Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Tessa Arlen

Tessa Arlen, the daughter of a British diplomat, had lived in or visited her parents in Singapore, Cairo, Berlin, the Persian Gulf, Beijing, Delhi and Warsaw by the time she was sixteen. She came to the U.S. in 1980 and worked as an H.R. recruiter for the Los Angeles Olympic Organizing Committee for the 1984 Olympic Games, where she interviewed her future husband for a job. She lives in Bainbridge Island, Washington.

Arlen's new novel is Death of a Dishonorable Gentleman.

From her Q & A with LuAnn Braley:

What attracts you to the Edwardian Age?

The first decade of the 1900s was a completely different world from ours today, but it is extraordinarily accessible. My great-grandmother was Edwardian and I remember her quite clearly. She was in her late seventies when I was a little girl, always immaculately turned out and she was a stickler for little things like good manners, ‘being as quiet as a mouse’ and washing your hands (a lot!). Research for the era is rich in so many available sources so it is easy to be well informed about the time. I particularly appreciate that the age seemed to abound in eccentrics, people with strong characters and forceful personalities. Edwardians conformed to social convention very thoroughly, but were often flamboyant in their individuality. It was also an age of great change in...[read on]
Visit Tessa Arlen's website.

The Page 69 Test: Death of a Dishonorable Gentleman.

My Book, The Movie: Death of a Dishonorable Gentleman.

Coffee with a Canine: Tessa Arlen & Daphne.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, March 30, 2015

Lynn Chandler Willis

Lynn Chandler Willis has worked in the corporate world, the television news business, and the newspaper industry. She was born, raised, and continues to live in the heart of North Carolina within walking distance of her children and their spouses and her nine grandchildren. She shares her home, and heart, with Sam the cocker spaniel.

Willis's latest novel is Wink of an Eye.

From her Q & A with Susan Storer Clark at the Washington Independent Review of Books:

Wink of an Eye is about private eye Gypsy Moran, who has returned to his hometown of Wink, Texas. Wink is a real town in West Texas, with a population of less than 1,000. In the novel’s acknowledgements, you thank the people of Wink for welcoming you. Did they know your book would feature a corrupt sheriff, a couple of crooked deputies, and a ring of criminals kidnapping teenage girls? Can you tell us what their reaction was, or what you think it might be?

I discovered the Wink, Texas, Facebook page long after the book was written. I introduced myself and asked to join and told them about the book. We had some great conversations about what it was like to grow up in Wink. I'm from a very small town myself, so I understand completely the good and the bad. Most often, the good wins out. In Wink of an Eye, although he's been gone 20 years, when Gypsy's in trouble and his life is in danger, the first place he runs to is home —Wink, Texas. And in Gypsy's case, like many others, "home" is so much more than just a location. It's a living, breathing emotion. There are bad people, police corruption, and criminals doing horrible things everywhere — but the number of good people far outweighs the bad, and in Gypsy's mind...[read on]
Visit Lynn Chandler Willis's website.

My Book, The Movie: Wink of an Eye.

The Page 69 Test: Wink of an Eye.

Coffee with a Canine: Lynn Chandler Willis & Sam.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Adrienne Rich

Poet and essayist Adrienne Rich (1929-2012) was one of America’s foremost public intellectuals. Widely read and hugely influential, Rich’s career spanned seven decades and has hewed closely to the story of post-war American poetry itself.

From her 2001 Q & A with Magdalena Edwards, published at The Critical Flame:

Magdalena Edwards: How do you perceive the relationship between poetry and politics? Do you write “political poetry”?

Adrienne Rich: I have written a good deal in prose on this relationship (which I do not regard as static) particularly in my book What Is Found There: Notebooks on Poetry and Politics (1993). I was trying to confront the strange “American” belief that poetry and politics should exist in separate realms, that a politically engaged poetry must sacrifice aesthetic standards, and that the poet is socially irrelevant. I started the book at the beginning of the Gulf War and the decade of the so-called triumph of free enterprise, the so-called “end of history,” (especially revolutionary or socialist history). What I discerned in the U.S. was a convergence of poetic voices coming from many different rents in the social fabric, many cultures, many tributaries, which, together, make up the American poetry of the late twentieth century. I used a great many of these voices in the book, both poetry and prose, to suggest the power and vitality of this tradition.

I learned a great deal in writing that book, not least how without poetry’s presence in the social realm the society’s imaginative powers are diminished and shrunken; how much community and poetry have to do with each other. I’ve written on art and politics often since—notably in my forthcoming book of essays Arts of the Possible. I define “politics” in this sense as the on-going collective struggle for liberation and for the power to create—not only works of art, but also just and nonviolent social institutions. There is no way I can see that the poet can stand outside all that. How to make a poetry adequate to the crisis we’re now in, is...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Chuck Palahniuk

Coming soon from Chuck Palahniuk: Fight Club 2 – a serial graphic novel illustrated by Cameron Stewart and David Mack.

From the author's Q & A with Adam Linehan for Maxim:

When we last spoke you told me that Fight Club, the original, was very much a product of your circumstances at the time. Do you feel that way about the sequel?

Oh yeah. The sequel is so much about the protagonist getting away from medication and getting back to an aspect of himself that was the best part of him that he now has to suppress with all these prescription medications. Now that I’m taking Ambien and Ativan, Xanax - everything I can get my hands on just to kind of maintain my lifestyle and keep from going crazy - I kind of long for some way to leave all those things behind.

At the Comic Con announcement, you said that your biggest fear in diving back into Fight Club 2 was the “feverish ill-fed exhausting stint of writing.” Did that turn out to be the case?

No, not as much as I thought. Writing the script took a long time, about a year, but I’ve been able to go back as the illustrator does each issue. I can go back and revisit the issue and rewrite the script, as I want, so I can bring more ideas to it every time. So it hasn’t been a nightmare that way. In fact, collaborating with the illustrator and finding out the stuff he can depict that I don’t need to spell out in the script is a whole different way of working.

Are there any other advantages of working in the graphic novel medium?

The collaborative nature of it is...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, March 27, 2015

Denis Hayes

Denis Hayes is a globally recognized environmentalist, the national coordinator of the first Earth Day, and CEO of the Bullitt Foundation. Gail Boyer Hayes is a writer, editor, and former environmental lawyer who has authored books on solar energy and health issues.

Their new book is Cowed: The Hidden Impact of 93 Million Cows on America's Health, Economy, Politics, Culture, and Environment.

From Denis Hayes's Q & A with Tracy Fernandez Rysavy at Green American:

GA/Tracy: Let’s talk impacts. Our diets have a big impact on the environment and the climate. But your recommendation, surprisingly, was not to go vegetarian or vegan.

Denis: My wife and I admire vegetarians and vegans. We’ve been mostly vegetarian for decades. The more meat a diet contains, the greater its environmental impact, definitely including climate impact. But, according to a poll done for the Vegetarian Times, just 3.2 percent of American adults are vegetarian. I wish that number was ten times larger, but wishing won’t make it so.

Cowed is aimed at the other 97 percent. Unless we can significantly shift that vast majority who are still eating meat—often a lot of meat— we are not going to achieve enough environmental change fast enough to matter.

America has the third-highest beef consumption in the world (behind Argentina, and, of all places, Luxembourg.) The average American male eats 85 pounds of beef a year! And that beef is mostly marbled (a Madison Avenue word for fat) and is typically produced under inhumane conditions in CAFOs.

Someone who eats 85 pounds of beef—and remember that is merely the average for men—is not a prime candidate to go vegan. But if we can persuade those people to reduce their consumption from 1.6 pounds of bad beef every week to, say, one-half pound of good, healthy beef from the right sources, the benefits for human health and the environment will be profound.

Our goal with Cowed is to significantly reduce the amount of beef consumed overall while shifting people to healthier, organic, grass-fed and -finished beef. Because of the way federal subsidies for agribusiness operate...[read on]
Visit the Cowed website.

The Page 99 Test: Cowed.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Lindsay Hunter

Lindsay Hunter is the author of the story collections Don’t Kiss Me and Daddy’s. Originally from Florida, she now lives in Chicago with her husband, son, and two pit bulls.

Hunter's first novel is Ugly Girls.

From her Q & A with Luke Goebel for Electric Lit:

Luke Goebel: Alright! Hi, Lindsay Hunter. You wrote the book Ugly Girls (great title, by the way) and it’s a jaw rattler. I keep saying it used my heart as a rag. To clean what is the next question…the heart of the world? The heart of all of us? The holy secular heart? I mean there’s a lot to say on this one, and it’s BIG. FSG release. Kind of book everyone will want to read. Mass appeal, all that, killer speed book, craft out of the top of the head, with all the best prose anyone could want, plus the big story, mindblower, like at times I’m reading something written so good I think it’s As I Lay Dying only it’s 2014 or ’15 or ’16 and it’s Ugly Girls and it’s set in this trailer park – other times I’m clearly reading Lindsay Hunter and it’s still set in that trailer park— but it’s like one of those great books you read in school as a kid (though this one isn’t going to be taught in any kids’ schools anytime soon I doubt, not with some of these scenes!) and thought, HOW THE HELL DID THIS WRITER DO THIS? They must just be one of them [sic] magic writer people, one of them [sic] AUTHORS, who sit away in some lonely place of beauty to write this GOLD that just comes out of them, like, erupts, because they live the Earth into its being, and are geniuses, and all that… I’m trying to give you a compliment… say your book is killer… and with a difference from those old greats, because you do things they would have been shot if they wrote. Really. Killed.

SO… here’s the question, and it’s the ONE I think everyone wants to know when they read a book that rattles their jaws and makes the world seem at once familiar and strange, so the reader thinks “Maybe I don’t know myself, or life at all, maybe I can try again and do better this life.” Question being: HOW DID YOU DO IT?

Where did this novel come from? Who are these characters you found? Did you have help? Was there an editor? How did you write this? At what times of day? From what hilltop or plantation or moor or whatever wetlands? On what machine or by hand? Where did you figure out to have that quarry that is in the book? How did you find this novel inside you? Well… Hunter, will you tell us?

Lindsay Hunter: Luke, thank you so much for saying all of that. It is an enormous compliment coming from you!

I think I trusted that I had a novel-sized story to tell inside me, and then I just kept trusting that every single day. It was very hard at times and it haunts me to this day! Eventually, after years of doubts and self-hatred and all of it, a writer must come to a place where she can trust herself. Or give herself permission, at the very least, to write. So this novel is kind of the culmination of years and years of self-flagellating and wheels-spinning. Eventually I just decided to forge on into the abyss, or whatever that saying is. Is there a saying? I decided to trust the abyss.

You know, this is something I’m learning as a mother, now, too. I resist...[read on]
The Page 69 Test: Ugly Girls.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Nick Hornby

Nick Hornby's best-known books are the internationally bestselling novels High Fidelity, About A Boy, How To Be Good, A Long Way Down and Juliet, Naked. His non-fiction books include the football memoir Fever Pitch and The Complete Polysyllabic Spree, a collection of his essays on books and culture. He is also the author of Slam, which is vintage Hornby for teenagers.

Hornby's new novel is Funny Girl.

From his Februrary 2015 Q & A at Goodreads:

GR: [In Funny Girl] you have a central character in Sophie who's pointedly unhip about music. Tell me how you decided to make that an attribute of her character and what you feel it says about her.

NH: When I was thinking about the book, I decided for various reasons to set it in the 1960s. I wanted to try and avoid a straightforward swinging '60s theme, which I feel I've seen and read before. Also, the more I thought about it, I felt that to set the book in that world of BBC entertainment, the characters would be a bit squarer, which is different than we're used to thinking about characters in the 1960s. There was a quote, I think from a photographer at the time, "Swinging London was 200 people, and I knew all of them." Their myth has cast a shadow over the whole decade. But there were lots of people doing creative work who weren't aware of that scene, were right on the edge of it, and wouldn't actually feel the effects of it for years to come. Sophie comes from a different tradition, and the Beatles-y, Stones-y mod stuff was just starting as she was beginning to work, so she wouldn't necessarily have seen it coming.

GR: She's also very much her father's daughter.

NH: Right. She works hard, and she hangs out with people who would also be a bit mystified by it all.

GR: I loved the scene where her unquestioned appropriation of her father's politics is disabused. It felt like a major step forward for her from her life in Blackpool, which outside of your book is not a place I'd ever read about. As an American reader, I am tempted to find an equivalent American town.

NH: It'd have to be a fading seaside town that no one goes to anymore because they have more money, so I guess it'd be like an Asbury Park, except Blackpool, being in the north of England, is cold and wet pretty much all the time. It's sort of tragic that people ever went there for...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Martha Hodes

Martha Hodes's new book is Mourning Lincoln.

From her Q & A with Ruth Graham for the Boston Globe:

IDEAS: My impression had always been that there was pretty universal grief at Lincoln’s assassination. That clearly wasn’t the case. Were there certain reactions that particularly surprised you?

HODES: Not just grief on the part of the mourners, of which there was a great deal, but also anger—fury in fact. There were soldiers’ diaries where the men would write about wishing there was one more battle....They wanted to exterminate the enemy they were so angry....And then of course reading the responses of Confederates, the utter glee they expressed when they got the news of Lincoln’s assassination. They thanked the assassin, they praised God. It was clearly a reprieve from the horror of defeat, which they had just experienced.

IDEAS: How did black Americans in particular react to the news?

HODES: African-Americans, North and South, claimed that their loss was greater than the loss of Lincoln for white Americans. White mourners who noted that down did not dispute that fact. They understood that that was true. African-Americans had...[read on]
Learn more about the book and author at Martha Hodes's author website.

Cover story: Mourning Lincoln.

The Page 99 Test: Mourning Lincoln.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, March 23, 2015

Jennifer Robson

Jennifer Robson is the international bestselling author of Somewhere in France. She holds a doctorate in British economic and social history from Saint Antony’s College, University of Oxford, where she was a Commonwealth Scholar and an SSHRC Doctoral Fellow.

Her new novel is After the War is Over.

From Robson's Q & A with Katie Noah Gibson:

Can you talk about the genesis of After the War is Over? (Readers of Somewhere in France will recognize Charlotte as a dear friend of Lilly, the main character of that book.)

When I first wrote Somewhere in France, I thought of it as a stand-alone book, but as I worked on later drafts, and the character of Charlotte became clearer, I knew she deserved a book of her own. I included a few details of her backstory, such as her childhood in Somerset and her studies at Oxford, but left myself enough room that I wouldn’t feel too hampered later on when it came time to write her book.

How did you decide what work Charlotte would be doing – i.e. helping the poor and those devastated by the war?

It’s only a small detail in Somewhere in France, but at one point Edward and Lilly talk about Charlotte and what she did after leaving work as Lilly’s governess. I made a spur-of-the-moment decision to send her to Liverpool and put her to work for Eleanor Rathbone, an actual Liverpool politician and social activist. I’m so glad I did, for Miss Rathbone is a personal hero of mine for her pioneering work as a feminist and social activist. As well, Charlotte’s devotion to her, and determination to live up to her mentor’s high standards, became...[read on]
Visit Jennifer Robson's website.

Coffee with a Canine: Jennifer Robson & Ellie.

My Book, The Movie: After the War Is Over.

The Page 69 Test: After the War Is Over.

Writers Read: Jennifer Robson (January 2015).

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Dennis Lehane

Dennis Lehane's latest novel is World Gone By.

From the author's Q & A with Ivy Pochoda at the Los Angeles Review of Books:

I know that you value story above anything else, but [World Gone By] does seem to have themes that pop up over and over again. No good writer sits down and says, “I’m going to write about the theme of death,” and, “I’m going to write about the theme of this and that,” but there are some overwhelming recurrences. One of them is parenting, a question of fathers and sons. I believe you became a father while you were writing this series, right?

Yeah. I entered into The Given Day as the most cynical human being on the planet, and I exited the entire coffin with two children. I have never been an autobiographical writer, but I am always obliquely writing about whatever I’m going through. The last three books I’ve written have been very child-centric, and partially that’s because I’ve got two kids constantly interrupting me while I’m trying to write.

The strange thing about the parent/child story in this book and in Live by Night is it’s a worst-case-scenario story. It’s not happy. If you’re drawing on your own experiences, you certainly translated them into something tragic.

Basically, these men [in these books] should...[read on]
Learn about Dennis Lehane's five most important books.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Mitchell Stevens and Michael Kirst

Mitchell Stevens, associate professor at Stanford Graduate School of Education, and Michael Kirst, Stanford professor emeritus, are co-editors of Remaking College: The Changing Ecology of Higher Education.

From their Q & A with Brooke Donald:

Why does college need reimagining?

Stevens: A golden era of higher education is over. That's the period from the mid-1940s to about 1990, in which there was massive government investment in colleges coupled with almost complete institutional autonomy. That's no longer the case. Since 1990 we’ve experienced overall decline in government subsidy and higher costs, yet a growing demand for a college education. Inherited models aren't sustainable as they are, so it's necessary to come up with a new ways of providing, measuring and experiencing higher education.

Kirst: Just look at the funding. In California, for example, we give community colleges less per pupil than we do to high schools. And we have the least funding and resources at the institutions with the most needy students. We've stressed the four-year residential model and underinvested in community colleges, which are doing the lion's share of the work.

But the ideal "college experience" is the four-year model, correct?

Stevens: No. First, there's the exorbitant cost of residential delivery. There are also tepid learning gains by any direct measure. For some young people, four-year campuses can be dangerous in terms of substance abuse, depression and feelings of alienation. Also, some teenagers just aren't ready or able to commit to that because of money or family obligations. So the notion that the four-year residential model is the best way, the default way to experience college, is a problem. It's important that Americans embrace a much wider diversity of college forms.

Kirst: There is a problem - both in policy and in people's minds - with how college has been framed in the national conversation. We talk about needing to prepare everyone for college, but “college” currently is a loaded word that...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, March 20, 2015

Daniel Torday

Daniel Torday's new novel is The Last Flight of Poxl West.

From the author's Fresh Air interview with Terry Gross:

GROSS: OK, let's talk about sex.


TORDAY: I knew you'd ask.

GROSS: So there's a couple of sex scenes in the book, but the sex scenes are in the memoir that's within the book. So you're not writing the sex scenes in your voice. You're writing them in the voice of a character. And in so it's kind of, like, doubly distanced. And I'm sure - not having ever written one myself, I'm sure writing sex scenes are kind of challenging.

TORDAY: Impossible.

GROSS: Especially, yeah, if you're somewhat inhibited or shy. One, is this first time you've written sex scenes? And, two, was it easier to do it with this double remove?

TORDAY: So I want to answer those two questions separately 'cause they're both really good, so the second question first.

GROSS: (Laughter) OK.

TORDAY: The spark of this book was almost ridiculous, which was that I had flown to Eastern Europe. And I was at - I went to London. And I had this cousin...[read on]
Visit Daniel Torday's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Elliot Ackerman

Elliot Ackerman is a writer based out of Istanbul. His fiction and essays have appeared in The New Yorker, The Atlantic, The New Republic, and Ecotone among others. He is also a contributor to The Daily Beast, and a member of the Council on Foreign Relations. He served as a White House Fellow in the Obama Administration. Prior to this, he spent eight years in the military as both an infantry and special operations officer.

Ackerman is a decorated veteran, having earned a Silver Star and Purple Heart for his role leading a Rifle Platoon in the November 2004 Battle of Fallujah and a Bronze Star for Valor while leading a Marine Corps Special Operations Team in Afghanistan in 2008.

From Ackerman's Q & A about his debut novel, Green on Blue, with Elizabeth Nicholas at Vice:

VICE: What motivated you to write Green on Blue?

Ackerman: When I was in Afghanistan, I spent all of my time as an advisor to Afghan soldiers. I fought alongside these soldiers, but after I left, I knew they weren't guys I could keep up with on Facebook or call and get a beer with. I frankly knew I was never going to see them again. I had this real desire to render their world and show the war as they saw it. The war in Afghanistan is presented heavily through the American experience, and Afghans are made nearly invisible or treated as props. So my goal was to write a novel completely from their perspective.

There's this thread of characterization when we talk about Afghanistan, that people are deceitful, embezzling money out of the country. Those things are true, but what I wanted to do was peel back the outer layers to trace why these things are happening. What is the morality from an Afghan perspective on why someone would embezzle money? Why would an Afghan soldier feel that he needed to commit a green on blue attack? I wanted to take this most deceitful action, a green on blue attack, and trace it back to its inception, so that by the time it occurs you may not agree with it, but...[read on]
The Page 69 Test: Green on Blue.

Writers Read: Elliot Ackerman.

My Book, The Movie: Green on Blue.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

David Joy

David Joy is the author of the novels Where All Light Tends to Go (Putnam, 2015) and Waiting On The End Of The World (Putnam, 2016), as well as the memoir Growing Gills: A Fly Fisherman's Journey (Bright Mountain Books, 2011), which was a finalist for the Reed Environmental Writing Award and the Ragan Old North State Award for Creative Nonfiction.

From Joy's Q & A with Daniel Ford at Writer's Bone:

DF: When did you decide you wanted to be a writer, and how did you develop your voice?

DJ: I grew up in a really rich storytelling tradition, and I think that had a major influence on me early. My parents had an electric typewriter under one of the end tables and some of my earliest memories are dragging that machine out onto the shag carpet. I can remember the way it would heat up the paper and the smell of the paper, the way the letters sounded as they hammered the page. I can’t really remember any of the stories, but my mother says I was doing that before I could spell. She said I’d tell her what I wanted to say and she’d dictate the keys to press to spell the words. So I think really early on, like five or six years old, I don’t know that I consciously knew that I wanted to be writer, but I think I was fascinated with what a word could do on a page. I wrote my whole life, but I started to take it seriously and know that I wanted to make it a career when I was in high school, and then especially once I got into college. I started young, but none of that early work was any good. I don’t think I wrote anything worth a damn until my mid-twenties and even then it wasn’t what it is now. I’m not a very quick study.

DF: Who were some of your early influences?

DJ: The earliest novels I remember having a real impact on me were Gary Paulsen’s Hatchet and Walter Dean Myers’ Fallen Angels. I was a really weird kid. I remember checking out Shakespeare’s Hamlet from the library when I was either in elementary school or sixth grade. I read that and I read Nostradamus. My dad was obsessed with Stephen...[read on]
Writers Read: David Joy.

The Page 69 Test: Where All Light Tends to Go.

My Book, The Movie: Where All Light Tends to Go.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Tracy Weber

Tracy Weber is the author of the award-winning Downward Dog Mysteries series featuring yoga teacher Kate and her feisty German shepherd, Bella. Weber loves sharing her passion for yoga and animals in any form possible. The second book in her series, A Killer Retreat, was released January, 2015 by Midnight Ink.

Weber and her husband live in Seattle with their challenging yet amazing German shepherd Tasha. When she’s not writing, the author spends her time teaching yoga, walking Tasha, and sipping Blackthorn cider at her favorite ale house.

From the author's Q & A with Sheila Webster Boneham at Writers & Other Animals:

Do you try to keep your characters relatively unchanged throughout your mystery series, or do you try to develop them over time?

People in real life change as a result of what happens to them. Why would characters in a mystery series be any different? I can’t imagine an amateur sleuth that could be touched by murder yet not impacted by it. I don’t have an agenda for my characters, but they do transform and learn over time. Kate, in particular, has a character arc that will span at least six books, maybe more.

In my first book, Murder Strikes a Pose, Kate struggles to make peace with her father’s death and to forgive herself for her actions in his last days. As a result, she shuts herself off from the world and refuses to give herself the compassion she gives to others. She is brash and sometimes lashes out at those she loves most, at least in part because she unconsciously wants to keep people at a distance.

By book 2, A Killer Retreat, she has begun to allow people into her life, but she still has significant attachment issues and she often stumbles over her own weaknesses. By the end of A Killer Retreat she’s at the precipice of major change. In book 3, Karma’s a Killer, she confronts her darker self and starts to take steps to overcome it.

Kate would love to right all the wrongs of the world, but...[read on]
Visit Tracy Weber's website, blog, and Facebook page.

Coffee with a Canine: Tracy Weber and Tasha.

The Page 69 Test: Murder Strikes a Pose.

The Page 69 Test: A Killer Retreat.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, March 16, 2015

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 Ellie Gaines at Read Her Like an Open Book:

In Rainey Royal we follow Rainey from the age of fourteen until she is in her mid-twenties. Is there something important about those years particularly in a girl’s life? Is there something important about a girl’s relationship with her father in those years?

Those are the coming-of-age years; they’re packed with emotional growth and pain. My memories of those years are the most vivid I have, more vivid than yesterday’s. So it’s good, rich earth to turn over and pick through when I’m looking for psychological material. And I think by the time a girl is fourteen or fifteen her father has taught her, by example or by neglect, how she should be with men, and how they should be with her. If that’s a lesson she has to unlearn, as Rainey does, she’s going to have...[read on]
Visit Dylan Landis's website.

Writers Read: Dylan Landis (November 2009).

The Page 69 Test: Rainey Royal.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Allen Kurzweil

Allen Kurzweil is the author of Whipping Boy: The Forty-Year Search for My Twelve-Year-Old Bully.

From his Q & A with Sara Scribner at Salon:

Many of us have had bullies. Clearly one of the things that really helped you in writing this book is that other people who had had bullies were cheering you on and they were willing to go out of their way to help you find this guy.

That was one of the amazing and unexpected dividends of this research. I’ve never before pursued a subject where people were not only so willing, but eager to assist me in my research, not because of any journalistic confidence, but because they had an allegiance to me by virtue of the motivating force behind the search. Almost without exception every one of my informants had had a Cesar of one kind or another in his or her past.

Those experiences, a lot of people kind of bury them. How much of this was really a part of your adult life? How much did you really think about it? Was it kind of hidden back there and you had to open the box on it?

Both. I had rendered Cesar into harmless anecdote. He was just a story to tell at a barbecue or a dinner party, almost for comic relief. But I think that that was a defense mechanism for the deeper trauma and I think what has surprised me, subsequent to the publication of “Whipping Boy,” is how there’s this entire contingent of people who have suffered childhood abuse who sublimate or who sweep it under the rug, and then suddenly find themselves resurrecting those childhood memories while reading “Whipping Boy” and then getting in touch with me. I’m in my mid-50s and folks in their 30s, 40s, 50s, 60s, I mean I’ve gotten letters from grandmothers in their 70s, who grew up assuming it was not OK to carry that childhood suffering into adulthood. So they did try and forget it, overlook it. But I have to say the minute the subject comes up, out come the names of childhood persecutors, out come the stories of this and that. I did a reading last week here in Providence, and yet again someone had to raise his hand, and basically it became a session where everyone named his or her bully. This guy stood up and said, “When I was growing up, Ted Danson tied me to a radiator with a rope and told me I better figure out how to get out of it before the heat started...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Eddie Huang

Eddie Huang’s 2013 memoir Fresh Off the Boat inspired a TV show of the same name.

From the author's Q & A with Ginni Chen at B & N Reads:

GC: What would you say to people who watch Fresh Off the Boat but haven’t read Fresh Off the Boat?

EH: I would say, “Read the book.” But I wanna know what you think.

I think the show and the book are completely different. The book is much more cerebral, and there’s anger and pain in the book that’s just not in the show. You don’t get to see Eddie grow up and unpack the things that happen to him and realize that they are part of bigger, systemic, racial issues. All these sort of hapless incidents that occur in the show are kept at an entertaining level, whereas the book takes the time to show how institutionalized and marginalizing these attitudes are.

I want you to start the article by saying what you said.

Uh. Ok.

Everyone asks me to talk about it and every time I express my feelings about the show, people are like, “Why are you so negative? It’s a great show and it’s great for Asian Americans.” I get on Facebook and people are like, “Shut up” and “You need to just let it happen,” and I’m like, “This is my LIFE.” It’s so insane that people are saying this to me and writing to me on social media, “Get out of the way, we just want this show,” and I’m like, “But that’s my life, man.”

The show is just a Prozac children’s version of the book. The real life Eddie at eleven or twelve years old was...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, March 13, 2015

George Hodgman

George Hodgman is the author of Bettyville, a memoir.

From a Q & A at his website:

In the book, you very lovingly and humorously paint a picture of your mother, Betty, who seems funny, stubborn, caring, feisty, and sensitive all at once. But alongside physical decline, Betty also copes with dementia. How is she doing now?

The book takes place during the summer of 2012 when I was alone and without help, taking in and dealing with her changed and, it seemed to me at the time, rapidly declining mental and health situation. I felt pressure to admit her into some sort of care facility before she got worse and our options became much more limited. I really did not want to see her in some sort of facility for dementia or Alzheimer’s patients where she got little stimulation and was forced to continue activities (bridge, piano) that I believed kept her more mentally fit. We couldn’t find a facility to admit her and I have been staying with her for about three years now. In many ways, she has improved. Dementia patients are hounded by depression and anxiety and we were able to medicate her for these issues, along with the drugs she was already taking for her dementia issues. This helped considerably. Also, before I came, she was sort of existing on canned soup and sweets. We were able to really improve her diet. This helped, along with her taking up reading. Nicholas Sparks and Anita Shreve have helped my mother. Everything that distracts them from their condition, any activity or even an animal (our dog helps her) that keeps them out of their own heads helps them. There is also the improvement that comes from having people—me, our helpful caregiver who now comes Monday through Friday—around. Dementia is not considered curable. She goes through bad periods, then improves. It’s changing all the time. But...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Joshua Gaylord

Joshua Gaylord lives in New York. Since 2000, he has taught high school English at an Upper East Side prep school (a modern orthodox co-educational Yeshiva). He has also taught literature and cultural studies courses as an adjunct professor at the New School and NYU. Prior to coming to New York, he grew up in the heart of Orange County: Anaheim, home of Disneyland. He graduated from Berkeley with a degree in English and a minor in creative writing, where his instructors included Bharati Mukherjee, Leonard Michaels and Maxine Hong Kingston. In 2000, he received his Master’s and Ph.D. in English at New York University, specializing in twentieth-century American and British literature. In general, he tends to like people--particularly the ones who like him, though that's not a prerequisite.

Gaylord's forthcoming novel is When We Were Animals:

From the author's Q & A at Nerdy Kitten Pants:

Why did you write this book? Where did the inspiration come from?

My publisher would hate for me to call this a werewolf book, and it’s really not technically a werewolf book–but I have to confess that it’s my personal version of a werewolf book. And what’s most appealing about the werewolf mythology is the fantasy of giving over completely and unashamedly to the instinctual and animalistic. Especially for those of us who are overly self-conscious, deeply neurotic, shy, withdrawn, people-pleasing, and ritualized, there’s always that tinder of rebellion that wants to be free from all our self-imposed restrictions and habits. In large part, the book is about that freedom–about the savage indifference to other people and to the world at large: an indifference which we imagine, in our secret and most reserved thoughts, might be very liberating. I’ve always thought so, at least, ever since I was a timid, painfully polite, and socially straight-jacketed kid who daydreamed about saying GO...[read on]
Visit Joshua Gaylord's/ Alden Bell's website.

The Page 69 Test: Hummingbirds.

Writers Read: Alden Bell (August 2010).

The Page 69 Test: The Reapers Are the Angels.

My Book, the Movie: The Reapers Are the Angels.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Colleen Oakley

Colleen Oakley is an Atlanta-based writer. Her articles, essays, and interviews have been featured in the New York Times, Ladies’ Home Journal, Marie Claire, Women’s Health, Redbook, Parade, and Martha Stewart Weddings. Before she was a freelance writer, Colleen was editor-in-chief of Women’s Health & Fitness and senior editor at Marie Claire.

Before I Go is her debut novel.

From Oakley's Q & A with Danielle Gouletas at Muses & Visionaries Magazine:

M&V: What was your inspiration behind your main characters Daisy and her husband?

OAKLEY: About six years I got the very difficult assignment to interview a young woman who was dying of metastasized breast cancer. It was tough for obvious reasons, but also because we were both around the same age (late 20s) and we were both newlyweds at the time. I instantly connected with her, and though we only spoke for about 20 minutes, I just couldn’t shake the interview for days after. I lied awake in bed next to my snoring husband and wondered not just what I would do in her shoes, but what my husband would do. We were so young, and I knew he would obviously remarry at some point, and I wondered what his new wife would be like — and then, what I would want her to be like. And that’s when I had the spark of the idea — what if you could choose your replacement, the person who would marry your spouse after you were gone?

M&V: What did you learn throughout this whole process?

OAKLEY: So many things! Mostly that writing fiction is hard, but it’s also the best job in the world. I get paid to literally make stuff up. So it’s kind of like being Rush Limbaugh, but...[read on]
Visit Colleen Oakley's website, Facebook page, and Twitter perch.

The Page 69 Test: Before I Go.

Writers Read: Colleen Oakley.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Mary Pilon

Mary Pilon is the author of The Monopolists: Obsession, Fury, and the Scandal Behind the World's Favorite Board Game, a book about the history of the board game Monopoly (Bloomsbury, February 2015). She previously worked as a sports reporter at The New York Times and a full index of her work there can be found here, including dispatches from the London Olympics, doping coverage, features on legal and financial issues in sports and the occasional video shot from a dog sled or graphic novel about cage fighting in the heartland.

From June 2008 to November 2011, Pilon worked at The Wall Street Journal, where she covered various aspects of personal finance and the financial crisis for print and online editions and regularly appeared on national TV and radio. Among her lesser-known accomplishments: bringing slugs, yo-yos, the NYSE movie room and square dancing to the Journal’s front page.

From Pilon's Q & A with Kelly Faircloth at Jezebel:

How did you come to the project? How did the book happen?

It was a total accident. This was in 2009, 2010; I was writing about business at the Wall Street Journal, and I had grown up loving games, puzzles, all of that, and history. I had this throwaway line in a totally unrelated story about Monopoly being invented during the Great Depression. And I thought, well, everybody knows it was invented during the Great Depression. So I was looking around and looking around, and it wasn't adding up and I was totally frustrated. I'm writing about derivatives and I can't get the Monopoly story right? What's wrong with me?

So I came across Ralph Anspach and his lawsuit. I'm an advocate of the reporter trick of calling counterparties in lawsuits, because often if you sue somebody or you've been sued by somebody, you do a lot of research. I contacted Ralph on a whim and I said, "Hey, I know this is crazy, but I'm a reporter at the Journal and I'm just trying to find out the truth about Monopoly." He wrote back right away. He started talking about his lawsuit and Lizzie and what happened in the 30s with Darrow. And I just was like, Oh my gosh. So I completely stumbled into this by accident.

I ended up writing the original story for the Journal about Ralph and his lawsuit. And then usually, when you're done with a story you're so sick of it, but this time I had more questions. I wanted to know more about who [Lizzie Magie] was, I wanted to know more about...[read on]
Visit Mary Pilon's website.

The Page 99 Test: The Monopolists.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, March 9, 2015

Laura Kipnis

Laura Kipnis is the author of Men: Notes from an Ongoing Investigation.

From her Q & A with James Livingston at Politics / Letters:

There’s an astonishing range of subjects in this book. You write about sports, film, photography, memoir, literature of the serious kind, Hustler magazine, politics of the contemporary kind, psychoanalysis, even penis envy on the part of men . . . You seem intent on violating every disciplinary or generic or sex/gender boundary still standing. Is that trespassing the point? Is that what the essay form permits?

Trespassing is a great way to put it (one of the chapters is, in fact, titled “The Trespasser”), or maybe another term would be “creative brawls”: smashing into people and ideas and seeing what happens. I say in the coda of the book that the idea was to be a sort of crash test dummy, open to the possibility of accidental collisions—between myself and the men I’m writing about, that is. (There’s also one woman.) Part of the method involves staging collisions between unlikely contestants, so to speak: in “Self-Deceivers,” I have John Edwards colliding with Jean Paul Sartre, in “The Scumbag” it’s Larry Flynt and Rabelais, in “Juicers” I lump steroid users and plagiarists together and mount a joint defense. The pleasure of the unlikely collision is finding ideas you didn’t know you had—like sorting through the wreckage of your house after a tornado and finding...[read on]
Learn about Laura Kipnis's six favorite books about wounded masculinity.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Elisa Albert

Elisa Albert's new novel is After Birth.

From the author's interview with Vincent Scarpa at Electric Lit:

Vincent Scarpa: After Birth is an uproariously funny book, and I so admire the way the humor is doing double duty: we’re meant to laugh, of course, but also to consider the context within which Ari is saying or thinking these comical, often vicious things, and what’s being said in the margins, what isn’t being said instead. Did you have a clear sense when writing the novel that humor would function as a kind of defense or deflecting mechanism for Ari, your narrator? Did it develop in tandem with her voice? It reads seamlessly, yet I imagine a great deal of work went into fine-tuning the voice and figuring out what tonal parameters Ari was going to be operating within.

Elisa Albert: Ari was clear to me from the get-go. Her humor comes from an inability to be emotionally dishonest. This is a blessing and a curse. Being a bad liar is rough going. What we’re “supposed” to do/be/say/think and what we actually do/are/say/think often don’t line up, and generally speaking we lie our goddamn faces off about it, sometimes long and hard enough that we actually lose touch with ourselves. So it’s this huge relief, I think, when we come across someone who’s rigorously honest. Laughter is relief. We are ridiculous egotistical stubborn stingy hypocritical blind jackasses. It’s not human frailty that’s funny, mind you; it’s our predilection for pretense that’s funny.

But what’s even funnier is how we tend to punish honesty. People who say what they really think and feel, we usually try to make them out to be fools, or crazy. Once in a great while we relent and glorify them and treat them like gods and let them do the heavy philosophical lifting for us. But mostly, the truth is inconvenient, not to mention impolite. But at the same time we all kind of aspire to be honest and are jealous of people who can be honest. Which in itself is hilarious, because honest people are usually the most tortured! By us! Pure comedy. What a wacky species.

So yes, I think humor is about clinging—be it naked, battered, maligned—to honesty. Ari strikes me as the saddest kind of funny/tortured hybrid, though: the idealist. She genuinely can’t believe that everything is so...[read on]
Learn more about the author and her work at Elisa Albert's website.

The Page 69 Test: The Book of Dahlia.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, March 7, 2015

Brian Abrams

Brian Abrams is the author of Party Like A President: True Tales Of Inebriation, Lechery And Mischief From The Oval Office.

From his interview with NPR's David Greene:

GREENE: One question not answered for me in this book is which president you'd want to have a beer with.

ABRAMS: I think I'm going to have to go with Gerald Ford.

GREENE: Really?

ABRAMS: I think so because at least we could talk about movies and music. If I said Chester A. Arthur, I don't know exactly what the conversation would sound like.

GREENE: (Laughter).

ABRAMS: But in the case of Ford, his first Air Force One flight, he is about to get his photograph taken. He had a martini in front of him because Ford generally drank two gin martinis on every Air Force One flight. And the photographer steps in and grabs the stem of the martini glass and says, oh, excuse me, Mr. President. Let me just get this out of the way first. I mean, they must have loved him.

GREENE: You mean it's kind of charming that he hadn't even thought of that. He was just being a regular guy holding a martini and is like, you know, whatever. Take my picture.

ABRAMS: Yeah. He's unassuming. I mean, there was also - his first month or two in office, there was a dinner at the White House for the king of Jordan, and he was caught on the dance floor dancing to...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, March 6, 2015

Dean Koontz

Dean Koontz is ending his popular series featuring Odd Thomas with its seventh installment, Saint Odd.

From his USA Today Q & A with Kevin Nance:

Q: Some writers eventually grow weary of their series characters, as Arthur Conan Doyle and Agatha Christie famously did with Sherlock Holmes and Hercule Poirot. Were there times when you looked forward to moving on from Odd Thomas?

A: I liked him so much that I would have been content to write more about him, but you also come to a moment where you realize, "What is there more to be said about him?" But it was never weariness. I got so close to him that when he said something funny, I'd laugh out loud as if I was hearing him say it. Other times, I was sitting here in tears. People who work in the house with us would go by my door and probably thought I deserved to be in an institution, and maybe I do. I said in a tweet at some point, "Finishing him off was like stabbing an old friend in the back. I felt like a swine."

Q. How did you conceive Odd Thomas?

A: He just came into my head completely full-blown. I was working on another novel, and into my mind came the words, "My name is Odd Thomas. I lead an unusual life." And I turned around to a legal tablet that I keep beside me and wrote the lines down. The next thing I knew...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Ellen Sussman

Ellen Sussman's novels include: A Wedding in Provence, The Paradise Guest House, French Lessons and On a Night Like This.

From her 2013 Q & A with Caroline Leavitt:

What sparked [The Paradise Guest House]? What was the research like and did anything surprise you with it?

My husband and I planned a vacation in Bali in 2005 and a few weeks before we left terrorists set off bombs in restaurants and cafes on the island. We didn’t cancel our trip as most people suggested. In fact, we saw almost no tourists during our two weeks there. But we fell in love with the island and the Balinese people. The idea of terrorism on that peaceful island made no sense to me (or to the Balinese) and so I began to imagine a novel about a young woman who gets caught in the 2002 bombings (which killed 200 people, mostly young tourists) and returns to the island a year later to find the man who saved her.

I find that I write in order to learn and understand the things that puzzle me. And so this book became my way of learning about Bali, the people, the culture and religion and also about the effects of terrorism on our psyches.

I returned to Bali to spend a month researching the novel. (what a gig!) I was surprised by how quickly the tourists forgot about the terrorist attacks. But the Balinese had not forgotten. I interviewed survivors of the bombings and families of victims. Their lives have been very much altered by those events in 2002. And yet they’re so strong and so loving. I learned a great deal from hearing their stories.

I love the idea of a woman searching for home--why do you think where we live matters so much?

That’s an interesting question. I didn’t feel at home in any of the places I lived in my life until I moved to Paris! And now I have a real home in...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Paul W. Kahn

Paul W. Kahn’s is the author of Finding Ourselves at the Movies: Philosophy for a New Generation.

From his 2014 Q & A at Critical Margins:

First of all, Paul, one of the first statements in your book is the following, “philosophy begins with narrative, not abstraction.” Could you give us some examples from both ancient times and our own day?

While there are fragments preserved from the pre-Socratics, Western philosophy begins its written tradition with Plato. Plato, however, wrote nothing that we would identify as a philosophical text. He wrote something that looked considerably more like drama. They were dialogues that addressed particular questions in a dramatic context.

The tradition of writing dialogues continued for some time in classical thought. Cicero and Seneca, for example, wrote dialogues. In modern philosophy, David Hume’s Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion may be the most famous. The narrative form of reflective inquiry is rooted for Westerners in Christ’s use of parables. Modern philosophers have sometimes used a narrative form – most famously in Nietzsche’s Thus Spoke Zarathustra. In popular culture, I am reminded of the very successful work Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance by Robert Pirsig.

You say, “Increasingly, what we have in common is the movies.” Is that mainly because so many movies now are of the blockbuster type that millions flock to whereas other forms of media that we once shared (e.g., the evening newscast) have declined?

It is true that the movies that we most share are the blockbusters, which link us to audiences around the world. There is nothing else quite like that, except perhaps some television series that endlessly rerun, and maybe the Oscars. Movies with less popular appeal than blockbusters often link the members of smaller groups. We share the viewing habits of those with whom we are likely to find ourselves. I suspect that whatever we see, we...[read on]
The Page 69 Test: Paul W. Kahn's Out of Eden.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Bryan Reardon

Bryan Reardon's new novel is Finding Jake.

From his Q & A with Carolne Leavitt:

I loved the portrayal of Simon, who is the only stay-at-home father in the neighborhood, whose marriage is cracking at the seams even as he is desperate to find his son [who may be a school schooter]. How difficult was it for you to write such a character, as a father yourself? And did it change anything in the way you relate to your kids?

I'll be completely honest, I wrote what I know but with fiction. I am a stay-at-home dad. I do worry a lot. Many of Simon's worries are my own. But the fiction comes when you put Simon and his family in the situation of a high school shooting. The idea for the high school shooting was not to capitalize off of other people's tragedy. I'd recently read Dave Cullen's book Columbine. I'm not sure what to say about that book. You can't say you loved it, but it impressed me. Particularly how honestly it dealt with both the victims and the perpetrators. What really stuck with me, and what sort of inspired Finding Jake was what Dave Cullen wrote about the Klebold family. The two ideas came together: what if a dad like me was faced with the horror of a situation like that?

Parenting is by far the hardest job I've ever had. I worry every day that I am doing it wrong. Maybe we are supposed to be guide rails. We may not be able to know our children but...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, March 2, 2015

Jamie Mason

Jamie Mason was born in Oklahoma City, but grew up in Washington, DC. She’s most often reading and writing, but in the life left over, she enjoys films, Formula 1 racing, football, traveling, and, conversely, staying at home.

Her new novel is Monday's Lie.

From Mason's conversation with Sara Gruen at Amazon:

Sara: I was able to read an advance copy of Jamie Mason’s wonderful new novel, Monday’s Lie, and couldn’t wait to sit down with her and dig into a few of the turning points of this riveting story.

The book opens up with a terrific scene: a childhood memory of the main character, Dee, watching helplessly as her mother is whisked away by a soldier in the middle of the night, ultimately not to return for most of a year. Why does the story start there?

Jamie: I think the mental real estate of the age span between 12 and 15 years old is so interesting. At that age, you start compiling a more thorough catalog of memories, stuff you’ll actually recall with clarity throughout your life. With a firmer grasp of what life looks like, our convictions about how everything works start to take shape. And so do our plans for what we hope to have for our own future.

There’s no good time to lose a loving mother, even for just a while. For Dee Vess-Aldrich, when her mother, Annette, is secreted away in the middle of a peaceful night, the loss colors everything about how she views the world and it defines what she wants for her corner of it when she’s in charge.

It seemed important to show right away why Dee is the way she is.

Sara: Annette Vess is a great character and one of the more unusual mothers to show up between book covers. She uses her skills of psychological manipulation and her honed powers of observation in both her work as a black ops asset and also in the games she plays to bond with her children. Is this the chicken or the egg with her? Is Annette like this because of her job, or does she have this job because she’s like this?

Jamie: Annette was a pure joy to write. I think she’s one of those...[read on (you must scroll down the page)]
Visit Jamie Mason's website.

The Page 69 Test: Monday's Lie.

My Book, The Movie: Monday's Lie.

Writers Read: Jamie Mason.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Kenny Porpora

Kenny Porpora's memoir is The Autumn Balloon.

From his Q & A with Claire Bidwell Smith at The Rumpus:

The Rumpus: The big themes in this book—family dysfunction, alcoholism, and grief—are ones that are not unfamiliar to most of us. Yet for me, your writing breathed fresh air into these motifs and made me curious about your journey to understand them yourself. Was there a specific turning point when you realized that perhaps your childhood was atypical, and were there any particular books or films that resonated with you in the way your book might resonate with others?

Kenny Porpora: I think it starts with forgiveness. I’m not sure you can write honestly about a situation you’re still stuck in. And so it’s up to you to make peace with your circumstances, or change them altogether, and then you can look back with clarity and tell a more honest story. I used to think my life was atypical, especially when I’d meet people three or four times my age who’d never lost a single loved one. But I don’t feel that way anymore. The scope of loss in my story might be greater than some, but pain is pain, loss is loss, no matter how great and no matter what age you experience it, and you never know how it’s going to change you.

As for books, there were many. I used to carry certain books around with me: Gilead by Marilynne Robinson, a magical, spiritual book that I can’t manage to summarize in a neat paragraph. It’s about the wondrousness of being alive and the inevitability of death. A Good Scent From A Strange Mountain by Robert Olen Butler is a book of stories about the displaced Vietnamese in New Orleans after the war. I don’t have a particular interest in that era or that war, but...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue