Monday, March 31, 2014

Tova Mirvis

Tova Mirvis is the author of three novels, Visible City, The Outside World and The Ladies Auxiliary, which was a national bestseller. Her essays have appeared in various anthologies and newspapers including The New York Times, The Boston Globe Magazine, CommentaryGood Housekeeping, and Poets and Writers, and her fiction has been broadcast on National Public Radio. She has been a Scholar in Residence at the Hadassah-Brandeis Institute at Brandeis University, and Visiting Scholar at The Brandeis Women’s Studies Research Center. She lives in Newton, MA with her three children.

From her Q & A with Adina Kay-Gross at Kvell:

In “Visible City,” unlike your previous novels, Judaism isn’t a central theme. What took its place in this book?

To write a novel, (especially to write a novel while you have three kids!) you have to be really obsessed and consumed by a subject; it has to pull at you all the time. With my first two novels, “The Ladies Auxiliary” and “The Outside World,” I wanted to explore issues of belief and doubt, and the tensions between community and individuality, tradition and modernity. On a personal note, those books were a way for me to grapple with my own upbringing and life as an Orthodox Jew.

When I started writing “Visible City,” those themes were not at the forefront of my mind. Rather, what kept me writing and thinking for so many years, was the question of how we imagine other people’s lives, how we create narratives about other people we watch or know just casually, and then, what this tells us about our own lives.

This idea is so apt right now, as we live with the complicated feelings that social media breeds–when we compare our parenting or our marriage or our work to those carefully crafted lives that people present on Facebook and Instagram, etc.

I’ve always been fascinated by the way we imagine other people’s lives–and how this reveals our own longings and insecurities and desires. I feel like motherhood especially invites us to look at other people, usually with self-doubt. When I was a young mother in Manhattan, I knew only one thing for certain: whatever...[read on]
Visit Tova Mirvis's website and Facebook page.

Writers Read: Tova Mirvis.

The Page 69 Test: Visible City.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Jerry Pinto

Jerry Pinto is a writer of poetry, prose, and children’s fiction, as well as a journalist. Em and the Big Hoom--the title refers to the narrator’s nicknames for his parents, and the book has elements of memoir--is his first novel. He is the winner of numerous literary awards, including the 2013 Crossword Book Award and Hindu Literary Award. He lives in Mumbai, India.

From his Q & A with Max Bearak for India Ink:

Q. Your book deals with Em’s, and by extension your mother’s, mental illness, in a time not so long ago when electroconvulsive therapy was still widely used. The erasure of memory and personality that stems from ECT is downright scary, in your book and otherwise. How is its continued use in India justified?

A. At one level, its continued use is very simple. In India, a person with mental illness has no rights at all. That’s a cultural premise of ours. We see mentally ill people as either raging or withdrawn and suicidal. Their families will be heartbroken and passionately looking for a quick fix, and ECT is still offered as that option. In a place that used to subscribe to whippings or exorcisms as treatments for mental illness, ECT is not so much of a stretch. Most want the ill person to fit back into the family structure and not be a trouble at all.

What really is the bright light are small N.G.O.’s like the Banyan and the Umang Foundation, who, since mental illness is such a bleak terrain here, are getting invited to national consultations with the government to create better policy. Really, though, ECT is the mildest and gentlest thing that happens to the mentally ill. Who will take a mad woman’s claim of rape seriously? Who will take an ill child’s use and abuse by ministers seriously?

In India, we have low-hanging fruit of horror. Mentally ill people are easy to pluck. When my mother was taken to Ward 33, each time I would wonder what would actually happen to her. What claims of hers did I give credence to? What could we put down to just one more hallucination of hers, one more fantasy? In dealing with the mentally ill, there is...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, March 28, 2014

Roxana Robinson

Roxana Robinson's latest novel is Sparta.

From her Q & A with Mariette Kalinowski at The Brooklyn Rail:

Mariette Kalinowski (Rail): Why write about a Marine?

Roxana Robinson: You know, you’re the first person to ask. I guess most people don’t consider the difference between Marines and the rest of the services. The first really impressive first person narrative I read about Iraq was Nathaniel Ficks’ One Bullet Away (2006). The book gave me a broader access into the military mind, because he was a classics major in college, and he saw this unbroken history between present day Marines and Sparta. It gave me an intellectual approach to the book. I also realized that Marines set themselves apart and declare themselves the apex of the military, the pinnacle. They’re proud of the fact that they demand so much more from their members. There’s an element of pride and achievement. It’s the Corps.

Rail: Did you find it difficult to form the ideas, or “find the words” for this unique, almost inexplicable experience of war and of the transition home?

Robinson: No, which is really interesting. As a writer, states of minds are what we’re about, so once I had a strong feeling of understanding what war and transition is like, after speaking with vets, there was really no problem writing about it. I did my research about the physiological effects of combat: the details of an adrenaline rush, or a combat high, or a panic attack. I understood what...[read on]
Learn more about the book and author at Roxana Robinson’s website.

The Page 69 Test: Sparta.

Writers Read: Roxana Robinson.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Ania Szado

Ania Szado graduated from the Ontario College of Art and the University of British Columbia. Her first novel, Beginning of Was, was short-listed for the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize. Her writing has appeared in numerous periodicals, including The Globe and Mail, Flare, and This Magazine.

Szado's latest novel is Studio Saint-Ex.

From her Q & A with Padma Viswanathan at The Rumpus:

Rumpus: Studio Saint-Ex had its origins, in part, in your longtime love—a love that millions share—for Saint-Exupéry’s final book, The Little Prince, and I found multiple references in your novel to that book, however transformed: in the narrator thinking the little prince more fragile than he had realized, which is how Mignonne thinks of Consuelo; in the image of the narrator carrying a little boy with tousled blond hair; and, more generally, in the rose’s difficult nature and the little prince’s dedication to her despite her vanity, both of which are mirrored in the relationship between Saint-Exupéry and his wife. Did you come to read The Little Prince, or other Saint-Exupéry novels, differently than you had before, because of writing this book?

Szado: Absolutely. But I must say, I didn’t entirely grasp how my reading of Saint-Exupéry’s novels had changed until I contemplated how Mignonne’s take on his material might evolve as her vision for their relationship changed. I didn’t realize, until I saw how she held tight to a reading of his heroes as doomed, determined, honorable men—reflecting her sense of Saint-Ex himself—that I too had initially slotted them into this conveniently romantic category.

It was a relief to be shaken out of this too-easy take on his creations. Through repeated readings of Saint-Exupéry’s letters, and the works of his biographers (particularly Stacy Schiff), I came to see how Saint-Exupéry’s inquisitive and disillusioned sides were expressed through the prince and other characters, and how Saint-Ex’s works reflected both his despair at life’s banal realities and what he saw as an inevitable trajectory toward a future lacking in humanity and free will, as well as his veneration of the uncorrupted childlike mind and the spiritual or eternal. Once I saw the connection between his mindset and his work, I could begin to seed ideas throughout my novel to suggest to the reader how The Little Prince came to be the haunting work that it is. It is, I think, like a cabinet with secret drawers. The cabinet is lovely and masterfully crafted, but one must live through episodes of confusion and pain, and grow in maturity, before the hidden drawers reveal themselves and their contents. Which is not to say they offer answers. The beauty of The Little Prince is, I think, how...[read on]
Learn more about the book and author at Ania Szado's website.

The Page 69 Test: Studio Saint-Ex.

Writers Read: Ania Szado.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Chris Pavone

Chris Pavone’s first novel, The Expats, was published in 2012, and was a New York Times and international bestseller, with nearly twenty foreign editions and a major film deal. The Expats was nominated for a Los Angeles Times Book Prize and a Macavity, and awards from the Strand Magazine Critics Circle, the Mystery Booksellers Association, and the International Thriller Writers, and received the 2013 Edgar Award and the 2013 Anthony Award for Best First Novel.

Pavone's new novel is The Accident.

From his Q & A with Christina Ironstone for The Big Thrill:

Tell us about THE ACCIDENT. We’re all curious (and excited!) to know what to expect as a follow-up to THE EXPATS.

A literary agent named Isabel Reed receives an anonymous manuscript, revealing dangerous secrets about a powerful man—and then people start dying. Isabel is drawn into a complex web of betrayals among media figures in New York, Washington, and Los Angeles, plus a couple of spies in Copenhagen (characters who appeared in THE EXPATS!) as well as the author in Zurich, with interrelated back stories in Paris, London, and a winding country road in upstate New York, long ago and late at night, which is the scene of the eponymous accident.

What made you pick up a pen and start writing?

I’ve always wanted to, and at age forty I had an unusual experience that (a) I thought would make the basis for a decent book, and (b) gave me the time to write. So, it was time to give it a try.

Do you like to incorporate life experiences into your writing?

Yes. THE EXPATS drew heavily from my life in Luxembourg as an expat, a suddenly career-less trailing spouse, taking care of small children, surrounded by leisure and boredom and limitless opportunities for reinvention. THE ACCIDENT is based on...[read on]
Visit Chris Pavone's website.

The Page 69 Test: The Expats.

Coffee with a Canine: Chris Pavone & Charlie Brown.

The Page 69 Test: The Accident.

Writers Read: Chris Pavone.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Brendan Kiely

Brendan Kiely received an MFA in creative writing from The City College of New York. His writing has appeared in Fiction, Guernica, The AWP Writer’s Chronicle, and other publications. Originally from the Boston area, he now teaches at an independent high school and lives with his wife in Greenwich Village.

Kiely's new, and debut, novel is The Gospel of Winter. From the author's Q & A with Celia Johnson at Slice magazine:

In your novel, you explore child abuse within the Catholic Church. What drew you to write this particular story? And were you nervous about tackling such a difficult subject?

The story of the worldwide abuse and the cover up of that abuse within the Catholic Church seemed to me a broken promise of the worst magnitude, and while the news media had done an excellent job exposing the scandal and investigating the institutional problems, I wanted to write a novel that moved beyond the news stories and honored the young people who had to experience that broken promise firsthand.

Many people, and many people I knew, felt betrayed when journalists revealed the enormity of the problem—I felt betrayed. I’d grown up “culturally Catholic,” as my brother and I call it: our extended family was mostly Catholic, most of our friends and their families were Catholic, and we both went to Catholic school. We’d learned that the cornerstone of the Catholic faith was love and compassion. After the scandal broke, the degree to which priests and church officials had corrupted those fundamental values sickened me. And worse, the victims had had to speak up themselves in order for this reality to come to light.

The Gospel of Winter is not a memoir, but...[read on]
Learn more about the book and author at Brendan Kiely's website and Facebook page.

The Page 69 Test: The Gospel of Winter.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, March 24, 2014

David Baldacci

David Baldacci's new novel is The Target.

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

What has to happen on page one, and in chapter one, to make for a successful book that urges you to read on?

One of two things, hopefully both. I have to give you an interesting character who you can either root for or against. And second, something has to happen. I don’t mean that someone has to die or something has to get blown up. You just have to present some sort of conundrum, problem, or issue that this character, who you’ve hopefully begun to grow interested in over the first few pages, has to overcome. It’s much like the first act in a film. Any screenplay, movie you go to see, is three acts. The first act you have about ten minutes or ten pages to set up everything—who the characters are, the problem they face or the journey they have to take. Then the long second and the far shorter third act, and a resolution of some five pages at the end. In books I want to be descriptive, I want to put you in the moment, feel the atmosphere, to give you a character who’s interesting and who you can grow to care about for some reason, either like or hate. And give them an...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Roxane Gay

Roxane Gay’s writing has appeared in Best American Short Stories 2012, Best Sex Writing 2012, Oxford American, American Short Fiction, Virginia Quarterly Review, NOON, The New York Times Book Review, The Rumpus, Salon, The Wall Street Journal’s Speakeasy culture blog, and many others including her Tumblr. She is the co-editor of PANK and essays editor for The Rumpus. Gay teaches writing at Eastern Illinois University.

Her new novel is An Untamed State.

From Gay's Q & A with Caroline Leavitt:

I always want to know a novel’s origins. Can you talk a bit about what sparked the novel?

This novel rises from a short story I wrote a few years ago, "Things I Know About Fairy Tales." For whatever reason, that story wouldn't let me alone. I kept thinking, there is more that needs to be told and so I began writing the novel.

What I admired about the novel so much was that it wasn’t just a kidnapping story--it really is a story about race and class and what those divisions do to people. Would you talk about this please?

Kidnapping is, in fact, a symptom of a much greater cultural malaise, where there is not enough to go around. This economic disparity is particularly glaring in a country like Haiti where there is such a small middle class. I wanted to explore, through fiction, what it would be like for people from two ends of the wealth spectrum to clash in such a complicated way that is fueled by desperation and rage.

I also deeply admired the complex, sometimes prickly, characters in the novel. So let’s talk about craft. How do you build your characters? How do you build your novel? What didn’t you know when you started the novel that surprised you in the writing?

I build my characters by inhabiting them. I literally walk around pretending to be that character until I feel like I know the character's every thought and desire and failing. Once I feel like I know a character well enough, I let my imagination run wild and try to imagine how they would respond to a given situation or circumstance.

In terms of building this novel, I was, I admit...[read on]
Visit Roxane Gay's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, March 21, 2014

Jennifer Robson

In Jennifer Robson's first novel, Somewhere in France, Lilly—a young, British aristocrat—is thrown into the heart of the First World War after chasing her independence and applying to serve as an ambulance driver.

From the author's Q & A with Kelly Gallucci for Bookish:

Bookish: On your website you say it’s been nearly seven years since you first “dreamed of Lilly and her journey through the war.” As a debut novelist, can you share with us some of the successes and challenges on your own journey from conception to publication?

Jennifer Robson: When I first starting writing in earnest, my youngest child was an infant—she’s now about to turn seven—and I turned to it as a way of reassuring myself that I was still a creative person and I was still intellectually engaged with the world. It was difficult to find the time to write, as I’m sure is the case with any endeavor when you’re a parent with small children, but I persevered and eventually had a reasonably polished manuscript.

Then I hit a wall. None of the agents or publishers I approached were interested. Again and again I was told, very politely of course, that no one was interested in reading about the First World War. That is, no one was interested—until Downton Abbey. A dear friend persuaded me to unearth my manuscript from the depths of my hard drive and try again, and thank goodness I listened to her. I sent it out to a handful of agents and received an offer of representation almost immediately. I should add that my literary agent, Kevan Lyon, was not one of the people I approached the first time around, and from time to time I wonder what would have happened if I’d contacted her a few years earlier. I’m not complaining, though—I’m delighted with the way things have turned out!

Bookish: It’s said that fans of Downton Abbey will adore this novel. Are you a fan of the show? Do you have a favorite character?

JR: I am...[read on]
Learn more about Somewhere in France and visit Jennifer Robson's website.

Read--Coffee with a Canine: Jennifer Robson & Ellie.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, March 20, 2014

D. A. 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 Declan Burke:

What crime novel would you most like to have written?

Probably ROSEANNA, by Swedish authors Maj Sjowall and Per Wahloo (1965), the first Martin Beck novel. It taught crime writers that pacey can also be slow and its bitter melancholy is intertwined with the funniest scenes ever written in a crime novel (especially those with American detective Kafka).

What fictional character would you most like to have been?

Any character living permanently in Paris. And since I wouldn’t mind being a real detective, at least for a while, why not Jules Maigret? He’s eating very well, drinking very well, smoking good tobacco, involved in the most interesting cases and still seems...[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, March 19, 2014

Carol Leifer

Carol Leifer is a four-time Emmy nominee for her writing on such shows as Seinfeld, Modern Family, Saturday Night Live, The Larry Sanders Show, and seven Academy Awards telecasts. She has starred in five of her own comedy specials, which have aired on Showtime, HBO, and Comedy Central. The author of When You Lie about Your Age, the Terrorists Win, Leifer's new book is How to Succeed in Business Without Really Crying.

From her Q & A with Amanda Hess for Slate:

Slate: Three decades after you launched your standup career, you note in the book that women are still underrepresented and underpaid in comedy. Why do you think that is?

Carol Leifer: I think it’s just kind of everywhere, you know? Women are underrepresented across the board. It was true when I started out, and it’s still true now. I think we’re always going to be somewhat marginalized. People would always ask me, as a woman in comedy, “Isn’t it bad being marginalized? Doesn’t it suck to be part of the minority?” And I have to say, it isn’t that bad. It meant that I got onstage early in my career, because bookers were looking to check off the boxes: the ventriloquist, the singer, the woman comic. If they saw me as a specialty act, I’d take it, if that’s what gets me onstage. As a comic, it’s really just all about getting on.

Slate: Now that there are more women, do you think there’s a limit to the upside of being a novelty? Some places may want to check off the woman box, but that doesn’t mean they’d want two or three women onstage. A British comedian recently made news when she was dropped from the bill at a venue because she was told there were too many women on it.

Leifer: For women who came up in my standup generation, it meant that club owners got to see us, and the more they saw us, the more we were able to change the idea that our perspective was a niche. We were talking about things that 50 percent of the audience also experiences, but it wasn’t just for women—it wasn’t the type of “Am I right, ladies?” jokes where just women should pay attention while the men went off to pay the bill or get another drink. Women see life through a different prism, and that’s still new and different in comedy. My advice to women is...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

James Romm

James Romm's latest book is Dying Every Day: Seneca at the Court of Nero.

From his Q & A with Caroline Leavitt:

Why did you choose to write about Rome when your background is in Greek history and Alexander the Great?

Mostly because the story of Seneca and Nero was the darkest, most compelling story I knew from all my research on the ancient world, bar none. I have felt for many years that I wanted to tell it, even though it took me outside of my comfort zone. I really felt that I understood Seneca in a way that few today do -- that I knew all his literary tricks and gambits, in part because I've used similar ones myself.

What makes this so unsettling and dark a book?

It's claustrophobic -- almost all the action takes place indoors, in closed rooms of Nero's palace, with just a few people present -- and extremely grim, in that explores Seneca's obsessions with death, suicide, and apocalypse. The title "Dying Every Day" was chosen for its double meaning: It defines how Seneca conceived of human life, as a journey toward death, but also describes his own condition, trapped at the court of a dangerous, deluded despot. He had to...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, March 17, 2014

Kristina Riggle

From a Q & A with Kristina Riggle about her 2013 novel, The Whole Golden World: In the Author Q&A section at the end of THE WHOLE GOLDEN WORLD, you say that you found inspiration for the story in a newspaper article about a similar court case. Did that immediately inspire you to start writing the book, or was it more of a set-aside-and-ponder, or another type of process entirely that eventually caused you to sit down and begin writing?

Kristina Riggle: I knew right away it would be a great seed for a story. I didn’t sit down that very minute, but I was writing not long after. Within a few days, as memory serves.

BRC: In THE WHOLE GOLDEN WORLD, you've managed to weave thought-provoking commentary on perspective, repercussions, adulthood and shades of morality gray, while also giving us a terrific page-turner. Did you set out to accomplish this, or were you simply telling a story and the provocative themes came about organically?

KR: I don’t aim for commentary, but when I put characters into particular quandaries, their own dialogue with others, plus internal narrative, lend that sort of perspective. I don’t agree with my characters all the time, by the way. They are not mouthpieces. If they align with me, it’s coincidental, not by design.

The storytelling always...[read on]
Learn more about the book and author at Kristina Riggle's website.

The Page 69 Test: Real Life & Liars.

The Page 69 Test: The Life You've Imagined.

Read--Coffee with a Canine: Kristina Riggle & Lucky.

The Page 69 Test: The Whole Golden World.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Helen Oyeyemi

Helen Oyeyemi's latest novel is Boy, Snow, Bird. From her Q & A with Alexander Chee for BuzzFeed:

The press for this novel says you are retelling Snow White, but that isn’t quite what this is, is it? There’s something else.

Helen Oyeyemi: Oh, retelling Snow White is what I set out to do! But I had to come at it slant because that’s how I tend to read fairy tales: In this case I was watching the role of the magic mirror and pursued the line of thought and the feelings it provoked.

What was the part of Snow White that provoked you until you wanted to begin?

HO: Retelling a story can be a way of arguing with it, or testing its architecture for false walls — I was always a bit incredulous that the mirror in the original story got away with the things it said. Also I didn’t feel the wicked Queen’s heart was really in her attempts to kill Snow White: It wouldn’t have been difficult for her to make sure she got rid of the girl on the first try. It’s the story that wants/needs her to try again and again. So I imagined someone experiencing wickedness as a bit of a hassle, and that someone is...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, March 14, 2014

Bruce DeSilva

Bruce DeSilva grew up in a tiny Massachusetts mill town where the mill closed when he was ten. He had an austere childhood bereft of iPods, X-Boxes, and all the other cool stuff that hadn’t been invented yet. In this parochial little town, metaphors and alliteration were also in short supply. Nevertheless, his crime fiction has won the Edgar and Macavity Awards; has been listed as a finalist for the Shamus, Anthony, and Barry Awards; and has been published in ten foreign languages. His short stories have appeared in Akashic Press's award-winning noir anthologies. He has reviewed books for the New York Times Sunday Book Review and Publishers Weekly, and his reviews for The Associated Press have appeared in hundreds of other publications. Previously, he was a journalist for forty years, most recently as writing coach world-wide for The Associated Press, editing stories that won nearly every major journalism prize including the Pulitzer. He and his wife, the poet Patricia Smith, live in New Jersey with two enormous dogs named Brady and Rondo.

DeSilva's new book is Providence Rag, the third novel in his crime series featuring Liam Mulligan, an investigative reporter at a dying Providence, R.I. newspaper.

From his Q & A with Kristi Belcamino:

Q: Tell me about your new book?

A: Providence Rag, the third novel in my Mulligan crime series, is the first to be inspired by a true story – one I covered as a journalist many years ago. I’ve long been fascinated by the case of The Warwick Slasher, a teenager who stabbed young mothers and their female children to death in his suburban Rhode Island neighborhood in the 1980s. The real killer, Craig Price, was just 13 years old when his murder spree began and 15 when he was caught, making him one of the youngest serial killers in U.S. history. But that’s not the interesting part. When he was arrested, Rhode Island’s juvenile justice statutes had not been updated for decades. When they were written, no one had ever envisioned a child like him, so the law required that all minors, regardless of their crimes, be released at age 21 and given a fresh start. Nevertheless, he remains behind bars to this day, convicted of committing a series of offenses behind bars. I have long suspected that some of these charges were fabricated, but in the very least, Price has been absurdly over-sentenced. For example, he was given an astounding 30 years for contempt for declining to submit to a court-ordered psychiatric exam. Have the authorities abused their power to prevent his release? I think so. Should he ever be let out to prey on the innocent again? Absolutely not. The ethical dilemma this poses fascinates me. No matter which side of it you come down on, you are condoning something that is indefensible. In the novel, the murders are committed and the killer caught in the first sixty pages. The rest of the book follows my protagonist, an investigative reporter at a dying Providence, R.I. newspaper, as well as his fellow reporters, his editors, and the entire community, as they struggle to decide which is worse: condoning the abuse of power that is keeping the killer behind bars or exposing it and allowing him to be released to kill again.

Q: What was the biggest challenge in basing a novel on a true story?

A: Although the characters and plots of my first two crime novels sprang entirely from my imagination, this has not prevented some readers...[read on]
Learn more about the book and author at Bruce DeSilva's website and blog.

The Page 69 Test: Rogue Island.

Coffee with a Canine: Bruce DeSilva and Brady.

The Page 69 Test: Cliff Walk.

Coffee with a Canine: Bruce DeSilva & Rondo and Brady.

Writers Read: Bruce DeSilva.

My Book, The Movie: Providence Rag.

The Page 69 Test: Providence Rag.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Nate Kenyon

Nate Kenyon is the author of Bloodstone, a Bram Stoker Award finalist and winner of the P&E Horror Novel of the Year, The Reach, also a Stoker Award Finalist, The Bone Factory, Sparrow Rock, StarCraft: Ghost Spectres, Diablo: The Order, and Day One.

Kenyon's latest book is Diablo III: Storm of Light.

From his Q & A with George Ebey at The Big Thrill:

For those who aren’t familiar with the DIABLO games, can you give us a little background about its mythology?

DIABLO takes place in the world of Sanctuary, similar to earth in the Middle Ages. Sanctuary is a battleground for the forces of light and dark—angels, who live in the High Heavens, and demons, who populate the Burning Hells. Humans were created through a union of angel and demon, and Sanctuary became a place where they were protected and allowed to grow and thrive—until that protection is threatened by the rulers of the Hells. Angels don’t particularly like humans either, believing they are abominations and threats to the existence of the Heavens. Although most humans aren’t all that aware of the demons lurking in the darkness, Sanctuary is a place filled with magic, and special humans, called nephalem, have tremendous abilities that may be even greater than angel or demon—and they must use these gifts to strike back against the demonic forces that invade their lands.

How did you first get involved in writing for the world of DIABLO? Were you a fan of the games prior to working on the books?

I was contacted by Blizzard Entertainment’s creative team and asked if I was interested in working with them. They had read an earlier sci fi novel I’d written called PRIME and thought I might be a good fit for a project they wanted to do called STARCRAFT GHOST: SPECTRES. We were all pleased with how the book turned out, and so they asked me to write the next DIABLO novel, which was called THE ORDER. That was released in 2012, followed by the new one, STORM OF LIGHT, released this month.

I’m not a huge gamer, but I was familiar with DIABLO from when I was younger, and of course I knew about their other game franchise, WORLD OF WARCRAFT. I had some concerns going into that first project whether I could pull it off without knowing the games inside and out, and so I spent six...[read on]
Visit Nate Kenyon's website, Facebook page, and Twitter perch.

My Book, The Movie: Day One.

The Page 69 Test: Day One.

Writers Read: Nate Kenyon.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

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 Teddy Wayne for GQ:

GQ: The book has several pretty graphic though not-very-sexy sex scenes. Do you think you were you influenced by the relatively recent trend of depicting the unflattering side of sex, as in GIRLS, or was this an angle you wanted to pursue from the outset?

Adelle Waldman: I didn't intend to write about sex at all. I actually get embarrassed talking about it, and hoped in my book, I'd just be able to refer to it in passing without really having to go there. But as I wrote, I realized that wasn't going to work. It's too much a part of relationships to skip over it. Sex also reflects so much of what else is going on in the relationship. I'd basically finished the book when GIRLS aired, so I can't say that was an influence, but I must say that I do really appreciate its realistic, un-idealized sex scenes.

GQ: Nate is often very critical of women—both in general and particular ones he encounters. How did it feel writing these less savory thoughts about your own gender?

Adelle Waldman: Very bad. Particularly because Nate is not only thinking unsavory thoughts about women; in a very real sense, his thoughts are reflections on me personally. Many of Nate's most brutal observations about women are things that I most feared men in my past might have thought about me. I basically used my fears as source material. It was not always pleasant, honestly. But I thought that it was important to be as honest as possible, no matter how badly it reflected on me, or on Nate, or on women generally. What I wanted more than anything was 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, March 11, 2014

Jennifer Michael Hecht

Jennifer Michael Hecht is the author of four history books, including the best-selling Doubt: A History, and three volumes of poetry. Her work has won major awards in intellectual history and in poetry. Hecht teaches in the Creative Writing Program at New York University and The Graduate Writing Program of The New School University.

Hecht's new book is Stay: A History of Suicide and the Philosophies Against It. From her Q & A at Former People:

C. Derick Varn: Stay was prompted by the lost of two friends, both poets. Why do you think poets are so given to take particular social contagion?

Jennifer Michael Hecht: I don’t think they are, exactly. Most of all I think pain comes first and draws people into writing (which actually helps them live longer and happier than they would have). People who experienced trauma or childhood abuse or neglect come to literature to think about pain and meaning. Life is painful for most everyone, but to dedicate your life to writing into the problem requires an unusually deep need.

The first question is do author’s kill themselves more than the rest of the population? We don’t know. A study discussed in a Forbes article suggests we don’t; a study examined in The Atlantic, says authors do it twice as often as the general public. There are a lot of variables to testing this, so it’s hard to get consensus without a lot of different studies.

As for poets in particular, on the website TopTens, Shell Harris picks “Top 10 Authors Who Have Killed Themselves,” which I have annotated with their principle genre: Ernest Hemingway (novels), Virginia Woolf (novels), Anne Sexton (poetry), Ryunosuke Akutagawa (short stories), Karin Boyle (poetry), John Berryman (poetry); Richard Brautigan (novels), Hunter S. Thompson (journalism), Jerzy Kosinski (novels), Yukio Mishima (novels and plays).

That’s three poets to seven other kinds of writers, which doesn’t seem extreme. (Check out Harris’s short bios and you’ll see some bizarre and awful childhoods.)

Since none of these studies or estimates are sufficient to an answer, I’ll give you my impression. Personally, in the last twenty years I think I have heard of more poet suicides than other writers, but that that memory might be skewed because I knew quite a few of them personally (poets teach together, have festivals and conferences and joint readings, so we know each other – we’re completely mobbed up on facebook too). Someone who is part of the fiction world might remember it differently. I’ve asked poet and novelist Juliana Baggot and she said it seemed to her, too, that poets do it more and suggested it might be because of the low pay and solitary nature of writing poetry.

As I see it we are weird, pained, and want to be solitary before we get into poetry and that’s why we get into poetry. Yet the more I think about it, the more I have to admit that...[read on]
Learn more about the book and author at Jennifer Michael Hecht's website.

The Page 99 Test: Stay: A History of Suicide and the Philosophies Against It.

Writers Read: Jennifer Michael Hecht.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, March 10, 2014

Patience Bloom

Patience Bloom is a senior editor at Harlequin Books and focuses specifically on Harlequin Romantic Suspense, which gives her full license to indulge in her love of the thriller genre and all things suspense.

Her new book is Romance Is My Day Job: A Memoir of Finding Love at Last.

From Bloom's Q & A with Joelle Herr for BookPage:

How did the idea for the book come about?

I started writing Romance Is My Day Job as a stress-reliever six weeks before my wedding. Two years went by, and an agent—who became my agent—convinced me to polish the book and try to sell it. Why not? Sam and I have an extraordinary story. A reclusive 40-something romance editor unexpectedly reunites with the wild class clown of her high school years. That’s a pretty good romance.

What was the first romance novel that you ever read? How old were you and what did you think of it?

My first official romance novel was Phantom Marriage by Penny Jordan, followed immediately by Desire’s Captive. I didn’t realize there were books like this—just for me! I was 14 and reading romances when I should have been studying for exams. I remember Desire’s Captive more because the hero’s name was Nico, and after being such a grumpus through the entire book, he finally...[read on]
Learn more about the book and author at Patience Bloom's website.

The Page 99 Test: Romance Is My Day Job.

Writers Read: Patience Bloom.

My Book, The Movie: Romance Is My Day Job.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Laura van den Berg

Laura van den Berg's latest book is The Isle of Youth: Stories.

From her Q & A with Michael Hafford at Interview magazine:

MICHAEL HAFFORD: In the opening story, "I Looked for You, I Called Your Name," the narrator talks about being "half-present, half-absent." I noticed this camera-type narrator running through six of the seven stories, with the exception of "The Greatest Escape." What led you to those more passive narrators?

LAURA VAN DEN BERG: I was having a conversation about first-person narration with my friend who's a writer, her name's Elliot Holt, and she made this great observation where the "I" is an "eye" that really resonated with me. I think of that first person as a roving camera, and you're seeing where they choose to let the lens fall. And that's one of the most interesting logical components of first person—what the character is choosing to reveal and what they conceal. The tension between what is shown and what is hidden. I think these characters are desperate to tell their story, desperate to show the reader something, desperate to tell the reader something true, but also equally desperate to...[read on]
Learn about Laura van den Berg's six favorite unconventional mystery novels.

Visit Laura van den Berg's website.

Writers Read: Laura van den Berg (January 2010).

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Gill Hornby

Gill Hornby's debut novel, The Hive, hit America in September 2013.

From her Q & A with Lisa O'Kelly in the Observer:

Is it nerve-racking, publishing your first novel when your brother is Nick Hornby and your husband is Robert Harris?

Yes, it's terrifying, and not just because there are bound to be comparisons. Apart from doing a bit of journalism, I've lived an extremely quiet life for 20 years, raising my children, and now I'm feeling exposed. This is so much more personal than writing a column in a newspaper. It's entirely you.

The Hive is about playground politics among a group of mothers who meet at the gates of a home counties primary school. Need I ask you, as a mother of four, where you got the the idea?

I think I've had the idea all my life, since I was aged seven in the school playground. The book is about queen bees, the rule of the clique, and what that does to us. There are queen bees like my main character Bea everywhere. Most start off quite nice but, as their power over the clique grows, other women get girl-crushes on them and indulge them until we find we've created a monster. Then it's: "We hate you, you're a bitch", and we start hovering around someone else. Power...[read on]
Follow Gill Hornby on Twitter.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, March 7, 2014

J.T. Ellison

J.T. Ellison is the New York Times bestselling author of eleven critically acclaimed novels, including The Final Cut with Catherine Coulter, When Shadows Fall, Edge of Black and A Deeper Darkness. Her work has been published in over twenty countries. Her novel The Cold Room won the ITW Thriller Award for Best Paperback Original and Where All The Dead Lie was a RITA® Nominee for Best Romantic Suspense. She lives in Nashville with her husband.

From Ellison's interview with’s Ray Palen: WHEN SHADOWS FALL is the third installment of your series starring Dr. Samantha “Sam” Owens. Why was it important for you to have this character make the transition from medical examiner to Georgetown academic? Is this an example of the old adage “those who can't do, teach,” or is this simply a new page in her personal history?

J.T. Ellison: A new page, certainly. Samantha is running from her past, running from her passion --- being a medical examiner --- into a place she thinks will be safe and where she will not have to be involved in law enforcement anymore. She’s wrong, of course. She realizes rather quickly she’s probably made a huge mistake, but she’s honor-bound to see it through. It’s a good place for her, though, since the idea of working in forensic pathology is too much for her anymore. This gives her a chance to shape the future. It’s a very symbolic choice for her, a woman who’s lost her children, reaching out to influence other people’s kids.

BRC: How did the tragic loss Sam suffered in the first book in the series, A DEEPER DARKNESS, shape who she is in WHEN SHADOWS FALL? How does this influence her decision-making process and judgment?

JTE: The loss of her family creates a completely new woman, one who doesn’t have the best judgment, one who makes mistakes. She was on such a safe, comfortable path before the floods, and suddenly she’s been pushed out into a different world, one she’s not at all prepared to handle. She manages, albeit with difficulty, to move on, and she’s now ready for...[read on]
Visit J.T. Ellison's website, or follow her on Twitter or Facebook.

The Page 69 Test: Edge of Black.

Writers Read: J. T. Ellison.

The Page 69 Test: When Shadows Fall.

My Book, The Movie: When Shadows Fall.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Amy Shearn

Amy Shearn's first novel, How Far Is the Ocean from Here, was published in 2008. Her latest novel is The Mermaid of Brooklyn.

From the author's Q & A with Lucy Walton at Female First:

Why did you want to focus on parenthood in [The Mermaid of Brooklyn]?

Mothering small children is incredibly epic and surreal and magical and legendary all at the same time, but I didn’t feel like I had read that many great novels that dealt with early motherhood the way I was experiencing it. Being a mother really pushes you to your most extreme limits in every way – which is after all an interesting place for a character. Parenthood is so amazing and awful, so inspiring and exhausting, that I think every mother can relate to this idea of needing something slightly magical to get you through.

This book was inspired by your great-grandmother’s story, so please can you expand on this for us.

My great-grandmother Jenny was, in recent memory, a tiny, wizened crone known for being exceptionally mean. So I was fascinated when my grandmother said to me, as we were shopping for shoes for my wedding, “Did I ever tell you how a pair of shoes saved my mother’s life?” The story went thus: Jenny Lipkin, young and depressed, took off her shoes and prepared to jump off a bridge. Then she looked back at her shoes and thought that no, she didn’t want to leave them behind. She didn’t jump, she lived, and she eventually emigrated to Chicago with her ne’er-do-well on-again-off-again husband, and supported her three daughters with her virtuosic sewing, and because of all that I am here today. Jenny was a tough, strong lady, faced with problems most of us contemporary mothers have never even considered. I loved the idea that this fairy-tale-ish moment had changed the life of this woman, and it....[read on]
Visit Amy Shearn's website.

The Page 99 Test: How Far Is the Ocean from Here.

Writers Read: Amy Shearn.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Lee Child

Lee Child is the author of the Jack Reacher thrillers.

From his September 2013 Q & A with Nancie Clare for The Rap Sheet:

NC: Lyndsay Faye [Seven for a Secret] told me a funny story about a question you answered at the Theakstons Old Peculiar Crime Writing Festival in Harrogate about combating writer’s block. You said, “I’ll tell you how to combat writer’s block. Don’t be such a pretentious wanker. That’s how you combat writer’s block. What? Do truck drivers get ‘driver’s block’? ‘I don’t feel like driving my truck today.’” I wanted you to comment on that.

LC: Yeah, that’s how I feel. It’s difficult to talk about [writing] as a job, because people want to hear that it’s wonderfully joyful and creative and spontaneous and you just pluck this stuff out of the air. Which absolutely you do, and it absolutely is a wonderful, creative, just fabulous thing to do. But it is also a job and you have to take it seriously; you have to show up and do it. If you waited around for the muse to strike, you would be waiting around forever. There are many days when you don’t really feel like going to work--we’re all in the same boat. And my point was: everyone has a job, everyone has days when they don’t really want to go and do it, but you have to. A truck driver who doesn’t really feel like working today has no alternative. So he goes and gets in his truck and he starts the motor, clips his seat belt on, and those muscle memories kick in and off he goes. It’s the same thing for a writer. There are some days when you feel bad, you don’t want to do it, but you sit down, you boot up your computer, you open the file and the muscle memory gets you into it and you do your work.

