to such an extent because they saw her as a person, as a real woman dealing with very real concerns.

BEUSMAN: What would you say were the primary sources of this anger?

WILSON: Growing up as a young woman in the 1940s and '50s must have been incredibly difficult, and she articulates all those kinds of concerns—the idea that sex was constrained. Many of the people I interviewed told me that...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Karen Russell

Karen Russell’s new book is Vampires in the Lemon Grove: Stories.

From her Q & A with Noah Charney at The Daily Beast:

Is there one short story in your new collection, Vampires in the Lemon Grove, that you’d consider your “first single,” if your collection were an album? If a reader is going to read one of the stories, which would you recommend and why?

Wow, let me think for a second. I think the title story is a good one. It’s a lens through which you can read the other stories in the collection. It’s about monstrous metamorphoses and addiction, the difficulties of committed love. Tonally, I think it encompasses all of the registers in this collection—the other stories range from pretty jet-black horror-tales to goofball comedies, and “Vampires in the Lemon Grove” is a kind of hybrid that tries to be both comic and consequential.

I’ve recently begun a project in which I read a different short story every day for a month and write a short response to it. What are some great short stories that I really should read, that might not be on everyone’s hit list?

I was thinking about that right before you called. I was hoping you would ask me that. The one I for sure wanted to say was “The Dinosaurs” by Italo Calvino. Have you read it yet?

No, but now I will.

It’s part of Calvino’s fabulous book of stories, Cosmicomics, where each tale begins with a scientific epigraph that’s dry as toast, and then plunges the reader headlong into the world of Qfwfq, a narrator who is as old as the Universe and body-hops into numbers, amoebas, and molecules. My favorite story in the collection is “The Dinosaurs,” which begins, very matter-of-factly, “For a brief period of time, I was a dinosaur…” It’s one of the most...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Tabish Khair

Author of The Thing about Thugs, Tabish Khair is an award-winning poet, journalist, critic, educator and novelist. A citizen of India, he lives in Denmark and teaches literature at Aarhus University.

From his Q & A with Sparsh Sharma at the Aarhus Culture Blog:

Q: How was the journey from Gaya, a small town in Bihar, to Aarhus, Denmark, of a prodigious Indian, now a global literary figure?

TK: It was a hard journey at times, and it has not ended for me, and never will, because I see myself as a ‘small town cosmopolitan’ writer. In the sense that small towns today and in the past have been as ‘cosmopolitan’, and sometimes in different, more creative ways, as big cities; it is a mistake to associate openness only with big cities and conservatism only with small ones. This self-conception makes it difficult for me to accept some of the perspectives of many metropolitan writers or ‘global’ editors, and leaves me a bit in the cold, without the kind of patronage that has become essential to major literary success these days. But I am happy trekking on my own journey, and I have luckily had a fair bit of success on my own terms too.

Q: Some of the remarkable memories of this long journey of hard work and commercial/critical success?

TK: I will save those for my memoirs, if I ever write one, or (what is more likely) I will fashion them into fiction. But one strand that runs through my memories is an awareness of these supposedly peripheral spaces and a suspicion of worldly success, including my own. I feel lucky. I know that many others with just as much to give will not be so lucky. And hence...[read on]
Learn more about the book and author at Tabish Khair's website.

The Page 69 Test: The Thing about Thugs.

My Book, The Movie: The Thing About Thugs.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Erin Kelly

Erin Kelly is the author of two acclaimed psychological thrillers, The Poison Tree and The Sick Rose. Her new novel of psychological suspense is The Burning Air.

From the author's Q & A at the Independent:

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

I like any writer who marries strong narrative with high style, like William Boyd, Maggie O'Farrell and Lesley Glaister.

* * *

Which fictional character most resembles you?

I don't know about resemble, but I always identify with an awkward teenage girl: Zora from Zadie Smith's 'On Beauty' is a favourite.
Read the complete Q & A.

Visit Erin Kelly's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, February 4, 2013

Matt Hilton

Matt Hilton is the Cumbrian author of the Joe Hunter thriller series. He is a high ranking martial artist and has been a police officer and private security specialist, all of which lend an authenticity to the action scenes in his books.

From his Q & A with Sandra Parshall at The Big Thrill:

One reviewer described Joe as “a cold-blooded killer with a heart of gold.” Is that how you see him? How would he describe himself and his line of work?

