Sunday, March 31, 2013

Robert J. Sawyer

Robert J. Sawyer has been called “the dean of Canadian science fiction” by The Ottawa Citizen.

His new novel is Red Planet Blues.

From Sawyer's Q & A  with Shawn Speakman:

Speakman: [Red Planet Blues] is a fun combination of science fiction and crime/mystery noir. What made you want to meld those two sub-genres together?

Sawyer: All the things that have fascinated me in life involve picking up clues. In science fiction, the reader picks up clues from background details that help him or her understand the universe in which the story is set. In mystery fiction, which I’ve always loved, you pick up clues to solve the crime. And in science — especially my two favorite ones, paleontology and astronomy, which are observational as opposed to experimental — you pick up clues from nature that help you develop theories.

Speakman: You mention paleontology. Martian fossils are featured prominently in RED PLANET BLUES. Did you have to do research into paleontology? And, if so, what did that research comprise?

Sawyer: I’d intended to become a paleontologist professionally; I was accepted to major in that at the University of Toronto, and even had a residence room assignment, when I decided I’d never forgive myself if I didn’t at least try to make the crazy dream of being a science-fiction writer work. I’m friends with Phil Currie, one of the world’s great dinosaurian paleontologists — in fact, I hope to see him next week at my Edmonton book-tour stop. Well, Phil always wanted to be a science-fiction writer, and I always wanted to be a paleontologist, and it amuses us both that, in some alternate universe, he’s me, and I’m him.

I already knew all the terrestrial paleontology I needed for this book, but it did present interesting challenges. Even at its ancient wettest, Mars was never very wet — and most Earthly methods of fossilization require percolating groundwater. I had to work out a way...[read on]
Learn more about the book and author at Robert J. Sawyer's website and blog.

The Page 69 Test: Red Planet Blues.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, March 30, 2013

Jared Diamond

Jared Diamond's latest book is The World Until Yesterday: What Can We Learn from Traditional Societies?.

From his Q & A with JP O'Malley for The Spectator:

You describe in the book how deplorable acts of cruelty — such as the strangling of widows, and leaving old people to die — are part of the circumstances people in traditional societies have to deal with?

Yes, traditional societies do things that we disapprove of. Some of them abandon their elderly, and others kill their babies, if they happen to be weak. We in the West think that is terrible. These people do this not because they are evil, but due to particular circumstances. If you have a group of nomads who are going to shift camp every day, and then you have somebody who can no longer walk, the cruel reality is that you cannot carry old people with you. In our modern society we are not shifting camp every day — we are sedentary — so it is possible for us to retain our old people.

You say that 96 percent of the top psychology journals in the world are from Westernized industrial countries. Does that mean that our perceptions of human psychology are deeply flawed?

They are very skewed because they are only based on a narrow section of humanity. Most psychological studies, if they are done in the UK, or the US, are usually only carried out on subjects from that particular country. They are always done with societies that have a state government: where every single person in that state is used to dealing with strangers. You and I have been talking now for three and a half minutes. I can promise you that I have not made a move to kill you yet. I haven’t detected any move on your part to kill me. But in a traditional society, by now either one of us would have killed each other, or else we...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, March 29, 2013

Hilary Davidson

Hilary Davidson's novels include The Damage Done, The Next One to Fall, and the newly released Evil In All Its Disguises.

From her Q & A with MysteryPeople:

MysteryPeople: How did you come to choose Acapulco for the setting [of Evil In All Its Disguises]?

Hilary Davidson: It was a long, strange process to find the right setting for Evil in All Its Disguises. That’s partly because the premise — a journalist going missing while on a press trip — was based on a real events. I worked for Frommer’s Travel Guides for a decade, and in May 2000, one of the editors, a woman named Claudia Kirschhoch, went missing on a press trip to Jamaica. It’s a heartbreaking story: legally, she’s been declared dead, but her body has never been found.

I didn’t want to set the book in Jamaica, because Evil is in no way a telling of Claudia Kirschhoch’s story. The book reflects certain things that happened in real life — such as the resort’s attempt to pretend there was nothing wrong, and then trying to defame the missing journalist by claiming she was using drugs and being sexually provocative — but it’s a work of fiction. I decided to move it to another Caribbean island, and chose Barbados because it’s such an amazing place, caught between the wild waters of the Atlantic and the serenity of the Caribbean Sea. Unfortunately, that location didn’t work at all. I love Barbados, and my affection for the place got in the way of the writing. It was turning the book into more of a travelogue, which was the opposite of the isolated, Gothic feel I wanted.

Partway through the first draft, I stopped writing and decided to find another setting. I chose Acapulco for two main reasons: it has a very glamorous Hollywood-connected history, which appeals to Lily; and it’s a place where crime is out of control at the moment. The news stories that are in the book, like the headless bodies that turn up on the beach, and the one about a drug cartel trying to extort money from the teachers’ union, are all true. They created such an atmosphere of...[read on]
Visit Hilary Davidson's website and blog.

The Page 69 Test: The Damage Done.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Kishore Mahbubani

Kishore Mahbubani's new book is The Great Convergence: Asia, the West and the Logic of One World.

From his Q & A with Robert W. Merry for The National Interest:

RWM: Kishore Mahbubani, an underlying thesis of your book is that globalization and technology are transforming the world—the nation-state is in decline, the one world sensibility is on the rise, a kind of new global civilization, as you call it, is on the rise. This is powerful change, big change. What makes you so sure and confident that it won’t unleash major global disruption?

KM: Well I, as you know, this book is very optimistic and I give tremendous and many reasons for the optimism. But the fundamental changes I speak about, about how we have created a new world order—I describe through the use of something I call the boat metaphor.

I say that before the contemporary era of globalization, when humanity lived in a multitude of separate countries, it was as though we were living on separate boats with captains and crews taking care of each boat and rules to make sure that the boats didn’t collide in their passage. But today, as a result of the world having shrunk, we no longer live in separate boats—we live in separate cabins on the same boat. But the problem now is that you have captains and crews taking care of their own cabins, but no one taking care of the boat as a whole.

So the greatest challenge I see for humanity today is that this is why we need to strengthen institutions of global governance, and it can be done, as I explain in the book, quite easily. Of course, there will be challenges, there will be disruptions. History now moves in a strange line, there will be ups and downs and so on and so forth.

But at the end of the day, the reason why I am optimistic, as I say, is that we are creating a new civilized global order. Of course, the number of people who have been educated in the world, who have been exposed to modern science and technology and reason and logic, is the largest it has ever been. The global middle class is exploding. So this new, and in a sense more intelligent, global community will...[read on]
Watch the video of the interview.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Chinua Achebe

Chinua Achebe (1930-2013) was a Nigerian novelist, poet, professor at Brown University and critic. He was best known for his first novel, Things Fall Apart (1958), which is the most widely read book in modern African literature.

From his 1994 Q & A with Jerome Brooks in The Paris Review:


Would you tell us something about the Achebe family and growing up in an Igbo village, your early education, and whether there was anything there that pointed you that early in the direction of writing?


I think the thing that clearly pointed me there was my interest in stories. Not necessarily writing stories, because at that point, writing stories was not really viable. So you didn’t think of it. But I knew I loved stories, stories told in our home, first by my mother, then by my elder sister—such as the story of the tortoise—whatever scraps of stories I could gather from conversations, just from hanging around, sitting around when my father had visitors. When I began going to school, I loved the stories I read. They were different, but I loved them too. My parents were early converts to Christianity in my part of Nigeria. They were not just converts; my father was an evangelist, a religious teacher. He and my mother traveled for thirty-five years to different parts of Igboland, spreading the gospel. I was the fifth of their six children. By the time I was growing up, my father had retired, and had returned with his family to his ancestral village.

When I began going to school and learned to read, I encountered stories of other people and other lands. In one of my essays, I remember the kind of things that fascinated me. Weird things, even, about a wizard who lived in Africa and went to China to find a lamp . . . Fascinating to me because they were about things remote, and almost ethereal.

Then I grew older and began to read about adventures in which I didn’t know that I was supposed to be on the side of those savages who were encountered by the good white man. I instinctively took sides with the white people. They were fine! They were excellent. They were intelligent. The others were not . . . they were stupid and ugly. That was the way I was introduced to the danger of not having your own stories. There is that great proverb—that until the lions have their own historians, the history of the hunt will always glorify the hunter. That did not come to me until much later. Once I realized that, I had to be a writer. I had to be that historian. It’s not...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Rawi Hage

Rawi Hage is the IMPAC Dublin Literary Award–winning author of Cockroach and De Niro’s Game.

His new novel is Carnival.

Ray Taras was Willy Brandt Professor at Sweden's Malmö University for 2010–11. He was director of Tulane University's world literature program before Hurricane Katrina forced its closure. He is the author of numerous scholarly books on nationalism and identities in Europe.

Taras interviewed Hage in Montreal this month (March 2013) about Carnival:

Taras: Was a “carnival city” necessary in order for you to narrate the stories you did in this novel? How indispensable is this location for the events you describe to take place?

Hage: Places are very conflicting to me, and my narrators often clash with the places they inhabit. I have an antagonistic relationship with cities. I maneuver better in cities and have always lived in them. And my characters are shaped by cities. Nature is not only foreign to them but even menacing. I criticize cities but I can’t get away from them.

Taras: One early review of Carnival speculates that the city described is New Orleans. Is that the case or is it somewhere else?

Hage: It is somewhere else. I never thought of New Orleans as a specific location for the novel when I was writing it. I’ve never been to New Orleans but I would like to.

Taras: Carnival city is not as concrete and tangible a place as Montreal in Cockroach or Beirut in De Niro’s Game.

Hage: I chose not to determine a specific location. It was the presence of a carnival, as a symbolic and metaphoric event, that was crucial to writing of the novel. Having said that, the story does take place in and around an actual Carnival. Through the ages, the Carnival as been a centre of historical, religious and highly ritualistic events, and also for liberation that goes beyond the corporeal constraints imposed by a state or the religious apparatus. In this novel, I touch upon these attempts to control the body by various mechanisms of power. Images of sexual, social and political bondage and constraints recur. Also, there is a nomadic spirit to the main characters, especially Fly.

Taras: Your writing has been associated with French author and enfant terrible Michel Houellebecq. Is he your fellow traveler or fellow spirit?

Hage: I’m not as extreme as Houellebecq. For example, with regard to Islam, I believe I have a broader understanding of that culture. I grew up in Lebanon, as part of an Arabic-speaking, minority community in a Muslim world. But, in terms of producing an uncompromising literature, Houellebecq and myself have some resemblance. I have always thought that literature is a space where all should be permissible. Literature -- unlike religion which, in its best cases, allows a margin for interpretation and some cultural adjustment -- has a wider approach to life, it is more elastic. Literature is not bound by the burdens of archaic scriptures and religious creeds.

Taras: Are you a secular writer? Your works consistently contain references – what you term dialogue – involving religion. Paradoxically, you flag the importance of religion while depicting very existentialist ways of coping with life.

Hage: Yes, I am secular writer. And yes, I confess that my work has many religious references and I might even add that I have a religious style. Incantations, a direct almost authoritative approach to language. Even my characters often behave like marginal, rebellious, sexually uninhibited prophets.

I grew up in a conservative Eastern Christian community and belonged to it. But one day I realized that religion doesn't have a monopoly on morality. As a matter of fact, I believe that most of the social advancements in society and the meaningful liberation movements were instigated by secularists with deep humanistic values and understandings.

So my work is often paradoxical, in the sense that a religious form is used to champion a secular tradition.
Read more about Carnival at the W.W. Norton website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, March 25, 2013

Peggy Hesketh

Peggy Hesketh's debut novel is Telling the Bees.

From her Q & A with Jasmine Elist for the Los Angeles Times:

The bees play a huge role in the novel, almost serving as a character on their own. But I read that you are actually highly allergic to bees!

A long time ago, somebody said to me, "The things you’re most afraid of is where you need to be." I’m also terrified of heights, so the book I’m working on now has to do with dinosaur paleontology of the 1870s, which meant I ended up having to climb mountains in Montana. And I was absolutely terrified of it, but it was great. I dug up dinosaur bones, I know now how that character that I’m writing about figured out where the dinosaur bones were—which I couldn’t have from simply reading books on it.

With "Telling the Bees," I did go out and interview all sorts of beekeepers and went to hives and all of that. But what I learned is that if you move slowly, if you don’t disrupt bees, they don’t sting you. So it was actually quite lovely. I have an herb garden in my backyard and I would sit and watch the bees and I literally could see the little pollen sacks getting filled as they went for the flowers, and basil, and rosemary and what have you. Even if they landed on me, I learned not to be terrified and instead to just be gentle and be slow.

What type of research did you do?

What was kind of sweet was I was working for a community newspaper when I first started writing the novel. And my editor knew I was working on this book so when the prize honey for the Orange County fair was going on, he said, "Do you want to go do that story?" And he would send me off. He sent me off on all these little stories about bees and beekeepers, so I would go and visit them.

I always remember this one—he was an investment banker who was this really high-powered guy. When I met him...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Michael Hainey

Michael Hainey is the deputy editor of GQ and author of the 2013 memoir, After Visiting Friends: A Son's Story, about his father's mysterious death with the author as six years old.

From Hainey's Q & A with Randy Dotinga for the Christian Science Monitor:

Q: Why is it so important to understand the lives of our parents?

A: We forget that our identities, our narrative stories that we used to tell ourselves who they are, are bound up in our parents' identities and their stories.

To know our own identify, to know our own stories, I've learned that you have to go into that past, into your parents' past. If you don't know their story, you don't know your story.

Q: What was going through your mind as you launched this detective story, not knowing whether it would hurt you, your mother and brother, or other people?

A: As I say in the book, we all say we want the truth, but that doesn't mean everyone else wants it. I had a lot of fear, and it held me back in different ways and different times.

Q: Did you feel like you were bearing witness to lives lived?

A: I wanted to bear witness to everyone in the book.

I tried very hard to honor everyone living and not living. I wanted to treat anyone I encountered with compassion and humanity: this is a life lived.

Q: You interviewed people who vividly remembered personalities and conversations from more than four decades ago. Were you surprised how they remembered so much?

A: I wasn't...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Tim Lott

Under the Same Stars is Tim Lott's sixth novel. His memoir, The Scent of Dried Roses won the PEN/J.R. Ackerley award and White City Blue won the Whitbread First Novel award. His YA novel Fearless was shortlisted for the Guardian Children's Book award.

From Lott's Q & A at the Independent:

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

George Orwell, because he was a truth teller.

* * *

Which fictional character most resembles you?

Salinger Nash in ‘Under the Same Stars’ He’s depressive and cynical at one level, but optimistic and hopeful at another. And he wants someone, somewhere, to say ‘sorry’ to him.
Read the complete Q & A.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, March 22, 2013

David Nasaw

David Nasaw's latest book is The Patriarch: The Remarkable Life and Turbulent Times of Joseph P. Kennedy.

From the transcript of the author's Q & A with Dave Davies on Fresh Air:

DAVIES: Now, of course, the other thing that was happening in the late '30s here in addition to Hitler's aggression and territorial demands was the increasingly well-known persecution of Jews in Germany and other areas occupied by the Reich. And Joe Kennedy [U.S. ambassador to Great Britain] doesn't come out too well on this, as history has written, either. I mean what were his views about the role and influence of Jews in the United States in these events and their persecution in Europe?

NASAW: Well, there are two parts to this story and they contradict one another. In part one or the first aspect of Kennedy's relationship to the Holocaust and to the Jews of Europe in the United States is that he wants to get the Jews out of Germany. After Hitler moves into Austria and then soon after at Kristallnacht, it becomes abundantly clear not that the Jews are going to end up killed in concentration camps, nobody knows that, but they're being reduced to the most inhumane and brutal of conditions. And Kennedy believes that he's got to get the Jews out because as long as the Jews are being persecuted no Western power is going to feel that they can negotiate with Hitler. Right? So once you remove the Jews, then it'll be easier to reach a modus vivendi with Hitler.

DAVIES: So it was as much a pragmatic as a humanitarian approach?

NASAW: Exactly. But you can't discount the humanitarian. Kennedy knows what's going on over there and no one except the most vicious and brutal anti-Semites - and he's not one of those - wants to see human beings, who happened to be Jewish , suffer the way the Jews of Germany and Austria and then Czechoslovakia and Poland were suffering. So again, Kennedy is a realist. That's part one of this story. Part two is very different and very disturbing.

Kennedy believes that there is a Jewish conspiracy to go to war with Hitler. He believes that the Jews - to get revenge against Hitler and in the mistaken belief that they can defeat him and save their European Jewry - he believes the Jews are doing everything they possibly can to push the United States into war, into a war it should not, he believes, fight. And he indulges in every kind of anti-Semitic scapegoating and conspiracy myth. He writes and he tells his friends that the Jews control the media and the media is making it impossible to make a deal with Hitler because they're demonizing Hitler. He knows well that the Jews don't control the American media. William Randolph Hearst and Colonel McCormick are his friends, the two most important newspaper men in the country. And he believes and he says over and over again that the Jews have...[read on]
Listen to the inteview.

See Nasaw's five best books about the Kennedys.

The Page 69 Test: David Nasaw's Andrew Carnegie.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Robert Crais

Robert Crais' latest novel is Suspect.

From his Q & A with Irene Lacher for the Los Angeles Times:

"Suspect" is about an LAPD officer and an ex-military dog who both have PTSD, which makes them suspect. What inspired your latest buddy mystery?

It probably grew out of grief that I felt about losing my dog. I've always had dogs, ever since I was a boy, and my last dog we got as a puppy. In fact, I picked him out from a litter when he was 3 days old, before his eyes were open.

How did you know he was for you?

I just loved the way he looked. He was moving and wiggling along with his brothers and sisters. I was drawn to him, and I said, "That's the guy I want," and six weeks later I took him home. He was a big guy, an Akita. And for 12 years, he was my boy. And then I lost him.

When was that?

This was 15 years ago. And he died in my arms, and I was just blubbering like a baby. There's a period where you think, "OK, I've lost Yoshi and I'll get another dog." And I felt at the time that it would be deeply disloyal. The first few years after that, I just accepted that as a way of life. In fact, there's an interesting concept that I came to when I began researching military working dogs and police K-9 dogs that the handlers all have, and that's that the leash is a nerve, that the emotions that are felt between a handler and his or her partner flow through the leash. The years rolled on. You begin to think...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Herman Koch

Herman Koch is the author of The Dinner.

From his interview with Steve Inskeep:

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST: Congratulations on the novel.

HERMAN KOCH: Thank you.

INSKEEP: Let me say, in the best possible way, it made me sick.


KOCH: Really? OK.

INSKEEP: Well, I'm a parent, so, you know, you get into these issues. I assume that's what you intended, right? I mean, this is - you're going into some really, really personal, really edgy stuff here, aren't you?

KOCH: Yes, I am. And it's, of course, I must explain that I'm a parent myself. So the idea more or less came from there, just a feeling of what you would do to defend your children, but even in a very extreme case like is put forward in this novel.

INSKEEP: In this case - and we don't want to give away too much - but it's been said in reviews and you find within a few chapters that you have two sets of parents. They meet over dinner. They're discussing their sons, who appear to have videotaped themselves and been caught on security videotape doing something awful.

KOCH: You're right.

INSKEEP: And they discuss this all over dinner.

KOCH: Yes, they do. They go to this kind of luxury restaurant, but it's with organic food. And the clientele is very much politicians, artists, football players.

INSKEEP: And all along the way, you're learning what you imagine to be their values. They're talking about Sidney Poitier in "Guess Who's Coming to Dinner?" They're talking about various gradations of racism. They're thinking, in some surface way, about being parents and what's important to them.

KOCH: Yes. And, of course, we learn most of the point of the views, also of the others, from Paul, one of the fathers, who's telling the whole story in first person. And we don't know in the beginning what he's like. Maybe we might even sympathize with him, up to a point. But then suddenly, not only his opinions, but maybe his actions are becoming more extreme. So we might start to doubt if the version he gives of what the other three adults at the table are telling us, or how they are, is really the...[read on, or listen to the interview]
--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Mary Robinson

Mary Robinson served as the seventh, and first female, president of Ireland from 1990-1997, and as United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights from 1997-2002. Her memoir is Everybody Matters: My Life Giving Voice.

From her Q & A with J.P. O'Malley for the Christian Science Monitor:

Was it your awareness of middle class privilege from an early age that inspired you to peruse a career that fought for justice in society?

Well, I came from a family that was privileged but not rich. My mother was a very warm, engaging, and open person, but she was also quite snobbish. She thought our family were great because we had a background of a colonial past, and plaques on the wall in the Protestant church in the town of Ballina, County Mayo, because the first Catholic in the family was my grandfather. The more she talked about this, the more I was rebelling the other way. For me, it was all about fairness.

You talk about reading Eleanor Roosevelt at any early age. What did you see in her worldview that inspired you?

I always loved people who were inspirational. Figures like Mahatma Gandhi, Michael Davitt, Daniel O’Connell, and Martin Luther King. In 1958, Eleanor Roosevelt made a famous speech on the tenth anniversary of 
the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and she said: “Where, after all, do universal human rights begin? In small places, close to home.” When I read this, I had a lightbulb moment and thought, I really want to be involved in this.

Working as a constitutional lawyer in Ireland in the '70s and '80s, you fought for women’s rights, but didn’t want to be labeled a feminist. Why not?

I was a young lawyer who wanted to change the position of women, so I didn’t want to be catagorized. When I was elected president of Ireland, many years later, I was a broad champion of women, happy to call myself a feminist. That is why in my inauguration speech in 1990, I thanked the women of Ireland, but I thanked them in Irish, calling them "Mná na hÉireann," which at that time was a very pejorative statement, almost like "sheila" is to women in Australia. But I...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, March 18, 2013

Charles Fernyhough

Charles Fernyhough's new book is Pieces of Light: How the New Science of Memory Illuminates the Stories We Tell About Our Pasts.

From his Q & A with Heather Drucker:

Q.: As you explain in the book, as a psychology undergrad in the late 1980s, memory was too immeasurable and too subjective to interest you. Can you explain how your perspective has changed since then?

I think I’ve come to realize that the mind is too vast and special a thing to be reduced to numbers. Particularly with a phenomenon like memory, you have to try and get at the experience from the inside, and that means exploring what memories mean to the individual. In my view, the science of human experience has to be multidisciplinary; the insights of artists, philosophers and social scientists can add a huge amount to what we can learn from psychology experiments and neuroimaging.

Q.: How has your work as a fiction writer inspired your interest in memory?

Novelists deal in memory; it’s their seed corn. As a writer of fiction, you have to be interested in the experiences of your characters, and one of the ways writers create vivid characters is by giving them memories. You don’t just get to feel a great novelistic character’s thoughts, emotions, desires, and secrets; you also get to share in their re-experiencing of the past. In the book, I explore the idea that a novelist’s creation of a fictional memory has much in common with...[read on]
Visit Charles Fernyhough's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Kim Boykin

Kim Boykin's new, debut novel is The Wisdom of Hair.

From her Q & A with Sarah at Smart Bitches Trashy Books:

So your inspiration of sorts was seeing customers in your mom's beauty salon? That's very cool. What did you learn about changing hair to change lives? I agree that when you feel like you look your best, you are more confident, and a lot of that is tied up (heh) with hair.

Kim: Last summer I went to a conference in NY last year and pitched the book to a bunch of editors. I was in a room with 19 women's fiction writers; six of them had made a major change in their hair before they came to the conference. Throughout the years rejection while I was trying to sell the novel, I kept my hair short but had let it grow out a little before the conference. I haven't cut my hair since. So if the book flops, I guess I'll shave my head and start over.

Growing up, I remember seeing women come in, dog tired, some just happy to be there, some with all kinds of problems. My mom listened to them and made them beautiful. There were a lot of elderly women who didn't drive in our town and she'd lock up the shop and go pick them up so they could have their hair done. Most of those home bound women were so lonely. They were so grateful to get out of the house, to be around a bunch of women to talk, gossip, a little, laugh a lot. I don't care what anybody says about the outside of a woman not making a difference, I saw it growing up and I see it in today in my friends and myself.

Do you have stories about some of the women you saw growing up? What first inspired you to write a novel about hair stylists? A specific story or event?

What sticks out most in my mind was the transformations. They say you can't make someone happy, but my mom did. She made each woman who sat in her chair feel special and beautiful, and that went a long way toward making them happy. God, I sound sappy, but all of this is true.

I never really set out to write a book about hairstylists. I started writing a book about a mountain girl who wanted out of a bad situation. She was smart enough to...[read on]
Learn more about the book and author at Kim Boykin's website.

The Page 69 Test: The Wisdom of Hair.

My Book, The Movie: The Wisdom of Hair.

Writers Read: Kim Boykin.

Read--Coffee with a Canine: Kim Boykin & Wylie, Molly and Toby.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Katherine Bouton

Katherine Bouton's new book is Shouting Won't Help: Why I--and 50 Million Other Americans--Can't Hear You.

From her Q & A with Caroline Leavitt:

I loved that you wrote about “talking back to your impairment,” and owning it. Can you talk a bit about that please?

When you lose one of your senses, or the use of a limb, or if you have a mental illness, you tend to identify yourself in terms of that impairment. You say, I'm an amputee. I'm schizophrenic. I'm hearing impaired. The disability comes first, you come second.

But what you learn as you come to terms with the loss is that you're still the person you always were, with an added factor. The politically correct way to refer to someone like me is as a person with hearing loss. That's fine. I am a person, and I do have hearing loss. Advocates for people with hearing loss don't like the term "hearing impaired" and they really don't like deaf. The Deaf (the culturally deaf, who use sign language) don't like the appropriation of the term either. But the fact is that I can't hear a thing without my hearing aid and cochlear implant. I'm deaf.

So I happily use all three: I'm a person with hearing loss, I'm hearing impaired, or I'm deaf, depending on my mood. The first two I use when I'm feeling sorry for myself or ill at ease. "Deaf" I use when I'm comfortable, making light of the situation.

Can you also talk about how writing this book freed you in some way?

I was a champion denier. I told almost no one except close friends that I had hearing loss, and I told my close friends a modified version of the truth. Even my family didn't know. My son transcribed some of the tapes of interviews I did and at one point he said, "Mom, I had no idea what you were going through."

I lost my newspaper job in part because I refused to...[read on]
Visit Katherine Bouton's website and blog, and follow her on Twitter and Facebook.

Read--Coffee with a Canine: Katherine Bouton and Maxie.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, March 15, 2013

Therese Anne Fowler

Therese Anne Fowler's new novel is Z: A Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald.

From her Q & A with Caroline Leavitt:

What is it about Zelda that captures us so much today?

That’s a great question, because really, Zelda is a kind of pop culture Rorschach test. People who think they know who she is have decidedly specific views—and those views vary considerably. She is said to be: the glamorous jazz princess; the feminist first flapper; literature’s most beloved muse; F. Scott Fitzgerald’s jealous, destructive wife; victim of an abusive, domineering spouse; a thwarted dancer, artist, writer; a pathetic crazy woman who spent most of her life in asylums.

Most of the labels are imprecise at best, damaging and false at worst. Zelda was a woman who didn’t always choose wisely, but she was also bold and fearless and talented and witty and fun. She was a celebrity at a time when the term was being coined, and in the early years she loved to play the part. Later she struggled not with schizophrenia, as we know it, but with what was probably bipolar disorder.

Most interesting—and most accurate among popular beliefs: she was devoted, for good or ill, to a man whose vividness and demons and talent are as fascinating as hers.

It struck me that so much of what Zelda dealt with concerning the proper roles of women, especially married women, resonates in today's political arena. Care to comment?

Yes, it resonates all too well. It’s disheartening to see this political and cultural backslide into a mindset that forward-thinking women of Zelda’s era fought so hard to escape. Conservative ideology today looks frighteningly similar to the early twentieth century’s traditional attitudes—men and women both puzzled by any woman’s desire to achieve professional status in any field. They wonder why being someone’s wife, a homemaker, a mother, isn’t sufficiently satisfying to every single woman. Women who desire more (such people say) are clearly acting against nature’s design.

This kind of thinking fails to take into account...[read on]
Visit Therese Anne Fowler's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Michael Koryta

Michael Koryta's latest novel is The Prophet.

From his Q & A with Ali Karim for The Rap Sheet:

AK: But on to your own work ... I devoured The Prophet like a crystal meth addict discovering one of Breaking Bad’s Heisenberg stashes. But I thought it would have been perfect had it contained a supernatural undercurrent, like some of your previous yarns.

MK: I go book-by-book with it. I don’t really have a grand plan for what will have a supernatural undercurrent or not, but this one never struck me as benefiting from that. I wanted Adam [Austin] to be haunted in a way that felt as painful to us as possible, and adding a layer of supernatural component to that, I think, might have reduced it. Put up a wall of distance between his feelings and the readers. But obviously, it’s all a matter of execution. The one area where I really see that being an issue is that Adam’s overwhelming desire throughout the book is a chance to speak to [his sister] Marie ... again, to tell her that he’s sorry, to justify himself and explain how he’s made things right, all of that. And in reality, we don’t get those chances. So holding her off from him in the way the dead are held apart from us daily seemed a better choice for this particular story. To me.

AK: Do you like the hint of otherworldly influences in fiction, by say, John Connolly, Michael Marshall, Peter Straub, and Stephen King?

MK: Of course, I’m a huge fan of that genre, or I wouldn’t have written in it. King is one of the most influential writers to me, by far, and I have read Straub on a hit-and-miss basis, probably most of his work. There are indelible classics like Ghost Story in there--wow, what a great novel. Marshall I’ve read and enjoyed, and Connolly as well. [Robert] McCammon, Joe Hill--there are a bunch out there, though I do think the genre isn’t...[read on]
Learn more about Koryta's favorite authors.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Ian Roulstone & John Norbury

Ian Roulstone is professor of mathematics at the University of Surrey. John Norbury is a fellow in applied mathematics at Lincoln College, University of Oxford. They are the coeditors of Large-Scale Atmosphere-Ocean Dynamics.

Their new book is Invisible in the Storm: The Role of Mathematics in Understanding Weather.

From their February 2013 Q & A with Jessica Pellien at the Princeton University Press Blog:

I’ll start with the thing everyone is talking about. It seems like extreme weather more prevalent in recent years. With Hurricane Sandy and the recent unprecedented Nor’Easter behind us (ed. note: I’m writing from NJ), it bears asking whether the future holds more extreme weather? Can mathematics help answer this question?

Mathematicians think about weather and climate in an unusual way. Our ever-changing weather can be visualized as a curve meandering through an abstract mathematical space of logically possible weather. Any one point of the curve corresponds to a particular state of the weather. The surprise is that the curve does not wander around randomly–patterns emerge. One part of the pattern may correspond to ‘warm and dry’ and another part to ‘cold and wet’. Predicting changes in the weather for the week ahead involves working out if the curve will drift from one part of the pattern to another. Understanding climate involves working out how the pattern itself will change.

So, is the pattern changing toward more extreme weather or can we not answer this question yet?

If we compare the results from different climate models (from different research institutions and weather bureaus around the world), then they show an increase in global average temperature over the next century. However, this could lead to quite different conditions in different parts of the world. For example, if the Gulf Stream was weakened, Europe could experience...[read on]
Learn more about Invisible in the Storm at the Princeton University Press website.

The Page 99 Test: Invisible in the Storm.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Shereen El Feki

Shereen El Feki is the author of the new book Sex and the Citadel: Intimate Life in a Changing Arab World.

From her Q & A with Jasmine Elist for the Los Angeles Times:

While "Sex and the Citadel" takes a look at the sexual lives of men and women across the Middle East, there is a stronger focus specifically on Egypt.

My book is centered on Egypt, and in particular Cairo, in part for personal reasons. My father is Egyptian, most of my family live in Egypt, I carry an Egyptian passport and I’m Muslim. But I grew up in Canada, and I never thought much about my Arab heritage -- until Sept. 11, that is. The events of that day and their aftermath spurred me to look more closely at my Arab origins, to better understand where I came from.

But this is more than personal. Egypt is a natural focus of this book because it is the most popu­lous country in the Arab region. Because of its strategic geopolitical importance, it retains formidable political, economic, social and cultural influence across the region. The collective sexual problems faced by Egyptians­­ -- taboos against premarital sex, masturbation, homosexuality, unwed moth­erhood, abortion, and a culture of censorship and silence, preached by religion and enforced by social convention -- are found across the Arab region. And the solutions that Egyptians will, I hope, find in the years to come will have relevance for their neighbors across the Arab region as well.

Why did you choose sex as the lens through which to examine political and social change throughout the region?

My background is in HIV/AIDS. I trained as an immunologist before becoming healthcare correspondent at the Economist (where part of my beat was covering the global HIV/AIDS epidemic), and most recently I was vice chair of the UN’s Global Commission on HIV and the Law. If you want to understand HIV in the Arab region, you have to look at sex because it is the main route of transmission in most countries in the region, and taboos around sex pose a serious challenge to tackling HIV.

It became clear to me that sexuality, more broadly defined, is an incredibly powerful lens with which to study a society, because...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, March 11, 2013

Elizabeth Graver

Elizabeth Graver's new novel is The End of the Point.

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

How did The End of the Point originate?

My novel The End of the Point took me a long time to write, both because of the particular challenges and pleasures that went into it and because over the past decade, my non-writing life has been very full—with the birth of two children, the illness and death of my father, the daily routines of teaching and family life, and, perhaps most centrally, the growing sense that I didn’t want to rush; time moves fast enough on its own. Over they ears, as the story took shape, I spent a part of every summer and many fall and spring weekends at the real place that my fictional place grew out of. Often,while I was there, I wrote. I walked the paths, navigated the rocks to swim in the ocean and began to feel that the land—and the one-room cabin my husband had built on it—was a kind of home to me—not(as it is to my husband and our daughters) a first home, but a surrogate second home, at once alluring and vexed. I watched my children learn to walk, swim and ve in nature there, the place a great gift for them but also a complicated privilege and even a danger—for how fully it can shelter and how much it can exclude. I used this real place as a way to begin to imagine my fictional Ashaunt Point.

Would you share more about the novel's setting?

I wanted to portray a small place but go deep, to use a narrow lens to examine larger issues of social class, money and property,of parenting and care-taking, of what adults pass on, both literally and figuratively,to children. I look at how this kind of private seaside community can function as a protected or contested space, isolated but never entirely, as its boundaries are porous and the events of history are never far away. I realized partway through that I was also writing about a world whose ways are fast-fading, a world on the way out (for better or worse—probably both). In the early 1920’s, my husband’s grandparents and great-grandparents bought...[read on]
Learn more about the book and author at Elizabeth Graver's website.

The Page 69 Test: The End of the Point.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Stephan Talty

Stephan Talty is a widely published journalist who has contributed to The New York Times Magazine, GQ, Men’s Journal, Time Out New York, Details, and many other publications. He is the New York Times bestselling author of Empire of Blue Water and Mulatto America: At the Crossroads of Black and White Culture.

Talty's newly released debut novel is Black Irish.

From his Q & A with Declan Burke:

What crime novel would you most like to have written?

THE SILENCE OF THE LAMBS by Thomas Harris. Never been topped.

What fictional character would you most like to have been?

Sam Spade in THE MALTESE FALCON by Dashiell Hammett or Travis McGee from the great crime series by John D. MacDonald.

Who do you read for guilty pleasures?...[read on]
Read more about Black Irish.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Rebecca Skloot

Rebecca Skloot is the author of The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks.

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

It took you about a decade to research and write The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks. A long time for any project (but certainly worth the wait). Can you describe that decade, walking us through the process?

Ha, no chance! To break that down into any coherent timeline would require a several-thousand word answer to your question. Between researching, writing, and publishing The Immortal Life, then doing endless book touring since it came out, I’ve been working on the book for 13 years and counting.

For starters, it took me more than a year and a half just to convince the Lacks family to talk with me for the first time. They didn’t trust me, or any other writer—all for good reasons, which I’d eventually find out. During the decade that led up to the book’s publication, while researching and writing it, I also had to build a freelance career publishing in magazines and newspapers (so I could pay my bills and fund the research for my book—with the help of a lot of credit cards and student loans—while also building my bio enough so a publishing house would someday want to publish my book). I got a big stack of rejection letters from editors, then and once I got a book contract, I fought some pretty big publishing battles (including one in which an editor insisted that I had to take the Lacks family out of the book). By the time the book was finally published, I was on my fifth editor and my third publishing house. Along the way, I also got married, got divorced, finished grad school, taught at three different universities, moved eight times … I’ll...[read on]
"Skloot’s book does what great narrative nonfiction must do: Surprise us, outrage us, move us and make us care about something we never even knew existed."
--Edward Humes, author of Force of Nature: The Unlikely Story of Wal-Mart's Green Revolution

"[The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks] is just an amazing book: the story, the prose, the structure, the reportage, the memorable characters. What else can I say? I laughed, I cried--really!"
--Misha Angrist, author of Here is a Human Being: At the Dawn of Personal Genomics

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, March 8, 2013

Ann Patchett

Ann Patchett is the author of six novels: State of Wonder; the New York Times bestselling Run; The Patron Saint of Liars, which was a New York Times Notable Book of the Year; Taft, which won the Janet Heidinger Kafka Prize; The Magician’s Assistant; and Bel Canto, which won the PEN/Faulkner Award, the Orange Prize, the BookSense Book of the Year, and was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award.

From her Q & A with Scott Eyman for the Palm Beach Post:

When we talked before, you raved about the experience of being taught by Grace Paley and Allen Gurganus, but dismissed the people at the Iowa Writer’s Workshop. Was that because they were more interested in their own writing than in their students?

No. It’s just like being at a poker game and drawing a good hand. There’s nothing wrong with Iowa. I just drew bad hands. I think it’s a great program, with plenty of terrific people. I could have drawn bad hands at Sarah Lawrence, and not had that experience. It’s chemistry. Who are the other students? What’s the mood of the teacher? And also, where are you? When I was younger, I was more capable of being taught and molded and listening. People are always asking what influenced you, and they’re not the best books I’ve ever read, they’re the books I read when I was young. I didn’t read Henry James until I was in my 40s.


I love him. There are so many things we love when we’re young that are unpalatable as we get older. You know Karl Marlantis? He and my husband went to school together. He was here recently and had just seen “Easy Rider” for the first time in 40 years. And I said, ‘Oh, God, it’s horrible,’ and he said, ‘I had no idea. It’s the worst movie I’ve ever seen, and at the time I thought it was genius.’ If you’ve met anybody over the age of 19 who likes Ayn Rand, step slowly away from them.

So how do you explain the Neocons?

I can’t explain the Neocons. I think they haven’t reread her. She makes perfect sense when you’re 14, but never afterwards. Orwell’s “Animal Farm” is really bad too. I wrote an introduction for it when Gore Vidal dropped out. Sat down to read it and thought it was appalling. The gist of the introduction was, ‘Kids read this now, because you won’t want to read it again later.’ And at the risk of being lynched, I don’t think “To Kill a Mockingbird” is really very good; I think...[read on]
Learn about the book that changed Ann Patchett's life.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Roger Hobbs

Roger Hobbs is the author of Ghostman.

From his Q & A with Jeffrey A. Trachtenberg for the Wall Street Journal:

What exactly is a ghostman?

Roger Hobbs: A ghostman is an identity thief geared for criminal organizations. He helps people disappear. No, ghostmen don’t really exist. I created them, as well as the term. But the other criminal terms in I use in the book, such as box man and wheelman, are things from reality.

There are two set pieces in the story, one the robbing of an armored car in Atlantic City, the other a bank in Kuala Lumpur. What made you focus on those crimes?

I wanted to play around with old school criminals, and old school armed robbers. Essentially I wanted my characters to be analog players in a digital world. What would a really bank robbery look like in the 21st century. Major league heists are few and far between but they do take place, as we saw recently in Antwerp.

You’ve also got two ticking clocks: the first when the armored car robbers are waiting to spring into action, and the second involving the ghostman, who has resolve a botched casino robbery in what amounts to 37 hours. Where did you get the idea of using a ticking clock as a dramatic device for raising adrenaline levels?

The ticking clock is a...[read on]
Learn more about the book and author at Roger Hobbs's website.

The Page 69 Test: Ghostman.

Writers Read: Roger Hobbs.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Lucinda Rosenfeld

Lucinda Rosenfeld's new book is The Pretty One: A Novel about Sisters.

From her Q & A with Erinn Connor:

Q. "The Pretty One" revolves around the varying relationships among three sisters. Did any of it come from your own relationships with your sisters?

There were definitely emotions and anxiety that I drew on from real life. But the characters are not my sisters. I went out of my way to make them totally different, and I think it's easier when you have that distance. … But a lot of the feelings Pia [the middle sister] has, like trying to impress her sisters and being hurt and defensive and envious, that's all real. Pia is the heart of the book, and I had to try and put myself in my middle sister's shoes. I think middle siblings have it the hardest. They're trying to carve out their own identity and don't get as much attention as the older and the younger siblings.

Q. All of your books revolve around women's relationships, whether it's sisters or friends. Why are you interested in this perspective?

I feel like there isn't as much writing about friend and sister relationships. To prepare to write this book I...[read on]
Read more about The Pretty One at the publisher's website.

My Book, The Movie: The Pretty One.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Tom Folsom

Tom Folsom's new book is Hopper: A Journey into the American Dream.

From his Q & A with Jeffrey A. Trachtenberg for the Wall Street Journal:

What attracted you to Dennis Hopper, who seemed to specialize in artistic maniacs?

Tom Folsom: I thought his story had a terrific literary quality to it. I saw him as a modern Don Quixote who spent his life in search of his American dream. I always wanted to do a Hollywood story. The thing about actors, though, is that they go through a streak of roles. The question is what’s in between? But his story was actually greater than any of the films he’d been in, with all the ups and downs that follow when you try to live your life like an American western. That was at the heart of Dennis’s crazy magic.

The front endpapers of your book are illustrated by a photo of Peter Fonda and Mr. Hopper riding their motorcycles in a scene from “Easy Rider.” Mr. Hopper appeared in many Hollywood classics, including “Hoosiers,” “Apocalypse Now,” and “Blue Velvet.” Why did “Easy Rider” become his most memorable film?

There’s a documentary quality to it. Nobody was better than Hopper at latching on to what was going on in American culture. He bought one of the first Andy Warhol soup can paintings for $75, although it was never delivered. He had an eye for what was going on and knew how to capture it visually. That’s what made “Easy Rider” great. He was a man of his time. He was on the scene of whatever was happening. Also, what made it really iconic is that...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, March 4, 2013

Janice Steinberg

Janice Steinberg is an award-winning arts journalist who has published more than four hundred articles in The San Diego Union-Tribune, Dance Magazine, the Los Angeles Times, and elsewhere. She is also the author of five mystery novels, including the Shamus Award–nominated Death in a City of Mystics. She has taught novel writing at the University of California, San Diego extension, and dance criticism at San Diego State University.

Her latest novel is The Tin Horse.

From a Q & A at Steinberg's website:

Please tell us how you came to write the story of THE TIN HORSE.

I recently came across the terrific idea of “watershed books”–books that get you through a rough time. My watersheds were the noir mystery novels of Raymond Chandler and Dashiell Hammett, which I read and reread during a time when I felt a need to hang out with protagonists who were tough and fearless. Alas, reading noir fiction did not make me tough. In those stories of hard-boiled men and fast women, there was just one extremely marginal character with whom I felt a real kinship: an unnamed woman in Chandler’s The Big Sleep. Philip Marlowe, the detective, wants information about a sleazy Hollywood bookseller. He enters a legitimate bookstore and flashes a badge at the woman working there, and she and Marlowe engage in crisp intellectual parrying in which she gives as good as she gets.

The woman is reading a law book, intriguing in itself since The Big Sleep was published in 1939; how many women went to law school then? But what really grabbed me was the way Chandler introduced her: “She had the fine-drawn face of an intelligent Jewess.” That word, Jewess, suggests such a profound otherness, as if–although she and Marlowe walked down some of the same streets–she lived in a very different Los Angeles. And the brief scene made me hungry to know more about this nameless woman. Who was she? What was her story? What was her Los Angeles?

Like many novelists, I love...[read on]
Learn more about the book and author at Janice Steinberg's website.

The Page 69 Test: The Tin Horse.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Michael Connelly

Michael Connelly's latest novel is The Black Box.

From his February 2013 Q & A with Nathan Rostron at Bookish:

Bookish: Which are your favorite characters that you've created? Is there a character by a different writer that you wish you had created yourself?

Connelly: I think it's pretty apparent who my favorites are because I keep coming back to them. At the top of that list would be Harry Bosch, who's now going on 20 years of literary life. I still like him the best because there's still a lot to say about him. He's an intriguing character to me, and as long as it stays that way for me, it hopefully will stay that way for the readers.

As far as characters in fiction that I really admire--it's pretty strong to say you would wish that you had created another character--but I'll throw out Will Graham, the protagonist in "Red Dragon," a book I've read several times. One reason I keep reading it is because I get so into his world and his struggle, so I really admire him and I think that'd be a cool character to have on your résumé.
* * *

Bookish: Looking at recent crimes, is there any news story in particular that you would like to explore in your fiction? Have you ever come across a news story or crime that you thought was too controversial to write about?

Connelly: I usually go the other way. I usually try to find stories that have not made any kind of a media blip, and therefore they're more my own. I also think about the reading process--I don't want a reader to go, "Oh, this was inspired by this…." It can give them a preconceived sense of where the story's going or what it's about. Maybe it has something to do with being a reporter for a long time that I don't look to newspapers and television and so forth for inspiration most of the time.

But, you talk about controversy: I was about 100 pages into [writing] a novel in the fall, which was about a school shooting, and then the massacre in Newtown, Conn., happened and it made me put that book on the shelf. I'll probably come back to it, but I just thought, "It's not what I want to be writing about at the moment." And, it would probably...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Louise Erdrich

Louise Erdrich's The Round House, her 14th novel, won the coveted 2012 National Book Award for Fiction.

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

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

What a terrifying question, but OK … I’d bring back Columbus, Pizarro, Coronado, Andrew Jackson, Hitler, Pol Pot, and an assortment of contemporary dictators and megalomaniacs. I would throw them all together in a prison cell for a week with one jug of water and two pizzas made with basil and fresh mozzarella. After the week was up all would be brought before Simone de Beauvoir, who would decide what to do with them.

Do you have any superstitions?

I rarely step on sidewalk cracks. I don’t wear a watch. I touch my favorite tree before going on long trips. I say I love you as often as I can (to form a protective shield in fantasy). I write first drafts by hand. Never do I open an umbrella inside the house. I don’t predict wins or losses. I used to stand on a certain piece of rug if my brothers and husband were watching football and their team got in trouble—but now the luck went out of that rug. If a circle is involved, I try to go clockwise. If a line is involved, I try to go zigzag. I never toast...[read on]
Learn about Erdrich's five most important books and what she syas is the most important book she has never read.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, March 1, 2013

Nancy Bilyeau

Nancy Bilyeau's new novel is The Chalice.

From her Q & A with Mathew Lyons:

Mathew: What do you think are the relative strengths and weaknesses of the fictional and non-fictional approaches to the same historical material?

Nancy: I love research. For me, during the writing of The Chalice, when I would take a “research day”, that was giving myself a reward. I don’t know if other historical novelists feel that way. If performing the research were nothing but a necessary evil, then I am not sure I would want to write a book set in a long-ago time. Frankly, this is a lot of work. But it’s magical to lose myself in the 16th century. Sometimes I wish that I wrote non-fiction books and could analyze sources and dig for new facts, make my observations, and not have to labor so much on creating the characters and the plot lines. But for the most part I enjoy the fictional approach. I like to come up with my own twists and turns!

What I tried to do in The Crown and The Chalice was to take a time in history – the dissolution of the monasteries – and create a young woman going through it. We don’t know much about the monastics beyond some of the most well known ones: Sister Elizabeth Barton, who prophesied against the marriage to Anne Boleyn (and lost her life as a result); the Observant Friars who stood up to Henry VIII, facing exile or imprisonment or death; the Carthusian monks, who also suffered a ghastly fate for refusing to acknowledge the king as the head of their church.

At the same time, there were many prioresses and priors who literally surrendered, who went along with the dissolution, no matter how they felt about it, and had to make new lives after being expelled. Or not. In some cases,...[read on]
Learn more about the book and author at Nancy Bilyeau's website and blog.

Writers Read: Nancy Bilyeau (February 2012).

--Marshal Zeringue