Monday, September 30, 2013

Mary Pipher

Mary Pipher is a clinical psychologist and the author of nine books, including Reviving Ophelia, which was #1 on the New York Times bestseller list for 26 weeks. Her area of interest is how American culture influences the mental health of its people.

Pipher's new book is The Green Boat: Reviving Ourselves in Our Capsized Culture.

From her Q & A with Steve Curwood of Living on Earth:

CURWOOD: In your book, you say, as a society, we’re basically in denial about climate disruption. In fact, we all know that some people don’t believe in it at all. But actually, you’re getting at something deeper than that. Can you explain?

PIPHER: I have in the book, a list of some of the kinds of things we do to block out awareness. We compartmentalize, we have times, all of us, when we want to eat some jumbo shrimp without thinking about the mango groves in Thailand, or we want to read our grandchildren or children a story about polar bears without thinking about the melting ice caps. So we all move in and out of kind of states of denial, and that’s totally understandable. In fact, it’s totally human, and it’s probably adaptive.

I never make the case that there’s something wrong with people for being in denial. I make the case it’s very understandable, and that we all are in denial some of the time, but what I do say is that unless we come out of that denial some of the time and face our situation squarely, we’ll be unable to solve it and deal with it. I have a quote I really like by James Baldwin: “Not everything that is faced can be changed, but nothing can be changed that is not faced.”

CURWOOD: So what can people do who in fact recognize that there is a problem, but feel paralyzed. What’s the best therapy here?

PIPHER: See, that’s probably the most important question you could ask because people get what I call “distractionable intelligence” which just makes them feel badly, and feel powerless, and I’m really a big fan of “actionable intelligence” that gives people an idea of what to do next. And the main thing I encourage people to do is...[read on]
Learn more about the book and author at Mary Pipher's website and Facebook page.

The Page 99 Test: The Green Boat.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Laura Bickle

Laura Bickle’s fiction for adults and young adults includes The Hallowed Ones, Embers, and Sparks. Her newest release is The Outside, a young adult thriller that received a Kirkus starred review.

From Bickle's Q & A with Jennifer Bielman:

Jennifer: How did you come up with the world in The Outside?

Laura: I live not too far from a large Amish settlement. When I was a little girl, my parents would take me to visit, and I was fascinated by a world very different than the one I lived in. I’d see Amish girls my age over the fence and wonder what their lives were like.

Some of that curiosity lingered, and I always wanted to revisit it in a story. It popped back into my head when I was writing about a catastrophic contagion. Considering all the incredible self-sufficiency the Amish apply in their everyday lives, it seemed to me that they would be uniquely well-equipped to survive a large-scale disaster.

Part of the book is loosely based in Amish country, and the parts beyond the settlement are inspired by the landscape of rural Ohio. Researching the Amish way of life was fascinating, but it was also a lot of fun to write what I knew about other parts of my home state.

Jennifer: What were the best and most challenging parts of writing The Outside?

Laura: My favorite part was getting the opportunity to boot my heroine, Katie, outside of her Amish community. Since she was a little girl, she yearned for a chance to experience life beyond the gate of her settlement. Now that the world has been devastated by a plague of vampires, she’s challenged to use her self-reliance in unexpected ways to survive. It’s really a case of “be careful what you wish for.”

The most challenging part for me is always...[read on]
Learn more about the book and author at Laura Bickle's website, blog, Facebook page, and Twitter perch.

Writers Read: Laura Bickle.

The Page 69 Test: The Outside.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Brandon Sanderson

Hugo Award-winning Brandon Sanderson's latest novel is Steelheart.

From his Q & A with Paul Goat Allen for The Barnes & Noble Book Blog:

I have to be honest, Brandon. I’m not a big fan of superhero fiction—but Steelheart blew me away. I described it as a “mind-blowing” experience. Do you recall where the original seed of inspiration for this novel, and series, came from?

That’s very cool to hear! Approaching this book was in some ways very difficult for me because I have read superhero prose, and it usually doesn’t work. I came to it with some trepidation, asking myself, “Is this really something you want to try?” A lot of the superhero tropes from comic books work very well in their medium and then don’t translate well to prose. So for my model I actually went to the recent superhero films. Great movies like The Dark Knight or The Avengers have been keeping some of the tropes that work really well narratively. Tropes that feel like they’re too much part of tradition—like putting Wolverine in yellow spandex—work wonderfully in the comics. I love them there! But they don’t translate really well to another medium.

I think part of the problem with superhero fiction is that it tries to be too meta. It tries very hard to poke fun at these tropes, trying to carry them over into fiction, and it ends up just being kind of a mess. But the genre has translated wonderfully well to film through adaptation. So when I approached Steelheart, I actually didn’t tell myself, “I’m writing a superhero book.” In fact, I’ve stayed very far away from that mentally and said, “I am writing an action-adventure suspense-thriller.” I use some of the seeds from stories that I’ve loved to read, but really, Steelheart is an action thriller. I used that guide more than I used the superhero guide. I felt that adaption would be stronger for what I was doing. Comic books have done amazing things, but I felt this was what was right for this book.

As for the original seed that made me want to write this story, I was on book tour, driving a rental car up the East Coast when someone aggressively cut me off in traffic. I got very annoyed at this person, which is not something I normally do. I’m usually pretty easygoing, but this time I thought to myself, “Well, random person, it’s a good thing I don’t have super powers—because if I did, I’d totally blow your car off the road.” Then I thought: “That’s horrifying that I would even think of doing that to a random stranger!” Any time that I get horrified like that makes me realize that there’s a story there somewhere. So I spent the rest of the drive thinking about what would really happen if I had super powers. Would I go out and be a hero, or would I...[read on]
See: My Book, The Movie: Brandon Sanderson's "Mistborn trilogy."

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, September 27, 2013

D.E. Johnson

D. E. Johnson, a graduate of Central Michigan University, is a history buff who has been writing fiction since childhood. He comes by his interest in automotive history through his grandfather, who was the vice president of Checker Motors. Johnson's books include The Detroit Electric Scheme, Motor City Shakedown, and Detroit Breakdown.

Johnson's latest novel is Detroit Shuffle, the fourth volume of his Detroit Mysteries.

From his Q & A at the Michigan 101 blog:

Out of all the topics and eras about which you could have written, why did you choose early-twentieth-century Detroit? What was it about the city and the auto industry that inspired you?

The biggest draw to me is the early 20th century. It was such an explosive time in this country. We were coming of age as a world power, immigrants were flooding in by the millions, completely changing the social dynamic of the cities, the rich were incredibly wealthy and the poor were incredibly poor, and all this was held in the most tenuous balance. It was a time of turmoil in almost every way imaginable, which makes it an interesting time to write about.

I chose Detroit because it's a city that has always fascinated me. During my entire lifetime, it's been in decline. I was never able to experience the greatness and vitality of the city as it was, and I wanted to try to recreate that city, both for myself and for readers.

As far as the cars are concerned, that was really secondary. When I started researching 'The Detroit Electric Scheme' [the first book in the series], I was looking for a historical backdrop that was interesting and was representative of the city during the time period. Cars of course were a topic that came to mind, so I started there. When I came across all the information about ...[read on]
Visit D.E. Johnson's website and blog.

Read D.E. “Dan” Johnson's interview with J. Kingston Pierce at The Rap Sheet.

The Page 69 Test: Motor City Shakedown.

Writers Read: D.E. Johnson (September 2012).

The Page 69 Test: Detroit Breakdown.

My Book, The Movie: Detroit Breakdown.

The Page 69 Test: Detroit Shuffle.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Dror Mishani

D. A. Mishani is an Israeli crime writer, editor and literary scholar, specializing in the history of detective fiction.

The Missing File is his first novel and the first in a series featuring the police inspector Avraham Avraham.

From his Q & A with Lars Schafft at Krimi-Couch:

Krimi-Couch: Mr. Mishani, The Missing File is your debut novel. More than once we can read in it that there is no Hebrew crime fiction. But now there is – thanks to your novel. Was it up to you to fix this problem?

Dror Mishani: First, it’s not me who’s saying this sentence, it’s Avi [the protagonist, Inspector Avraham Avraham]. And we know he’s not always right. I think he exaggerates a bit, because there were a few good crime novels in Hebrew (especially Batya Gur’s, of course), but still, just a few. I do hope the Avraham series can be a literary crime series that will contribute something to the genre, in Israel and maybe also in general.

Krimi-Couch: Could you please go into »literary crime series«? What does it mean to you in terms of »literary«?

Dror Mishani: A good question. I think it had to do with the goals of writing. I’m not trying to write a page-turner, I’m trying to write literature, using the detective genre. So for me, a literary crime novel is a novel about crime, but not only about crime (it is also about society, about language, about literature, about...[read on]
Learn more about the book and author at D. A. Mishani's website and Facebook page.

My Book, The Movie: The Missing File.

The Page 69 Test: The Missing File.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Jennifer duBois

Jennifer duBois is the author of A Partial History of Lost Causes. Her new novel, Cartwheel, "is a suspenseful and haunting novel of an American foreign exchange student arrested for murder, and a father trying to hold his family together."

From the author's Q & A with Emma Chastain at The Barnes & Noble Book Blog:

Did you study abroad in college? If so, where, and what was your experience like?

I did—I spent a semester in Prague and a summer in France. My experience in Prague, in particular, was life-changing and rapturous in some of the same ways Lily’s experience in Buenos Aires is for her. I was genuinely enchanted by the city and the country I was in, but a good deal of what made the time so meaningful was probably just about being on an independent foreign adventure for the very first time; I think the reason study abroad students often fall so hard for the places they travel is that those places wind up serving as proxies for the whole enormous world, which suddenly feels available in a new way—or it did for me, at least. I realized that if I could scrape together enough money for a ticket, I could just get on a plane and go somewhere new—which I then did, as often as I could, and sometimes alone. Some of the pretensions and reactions I had when I was studying abroad in college were as predictable and silly as Lily’s, but that time’s effect on my life was profound: the world has been bigger for me ever since. I liked the idea of exploring Lily’s newfound sense of freedom and independence and possibility immediately before she is imprisoned and that sense necessarily slams shut.

Did you spend time in Buenos Aires as you researched this novel?

I went to Buenos Aires as I was first starting the novel. I wasn’t initially wedded to any particular city or country for the setting—unlike with my first book, where Russia is basically its own character. But I was looking for a Catholic country where an American student might study abroad, with a legal system she might presume is similar to our own but is different in some key respects, and where she might know enough of the language to not quite realize how much she doesn’t know. Buenos Aires fit that basic template. And then as I got deeper into the book...[read on]
Visit the official Jennifer duBois website.

The Page 69 Test: A Partial History of Lost Causes.

My Book, The Movie: A Partial History of Lost Causes.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Nancy Jo Sales

Nancy Jo Sales is an award-winning journalist who has written for Vanity Fair, New York, Harper's Bazaar, and many other publications. She has written profiles of Damien Hirst, Hugh Hefner, Russell Simmons, Donald Trump, Tyra Banks, Angelina Jolie, Lindsay Lohan, Paris Hilton, and Taylor Swift. Her acclaimed 2010 Vanity Fair piece "The Suspects Wore Louboutins" is the basis for the Sofia Coppola film The Bling Ring.

From the author's Q & A with Caroline Leavitt:

What made you fascinated by the story of The Bling Ring?

It just seemed like a culmination of stories I’d been doing for years. When I told one of my friends about it he said something like, “This is like a weird dream you’d have. It’s almost like a parody of a ‘Nancy Jo Sales story.’” I guess he meant because I’d done so many stories on kids and crime and rich kids and bad behavior; and of course the starlets. I did the first story on Paris Hilton, for Vanity Fair in 2000, so I’d sort of been watching this coming for a long time.

What was it like researching the story? What made you want to expand it into a book, and what surprised you about what you found out?

It was actually pretty hard and intense because there were so many news organizations on the story. I was approached by a book editor last summer (2012), after Sofia Coppola’s movie had already been shot. I only had six months to do the book, so I wasn’t sure if I could do it, but I thought I would give it a try. I wanted to have the chance to say something about the obsession with celebrity culture, which has gotten so out of control, and the conspicuous consumption and greed and inequity in our society, in which so few people now control most of the wealth.

I was surprised at how successful the kids were, that they got away with it for so long.They stole a lot of stuff—more than $3 million worth—over the course of almost a year. The police really had no clue who was doing these things and they didn’t even connect the crimes for...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, September 23, 2013

John Lawton

Livia Vaccaro interviewd John Lawton about his latest novel, Then We Take Berlin. Part of the Q & A:

LV: Tell me a little about the plot.

JL: The book opens in 1963 in New York, where [Joe] Wilderness, a retired MI6 agent, meets up with Frank, an old buddy from the postwar years, a retired CIA agent who now runs an ad agency on Madison Avenue.

LV: Shades of Mad Men?

JL: Yep. I used to work with the Palestinian historian Said Aburish. Said died about a year ago. I knew him during his London years, but he had spent the sixties on Madison Avenue at the Ted Bates Agency alongside people like Rosser Reeves, another larger than life character, and I'd stored up Said's tales of New York life, and I rather think Mad Men just crystallized them for me. Frank and Joe clearly go back a long way, and I hint that something in all their black-market scams in occupied Berlin went badly wrong, but I don't say what _ as that would be the ultimate spoiler. Frank is now hiring Joe to go back to Berlin, and instead of smuggling goods West to East, he's smuggling an old woman East to West. And, almost needless to say, the vital difference between 1948 and 1963 is that the Berlin wall went up in 1961. I imagine reading the book is a matter of slow revelations that bring the reader back to the beginning. But that's not really for me to say.

LV: Did you ever see the wall?

JL: It had several incarnations. The Russians rebuilt it at least twice. Early versions were just barbed wire and concrete blocks. Toward the end it was incredibly high and curved at the top to defeat grappling irons. That was the version I saw. There are a lot of photographs of people standing on the wall just before it came down in - what? '89? One of them is me. That said, that contributes nothing to the novel. The novel is about...[read on]
Visit John Lawton's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Jim Fusilli

Jim Fusilli's new novel is Billboard Man. From his Q & A with J. Kinston Pierce at The Rap Sheet:

J. Kingston Pierce: Between 2001 and 2004, you published a quartet of novels featuring New York writer-turned-private eye Terry Orr, beginning with Closing Time and concluding with Hard, Hard City. But then you conceded in an interview that the P.I.-fiction field wasn’t necessarily the best place for your writing. What is it about the Sam Jellico/Donnie Bliss books [Road to Nowhere and Billboard Man] that fits better with your desires and expectations as a novelist?

Jim Fusilli: I feel I outgrew the first-person narrative style that I used in the first four novels. Or at least I was eager to experiment with craft. I thought I’d put myself in a box and I wanted to do more. I was getting better simply because of the demands of having to do a novel a year. I was watching what Dennis Lehane, George Pelecanos, and Michael Connelly were doing, writers I had a chance to got to know a bit, and I saw they were writers who wrote crime stories, not “crime writers.” I wanted to reposition myself to be a writer first, regardless of genre and even if I loved genre-writing best of all.

Also, as you can imagine, I’m influenced deeply by musicians and the ones I admire the most always seem to want to stretch and to challenge themselves. I wanted to hold myself to the same standards I was demanding of musicians I was writing about for the Journal.

In the Sam series, the canvas is much broader: the entire U.S. vs. New York City. The stories are populated with people from a variety of backgrounds and geographic locations. Also, I’m using techniques that are popular in high-end TV these days, where I think we’re seeing great writing: fast-cutting from one plot point to another; many characters who contribute to advancing the arc of the story; threads that seem unrelated, yet come together slowly; and...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Lynda Obst

Hollywood producer Lynda Obst--her work includes Sleepless in Seattle, Contact and How to Lose a Guy in 10 days--is the author of Sleepless in Hollywood: Tales from the New Abnormal in the Movie Business. From her Q & A with Smriti Rao for the Wall Street Journal's India Real Time:

The Wall Street Journal: The book really resonated with me as a moviegoer. My husband only likes to watch zombie movies or robots, to the extent that I have stopped going to the movies. Who do you think is to blame for this turn of events? Is it just Hollywood or would you say ‘Hey emerging markets! It’s your fault too.’

Lynda Obst: I think it’s a little of both. We certainly have a big fanboy base here in the United States that loves its zombies – you are married to one, I gave birth to one. We also have a big teenage market that for many years drove this heavy metal, horror, zombie and action market before the emerging markets joined in. And the power of the [teenage] market was that they always went to the movies on weekends in droves. The longer a movie played, the more the theaters made.

After the collapse of the DVD market – which used to be 50% of a movie’s profits – the movie business fell prey to the same fate as the music market and the publishing business. The power of technology made movies downloadable for free. And it [Hollywood] discovered quite conveniently that the emerging markets were building theaters at an amazing rate as new capitalists and new middle-classes were going to the movies and paying to see these astonishing special effects that technology was providing.

WSJ: ‘Titanic’ — or ‘Romeo and Juliet on a boat’ as the book puts it — was the turning point for the international markets.

Ms. Obst: Exactly. The themes were international, the effects were astonishing and new theaters were being built in gigantic numbers in China. In India, it was a proliferation of multiplexes. India is a very special case because it has always had a booming movie industry and a large population that went to its own movies. The movies made in the U.S. never dominated the market there. But with multiplexes making more money and the emergence of the middle-class, there were more screens to play American movies in places that were dominated by Bollywood movies. So the American movie market started to have a place in India.

In China, it was...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, September 20, 2013

Natalee Caple

Natalee Caple's newest novel is In Calamity's Wake.

From the author's Q & A with Caroline Leavitt:

What sparked this novel? Why Calamity Jane?

I had just finished writing a novel about a mother-daughter counterfeiting team in the Upper Laurentians influenced by films from the French New Wave and I was living in the Canadian West, in the Rockies, for the first time. The idea of a Western appealed to me because the connection between landscape and culture was so palpable. In Canada, at least, the connection to landscape in the West means that the distance between Canada and America seems less than the distance between Western and Eastern Canada. I fell in love with the mountains, the prairies, the Badlands. I had my children there. I also discovered that the West was so much more diverse and international than I had seen in Westerns and I wanted to put the stories of women, indigenous peoples, Black America, Chinese America, back into the landscape and show the rest of the West. Calamity Jane was an ideal because she travelled and met so many people. She helped the sick and the poor and she was herself a kind of social outcast who was overwritten in popular culture. I wanted a story about the masses and their heroism, about the irreducible value of every human life. When Calamity Jane cared for people dying of yellow fever she risked her own life. When she went into battle and did not shoot another human being but instead pulled people out of battle, she emphasized the value of life. Whether those events happened as they were told or not she became a symbol of North America that was different to me, that showed a desire to resolve conflict, to protect and shelter human life beyond politics.

What was the research like? Did you have a preconceived notion of Calamity Jane? (Mine is actually from that old Doris Day movie about her) and what, if anything, surprised you?

Once I gave up the idea that I would find...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Junot Díaz

Junot Díaz's fiction has appeared in The New Yorker, The Paris Review, and The Best American Short Stories. His debut story collection, Drown was a national bestseller and won numerous awards. Michiko Kakutani of The New York Times called Díaz's novel The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao “a book that decisively establishes him as one of contemporary fiction's most distinctive and irresistible new voices.” Díaz's latest book is This Is How You Lose Her.

From his Q & A with Jacob Sugarman at Salon:

A few months back, Claire Messud lit into a Publishers Weekly interviewer for suggesting the protagonist of her latest novel wasn’t especially likable. She argued that we’d never question whether we like Raskolnikov or any of Jonathan Franzen’s characters or even Oscar Wao. Does she have a point?

I’m going from hearsay here, but I can imagine the sort of umbrage she took. There’s a profound trivialization of literature in the way that it is used and, yes, if you’re a woman or a person of color, there are certain biases that are built in. There’s no fucking question.

But I get people saying “I don’t like Yunior” or “I don’t like Oscar” all the time. When people say that to me, I always remind them that in the same way that I’m a more complex person when I write, you’re a more complex person when you read. The real question for me as the writer is why you’re friends with the people you’re friends with. Most of us are friends with people we don’t like, so what’s the big deal? We’re used to hanging out with people we don’t like, so this should be...[read on]
The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao is among Jami Attenberg's top six books with overweight protagonists, Brooke Hauser's six top books about immigrants, Sara Gruen's six favorite books, Paste magazine's list of the ten best debut novels of the decade (2000-2009), and The Millions' best books of fiction of the millenium. The novel is one of Matthew Kaminski's five favorite novels about immigrants in America and is a book that made a difference to Zoë Saldana.

The Page 99 Test: Junot Díaz's The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, September 18, 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 Colby Marshall:

CM: Both your bestselling debut Rock Paper Tiger and your newest thriller, Hour of the Rat, are not only set against the backdrop of China, but the premises of the books delve deeply into the geopolitical and economic situations of the country. When writing about a land foreign to much of your audience, how do you go about making the settings and states of affairs depicted in your novels more real for readers?

LB: I think having a character who is both an outside and an insider is helpful. She knows more than the reader, but she’s not totally a part of the scene that she’s observing—so she doesn’t take much for granted. This makes for a good filter for readers. What’s key is just to describe what’s there without ascribing too much to it. I don’t need to be telling readers over and over again, “China is different.” You know, it’s a place. Yeah, it’s not like California, where I’m from, but then, California isn’t much like New York, either. I just want readers to be able to form a vivid picture of a place that I try to make as accurate and specific as I can.

CM: In Rock Paper Tiger, your main character, Iraq War veteran Ellie Cooper, finds out she can safely communicate via online role-playing games. Where did the idea to use role playing games come from?

LB: I wish I could remember! In part it came from hanging out in a lot of dingy internet cafes in China and noticing the passion with which young people, mostly young men, played online games, and just how much social time they spent in these places. I also always liked the idea of a conspiracy that is rooted in something banal and more or less out in the open. There’s a book called The Crying of Lot 49 by Thomas Pynchon that I read while I was in China over thirty years ago that influenced me in a subtle way. It had nothing to do with China, but there was a conspiracy whose purpose was never really explained. I think it might have been just to exist and to...[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

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Tom Perrotta

Tom Perrotta's new story collection is Nine Inches.

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

All of your books have been set in suburbia. Why is it such a compelling setting for you and do you think you’ll ever get tired of it?

It’s just laziness. This is what’s right in front of me. I’ve chosen to live there. I’ve never been the kind of writer who goes off in search of a book. There would be a crisis for me if I felt like I’d exhausted all the stories. You have somebody like Roth who was writing about Newark over the course of 50 years. Cheever wrote about the suburbs for pretty much his whole career. The only crisis is if the stories become repetitive.

This is your first short story collection since your debut collection, “Bad Haircut,” which came out almost 20 years ago. What drew you back to short fiction?

I edited “The Best American Short Stories” [anthology] last year. Sometimes reading a lot can be paralyzing, but for some reason it energized me to write stories.

In the meantime you’ve written six novels since your first collection came out. Do you find short stories harder to write than novels?

It’s more difficult in the sense that...[read on]
Learn about Tom Perrotta's ten favorite books.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, September 16, 2013

Sheri Fink

Sheri Fink's new book, Five Days at Memorial: Life and Death in a Storm-Ravaged Hospital, is investigation of patient deaths at a New Orleans hospital ravaged by Hurricane Katrina.

From her Q & A with Marjorie Kehe for the Christian Science Monitor:

Q. The doctor and two nurses charged with euthanizing patients were never prosecuted. Do you feel that justice was done?

I really prefer to let the people who were involved in these events give their opinions on that, and they have very strong opinions about it in all directions. What I can say is that American medical ethics are very clear on this question of whether it is ever appropriate to hasten death in the case of a crisis, and the answer is no.

The families, for the most part, are very upset about what happened. I think the medical professionals may have thought that the families would [have wanted their loved ones] to be given comfort and helped to die in that situation. But you can’t just presume what people would feel in that situation.

Different people had different opinions and they are represented in the book. A lot of people did focus their anger on the hospital corporation and look to some compensation for the lack of preparedness.

There was a class action lawsuit that was settled for $25 million on behalf of anybody who either was in the hospital, lost a loved one, and a lot of people are very upset about the amount they received, especially after it had been strung out for so many years. They didn’t get their money till this year.

I think that there are a lot of families who feel that justice was not done. But......[read on]
Visit Sheri Fink's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Robert Kolker

Robert Kolker's latest book, Lost Girls: An Unsolved American Mystery, is an account of the true-life search for a serial killer still at large on Long Island, a tale of unsolved murder and Internet prostitution.

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

Q: What about these women drew you into this story?

A: While they never knew one another, they all came from parts of America that the media tends to overlook.

They're the struggling parts that haven't recovered from the recession, where options are narrowing for young people. No matter how well you did in high school, and some got As, the only options seemed to be Dunkin' Donuts or Walmart.

The Internet and Craigslist provided them with an option that they found irresistible. They decided to take a risk and make more money in a night than their friends could make in a couple weeks in their day jobs. That was the real constant.

Q: What else did they have in common?

A: There were things that one might expect like childhood trauma or addiction or dysfunctional families or poor parenting. But it wasn't consistent.

It was more the promise of social mobility that they shared. They and their families were all in environments where they're trapped. There's no hope of moving up. A chance to make so much money so quickly is a chance to get a leg up.

I wanted to investigate the question of why someone makes a decision to become a prostitute. It's a seismic decision to make. The reasons are not always what the stereotype is.

The other goal is to talk about...[read on]
Visit Robert Kolker's website and blog.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Alex Bledsoe

Alex Bledsoe is the author of the Eddie LaCrosse novels (The Sword-Edged Blonde, Burn Me Deadly, Dark Jenny and Wake of the Bloody Angel), the novels of the Memphis vampires (Blood Groove and The Girls with Games of Blood) and the Tufa novels, The Hum and the Shiver and the recently released Wisp of a Thing.

From Bledsoe's Q & A with Sunweaver at Patheos:

Sunweaver: Well, hey there. I’m going to jump right in here and say that I’ve just finished The Hum and the Shiver and I think it’s some of your best work. In this book, religion is sort of tangential to the plot, but you also write short stories about a Wiccan priestess where religion is a little more front-and-center. Would you like to tell our readers a little about how you came up with the idea for the Firefly Witch series?

Alex Bledsoe: The idea had been floating around in my head since the 80s, but it was the early 90s before I decided to really write about a witch in a modern setting. I knew that real witchcraft was based on a religion, but like a lot of people, I assumed it was something vaguely dark, and possibly Satanic. I started researching it, though, and learned the real tenets of Paganism in general, and Wicca in particular. Then I met some actual witches, and discovered that Wicca codified things that I already believed, but had assumed were unique to me; and what I learned allowed me to...[read on]
Visit Alex Bledsoe's website and blog.

My Book, The Movie: Blood Groove.

The Page 69 Test: Burn Me Deadly.

The Page 69 Test: Wisp of a Thing.

Writers Read: Alex Bledsoe.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, September 13, 2013

Andrew Sean Greer

Andrew Sean Greer is the bestselling author of The Story of a Marriage and The Confessions of Max Tivoli, which was named one of the best books of 2004 by the San Francisco Chronicle and received a California Book Award. He lives in San Francisco.

Greer's latest novel is The Impossible Lives of Greta Wells.

From his Q & A with Andrew Dudley at Haighteration:

H: Your book is set in three specific time periods — 1918, 1941, and 1985. How did you arrive at these specific eras?

ASG: When I threw away the first draft of this book, I was living in New York on a fellowship from the New York Public Library Cullman Center. That caused me to reset the book in New York. And by reading old books, pamphlets, newspapers and accounts, I began to sense which times interested me most. One day, I realized that each era was a mirror to another — through war and disease — I scribbled out a map of the novel on a cocktail napkin. Those reflections work throughout the book, and it was great fun to have her husband head to war in one era, only to return from a different war in another.

H: You have said that this book is not a time travel novel, and that’s true, though the protagonist does visit different time periods in a sense. One thing that struck me in reading this new book is that, if I were able to visit an earlier era, I would want to use my knowledge to my advantage. You know, profit on the stock market, warn people of upcoming catastrophes, that sort of thing. Without spoiling anything, the protagonist in your book generally does not do that. Was that a specific choice you made? If so, why?

ASG: At one point in the novel, she looks around a room in 1918 and thinks that somebody there would be an important force in history. Somebody else, if they had traveled to another world, could have warned people and changed things. But she was, herself, too small to move history. Too small to stop WWII or profit on stocks a decade before the crash; she can barely manage her love affairs! Personally, of course, I wasn’t interested in those time travel bits; the trick of alternative universes is just an excuse to experiment with how a woman’s life would be different depending on the time in which she lived. By which I mean her emotional life. I was too baffled by those complexities to consider working in a...[read on]
Visit Andrew Sean Greer's website and follow him on Facebook.

Writers Read: Andrew Sean Greer.

The Page 69 Test: The Impossible Lives of Greta Wells.

My Book, The Movie: The Impossible Lives of Greta Wells.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Nicholson Baker

Nicholson Baker's latest novel is Traveling Sprinkler.

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

In The New York Review of Books you wrote a great article called “The Charms of Wikipedia.” Why do you like Wikipedia so much?

Wikipedia is great because it can be gigantic without being gigantic. It can grow like some vast underwater reef, with eels hiding in the shadows. It has proven that a heterogeneous, sometimes irritable community can do something revolutionary and life-improving, without leaders.

Were you surprised at the response to your book on World War Two, Human Smoke, which got a lot of knickers in a twist?

If you think about the Second World War for any length of time, it will make you terribly sad, or angry, or both. It’s sometimes easier to be angry at an amateur historian like me, than at the real villains whose words I quote.

You have a number of books that are considered works of literary erotica. May I ask for your thoughts on the Fifty Shades of Grey hoo-ha?

Haven’t read the book. I’m not wired for dominance or submission—it seems a distraction. Misuse of...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Lauren Grodstein

Tom Perrotta interviewed Lauren Grodstein about her new novel, The Explanation for Everything.

Part of their Q & A:

Tom Perrotta: The Explanation for Everything is a novel about evolution and creationism, but it doesn't take sides. Why not?

Lauren Grodstein: I think it's easy to take sides on all sorts of things (I root for the Mets, for instance, and prefer my coffee black). But in this novel I wanted to do something more complicated, and maybe more interesting--I wanted to try to figure out why people believe what they believe, and why they need their own particular sets of beliefs to operate in a complicated world. I also wanted to try out other faiths, as far as my characters went, and write about the beauty in them. It made my world a little bigger, creating people whose faiths are so far from mine. Besides, I never write fiction to take sides on an issue, or to push any particular agenda. I write stories to investigate other people. I’m kind of a voyeur that way.

Perrotta: Andy, your protagonist, is a biologist, but you've mentioned that you barely passed your high school science classes. What kind of research did you have to do to make Andy’s job skills convincing?

Grodstein: A good friend of mine is a scientist at Columbia, and she hooked me up with a tour of the school's rodent labs. I saw the rodent cages, the rodent babies, and the rodent guillotine, which basically looked like a cheese slicer. I took lots of notes but found I didn't even have to refer to them, because the things I saw had become indelible. Once you see a bunch of rats (squeaking, scrabbling rats) with...[read on]
Visitt Lauren Grodstein’s website.

The Page 69 Test: A Friend of the Family.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Duane Swierczynski

Duane Swierczynski is the author of several crime thrillers, including the Edgar-nominated and Anthony Award-winning Expiration Date, as well the Charlie Hardie series (Fun and Games, Hell and Gone, Point and Shoot), which have been nominated for Anthony, Shamus, Macavity and Barry awards. Many of his novels are currently in development for TV.

From Swierczynski's Q & A with Robb Cadigan:

Hey Duane, when did you know you wanted to be a writer? When did you know you were one?

Sophomore year of high school, when I would write short horror stories and pass them to my friends -- who'd laugh or be grossed out, or ideally, both. I can't remember a moment where I 'knew," but I remember obsessing over the question during my high school and college years.

Who or what inspired you as a kid?

The Splatterpunk school of horror writers -- Clive Barker, David J. Schow, Skipp and Spector -- were huge influences. For their attitude as much as the material. It was my version of punk rock.

What creative work most recently inspired you?

I learn something from everything I read or listen to; right now I'm reading BURNT OFFERINGS by Robert Marasco, and it's a great lesson in how to write a slow burn. (Seriously, no pun intended...)

The most underrated creative (writer, musician, artist) is

Pretty much everyone I admire.

In moments of self doubt, how do you push through?

Like Mickey Spillane, I...[read on]
Visit Swierczynski's Secret Dead Blog.

My Book, The Movie: The Blonde.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, September 9, 2013

Elizabeth Loftus

From false-memory expert Elizabeth Loftus's Q & A with Alison George for New Scientist, reprinted in Slate:

G: You're known for debunking the idea of repressed memories. Why focus on them?

EL: In the 1990s we began to see these recovered-memory cases. In the first big one, a man called George Franklin was on trial. His daughter claimed she had witnessed her father kill her best friend when she was 8 years old—but had only remembered this 20 years later. And that she had been raped by him and repressed that memory too. Franklin was convicted of the murder, and that started this repressed-memory ball rolling through the legal system. We began to see hundreds of cases where people were accusing others based on claims of repressed memory. That's what first got me interested.

AG: How did you study the process of creating false memories?

EL: We needed a different paradigm for studying these types of recollections. I developed a method for creating "rich false memories" by using strong suggestion. The first such memory was about getting lost in a shopping mall as a child

AG: How susceptible are people to having these types of memories implanted?

EL: Depending on the study, you might get as many as 50 percent of people falling for the suggestion and developing a complete or partial false memory.

AG: Do you think it's not possible to repress memories of traumatic events?

EL: It is possible not to think about something for a long time, even something unpleasant that happened to you. But what's been claimed in these repressed-memory cases is something, by definition, that's too extreme to be explained by ordinary forgetting and remembering. They're saying that in...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Joyce Carol Oates

Joyce Carol Oates's 2013 novel The Accursed deals with the scourge placed on the founding families of Princeton University, where Oates teaches.

From the author's Q & A with Jane Ciabattari for The Daily Beast:

What made you think of Princeton as the setting for a gothic novel?

As soon as I moved to Princeton in 1978, I became fascinated by local history, much of it Revolutionary War-era; and I became fascinated by the presidency of Woodrow Wilson at Princeton University. The phenomenon of the rich white Christian community that becomes afflicted by a "curse"—the emergence of the repressed, the denied, and unconscionably cast-off moral responsibilities to protect Negroes—(as African Americans were called at the time) from the harm of racist threats, intimidation, and mob violence. White Christian leaders might have spoken out against racism, and against extremist groups like the Ku Klux Klan, but did not. The Accursed is also about the roiling struggle of women's rights—politically, socially, psychologically, sexually. Wilhelmina and Annabel are heroines, of a kind. And they don't surrender romance and love, but end the novel married, we are to assume happily.

You wrote a draft of The Accursed in the early 1980s, then abandoned it. Why did you wait thirty years before returning to it? Did you use a new focus while working on the final draft?

I'd returned to the manuscript a number of times over the years, worked on it but set it aside; the challenge was to find a point of entry, a narrative "voice" that wasn't so 19th century, and a structure that could accommodate numerous characters and perspectives. I had not ever "abandoned" the novel—it was rather more that I wanted to totally rewrite it, but had not quite the key to structuring the story. For some reason, in 2011, when I returned...[read on]
Learn about the book that changed Joyce Carol Oates's life.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Lisa Jean Moore and Mary Kosut

Lisa Jean Moore and Mary Kosut are the authors of Buzz: Urban Beekeeping and the Power of the Bee. From their Q & A at the NYU Press blog:

Question: What got you interested in studying urban beekeeping?

Lisa Jean Moore and Mary Kosut: We got interested in studying urban beekeeping because it seems as if the bee is the animal of the moment. Lisa Jean said, doesn’t it seem like bees are popping up everywhere? In farmer’s markets, at city fairs, people are taking beekeeping classes, and essentially it was a question of the fascination with bees in New York City.

We were also interested in the DIY movement that is very popular in many urban centers in the United States and in particular Brooklyn, where we live. The ways in which the DIY movement cleaves with urban homesteading. Urban homesteading is where people take some of the country into the city and do things like bake bread, make beer, knit, and raise chickens. Or have fermentation parties – there is connection between fermentation parties and bees – making mead. (And apparently bees are also the gateway drug to chickens.)

As professors, we were also interested in the trends regarding what students do the years after college. It used to be that students would take the year off and go get a Eurail pass and travel around Europe. But we find now that our students are traveling around to different urban farms, or even rural farms, and doing organic farming – or Woofing – where you stay on organic farms and work in exchange for your room and board. We were fascinated by this need for the return to the land and how it has been modified from the 1970s to be in urban spaces.

Like the green-roof – the Eagle Street Rooftop Farms in Greenpoint, Brooklyn where they have an extensive rooftop farm with all sorts of vegetables, bunnies, chickens and bees. One of the many places in the city that is bringing nature into the urban as part of greening initiatives. Dropping out while staying in. Having all the luxuries of urban life while at the same time having this alternative identity and practice it. Bees are part of that practice.

We were also interested in people making...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, September 6, 2013

Daniel Woodrell

Daniel Woodrell's latest novel, the first since 2006’s Winter’s Bone, is The Maid’s Version.

From the author's Q & A with Noah Charney for The Daily Beast:

You have a wonderful way of provoking in the reader a creeping dread, and I mean that as a compliment. From a writer’s perspective, is this something that you proactively seek to inject into your stories and novels, and if so is there a sort of recipe that you would recommend to other authors who admire the provocation of that sensation in your work?

Dread may be provoked because I don’t think about doing so, at all. I tell the story by feel, most of the time, and I am not much given to labyrinthian digressions, but seem to be naturally drawn to compression and pace, and the feelings come about on their own. Miles Davis once said (about ballads, I think) that starkness of presentation makes the romance all the more compelling. And there’s this from Thelonious Monk: “Just play the notes you really mean.”

The first page of The Maid’s Version has some haunting, incantatory prose. I was particularly struck with your use of some verbal repetitions: “She’s sit on the edge of her bed, long hair down, down to the floor and shaking as she brushed and brushed.” This produces a sort of songlike, ghost-lit campfire storytelling effect. Is this a conscious authorial technique on your part, or do you just let it flow and see what appears?

That sound and rhythm are ingrained by now. I learned a lot from Hemingway, Faulkner and Sherwood Anderson, the Bible, Dylan Thomas. All sorts of Irish writers: McGahern, O’Brien, O’Flaherty, Trevor, Bowen, Michael McLaverty, and a boatload more. And writers from the American South: Shirley Ann Grau, McCullers, O’Connor, Capote, McCarthy, Barry Hannah, and have always had very strong feelings for anything James Agee wrote. Add A.J. Liebling, Raymond Chandler, Hammett, Cain, and the boys, Nelson Algren and William Kennedy. Rhythm, repetition, incantation—all good to...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Douglas Corleone

Douglas Corleone is the author of contemporary crime novels published by St. Martin’s Minotaur. His debut novel One Man's Paradise was a finalist for the 2010 Shamus Award for Best First Novel and won the 2009 Minotaur Books / Mystery Writers of America First Crime Novel Award. His third novel Last Lawyer Standing is his latest book featuring criminal defense attorney Kevin Corvelli.

Corleone's new international thriller is Good As Gone.

From his Q & A with Michelle at the Beauty and Lace blog:

Where do your story inspirations come from?

My inspiration for Good As Gone came from a one-page article I’d read online about a private investigator in Tampa, Florida, who specializes in retrieving children kidnapped by their estranged parents and taken overseas to countries that don’t recognize U.S. custody decisions. Fortunately, I printed the article and saved it for two years at the bottom of my filing cabinet. When my agent said that my editor would like to see something new from me, I immediately went digging and had a one-page synopsis for Good As Gone a few hours later. My earlier books, the Kevin Corvelli legal mysteries, were based largely on my experiences as a New York City criminal defense attorney and a newcomer to the Hawaiian Islands.

How do you choose your settings?

My first three novels were set in Hawaii, because I’d just moved here and I wanted to capture a New Yorker’s first experience with the islands, particularly the culture shock. But my love of travel led to my choice of settings for Good As Gone. I wanted to take Simon Fisk through...[read on]
Learn more about the book and author at Douglas Corleone's website.

Writers Read: Douglas Corleone.

The Page 69 Test: Good as Gone.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Sarah Weinman

Sarah Weinman is the editor of Troubled Daughters, Twisted Wives: Stories from the Trailblazers of Domestic Suspense.

From her Q & A with Caroline Leavitt:

What was the moment that sparked this book?

I'm not sure there was a specific moment, but the anthology could not have happened if I hadn't written an essay for Tin House for their Spring 2011 issue that first outlined my whole idea of domestic suspense and this lost generation of largely women writers. I knew, as I was working on it, that I had a lot more to say, and when I ended up having lunch with the editor who ended up acquiring TROUBLED DAUGHTERS and talking at some length and passion about this void, he suggested there might be an anthology in this. And so there was!

Tell us how these writers were so pioneering? And what can modern mystery writers (both men and women) learn from them?

Crime fiction is customarily thought of as having two distinct paths: the hardboiled/noir path (Chandler/Hammett/Cain, then Thompson/Macdonald/McDonald/Spillane, etc) and the Golden Age/cozy path (Christie/Allingham/Sayers/Marsh, etc.) But there was this whole group of writers -- almost all of them women -- who won awards, were critically acclaimed, published and sold well in hardcover, that were dealing with more domestic themes. Subtle terrors. Family matters, toxic marriages, crumbling relationships, social issues. And they never got their critical due in the same way their male counterparts did.

In terms of what modern mystery writers can learn, it's that the current crop of domestic suspense -- Gillian Flynn's GONE GIRL being the most famous example -- had...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Amanda Lindhout

Amanda Lindhout is the author of A House in the Sky: A Memoir, an account of her 460 days held captive by Somalian kidnappers.

From her Q & A with Emily Bazelon for Slate:

Slate: How did you decide to write this book, and then go about doing it? Tell me about the process.

Amanda Lindhout: I knew what I didn’t want to do. I didn’t want to write a typical captivity narrative, beginning and ending with only that snapshot in time. That seemed to be what most publishers were interested in. But Sara and I had a mutual friend, Robert Draper, another writer who was in Somalia when I was, and appears briefly in the book. After my release, he connected us. For me, it was instantaneous when we met, because Sara, like me, saw the story as a much bigger one. We agreed that it should encompass my years of travel around the world and my childhood. We’ve said since we started that we see the world as a character in the book. There’s a lot of adventure and even fun in the first 100 pages. Yes, the captivity is often very brutal, but as a reader you also go on a larger journey with me as this young woman. It’s more honest and real that way, and to understand why I was in Somalia, it’s important to understand who I was at that point in my life.

Slate: The most riveting scene in the book is your escape attempt, excerpted here. You and Nigel managed to pry open a bathroom window and run into a nearby mosque. Dozens of men surround you. One of your kidnappers fires his gun, parting the crowd. One Somali woman steps forward and calls you her sister. Your kidnapper starts trying to drag you out of the mosque. “I don’t remember any of the onlookers trying to stop him,” you write. “It was only the woman who tried.” What do you want readers to take from this scene?

Lindhout: As you probably know, I...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, September 2, 2013

Yangsze Choo

Yangsze Choo's first novel, The Ghost Bride, set in colonial Malaya and the elaborate Chinese world of the afterlife, is about a peculiar historic custom called a spirit marriage.

From the author's Q & A with Miwa Messer, Director of the Barnes & Noble Discover Great New Writers program:

The Ghost Bride centers on a girl who marries the ghost of a wealthy family's recently deceased son. Can you please explain the concept of a "ghost marriage"? When did you first become intrigued by this practice?

I think I was vaguely aware of this practice as a child. My grandmother lived in a small town in Malaysia opposite an old cinema that often showed scary Chinese movies. We children were not allowed to go and watch them, although from the front window we could see people lining up to go in. I remember the gigantic cinema posters that would cover the billboard in front. In those days, they were all hand painted so that they looked even more lurid - both fascinating and forbidden to us!

The folk tradition of marriages to ghosts, or between ghosts, usually occurred in order to placate spirits or repair familial relations. There are a number of allusions to it in Chinese literature, but its roots seem to lie in ancestor worship. Matches were sometimes made between two deceased persons, with the families on both sides recognizing it as a tie between them. However, there were other cases when a living person was married to the dead. These tended to be the fulfillment of a dying sweetheart's wish, or to give the rank of wife to a concubine who had borne a son. Sometimes, an impoverished girl was taken into a household as a widow in order to perform the ancestral rites for a man who died without a wife or descendants. This is the case for Li Lan, the main character in my book.

More recently, however, one of the things that sparked this novel was a sentence in an old newspaper article. While researching another book I was writing, I happened to go through the archives of our local Malaysian newspaper and found...[read on]
Visit Yangsze Choo's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Jillian Cantor

Jillian Cantor's latest novel for adults is Margot, a re-imagining of Anne Frank’s sister in post-war America.

From the author's Q & A with Caroline Leavitt:

Can you tell me how the idea for this novel sparked? I always believe that writers write the book that they themselves need to read. Would you say this is true for you, too?

Yes, I absolutely think that’s true. Writing is always such an emotional journey for me that I feel my stories come from the emotional point I’m at at a particular time. Margot’s story first came to me a few months after the shooting in Tucson in 2011. I live in Tucson and happened to be having coffee in the shopping center at the time of the shooting. I was very fortunate that I didn’t get shot or even see what happened, but for months afterwards I felt paralyzed by sadness, and I had trouble writing anything. I reread Anne Frank’s diary during that time, and I realized that in real life Margot Frank had also kept a diary during the war, but that hers was never recovered after. I wondered how Margot would’ve felt had she survived and saw what had happened with her sister’s diary after the war. Margot’s story in my novel is very much one of finding her way through grief and fear, of learning how to live and love again after horrendous tragedy. That’s what I needed to read – and write – at that particular time.

I’ve read and enjoyed your other novels, and this one seems a departure for you--it has a new, kind of thornier feel to it, a more moral depth, almost, which I absolutely loved. Did you feel the writing of this book was different than your others? Can you talk a bit about that please? What was the research like? Did anything surprise or startle you?

Thank you, Caroline! The writing was definitely different, first because this was the first historical novel I’ve written so it required a lot of research on my part. I definitely labored over the first draft more, not only to get the writing right but also to get the historical details right. But I think I also wrote Margot purely for...[read on]
Visit Jillian Cantor's website.

--Marshal Zeringue