Hunter worked for many years for a covert military group called ‘Arrowsake’, basically as an assassin taking on terrorist and organised crime groups. Now retired, he has based himself in Florida, working with his old Arrowsake buddy, Jared ‘Rink’ Rington, as an occasional private investigator. But it is not uncommon for Hunter to take on the kind of jobs where lawful protocol can’t help, and in those occasions will act somewhat uncompromisingly. He is a stone cold killer, but he is tempered by his own strict set of moral rules that won’t allow him to hurt anyone undeserving. He is incredibly loyal, a good man at heart, and has no love of violence. He just happens to be particularly good at it. He abhors bullying and will step up to help those unable to help themselves, and will lay his own life or safety on the line for his friends and family. Hunter doesn’t appreciate the term vigilante, but...[read on]
Visit Matt Hilton's website and blog.

Writers Read: Matt Hilton.

The Page 69 Test: Judgment and Wrath.

My Book, The Movie: Judgment and Wrath.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Rainbow Rowell

Rainbow Rowell's YA debut novel is Eleanor & Park.

From her Q & A with Martha Schulman for Publishers Weekly:

Eleanor & Park covers a lot of ground, from difficult family situations to the way music can open up a new world. But most of all, it’s about first love. Is that what you set out to write about?

My motivation was to make people actually feel love, to give them a realistic view of it. If they’re young and never been in love, for them to know – yes, this how it feels. And if they’re older and they have, to feel it as a sense memory.

Emotions run high in the novel. Is it realistic?

I feel like it’s realistic. I feel things very intensely. And I also think that real life is more romantic if you allow it to be, if you don’t act like it’s immature to get excited. I want to consume love stories, but 90% of them feel totally inauthentic. When I watch a romantic comedy, I feel like they’re selling something that doesn’t exist. Two beautiful, but extremely unpleasant, people are terrible to each other for an hour, accidentally kiss, then decide to like each other during an extremely vague montage. That isn’t how...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Peter Hook

Peter Hook was a founding member of Joy Division and New Order. His new book is Unknown Pleasures: Inside Joy Division.

From his Q & A with David Chiu at Rolling Stone:

There's the perception that Joy Division was a band that had a somber, melancholic aura. But your book shows that the band had a very humorous side as well.

That was one of my problems reading books about Joy Division – that while I recognize some of it, I always thought, "You did not get the right end of the stick." There is something, from my point of view, lacking, which was the humanity and the humor. I always felt that making Ian out to be this deep, dark genius was sort of committing the same sin as the musical dinosaurs used to commit – whereas Johnny Rotten and the punk movement were all about demystification and that anybody can do it.

I felt that the story that I had – that we went through – was much more entertaining than this sort of very, in a way, clichèd book. We really did have a laugh at the struggle. After being in New Order for as long as I have been, the fact that you were all very unified and very together in Joy Division, you were all literally going the same way. There was no fight, no tussle. You weren't in it for the money because we didn't get any. As soon as we lost Ian, it actually became very difficult.

You and Bernard saw the Sex Pistols perform at the Lesser Free Trade Hall in Manchester in 1976, and that led the two of you to form a band.

What I loved about the Pistols was the attitude, and the fact it seemed more human, and you could relate to it. I went to see Led Zeppelin just before the Sex Pistols, and I never looked at Led Zeppelin and thought, "I could do that." Yet, when I looked at Johnny Rotten, for some insane reason, which I still can't actually explain, I looked at him and thought "That's what I want to do." And all he was doing, basically, was screaming at everyone to......[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, February 1, 2013

Ismail Kadare

Ismail Kadare's new book is The Fall of the Stone City.

From his Q & A with Noah Charney for The Daily Beast:

What is guaranteed to make you laugh?

The recent situation in my country [Albania], its problems, its grotesque aspects, its misunderstandings.

What is guaranteed to make you cry?

The same thing.

If you could bring back to life one deceased person, whom would it be and why?

I am relieved that such a thing is impossible. If not, I would suffer greatly from what’s called “having an embarrassment of riches,” too many people to choose from.

What is the story behind the publication of your first book?

It was produced in 1955. I was still a high school student in my native city of Gjirokastër. It was a collection of poems that suddenly made me well known in my town. I had sent the manuscript by mail to the main publishing house in Tirana. I was 16 years old in 1953, when I sent it. After three months, I received a telegram from the publisher: “We are considering publishing your book of poetry. Come right away to Tirana.” The distance from my home to Tirana by bus takes 10 hours. My father, who generally was indifferent toward what I wrote, all of a sudden became interested in it. He told me that I had to make the trip by...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue