Friday, July 31, 2015

J. Ryan Stradal

J. Ryan Stradal's new novel is Kitchens of the Great Midwest.

From his Q & A with Caroline Leavitt:

What was the idea that sparked this book, the thought that haunted you so you had to write it out?

Great question. I wanted to write a book that my mom would’ve loved had she lived to see it exist. Beyond that, I was driven to write a book set in my home region, with characters that resembled the kinds of people I knew growing up. I hadn’t read anything yet that really nailed that for me, so I figured I’d better write it myself. This one really was heavy with my mom’s influence, though. I thought of her every day while I was writing this. It was like...[read on]
Visit J. Ryan Stradal's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Clancy Martin

Clancy Martin is Professor of Philosophy in the University of Missouri-Kansas City's College of Arts and Sciences, Professor of Business Ethics at the Bloch School of Management. His books include the Pushcart Prize winning novel How to Sell, and a book of philosophy, Love and Lies: An Essay on Truthfulness, Deceit, and the Growth and Care of Erotic Love.

From his Q & A with April Ayers Lawson at VICE:

VICE: Before you were a philosophy professor, you were a jewelry salesman. You "used deception to take the easy way out of selling." It made you miserable, led to a cocaine addiction and extended time in the executive bathroom where you'd stand in front of the mirror with a gun barrel in your mouth. You write: "Though I don't believe in the existence of a soul, exactly, I came to understand what people mean when they say you are losing your soul." Well, what do they mean?

Clancy Martin: I think when we talk about "losing our soul" what we might mean is something like losing self-respect, losing our sense of what matters, losing our hope that we can become better people—maybe even becoming cynical about the whole enterprise of human life. When I was at my lowest, I thought life was no more than struggling to get from one day to the next without killing yourself. If I could have crawled into a cocoon that would have put me to sleep forever I would have done so—or would have wished to do so—and then felt sorry for myself that I didn't. This, for me, was "losing my soul." Forgetting that anyone other than me and my little circle of immediate concerns mattered.

Excessive lying, in my opinion, will do this to a person. Why? I think because, as Adrienne Rich says, "the liar leads a life of unutterable loneliness": Somehow communication with others, when we feel like we are actually talking to one another and not just pretending to talk, restores our belief in the idea that we can become better people. And why is that the case? Because then we remember that other people matter—and that we, as individuals, might matter to them, too. Yes, successful communication requires some dishonesty. But too much dishonesty completely isolates you from other people, and that takes you to a place of complete despair. Someone who has become a habitual liar—as I was when I was in the jewelry business, for example—is a lot like a person coming down off cocaine (something that also happened to me a lot back in those jewelry days). You feel...[read on]
The Page 69 Test: How to Sell.

Writers Read: Clancy Martin.

The Page 99 Test: Love and Lies.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, July 29, 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 Allen Mendenhall for Southern Literary Review:

Your novel is Where All Light Tends to Go, a story about the underbelly of North Carolina, where outlawing is, the opening lines tell us, “as much a matter of blood as hair color and height.” Tell us how Jacob McNeely, your narrator, came to be.

DJ: I saw Jacob before I heard him. And what I mean is that there was an image before there was a voice. I was at a buddy’s house up in Cashiers and we were standing by his hog pen where he keeps these feral hogs he traps and he was telling me about how, when they’re hunting, they kill some of the hogs with a knife. They bay the hogs with hounds and when the dogs get the pig down the hunter will go in and stab the hog in the heart. So while he was telling me this, an image came into my head, an image of a really young boy doing this. I saw a boy with his father standing behind him telling his son what to do, and this boy watching the light go out of this animal’s eyes and suddenly realizing just how much power a person had over life and death.

That image stuck with me for a long time, and I kept trying to write his story, but I kept getting it wrong. I think I kept trying to force it rather than let him tell me what he wanted to tell me. Then one night I woke out of a dream and Jacob was talking. That’s when I finally got it right is when I...[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, July 28, 2015

Ernest Cline

Ernest Cline’s novels include Ready Player One and the follow-up, Armada.

From his Q & A with Jacob Brogan for Slate:

What role do video games play in our lives today?

Human beings are not wired to live the way we live now. We’ve only been living in cities and driving cars and working in cubicles for a few hundred years. Millions of years of evolution have us wired to hunt and gather and form teams and kick ass and conquer territory and be explorers.

That’s the natural human thing, but we don’t get to do that any more, which is why modern life drives a lot of people crazy. We have to work out that hunter-gatherer energy by other means. Some people do it with sports, but I think an even larger group of people does it with video games.

In some ways what you’re suggesting is that video games are more natural than real life.

We’ve mastered nature now. We exist outside nature. Our food can just be packaged and brought to us. We exist in the womb of technology from the time that we’re born, protected by modern medicine, which is...[read on]
Learn about Ernest Cline’s ten favorite science fiction novels.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, July 27, 2015

Kim Stanley Robinson

Kim Stanley Robinson’s novels include the landmark Mars trilogy and the newly released Aurora.

From his Q & A with Steve Paulson for Electric Literature:

SP: Mars One is the project that’s trying to engineer one-way trips to Mars. You know you’re not going to come back. Frankly, it sounds like a suicide mission, and yet tens of thousands of people have signed up for this mission.

KSR: Yes, but they’ve made a category error. Their imaginations have not managed to catch up to the situation. They are in some kind of boring life and they want excitement. Maybe they’re young, maybe they’re worried about their economic prospects, maybe they want something different. They imagine it would be exciting if they got to Mars. But it was Ralph Waldo Emerson who said travel is stupid; wherever you go, you’re still stuck with yourself. I went to the South Pole once. I was only there for a week and it was the most boring place in Antarctica because we couldn’t really leave the rooms without getting into space suits.

SP: Is extended space travel like going to Antarctica?

KSR: It’s the best analogy you can get, especially for Mars. You would get to a landscape that’s beautiful and sublime and scientifically interesting and mind-boggling. Antarctica is all those things and so would Mars be. But I notice that nobody in the United States cares about what the Antarcticans are doing every November and December. There are a couple thousand people down there having a blast. If the same thing happened on Mars, it would be like, “Oh...[read on]
Learn about Kim Stanley Robinson’s ten favorite SF novels and ten favorite Mars novels.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, July 26, 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 her Q & A with Stephanie Mezzanatto for Midwestern Gothic:

SM: Black River is your debut novel about a man who returns to his small Montana hometown after receiving news that the man who took away his ability to play his beloved fiddle during a prison riot has been released. You describe the main character, Wes Carver as “a man who always keeps his word, holds strong moral convictions…unforgiving of imperfections…stoic to a fault.” Is Wes Carver loosely based on anyone you know or have known at some point?

SMH: No, he’s not. I’ve never been one to base my characters even loosely on real people, but I certainly know plenty of people who share some traits with Wes. In many ways, Wes—though his story is contemporary—is the quintessential Western man, the sort you might find in an old cowboy movie. His job as a corrections officer has only reinforced his inherent and cultural tendencies toward stoicism and independence, but those aren’t traits that always serve him well during the events of Black River. As the novel unfolds, the reader comes to understand the ways in which Wes’s past has shaped his personality and realizes that he’s a bit more complex than he first appears.

SM: You were inspired to write Black River while reading about the prison riots that took place in the Montana State Prison in the late 1950s. What about the riots inspired you, and sparked the creation of Wes Carver within this setting?

SMH: I’ve always been interested in...[read on]
The Page 69 Test: Black River.

Writers Read: S. M. Hulse.

My Book, The Movie: Black River.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, July 24, 2015

Anna North

Anna North graduated from the Iowa Writers Workshop in 2009, having received a Teaching-Writing Fellowship and a Michener/Copernicus Society Fellowship. Her fiction has appeared in Nautilus, Glimmer Train, the anthology Robot Uprisings, and the Atlantic Monthly, where it was nominated for a National Magazine Award. Her nonfiction has appeared in the San Francisco Chronicle, The Paris Review Daily, Jezebel, BuzzFeed, and Salon, and she is now a staff editor at the New York Times.

North's first novel, America Pacifica, was published in 2011. Her new novel is The Life and Death of Sophie Stark.

From the author's Q & A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: How did you come up with your main character, Sophie Stark, and why did you decide to make her a filmmaker?

A: I had the idea to write about a character named Sophie Stark years ago, long before I really started the book in earnest. In my mind she was always a filmmaker.

At first I wanted to make her more of a political documentarian, but over time I realized I was less interested in the political aspects of her work than in the personal -- how she relates (and fails to relate) to the people closest to her, how her art intertwines with her identity.

I think I was attracted to the idea of writing about a filmmaker because film feels so different from writing -- focusing on Sophie allowed me to tell a story about a creative person whose skills and outlook on the world are totally different from...[read on]
The Page 69 Test: The Life and Death of Sophie Stark.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Jehanne Dubrow

Jehanne Dubrow is the author of five poetry collections, including most recently The Arranged Marriage, Red Army Red, and Stateside.

From her Q & A with Matthew Thorburn on the Ploughshares blog:

Matthew Thorburn: How did this book come to be? Did you conceive of it as a larger project from the outset, or did it come into focus as you were writing the poems?

Jehanne Dubrow: My mother has told me the stories that form The Arranged Marriage since I was a little girl: her exiled Jewish childhood in Honduras, her experience of being held hostage by a violent man, and her forced marriage in El Salvador which followed that trauma. These narratives are so much a part of me that The Arranged Marriage happened very organically. I wrote fifteen of the collection’s central poems in the first week and then spent the next two years building the rest of the book around those key texts.

MT: Did you find that the prose poem form offered advantages for you when creating this book? How did you decide that these would be predominantly prose poems?

JD: I came to think of these as my “newspaper column poems” and their narrative strategy a sort of poetic reportage. Received and fixed forms would call too much attention to themselves, and so I learned how to write my version of a prose poem—little, safe boxes that could contain trauma and...[read on]
Visit Jehanne Dubrow's website.

Writers Read: Jehanne Dubrow (April 2010).

Writers Read: Jehanne Dubrow (November 2012).

Coffee with a Canine: Jehanne Dubrow and Argos.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

E.L. Doctorow

E.L. Doctorow's last novel is Andrew's Brain.

From the author's 2014 interview with Scott Simon:

SIMON: Your protagonist, Andrew, is a cognitive scientist. Now, this doesn't seem to be the same thing as trying to write a novel from the mind of a man who is a bus driver. How do you write convincingly from inside the mind and skin of a cognitive scientist?

DOCTOROW: The ideal way to get involved in this sort of work is to write in order to find out what you're writing. You don't start with an outline and a plan, you start from these images that are very evocative to you. And in this case, it's the first line in the book, where's Andrew's saying I can tell you what I'm about to tell you, but it's not pretty. And suddenly you find yourself with your character. And it occurs to you that he's a cognitive scientist. I don't know why, but it just does. The book is constructed as someone mostly talking and someone mostly listening - sort of like radio. And he's talking to someone who might be a shrink or some sort of questioner, and telling the story of how he's got into this mess.

SIMON: You are so celebrated for best-selling historical novels - and there is some gripping history here in the scenes following September 11th, but why did you want to try to this forum?

DOCTOROW: Well, I know some people think of me as a historical novelist. I don't agree with that. I think all novels are...[read on or listen to the interview]
--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Claire North

Catherine Webb, a Carnegie Medal-nominated author, is also Claire North, the pseudonymous author of The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August.

From her 2014 Q & A with Charlie Jane Anders at io9:

Why give this book a male protagonist? What makes Harry August such a compelling character to you?

The biggest reason for writing a male protagonist was the history of the 20th century itself. When Harry August is born, women still don't have the vote; by the time he dies, the women's rights movement is a loud voice fighting battles across the world. The change in society in that century is massive, but women were – and are still – discriminated against. Knowing what I do of my own politics, it seemed unlikely that I'd get through the book without being drawn massively into the world of gender politics and the changing battle for women's rights throughout the century, and while this is vitally important and a story that must be told, the story of the kalachakra didn't feel like the right way in which to tell it. Writing a male protagonist, therefore, allowed me to focus on the story of the Cronus Club that seemed most appropriate to the narrative.

Harry's at his most interesting, I think, when he's at his most reflective. He endures some horrendous things, but from the luxury of retrospect looks back on it with a historian's cold dispassion that borders on the inhuman. However this dispassion, in my mind, is nothing more and nothing less than...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, July 20, 2015

Charlie Jane Anders

Charlie Jane Anders is the author of All the Birds in the Sky.

From her Q & A with Joel Cunningham at the B & N Sci-Fi & Fantasy Blog:

In some ways, I think of the book as an optimistic apocalypse novel. It’s very dark at points, but it’s also ultimately hopeful about humanity. Where do you come down on the question? Considering what we’ve been doing to the planet to each other, do you see a hopeful end, or is it sort of wish fulfillment in your book?

I’m very worried. There’s a [scene] that got cut out of the book where somebody says, “We’ve built an unsustainable economic system on top of an unsustainable ecosystem, and now they’re all collapsing at once.” I could totally see that happening. We had two things that were not tenable, long-term. And the only ironclad law of economics is that if something can’t go on forever, it won’t. Definitely there’s a lot of stuff right now that can’t go on forever. I heard a speech the other day by Kim Stanley Robinson, who’s very concerned about what’s going to happen in the next century to the climate, and the amount of carbon that we’ll still be dumping into the atmosphere, and the giant financial incentives to keep doing that in spite of how terrible it is.

So I’m very concerned, but on the other hand, I do think that, long-term, I have faith in humanity, I think that we’re a really adaptable species. And if you haven’t...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, July 19, 2015

James Neff

James Neff's new book is Vendetta: Bobby Kennedy Versus Jimmy Hoffa.

From his interview with NPR's Robert Siegel:

SIEGEL: Is it fair to say that after immersing yourself in the story of Hoffa and Robert Kennedy that you came out thinking a little less ill of Hoffa and a little more ill of Robert Kennedy than you did at the beginning?

NEFF: I think that's a fair assessment of my change of assessment. Hoffa was - you know, he was quite an excellent labor leader in terms of knowing the economics of trucking and transportation. He was able to push things and get contracts that didn't put the trucking companies out of business but got what he could for his workers. He was very much a health nut, actually. He wasn't smoking and drinking, and so he was able to get a lot of work done. But he was, you know, clearly corrupt. And Kennedy - he pushed the limits on some of these tactics. He crossed the line. He did things that...[read on or listen to the interview]
--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, July 18, 2015

David Duchovny

The actor David Duchovny is the author of Holy Cow: A Modern-Day Dairy Tale.

From his Q & A with Anna Silman for Salon:

Where did the idea for this whole thing come about?

I guess I’ve always been aware of— I read this [book] back in college and it had all these details about the way that livestock is kept in this country, so it was always in the back of my mind. I just had a thought one day that if I were a cow, I’d want to get to India, and that seemed funny to me. I just kind of stuck with it, and I thought about where other animals might go to not get eaten, which led naturally to a pig in Israel and a turkey in Turkey. Then I had my three heroes, so I thought, what’s the story here? and I let the characters take me on a journey.

Who do you see as your target audience?

It’s an interesting question: I had the idea, many years ago in L.A., that this felt like an animated film. I did pitch it to wherever you can pitch something like that— two or three places— and they felt it wise to pass, because it has some likely political issues, likely drug issues, likely lifestyle issues. Animated films don’t want to offend anybody; they have to cast a wide net, you know? I figured it was a long shot anyway.

So aside from knowing that my audience was not just kids, I never...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, July 17, 2015

Don Winslow

Don Winslow's latest novel is The Cartel:

From his Q & A with Terry Gross for Fresh Air:

GROSS: This is FRESH AIR. I'm Terry Gross back with Don Winslow, author of the new novel 'The Cartel." He wrote an earlier novel called "The Power Of The Dog" that was also about the Mexican drug wars. He researched the subject for 10 years drawing on his experiences as a private investigator. The main character in "The Cartel" is a DEA agent obsessed with taking down the head of the Sinaloa Cartel who has escaped from Mexican prison. That character is based on the Mexican drug kingpin known as El Chapo who escaped from a Mexican prison last weekend.

Art Keller, your main character, the former DEA agent who returns to the DEA - he says the so-called Mexican drug problem isn't the Mexican drug problem; it's the American drug problem. There's no seller without a buyer. I think that represents your point of view too.

WINSLOW: Well, it really does. You know, I think I put my words a little bit into Art Keller's mouth. You know, again, this is not a political book. I'm not trying to make a point. It's a thriller; it's entertainment. But I really do believe this, you know, that we are the largest drug market in the world. We're 5 percent of the world's population. We consume 25 percent of the world's illegal drugs. Mexico has the misfortune to share a 2000-mile border with the largest drug market in the world.

GROSS: But you've also said that the cartel's product isn't the drug, it's the control of the trafficking routes. And if for instance marijuana was legalized here, there'd be another product.

WINSLOW: It will exactly. But listen, at the end of the day, they'll run out of products. It's the illegality that makes those territories so valuable. If you criminalize anything, only criminals can sell it. If only criminals can sell it, there's no recourse to law. If there's no recourse to law, there's only recourse to violence; that's created the cartels. It's our simultaneous appetite for and prohibition of drugs that...[read on or listen to the interview]
--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Patricia Abbott

Patricia Abbott is the author of more than 125 stories that have appeared online, in print journals and in various anthologies. She is the author of Monkey Justice and Home Invasion and co-editor of Discount Noir. She won a Derringer award for her story "My Hero."

Abbott's new novel is Concrete Angel.

From her Q & A with J. Kingston Pierce at Kirkus Reviews:

How long had the story in Concrete Angel been kicking around in your head before you tried writing it? And was it always going to be a novel?

Megan [Abbott, Patricia's novelist-daughter] challenged me to write a novel. She said I would probably regret it if I didn’t make a try. So after Shot in Detroit (or, as it was called then, Raising the Dead) went nowhere, she advised me to get right to the action in the next book because in SID it takes a long time to develop. She also advised me to look for newspaper stories—something she did but that I had never done, somehow thinking I had to invent it from scratch or from the lives of people I know.…So I found a story about a mother and daughter charged with various credit-card crimes and outright theft. The daughter said in court that her mother made her do it. And that got me to thinking, under what circumstances could a mother make someone commit a crime? And then I remembered the relationship of...[read on]
Visit Patricia Abbott's website.

The Page 69 Test: Concrete Angel.

Writers Read: Patricia Abbott.

My Book, The Movie: Concrete Angel.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Jimmy Carter

Jimmy Carter's latest book is A Full Life: Reflections at Ninety.

From his Q & A with John Meroney for The Atlantic:

Meroney: In your new book, you publish some of your poems. What impact did the legendary Southern poet James Dickey, who also wrote the novel Deliverance, have on you?

Carter: James Dickey was a close personal friend of mine. When I was campaigning for president in 1976, he used to come down to Plains and sit on the balcony of our depot and sometimes read poems to the people and shake hands and let them know he was for me. On my inaugural day, when I became president, he gave the preeminent inaugural poem—he wrote it especially for me. I was with him also when they had the inauguration of the movie version of Deliverance in Atlanta. I sat side-by-side with him at the first showing.

Meroney: What was your reaction to the novel and film?

Carter: I was overwhelmed. The Chattooga River on which it was filmed was a place I had canoed—I knew its ferocity. In fact, just the day after seeing Deliverance, I went down the river again. I was really impressed with the music, too.

Meroney: What was it like watching the film with the author?

Carter: He was very excited—or concerned—about the movie, in which he played a small part, the sheriff. Dickey was completely intoxicated when the movie was getting ready to start. When he sat next to me, he really didn’t know much of what was going on until the scene where the banjo player came forward and he kind of sobered up a little bit. By the point in the film when Dickey appears as the sheriff and welcomes the people who come up off the river, he was completely sober. He and I...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Ta-Nehisi Coates

Ta-Nehisi Coates is a national correspondent at The Atlantic, where he writes about culture, politics, and social issues. He is the author of The Beautiful Struggle and Between the World and Me.

From his interview with Fresh Air's Terry Gross:

GROSS: I want to get back to the shootings at the Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, S.C. A lot of people from that church placed an emphasis on the power of forgiveness. And you write, I've always felt great - and this is in relation to another shooting - you write, I've always felt great distance from the grieving rituals of my people. And I'm wondering what you meant by that and how it applies, if at all, to what you felt watching people grieve in Charleston.

COATES: I mean, it applies to this, you know. I don't understand the forgiveness aspect of this. I just don't. I understand the politics of it. Like I understand that created room for people to take down the Confederate flag. I have that. I understand not living with hatred. I understand how that can be corrupting. I got that.

I don't understand how you gun down my wife, my mother, my father, my child and when I see you three days later, I say that I forgive you. I don't understand that. You know, that doesn't make it right or wrong, but it's just not something that - and forgiveness is a big part of - especially post-civil rights movement - is a big part of African-American Christianity. And, you know, I wasn't raised within the Christian church. I wasn't raised within any church. Forgiveness is a huge, huge part of it coming out of the civil rights movement.

I just - I can't access that at all, you know? It doesn't mean that, you know, I necessarily - well, I probably would have some degree of hate, you know, if it were my relative. But I don't - I don't quite get it, you know? It doesn't - I can imagine feeling...[read on or listen to the interview]
--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, July 13, 2015

Helen Macdonald

Helen Macdonald is a writer, poet, illustrator, historian, and naturalist, and an affiliated research scholar at the Department of History and Philosophy of Science at the University of Cambridge, where she teaches undergraduate and graduate courses. Her widely-acclaimed book is H Is for Hawk.

From Macdonald's Q & A with Nick Willoughby for Salon:

What was it that made you want to train a hawk in order to overcome your grief [over your beloved father's unexpected death]?

I repeatedly dreamed of goshawks after my father died and some unconscious compulsion told me that training a goshawk was necessary. You can’t tame grief, but you can tame hawks. And the goshawk, as I explain in the book, wasn’t just a deep distraction. It was everything I wanted to be: solitary, self-possessed and free from human emotions. I didn’t want to be me anymore. I wanted to be something like a hawk: fierce, living entirely in the present and untouched by loss.

The depiction of the hawk is beguiling: at first it is menacing and alien, but the reader soon empathizes with it. Did you go out with the intention of writing a nature book?

Not consciously. I actually had a very strong sense that I didn’t want to write a book that was nature writing. Growing up I used to love those books about nature that were written in that wonderful expert tone. They would say: This is the natural world, and this is what’s in it, and this is what it means. I wanted to write a book with...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Adam Benforado

Drexel University law professor Adam Benforado's new book is Unfair: The New Science of Criminal Injustice. From his interview with Dave Davies:

DAVIES: There's a lot of interesting stuff here about how jurors decide who they're going to believe at trial - prosecutors, witnesses. And a lot of people would not be surprised to find that there are studies that suggest people are more likely to believe a person of their own race. There's other fascinating stuff. Are attractive people or thin people more likely to - or confident people - more likely to be believed in court?

BENFORADO: Yeah, there is evidence that a lot of physical features play a big role in whether people treats a particular witness as credible or not credible. And that's worrisome. But I think there's actually a deeper problem with jurors and that is that the things that we think are determining the outcomes of cases - that is the facts and the law - are often not what determines whether someone is convicted or not convicted, how long a sentence is. What matters most are the particular backgrounds and identities of the jurors.

So I teach criminal law. One of the areas that I teach is rape law, and my casebook takes many pages, discussing all of the different nuances across the different states. And there's a lot of emphasis on the casebook on the importance of these nuances. It really matters whether we are in a state that recognizes a defense of a reasonably mistaken belief in consent or we're in a state that doesn't recognize that particular defense. But when researchers looked into how important the law was to outcomes in, say, a date rape case, what they found was the particular legal nuances didn't matter at all. What mattered were the backgrounds and experiences of the jurors. What they refer to as cultural cognition. And these subgroups of citizens didn't break down as expected. It wasn't that men were far more likely to let the man off in a date rape scenario. It was actually within women that the most interesting break occurred. Women who were older, who were more conservative, who adhere to more traditional gender norms, were far more likely to let the man off in this particular case than women who were liberal and younger. That's a worry because a lot of what law professors do is emphasize the importance of legal doctrine. It may not be legal doctrine, though, in the criminal law sphere that's really determining...[read on or listen to the interview]
--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, July 10, 2015

Ioannis Pappos

Ioannis Pappos's new novel is Hotel Living.

From his Q & A at Book Culture:

How did you come to write Hotel Living?

I wrote Hotel Living as a midlife crisis antidote. I was not planning to write a novel. I had not written anything before—except bullet points on PowerPoint while working in management consulting. During the last financial crisis I had to redefine myself, at least professionally for a bit, but that revealed bigger issues. I realized I had become a creature of habit; my momentum had turned into inertia in both work and fun, even in my relationships. So I traveled, but that didn’t bring a breakthrough. It was not until I ended up at my father’s village, in Greece, where I felt suddenly both very at home and reconnected with my family. For two decades I had barely seen them…the 2-3 weeks a year vacation that we tend to use in the US had not helped. A need to tell a story hit me, and I wrote the first draft of Hotel Living there. It is a recent-period fiction, a love story in the '00s, the decade that people partied hard, like in the roaring 1920s but woke up in the biggest depression of the 1930s…It is about hotel living, literally, during a time when some could afford it—"can always expense it..."—but also about hotel living as a state of mind: the lack of commitment or responsibilities, the constant floating-upwards caught in a wave of nonstop opportunities, of "nexting." And yet promotions and invites spark unhappiness and destruction; the main characters keep chasing the unavailable—“What if...[read on]
Visit Ioannis Pappos's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Jenny Milchman

Jenny Milchman's new novel is As Night Falls.

From her Q & A with Caroline Leavitt:

This novel is really like the threat of a razor against your throat--tight, suspenseful and terrifying. What sparked the idea? (I always think there is something that haunts an author and leads to a book.)

I do, too, Caroline—I call those genesis novels. Ones that have a clear creation story. I’m writing one now, in fact—my fourth book. It came to me at such a distinct moment in time, with such a specific trajectory, that I get goosebumps when I imagine telling the story-behind-the-story on tour. And actually, come to think of it, I know the origins of both my other published novels as well.

But not As Night Falls. This book is an enigma to me, and always has been. I can’t remember when or why I began telling the story to myself—a process that has to take place before I sit down to write. I have no idea how those two prisoners appeared to me, and still less how I came up with the reason they would invade my heroine’s home.

Here’s what I do know: This book seemed to write itself. Scene after scene, like a row of dominos, falling into place. It felt effortless. (Well, until the revising anyway. But that’s for another question). Although the story takes place in one night—about eight hours—there is a novel-within-the-novel that flashes back four decades before catching up to the present day at the end. And I was deeply inspired by one book when fashioning this part of the novel: Lionel Shriver’s We Need to Talk About Kevin.

I was working as a psychotherapist when I read Shriver’s Orange prize winning tale, and I specialized in treating children. I remember feeling that Shriver got the process so exactly right—she brought to fictional life a dynamic I was seeing again and again in reality. In short, kids look to parents to put a lid on their natural aggressive impulses, and when parents turn a blind eye...[read on]
Learn more about the book and author at Jenny Milchman's website.

My Book, The Movie: Cover of Snow.

The Page 69 Test: Cover of Snow.

Writers Read: Jenny Milchman (May 2015).

The Page 69 Test: Ruin Falls.

My Book, The Movie: Ruin Falls.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

James Ellroy

James Ellroy's latest novel is Perfidia.

From his Q & A with Rosanna Greenstreet for the Guardian:

What song would you like played at your funeral?

No song. The adagio from Beethoven’s Hammerklavier Sonata, played by Emil Gilels.

How would you like to be remembered?

As a great novelist.

What is the most important lesson life has taught you?

Be properly assertive, be kind. Above all, have faith in...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, July 7, 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 Phil Klay at The Rumpus:

The Rumpus: Of all the fiction being produced by the veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan, yours makes what is probably the most startling leap with its choice of narrator. Why did you choose to write from [Afghan boy turned soldier] Aziz’s perspective?

Elliot Ackerman: I spent a lot of time in Afghanistan, serving exclusively as an advisor to Afghan military units. The dedication is “For Ali and Big Cheese, who were my friends.” These were two Afghan soldiers I was pretty tight with.

As an advisor, I went to war with these guys, fought alongside them. Coming home, my war buddies weren’t guys I could find on Facebook, or call up to get beers with at the local VFW, they were trapped in Afghanistan’s elliptical conflict. I’m never going to hear from those guys again. So I wanted to create a rendering of their world. To try to show how they lived and how they made their decisions.

I came home and I saw the way Afghans are portrayed: they’re corrupt, they steal money, they’ll stab you in the back, they’re all high on opium all the time.

None of the nuance ever gets conveyed. So I wanted to take an action which, when you first hear about it, sounds completely reprehensible—a ‘green on blue’ attack, an Afghan soldier trained by Americans shoots him in the back. You see it in the media all the time. I wanted to roll that back and take the reader on a journey such that, by the time that action is happening at the end of the book, not only will you see why he does that at the end, but you will actually see why he...[read on]
The Page 69 Test: Green on Blue.

Writers Read: Elliot Ackerman.

My Book, The Movie: Green on Blue.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, July 6, 2015

Maggie Mitchell

Maggie Mitchell's debut novel is Pretty Is.

From her Q & A with Caroline Leavitt:

I always want to know what sparks a book? What question was haunting you that propelled you into this particular story?

“Haunting” is a good word for it! I was haunted by a newspaper article I read long ago. Over the years, all of the details were stripped away, but the skeleton story that remained was this: two young girls who have never met are abducted by a strange man. After a period of time in captivity, they escape. And that’s all.

I don’t remember when I read the article. I think the abduction might have taken place in California, but I wouldn’t swear to it. I have a glimmer of a sense that the man treated the girls appallingly; maybe they were kept in a basement; probably they were held prisoner for days rather than weeks. But all I could think was: And then what? Had they become friends? Would their parents let them keep in touch? What would they come to mean to each other, over the years? What would they remember? Would their memories differ? How would their relationship mediate the experience itself? Eventually these questions began to produce a story that had almost nothing to do with the original fragment of disturbing news. It became, for me, a story about female friendship, the intensity and unruliness of adolescent desire, the fraught...[read on]
Visit Maggie Mitchell's Facebook page.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, July 5, 2015

Amber Tamblyn

Amber Tamblyn is a contributing writer for the Poetry Foundation and the author of three works of poetry, Free Stallion, Bang Ditto, and Dark Sparkler. As an actress, she has been nominated for an Emmy, a Golden Globe, and an Independent Spirit award.

From her Q & A with Erin Keane for Salon:

Not to reduce it to this, but [Dark Sparkler] is a whole book of poems about death. I know that a lot of poets struggle with writing about joy, that writing through grief or anger somehow feels more natural to the process. Do you struggle with that also?

I don’t. I’ve never written stuff this dark. My first book was very angry, it was very much a young, budding feminist voice that was angry and had a lot of rage and fire. That voice still exists, it’s just different; the anger is different, the feelings are translated in a different way, transmuted in a different way. My second book, there was a lot more humorous stuff in it and actually I’m already halfway finished with my fourth book, which is probably going to be all erotica and love poems. Those are my favorite type of poems to write. As I said, I don’t choose to do that. I think just because this stuff was so dark for so long, for six years, as soon as the book came out I just started writing. It’s like it was finished and all of a sudden all these love poems were coming to me and I felt like I wanted to write about being alive, and being in love is what that feels like. It’s the antithesis of what this book was in a lot of ways. I think these were harder, these were harder poems...[read on]
Learn about Amber Tamblyn's 6 favorite books.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, July 4, 2015

Susan Neiman

Susan Neiman, an American philosopher who lives in Berlin and directs the Einstein Forum, is the author of Why Grow Up?: Subversive Thoughts for an Infantile Age.

From her Q & A with Salon:

When was it that you realized that our society was caught in an adolescent or childlike stage? Did you have a gradual, slow-developing sense something was wrong, or did it hit you all at once?

It dawned on me slowly, but two experiences were probably pivotal. The first was being told, starting at around the age of 50, that I looked younger than my age. I knew that this was meant in a compliment; but as I finally said to a close friend, the sociologist Eva Illouz: don’t you realise that these kinds of compliments do us damage? If you want to tell me I look good I’m happy to hear it; but by equating looking good and looking young you are not only fetishizing youth, you are also implying we can only look good when we appear to be what we are not, namely young.

The second experience was watching my children enter their 20s, allegedly the best time of one’s life; observing and trying to support them in their struggles has brought back the memory of my own 20s more intensely, and how terribly hard those times are; and how much harder we make them by telling them to savour the best years of their lives. Of course at the time I thought I was the only one failing to savour those years, which made the experience worse.

But very few people who are honest would actually like to repeat those years, and empirical studies show that people generally get happier as they get older. There are good reasons why those years are hard, and they have nothing to do with the financial crisis; young people are...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, July 3, 2015

Lisa Glatt

Lisa Glatt's new novel is The Nakeds.

From her Q & A with Margaret Gray for the Los Angeles Times:

"The Nakeds" is autobiographical. But it's not a memoir. It's a novel. What do you think compels you to transform your experiences into fiction?

What happened with both [my previous novel] "A Girl Becomes a Comma Like That," which was inspired by my mother's breast cancer, and "The Nakeds" is that I started writing about a situation I wanted to explore. I first wrote about the car accident in my first book of short stories, "The Apple's Bruise." In that story, which was also about Hannah, a girl bully appeared. Then, when I was starting to write the novel, the boy who hit Hannah hit and ran. And that became really important to the book, and it's the factually inaccurate thing I wrote about. I realized that without fiction's permission to lie and tell stories, I'm not really interested in the exact truth that happened.

So the person who hit you didn't run?

He hit and stopped and dealt with the situation. He wasn't drunk. But in terms of making fiction, as I'm writing away he ran, and then I realized, wow: the guilt and the regret of leaving the accident. That's why I'm a fiction writer. There's a really different thing going on. I'm interested in that line of mining one's life but being completely open to going off track. I start with this thing that's very true, knowing that I'm going to be making things up, putting...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Gayle Lynds

Gayle Lynds's new novel is The Assassins.

From her Between the Lines Interview with Anthony Franze:

THE ASSASSINS. Wow. I couldn’t put it down. As I said, the novel is part suspenseful heist story, part edge-of-your-seat espionage thriller, and part battle of wits among six professional killers. What inspired the tale?

Thank you for your kind words, Anthony. I like the way you encapsulate THE ASSASSINS. I love adventure and geopolitics, and as a result I’ve been writing for years about spies. This time, I wanted an equal amount of focus on a critical footnote—professional international assassins.

Your six assassins—the aging de facto leader Burleigh Morgan, the Basque, the Russian, the former jihadist, the retired Mossad operative, and the Cosa Nostra killer—are all master killers. They’re also very different people, bucking the common movie stereotype of assassins as one-dimensional killers. How did this interesting diversity of character come about?

Assassins fascinate me. For many of them, it’s simply a business, while others are driven by ideology. The truly insane don’t last decades, as these men have. It seemed to me their characters could be the basis for a compelling story. As it turns out, the six in my book work together only once, and that’s for Saddam Hussein. Then Saddam...[read on]
Visit Gayle Lynds's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, July 1, 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 Michael Graff for Charlotte Magazine:

CM: Do you have a reader in mind?

DJ: Myself. I write the book that I want to read.

CM: Does what you write about make you more depressed, or does it help you get through the depression?

DJ: I was writing that book, I can remember walking into walls. My mind was so enveloped into what I was doing that I literally couldn’t see what was in front of me. I can remember when I finished that book, calling my sister, and saying, “It’s going to take me a long time to get out of the darkness I created.”

CM: What would you be doing if you weren’t doing this?

DJ: When I wrote that book, I was...[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