Friday, October 31, 2014

Ed Stafford

After setting a world record by walking the length of the Amazon River, adventurer Ed Stafford's (Walking the Amazon) next challenge stranded him--naked, and without tools and weapons--on Olorua, a remote Fiji island, for 60 days armed with only cameras to document his stay for the Discovery Channel. His book is Naked and Marooned: One Man. One Island.

From his Q & A with Mark Frauenfelder for Boing Boing:

You were formerly in the British military, and I think you specialized in survival skills. Did you have to learn any special survival skills to go on this island, or did you kind of purposely avoid that so you could figure out how to improvise?

The mistake a lot of people thought was that I was a survival expert. I'm not. I came out of the military and went into a job leading expeditions, but expeditions and survival are completely different things. One, I've got a rucksack full of equipment, and food, and a lighter to light a fire with, and all of the kit that I need in order to run an expedition, whereas this 60-day [inaudible] on an island actually had me completely outside my comfort zone. I deliberately stripped away all of the things that would make my life easy, like help from other people, and equipment, and food, and water, and a knife, and everything that I would normally rely on.

That's why, for me, it was interesting. That's why I did the project because it wasn't going in there with a mosquito net, and a knife, and a bag of rice, and bits and bobs like that. Of course, there's no challenge there. Of course you could survive. It then does become that paradise island, and you get preoccupied with not getting bored. But to start from scratch, to actually trying to create an existence for yourself, and try to advance in terms of involving your comfort, that was, to me, as a massive challenge.

Therefore, I did have to learn new skills. When I walked the Amazon two and half years, I didn't know how to light a fire with two pieces of wood, rubbing them together, because I used a lighter, but I had to learn how to do that. I learned how to...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Katherine Howe

Katherine Howe was born in Houston, Texas, and holds degrees in art history and philosophy from Columbia and in American and New England Studies from Boston University. She is the New York Times bestselling author of the novels The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane, The House of Velvet and Glass, and the young-adult novel Conversion, a modern-day retelling of The Crucible set in a Massachusetts prep school.

Howe is the editor of The Penguin Book of Witches, a primary-source reader about witches and witch-hunting ranging from the medieval period into the early eighteenth century.

From her Q & A with Jia Tolentino for Jezebel:

Are there any big misconceptions about witchcraft in America?

We have this idea that witches were burned at the stake. That's a common misconception. Witches were burned at the stake on the Continent in Spain and France and Germany, but that's because witchcraft there was an ecclesiastical crime. We did not have separate ecclesiastic courts, and here, witchcrafts were a felony, punishable like any other felony: like murder. No witch was ever burned at the stake in North America or England.

You write about Salem as not an anomaly or an aberrant expression but an ultimate expression of attitudes that were (are?) in North America surrounding witchcraft. A threat of what we could still become. Do you see witch trials around today?

Yes is the short answer, but I'll have to think about ways to make it more nuanced. Of course I can't neglect to mention that witchcraft has become a modern religion, a very 20th-century one, founded in the '30s. And Wicca expresses a strong solidarity with people who have been accused in the past; the women's movement made it a way for people to experience a more woman-centered spiritual practice.

But broadly speaking, I think that the questions about gender performance and power are still very much on the lives of women as we try to find our way in the world. I think that for a lot of us we feel very keenly the tension between...[read on]
Learn more about the book and author at Katherine Howe's website.

The Page 69 Test: The House of Velvet and Glass.

My Book, The Movie: The House of Velvet and Glass.

Writers Read: Katherine Howe (February 2013).

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Sophie Littlefield

Sophie Littlefield's new novel is The Missing Place.

From her Q & A at My Bookish Ways:

Will you tell us more about The Missing Place and what inspired you to write it?

I was inspired by an article in People magazine several years back that depicted the harsh and lonely living conditions of oil rig workers in modern-day boom towns. I was fascinated that people were being drawn by the promise of high salaries from all over the country, that they were leaving behind families and spouses and the homes they’d lived in, sometimes for their whole lives, to take a gamble on a better life in the future. I wanted to see first-hand the trade-offs they had made and how they endured the isolation and hard physical labor. It seemed like a very human story of sacrifice and hope. I had a feeling that if I spent some time there, a story would come to me—and that is exactly what happened.

What kind of research did you do for the book?

In addition to reading all the articles and watching all the news items about the oil boom that I could find, I traveled to North Dakota in the dead of winter and slogged around town in the middle of a snowstorm to learn all I could about what it was like to live and work there. I got permission to stay in a “man camp,” the temporary housing provided by oil companies for their workers, and shared meals and conversation (and a bathroom!) with rig hands. I pored over maps and demographic statistics so that...[read on]
Learn more about the book and author at Sophie Littlefield's website and blog.

The Page 69 Test: A Bad Day for Sorry.

The Page 69 Test: A Bad Day for Pretty.

My Book, The Movie: A Bad Day for Pretty.

The Page 69 Test: Aftertime.

My Book, The Movie: Aftertime.

The Page 69 Test: Garden of Stones.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Meghan Daum

Meghan Daum's new collection of essays is The Unspeakable: And Other Subjects of Discussion.

From her Q & A with Cressida Leyshon in The New Yorker:

[Y]our new collection, “The Unspeakable,” ... will be published in November. The pieces range from an account of your mother’s death from gallbladder cancer to your identification with lesbians (while realizing that you remain irredeemably heterosexual) to your deep love for your dog and your experience with a life-threatening illness. When do you know you have the material for an essay? What’s it like to return to those moments in your life?

I never sit down to write anything personal unless I know the subject is going to go beyond my own experience and address something larger and more universal. To me, having “material” for an essay means not only having something to write about but also having something interesting and original to say about whatever that might be. I’ve learned over the years that being interested in a particular subject or story does not guarantee you’ll have anything worthwhile to say about it. I can’t tell you how often I’ll sit down to write a column about something that seems incredibly compelling to me, only to realize that I don’t actually have anything new to add and therefore need to find another topic. All of the pieces in the book came out of a process of chewing on the subject matter until I felt confident that I’d be able to work out some kind of unexpected twist or turn in the narrative. I wasn’t going to just write about my mother dying or my dog dying or me getting sick and almost dying. I wanted to offer readers some fresh or provocative interpretations of those events. That’s why those essays aren’t really about death or illness as much as they’re about the scripts we’re told we’re supposed to follow around such circumstances. Ultimately, the book is about not being able to get with the program. It’s about the cognitive and emotional dissonance that arises when we don’t have “appropriate” emotions and reactions—for instance, when we fear that we don’t love our parents enough or we wonder if...[read on]
Visit Meghan's official website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, October 27, 2014

William Gibson

William Gibson's latest book is The Peripheral.

From his Q & A with Tasneem Raja for Mother Jones:

MJ: In geek culture, everyone is talking about how badly women are portrayed, but your books have always had strong female characters.

WG: I usually wind up with a male lead and a female lead, but not necessarily in the Hollywood style. They'll interact; it may not be romantically. I think what happened, in the '70s I was sort of looking for a viable art form. I looked at science fiction, and I was really disappointed with most of it compared to the science fiction that had wowed me as a kid in the '60s. It felt kind of like Nashville country, like I had grown up on Texas swing and now I'm getting this awful synthetic.

But the one area that worked for me was the feminist science fiction of the '70s: Ursula Le Guin, Joanna Russ, Alice Sheldon, who wrote as James Tiptree. Everyone should read Octavia Butler—you get not only great feminist science fiction, but great black American science fiction. They're all very strong voices, and kind of unlikely voices, considering the extent to which science fiction had traditionally been a very male modality. Mary Shelley may well have invented science fiction. I think she did! [Laughs.] But after that it seemed to be a boys' game, and boys were assumed to be the demographic.

MJ: Sci-fi movie fans swear that without Neuromancer, there would have been no Matrix, no Tron, no Ghost in the Shell. Why haven't we ever seen a Neuromancer movie?

WG: Well, I'm...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Laura Benedict

Laura Benedict’s latest dark suspense novel is Bliss House, praised as “Eerie, seductive, and suspenseful,” by Edgar award-winning author, Meg Gardiner. Benedict is also the author of Devil's Oven, a modern Frankenstein tale, and Calling Mr. Lonely Hearts and Isabella Moon.

From her Q & A with J.T. Ellison:

What’s your latest book about?

BLISS HOUSE tells the story of Rainey Bliss Adams, who has brought her daughter, Ariel, to live in the Bliss ancestral home in Old Gate, Virginia. While at first the house seems to help Ariel heal from the tragic accident that badly burned her and killed her father, it begins to reveal its true nature and horrific past after Ariel witnesses a spectral scene that results in a very real dead body in Bliss House’s grand front hall. The house has secrets that it—and the residents of Old Gate—are reluctant to reveal. But only their revelations will save Rainey and Ariel.

Where do you write, and what tools do you use?

I can’t bear to be tied to my desk all day. It’s one of the reasons I left the corporate world and never looked back. I compose fiction on my laptop, for the most part, and usually park myself on the couch or even in bed (I know. It’s totally decadent!) after everyone is gone from the house in the morning. But I edit my fiction and type blogs, interviews, research questions, etc. on...[read on]
Visit Laura Benedict's website and blog.

The Page 69 Test: Bliss House.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, October 24, 2014

Bryan Stevenson

Bryan Stevenson is the author of Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption.

From his interview with Terry Gross:

GROSS: One of the cases that you write about is about one of the children who you represented. He was, I think, 13. And he was in prison for having shot his mother's boyfriend after he witnessed the mother's boyfriend abusing her, and she ended up unconscious and bleeding. And the son wasn't even sure if she was alive. She was kind of out cold for about 20 minutes, bleeding profusely, and I don't know whose gun it was that the boy used?

STEVENSON: It was the boyfriend - the mother's boyfriend's gun that he had hidden away in a dresser drawer.

GROSS: So the boy took the gun, shot and killed the mother's boyfriend. So he's in prison. You're trying to represent him. And you go to visit him, he's uncommunicative. And he finally just kind of breaks down crying and tells you what's been happening to him in prison, which was...

STEVENSON: Yeah, it's one of the real tragedies that we continue to tolerate in this country. I went to the jail and there's this little kid, he's 14 and he's just tiny and he won't say a word. And after 20 minutes of trying to get them to talk to me, I finally went around and got close to him, I said look you got to talk to me. I can't help you if you don't talk to me. And at one point, I leaned on him and I put my arm around him and when I did that he just collapsed into me. And he started crying hysterically, and began telling me nothing about his mom, nothing about the man, but he started talking to me about the jail.

He told me on the first night that he had been there, he'd been hurt by several men and then he told me on the next night he'd been sexually assaulted by several people. And then he told me on the night before I'd gotten there, so many people had hurt him and sexually assaulted him, he couldn't remember how many there had been. You know, and I held that little boy while he cried hysterically for almost an hour and when I left the jail, I couldn't help but think who is responsible for this? And I realized we are. We are a society that has allowed our fear and our anger - we've allowed these false narratives about children being super predators and other such nonsense - to create policies where we are putting children in peril. And I just - I really was never the same after that. We got that little boy out of there and we ultimately got a good outcome for him. But it's, again, one of the ways in which this disconnect has made us a less fair, less just society.

GROSS: What was the outcome that you got because it's not like he was innocent of shooting and killing a man? Doesn't mean he should have...[read on, or listen to the interview]
--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Wendy Davis

Wendy Davis is the Democratic candidate for governor of Texas and author of a new memoir, Forgetting to Be Afraid.

From her Q & A with Caitlin Moscatello at Glamour:

Glamour: You describe your childhood in so much detail—your mom's depression, your parents twice divorcing, financial hardship. And then of course being a young, single mom. How did toughing it out through these hard times shape you as a politician?

Wendy Davis: When my parents divorced the second time, we went from being a very stable family that sat down to dinner at the table at 6 o'clock at night to one with a mom who worked nights and weekends and wasn't able to financially support us in the way that she would have liked. My mom had only a ninth-grade education. And we all had to go to work really young to help her out. I started working when I was 14. And when I became a single mom.... I felt like I was stuck, and I was afraid I was going to be stuck in the very same place that I saw my mother be stuck. And it wasn't until one of my coworkers brought in a brochure to our community college that I began to even think about a path forward. It was hard. I worked a full-time job, I worked a part-time job, and I went to college, while I was raising my daughter as a single mom. But I knew if I didn't put my foot forward on that path, we were going to stay stuck, and the fact that I was able to do it, I hope creates for people who are struggling with some of the same situations in their lives, hope that they too can do it.

Glamour: Earlier this year, parts of your personal story were challenged—specifically, how you paid for law school. Were you surprised that the issue was questioned?

WD: I was disappointed that it was. But, you know, my story is my story. And I know how I was able to achieve the things I achieved. I know, and have always recognized and given credit to many people who helped me along the way, most important of which was my ex-husband Jeff Davis. He was my mentor. He was an incredible support to me in many ways. Together, we created two beautiful, wonderful daughters who are happy and successful. He is...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Lynn Cullen

Lynn Cullen is the author of Reign of Madness, a 2011 Best of the South selection by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and 2012 Townsend Prize finalist, and The Creation of Eve, named among the best fiction books of 2010 by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and an Indie Next selection. She is also the author of numerous award-winning books for children, including the young adult novel I Am Rembrandt’s Daughter, which was a 2007 Barnes & Noble “Discover Great New Writers” selection and an ALA Best Book of 2008.

Cullen's latest novel is Mrs. Poe.

From the author's Q & A with Stephanie Hopkins at Layered Pages:

Stephanie: Hello Lynn! It truly is a pleasure chatting with you today! I really enjoyed your story, Mrs. Poe. What do your cast of characters have in common?

Lynn: Thank you so very much for inviting me to your blog. I’m thrilled for a chance to chat with you—and I’m so glad that you liked Mrs. Poe! H’m, interesting first question. I’d say that what the characters have the most in common is that they all want something they can’t have. To me, one of the most fascinating things about being human is our constant craving for that which is just out of reach. Why do we always want what we can’t have? Not even the Garden of Eden was good enough for Eve. Poe and Frances Osgood were great vehicles through which to explore this common human drive for something more. They wanted fame, fortune, and great love, and it was just beyond their fingertips.

Stephanie: What fascinates you about Frances Osgood?

Lynn: I am bowled over that Frances Osgood tried to support herself and her two daughters with her poetry after her husband left her. She tried to do this in 1845, when only two or three women writers in the U.S. made enough money to live on—and they were newspaper columnists, not poets. Not even Poe was earning enough to live comfortably on his stories and poems. By the way, I learned that Poe was the first American writer to try to support himself solely with his fiction. Previous writers had inherited money, married well, or had other jobs or professions. Frankly, it didn’t work out very well for him. He was reduced to constantly begging for loans from friends and business associates. But back to Frances Osgood: I appreciate how she...[read on]
Visit Lynn Cullen's website.

My Book, The Movie: Mrs. Poe.

The Page 69 Test: Mrs. Poe.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Lisa O’Donnell

Lisa O'Donnell won the Orange Screenwriting Prize in 2000 for The Wedding Gift and, in the same year, was nominated for the Dennis Potter New Screenwriters Award. Her debut novel, The Death of Bees, was the winner of the 2013 Commonwealth Book Prize.

O'Donnell's latest novel is Closed Doors.

From her Q & A at Curtis Brown Creative:

You were a screenwriter for many years. At one point did you decide you wanted to be a novelist?

I was a screenwriter largely working in television. I worked for the BBC and I wrote for Hollyoaks for a while. I enjoyed that experience – storyboarding, working with other people. I didn’t really give up screenwriting, there just weren’t any jobs; so I turned to novel-writing. But even when I wrote my first book and started writing the first lines of the prologue, ‘Today is Christmas Eve. Today is my birthday. Today I am fifteen. Today I buried my parents in the backyard. Neither of them were beloved’, I wasn’t sure whether these words would lead me to write another speculative script or a novel. I decided to write a novel in the end, but I must admit I was a little...[read on]
Learn more about the book and author at Lisa O'Donnell's website.

Writers Read: Lisa O'Donnell.

The Page 69 Test: Closed Doors.

My Book, The Movie: Closed Doors.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, October 20, 2014

Adrienne Mayor

Adrienne Mayor is a research scholar in Classics and History of Science at Stanford University; her book The Poison King, a biography of Mithradates, was National Book Award nonfiction finalist in 2009.

Mayor's latest book is The Amazons: Lives and Legends of Warrior Women across the Ancient World.

From her Q & A at the Princeton University Press website:

What was the most interesting thing you learned from writing this book?

Thanks to modern DNA testing, we now know that a significant number of battle-scarred skeletons buried with weapons in ancient steppe nomad graves belonged to women, the real-life models for Greek myths about Amazons. So Amazons were not just a figment of the Greek imagination, brought to life in exciting myths only to be killed off by Greek heroes. But even more surprising, it turns out that the Greeks were not the only people of antiquity to spin tales about heroic warrior women. And the non-Greek stories of warlike women differ radically from the dark mythic script demanding death for all Amazons. Instead, legendary heroes of Persia, Egypt, and Asia were so impressed with the valor of their female foes that they desired the women as companions in love and war. We are used to thinking of Amazon myths in terms of violence against uppity women, but the ancient evidence also reveals a vision of...[read on]
Learn more about The Amazons at the Princeton University Press website.

The Page 99 Test: The Amazons.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Elizabeth Rosner

Elizabeth Rosner is the author of The Speed of Light, which has been translated into nine languages and was awarded the Harold U. Ribalow Prize administered by Hadassah Magazine and judged by Elie Wiesel. It was short-listed for France’s Prix Femina and the recipient of the Prix France Bleu Gironde. Rosner also received the 2002 Great Lakes Colleges New Writer’s Award for Fiction. Her second novel Blue Nude was named a 2006 Best Book by the San Francisco Chronicle. Her essays have been published by the New York Times Magazine, Elle, the Forward, Huffington Post, and many anthologies. She is a frequent book reviewer for the San Francisco Chronicle and the Los Angeles Review of Books.

Rosner's new novel is Electric City.

From her Q & A with Caroline Leavitt:

What sparked you to write this particular book? How was the process different from any of your other fine novels?

It may seem strange to say this, because my previous two novels are both quite autobiographical (and in fact I often refer to them as "emotionally autobiographical"), but the initial spark for ELECTRIC CITY happened when I realized that I hadn't yet written a novel about the place in which I grew up. At the age of sixteen, after graduating a year early from high school, I got a scholarship to study for a year in the Philippines, and I seized the opportunity to "get as far from home as I could without leaving the planet." (This is a line from one of my poems in GRAVITY called "Keeping Kosher in the Philippines.") The truth is, not writing about Schenectady, New York had a lot to do with having fled from there at a young age, with no desire to return.

And yet, in my late 40s, it occurred to me that I could finally look back at my hometown with a liberating mix of curiosity and forgiveness. Suddenly I became altogether fascinated by the place, discovering that it possessed many more layers of history and personality and cultural complexity than I had ever been able to recognize. I quickly found myself wanting to burrow into those strata as though in search of secret treasures. The process became profoundly research-driven at times, especially because I was incorporating historical figures into my work. This was certainly new for me, often more than a little intimidating. And yet as I had done while creating my previous novels, I also had to...[read on]
Visit Elizabeth Rosner's website.

The Page 69 Test: Electric City.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Val McDermid

Val McDermid, the Scottish crime writer of more than 30 novels, has written a nonfiction book on the history of forensic science, Forensics: The Anatomy of a Crime.

From her Q & A about the book with Linda Geddes for NewScientist, republished in Slate:

How has forensic science influenced your writing up until now?

It helps me to anchor my books in the real world. Everybody knows crimes don't get solved the way we write about them in crime fiction; it's not one grumpy inspector and a sergeant buying the pints. But anything I can do to bolster your suspension of disbelief is valuable. If I tell you the truth about the science, it helps make you think I must be telling the truth about all the stuff I'm making up.

Where do your story ideas come from?

It's things that make me go “wow.” For instance, I once rang up the forensic anthropologist Sue Black at the University of Dundee because I wanted to know what your tattoos would look like if you'd been submerged in a bog for 200 years. She said that when you get a tattoo, the nearest lymph nodes take up the ink. It occurred to me that if the tattoo was made after death, there wouldn't be any staining on the lymph nodes: I had a starting point for...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, October 17, 2014

Lena Dunham

Lena Dunham, who created and stars in Girls, is the author of a collection of personal essays called Not That Kind of Girl.

From her interview with Terry Gross:

GROSS: Some people think that you over share (laughter). And I'm wondering because you do share so much, like, in your memoir and there's so much personal stuff in "Girls," whether it really happened to you or not, whether it's autobiographical or not, a lot of people just assume that it is. So have you ever made anything public that was very personal through your work or through your interviews that you later regretted saying?

DUNHAM: You know, I've thought about this a lot because it's a - it's a challenging thing when you're a person who has a desire, or let's say a compulsion, to share facts about your personal life. If that's the way you process the world is to make creative content based on your personal life, then you have to be really careful about making yourself feel too exposed. But for me the biggest concern is my family and the people that I love. And I feel very, very conscious of making sure that my parents, my boyfriend, my friends don't feel in any way demeaned, exposed or abused by the work that I make. Especially now, there's no writing about someone anonymously. People will pick it apart, they will figure out who that person is. There's sort of no sort of protective measures you can put in place at this point in history to take care of the people you love, so you have to be careful. And so there've been a couple times where I've said things about my parents or about my boyfriend...[read on, or listen to the interview]
--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Rebecca Makkai

Rebecca Makkai is a Chicago-based writer whose first novel, The Borrower, is a Booklist Top Ten Debut, an Indie Next pick, an O Magazine selection, and one of Chicago Magazine's choices for best fiction of 2011. Her short fiction has been chosen for The Best American Short Stories for four consecutive years (2011, 2010, 2009 and 2008), and appears regularly in journals like Harper's, Tin House, Ploughshares, and New England Review.

Makkai's new novel is The Hundred-Year House.

From her Q & A with Claire Zulkey:

The Hundred-Year House was originally titled "Happensack": what were the origins of the first title, and why/how did it change?

The Happensack is the name of the mosaic someone is making in the 1999 section of the book, and it's a crucial piece symbolically as well as plot-wise. (The word "happensack" came from a character's mangling of the word "happenstance" - and so it was also a way of getting the idea of luck into the book's name.) There were two problems with that title: It didn't evoke anything for the prospective reader; and, as my husband finally pointed out, it kind of sounded like some weird slang word for testicles. I really did like it, though. That's still the book's secret name.

What were some of your favorite 1955 artifacts from your research for the book?

A fellow writer told me I should get the Sears catalogues off eBay for any year I was writing about. I found both the 1955 and 1929 ones, and they were both invaluable. 1955 was especially helpful on Paint by Number sets and clothes. I also found an amazing postcard of...[read on]
Learn more about the author and her work at Rebecca Makkai's website, Facebook page and Twitter perch.

My Book, The Movie: The Borrower.

The Page 69 Test: The Hundred-Year House.

My Book, The Movie: The Hundred-Year House.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Sandeep Jauhar

Sandeep Jauhar was a Ph.D. student in physics at Berkeley when a girlfriend’s incurable illness made him yearn for a profession where he could affect people’s lives directly. Once situated at a New York teaching hospital, Jauhar wrestled with his decision to go into medicine and discovered a gradual but deepening disillusionment with his induction into the profession. Jauhar’s conception of doctoring and medicine changed during those first eighteen months as he asked all the hard questions about medicine today that laypeople are asking—and reached satisfying and often surprising conclusions about the human side of modern medicine. Today he is a thriving cardiologist and the director of the Heart Failure Program at Long Island Jewish Medical Center. He writes regularly for the New York Times. He lives with his wife and their son and daughter on Long Island.

Jauhar's new book is Doctored: The Disillusionment of an American Physician.

From his Q & A with Evi Heilbrunn at U.S. News & World Report:

In the book, you talk a lot about the business culture of American medicine. What does that mean for physicians today?

"Medicine is a field about caring for other people, so most people go into medicine either because they are fascinated by human physiology either/or because they want to care for people. I don’t believe that people go into medicine to get rich so it's a rude awakening when you have to start thinking about money. [Now] you have to think about the bottom line. It's about attaining a certain base income. Doctors have to start thinking about business things and if you don't want to think about it, you’re constantly reminded. You’re constantly being measured by how many RVUs [relative value units] you're bringing in, so even if you're on the academic side, the employer is reminding you [about money]. That kind of commercial consciousness is invading the profession."

Do you see this knowledge trickling down into medical training?

“When I was a third year resident, I...[read on]
Learn more about the author and his work at Sandeep Jauhar's website.

The Page 69 Test: Intern: A Doctor’s Initiation.

The Page 99 Test: Doctored.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

David Mitchell

David Mitchell's new novel is The Bone Clocks.

From his Q & A with Scott Timberg at Salon:

Interesting. There’s a fair bit of science in your work. There’s a bit of religion. There’s a bit of myth and folklore. There’s sometimes what seems like spirituality, especially in the new book. It makes me think of an Arthur Clarke line where he said any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic. I wonder if that phrase ever crossed your mind while you were working on this book. Is it science we’re seeing here? Is it religion? Is it myth? What is it you’re doing exactly?

It is a great line. I do remember thinking ‘You can’t get involved in the particle physics of fantasy.’ You can take it down to a certain level but if you get too involved in the particle physics then it’s not [useful] to continue. So I guess we have a branch of science that even its practitioners do not understand, that they may as well call magic. But that does have its own laws, like the laws of thermodynamics, like the laws of science, it’s just — I guess I know what those laws are but they never have to be stated in the book. So I try to keep character as part of the Venn diagram, with science and magic, and then in the middle they intersect.

We’ve heard over the years about your influences from other writers, from Japanese novelists to Ursula Le Guin to others; I wonder if film has been an importance influence on your writing, especially for “The Bone Clocks.”

I think film has been an importance influence on any novelist born from the 1940s onwards. It sort of altered how novelists edit things and it’s altered how we do dialogue. Something like “Game of Thrones” is...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, October 13, 2014

Karen Abbott

Karen Abbott's latest book is Liar, Temptress, Soldier, Spy: Four Women Undercover in the Civil War.

From her Q & A with Alexis Coe at The Toast:

Tell me about the four women of Liar, Temptress, Soldier, Spy. How did you choose them?

When the war begins, Belle Boyd is 17 years old, a Confederate girl living in the Shenandoah Valley, Virginia. After Northern soldiers occupy her town and one of them threatens to raise a Union flag over her home, she responds by fatally shooting him—how could I resist? Belle goes on to become a courier and spy for the rebel army. She was all id, with absolutely no filter or conscience. She was also incredibly overt—with both her opinions and her sexuality—for her age and for the time. If Sarah Palin and Miley Cyrus had a 19th century baby, it would’ve been Belle Boyd (although she was much smarter than either of them.)

Emma Edmonds, in the spring of 1861, enlists in the Union army as a man, calling herself Frank Thompson. She was one of about 400 women who disguised themselves as men during the war, and it was fascinating to research how they got away with this—mainly because no one had any idea what a woman would look like wearing pants; the very idea was unfathomable to them. Emma worked as a nurse and courier, witnessing the bloodiest battles of the war, and eventually becomes a Union spy. She worries constantly about her gender being discovered, especially when she falls in love with a fellow Union soldier.

Rose O’Neal Greenhow was a grand dame of Washington DC society, and her entire life...[read on]
Visit Karen Abbott's website.

The Page 69 Test: Sin in the Second City.

The Page 99 Test: American Rose.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Paula Brackston

Paula Brackston is the author of a travel book, The Dragon's Trail and the novels The Midnight Witch, The Witch's Daughter, and The Winter Witch. She has an MA in Creative Writing from Lancaster University in the UK, and her autobiographical writing has been published in several anthologies.

From her Q & A at The Lit Bitch:

The Lit Bitch: What was your original idea for the witch books and how did it first develop? Did you have an idea or an outline for The Midnight Witch before you started writing it? Did the direction change once you sat down to being working on it?

Paula Brackston: It all started with Elizabeth Hawksmith. I didn’t set out to write ‘witchy books’. I wanted to write historical fiction, and my research led me to look at witchcraft in the seventeenth century. I began to ask myself, what if some of those women accused of witchcraft were actually real witches?

As for The Midnight Witch, I had a hankering for a glamorous setting this time, and a wealthy protagonist. We are accustomed to the idea of women being victims in history because they often had so little power, even over their own lives. This time I wrote a woman who, on the face of it, had everything: privilege, wealth, a title, beauty, a powerful family. I wondered what sort of witch such a woman would make. What obstacles and conflicts might she face?

I do...[read on]
Visit Paula Brackston's website.

Writers Read: Paula Brackston (February 2013).

Coffee with a Canine: Paula Brackston & Bluebell.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, October 10, 2014

Hank Phillippi Ryan

From the book jacket of Hank Phillippi Ryan’s latest novel, Truth Be Told:

While digging up the facts on a heartbreaking story about a middle-class family evicted from their suburban home—and on other foreclosures—reporter Jane Ryland soon learns the truth behind a big-bucks scheme and the surprising players who will stop at nothing, including murder, to keep their goal a secret. Turns out, there's more than one way to rob a bank.
From the author's Q & A at Writers Who Kill:
Jane Ryland, your main character, and her cameraman, TJ Foy, are covering a story about an eviction. They attend the clearing of a house by police when it becomes obvious they have found something nefarious in the house. Is it typical that one story leads to another?

HANK: TRUTH BE TOLD did come from an actual story! My photographer and I were covering an eviction, lots of deputies and lots of commotion and lots of trash in the front yard. It was incredibly sad. Unlike Jane in the book, I did not know who owned the home. We were just getting video for a story I was working on about mortgage fraud.

At one point a deputy came to the front door, I saw his silhouette outlined in the door frame. His whole body sagged, his shoulders, his head. So telling and so emotional. And I wondered… What if he just found a body in a back room?

Remember the deputies had been there for hours, cleaning out the house. And I thought—as a crime fiction author, of course: law-enforcement officers themselves have been inside that house, touching everything and moving everything around. What if they have ruined a crime scene? What if the cops ruined their own crime scene!

And the more I thought about it, the more I thought...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Dylan Landis

Dylan Landis is the author of a debut novel, Rainey Royal, and a linked story collection, Normal People Don't Live Like This. Her work has appeared in the O. Henry Prize Stories 2014, the New York Times, Tin House, BOMB and elsewhere. She lives in New York.

From her Q & A with Jennifer Smeth at Book-alicious Mama:

In your first book, Normal People Don’t Live Like This, we see the characters Rainey and Leah. What made you decide to continue on with these characters in Rainey Royal, and make a whole book dedicated to Rainey?

Rainey appears in only the first two stories of Normal People Don’t Live Like This—in “Jazz,” her father’s best friend has pinned her to the ground in the dark, in Central Park, and in “Fire,” she’s a bully, and there’s a causal link, of course. And then she disappears from the book, because it’s really about Leah Levinson, who’s obsessed with science and stealing and fast girls, and whose mother is starving herself. Readers asked me, What happened to Rainey; will she get her own book? I found she was still alive to me.

If someone hasn’t read Normal People Don’t Live Like This, will they “miss” a connection with Rainey?

Rainey Royal builds on Normal People Don’t Live Like This, but it’s complete unto itself.

What was the inspiration for Rainey Royal?

Being teased, on the one hand, and being a bad girl myself on the other, and having a lifelong fascination with the tough girls. They always seemed to...[read on]
Visit Dylan Landis's website.

Writers Read: Dylan Landis (November 2009).

The Page 69 Test: Rainey Royal.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Zachary Lazar

Zachary Lazar is the author of the novels I Pity the Poor Immigrant and Sway, and the memoir Evening's Empire.

From his Q & A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: Why did you decide to include Meyer Lansky as one of the main characters in [I Pity the Poor Immigrant]?

A: My previous book, Evening’s Empire, was a nonfiction book about my father, who was murdered by two contract killers when I was six years old.

That story is very complicated, but it introduced me to the world of organized crime, and in particular the Jewish iteration of organized crime. I began to get more and more interested in the way Jewish gangsters have been represented.

They are often romanticized, or caricatured, in a way that obscures the reality of how violent they were. The idea of violent Jews is still surprising to people. Many Jews, at least American Jews, don't know how to process the information.

Since the book came out, I have met dozens of people who are eager to tell me that they had a relative who knew Meyer Lansky. It seems...[read on]
Learn more about I Pity the Poor Immigrant at the Little, Brown and Company website.

Lazar's novel Sway is on the list of forty-six essential rock reads.

My Book, The Movie: Sway and the Page 69 Test: Sway.

The Page 69 Test: Evening's Empire.

The Page 69 Test: I Pity the Poor Immigrant.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Kelli Stanley

Kelli Stanley is a critically-acclaimed, multiple award-winning author of crime fiction (novels and short stories). She makes her home in Dashiell Hammett’s San Francisco, a city she loves to write about.

Stanley is best known for the Miranda Corbie series of historical noir novels and short stories set in 1940 San Francisco. The first novel of the series, City of Dragons, introduced Miranda, the unforgettable protagonist Library Journal calls "one of crime’s most arresting heroines.”

City of Dragons won the Macavity Award for Best Historical Novel, and was nominated for the Los Angeles Times Book Prize, a Shamus Award, a Bruce Alexander Award and an RT Book Reviews Award, was a Mystery Guild selection of the month, and placed on many “best of the year” lists.

City of Secrets, the sequel to City of Dragons, was released by Thomas Dunne/Minotaur to great critical acclaim, was nominated for a number of awards and won the Golden Nugget for best mystery set in California.

Stanley's latest novel in the series is City of Ghosts.

From the author's Q & A with Daniel Ford for Writer's Bone:

DF: You’re best known for your Miranda Corbie series of historical noir novels and short stories set in 1940 San Francisco—which include City of Ghosts, City of Secrets, and City of Dragons. What drew you to noir and who were some of your early influences? What made you decide 1940s San Francisco as a setting?

KS: I’ve always been drawn to the period of American history from the 1920s through the end of the WWII. I’ve also always adored film noir. As a little girl, I could do a mean Jimmy Cagney impression! I must have been born with a noir gene. Not many people in my third grade class could figure out why I was writing a play about gangsters, spies, and an unfaithful, treacherous girlfriend.

My actual taste of literary noir didn’t come until I was an adult, however. I grew up reading Sherlock Holmes and Agatha Christie as a child (and Dame Agatha is far darker than many people think).

Raymond Chandler was my first real writing teacher. I devoured everything he wrote, and realized style, as he once said (and I paraphrase) is all a writer really has to call her own, so you need to develop it, hone it, and protect it. Hammett followed—to him, I owe the importance of existential, tough-as-nails realism, the moral force of class warfare, and the beauty of...[read on]
Learn more about the novel and author at Kelli Stanley's website.

Coffee with a Canine: Kelli Stanley & Bertie.

The Page 69 Test: City of Dragons.

The Page 69 Test: City of Secrets.

The Page 69 Test: City of Ghosts.

My Book, The Movie: City of Ghosts.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, October 6, 2014

Maureen Corrigan

Maureen Corrigan’s new book, So We Read On: How The Great Gatsby Came to Be and Why It Endures, takes its title from the last line of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby.

From Corrigan's Q & A with Laurie Hertzel for the Star Tribune:

Q: You call “Gatsby” the “one great American novel we think we’ve read but probably haven’t.” What do you mean?

A: We usually read “Gatsby” in high school when we’re too young to understand the regret and sense of loss that pervades the novel. Every character in “Gatsby” is stretching out his or her arms for someone or something eternally out of reach.

Gatsby stretches out his arms for Daisy (symbolized by that much-discussed green light at the end of her dock). Nick is reaching for his friend Gatsby, who’s dead at the beginning of this retrospective novel; Myrtle is reaching for Tom; Wilson is reaching for Myrtle, and on and on.

I think, as high school readers, we tend to be less alert to all this frustrated yearning and, instead, focus on the giddy exuberance of Gatsby’s parties and the obsessiveness of Gatsby’s love for Daisy.

We read the novel as a tragic romance rather than as a profound commentary on...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Jodi Picoult

Jodi Picoult's newest novel is Leaving Time.

From her Q & A with Caroline Leavitt:

I always have to ask, what sparked this particular novel?

JP: I have three kids, and my daughter – my youngest – was getting ready to go to college, which meant I’d be an empty nester. It was daunting, to say the least. Then I read a fact: In the wild, an elephant mother and daughter stay together until one of them dies. I thought, How enlightened! Why can’t we be like that!? I began to do a little digging on elephants, and learned how advanced their cognition is. And when I discovered that they actually grieve and experience and process loss, I was completely hooked, and knew I would be writing about what it meant to be left behind…and also that I had my profession for the character of Alice.

I know you actually worked with the elephants at an elephant sanctuary in Tennessee. Did you have any preconceived ideas that were changed by your experience? What surprised you the most?

JP: I was privileged to spend time at The Elephant Sanctuary – and I really do mean that, because the whole point of the sanctuary is that their elephants are no longer on display but in a lovely retirement setting. Since this was my first experience with elephants I didn’t have many preconceived notions, but I was...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, October 3, 2014

Laird Hunt

Laird Hunt is the award-winning author of a book of short stories, mock parables and histories, The Paris Stories (2000), and five novels from Coffee House Press: The Impossibly (2001), Indiana, Indiana (2003), The Exquisite (2006) Ray of the Star (2009) and Kind One (2012), which was a finalist for both the 2013 Pen/Faulkner award and the 2013 Pen USA Literary Award in Fiction and the winner of a 2013 Anisfield-Wolf Book Award for Fiction.

Hunt's new novel is Neverhome.

From his Q & A with Simon McDonald at The Reading Room:

The narrator of Neverhome is Ash Thompson: a young woman who passes herself off as a man in order to go to war to defend the Republic. What was the inspiration for Ash, and her journey?

Hundreds of actual women did this during the American Civil War. I first learned about them when my wife gave me a copy of Sarah Rosetta Wakeman’s war letters. Wakeman disguised herself as a man and went to fight for the Union using the first name Lyons. That gift from my wife came 18 years ago, meaning it took me some 14 or 15 years to find my way to the first line of the novel and the story that poured out of it. There were so many reasons these women went to war and as I wrote (I do a good portion of my research as I am writing) I learned more and more about them. They went for adventure, patriotism, opportunity, love and other reasons. In many cases, we don’t know why they went, only that they were there. The character that came to me has her own very personal and complex reasons for going to war. A large part of the impetus for telling the story has to do with exploring those reasons and perhaps, simultaneously, shedding light on the multi-faceted humanity both of Ash and...[read on]
Visit Laird Hunt's website, Facebook page, and Twitter perch.

The Page 69 Test: Neverhome.

My Book, The Movie: Neverhome.

Writers Read: Laird Hunt.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, October 2, 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 with Ulrich Boser:

Why did you write this book?

I’ve been a lover of maps since a young age – something about looking at map immediately makes me excited about traveling and discovering new places. So when I first heard about Smiley’s case back in 2005 I was very intrigued by his story and this world of rare-map collectors it involves. In 2011, I was complaining to a journalist friend that I didn’t have any good story ideas, and she mentioned that Smiley had just been released from prison and I should try and interview him. As soon as I spoke to him, I knew that I had the subject for a fascinating book that would be part psychological profile of a thief, part history of mapmaking, and part investigation into this obscure subculture.

Why does it matter?

Maps have been incredibly important documents over the centuries — they have helped to discover new territories, define boundaries, establish trading empires, and win wars. And yet, most people don’t know a lot about them. Many of these historical maps exist in only a few copies safeguarded by rare-book libraries and other institutions and so when someone steals or defaces them, they are changing our understanding of history. The fact that it was a lover of and dealer in rare maps who was doing the stealing intrigued me and made me ask...[read on]
Visit Michael Blanding's website.

The Page 99 Test: The Map Thief.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Stephan Eirik Clark

Stephan Eirik Clark was born in West Germany and raised between England and the United States. He is the author of the short story collection Vladimir's Mustache. A former Fulbright Fellow to Ukraine, he teaches English at Augsburg College in Minneapolis. His recently released debut novel is Sweetness #9.

From Clark's Q & A with J. A. Bernstein for Fiction Writers Review:

Clearly your novel, like many of DeLillo’s, takes aim at a number of American institutions: corporatism, fast-food, suburbia, upward mobility, Reaganism, the Cold War, the military-industrial complex, self-improvement, weight loss, consumerism. Did you set out to target any of these things, or did they just fall into line?

All along, I knew I wanted to tell a big story—that of America in the 20th Century, that most American of time periods. So much in the country changed after World War II, and the books I admire most have tried to reflect that change, in whole or in part. What I didn’t want to do was tell this story in a way that readers had already seen, so I grew very excited when I discovered the world of flavor creation. It offered me so much that was unique and unexplored: a workplace that hadn’t yet been the setting of a work of fiction, industry-specific jargon and speech, and a whole range of metaphors and products through which I could discuss American life.

More than anything, I wanted this book to take on the processed food industry. As a satirist, I wanted my novel to serve as a kind of corrective to it, if only by asking readers to question what it is they’re eating. But the food industry doesn’t exist in a vacuum, so it’s what it reveals about American life that is...[read on]
Visit Stephan Eirik Clark's website.

My Book, The Movie: Sweetness #9.

The Page 69 Test: Sweetness #9.

--Marshal Zeringue