Sunday, May 31, 2015

Charlotte Gordon

Critically acclaimed author Charlotte Gordon's newest book is Romantic Outlaws: The Extraordinary Lives of Mary Wollstonecraft and Her Daughter Mary Shelley. Earlier works include Mistress Bradstreet: The Untold Story of America's First Poet — a Massachusetts Honor book for non-fiction — and The Woman Who Named God: Abraham's Dilemma and the Birth of Three Faiths.

From her Q & A with Anna Russell for the Wall Street Journal:

Why were you drawn to Wollstonecraft and Shelley?

I’d heard of Wollstonecraft and I’d heard of Shelley, of course, but somehow I never understood fully that they were mother and daughter. They’ve been historically taught as separate figures, but Mary Shelley was an expert on her mother: She read every book her mother ever wrote countless times. She was an expert on all things Wollstonecraft.

The narrative toggles between the two lives—Wollstonecraft in the late 1700s and Shelley in the early 1800s—almost as if they’re growing up together. How did you keep everything straight?

When I first wrote out my draft of what the book would be, I alternated kind of naturally. When I went back for my first serious draft, I wrote first the life of the mom and then the life of the daughter, and just had a sense of where to break them. But you should have seen my desk—piles of sticky notes and papers. I loved the process, I really felt like I was eavesdropping on their lives. To get to read their journals—it’s...[read on]
Visit Charlotte Gordon's website.

My Book, The Movie: Romantic Outlaws.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, May 30, 2015

Karl Ove Knausgaard

Karl Ove Knausgaard is the Norwegian author of the six-volume autobiographical novel My Struggle.

From his 2014 interview with Kyle Buckley:

Do you think of the six volumes of My Struggle as one book? I’ve seen you refer to it as “the novel.”

Karl Ove Knausgaard: For me it is definitely one book, and is written like one long movement from the first to the last sentence.

When I wrote the first 100 pages I thought it was just one novel, and then we made a plan that we should publish it as six. Novels three, four, five, six are structured like independent novels in a way.

There’s been a lot made of the overall effect the books have had on your life. Does it occur to you when everyone talks about how much they know about you, or about how much of you has been exposed, that of course it’s never everything? That there’s still so much more you could have divulged?

Yeah. It’s like my friend—he knows me really well and he knows everything in my life very well, and he says everything that’s happened is much, much worse and much, much better. And it’s like, the book is really about what’s in the middle, that’s the only thing you can ...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, May 29, 2015

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 latest novel is The Hundred-Year House.

From her Q & A with Ellen Birkett Morris at The Rumpus:

The Rumpus: Where do stories begin for you—character, plot, image, first line?

Rebecca Makkai: A scenario. Like, what if someone walks into a diner that’s run by a cult and sees that one of the workers is a girl he used to date? I start with a “what if” and the characters come to me later. The Hundred-Year House actually started as a story of male anorexia. I had these two couples forced into close quarters in a coach house and the story expanded and grew in crazy ways until it was about other things. Other ideas came to life and became more interesting to me than the anorexia storyline. That said, the anorexia storyline was hard to let go of easily. It felt foundational, so it stayed until the late drafts.

Rumpus: Why did male anorexia capture your attention?

Makkai: I have always been fascinated by anorexia, like many people are. While I never had a full-on eating disorder, I flirted around the edges of it. It brings up fascinating questions of why we do this to ourselves, and how to help other people deal with it. The idea of male anorexia came out of the desire to change it up. In fiction we always look for things people won’t expect. It is juicer in fiction if we don’t...[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

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Rachel Bach

Rachel Bach is the author of the paradox Series, which starts with Fortune's Pawn, a fast paced, romantic adventure starring Devi Morris, a powered armor mercenary who signs on with the galaxy’s most trouble-prone space freighter in an attempt to jumpstart her career. But while Devi expected the firefights and aliens, this ship holds secrets she never could have imagined, and the greatest danger for this ship guard might just be the very people she was hired to protect.

From Bach's 2014 Q & A with Veronica Scott at USA Today:

Veronica: .... Let's talk to Rachel! What was your inspiration for the Paradox Series?

Rachel: It was a mix of a lot of things: action science-fiction movies like Aliens and Starship Troopers, the StarCraft and Warhammer 40K video games, a ton of novels, particularly Dune and Anne McCaffrey's Crystal Singer trilogy, and of course Firefly. Really, though, the whole reason I started writing the series was because I desperately wanted to read a really action-packed science-fiction romance and I simply could not find one I liked. So, being an author, I decided I'd write the book I wanted myself. My main character, Devi, appeared fully formed a few minutes later, suited up and ready to go. After that, the rest was just really fun details.

Veronica: Who was the most challenging character in the series to write?

Rachel: Believe it or not, Devi. Her voice is hands-down the easiest to write of any character I've ever had, but Devi herself was a real problem for me as a novelist because of the way the books are structured. The Paradox novels are built around the dramatic and multitiered unveiling of a complex and nuanced central mystery, and Devi is, shall we say, not a nuanced girl. Coming up with ways to keep her from getting fed up and just shooting stuff until answers fell out was a constant challenge, and I actually had several moments in the books where I sincerely regretted dropping my most bullish character into this exquisite china shop of a plot. For all that...[read on]
My Book, The Movie: Fortune's Pawn.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Elizabeth Heiter

Elizabeth Heiter likes her suspense to feature strong heroines, chilling villains, psychological twists, and a little bit (or a lot!) of romance. Her research has taken her into the minds of serial killers, through murder investigations, and onto the FBI Academy’s shooting range.

Heiter's latest novel is Vanished.

From her Q & A at My Bookish Ways:

Will you tell us a little about Vanished?

Thank you so much! I’m really excited for Vanished, where my heroine finally gets to tackle the case that drove her to become an FBI profiler in the first place! Eighteen years ago, her best friend Cassie was abducted, the last in a series of kidnappings by the Nursery Rhyme Killer. Cassie was never found, and now another girl has gone missing in Evelyn’s hometown of Rose Bay, South Carolina, and the Nursery Rhyme Killer is taking credit.

It’s the case Evelyn has wanted to solve since she was twelve years old, but it means facing her hometown – where racial prejudices eighteen years ago meant she wasn’t always welcome – and facing the possibility that this time, it isn’t her friend’s abductor at all, but a copycat. The deeper she digs, the more secrets she finds in Rose Bay, and the more likely it becomes that whoever the abductor is this time, Evelyn might be the next to disappear.

What kind of research did you do for the book, especially in order to get into the mind of the Nursery Rhyme Killer?

When I wrote Hunted (Book 1 in The Profiler series), I’d already done extensive research on the FBI and profiling, but I did more for this book, visiting another FBI field office, and digging deeper into the process of profiling. One part of this book that really fascinated me was setting up the idea that the abductions start again after eighteen years. I wanted that possibility to feel real, so I did a lot of research into real serial criminals who went dormant for a long time, then resurfaced. It’s...[read on]
Visit Elizabeth Heiter's website and watch the book trailer for Vanished.

My Book, The Movie: Vanished.

The Page 69 Test: Vanished.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Paolo Bacigalupi

Paolo Bacigalupi's new novel is The Water Knife.

From his NPR interview with Arun Rath:

ARUN RATH, HOST: What if the devastating drought in the west doesn't end? A few years ago, science-fiction writer Paolo Bacigalupi started paying attention to what's been happening to the water supply out here.

PAOLO BACIGALUPI: Lake Powell and Lake Mead were hitting sort of historic lows, and they weren't refilling the way they were supposed to. And Las Vegas was in fact digging deeper and deeper intakes into Lake Mead. And you could sort of see the storyline was already there - this question of scarcity, this question of too many people needing too little water. You know, and so as a fiction writer, you're like, well, what happens next?

RATH: One possibility - the world depicted in Bacigalupi's new novel "The Water Knife." It's a noirish, cinematic sci-fi thriller - sort of "Chinatown" meets "Mad Max." He told me he was inspired by his work in environmental journalism because he realized most people don't get a real sense of danger from news reports or photos of shrinking reservoirs.

BACIGALUPI: You know, there's the blue sky. There's the pretty, white bathtub ring. There's the red rocks. There's the blue water. It doesn't look like a disaster. And so as a fiction writer, you sort of take - here's a piece of information. Let me explain to you exactly why this actually is a disaster. And it's not because the water level is low today. It's because it seems to be going somewhere. And the context is really only if we viscerally understand what the potential future is. Once you understand a potential future - if you live inside of that world, if you live inside of that water scarcity, if you see people reacting, if you see a water riot, if you see a climate refugee or you live in the skin of a climate refugee, suddenly that makes more sense than just, oh, we've noticed that, you know, Lake Mead is now at a historically low level. That's a news item. It's fairly dry and fairly abstract.

RATH: And you paint this - this really bleak, terrible picture of what water refugees in America would be like - basically, if Texas were to dry up...


RATH: You know, people trying to get to wetter states. You have the whole - the whole Northwest, you know, Washington and Oregon are basically - they have a wall to...


RATH: ...Keep - keep the thirsty people out...

BACIGALUPI: Right, yeah...[read on, or listen to the interview]
Writers Read: Paolo Bacigalupi (March 2010).

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, May 25, 2015

James Ellroy

James Ellroy's latest work is LAPD '53, is a nonfiction photographic history produced in collaboration with Glynn Martin of the Los Angeles Police Museum.

From Ellroy's Q & A with Kevin EG Perry for Vice:

Did you have a personal favorite of the stories in LAPD '53?

The Mabel Monohan case [the murder of a 64-year-old widow who was thought to be sitting on a fortune in cash]. I went into that in great detail. LAPD assisted on that case, but it was actually a crime from Burbank, an LA suburb which has its own police department. It was made into a ridiculous anti-capital-punishment weeper called I Want To Live! with Susan Hayward, directed by Robert Wise, in 1958. It's got a great jazz soundtrack by Gerry Mulligan, the king of the baritone sax. It's a real hophead soundtrack. It made me want to shoot up.

What was it about that case that made it stand out?

The viciousness of it. They beat an old woman to death for a stash of $100,000 that never really existed. It was also the fact that the two killers, Jack Santo and Emmett Perkins, had killed six people up in Sacramento County, including an entire family: a grocer, his wife, and two of his children. Barbara Graham, Jack Santo, and Emmett Perkins were all sent to the gas chamber in '55.

In the past couple of years we've seen incident after incident where the actions of American police officers have served to increase social tension and unrest. Does the American police need to be reformed?

I don't think the police need to...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Sam Quinones

Sam Quinones's new book is Dreamland: The True Tale of America's Opiate Epidemic.

From his interview with NPR Morning Edition host Renee Montagne:

RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST: ....Since 2001, the number of Americans who die annually from heroin has risen fivefold, according to the National Institutes of Health. The number of those who die each year from painkillers, like OxyContin, has more than doubled. In his new book, "Dreamland: The True Tale Of America's Opiate Epidemic," Sam Quinones chronicles this crisis. The title comes from a community pool in Portsmouth, Ohio, Dreamland it was called, the gathering place at the center of life in the town when America's Midwest epitomized prosperity and promise.

SAM QUINONES: That began to end with the deindustrialization of the Rust Belt, which Portsmouth is a part of - began to fall apart. Jobs began to leave. People began to leave. And finally, Dreamland is closed in 1993, and by about the mid-to-late 1990s, prescription pills are now everywhere. It's a widespread kind of addiction that affects an entire generation in the town of Portsmouth, Ohio.

MONTAGNE: Well, Portsmouth has a probably unhappy designation as the place where the biggest pill mill in the country operated.

QUINONES: Exactly. Portsmouth was the pill mill capital of America, really. They had more per capita in that town than anywhere else in the country. Pill mills are where a doctor prescribes pills for cash without almost any diagnosis of any pain problems or anything like that. Pill mills usually have long, long lines. Portsmouth had a dozen of these, and they prescribed millions of pills a year and was one of the main reasons why so many people got addicted there. The godfather of all that was...[read on, or listen to the interview]
--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Jami Attenberg

Jami Attenberg's new novel is Saint Mazie.

