Monday, June 30, 2014

Carl Hart

Carl Hart is an associate professor in the departments of psychology and psychiatry at Columbia University. He is also a research scientist in the Division of Substance Abuse at the New York State Psychiatric Institute; a member of the National Advisory Council on Drug Abuse; and on the board of directors of the College on Problems of Drug Dependence and the Drug Policy Alliance.

From a Q & A with Hart about his book, High Price: A Neuroscientist's Journey of Self-Discovery That Challenges Everything You Know about Drugs and Society:

After more than 20 years in the field of neuropyschopharmacology, you’ve come to the conclusion that drugs aren’t the main problem – that drug policy is the bigger problem. Please explain why this issue is important to you?

In the 1980s, a common misperception was that drugs in general, and crack cocaine specifically, were destroying the black community. Many black thinkers, both liberal and conservative, added their voice to the chorus that blamed drugs for everything from premature death to child abandonment and neglect to grandmothers being forced to raise a second generation of children. The Rev. Jesse Jackson said, “Our culture must reject drugs. … We’ve lost more lives to dope than we did to the Ku Klux Klan rope.” Thomas Sowell, the conservative economist, added “drugs are inherently a problem for the individual who takes them.”

Notably, these sentiments were frequently expressed by individuals with no training on drug effects. Their statements were inaccurate, shortsighted and mere hyperbole. For example, although crack was often blamed for child abandonment and for the raising of children by grandparents, this happened in my family as well as others long before crack hit the streets. The primary reason for this was poverty, not drugs. And the view that drugs are a problem for all who use them is inconsistent with the scientific evidence. Eighty-five percent or more of drug users — whether they use alcohol, prescription medications or drugs deemed illegal — do not have a problem....[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Mark Troy

Mark Troy is the author of Pilikia Is My Business, a private eye novel published in 2001 and republished in 2010. Pilikia was nominated for a Shamus Award by the Private Eye Writers of America for Best 1st P.I. Novel. Game Face, a collection of short stories featuring P.I. Val Lyon, was published in 2011. The Rules, the first story in the Ava Rome series, was published as an ebook and audiobook in 2013.

The Splintered Paddle is the latest book in the Ava Rome series.

From Troy's Q & A at Omnimystery News:

OMN: Into what subgenre would you place the Ava Rome crime novels? And do you find any advantage to labeling them as such?

MT: My stories are private detective novels. I like to think of them as hardboiled and as crime novels rather than mysteries.

Labels serve to guide readers to new books. Readers of "hardboiled" detective stories should know that's what they'll find here. I know there are some readers who might give the book a pass because of the label, but for everyone who does, there are others who will pick it up because that's what they like to read.

One reviewer recently called The Splintered Paddle "Hawaiian Noir". That's a label I hadn't heard before, but I like it. Maybe it will entice some readers to try something new. Hawaiian Noir: ukuleles, Mai Tais, and bullets.

OMN: Give us a summary of The Splintered Paddle in a tweet.

MT: Revenge and death in the Aloha State. Murder in the part of paradise tourists never see. Ava Rome's mission: protect the defenseless.

OMN: How much of your own personal or professional experience have you included in your books?

MT: None of...[read on]
Visit Mark Troy's website.

The Page 69 Test: The Splintered Paddle.

Writers Read: Mark Troy.

My Book, The Movie: The Splintered Paddle.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, June 27, 2014

Megan Abbott

Megan Abbott is the Edgar®-winning author of the novels Queenpin, The Song Is You, Die a Little, Bury Me Deep, and The End of Everything. Her 2012 novel, Dare Me, was chosen by Entertainment Weekly and Amazon as one of the Best Books of 2012 and is soon to be a major motion picture.

Abbott's new novel is The Fever:

From the author's Q & A with Emily Gatlin for BookRiot:

[The Fever] isn’t your first rodeo writing about teenage girls. What is it about them that makes for such compelling characters?

There’s just so darn much to explore there. I think teenage girls continue to suffer from these tightly fixed beliefs that they’re supposed to be these happy, smiling innocents—they’re not supposed to express anger, to desire, to have ambitions. So I love looking at all that longing and rage. I love exploring the often covert ways that teen girls frequently have to operate to acquire, or keep, power—since they’re not supposed to want it at all. And there’s so much about teen girls that, in “adult fiction” (note the quote marks), has been underexplored, or not taken seriously. The intensity of female friendships at that age, the unique pressures brought to bear by technology (texting, social media). It’s...[read on]
Learn more about the book and author at Megan Abbott's website.

My Book, The Movie: The Fever.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Michael Blanding

Michael Blanding is a Boston-based investigative journalist whose work has appeared in The Nation, The New Republic, Salon, Consumers Digest, The Boston Globe Magazine, and Boston Magazine. His first book, The Coke Machine: The Dirty Truth Behind the World's Favorite Soft Drink, was published by Avery/Penguin in 2010. His new book is The Map Thief: The Gripping Story of an Esteemed Rare-Map Dealer Who Made Millions Stealing Priceless Maps.

From Blanding's Q & A at his publisher's website:

How many maps did Forbes Smiley steal?

Smiley admitted to stealing 97 maps from six libraries—Harvard, Yale, New York Public Library, Boston Public Library, the British Library, and the Newberry Library in Chicago—worth over $3 million in all. However, the libraries accuse him of taking many more. In all, they are missing around 250 maps, and have evidence that he stole at least a dozen of them. The truth probably lies somewhere in the middle—but we may never know for sure exactly how many he stole.

How did he steal them?

In many cases, the maps were contained in rare books, and Smiley was able to go into a library and just rip them out or cut them out with a razor blade when no one was looking. In other cases, he would request a folder full of maps and just take one. Then, he folded them and put them in the pocket of his blazer and just walked right out. Library catalogs often don’t specify which exact maps should appear in which books or folders. So Smiley could rip out a map worth $100,000, and walk out without anyone knowing it was missing. Many of the map library curators knew him as a respected rare-map dealer and trusted him almost like a colleague; he abused that trust to walk out with rare maps right under their noses.

How could he ever sell these rare maps? Wouldn’t someone know they were stolen?

Maps...[read on]
Visit Michael Blanding's website.

The Page 99 Test: The Map Thief.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Sue Miller

Sue Miller's new novel is The Arsonist.

From her Q & A with Melissa Albert at The Barnes & Noble Book Blog:

[Y]ou say you were a writer from your very early years. Do you remember any books that kind of set you on that path, any particular writers?

Jane Eyre must have been something I read six or seven times as an early adolescent. And Kristin Lavransdatter, and Lorna Doone when I was younger. My parents had a pretty rich library, no jackets on any of the books, so no descriptions. You just pulled something off the shelf and started to read it. There was no knowing what was going to happen in this book, no flap copy. And if you liked it, you kept reading. That was sort of magical in a certain way. Before I got married I always removed the jackets and threw them away because I just felt as though they’re sort of extraneous. That text that tells you what you’re about to read, it takes something away from the novel for me. Now I’ve learned to keep the jackets on, but I do think flap copy often gives away too much or tells you how you’re supposed to read this book. When I was a kid, I loved just launching into a book without any idea where it might head, what it was going to be about. It was...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

George Saunders

George Saunders's fourth collection of stories is Tenth of December.

From his Q & A--excerpted in The New Yorker--with Mike Sacks, in Poking a Dead Frog: Conversations with Today's Top Comedy Writers:

Do any specific anecdotes [illustrating your memory of how you "got the idea that the high-serious and the funny were not separate" when you were growing up] come to mind?

My whole childhood we lived next door to this family I’ll call the Smiths. We didn’t know them very well at all. At one point, Mrs. Smith’s mother, who was in her nineties, passed away. My dad went to the wake, where this exchange occurred:

Dad: “So sorry for your loss.”

Mrs. Smith: “Yes, it’s very hard.”

Dad: “Well, on the bright side, I suppose you must be grateful that she had such a long and healthy life.”

Mrs. Smith (mournful, dead-serious): “Yeah. This is the sickest she’s ever been.”

My dad came home just energized from this. I loved his reaction. My family was such a big influence on me. There was a real respect for language. It was understood as a source of power. Everyone was funny in a different flavor. You could make anything right—diffuse any tension, explain any mistake—with a joke. A joke or a funny voice was a way of saying: All is well. We’ll live. We still ...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, June 23, 2014

Katie Crouch

Katie Crouch's new novel is Abroad.

From her Q & A with Jessica Anya Blau at The Nervous Breakdown:

Sylvia Plath once said, “Kiss me and you will see how important I am.” When I read that sentence, I immediately think of your new book, Abroad. Aside from the obvious connection to the Amanda Knox trial, the book feels like it’s about sexual power and female friendships. Yes? No?

I am a huge Plath fan. I actually read her college journals while I was writing Abroad. She was so complex and passionate and brilliant and all over the place; I feel the same way about my young characters. Twenty-year-olds are usually not in control of their emotions and motives the way adults are. Taz is attracted to everyone and everything, and she’s intensely scared of that. And she’s at a time in her life when female friendships are particularly intense.

The book seems to say that we want to be close to our female friends, but there’s a way in which we also want to possess them. And there are ways in which we hate them, or want to reduce them. Taz, our protagonist, asks at one point, “What it is that really feeds a friendship between women?”

That line, “What is it, really, that feeds a friendship between women?” is about the hate that inevitably goes with the love of a friend. There’s this quote from Medea that I adore: “The fiercest anger of all, the most incurable, is that which rages in the place of dearest love.” Friendship is not all hearts and roses. If it’s real, it has an edge to it. And just like romantic love, it...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Jonathan Brown

Jonathan Brown is the Carroll and Miton Petrie Professor of Fine Arts, Institute of Fine Arts, New York University. His new book is In the Shadow of Velázquez: A Life in Art History.

From the author's Q & A with David Ebony for the Yale University Press blog:

Ebony: One of the topics you discuss at length in the book that has significant relevance to contemporary art is the idea of branding—I was surprised you used that term. You talk about it in relationship to artists like El Greco and Ribera, who ran factory-like studios that closely correspond to more recent practice by artists like Warhol, Jeff Koons, Damien Hirst and others.

Brown: I used the term to make this process more understandable, particularly as it addresses the problem of authenticity. How can a work be deemed authentic if it results from a workshop with teams of assistants? There are so many paintings attributed to El Greco that aren’t by El Greco. He had such an individualistic style, and one might think it would be too advanced to appeal to a wide audience. But clearly he struck the right chord with the public at the time. The questionable paintings I’m referring to are not truly knock-offs, but they’re not autograph either. There’s often a distinction made between signed or unsigned works, but the signature means nothing. Ribera also created a distinctive style—or brand—and knew how to promote it. He signed works a lot more frequently than other significant painters of his time. In his later years, he signed about eighty percent of his studio productions. But are they authentic?

Ebony: Are you often called in to help authenticate works by these artists? There’s a wonderful story in the book about $10 million riding on the attribution of an early Velázquez.

Brown: I don’t offer my opinion for commercial purposes. The art market exerts enormous pressure, but to have the freedom to think and write, and decide on an attribution in a way I choose is more important to me than the financial prospects. Plus, I want to be...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, June 20, 2014

Leah Vincent

Leah Vincent is a writer and activist. The first person in her family to go to college, she earned a BA in psychology as a night student on a Presidential Scholarship at Brooklyn College before going on to earn a Master’s in Public Policy from the Harvard Kennedy School as a Pforzheimer Fellow. Her work has appeared in the New York Times, Unpious and The Jewish Daily Forward. Vincent is an advocate for reform within ultra-Orthodoxy and for the empowerment of former ultra-Orthodox Jews seeking a self-determined life. She is a co-producer of the It Gets Besser project and a member and board member of Footsteps, the only organization in the United States supporting formerly ultra-Orthodox individuals.

Vincent's new book is Cut Me Loose: Sin and Salvation After My Ultra-Orthodox Girlhood.

From her Q &A with Caroline Leavitt:

You are incredibly brave. At 16, after exchanging letters with a male friend, your parents, ultra-Orthodox Jews, put you on a plane and cut off ties. How were you able to hold it together and become a dazzling author? Did you ever imagine that this would be the outcome of your life?

Thank you Caroline. It was a very long journey – and I did a whole lot of falling apart along the way. It took radical hope, and a willingness to pick myself up after I fell down, again and again and again, to get to where I am. When I was going through the worst of it, as a teenager and in my early twenties, it was inconceivable to me that I’d be as happy and blessed as I am now, with a new family, friends and community that support me, and a life busy doing what I love.

What sparked the writing of this book and what surprised you as you were writing it?

I had promised myself, that if I survived, I would write this book. About a year after finishing graduate school, I heard about the suicide of another former ultra-Orthodox Jew and it moved me to fulfill that promise. Hearing about this tragedy reminded me that there were still so many people out there struggling, and that telling my story might help them feel less alone and might help raise awareness about how challenging it can be to leave ultra-Orthodoxy.

I was surprised by how difficult it was to write this story. I thought I could just transcribe my dairies, but it takes...[read on]
Learn more about the book and author at Leah Vincent's website and Facebook page.

The Page 99 Test: Cut Me Loose.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, June 19, 2014

George R.R. Martin

George R.R. Martin is the author of The Song of Ice and Fire cycle, adapted for HBO as Game of Thrones.

From his Q & A with Mikal Gilmore for Rolling Stone:

One of the more dominant themes in Game of Thrones is family. It's what gives the characters purpose, but it also ruins them. What was your own sense of family and home like?

I was born in 1948, and raised in Bayonne, New Jersey, which is a peninsula just south of Jersey City. By bus, it was 45 minutes to the heart of Manhattan, but Bayonne really was a world in and of itself. New York was very close, but we didn't go there very often. From the age of four I lived down on First Street, in the public-housing projects, facing the waters of Kill Van Kull, with Staten Island on the other side.

My father was a Martin, but he was of Italian and German descent. My mother was a Brady – Irish. I heard a lot from my mother about the heritage of the Bradys, who had been a pretty important family at certain points in Bayonne history. I knew at a very early age that we were poor. But I also knew that my family hadn't always been poor. To get to my school, I had to walk past the house where my mother had been born, this house that had been our house once. I've looked back on that, of course, and in some of my stories there's this sense of a lost golden age, where there were wonders and marvels undreamed of. Somehow what my mother told me set all that stuff into my imagination.

Was your relationship with your parents close?

My father was a distant figure. I don't think that he ever understood me, and I don't know that I ever understood him. We didn't use the term then, but you could probably say he...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Maya Lang

Maya Lang grew up on Long Island, New York, where she stayed up reading late at night after pretending to be interested in science during the day. The Sixteenth of June, her first novel, is a modern riff on Ulysses that you can enjoy even if you’ve never read a word of Joyce. It was selected by Bookish as one of the best novels of the summer.

From Lang's Q & A with Ron Charles for the Washington Post:

Associating your debut novel on the greatest novel in English literature sounds awfully daring, no?

Daring, yes. The first sentence of the novel came to me out of the blue when I was grappling with “Ulysses.” Only later did I realize its first word was “Leopold,” its last, “bloom.” I saw that sentence as an invitation to go down the rabbit hole of Joyce — a dare, if you will. I resisted it for a while — who was I to write a novel about a revered classic? — but the characters took root. I told myself I wasn’t writing a novel; I simply wanted to know what would happen to the three people stuck in my head. Once it was clear that I had a first draft filled with “Ulysses” references, I decided to embrace the challenge and model each chapter around a “Ulysses” episode, complete with excerpted lines.

Everybody knows of “Ulysses,” but so few people actually read it. What do you make of that paradox?

Yes! Exactly! This paradox is the crux of my novel. “Ulysses” brings to mind that great Groucho Marx line about not wanting to be in a club that would have you as a member. Joyce built the ultimate exclusive club that no one can get into — so everyone wants to claim they have. I wanted “The Sixteenth of June” to work on three levels: for those who haven’t read “Ulysses,” for its devotees, and on a meta-level about the lore surrounding it. I see “Ulysses” as a metaphor for...[read on]
Visit Maya Lang's website.

The Page 69 Test: The Sixteenth of June.

Writers Read: Maya Lang.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Hillary Clinton

Hillary Rodham Clinton's new book is Hard Choices.

From her Q & A with the New York Times Sunday Book Review:

Who are your favorite contemporary writers? Are there any writers whose books you automatically read when they come out?

I will read anything by Laura Hillenbrand, Walter Isaacson, Barbara Kingsolver, John le Carré, John Grisham, Hilary Mantel, Toni Morrison, Anna Quindlen and Alice Walker. And I love series that follow particular characters over time and through their experiences, so I automatically read the latest installments from Alex Berenson, Linda Fairstein, Sue Grafton, Donna Leon, Katherine Hall Page, Louise Penny, Daniel Silva, Alexander McCall Smith, Charles Todd and Jacqueline Winspear.

What are your favorite novels? Your favorite short stories? Poems you hold especially dear?

“The Brothers Karamazov” made a lasting impression on me when I read it as a young woman; I intend to reread it this summer to see what I now think about it. My favorite short stories are by Alice Munro, especially her collections “Carried Away” and “Runaway.” That’s an easy choice for me compared with the many poets I’ve appreciated over time. Included in that list are E. E. Cummings, T. S. Eliot, Seamus Heaney, Pablo Neruda, Mary Oliver and...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, June 16, 2014

Laura Lippman

Laura Lippman's latest novel is After I'm Gone.

From her 2013 Q & A with Lisa Belkin at the Huffington Post:

Why do you do the work you do?

It doesn't feel like work. Yes, I have days that are difficult, but I'm sitting in a chair, making up stories. It's what I did for fun as a kid, whether with Barbies or stuffed animals.

What work would you do if not this?

If I had to find a job right now, a daunting prospect given my age, I think I would be drawn to social work. I covered what was known as the social services beat at the Evening Sun and it was probably my favorite beat. I just think I might actually be good at helping people, although that could be wishful thinking.

Did you wind up in this profession by accident or design?

Design. I set out to become a crime writer. At first, it was because it seemed like a less presumptuous goal. After I started writing crime fiction, I said to myself, "I may be limited, but the genre's not. There's no reason to change genres if I'm happy writing what I write." And I am. My work has changed a little over the years. I'm less interested in straight-forward whodunits, although there is some kind of mystery involved. I kill fewer and fewer people per book and it's often off the page. But I'm...[read on]
Learn more about the book and author at Laura Lippman's website and blog.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Elaine Pagels

Elaine Pagels earned a B.A. in history and an M.A. in classical studies at Stanford, and holds a Ph.D. from Harvard University. She is the author of Adam, Eve, and the Serpent; The Origin of Satan; The Gnostic Gospels, which won the National Book Critics Circle Award and National Book Award; and Revelations: Visions, Prophecy, and Politics in the Book of Revelation.

From her Q & A with Randy Dotinga at the Christian Science Monitor:

Q: Contrary to what people may assume, Satan is barely a presence in the Old Testament. What is he like?

A: There about five Old Testament stories in which Satan is kind of an incidental character. In the Book of Zechariah, he's the devil's advocate, so to speak, for the Lord. In Book of Numbers, he's not even a person. He's an angel.

The Jewish view is that Satan is always under the command of the Lord. Satan is one of his servants, one of his army.

Q: So the Satan of the Old Testament is basically a lackey, a kind of minion?

A: He is. In the book of Job, he can't do anything that the Lord doesn't authorize. He says, 'Let me do this thing,' and the Lord has to say, 'I'll give you this much permission. You can go this far.' He can't go any further.

Satan is not a rival to God at all. He's a servant.

Q: Did the early Jews ever view Satan as evil?

A: The only...[read on]
Learn how Pagels became interested in writing about the Book of Revelation.

Pagels's The Gnostic Gospels is one of Mary Beard's five best books about religious cults in antiquity.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, June 13, 2014

Peter Mountford

Peter Mountford’s debut novel, A Young Man’s Guide to Late Capitalism, won the 2012 Washington State Book Award and was a finalist in the 2012 VCU Cabell First Novelist Prize. In its full-page review, The Seattle Times wrote: “Debut novels don't come much savvier, punchier, or more entertaining...the work of an extraordinary talent.”

Mountford's latest novel is The Dismal Science.

From his Q & A with Steve Almond for The Rumpus:

The Rumpus: The first thing that fans of your last book are going to realize is this: “Hey, Mountford is again writing about an economist. What gives?” So: what gives?

Peter Mountford: Once upon a time, these two books were one book, but it would have been an ungainly beast. It just wasn’t one book—they’re about very different things, actually. But maybe the question inside your question is how can a writer sustain an interest in this godforsaken material—economics—for the better part of eight years of novel-writing? The truth is, I do have an obsession with money and what it does to us as individuals, as societies. My interest in money is a love/hate thing, I guess. Or just unrequited love. I suppose if I loved it so much, I’d be doing something other than writing dark fiction about economists, right?

Rumpus: One of the many things you nail in The Dismal Science is the quiet desperation of middle age, that point you reach where you realize, Christ, I’m closer to the grave than the cradle and I still have almost no control over my life. I don’t really have a question here. I’m just feeling implicated and pissed off.

Mountford: People think the male midlife crisis is just a hilarious and ridiculous outburst by a fading beast, the red Corvette and hairpiece and...[read on]
Visit Peter Mountford's website.

The Page 69 Test: A Young Man's Guide to Late Capitalism.

My Book, The Movie: A Young Man's Guide to Late Capitalism.

Writers Read: Peter Mountford.

The Page 69 Test: The Dismal Science.

My Book, The Movie: The Dismal Science.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Alafair Burke

Alafair Burke's new novel is All Day and a Night.

From her Q & A with Elizabeth Rowe at Bookish:

Bookish: You went to law school, practiced, and now you’re a law professor. How has your experience with the legal system informed writing crime thrillers?

AB: It lets me be really lazy, and not do a lot of research! In all seriousness, though, it does help to know the rhythm of a criminal case organically, to know the procedure, and to know who does what. But I think what helps the most is, when you’re a trial lawyer, you learn how to tell a story. People don’t think of cases as stories, but they really should. In a weird way, it mimics the organization of a book, and so I feel like I’m drawing on that as well.

Bookish: Do you find that your career as a legal professional is at odds with your identity as an author, or do they dovetail?

AB: They can be at odds, because sometimes I’m probably more interested in legal procedure than a lot of other people are. I’ve learned that, just because I know something, I don’t have to say it on paper. I really have to cut through what might seem like technical jargon to other people, and focus on character, setting, plot, and not the procedural parts.

But for this book, there really...[read on]
Learn more about the book and author at Alafair Burke's website and blog.

Writers Read: Alafair Burke (July 2011).

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Tim Winton

The preeminent Australian novelist of his generation, Tim Winton is the author of the bestselling Cloudstreet, The Riders, and Dirt Music, among many other books. He has won the Miles Franklin Award four times (for Shallows, Cloudstreet, Dirt Music, and Breath) and has twice been short-listed for the Booker Prize (for The Riders and Dirt Music). He lives in Western Australia.

Winton's new novel is Eyrie.

From the author's interview with Alex Clark for the Guardian:

Your novels are rooted in the people and the natural world of western Australia. What were you trying to give voice to?

I enjoyed the particularity of place and vernacular, even though that was just another seemingly insurmountable challenge. If you're from the provinces anywhere, everyone's going to tell you nobody wants to read about that stuff, you should be reshaping yourself for the metropolis. My only peers were in the library. I don't mean that in the sense that I felt I was their equal, but they were the examples: Twain and Faulkner and Flannery O'Connor.

And the reason I liked Hardy was that immersion in landscape and the stories of people across classes. Everyone gets a run on the pitch in Hardy.

Your new novel centres on Tom Keely, an environmentalist whom crisis has befallen. We meet him as he's living a reclusive, broken life in a grimy tower block. How did his story start?

I've spent nearly 20 years as a volunteer activist, and I've met a lot of people in the NGO world who are essentially like broken soldiers. They're standing in the traffic saying, "What about…?". The days they're not getting run over, they're getting so close to being run over that they're in a state of permanent trauma. So I guess I'd worked with these people for a long time and watched them, and thought: how do you guys...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Heather Brittain Bergstrom

Heather Brittain Bergstrom has won fiction awards from The Atlantic Monthly, The Chicago Tribune, Narrative Magazine, and others, and a story was named a distinguished and notable story for The Best American Short Stories in 2010. Her short fiction has been published in several literary journals and anthologies. She holds an MFA in creative writing.

Bergstrom's new book is Steal the North, her debut novel. From her Q & A with Caroline Leavitt:

Every novel has a spark. What jump started this one?

In my short stories, characters are usually trying to leave eastern Washington, just as I did only days after I graduated from high school. My stories are far more autobiographical. It wasn’t until I’d been away from my homeland for a decade or more that I slowly began to miss it. I thought why not write a character, for the first time, who misses eastern Washington instead of another one who is desperately trying to flee it. What if a California girl, who attends an art high school in Sacramento and lives in a midtown apartment surrounded by theatres and ethnic restaurants is suddenly sent north for the summer to eastern Washington to live with her fundamentalist aunt and uncle in a trailer park? And what if, instead of hating it, the girl falls madly in love with the landscape, her aunt and uncle, and the neighbor boy? I wanted to write a novel about a woman who had turned her back completely on her past, including her family, her faith, and the landscape that had shaped her. In doing what Lot’s wife had been unable to do, however, this woman left her daughter without any connections and no sense of herself . Steal the North is a novel of reclamation: a daughter’s journey to steal back her birthright. The idea of birthright—I believe that was the spark.

What was the research like for this novel?

Much of the research for Steal the North had already been done for my various short stories—at least the type of research that comes from books. I grew up...[read on]
Visit Heather Brittain Bergstrom's website and Facebook page.

The Page 69 Test: Steal the North.

Writers Read: Heather Brittain Bergstrom.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, June 9, 2014

Ronlyn Domingue

Ronlyn Domingue is the author of The Mercy of Thin Air, The Mapmaker's War and The Chronicle of Secret Riven.

From the author's Q & A at Layers of Thought:

You create an entire fully-realized world in this trilogy. Where did the kernel of the idea come from?

For a class assignment when I was in college, I wrote a fairy tale about a girl who lived in a kingdom where women were forbidden to read. The story stayed with me, and it seemed like something I could craft into a novel. On and off for a few years, I dabbled with it, even though I was clueless about what I was doing. Eventually, I shoved the manuscript and notes in a closet.

And then about a decade later, I discovered the electronic manuscript on an old computer, which prompted me to seek out the stored hard copies. I had no intention of returning to the project, but I still read over everything in a couple of days. Turns out, there was something underneath the bad writing and clichéd characters.

What readers see now is vastly different from the original story. It expanded to include a world that resembles the Dark Ages (The Mapmaker’s War) and what it turned into 1,000 years later, which feels somewhat medieval and Victorian at the same time.

The Chronicle of Secret Riven is the trilogy’s second book, but a reader can start with this story and go back to the first novel. How did that happen?

I thought...[read on]
Learn more about the book and author at Ronlyn Domingue's website, Facebook page, and Twitter perch.

The Page 69 Test: The Mapmaker's War.

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

Writers Read: Ronlyn Domingue.

The Page 69 Test: The Chronicle of Secret Riven.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Michael Connelly

Michael Connelly's latest novel is The Gods of Guilt.

From his 2013 Q & A with Noah Charney at The Daily Beast:

I understand that you’re a big Raymond Chandler fan. Which book is your favorite and why?

It’s The Little Sister. What has inspired me for going on 40 years is chapter 13. In that chapter Philip Marlowe, frustrated by the events of the day and the case he’s on, takes a ride around Los Angeles. He ruminates a bit on what is going on in his case, but the chapter has little to do with plot, and everything to do with the interplay of character and place. The book was published in 1949, and his descriptions of LA are still accurate. He’s able to cut away to the basic things about LA. At the time I read it, I’d never been in Los Angeles, but I instinctively knew that he had grabbed the character of place and connected it to the character of his protagonist. Wonderful. Years later I did make it to LA, and I started writing novels, and I would religiously re-read chapter 13, and I...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, June 6, 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 at Riffle:

What drew you to write this book?

I knew the story of me and Sam would be a fun, inspirational read. I secretly wrote the fictional version of the story before my agent encouraged me to write my memoir. I didn’t think anyone would believe our romance, but as I rewrote it as nonfiction, I discovered that the truth is way better.

What is your greatest fear as a writer?

There’s some fear of scathing criticism, but you either like my memoir or you don’t. I fear more hurting someone with what I’ve written so I might have held a few punches.

What do you do to get ready to write every day? What’s your routine?

I do write every day. On a non-work day, I write in the morning, soon after waking up. Or I’ll write when an idea pops into my head. I go right to my notebook or computer and get it down before I forget and lose the inspiration. On work days, I...[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

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Karl Ove Knausgård

Karl Ove Knausgård is the author of the autobiographical novels, My Struggle.

From his Q & A with Jesse Barron at The Paris Review:

Did you keep diaries when you were young?

Yes, I did, but I burned them when I was twenty-five or twenty-six.


I was so embarrassed, I couldn’t stand it. It’s the same with Min Kamp, I can’t stand it. If I could I would burn that, too, but there are too many prints, so it’s impossible.

Life develops, changes, is in motion. The forms of literature are not. So if you want the writing to be as close to life as possible—I do not mean this in any way as an apology for realism—but if you want to write close to life, you have to break the forms you’ve used, which means that you constantly have the feeling of writing the first novel, for the first time, which means that you do not know how to write. All good writers have that in common, they do not know how to write.

But isn’t burning a novel different from burning a diary? Burning a diary is repudiating a former version of yourself.

It’s one thing to be banal, stupid, and idiotic on the inside. It’s another to have it captured in writing. When I started to write more systematically, I just couldn’t stand that bastard diarist-self, and I had to...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Sebastian Barry

Sebastian Barry is the author of 13 plays, two collections of poetry, two collections of short stories, and six novels, including his latest, The Temporary Gentleman.

From Barry's Q & A with Allen Barra for The Daily Beast:

I’d like to confirm that you’re not planning on translating Gogol, are you?

No, I hadn’t considered it. Why do you ask?

Nabokov once complained about English translations of Gogol; they were so flat and colorless that he thought “None but an Irishman should ever try tackling Gogol.” Some—well, certainly me but also many others—consider you our finest prose writer. I thought you might like the job.

I’m flattered, but there’s others who should have done that before me.


The late Seamus Heaney, for one. He translated Beowulf into English, and I think he would have done well by Gogol.

Every time I meet an Irish writer, I find out that he knows just about every other Irish writer—not surprising when you consider that you’ve got—what?—maybe six to six-and-a-half million people on the whole island, and half of you are writers and poets …. Did you ever meet Seamus?

Yes, I did. He was delightful. He took great joy in displaying his Nobel Prize—kind of like a schoolboy showing off his prizes. He had a lot of other awards, too. One he was particularly proud of was...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

David Fuller

David Fuller's first novel, Sweetsmoke, was nominated for an Edgar Award for Best First Novel by an American Author, as well as being shortlisted for a John Creasy "New Blood" Dagger Award in Great Britain. It was a Discover Great New Writers pick for Barnes & Noble, and an Original Voices pick for Borders.

Fuller's new novel is Sundance.

From the author's Q & A at Maurice on Books:

Q:David, have you always been fascinated with the legend of Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid?
My high school age son, Mark, asked me a question this past weekend for his history class that put me back in 1969. To brush up on the events of the day, I looked up 1969 and discovered, to my delight, that BUTCH CASSIDY AND THE SUNDANCE KID came out that year. When it came out, I went to see it at the old Edens Theater in Northbrook, Illinois. It made one hell of an impression on me, this very cool film with the coolest movie stars of the day, full of humor and gun battles, more humor, and an ending that wasn’t like anything Big Hollywood Movies had been delivering up to that point. I mean, you don’t kill off Paul Newman and Robert Redford! So yes, from an early age I was fascinated if not with the legend of Butch and the Kid, certainly with the movie, which most of us didn’t question in terms of veracity. We knew movies stretched the truth, and we weren’t concerned if it was real or not, because it was so cool. It wasn’t until I did research for my novel that I learned that the great William Goldman, screenwriter of BUTCH AND THE KID, had done his homework, and what he wrote was structurally true to history. My friends and I quoted lines from the movie ad infinitum, ad nauseum, and, at key life moments, you can still hear me crack wise with “I can’t help you, Sundance.”

The movie is the reason the world knows about Butch and Sundance. There was no coverage of their supposed deaths, as it happened far away, in South America. The letters and documents from Bolivia in 1908 about the deaths of the Yankee robbers did not name them. Also, I read somewhere that their deaths were not reported in the United States until the mid 1930s, so it makes sense that...[read on]
Learn more about the book and author at David Fuller's website and blog.

The Page 69 Test: Sweetsmoke.

The Page 69 Test: Sundance.

Writers Read: David Fuller.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, June 2, 2014

Ronlyn Domingue

Ronlyn Domingue is the author of The Mercy of Thin Air, The Mapmaker's War and The Chronicle of Secret Riven.

From the author's Q & A at The Nervous Breakdown:

You’re writing a trilogy which can be read “out of order.” How did that happen?

I didn’t intend to write a trilogy at all. I expected my second book to be one huge sprawling novel, but it morphed into something even bigger. A subplot about a female mapmaker, exiled for treason, took on a life of its own and became the trilogy’s first book, The Mapmaker’s War. The rest of the story grew so much that it split into two.

The second book, The Chronicle of Secret Riven, takes place 1,000 years after Aoife (pronounced ee-fah), the mapmaker, died. There’s a connection between Aoife and Secret which a discerning reader will be able to detect. In Book 3, the pieces will come together, but that novel is meant to stand on its own as much as the others.

In the world of this story, Secret Riven isn’t like most children and her parents aren’t like most people. What do you have to say about this remarkable family?

Secret doesn’t speak until she’s seven years old, but when she’s four, she discovers she can communicate with creatures and plants. She’s able to translate the language, so to speak, through an understanding of emotions and images. It’s a gift that causes both comfort and pain.

Her mother, Zavet, was born in a remote village and had no formal education as a child. However, she can speak, read, and write every human language, ancient or modern. She works as a freelance translator in a world in which women are typically wives, mothers, shop clerks, and secretaries.

Bren Riven, her father, is the son of a chimneysweep. Bright and amiable, he was able to...[read on]
Learn more about the book and author at Ronlyn Domingue's website, Facebook page, and Twitter perch.

The Page 69 Test: The Mapmaker's War.

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

Writers Read: Ronlyn Domingue.

The Page 69 Test: The Chronicle of Secret Riven.

--Marshal Zeringue