Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Adelle Waldman

Adelle Waldman’s writing has appeared in The New York Times Book Review, the New Republic, The Wall Street Journal, Slate, The Village Voice and other publications. She worked as a reporter at the New Haven Register and the Cleveland Plain Dealer, and wrote a column for the Wall Street Journal’s website before turning to fiction.

The Love Affairs of Nathaniel P. is her first novel.

From Waldman's Q & A with Maggie Lange at Gawker:

You mentioned Roth and Bellow, but were there any books you were reading at the time that you looked to for a specific voice or structure?

The ones I turned to the most were The Corrections and Revolutionary Road and Goodbye, Columbus, those were ones I read lots of times. Also for me as a person, 19th century writers—George Eliot, Jane Austen. I learned a lot about psychology through those books. They were really smart about how people work and also maybe too about recreating—George Eliot does a good job of showing people that are so different form her. Spending so much time reading those books in my twenties was useful, not so much stylistically, because I can't live in a different time period, I can't write a novel with a omniscient narrator. It seems a little dated and it would be so pretentious and stilted taking that voice. But I definitely felt like I learned so much about people from those books. And Franzen is a great psychological novelist and so is Yates, but I was looking to those for things I couldn't look for in George Eliot like structure and how to...[read on]
Learn more about the book and author at Adelle Waldman's website.

The Page 69 Test: The Love Affairs of Nathaniel P..

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Caroline Leavitt

Caroline Leavitt is the New York Times bestselling author of Pictures of You, which sold to six countries, went into five printings, and was a San Francisco Chronicle Lit Pick, a Costco "Pennie's Pick" and a NAIBA bestseller. Pictures of You is also a USA Today ebook bestseller and is on the Best Books of 2011 List from the San Francisco Chronicle, Providence Journal, Kirkus Reviews and Bookmarks Magazine. It's also one of Kirkus Reviews Top 5 books of 2011 about the Family and love.

About Is This Tomorrow, Leavitt's tenth and latest novel:

What does it mean to be an outsider in a community? How do we keep the ones we love safe? in 1950s suburbia, everything is meant to be perfect, even as paranoia about Communism and nuclear bombs winds its way through the supposed paradise. But when divorced, sensual-without-meaning-to-be, Jewish single mother Ava rents a house with her 12-year-old son, Lewis, she struggles to fit in and find her place in the neighborhood. Lewis finds solace with the only other two fatherless kids on the block, his best friends Jimmy and Rose, but when Jimmy vanishes one day, Ava comes under suspicion, and Rose and Lewis are later forced to confront truths they've long suppressed. A novel about people trying desperately to uncover secrets about the past--and about themselves.
From Leavitt's Q & A at Like An Open Book:
What inspired you to write about a divorced woman in the 1950s? There is clearly some inherent conflict in that role, especially at that time. It couldn’t have been an easy situation for such women.

I grew up in a Waltham [Boston] suburb in the early 60s, part of the only Jewish family on a Christian block, and the only family more outcast than mine was headed up by a divorced woman. We kids were told not to go to her house because it was dirty, to stay away because she had all sorts of men, and not to talk to her. I disobeyed all the time. She painted my fingernails passion pink, gave me advice and cookies and showed me how to use eyeliner, and her daughter was my best friend. But when my friend was 12, she announced that the wealthy Jewish dentist she babysat for was going to adopt her, and I told her she was nuts. You couldn’t be adopted out of your family! But she was, and she left, and then two weeks later, her mother left, too. I kept asking everyone, “How could this happen?” I couldn’t get my mind around it. And the only answer I got was, “She was divorced. That’s how it happened.” I couldn’t get that out of my mind.

Did your original conception of the story include Jimmy’s disappearance, or was it focused on Ava’s transition to independence and Lewis’s coming of age? That alone would have made for a compelling read.

What a great question! No one has ever asked me that before, but what you said is actually true. Originally, it was just a story of being an outsider in a suburb. I was going to have a friend of Lewis’ move, but ...[read on]
Visit Caroline Leavitt's website and blog.

Writers Read: Caroline Leavitt.

The Page 69 Test: Is This Tomorrow.

My Book, The Movie: Is This Tomorrow.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, July 29, 2013

Paul Yoon

Paul Yoon's new novel is Snow Hunters.

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

You were born in New York City in 1980. How did you prepare to recreate the setting in post-war Brazil that your Korean protagonist, Yohan, inhabits in Snow Hunters?

Colum McCann once said that he’s always interested in writing about “the other.” William Trevor said something similar when he was asked why he often writes in the point of view of a woman.

Brazil, not long after the Korean War, was my “other.” A time and a place that’s a galaxy away from my own life. I think I tend to write about things I know nothing about out of sheer curiosity. In this way, weirdly, I’m more interested in the process of writing than I am the end product. It’s far more rewarding.

For Snow Hunters, the start of that process began with reading about Brazil—educating myself on its general history, its major events—though I confess this was less a desire to be historically accurate but more a way to immerse myself into an environment, a culture, to learn how to create a certain kind of atmosphere. Also, visual aids are always essential to me. I studied a lot of photographs of Brazil port towns and villages.

In a 2009 interview with the New York Times, you indicated that you have long been interested in the literary form of the short novel. To what extent is the narrative of Snow Hunters representative of that form?

A few years ago I started reading a lot of short novels, one after another. The idea of experiencing a story of a certain length appealed to me. It became a passport of sorts, for me to discover books from all over the world, books that not many people I knew had ever read or talked about. I’m thinking of...[read on]
Visit Paul Yoon's Tumblr.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Matthew Specktor

Matthew Specktor is the author of the novels American Dream Machine and That Summertime Sound, as well as a nonfiction book about the motion picture The Sting. His writing has appeared or is forthcoming in The Paris Review, The Believer, Tin House, Black Clock, and, among other publications. He is a senior editor and founding member of the Los Angeles Review of Books.

From Specktor's Q & A with Lauren Eggert-Crowe for The Rumpus:

The Rumpus: One of the things that I love about American Dream Machine is that it’s not starstruck. It is not an L.A. novel that’s enchanted with the silver screen or the curious imaginary life that L.A. seems to espouse.

Matthew Specktor: Definitely not. One of the things that made this book a particular challenge was that I have very mixed feelings about the movie business, and about Los Angeles in general. Usually when people say they have mixed feelings about something, it’s a sort of euphemistic way of saying they hate it. And the truth is, in certain respects I do. I do have complicated feelings about Hollywood, but I also have tremendously affectionate ones. It was a question of how to combine those things. Ambivalence tends to make for good literature.

Rumpus: I have to say, reading your book, I left my comfort zone a little bit. Because I realized I hardly ever read books by men or about men.

Specktor: I was very aware as I started writing it, I thought, wow, this book is really dude-heavy. And I realized I’d just have to surrender to that for a while. There’s a moment about two-thirds of the way through where the narrative consciousness aligns finally with a woman’s point of view, that of Emily White, and I was so happy to have gotten there! I thought, finally there’s a woman who can just come in and take over. (Laughter) I was so happy about it at first that...[read on]
Learn more about the book and author at Matthew Specktor's website.

Read about the role place plays in Specktor's writing.

The Page 69 Test: American Dream Machine.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Philippa Gregory

Philippa Gregory, whose series of novels based on the Wars of the Roses has been adapted into the BBC television drama The White Queen. Her latest book in the series is The White Princess.

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

The White Queen has recently appeared as a television series. Tell me about how that particular book was chosen and what the process of preparing the script for the series was like for you.

Well, a number of producers came to me wanting to do television or a film based on The White Queen. After talking a lot about it, what emerged is that I wanted to a series based on the three books: The White Queen, The Red Queen, and The Kingmaker’s Daughter. Those show the events, going back in time, from the birth of Henry Tudor right up to his arrival in England at Bosworth, through the eyes of the three most important women of the time. That’s how I wrote the novels, each through the eyes of a single, very important woman. Writing the scripts was in a sense weaving these stories together, the stories which I had pulled out of history—weaving them back together, through time, going from one woman to the other.

It is the dream of many a writer to see their characters brought to life by actors on screen. But your books feature historical characters interpreted by you in works of historically researched and accurate fiction. And now your interpretation has been interpreted for the screen. That’s a lot of steps. How much of the TV series that we see feels still historically accurate and maintaining your authorial voice, and how much was changed to suit the format?

I think when you move from novel to TV script, you lose your authorial voice. That’s the first thing that goes. It’s not you speaking, it’s the actor speaking, apart from everything else. And of course, behind them is the scriptwriter, and the various requirements of television. In terms of historical accuracy, we stayed pretty close to the novel and pretty close to the facts of history. There are some changes that I didn’t like, and I said at the time that I didn’t like, and that’s part of the scriptwriter’s job. They say,...[read on]
The White Queen is one of five books Kate Middleton should have read while waiting to give birth and one of Amanda Donohoe's six best books.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, July 26, 2013

Ed Gorman

Ed Gorman's latest novel is Flashpoint.

From his Q & A with J. Kingston Pierce at The Rap Sheet:

JKP: Like your fellow mystery writers Dorothy L. Sayers and Philip Kerr, you started out doing advertising work. Can you tell us what you did in that field?

EG: I started out as a copywriter in Des Moines, then worked by phone and mail for a small group in Chicago, then went back to Cedar Rapids and worked there for three different agencies, and finally had a three-person shop of my own. I worked for a time out of Chicago producing commercials.

I should say here that in my 18 years of editing Mystery Scene I probably talked to 50 writers who were or had been in advertising, and only three or four of them had anything good to say about the experience. I met some decent, humane people, for sure, in the business, but more often than not I met people who saw advertising as this great romantic calling. I worked for two weeks for a creative director who said that if you didn’t own a Porsche after two years of working for him you weren’t doing your job. A deep thinker, obviously. He just couldn’t believe I was walking away from such a very nice salary. That was when I started writing political speeches. I’m sure I learned things writing copy. Brevity if nothing else.

JKP: In what year did you stop drinking, and why?

EG: In May of 1974. One Friday night I got into some drunken, angry scene in a restaurant and was reminded of this by a young woman who called me at 2 a.m. She said she’d gotten my name off a toilet wall. I still have no idea who she was. Or why she called. I remember, being semi-sober by then, telling her all sorts of lies about myself. We must have talked for half an hour.

When I woke up the next morning one of the first things I thought of was going to a pawn shop and buying a gun. I really was at the end. My life was completely out of control. I’d realized that for years, but for some reason that morning I couldn’t handle it any longer. I’d destroyed a marriage, been a terrible father, had turned myself into both a demon and a public joke--and knew I couldn’t go on. I rented a rustic cabin far up on the Iowa River. I stayed there and got clean. I walked a lot and cried a lot. I was terrified of...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Stephen King

Stephen King's new novel, Doctor Sleep, will be published in September by Scribner. The author calls it a "return to balls-to-the-wall, keep-the-lights-on horror." Doctor Sleep, the sequel to 1977's The Shining, catches up with the now middle-aged Dan Torrance and finds him working at a hospice where he uses his innate supernatural powers to ease the suffering of the dying.

From King's Q & A with Anthony Breznican for Entertainment Weekly:

Entertainment Weekly: At what point did you first consider reviving this character from The Shining?

Stephen King: Every now and then somebody would ask, ‘Whatever happened to Danny?’ I used to joke around and say, ‘He married Charlie McGee from Firestarter and they had these amazing kids!’ But I did sort of wonder about it.

What finally inspired you to explore that question seriously?

Well, the other thing people would ask me is, ‘How come [his father] Jack Torrance never tried AA?’ Because he was this total dry-drunk in the book who never goes anywhere near a meeting. One of the things you hear from people who go into AA, or people who have substance abuse problems, is they say it runs in the family. … When the [sequel] idea would pop up in my mind I would think, ‘Now Danny’s 20, or now he’s 25. … I wonder if he’s drinking like his father?’ Finally I decided ‘Okay, why don’t I use that in the story and just revisit that whole issue? Like father, like son.

Doctor Sleep finds Dan Torrance as kind of a loner, working with terminally ill patients. His shining comes in very handy there, but what sparked you to the idea he would end up in a place like that?

Probably five years ago, I saw this piece on one of those morning news shows about a pet cat at a hospice, and according to this story the cat knew before anybody else when somebody was going to die. The cat would go into the room, curl up on the bed, and the people never seemed to mind. Then those people died. I thought to myself: ‘I want to write a story about that.’ And then I made the connection with Danny Torrance as an adult, working in a hospice. I thought: ‘That’s it. I’m...[read on]
The Shining is among Amanda Yesilbas and Charlie Jane Anders's ten horror novels that are scarier than almost any movie, Charlie Higson's top ten horror books, and Monica Ali's best books.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Richard Lange

Richard Lange is the author of the story collection Dead Boys, which received an award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, and the novel This Wicked World. He is the recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship, and his fiction has appeared in Best American Mystery Stories 2004 and 2011. He lives in Los Angeles.

Lange's latest novel is Angel Baby.

From his conversation with George Pelecanos on the Mulholland Books blog:

Pelecanos: Richard, you made a positive reputation early on with your short story collection, Dead Boys, which you know I enjoyed a great deal. When I read Chapter 6 of your new novel, Angel Baby, I was struck by how complete and polished it was. Detailing the prison life of Jerónimo Cruz, it stands on it own. Is it accurate to say that you craft each chapter in one of your novels with the care and precision that you would in one of your short stories? And which form of fiction do you prefer, both as a reader and writer?

Lange: Maybe because I started as a short-story writer, the individual chapters of the novels sometimes have a self-contained feel to them. They’re almost slices of the characters’ lives. It’s at odds with the narrative demands of the plot, I suppose, but it’s the way I tell my stories, through discrete scenes. I’m a slow, careful writer, even in first drafts, and I spend a lot of time chipping away at things in order to get them to my liking. As you know, what looks simplest is often most difficult to achieve.

As far as what I prefer, short stories or novels, as a reader, I love both equally. When it comes to my own work, stories is where I feel most comfortable, but I’m learning to love the expansiveness of writing novels—which is good, because you can’t...[read on]
Learn more about the book and author at Richard Lange's website.

Writers Read: Richard Lange.

The Page 69 Test: This Wicked World.

The Page 69 Test: Angel Baby.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Leighton Gage

Leighton Gage’s books are crime novels set in Brazil. The author has lived in Australia, Europe, and South America and traveled widely in Asia and Africa. He visited Spain in the time of Franco, Portugal in the time of Salazar, South Africa in the time of apartheid, Chile in the time of Pinochet, Argentina in the time of the junta, Prague, East Germany, and Yugoslavia under the Communist yoke.

His latest novel is Perfect Hatred, the sixth book in the series featuring Chief Inspector Mario Silva.

From Gage's Q & A with Grant McKenzie at The Big Thrill:

Tell us something about your protagonist.

Mario Silva is a Brazilian federal cop. You never know what he’s going to get stuck into next. It could be the genocide of an Indian tribe, or the theft of human organs, or gun-running, or the sexual exploitation of minors, or land grabs on the part of the wealthy. You name it, Silva fights it. And, since he has a national mandate, he gets to travel all over the country.

And your readers get to travel with him.

Correct. In PERFECT HATRED, for example, I’ll be taking them to São Paulo, the largest city in the southern hemisphere, to Brasilia, the national capital, and to the great waterfalls bordering Paraguay and Argentina. The region, by the way, is called the Tri-Border-Area, and is home to one of the largest Muslim communities in all of South America.

As in militant Muslims?

Big time. Al Qaeda, Hamas, Hizballah, they’re all there. Reports of a visit to the region by bin Laden remain unconfirmed, but Khalid Sheikh Mohammad was there for sure. That’s a documented fact.

So PERFECT HATRED is about terrorism?

Only in part. Other...[read on]
Visit Leighton Gage's website and the Murder is Everywhere blog.

The Page 69 Test: Blood of the Wicked

My Book, The Movie: Buried Strangers.

The Page 69 Test: Dying Gasp.

Writers Read: Leighton Gage (December 2010).

The Page 69 Test: Every Bitter Thing.

Writers Read: Leighton Gage (December 2011).

The Page 69 Test: A Vine in the Blood.

The Page 69 Test: Perfect Hatred.

Writers Read: Leighton Gage.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, July 22, 2013

Gerard Jones

Gerard Jones is the author of Men of Tomorrow: Geeks, Gangsters, and the Birth of the Comic Book.

From his Q & A with Randy Dotinga for the Christian Science Monitor:

Q: How did comic books first come into being?

A: They came out of the newspaper comic strips, which were mostly humor along with things like Tarzan and Dick Tracy.

The first comic books were just reprints of the newspaper comics, a way for people to read their favorite strips with continuity. But some publishers couldn't sell newspaper reprints and began to commission new material.

The artists were largely guys who were trying to make it as newspaper comic strip artists but hadn't made it. They tended to be young, oddball, and not quite as sophisticated and polished; their work was seen as unfinished and not ready for prime time

For example, Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster were consistently rejected when they were peddling their Superman idea to the newspaper syndicates. One syndicate said it was an immature piece of art.

Q: Why did this kind of work become popular?

A: There was an audience that wanted this rougher, more peculiar stuff that wasn't refined by art school and years of experience. And a lot of kids wanted that raw connection with the fantasies of the artists who weren't much older than them.

Most of the guys who created the stuff that lasted were in their late teens or early 20s. They could tap into the action and adventure that kids wanted but couldn't get enough of in the newspaper comic strips.

Q: How were comic books groundbreaking in terms of reaching kids specifically?

A: Newspaper comic strips were sort of like...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Karen E. Bender

Karen E. Bender is the author of the novel Like Normal People, which was a Los Angeles Times bestseller, a Washington Post Best Book of the Year, and a Barnes and Noble Discover Great New Writers selection.

A Town of Empty Rooms, her second novel, was published earlier this year.

From the author's Q & A with David Ulin for the Los Angeles Times:

“A Town of Empty Rooms” takes place in 2002, a heightened moment in America. Why did you set it then?

2002 was a time when it felt to me like the nation was spinning out of control. The nation was in an intense state of paranoia and fear after Sept. 11, and with Bush, with the Patriot Act, with the decision to invade Iraq despite numerous protests around the globe, it felt like the government was engaged in miscommunication, or the desire not to listen, on a massive scale.

I was interested in how communication had fallen apart because I was seeing it in a more micro level in my daily life. It also seemed a good time to set the novel because of Serena’s father’s paranoia as a Jew who had left Germany right before the Holocaust. He was very distrustful of government, the ways in which it could spiral out of control, and I imagined he’d have strong reactions to the Bush administration.

The book begins in New York but quickly shifts to North Carolina. You, too, moved to North Carolina around that time.

We ended up in North Carolina in 2002, when my husband Robert and I got teaching jobs at the University of North Carolina at Wilmington. The jobs and writing community were great, but as the rest of our families were in New York and Los Angeles, we had a feeling of exile here at first. Wilmington is an odd place. It had Old South elements that we found totally perplexing (the Azalea festival, where teenage girls dressed up as antebellum belles and stood, twirling parasols, in front of houses that hosted garden tours), but the city has grown exponentially in the last 20 years, so there are a fair amount of “immigrants” from the Northeast, California, etc. drawn to the low-cost housing and easier life. We don’t feel like outsiders the way Serena and Dan do, but...[read on]
Learn more about the book and author at Karen Bender's website.

My Book, The Movie: A Town of Empty Rooms.

The Page 69 Test: A Town of Empty Rooms.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, July 20, 2013

James Crumley

From Laura Lippman's interview with James Crumley for Crimespree, issue 15 November 2006:

LL: When did you discover a love of books, when did you first think about becoming a writer?

JC: I taught myself to read. I started my first novel when I was about twelve. It was a detective novel, written under the influence of Mickey Spillane books that my aunts who were my age had hidden under their mattresses. In college, I majored in eight different things before I got a degree in history. When I got into the writing program in Iowa, I hadn’t actually graduated [from Texas A&I]. But I’d been in the Army and I knew how bureaucracy worked. I got into graduate school and they didn’t catch up with me for six or eight months. I finished my undergraduate degree with correspondence courses from Texas A&I while I was in graduate school in Iowa.

LL: How did you like Iowa?

JC: Iowa? It was like heaven. It was the first time that I ever got to hang around people who read and write and talked about shit. Iowa was really good for me. Dick Yates was there . . . Kurt Vonnegut. I was the youngest of the bunch.

LL: How did you even hear about Iowa, know to apply there? I can’t imagine a lot of people at Texas A&I in Kingsville were talking up the University of Iowa Writers Workshop.

JC: There was some guy in Kingsville, Texas, and I heard he was a writer, and I took some shit to him, and he said: “Maybe you should read some modern poetry before you try to write some.” I read everything I could find, then took him some more poems, and then he said: “Maybe you should try fiction.” After my second story, he said:...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, July 19, 2013

Susan Bordo

Susan Bordo, Otis A. Singletary Professor in the Humanities at University of Kentucky, is the author of Unbearable Weight: Feminism, Western Culture, and the Body, a book that is still widely read and assigned in classes today. During speaking tours for that book, she encountered many young men who asked, "What about us?" The result was The Male Body: A New Look at Men in Public and in Private. Her latest book is The Creation of Anne Boleyn: A New Look at England's Most Notorious Queen.

From Bordo's Q & A with Erin Lyndal Martin for Bitch Media:

What is your favorite thing about Boleyn?

I’ve always been attracted to women who seem to have been misunderstood in their own times, but come to “speak” to later generations. Anne was surely one of those women! But if I had to name one quality that is most appealing to me, it would have to be what seems to have been an ironic, somewhat “dark,” and highly attuned sense of how political her world was. We only have fragments that suggest this—her sharp, skeptical reactions to Constable Kingston’s mealy-mouthed reassurances in the tower, and her amazing trial speech, in which she confessed only to not having had “perfect humility” with Henry—but these tiny bits speak volumes to me about what set her off from other women at court. She wasn’t a great beauty (the media said to the contrary) but she seems to have been so conscious, and so unwilling to remain silent about what she felt and thought. And from her trial speech, it appears that she knew that was one of the main reasons for her fall.

You also mention Henry being more egalitarian than his contemporaries. In what other ways was Henry different than other men of his time?

I don’t actually use that word, for I don’t think he was egalitarian according to any modern understanding of that word. What I do suggest is...[read on]
Learn more about the book and author at the official The Creation of Anne Boleyn website.

My Book, The Movie: The Creation of Anne Boleyn.

Read--Coffee with a Canine: Susan Bordo & Sean and Dakota.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Robert J. Sawyer

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

His latest novel is Red Planet Blues.

From Sawyer's Q & A with Michael A. Ventrella:

VENTRELLA: The big news is that your 22nd novel RED PLANET BLUES has just been released. It’s a detective novel set on Mars done in the noir style, first person and everything. What made you want to write this?

ROBERT J. SAWYER: It’s become increasingly hard to tell traditional detective stories set in the present day. Everyone knows about CSI-style forensics: it’s almost impossible for a killer not to leave behind fingerprints or DNA. And our public and private spaces are increasingly covered by surveillance cameras; there’s almost no room left —- on Earth anyway —- for the traditional whodunit. But RED PLANET BLUES is set on a lawless frontier Mars -— where the security cameras have been smashed —- and it involves a technology that lets people transfer their consciousnesses into gorgeous android bodies, which don’t have fingerprints and don’t shed DNA. But who is actually inside any given body is anyone’s guess, letting me tell a good-old fashioned mystery … out on the final frontier.

VENTRELLA: From the opening chapters, it almost feels as a mixture of various pulp fiction styles. Was that the desire?

SAWYER: Absolutely. “Pulp” shouldn’t be thought of as a dirty word. Two of the most successful commercial fiction genres today are science fiction and mystery, and both have their roots in pulp magazines of the 1920s through 1950s. It seemed natural to bring those two genres together in that particular voice.

VENTRELLA: Was it difficult trying to capture that style of writing?

SAWYER: It was, but it was also...[read on]
The Page 69 Test: Red Planet Blues.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Mary Simses

Mary Simses grew up in Connecticut and spent much of her life in the Northeast, where she attended college and law school. As a child she loved to write stories, design covers for them, and staple them into books. Later, careers in journalism and law took priority and creative writing slipped away, until she enrolled in an evening fiction writing class at a local university and was hooked again. Her short stories have appeared in a number of literary journals. Simses now lives in South Florida with her husband/law partner and their daughter.

Her new novel is The Irresistible Blueberry Bakeshop & Cafe.

From the author's Q & A with Becca Rowan at All Things Girl:

Where did you get your inspiration for The Irresistible Blueberry Bakeshop & Café?

The idea came from something I heard on the radio. A woman told a story about her dying grandmother and how, just before she died, she said, “Erase my hard drive.” I began to wonder what was on that grandmother’s computer that she didn’t want anyone to know about. That led to me to the idea of an eighty-year-old woman reviewing her life and feeling the need to set certain things right before she died. Although I used a letter as the vehicle to get the story going, rather than a computer, the hard drive story is what ultimately led me to write the book.

In the novel, Ellen Branford has to make a choice between a sophisticated lifestyle in the city or the simpler pleasures of small town life. Have you ever been faced with a similar choice?

In a way I have. On one level, Ellen’s choice involves the notion of security vs. risk. This is something I’m always interested in because I’ve had to muddle through that choice myself. My practical side directed me toward careers in journalism and law, and away from fiction writing, which was what loved most. I have no regrets about any of that, but I’m delighted that I can now spend more time writing.

Do you and Ellen share any similar personality traits?

Absolutely...[read on]
Learn more about the book and author at Mary Simses's website and follow her on Facebook.

My Book, The Movie: The Irresistible Blueberry Bakeshop & Cafe.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Jessica Brockmole

Jessica Brockmole's new novel is Letters from Skye.

From her Q & A with Sarah Johnson at Historical Novel Society:

SJ: When I first read about the premise for Letters from Skye, about an American college student who sends a fan letter to a Scottish poet in 1912, I made the assumption that the student was female and the author male – and was actually very pleased to be wrong. How did you come up with the character of Elspeth, this young, reclusive poet who loves geology and the wild, pagan land around her?

JB: In my mind, the poet character was always female. Perhaps it’s because I am, but I could only imagine a woman having the easy connection to nature that my poet has. Her other character traits—the love of geology, the fear of water, the overfondness for jam—were not planned and surprised me in the writing. In retrospect, they were interesting traits to give to Elspeth. Her preference for the rocks beneath her feet rather than the ocean beyond hint that she is more grounded than her dreamy nature suggests.

SJ: What did you enjoy most about your time living in Scotland, and what made you decide you absolutely had to set a novel there?

JB: The history. Walking the streets of Edinburgh, I would lay my hand on the stones of a building and swear that I could feel history beneath the surface. Growing up in the Midwestern U.S. I never felt that to the same degree. I was fascinated by all of the years that the city had seen and wanted to find a set of them to write about.

SJ: In novels written in the form of letters, creating a distinct, authentic voice for each character is so important, and it was obvious the amount of care you’d taken in doing this. How did your academic training in linguistics help you? What other resources did you use?

JB: In studying linguistics, I had...[read on]
Learn more about the book and author at Jessica Brockmole's website, and follow her on Facebook and Twitter.

The Page 69 Test: Letters from Skye.

Writers Read: Jessica Brockmole.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, July 15, 2013

Adam Mitzner

Adam Mitzner is the author of A Conflict of Interest and A Case of Redemption.

From his Q & A at My Bookish Ways:

Obviously, your experience as a lawyer gives you tons of inside info for your novels, but did you have to do any other research for A Case of Redemption?

I have handled criminal cases, but never a murder case. As a result, I consulted with a close friend (the same law school roommate who doubted that I could write a book like The Firm) on issues particular to murder trials. Also, I needed some expert help concerning the forensic issues.

In your writing, are you a plotter or a pantser?

A pantser. I like to write the way I like to read – wondering what’s going to happen next.

What are some of your biggest literary influences?

In my opinion, Scott Turow writes the best legal thrillers. Readers have emailed me to tell me that A Conflict of Interest is the best legal thriller they’ve ever read, and I wonder if they’ve read Presumed Innocent. I’m also a big fan of Ethan Canin, especially his first book, The Palace Thief, which is a collection of short stories. I re-read it every so often and try to figure out how he presents such complex characters in so few pages.

If you could recommend one title (besides your own) to someone, off the top of your head, which one would it be?

As I said, Scott Turow’s Presumed Innocent is the gold standard for legal thrillers. To Kill A Mockingbird is a different type of lawyer book, but it has withstood the test of time because it’s so marvelous. If I was going to recommend a book for sheer beauty of the language, it would be...[read on]
Learn more about the book and author at Adam Mitzner's website.

The Page 69 Test: A Conflict of Interest.

Writers Read: Adam Mitzner (May 2011).

My Book, The Movie: A Conflict of Interest.

The Page 69 Test: A Case of Redemption.

My Book, The Movie: A Case of Redemption.

Writers Read: Adam Mitzner.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Kim McLarin

Kim McLarin is the author of the critically-acclaimed novels Taming It Down (1999), Meeting of the Waters (2001), and Jump at the Sun (2006), all published by William Morrow. McLarin is also co-author of the memoir Growing Up X with Ilyasah Shabazz. Jump at the Sun was chosen as a 2007 Fiction Honor Book by the Massachusetts Center for the Book. The novel was also nominated for a Hurston-Wright Legacy Award and selected by the Black Caucus of the American Library Association as a 2007 Fiction Honor Book.

From Caroline Leavitt's Q & A with McLarin about her latest book, Divorce Dog: Motherhood, Men and Midlife:

Tell us how the book sparked? What got you to writing it? And how did you change through the writing?

The truth is that I was at a low point with my real work, writing fiction. Not low in terms of inspiration but in terms of dealing with the reality of being a so-called "midlist" writer, meaning great reviews and not-so-great sales. People, including my editor, suggested I write a memoir in the hopes of gaining readership. But I'm not really that interested in memoir. I believe there is a difference between what's real and what's true, and that the mania for memoir too often focuses on the former to the detriment of the latter. There is great truth in the novels of Toni Morrison and Gabriel Garcia Marquez and Graham Greene, etc, truth that has shaped my life, and that's where my heart was and remains. So the compromise was this book, a collection of autobiographical essays. It started with a version of the essay on online dating, which I'd published in The New York Times and which generated a lot of, um, feedback.

As to how I changed during the writing, I'm not sure. I hope I'm always changing, and I'm always writing, so it's hard to say.

So much of the book's issues--race, divorce, being a woman-- are thorny ones. Did anything surprise you in the writing?

The one thing that consistently surprises me in all my work is that on paper I turn out to be...[read on]
Learn more about Divorce Dog at Kim McLarin's website and Facebook page.

Read--Coffee with a Canine: Kim McLarin and Stella.

Writers Read: Kim McLarin.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Ronlyn Domingue

Ronlyn Domingue is the author of the newly released The Mapmaker’s War. Its sequel, The Chronicle of Secret Riven, is forthcoming in 2014. Her critically acclaimed debut novel, The Mercy of Thin Air, was published in ten languages. Her writing has appeared in The Beautiful Anthology (TNB Books), New England Review, The Independent (UK), and Shambhala Sun, as well as on and The Nervous Breakdown. Born and raised in the Deep South, she lives there still with her partner, Todd Bourque, and their cats.

From Domingue's Q & A at I Am a Reader, Not a Writer:

If you could invite any 5 people to dinner who would you choose?

Joan of Arc, John Lennon, C.G. Jung, F. Scott Fitzgerald, and Toni Morrison.

If you could have any superpower what would you choose?


What is your favorite thing to eat for breakfast?

Hashbrowns from Louie’s, a local favorite 24-hour eatery.

Pet Peeves?

Those who don’t use turn signals while driving. People who don’t curb their dogs. Inappropriate apostrophe usage. There are several more, but I’ll restrain myself.

How did you know you should become an author?

When I was in third grade, I had...[read on]
Learn more about the author at Ronlyn Domingue's website, Facebook page, and Twitter perch.

The Page 69 Test: The Mapmaker's War.

Writers Read: Ronlyn Domingue.

My Book, The Movie: The Mapmaker's War.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, July 12, 2013

Judith Flanders

From Lenny Picker's Publishers Weekly Q & A with Judith Flanders about her new book, The Invention of Murder: How the Victorians Revelled in Death and Detection and Created Modern Crime:

What prompted you to write this book?

I was interested in how the conditions of the 19th century led to the prolifer­ation of interest in murder and how it transformed crimes into entertain­ment. Britain was unique in that it was the first industrialized country (leading to the cre­ation of vast urban centers, where for the first time in history, many people lived among total strangers) and it had the first railways (which led to more strangers mov­ing about the coun­try). Rapid technolog­ical developments like newspapers and then the telegraph allowed news to be more swiftly transported around the coun­try; the formation of the first civil police interested writers like Dickens, and led to the creation of the detective story; and [at the beginning of the 1800s, Britain] had a very low murder rate, which meant most people felt very safe, and were thus ready to be entertained by murder, be it in fiction, theater, broadsides, puppet shows, or exhibitions.

What surprised you the most during the research?

Victorian racehorse owners frequently named...[read on]
Visit the official Judith Flanders website and Twitter perch.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Virginia Morell

Virginia Morell's latest book is Animal Wise: The Thoughts and Emotions of Our Fellow Creatures.

From her Q & A with Aaron Scott at Portland Monthly:

Culturephile: You take the reader on quite a voyage across the planet and through the animal kingdom. What of the findings you came across most surprised you?

Virginia Morell: It’s difficult to choose just one. The ants were surprising on many levels: They teach other; they know exactly the size and shape of the most suitable ant-home and have ways to measure and compare spaces; when they need to reach a group decision, they basically vote. And these are microscopic ants; their brain matter is smaller than the head of a pin. Listening to the laughing rats was delightful—I never would have guessed that rats laugh. The attentiveness of elephants surprised me; they seem such stolid creatures, yet they are paying attention to everything—sounds, movements, rocks, and trees. They know when something in their environment has changed—“That rock wasn’t here yesterday!” And they know each other as individuals. Other surprises: Betsy, a border collie, could remember hundreds of names; dolphins love studying themselves in a mirror; a chimpanzee named Ai is an astonishing memory whiz—he can instantly recall all the numbers spread randomly across a computer screen.

What most delighted you?

Hearing Alex the Gray Parrot speak. In Animal Wise, I describe his voice as...[read on]
Learn more about Animal Wise: The Thoughts and Emotions of Our Fellow Creatures.

Read--Coffee with a Canine: Virginia Morell and Buckaroo.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

James Thompson

With his first internationally published novel, Snow Angels, James Thompson proved himself Finland’s best and most popular representative in the rise of Nordic noir. It was selected as one of Booklist’s Best Crime Novel Debuts of the Year and nominated for an Edgar Award, an Anthony Award, and a Strand Critics Award. His novel, Lucifer’s Tears, has received critical acclaim from all quarters, including starred reviews from Publishers Weekly, Booklist, and Kirkus, and was selected as one of the best novels of the year by Kirkus. Helsinki White was released to critical acclaim in 2012. His fourth novel featuring Inspector Kari Vaara, Helsinki Blood, was published in March 2013.

From Thompson's Q & A with Richard Godwin:

Henry James wrote, ‘We go to Europe to become Americanised.’ Is Helsinki a self-imposed exile and has it Americanised you?

I’m not a very big Henry James fan, and anyway, the world has moved on since he wrote that. There is no deep-seated reason for me living here. The wind just blew me this way, and I never left. It’s not in exile. I could pick up and leave tomorrow. I never intended to stay this long. I seldom intend anything, as far as life plans go. I simply had no reason to leave, but incentives to stay.

Finland offered me advantages that I didn’t have in the U.S. For instance, I earned a Master’s degree from the University of Helsinki. The same degree from an American university of the same calibre would have cost about $200,000. It cost me nothing. In fact, I received monthly support from the government. It wasn’t much, but they in effect paid me to earn a Master’s. Of course, it isn’t that simple. Entrance is a competition. Being accepted into a department at the university means several hundred people sit down in a room and take a test. A fraction are admitted. The rest cry big tears. It’s a competition.

Prior to studying, I always earned a decent middle-class living and had free health care. After my education was completed, I quickly became an established author here. A couple years before I did so internationally. No, living here hasn’t Americanized me. Quite the opposite. I’ve adapted and acclimated to Finnish life. I’m considered a Nordic author.

How close to your heart is Vaara and to what extent is he a self-saboteur?

We have some...[read on]
Learn more about the book and author at James Thompson's website and blog.

The Page 69 Test: Snow Angels.

The Page 69 Test: Helsinki White.

Writers Read: James Thompson (April 2012).

My Book, The Movie: Helsinki White.

Writers Read: James Thompson.

The Page 69 Test: Helsinki Blood.

My Book, The Movie: Helsinki Blood.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Jennifer Keishin Armstrong

Jennifer Keishin Armstrong grew up deep in the southwest suburbs of Chicago, then escaped to New York to live in a succession of very small apartments and write about pop culture. In the process, she became a feminist, a Buddhist, and the singer/guitarist in an amateur rock band. She also spent a decade on staff at Entertainment Weekly, cofounded, and now writes for several publications, including Women’s Health, O, Writer’s Digest, Fast Company, and New York‘s Vulture. Her collaboration with Heather Wood Rudulph, Sexy Feminism, was published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt in March 2013.

Armstrong's latest books are Mary and Lou and Rhoda and Ted: And all the Brilliant Minds Who Made The Mary Tyler Moore Show a Classic, and, with Heather Wood Rudulph, Sexy Feminism.

From her Q & A with Claire Zulkey:

What do you think are examples of pop culture that got feminism right both in terms of definition/idealism but also by demonstrating it in an everyday, practical way?

I feel a professional obligation to say this, but I also believe it: The Mary Tyler Moore Show. They weren't trying to be feminist, but the movement was so much in the air at the time, and they had so many feminist-identified women writing for the show, that it came through. I always say Mary Richards was the original Sexy Feminist. She really came into her empowerment throughout the series, and we saw her argue for equal pay to her male predecessor, we saw her talk about the pressures of being the only woman in the newsroom, and we saw her (mostly in later years) assert herself strongly with men. In one of the last episodes, she even asked Lou Grant out. It didn't work out, but still.

You've written books about The Mary Tyler Moore Show and the Mickey Mouse Club. What are some books about shows you'd read if they were written (but don't want to write yourself?)

I love this question, because I can tell you that when figuring out my next book (which is now officially Seinfeld) I basically just pored over lists of TV shows. The ones I feel like I definitely can't tackle are ...[read on]
Learn more about the author and her work at Jennifer Keishin Armstrong's website.

My Book, The Movie: Mary and Lou and Rhoda and Ted.

The Page 99 Test: Mary and Lou and Rhoda and Ted.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, July 8, 2013

Matthew Goodman

Matthew Goodman's nonfiction books include The Sun and the Moon: The Remarkable True Account of Hoaxers, Showmen, Dueling Journalists, and Lunar Man-Bats in Nineteenth-Century New York and Jewish Food: The World at Table. The recipient of two MacDowell fellowships and one Yaddo fellowship, he has taught creative writing at numerous universities and workshops. He lives in Brooklyn, New York, with his wife and children.

Goodman's new book is Eighty Days: Nellie Bly and Elizabeth Bisland's History-Making Race Around the World.

From his Q & A at The Gaudy Interview:

Gaudy: Eighty Days makes us remember the fabulous West Wing episode, “And It’s Surely to Their Credit” (S02E05). In the episode, First Lady Abigail Bartlet (Stockard Channing) chastises the President (Martin Sheen) for not paying enough respect to Nellie Bly, and by extension, other women whose contributions to the country have been overlooked. Why do you think Bly’s story (and Bisland’s) continues to have significance over 100 years later for journalists, readers, even screenwriters like Aaron Sorkin? Do we remember them as symbols, as individuals, or some combination thereof?

MG: I love that episode! As it happens, I’m a big fan of The West Wing; I’ve always felt that it was one of the few TV shows – The Sopranos and The Wire are two more — from which writers could really learn their craft, about dialogue, pacing, revelation of information, and lots more. But in truth, I didn’t remember Abby’s oration about Nellie Bly until I was already working on this book, and somebody reminded me about it; then I went to YouTube and watched it with a big smile. In fact, as you point out, the First Lady is actually chastising the President for not remembering Nellie Bly, not giving her the credit to which she is rightly due as a pioneering female journalist.

That’s been my experience with Eighty Days as well — a lot of people sort of know Nellie Bly, they vaguely recognize the name, but are not quite sure why they know her or exactly what it was that she did. They don’t know, for instance, about how she actually feigned madness to get herself committed to the Blackwell’s Island Lunatic Asylum, so that she could experience first-hand the horrors endured by the female patients there and then subsequently write an expose of the place. That was incredibly courageous of her, because there was no guarantee that once she got in she would ever be able to get back out. (In fact it took all of Joseph Pulitzer’s doing to get her back out.) Since Eighty Days has come out I’ve heard from lots of female readers who were excited to find out about these daring, courageous women from more than a century ago; it’s actually been...[read on]
Learn more about the book and author at Matthew Goodman's website.

My Book, The Movie: Eighty Days.

The Page 99 Test: Eighty Days.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Teddy Wayne

Teddy Wayne, the author of Kapitoil, is the winner of a 2011 Whiting Writers’ Award and a finalist for the Young Lions Fiction Award, PEN/Bingham Prize, and Dayton Literary Peace Prize. He writes regularly for The New Yorker, the New York Times, Vanity Fair, McSweeney’s, and elsewhere.

About his latest novel, The Love Song of Jonny Valentine:

Megastar Jonny Valentine, eleven-year-old icon of bubblegum pop, knows that the fans don’t love him for who he is. The talented singer’s image, voice, and even hairdo have been relentlessly packaged—by his L.A. label and his hard-partying manager-mother, Jane—into bite-size pabulum. But within the marketing machine, somewhere, Jonny is still a vulnerable little boy, perplexed by his budding sexuality and his heartthrob status, dependent on Jane, and endlessly searching for his absent father in Internet fan sites, lonely emails, and the crowds of faceless fans.
From the author's Q & A with Claire Zulkey:
How did you ensure a level of believability for an 11-year-old kid (aside from marketing speak?) What changes did you make throughout the process to make sure that it was accurate?

In the earliest pages, his voice was a touch too infantile--an overreliance on slang like "fav," for instance. Instead of focusing on a wholly diminished vocabulary, I decided to make Jonny's grammar and sentence structures more kidlike; run-on phrasings, consistent (and subtle) syntax errors, as well as specific diction that he returns to.

What were some alternate covers suggested for the book? How did the current one get decided?

The current one is all I saw at first, though my publisher later floated a few alternates. But I was sold from the start on the reflective holographic foil, which is a perfect tongue-in-cheek self-critical design: a novel about the glitzy packaging of art is itself wrapped in a glitzy package.

Similarly, were there other names you considered for Jonny Valentine?

The book's first germ of inspiration was as a parody of pop-star autobiographies, and in that version (I wrote one chapter, which later became the New Yorker Shouts & Murmurs piece Jonny reads about himself), the protagonist is named Tyler Beats--which would eventually become the megastar whom Jonny attempts to emulate. Once I threw out the parody...[read on]
Visit Teddy Wayne's website.

The Page 69 Test: Kapitoil.

Writers Read: Teddy Wayne (February 2013).

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Temple Grandin

Temple Grandin is one of the world’s most accomplished and well-known adults with autism. She is a professor at Colorado State University and the author of several best-selling books, which have sold more than a million copies. The HBO movie based on her life, starring Claire Danes, received seven Emmy Awards. Her latest book is The Autistic Brain: Thinking Across the Spectrum.

From Grandin's Q & A with Cathy Burke at Publishers Weekly:

You’ve volunteered for more than a half-dozen brain scans—tests you refer to as the “Journey to the Center of My Mind.” What made you want to take those journeys?

I’m a scientist! The technology is there to dissect what looks like aircraft cables in the brain. For example, when two roads cross each other, are they connected, or does one pass over the other? The technology makes it possible with a computer to see that. So you can look at my circuit and say what you see. For example, my brain “bundles” have much less bandwidth, and then you understand how it is that I have difficulties in getting words out. We will be able to do this technology in hospitals, and within the next 10 years, they may have it for brain injuries. But it’s like Galileo getting a telescope: It’s going to take research to use this technology.

You’ve written books about autism and lecture on the subject. Why was it important to you to write this book?

I was very interested in different kinds of thinking. When I was younger, I thought everybody thought in pictures! And the sensory problem for autistics is difficult to imagine. It is my number one issue because some autistics can‘t function because of them.

You write that autism is a part of who you are, but that you won’t let it define you. How can parents and educators guide those with autism to this kind of self-discovery?

Autism is a very big spectrum. At one end, you get...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, July 5, 2013

Robert Kolker

Robert Kolker's new book is Lost Girls: An Unsolved American Mystery.

From his Q & A at True Crime Diary:

When did [Lost Girls] seem like a book to you?

I resisted thinking about that until the story came out. Then I looked at it, and it was a cover story. I write a lot about crime, but probably because of where I work, I’m encouraged to write about stories that have some sort of second issue running underneath the story itself. A murder story can also be about the hate crime law, or a wrongful conviction story is also about police interrogation tactics, and false confessions. This story from the start wasn’t just about the whodunit, but about the impact of the case on five different families, and how that offered a window into the lives of these women when they were still alive. I’m a huge fan of Adrian Nicole LeBlanc and Alex Kotlowitz, any kind of journalism that offers a window into a world that no one’s seen before, and that the media doesn’t write much about. Immediately I thought, well this could be a really self-contained book. I’d write about five families, in five parts of the country, five struggling area where the options are changing for young people. What propelled the narrative along is the same thing that propels “Titanic,” or “From Here to Eternity” --- you know how it’s going to end for all of them.

You really get across what it’s like for a certain struggling segment of the population, one that’s rarely portrayed in the media. I was reminded of the book Nickel and Dimed, and some of David Simon's work.

There’s obviously a gap between rich and poor in the country, but what was driven home for me while working on the book was the gap between the middle class and working class. Megan Waterman’s mother works at Domino’s, and Shannan Gilbert’s mother works at Walmart. Melissa Barthelemy’s mother has worked at the same nursing home for 25 years. So you have this unseen world, this...[read on]
Visit Robert Kolker's website and blog.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Rosamund Lupton

Rosamund Lupton is the author of Sister.

From her Q & A about the novel with Mitzi Brunsdale for Publishers Weekly:

How much did your own family relationships affect your writing of Sister?

My bond with my own sister certainly has been exceptional, and I consider it a gift, the kind you receive whether you deserve it or not. So I really, really wanted to explore this relationship, and when my youngest child went off to school about five years ago, I finally had time to start the novel.

You also present a complicated mother-daughter relationship through Beatrice's long letter to her murdered sister, Tess. How do the mother-daughter connection and the bond between the sisters interact?

These relationships climax when Beatrice, a career woman, and her mother visit Tess's grave. Beatrice realizes that while she had always sent flowers to their mother on the birthday of the little brother, Leo, they had lost—"thoughtfulness at a distance"—Tess, whose hippie London lifestyle Beatrice had deplored, had always come to see her mother on those sad birthdays. Seeing her mother become the "mum of babyhood" again through Tess's eyes opens a whole new consciousness about her own life for Beatrice herself. As her bond with her dead sister tightens, it also...[read on]
Sister is one of Sophie McKenzie's ten top teen thrillers.

"[Sister] is both a taut and compelling thriller and a beautifully written account of love and frustration between sisters," wrote Alafair Burke. "It's a remarkable debut that deserves all the attention it is sure to garner."

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Chris Kluwe

Chris Kluwe is a NFL punter and an active promoter of equal rights for all Americans.

His new book is Beautifully Unique Sparkleponies: On Myths, Morons, Free Speech, Football, and Assorted Absurdities.

From his Q & A with Alexandra Alter for the Wall Street Journal's Speakeasy blog:

This isn’t at all a typical book for a professional athlete to write. How did it come about?

I had a bunch of publishers coming to me saying, ‘Hey, you should write a book.’ The first couple who came to me, I was like no, I’m focusing on football. After seven or eight, I was like whoa, these are the people who are in charge of books. That would be as if seven or eight football teams approached me and said, “Why don’t you play football?”

Did any of the publishers want you to write the conventional life story of a football player?

There were more than a few publishers who wanted the standard autobiographical football story. I was like, ‘That’s not the book I want to write. The book I want to write is how my mind works what I see in the world.’ Nothing against the autobiographical football book, but that’s not me. That’s what people expect from an athlete who’s going to write a book. Even though I’m a football player, I’m so much more than that.

You mention Kurt Vonnegut as one of your favorite writers. Did he influence your writing at all?

He...[read on]
Learn about Chris Kluwe's six favorite books.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Lisa Brackmann

Lisa Brackmann has worked as a motion picture executive and an issues researcher in a presidential campaign. A southern California native, she currently lives in Venice, California. Her critically acclaimed debut novel, Rock Paper Tiger, set on the fringes of the Chinese art world, made several “Best of 2010″ lists, including Amazon’s Top 100 Novels and Top 10 Mystery/Thrillers, and was nominated for the Strand Magazine Critics Award for Best First Novel.

Brackmann's new novel is Hour of the Rat.

From the author's Q & A with Jaime Boler at the Bookmagnet's Blog:

Jaime Boler: Thank you so much, Lisa, for letting me ask you these questions. I’ve always been a huge fan of yours from your Rock Paper Tiger days and Hour of the Rat is a clever, taut sequel. You have worked as an executive at a major motion picture studio, as an issues researcher for a presidential campaign, and as a singer/songwriter/bassist in a rock band. What made you want to write novels?

Lisa Brackmann: I really wanted to write fiction before I did any of those other things you mention above. I’ve told the story before, but I tried to write my first novel at the age of five. It was to be an epic adventure about cats who went camping. Unfortunately I did not know how to spell “tent.” This is a true story. I wrote fiction on and off when I was young, and none of it was very good, but I did have an idea how to construct a narrative, and writing was something that I was very passionate about.

I studied writing briefly in college – one of my professors was Lydia Davis, who just won the Man Booker Prize and who had a tremendous influence on me. She helped teach me how to see the world with greater precision. But I got to a point where writing felt like I was constantly living my life as source material rather than actually living it, so I took a break and got into music. Later, I worked in the film industry, and like just about everyone in Los Angeles, I wrote a couple screenplays and a bunch of teleplays. I really enjoyed those projects, but they aren’t finished until someone decides to produce them – and given the weirdness of what I tended to write, the odds of that happening weren’t great.

I decided to write a novel for fun while I came up with that high concept screenplay idea that was going to make me rich. I never did come up with the high concept screenplay, but...[read on]
Learn more about the book and author at Lisa Brackmann's website and blog.

The Page 69 Test: Hour of the Rat.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, July 1, 2013

Stephen Kiernan

Stephen Kiernan's new novel is The Curiosity.

From his Q & A with Tim Powers at

Tim Powers: Where did you get the initial idea for the book?

Stephen P. Kiernan: I heard a song by James Taylor and thought it would make a good novel. But I stewed on the idea for 18 years, because it had a missing ingredient I couldn’t identify. Then I was biking in Italy with two writer friends, and one night I shared both the story and my problem with it. One friend said: “It needs a beautiful woman.” The other added, “Who is smarter than everyone else.” Geniuses. After that, the book nearly wrote itself. The final novel bore as much resemblance to the song as an oak does to an acorn, but that initial nut was essential.

TP: You’ve written nonfiction for decades. The Curiosity is your first novel. Was it easier or harder to write?

SPK: Imagine an artist painting a still life without the actual fruit and flowers in front of him. He must work without the benefit of light on the apples just so, and without the discipline of rendering the peonies precisely as he sees them. But he also has the freedom to add pomegranates, if he thinks it will make a better picture. This novel was like that, both liberating and challenging, with the writing entirely in service of...[read on]
Visit Stephen Kiernan's website and blog.

--Marshal Zeringue