From her Q & A with Caroline Leavitt:

I always want to know what sparked a novel--what was the question that haunted or nagged at you that you wanted to explore with Saint Mazie?

Because she was based on a real person, I knew certain facts about her, and I was curious about the motivation behind them. Like I wanted to know why a Jewish woman would have an interest in the Catholic faith, and why she chose to remain unmarried in her life, and how she became the kind of person who would devote much of her adult life to helping the homeless. Those were the three main mysteries to me: faith, love, and compassion. Pretty big topics – certainly an excellent foundation for a novel.

I loved the structure of the novel, the chorus of voices, Mazie’s diary entries, all forming a tapestry that becomes a living, breathing person. Did you always have this structure in mind and did anything surprise you about it as you were writing?

Initially it was supposed to be just her memoirs. For about nine months, I was certain that would be the structure of the book. But I had to take a little break from writing it because...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, May 22, 2015

Elmore Leonard

From Jon Wiener's interview in 2000 with Elmore Leonard:

JW: Three terrific movies have been made based on your work: Get Shorty in 1995, which I read made 200 million dollars; Jackie Brown in 1996 and Out of Sight with George Clooney in 1998. What was your role — did you write the screenplays?

EL: No. They would ask me what actors I saw in the roles. I would tell them, and they’d say “Oh that’s interesting.” And that would be the end of it. Writing screenplays is not my business. I’ve written half a dozen, and maybe half of those were made. But it was never a satisfying experience. It was just work. You’re an employee. You would be told what to do. Studio execs would cross out my dialogue and put in their dialogue.

JW: And you didn’t like this? They were just trying to help.

EL: Those movies were terrible. They put in the obvious things you had thrown out right away when you were writing.

JW: Quentin Tarantino wrote and directed Jackie Brown, based on Rum Punch.

EL: That’s the one that’s closest to my work, because the first half is all development of the characters. The action of the plot gets going only at that point. Robert Forster worked. I loved Pam Greer. And Samuel L. Jackson...[read on]
See--Ten top Elmore Leonard film adaptations; Ten top Elmore Leonard film adaptations; Elmore Leonard's ten favorite books.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, May 21, 2015

S.M. Hulse

S. M. Hulse received her MFA from the University of Oregon and was a fiction fellow at the University of Wisconsin–Madison. Her stories have appeared in Willow Springs, Witness, and Salamander. A horsewoman and fiddler, she has spent time in Washington, Montana, Idaho, and Oregon.

Hulse's new novel is Black River:

From a Q & A at her website:

Where did you get the idea for Black River?

While I was living in Montana, I read about a riot that had taken place at the state prison in the 1950s. While that riot bears little resemblance to the one that shapes so much of Black River, I found myself wondering how a single event like that might reverberate through time and space, affecting not only an individual like Wes Carver, but also his relationships with his family, friends, community, and even God. It really took off from there.

Why did you choose to set Black River in a fictional town?

The town of Black River is inspired in part by several real places, but it isn’t simply a real town with a different name, and you won’t find anywhere exactly like it in Montana. Creating a fictional community left me free to shape the town and its history in whatever ways would best help me tell the story of Wes Carver and the other characters in Black River. For example, there is a real Old Montana Prison, and the prison in Black River has a few things in common with it; however, the real riot that took place there in the 1950s shares only one or two details with the fictional 1992 riot that appears in the novel. As a writer, I found it...[read on]
The Page 69 Test: Black River.

Writers Read: S. M. Hulse.

My Book, The Movie: Black River.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Aline Ohanesian

Aline Ohanesian was born in Kuwait and immigrated to So. Cal at the age of three. After getting her MA in History, she abandoned her PhD studies when she realized her heart belonged to the novel. Her writing was a finalist for the PEN Bellwether Award for Socially Engaged Fiction and the Glimmer Train Best New Writers Award.

Ohanesian's new novel is Orhan's Inheritance.

From her Q & A with Caroline Leavitt:

Every novel has a moment of origin, which I always find fascinating. What sparked the writing of this particular book?

I get a little shy when I'm asked to talk about this because for the most part, I'm a real "normal," level-headed person, but the moment of origin for this novel was so out there. I was resting after a sleepless night with my baby when I heard a voice. I could tell it was female and I knew she was old. She said only a few sentences about the futility of words. How they take an event and immediately corrupt it with meaning. I love words and language. I would never say or think something like that. I wrote what I heard down on a scrap piece of paper. I wanted to know who she was and why she didn't want to talk about things. In many ways the whole novel is a pursuit of that woman's voice and story. I never heard anything after that. Not like that.

So I started constructing, using my imagination, but also using the stories my great-grandmother Elizabeth told me about her own experiences at that time. Both my paternal grandparents were also survivors. I wanted to honor them by telling their stories. What's really kind of miraculous is that seven years later, when I got my first review by Kirkus, the reviewer used only one quote from the book. It was the same two sentences that came to me all those years ago. Writing is a lot like construction. There's a lot of structure and thinking involved but in the best of circumstances, there's also a great deal of...[read on]
The Page 69 Test: Orhan's Inheritance.

Writers Read: Aline Ohanesian.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Meredith Zeitlin

Meredith Zeitlin has written two books for young people (so far) and lots of articles for Ladygunn Magazine. She’s also a voiceover artist who can be heard on commercials, cartoons, and TV shows.

Zeitlin's new novel is Sophomore Year Is Greek to Me.

From the author's Q & A at Adventures in YA Publishing:

Meredith, what was your inspiration for writing SOPHOMORE YEAR IS GREEK TO ME?

I had a friend who mentioned that when she was a kid she used to live in Greece with her extended family for months at a time, during the school year. I thought that was such an interesting idea, to be IN school but not at YOUR school. Since the friend was Greek, I figured I’d make my character Greek, too - especially because, with all the recent economic issues in Greece in the last few years, there would be plenty for my character to discover and explore on her journey. I also wanted to continue writing the world I created for my first book (Freshman Year and Other Unnatural Disasters) but through the eyes of a new main character.

What scene was really hard for you to write and why, and is that the one of which you are most proud? Or is there another scene you particularly love?

I don’t want to give anything away, so this is a hard question to answer… but I will say that the scenes between Zona and her dad were both very enjoyable and very difficult for me to write. My own father died when I was 21, and we were very close when I was growing up. In imagining the character of David Lowell I had to think a lot about details I hadn’t reflected on in a long time, and that was not so easy. There’s a scene at the end of the book where Zona is in a very vulnerable position and truly terrified, and it was painful to put myself through those emotions to get the scene just right. I’m very...[read on]
The Page 69 Test: Sophomore Year Is Greek to Me.

My Book, The Movie: Sophomore Year is Greek to Me.

Writers Read: Meredith Zeitlin.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, May 18, 2015

Michael Neiberg

Michael Neiberg is a professor of history and the Stimson Chair of the Department of National Security and Strategy at the U.S. Army War College. The author of several award-winning books, Neiberg lives in Carlisle, PA.

His new book is Potsdam: The End of World War II and the Remaking of Europe.

From Neiberg's Q & A with J.P. O'Malley at Salon:.

How to deal with Germany was obviously a crucial aspect of the Potsdam conference. Was there a general consensus among the Big Three?

The real problem in 1945 regarding Germany was, (a) who is really to blame for this? Is it the German people? That is to say: If you devastate Germany are you in fact punishing the wrong people. And, (b) what is best way going forward to try and re-build a peaceful Europe?

Again you have to go back to Versailles in 1919, where the Allies devastated Germany. However, they also left Germany strong enough to do something about it. And that was a fundamental mistake. So what they did at the end of the Second World War was to apply hard power — they divided Germany, reduced the size of it, occupied it, and kept the army down.

But they also applied liberal solutions too: They tied western Germany into the international economy, and into a wider alliance like NATO, which allowed it to have a military force. But at the same time they didn’t allow Germany to operate that military force independently.

What was the reasoning behind this?

They thought that if you give Germany enough time, hopefully enough Germans can come to the fore who won’t believe [the Nazi ideology] that their parents and grandparents believed. And that worked. Germany may be the most dominant power in Europe today; but most Europeans — outside of Athens of course — aren’t particularly worried about Germany as they might have been in, say, the 1930s.

But presumably you have an interest as a historian in understanding why the Germans voted for the Nazi party in the first place?

Well it’s a tough question to deal with because..[read on]
Learn more about Postdam at the Basic Books website.

The Page 99 Test: Dance of the Furies.

The Page 99 Test: The Blood of Free Men.

The Page 99 Test: Potsdam.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Merrill Markoe

Emmy Award–winning writer Merrill Markoe has authored books of humorous essays and the novels Nose Down, Eyes Up; Walking in Circles Before Lying Down; and It’s My F---ing Birthday and co-authored (with Andy Prieboy) the novel The Psycho Ex Game. She was the original head writer and co-creator of the iconic, groundbreaking early years of Late Night With David Letterman.

From her Q & A with Scott Timberg at Salon:

When [Late Night With David Letterman] started in 1982, Letterman himself was not terribly well known and the late night slot guaranteed neither viewers nor cultural centrality. It may’ve felt like being part of a cool but obscure rock band. Was it clear that the show was going to survive or did it feel rickety and quixotic at first?

In 1980 we created the DNA for the 1982 show when we did “The David Letterman Show,” a live daily morning show on NBC. If possible, that show was even crazier than the ’82 version of the show you mention. Because it was canceled after a few months, the experience was very traumatic and long-lasting for its host. From that point on, he was extremely anxiety-ridden about being canceled again. And so, for the years that I worked with him on the night show, he mentioned our imminent demise pretty much every day.

I couldn’t argue the point. I had no way of knowing if we were going to be canceled again or not. As a result the show felt constantly unstable to me. The host was insisting that we were on the verge of cancellation. For all I knew, he was right.

And by the way, it’s not too surprising that the morning show was canceled since it offered absolutely none of...[read on]
The Page 69 Test: Nose Down, Eyes Up.

My Book, The Movie: Merrill Markoe's talking dog script/novel.

Coffee with a Canine: Merrill Markoe & Jimmy, Ginger, Puppyboy, and Hedda.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Pedro Martinez

A former Major League Baseball pitcher, Pedro Martinez is an eight-time All-Star, three-time Cy Young Award winner, and 2004 World Series champion. His new memoir is Pedro.

From Martinez's Q & A with Robert Siegel for NPR:

SIEGEL: Now I want you to clarify something that may have mystified some baseball fans for years. After a loss to the Yankees you famously told reporters, the Yankees are my daddy. And this was seized upon as evidence that you were some kind of goofy guy or something. So tell us, what did you mean when you said, the Yankees are my daddy?

MARTINEZ: I didn't really say it that way. I said it - but you know that the media feeds off of negativity. They need quotes in order for them to write what they have to write. And what they got from the quote was I might as well go ahead and call the Yankees my daddy. That was the quote, but at the time what I meant was - in the Dominican Republic, we have a say that whenever you have a guy that has your number, you call him your daddy. And that's what I said. I might as well just call the Yankees my daddy.

SIEGEL: He owns you, that guy's got your number.

MARTINEZ: That's - he owns you. And that's what I meant at that time. But in no way did I mean that I couldn't beat the Yankees or...[read on, or listen to the interview]
--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, May 15, 2015

Sally Mann

Sally Mann is one of America's most renowned photographers. Her new book is Hold Still: A Memoir with Photographs.

From the author's Q & A with Peggy Mann for The Amazon Book Review:

PM: Knowing the experience you had with letting the world ‘in’ with the publication of the family pictures, was there any hesitation in writing this book? How is this different? Same?

Sally Mann: I once said to a photographer named Judith Joy Ross that I wanted my then nascent family work to be “open.” She replied dourly: “Sometimes, Sally, when people see openness, they see a way in.” I never forgot that and, of course, it proved to be true. I think there are some differences here, though: the family pictures were subject to so many interpretations, and every person who looked at them had not just an opinion but also a connection to the work that was unique to them and felt very personal. Hold Still is less interpretively labile—it is more of a statement and less of a question. Besides, I am such a recluse that I don’t think people will see that “way in” with this book, other than, I hope, one to their own psyche.

PM: You speak to the scrutiny and ridicule you received as a result of the family pictures - people judging the artist rather than the art - why do you think that is? Do you think this is something that has become more so over the last decade? And do you think that as a result there are many artists choosing not to bring their art to public eyes?

Sally Mann: I don’t see many artists who are not trying to bring their work to the public---to the contrary I see artists nearly desperate to get attention for their art and, failing that, often for themselves. They should be...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Kate Atkinson

Kate Atkinson's new novel is A God in Ruins.

From her Q & A with Jax Blunt at Making it Up:

Both Life after Life and A God in Ruins deal with brutal topics in a clear and undramatic way – I would say that the calmness allows the reader to consider the events without the author’s emotions getting in the way if that makes any sense – was that ever difficult to maintain? And if so, what were the most difficult topics to write?

Oh, that’s a complicated question. Well a writer is outside of their narrative, you have to be objective in order to write, because writing is such a structured activity, it’s not just an out-pouring of emotions. So by the time you’ve considered how you’re going to write those scenes, you have already got a certain authorial distance, and then the important thing is to be able to recreate those moments – flying over enemy territory, the terror of crash-landing or ditching and so one and render them in such a way that they retain their power and their truth. In a way, you’re analysing something, and taking it apart, and then you’re putting the ‘feeling’ back in. There are s a lot of harrowing scenes in this book and in Life After Life but I don’t really get distressed by them because I I’ve been through all of that before I start writing.

The only scene I cannot revisit – in fact I never do revisit – the only scene which made me cry is in Behind the Scenes at the Museum when the pet dogs are killed in the First World War … It’s just so horrible the idea that you’d send your pet dog to the Front. What were these people thinking? Puppies going to do their bit… Death of any dog, of animal, they’re the ones I find difficult. The death of Ginger in Black Beauty scarred me for life. People are easier...[read on]
Learn about Kate Atkinson's top ten novels.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Beth Macy

Beth Macy won the J. Anthony Lukas Work-in-Progress Award, a joint project of the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism and the Nieman Foundation for Journalism at Harvard for "her extraordinary reporting and narrative skills" and her work on Factory Man: How One Furniture Maker Battled Offshoring, Stayed Local - and Helped Save an American Town.

From her Q & A with Neal Thompson for Omnivoracious:

What sparked your initial interest in the story of Bassett Furniture Company?

I set out initially in late 2011 to write a newspaper series on the aftermath of globalization in Henry County/Martinsville, Va., which had had the highest unemployment rate in the state for a decade. I was inspired by the work of freelance photographer Jared Soares, who’d been documenting what he saw there: textile plant conveyor belts-turned-food pantry delivery devices and the like. Early in my interviews, I heard there was a third-generation furniture maker named John Bassett III who’d singlehandedly bucked the trend and fought China to keep his factory in Galax, Va., going, saving jobs and his family legacy. When I heard he said things like, “The [expletive] Chi-Comms aren’t gonna tell me how to make furniture!” my story Spidey sense went on high alert. He’d done the counterintuitive thing, and he’d done it during a time of huge cultural/economic change. I knew right away his story was BIG, the kind of piece where you could thread together history, economic relevancy and even memoir (I’m the daughter of a displaced factory worker myself).

How did you convince John Bassett III to cooperate and give you access?

Polite persistence and baby steps. He was going to give me 15 minutes of his time the first time we met, but I won him over by being prepared: I knew all about...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Sarah McCoy

Sarah McCoy is the New York Times, USA Today, and international bestselling author of The Baker’s Daughter, a 2012 Goodreads Choice Award Best Historical Fiction nominee; the novella “The Branch of Hazel” in Grand Central; The Time It Snowed in Puerto Rico; and The Mapmaker’s Children.

Her work has been featured in Real Simple, The Millions, Your Health Monthly, Huffington Post and other publications. McCoy has taught English writing at Old Dominion University and at the University of Texas at El Paso. She calls Virginia home but presently lives with her husband, an Army physician, and their dog, Gilly, in El Paso, Texas.

From McCoy's Q & A with Caroline Leavitt:

I always want to know what sparks a particular book. What’s the question this book is asking that has been haunting you? What was it about the Underground Railroad that fascinated you so?

The ‘spark’ for each of my novels has come to me differently. Author friends tell me how they are consistently inspired through one particular medium: a visual image, historical character, political agenda, emotional struggle, color, food, etc. I can’t say that I have one. I guess my Mz. Inspiration likes to throw her bolts in various forms. I’ve never had a story come to me in the same way. The Mapmaker’s Children began with a sentence being spoken…

“A dog is not a child,” the woman, Eden Anderson, kept saying. And it was the way she said it that wouldn’t let me be. Confident, irked, and yet, deeply wounded by the very words she spoke. I couldn’t shush her no matter what I did. Months of hearing this over and over in my head—it could drive a woman batty (if you didn’t think I was already)!

So in an effort to cure my insomnia from this parrot haunting, I wrote the sentence and its corresponding scene in the journal. I realized then that the sentence was echoing through and out the front door of an old house—the house in New Charlestown calling me to solve its Underground Railroad secret. A mystery set between Eden in present-day West Virginia and Sarah Brown 150 years ago.

To be honest, before then, I was familiar with the Abolitionist Movement by virtue of being a history nerd. The Underground Railroad was a fascinating component, but it wasn’t until Eden and Sarah’s home called me that I became completely absorbed in it. Now, I feel like I see...[read on]
Learn more about the book and author at Sarah McCoy’s website, Facebook page, and Twitter perch.

Coffee with a Canine: Sarah McCoy and Gilbert.

The Page 69 Test: The Mapmaker's Children.

My Book, The Movie: The Mapmaker’s Children.

Writers Read: Sarah McCoy.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, May 11, 2015

Elisa Albert

Elisa Albert's new novel is After Birth.

From the author's interview with Diana Spechler at Slate:

Even though the book is about motherhood, its central relationship is not between the mother and the child, or even between the mother and her husband. It’s between two young mothers—it’s focused on a friendship.

It’s a precious thing to find a true friend any time in life, but it’s a particularly stark need when you have a new baby. We live in a society where, unless she’s lucky or unique, a woman has a baby on her own. Even if she has a good partner, she doesn’t have the continuous support of a comprehensive community of women. She’s isolated. And that’s a problem. New mothers are extremely vulnerable: You’re sitting on your ass tending to the more or less constant needs of a helpless and likewise vulnerable new being. You’re exhausted. You look like shit. If you don’t have anyone to hang out with, that’s a bad situation.

Ari meets Mina. And that turns out to be all she needs: one friend. That’s how this whole experience can come to seem like a new kind of normal, and be funny and OK and maybe even kind of chill and nice. Sure, there’s a part of you that’s entirely focused on the child—you’re very physically connected in the early months—but when I was a new mother, I felt loneliest and most dissatisfied when I was sitting by myself nursing my baby. Nursing is very time-consuming in the beginning. I loved my baby. That goes without saying. But I would sit there all day thinking...[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

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Jon Krakauer

Jon Krakauer's new book is Missoula: Rape and the Justice System in a College Town.

From his Q & A with Laura Miller at Salon:

You became interested in the problem of rape when you learned, to your surprise, that a longtime friend of yours was suffering terribly from the lingering trauma of having been raped in her youth.

Right. It was a shock because she was like a golden child. She’d gotten her foot in the door in a very difficult career and everything seemed great — up until the moment she landed in rehab. That was devastating in itself. But then to learn the reason she was there was that she had been raped twice, once when she was in her mid-teens and then a couple years later. The first time by someone a little older than her and the second time by someone who was significantly older and a family friend. Someone that I know.

This woman is like a daughter to me. I’ve known her since she was born, and I was so ashamed of myself for a) not being aware of her problems and b) for being so ignorant about the trauma of rape and how lasting and horrible it is. I’m an obsessive, and I like to learn stuff, so I just started reading books. Then I got on the Internet and quickly — it doesn’t take a genius to realize this is a widespread problem. It’s everywhere. I started just following different assault cases in different cities. I must have 34 files. One of them was Missoula. Then when Katie J.M. Baker wrote that Jezebel piece [“My Weekend in America’s So-Called ‘Rape Capital’”] …

A great piece by a wonderful young reporter.

It is great. One of the cases I was following was the Allison Huguet case [Huguet was sleeping on the sofa after a party at the home of Beau Donaldson, a longtime family friend. She woke to find Donaldson had removed her clothes and was raping her.] I saw there was going to be a sentencing hearing. I thought, I like Missoula, and it’s close. So I went. I walk in, and the first witness is Allison’s dad and it’s just riveting. You could tell how angry he was. He pointed at Donaldson and said, “That piece-of-shit rapist.” The courtroom was full of Beau’s supporters because he’s this popular football player and that was all pretty interesting.

And then Alison was called, four or five witnesses in, and she was so compelling. She’s not a large person. She’s kind of unassuming, The defense attorney was just this asshole, lecturing her, and she...[read on]
See Jon Krakauer's five best list of books about mortality and existential angst.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, May 9, 2015

Kate Betts

Kate Betts's new memoir, My Paris Dream: An Education in Style, Slang, and Seduction in the Great City on the Seine, is about her time in Paris in the late 1980s learning the fashion ropes at Women's Wear Daily and untangling the social codes of the Paris elite.

From her Q & A with Tim Murphy at Newsday:

What do you remember most vividly from your first years in Paris?

Struggling to fit in and a feeling of isolation. I had no idea how hard it would be to learn all the social codes and break into that tight French circle. But I was very determined to have French friends and not fall into the American expat group that I worked with. Besides that, I'd say I remember the smell of urine in the Metro. Paris was not as pristine then as it is now. Also, I lived with a French family with two kids and the mother always had great smells in her kitchen -- chocolate cake, bread, omelets, huge informal dinner parties with a couscous or a coq au vin.

Americans often think the French are mean. What do you say to that?

The French are so wedded to their own sense of civilization. They have high standards for themselves that nobody can really compete with. Americans are far more relaxed and easygoing. That French rigor comes across as nasty but really it's a deeply entrenched thing for them. Their manners, every gesture, the way they raise their kids, eat. Once you break through that barrier, they are actually...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, May 8, 2015

Matt Bai

Matt Bai's 2014 book, All the Truth Is Out: The Week Politics Went Tabloid, revisits the Gary Hart affair and looks at how it changed forever the intersection of American media and politics.

From the author's Fresh Air interview with Dave Davies:

DAVIES: So you spent a lot of time reviewing the events of 1987 in advance of the '88 presidential campaign - talked to all the players that would talk to you nowadays. So let's go over some of this. Historically before 1987, what were the standards employed by journalists in covering politicians' private lives?

BAI: Well, it's too facile to say private lives were never an issue in politics or in presidential politics. You certainly can't say the character wasn't an issue; we always cared about these things. But by and large, if you're looking at the 20th century politics, let's say, and even going back before then, the personal lives or private or marital transgressions of national candidates became germane to the debate only when they burst out into the open and affected your political standing. So if you look at someone like Nelson Rockefeller, who in the 1960s divorced his wife, married a much younger staffer - it was quite scandalous, particularly in the Republican Party - that affected his standing with Republican voters. It was a political story, and it was covered - Chappaquiddick, of course, we all know, Ted Kennedy's marital troubles, his wife's issues - all of these things were covered in the context of political standing and how it affected your campaign.

What we didn't have were journalists going out and sort of playing detective or private investigator and trying to bring into the public arena what were considered private behaviors that were generally off-limits. So that, you know, in the case of, say, a Franklin Roosevelt, a John Kennedy, a Lyndon Johnson - all of whom we now know were not angels in their private lives by the standards most of us have for our marriages - but not of that was considered news. Even later after it was understood that John Kennedy had not only had extramarital affairs, but associations in terms of the mafia and a mafia mistress that, you know, that were really...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Hannah Nordhaus

Hannah Nordhaus's latest book, American Ghost: A Family's Haunted Past in the Desert Southwest, attempts to uncover the truth about her great-great-grandmother, Julia--whose ghost is said to haunt an elegant hotel in Santa Fe.

From the author's Q & A with Kelly Faircloth for Jezebel:

It’s always interesting to me what projects pan out. What pushed you to write about Julie and your family’s history? What tipped you over?

I was trying to think about my next project after my last book, which was about honeybees and the beekeeping crisis that’s been affecting honeybee populations worldwide. Julia wasn’t the first thing that came to mind. My dog died right before my last book came out, so I thought about writing a dog memoir. And that did not pan out! Not every idea does.

Julia Staab is someone I’ve thought about my whole life and known about her. I had written about her before, as I mention in the book when I was a younger woman. At the time, I think I was really writing about myself more than I was writing about Julia. It was about Julia as a young bride coming from Germany to New Mexico with her horrible husband and being kept down by men. I think at that point in my life that’s how I felt I was being kept down. So I wrote that article when I was 24 and just moved on with my life and became a journalist and wrote about science and the environment and stayed away from ghosts. Then, sometime after I realized the dog memoir was not something I wanted to spend two years writing, I remembered I had found this book that my great-aunt Lizzie had written about our family history, and I realized that there was a lot more to my family than just these ghost stories. And I suddenly was at a point in my life where I wanted to learn more and in a place where I had the opportunity to do so, as a writer.

One of the things that fascinated me was how well you were able to flesh out Julia’s family and her world and get so close to her, but at the same time, it was hard to get final, definitive answers to many of the big questions. You still end up wondering about the core of Julia. Did you learn what you wanted to learn?

About Julia, no. But I learned so much more about...[read on]
Learn more about the book and author at Hannah Nordhaus's website.

The Page 99 Test: The Beekeeper's Lament.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Barry Estabrook

Barry Estabrook's new book is Pig Tales: An Omnivore's Quest for Sustainable Meat.

From his Fresh Air interview with Dave Davies:

ESTABROOK: In the state of Texas alone, pigs do over $50 million damage - wild pigs - $50 million damage per year, just to farms. It can range from, a farmer will plant an entire field with corn, and that night, the pigs will just go down the rows and eat up literally every kernel that he's planted. Pigs can stand on their hind legs and pull the branches of fruit trees - peach trees - down, snap them off to get at the fruit. They can create such havoc in a hayfield that the farmer can't get on the land to cut it and just has to wait until the next year. They're incredibly destructive, and they can do this overnight.

DAVIES: And you spent some time with people who try and hunt, trap and kill them. (Laughter). It's not an easy business, is it?

ESTABROOK: Well, I spent a lot of time in Texas, which has the worst feral-pig problem in the United States. They're absolutely out of control in Texas. They don't know how many, but they think there is at least 2-and-a-half million feral pigs in Texas. And estimates are that they would have to somehow kill 700,000 of those pigs a year just to stay even.

Well, they don't. They kill about 400,000, and they can use any means possible. I mean, they can trap them. They can lure them into pens. They can shoot them. They can and do go up in helicopters. It's an awful pastime, but it's legal to go up in a helicopter and shoot wild pigs with machine guns, automatic rifles. Yet, they're not even close to controlling pigs. They don't know what they're going to do.

DAVIES: And you were saying that they - because the pigs are smart, they've learned to evade, for example, the techniques of hunting dogs and stuff.

ESTABROOK: Well, yeah. You know, the old rules of pig and hunting hound was the hounds would get on the pig's scent, and the pig would run and find a good...[read on]
See Barry Estabrook's top five books on food production.

Visit Estabrook's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Robert D. Putnam

Robert D. Putnam's new book is Our Kids: The American Dream in Crisis.

From his Q & A with Fareed Zakaria:

PUTNAM: Really interesting studies have been done comparing how important your own test scores, your own intellectual ability is and how important your parents' income is.


PUTNAM: So it turns out now, smart poor kids, high test scores, but low parental income, are less likely to graduate from college than dumb rich kids; that is, kids who are lower scorers, but their parents have money.

That, Fareed, violates the fundamental notion of what the American dream is. You shouldn't -- your chances in life shouldn't depend upon your parents' income, they should depend upon how hard you work.

ZAKARIA: And what can we do? What are the solutions?

PUTNAM: There -- there are some big things we can do. For example, universal early childhood education is -- we know that that works. We know it works especially for -- for poor kids. It's not yet, despite the debate about the president's proposals here, it's not yet a red/blue issue, because the most impressive early childhood education program in America is in Oklahoma, one of the reddest of states.

So I'm trying to avoid making that become a -- a political issue, because it isn't right now. We -- the facts are that they would help. The other big things that would help, of course, is if we could end this 30 year stagnation of wages for -- for -- that is affect the working class.

But there are also smaller things not quite as powerful in the long run but -- but doable right now.

For example, instituting pay for play for high school activities, that is, nowadays, if you want to play in extracurricular activities, your parents have got to pay about $400 a term.

We know that extracurricular activities have a payoff down the road because employers are willing to pay more for people who've learned those soft skills.

So now to charge people, kids, to take part in those activities has had the inevitable consequence that poor kids are dropping out of band and chorus and football and French club, to their detriment. And that is self-inflicted.

This is not a zero sum game. It's not like if we help poor kids, it's going to hurt my grandchildren. On the contrary. What we know is my grandchildren are going to be better off if we help all the kids, because the country is going to grow faster, we're going to be using everybody's minds, not just the rich kids' minds, we're going to be not having to pay for the criminal justice costs and the -- and the health costs and so on.

This is a -- an easy -- ought to be an easy kid -- easy case. Everybody would be better -- better off if we just invested more of our own love and attention, mentoring, for example, and also of our country's resources in these poor kids.
Read the transcript of the complete interview.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, May 4, 2015

Bruce DeSilva

Bruce DeSilva is a former journalist whose Edgar Award-winning hard-boiled crime novels chronicle the adventures of Liam Mulligan, an investigative reporter for the dying Providence Dispatch.

His new novel is A Scourge of Vipers.

From DeSilva's Q & A with Kristin Centorcelli at My Bookish Ways:

Will you tell us a little about A Scourge of Vipers and what we can expect from Liam Mulligan this time around?

The action begins when Rhode Island’s colorful fictional governor, a former religious sister nicknamed Attila the Nun, proposes legalizing sports gambling to ease the state’s budget crisis. Powerful organizations that have a lot to lose—or gain—if gambling is made legal flood the little state with millions of dollars to buy the votes of state legislators. When a powerful state senator turns up dead, a mobbed-up bagman gets shot down, and his briefcase full of cash goes missing, Liam Mulligan, an investigative reporter for The Providence Dispatch, wants to investigate. But the bottom-feeding conglomerate that recently purchased the struggling newspaper has no interest in serious reporting. So Mulligan goes rogue, digging into the story on his own. Soon, shadowy forces try to derail his investigation by destroying his career, his reputation, and perhaps his life. The result is at once suspenseful murder mystery and a serious exploration of the hypocrisy surrounding sports betting and the corrupting influence of big money on politics. Although the book is certainly hardboiled, the tone is a tad lighter than Mulligan fans have come to expect. The first three novels were littered with innocent victims, but in A Scourge of Vipers, most of the people who get shot...[read on]
Visit Bruce DeSilva's website and blog.

Coffee with a Canine: Bruce DeSilva and Brady.

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

The Page 69 Test: A Scourge of Vipers.

My Book, The Movie: A Scourge of Vipers.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, May 3, 2015

Joyce Carol Oates

Joyce Carol Oates is a recipient of the National Book Award and the PEN/Malamud Award for Excellence in Short Fiction. She published her first book in 1963 and has since published over forty novels, as well as a number of plays and novellas, and many volumes of short stories, poetry, and nonfiction.

From her Q & A with Mia Funk for Tin House:

Mia Funk: If I were to go into your online browsing history, what would I find?

Joyce Carol Oates: A hodgepodge of many things, I’m sure.

MF: It’s said you never have writers block. So what feeds your imagination? What gets you going writing in the morning?

JCO: Though I am never exactly “blocked” I do have difficult periods. I am led by a fascination with material—the challenge of presenting it in an original & engaging way. I have no problem imagining stories, characters, distinctive settings & themes– but the difficulty is choosing a voice & a language in which to present it.

MF: Which books of yours came to you naturally? And why?

JCO: “Naturally”?—none.

MF: Which ones were more of a struggle?

JCO: Blonde, which is my longest novel, was a considerable struggle simply because of its length & complexity. It is a “fictional biography” of Norma Jeane Baker, who becomes “Marilyn Monroe” encased in a sort of American postmodernist epic.

MF: What do you find most challenging to write?

JCO: The novel is the most challenging form if you are trying to create something original. Obviously, all genres can be written “to form” . . .

MF: When you are creating characters, do they already have a strong presence in your mind’s eye?

JCO: Characters begin as...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, May 2, 2015

Maria Bello

Maria Bello is an activist, actor, and writer. Her essay "Coming Out as a Modern Family" was one of the 10 most popular to appear in the New York Times's Modern Love column.

Bello's new book is Whatever...Love Is Love: Questioning the Labels We Give Ourselves.

From her Q & A with William O'Connor at The Daily Beast:

You talk about how important a role books played in your life. One book in particular had an impact on you when you were diagnosed as bipolar—William Styron’s Darkness Visible. What was it about the book that reached you?

I tried to explain depression to someone, and it’s almost impossible. Many people have written about depression, bipolar, or schizophrenia. There has rarely been anything I’ve read that has been so concise and hits the nail on the head exactly for what depression is. He actually wrote it when he was in the midst of a depression. I like to say depression feels like your whole family just died in a car accident, you have no one and nothing left, but the truth is they’re inside having dinner and are just fine. Styron’s Darkness Visible is the first book I’ve read that captured that in an artistic and authentic way. It’s a short and really concise book. But it’s really in your gut heartfelt. It’s not one you’d walk away from feeling sad. I think you walk away feeling that this man shows you a part of himself that will help you be more compassionate in the world. I felt more compassionate to myself with my own disease, for my father, and...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, May 1, 2015

Peter Singer

Peter Singer's latest book is The Most Good You Can Do: How Effective Altruism Is Changing Ideas About Living Ethically.

From his Q & A with Hamilton Nolan for Gawker:

You like to use donations to the arts as an example of a sort of bad choice of charity. What is the allure of charities like that, rather than lifesaving charities?

Singer: With a lot of people—not people who are giving many millions, but smaller donors—they seem to be giving on impulse. They seem to be giving in an emotionally directed way, without having that reflective check on whether the charity that they're emotionally attracted to is really as good as it seems to be.

A lot of people don't think that one charity can be compared to another—that they're all good in their own way.

Singer: Do you think there are people who actually think that having a renovated concert hall for wealthy Manhattanites is as important as, let's say, restoring sight for blind people? For the $500 million [that it will take to restore Lincoln Center], you could have 5 million people able to see, or prevented from going blind [through an aid group like Hellen Keller International]. You could have a million women who are social outcasts because they suffer from fistula have their lives back together again. I don't think anybody who sits down and understands, on the one hand, you can renovate this concert hall, on the other hand, you can do this or this or this, would really think that the renovated concert hall is somehow just as good, or that you can't say one is better than the other. That...[read on]
Peter Singer is Ira W. DeCamp Professor of Bioethics at Princeton University. He is the author, co-author, or editor of more than thirty books, including Animal Liberation, widely considered to be the founding statement of the animal rights movement, Practical Ethics, and One World: Ethics and Globalization.

The Page 99 Test: The Life You Can Save.

--Marshal Zeringue