Yeah, I feel people who talk about the muse and writer’s block and all these airy-fairy things ... they’re not serious. Especially for genre professionals, like us who are doing a book a year. It is a job and you have to do it. You’ve got to deliver. To complain about writer’s block is ...[read on]
Learn about Lee Child's hero from outside literature and the fictional character he would most like to have been.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Christian Jungersen

Christian Jungersen is a Danish writer who has been published in more than 20 countries. His novels are Undergrowth, The Exception, and You Disappear. All of them have won major literary prizes and become bestsellers.

From his Q & A with Caroline Leavitt:

You Disappear explores how a brain injury can transform a person you thought you knew into a stranger. How did you research this? What surprised you in the research?

I got the idea for the book because I have an old school friend who’s now a psychiatrist. Whenever we would meet, I would hear stories from her work, and it struck me that her way of looking at people was very different from what I’m used to seeing in fiction. The kind of knowledge she has simply doesn’t inform fictional descriptions of people. Besides of course writing a page-turner readers would find relevant and thought provoking, I wanted to write a novel that tried to modernize the way we conceive of people in literature.

As part of my research, I got to know a variety of brain-damaged people and their families. I worked on this novel for almost five years, and several of these family members became my friends. I’ve grown quite close to some of them, and they’ve shared private details about living with someone who suffers from brain damage, details that I don’t think they’ve even shared with their best friends.

In the course of five years, this neurological world became my world. I traveled around hospitals and visited one expert after the other. The novel also features...[read on]
Learn more about the book and author at Christian Jungersen's website.

The Page 69 Test: You Disappear.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, March 3, 2014

Robert Lane

Novelist Robert Lane resides on the west coast of Florida. The Second Letter is his debut novel.

A brief Q & A with the author:

How would you complete this line: "You might well enjoy my book if you like..."?

…the TV series Castle and Suits. Like Castle, there is an element of danger and suspense, but that is the plot, not the story. Do not confuse plot with story. In Castle there is a continuing story that the characters are experiencing while pursuing criminals and brandishing badges and guns. (They also brandish heavy coats in the middle of the summer, but we’ll let that slide.) The underlying story ties one episode to another. The story, propelled by witty lines and engaging characters, creates continuity and cements the interest between the viewer and the show. The story maintains just enough element of suspense that a happy ending is not a forgone conclusion.

And Suits? Snappy, fast paced dialogue. An absolute joy to listen to. We hear words as we read. Why not make them fun? Why not a pace that threatens to leave you behind? I like dialogue that crackles and is slightly ahead of my general knowledge. Want realism? Read the manual on programming your garage door opener. You don’t take that to the beach.

If they make your book into a movie, who should direct it?

Lawrence Kasdan—Body Heat, Grand Canyon, The Big Chill—with a little help from Woody Allen (I know, but bear with me).

In Kasdan’s movies, there is a desperate pining and desire that binds the characters. Kasdan’s characters need each other. They shape their world and lives through interaction with other characters. In Grand Canyon, Steve Martin’s calloused Hollywood producer character sets the boundaries of what the others do not want to become. You think that Body Heat is just about the sex—you may be right—but I don’t think so. And The Big Chill? Let’s unite a bunch of former college pals together for a funeral and throw them in a house together. Even the dead character holds sway over the others. Plot arises from characters and that is never clearer than in Kasdan’s films.

Casting? I don’t go there. I’m afraid. Afraid that if I put some tabloid picture next to my character’s name, the mental image I hold of that person will drive my character. (Also, my character would forever be overweight, in a bathing suit, and emerging from the waters off the coast of Marseille.) I would let Woody Allen do my casting. Not that he has anything to do with my genre, but that man is a casting god. His movies also, are totally character driven.

What is your second favorite art form?


Everything is about feeling and nothing provides an emotional jolt like music.

Music cheats—it has numerous elements at its disposal and varied tools that can be utilized to tug at your heartstrings. It can make you cry, laugh, and swell up past emotions. Those emotions can possess you—will possess you—if only for moment. Read This is Your Brain on Music (Daniel Levitin). Your brain literally has a chemical reaction to songs. That is why when you hear a particular song, you know for certain that your eighth-grade romance was one for the ages, and somewhere, right now, in the still of the universe, she is thinking of you. No wonder we’re such a mess. As writers, we’re supposed to compete with that?

Good luck.

But we can transition from musical notes to written notes. What does the character feel? What emotions am I, as the writer, eliciting from my reader. From myself? If I feel nothing, how can I expect the reader to feel anything? And if you don’t feel anything; no anger, joy, sadness, fear, hesitancy, heat, lust, for God’s sake, man, something….why read? Why waste your time?

And my third favorite art form?

Stick figures. Hemingway said to boil it all down. There you have it.
Learn more about the book and author at Robert Lane's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Elizabeth Gilbert

Elizabeth Gilbert's latest novel is The Signature of All Things.

From her October 2013 Q & A with Margo Rabb at Slate:

Slate: Some critics have expressed surprise over how different your new novel is from Eat, Pray, Love, although you’d been writing literary, ambitious work long before that memoir.

Gilbert: It has not escaped my attention that when I wrote about a man’s emotional journey they gave me the National Book Award nomination, but when I wrote about a woman’s emotional journey, they shunted me into the “chick lit” dungeon.

Slate: What are your thoughts on that dungeon?

Gilbert: “Chick lit” is the “polite botany” of our time. I think that the whole conversation about who’s included in the serious literary world is an entirely fear-based discussion—that the people who exclude certain kinds of women writers from that world are afraid that by including them it will diminish their own seriousness, and the women themselves are afraid of being excluded, or of not being taken seriously, so that they sometimes either hide some of their impulses or try to write in a certain kind of way to gain approval. I just don’t want to play that way. It’s not fun and it’s not exciting, and it...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue