Monday, August 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 Alison Nastasi at Flavorwire:

Both Marys had unconventional romantic and sexual relationships, but both women were married and a part of their legacy is dominated by the men they loved. Can you talk more about this and why they chose to pursue marriage despite their beliefs?

Mary Wollstonecraft truly did not believe in marriage. She saw what had happened to abused wives — an older sister who was abused by her husband and a mother who was abused by her alcoholic father. In the 18th century and the 19th century, if you became a wife, you surrendered all your economic and legal rights to your husband. Anything you had was his. You were really rendered legally, economically, and politically powerless. Divorce was almost impossible without an act of Parliament. I think there were three divorces in the 18th century. You were trapped. Forget ethics, Mary Wollstonecraft thought marriage was a dangerous and oppressive institution. However, she also experienced first-hand what it was like to be an unmarried mother. So, with her first unconventional relationship — she didn’t marry the man — everyone thought she was married, and she wasn’t exiled for that. She was worried about what was going to happen to her little girl after she was abandoned. So when she falls in love with Mary’s father, William Godwin, who was also hugely against marriage, they decided they were going to have to compromise because they didn’t want the baby to be a social exile, especially since Mary had already been on the brink herself. They decided to get married. They were greatly ridiculed by all their radical friends. In the case of Mary Wollstonecraft, she did it to protect the child.

So, 16-year-old Mary Godwin, who will become Mary Shelley, sees herself as the carrier of her mother’s ethical principles. No way is she going to get married. But then...[read on]
Visit Charlotte Gordon's website.

My Book, The Movie: Romantic Outlaws.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, August 30, 2015

David Hofmeyr

David Hofmeyr was born in South Africa and lives in London and Paris. In 2012 he was a finalist in the SCBWI Undiscovered Voices competition, and in 2013 he graduated with distinction from Bath Spa University with an MA in Writing for Young People. He works as a Planner for Ogilvy & Mather in the UK.

Hofmeyr's first novel is Stone Rider.

From his Q & A at My Bookish Ways:

Will you tell us about Stone Rider and what inspired you to write it?

Stone Rider follows 15-year-old Adam Stone who has lost everything and joins a brutal race on semi-sentient ‘bykes’ to win the chance to escape a dying future Earth. Think The Hunger Games meets Mad Max meets Cormac McCarthy. An adrenalin-fuelled race across an epic desert.

The idea was born in a dream. Crossing an alien desert came a group of riders, like horsemen of the apocalypse. Only here, instead of horses, they were riding other-worldly bykes. I knew I wanted fear and adrenalin, dust and blood and vengeance. A primal story. I suppose it sprang from the Westerns I loved as a kid. The Dollars Trilogy. Pale Rider. Once Upon a Time in the West. But also something futuristic. Alien. Mad Max. Blade Runner. Star Wars.

What do you think makes Adam a compelling character?

Adam undergoes a huge change in the book. In the beginning he’s hesitant – both physically and mentally – and unable to express himself, or stand up to bullies. By the end of the story Adam finds an inner strength that allows him to endure. Adam is a loner and a misfit and I think all readers can relate to being an outsider in some sense. Adam has...[read on]
Visit David Hofmeyr's website.

Stone Rider is one of Rachel Paxton-Gillilan's top five YA books for Mad Max fans.

My Book, the Movie: Stone Rider.

The Page 69 Test: Stone Rider.

Writers Read: David Hofmeyr.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Tracy Daugherty

Tracy Daugherty's new book is The Last Love Song: A Biography of Joan Didion.

From his Q & A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: Why did you decide to write a biography of Joan Didion?

A: I first read Joan Didion in 1978. I was 23, and wanted to be a writer, though I had no ambition then of becoming a biographer.

I was a Beatles fan and probably bought Didion's essay collection, The White Album, because of its Beatle-esque title and the promise on the jacket flap that this book perfectly captured the spirit of the 1960s.

And sure enough, the title essay seemed to me to embody the spirit of the decade that had shaped my young sensibilities.

Its fragmented, collage-like structure was a revelation--not only because I didn't know you could write like that (all those white spaces! all those silences!) but because it showed me...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, August 28, 2015

Margaret Verble

Margaret Verble is an enrolled and voting citizen of the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma and a member of a large Cherokee family that has, through generations, made many contributions to the tribe’s history and survival.

Verble's new novel is Maud's Line.

From her Q & A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: How did you come up with your main character, Maud, and with the idea for this book?

A: I came up with Maud because I had been told by several people that in order to get a first novel published, it was best to have a single story character.

I knew I wanted to write about Cherokees; I wanted to set the novel earlier than when I set it, but if I did that, I would have to write about a group because it was still such a tribal setting. I had to set it at the time period where a sense of individuality was arising—that was around the 1920s.

Q: So did you come up with the time period first or the story first?

A: The time period first. I wanted to write about the land. It’s my family’s land; it has sustained me through my life. I started reading and thinking about the time period…

Steinbeck had written about the Depression. I went to the 1920s. 1927 and 1929 had been written about a great deal. I settled on the year 1928. Then I settled on ...[read on]
Visit Margaret Verble's website.

My Book, The Movie: Maud's Line.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Stefanie Pintoff

Stefanie Pintoff's latest novel is Hostage Taker.

From her Q & A with Taylor at NewInBooks:

Tell us a little bit about your new release, Hostage Taker.

Hostage Taker represents a new direction for me – specifically a change of genre and time-period. The idea for the novel came to me shortly after Saint Patrick’s Cathedral began its massive renovation project—and I first saw the Cathedral buried in scaffolding. I looked at the chaos and upheaval, and began to think: what if … ?

Those what ifs built upon one another until I conceived a story where the fates of a beloved landmark and an unknown number of hostages were at stake. Where the only hope would be FBI agent Eve Rossi and her unconventional team of ex-convicts—a secret unit with extraordinary talents, oversized egos, and contempt for the rules. Where as a writer, I could blend my love of this city’s history with my desire to write a page-turning contemporary thriller.

Hostage Taker was great fun to write – and I hope readers will enjoy it!

If you could have dinner with anyone, alive or dead, who would you choose and why?

It’s almost impossible to pick just one person, but if forced to choose, I would pick...[read on]
Learn more about her books at Stefanie Pintoff's website.

The Page 69 Test: In the Shadow of Gotham.

The Page 69 Test: A Curtain Falls.

Coffee with a Canine: Stefanie Pintoff & Ginger.

The Page 69 Test: Secret of the White Rose.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Louise Penny

Louise Penny's new novel is The Nature of the Beast, the 11th book in the Inspector Gamache series. From the author's Q & A with Tessa Berenson at Time magazine:

What first sparked your idea for this series?

It was just after 9/11 that I started writing it. At the time, the world seemed a very frightening and threatening place and I felt the need for security and for connection and company and a sense of belonging, and of course the peace and security that comes with that. And so I created this village. To be honest with you, every decision I made in Still Life [Penny’s first novel, published in 2006] was selfish. I created it just for me. So I created Three Pines, and I created these characters that I would choose as friends, mostly because also I realized, having been a journalist for many years and spoken to many people in publishing, the chances of people published were so tiny. I realized that really writing it had to be reward enough because it may be the only reward I would get. So I created characters whose company I would enjoy, I created a main character who I would marry, I created a village I would love to live in. And as it turns out, other people feel the same as I do, thank God.

Your books take place in the fictional village of Three Pines, but the portrait of the place so intimately drawn. Did you take anything from your own small town in Quebec to create it?

It’s definitely drawn from a whole bunch of things. Absolutely from the...[read on]
Visit Louise Penny's website.

The Page 69 Test: Still Life.

Coffee with a Canine: Louise Penny & Trudy.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Alexandra Kleeman

Alexandra Kleeman's new novel is You Too Can Have a Body Like Mine.

From her Q & A with Corinne Gould for Late Night Library:

CG: One of the things that is so arresting about your novel is the absolute strangeness of the story world. Literary dystopia is now ubiquitous among American bestsellers, making the genre crowded and stale. One of the things that sets You Too Can Have a Body like Mine apart is the emphasis on internal and relational conflict. Rather than an oppressive government serving as the villainous entity, television commercials for Kandy Kakes, celebrity-endorsed fliers for veal cutlets, and the enticing pamphlets of the Church of the Conjoined Eaters cult draw the characters into their habitual destruction (seemingly) by their own volition. Can you speak to what it means for the damaging and cyclical behaviors to be products of choice?

AK: I think it’s interesting that so many dystopian novels put a governmental entity at the center of the problem—it seems like an almost nostalgic fear, the stuff of classic post-war dystopias like 1984 and Fahrenheit 451. They’re clear, authoritarian, and never as slippery as I feel a real dystopia would be. In this novel I wanted to depict a decentralized dystopia, a dystopia of choice that arises from being forced to choose between two inadequate options.

Choice is not the same thing as agency, though it can feel like it is when orchestrated correctly: you can choose to buy an Vitamin Water instead of a Coke and feel good about yourself thinking that the water will be better for you, but there are 33 grams of sugar in a Vitamin Water, and the company is still owned by Coca Cola. Choosing is part of our national identity (and we believe that we have more access to choices than other countries, hence those “In Soviet Russia” jokes—“In Soviet Russia, Coke drinks you!”), but there are so many decoy alternatives and false opposites that it’s difficult to escape that thing that you tried not to choose.

What sort of agency is there for someone who is choosing not to choose? Choosing an unnamed option, I suppose...[read on]
Visit Alexandra Kleeman's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, August 24, 2015

Naomi J. Williams

Naomi J. Williams was born in Japan and spoke no English until she was six years old. Her debut novel, Landfalls, is a fictionalized account of the 18th-century Lapérouse expedition.

From her Q & A with Henri Lipton at ZYZZYVA:

ZYZZYVA: You dedicate the novel to your grandmother, “who also loved maps.” How did your love of maps inform the strong sense of place in your writing? How many of the “landfalls” did you visit, if any, and how does visiting a place, or not visiting it, affect the way you write about it?

Naomi J. Williams: I’m so delighted you’ve mentioned my grandmother. She was Japanese, and one of my early memories is of sitting on the tatami floor in her tiny apartment in Fukuoka, a city in southern Japan, and poring over a map of the city. I remember being fascinated by the notion that you could have this logical, colorful paper representation of where you lived.

I’ve loved maps ever since, and indeed, the whole idea for Landfalls came from a misidentified antique map my husband bought for me about fifteen years ago. I tell that story in some detail in a recent blog post, but briefly, it’s a map from the Lapérouse expedition, of Lituya Bay, Alaska, the setting for two chapters in the novel.

Maps were very important in the research and writing for this book. I was able to visit only a few of the places that appear in the novel—Monterey, California; Paris; Albi in the south of France—that’s about it. So I relied heavily on maps, both paper maps and online maps. The chapter that required the most in that regard was “Dispatches,” which describes a trip across Russia. I spent hours poring over Google Maps and wandering around in Street View to get a sense of the landscape.

I think it’s always better to visit a place in real life, if you can. One of the first people to read parts of this book was...[read on]
Visit Naomi J. Williams's website.

The Page 69 Test: Landfalls.

Writers Read: Naomi J. Williams.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, August 23, 2015

John Markoff

John Markoff is the author of Machines of Loving Grace: The Quest for Common Ground Between Humans and Robots.

From his Fresh Air interview with Terry Gross:

GROSS: So it in part is a question of will machines help us do our work or leave us unemployed?

MARKOFF: It is. It's an increasingly intense question that's being debated now in society. But it goes way back to the dawn of interactive computing. And I noticed this first in these two laboratories that were on either side of Stanford University in the mid-1960s. There were two pioneers of modern computing. One was John McCarthy, who was actually the person who coined the term artificial intelligence. And he was on one side of campus, and he created a laboratory in 1962 called the Stanford Artificial Intelligence Laboratory. And at that point, he thought it would take just a decade to design a working AI - something that was as intelligent and as capable as a human being. On the other side of campus, there was another engineer whose name was Douglas Engelbart. And we know him probably because you've heard that he invented the mouse, and he was one of the people who pioneered the idea of hypertext that led to the World Wide Web. And Engelbart really believed deeply that we should use machines to augment our senses and our intelligence and sort of bootstrap the collective intelligence of the human species to benefit mankind. And I realized those were two different philosophical stances. And it created two different communities within the computer science world. One was the AI community and the other with the IA community, which later became called the human-computer interface community. And since then it's been, you know, more than 40 years, 50 years, those communities have largely progressed without speaking to each other, in isolation. And it seems like now is a good time that they maybe should work on converging their powers.

GROSS: What's an example, in each category, of a robot that we're using now and that one we'll probably be able to use in the near future?

MARKOFF: Well, so an artificial intelligence robotic device that I think probably will become familiar to all people is a self-driving car. We...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Nick Holdstock

Nick Holdstock is the author of The Casualties: A Novel.

From his Q & A with Caroline Leavitt:

I always want to ask, what sparked this novel? What was it that was obsessing you that made you know you had to write this?

I think that sometimes we, as writers, are surrounded by a lot of great material without realizing it. We’re too stuck in our various ruts and complacencies to wonder why, for instance, our Italian neighbour calls loudly out of her window at almost the same time every day but never receives an answer. A lot of the elements of this book were part of my life without me thinking they might fit together. Like Sam, the book’s main character, I was working in a second hand bookshop, and was thus exposed to all kinds of different people, both the customers and the volunteers who staffed the shop. Like him, I opened many bags and boxes of books that had been donated by the public, and on each occasion made some automatic (and probably unfair) judgment about them based not only on the books they had given away, but on the photos, letters and other personal items that were sometimes left inside. And as a long-term resident of Edinburgh, which is a very small (even intimate) city, I was used to seeing the same kinds of unusual characters as those depicted in the novel. I saw a woman who always wore a bridal veil, a man with a beard so long and matted that birds could nest in it. My friends and I would talk about these people as if we knew something about them, but for the most part we were guessing.

So you could say that there was all this kindling around me. The spark that made me think all this could combine was Sherwood Anderson’s novel Winesburg, Ohio, a book about a small town in the 1920s populated by people that the narrator calls ‘grotesques’, but then depicts as anything but. Though apparently eccentric, even extreme, they are better seen as...[read on]
Visit Nick Holdstock's website.

Writers Read: Nick Holdstock.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, August 21, 2015

Kentaro Toyama

Kentaro Toyama is W.K. Kellogg Associate Professor of Community Information at the University of Michigan School of Information and a fellow of the Dalai Lama Center for Ethics and Transformative Values at MIT. He is the author of Geek Heresy: Rescuing Social Change from the Cult of Technology.

From his Q & A with NPR's Audie Cornish:

CORNISH: You argue also that technology promised solutions to some global problems it couldn't keep. Can you give some examples of that?

TOYAMA: Sure. There's many examples. Probably the best-known one is a project called One Laptop per Child. This was founded by Nicholas Negroponte who was a co-founder of the MIT Media Lab. And his idea was that in so many places in the world, education is in shambles, and so the solution is a low-cost laptop for children. He would insist that it wasn't a laptop project as much as it was an education project. And I think in that case, it was exactly the opposite. It was in fact a laptop project. The problem with these projects is that in and of themselves, the technology doesn't actually provide the education. You still need very good adult guidance.

CORNISH: For you, why does technology tend to fall short of delivering on social change?

TOYAMA: Well, I do think they change the world in some way. The question is whether they're really causing some kind of social progress of the kind that we would be interested in, whether it's alleviation of poverty or the reduction in inequality. In the United States, we've seen a golden age of digital technology and innovation over the last four decades. But during that same span of time, the rate of poverty has actually only increased. Inequality has skyrocketed, and social mobility has stagnated. So that suggests that...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Deanna Fei

Deanna Fei is the author of the award-winning novel A Thread of Sky. A graduate of the Iowa Writers' Workshop, Fei has received a Fulbright Grant and a New York Foundation for the Arts fellowship. Her essays have appeared in the New York Times, Slate, Huffington Post, and other publications.

Fei's new memoir is Girl in Glass: How My "Distressed Baby" Defied the Odds, Shamed a CEO, and Taught Me the Essence of Love, Heartbreak, and Miracles.

From her Q & A with Wesley Yiin at Salon:

You discussed earlier that the book helps you tell the origin story for your daughter. But there are parts of the book that expose some very dark and honest emotions that surround the birth of your daughter. I’m sure there will be a time when your daughter will want to read the book, and some of those passages may not be pleasant to read. How do you hope to frame the story to her? Do you see any challenges in talking to her about the book, and if so, how will you overcome them?

There were many, many moments in the writing — especially when I had to leave her with my husband or a babysitter to go and write the book — that I did feel like I was betraying the deepest darkest secrets between her and me in order to capture the reality that we live through. For me, there was no point in telling her story unless I was going to tell the full truth. I think there are so many platitudes surrounding the talk about premature babies or the way we like to simplify the messy process of bringing new life into the world, in terms of these charts and checklists and images of the perfect baby. For me, what was most beautiful and important about her story was the fact that her journey, in some ways, defied every cliché that you could possibly ascribe to it. But it also confirmed, in some ways, everything that we might want from a feel-good, inspirational story.

I think that ultimately, this question of “How much is a human life ultimately worth?” is a terrifying way to assess someone’s existence. But because of how she was born, that was the question hanging over her from the start. I think that, ultimately, she will understand that every challenge that she faced was part of her journey. I’m the kind of person that hates the word “miracle.” The last thing that I expected was for her story to be this kind of a happy ending, and yet I can’t take that away from her. She earned that label, and I have to give it to her. Right now, she’s two and a half, and she’s just proud of herself for everything that she does on any given day. She’s so proud when she throws a terrible tantrum. She’s proud for stealing a toy or cookie from her big brother. When she saw the cover of the book for the first time, she said, “Hey, that’s me!” She was thrilled! I want her to know everything she overcame to be who she is today.

At the same time, I want to recognize, yes, in many ways, she’s a...[read on]
Learn more about the book and author at Deanna Fei's website.

The Page 99 Test: Girl in Glass.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Cara Black

Cara Black is the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of 15 books in the Private Investigator Aimée Leduc series, which is set in Paris. Murder on the Champ de Mars is the latest installment. Black has received multiple nominations for the Anthony and Macavity Awards, a Washington Post Book World Book of the Year citation, the Médaille de la Ville de Paris—the Paris City Medal, which is awarded in recognition of contribution to international culture—and invitations to be the Guest of Honor at conferences such as the Paris Polar Crime Festival and Left Coast Crime. With more than 400,000 books in print, the Aimée Leduc series has been translated into German, Norwegian, Japanese, French, Spanish, Italian, and Hebrew.

From Black's Q & A with Janet Hulstrand at the Writing from the Heart, Reading for the Road blog:

JH: Thanks for taking the time to answer my questions, Cara. First, for readers not familiar with your work, can you explain just a little bit about how Aimée Leduc–the fashionably-attired, intrepid Parisian private investigator who is the heroine of your novels–came into being?

CB: Aimée Leduc was born from my love affair with Paris and my desire to be a Parisienne. I think a lot of us have an inner French girl, or think we do – at least in my case – struggling to get out. I had a story to tell in my first book, Murder in the Marais, but I needed a woman who would be strong, feisty, vulnerable, good with computers, fashionable, and who would solve crimes wearing high heels. She’d have a lot of traits that I saw in my Parisienne friends: she would be loyal, fashion-conscious, would have a well-mannered dog–unlike mine. She’d know how to order haute cuisine, yet would pull no punches with a corrupt flic [a French policeman]. She also needed to be an outsider, because I knew I couldn’t write as a Frenchwoman. I can’t even tie my scarf the right way :-) So she grew up half-American, half-French.

JH: You’re going systematically through all the arrondissements of Paris, with each new mystery being set in a different one. How and why did you choose to focus on the 7th arrondissement for your latest novel, Murder on the Champ de Mars?

CB: The 7th arrondissement is a very special part of Paris – almost a different world – home to the upper echelon of the social strata, full of the elite from government, expats, wealthy folks, and a closed society of the old ancien régime families. It’s well known for all the Ministries and the established, tight-knit groups who live and work there. It intimidated me. But it also...[read on]
Visit Cara Black's website.

The Page 69 Test: Murder at the Lanterne Rouge.

My Book, the Movie: Murder at the Lanterne Rouge.

The Page 69 Test: Murder below Montparnasse.

The Page 69 Test: Murder in Pigalle.

My Book, The Movie: Murder in Pigalle.

My Book, The Movie: Murder on the Champ de Mars.

Writers Read: Cara Black (March 2015).

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Mary Kubica

Mary Kubica is the international bestselling author of The Good Girl (2014) and Pretty Baby (2015). She holds a Bachelor of Arts degree from Miami University in Oxford, Ohio, in History and American Literature. She lives outside of Chicago with her husband and two children and enjoys photography, gardening, and caring for the animals at a local shelter.

From Kubica's 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?

I began writing Pretty Baby shortly after I sold my debut novel, The Good Girl, to MIRA in a two-book deal. I’d love to say there was some great inspiration for the book, but what I remember is this: being slightly terrified by the prospect of writing a second novel, and not feeling convinced I could do it. I spent a tense afternoon trying to no avail to summon an idea (any idea!), when suddenly an image of a young, homeless girl popped into my mind. She was standing in the rain, and, in her arms, there was a baby. I had no idea who she was or what her story would be, but whatever it was, I knew this girl was at the core of my second novel.

The basic premise of your novel is so fascinating--a woman tries to do the right thing, and it ends up becoming a tense psychological nightmare. There’s a whole web of lies and denials. Why do you think that what was Heidi’s greatest strength becomes her weakness--and do you think this is often the case?

Heidi is a wonderful, compassionate woman. She will do anything for anybody, regardless of whether or not it’s the best decision to make, and...[read on]
Visit Mary Kubica's website.

Writers Read: Mary Kubica.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, August 17, 2015

Annie Liontas

Annie Liontas' debut novel, Let Me Explain You, was selected by the ABA as an Indies Introduce Debut and Indies Next. She is the co-editor of the anthology A Manner of Being: Writers on their Mentors and the recipient of a grant from the Barbara Deming Memorial Fund.

From the author's Q & A with James McDonald for Out:

Out: How did this novel emerge? Where was the impetus?

Annie Liontas: You know, it sort of came like lightning one day. This man is going to die, and he wants to tell his daughters and his ex-wife how they are failing at life. That part came suddenly, the rest of it was pretty grueling. I had to figure out the voices of these people, who was going to take up more space in the book—it all got pretty complicated. But I'm gay, and I knew immediately that one of the daughters was going to be, too, that that would be one of the issues in the book. Greek culture is very patriarchal, as I've experienced. My father did have difficulty with my sexuality in the beginning... You know, lesbianism is in direct opposition to patriarchy, so I just knew that had to be incorporated.

Overall, what are Greek attitudes toward being gay these days?

Things are definitely changing, but it's all closely tied to gender expectations. It's a culture where women are meant to be mothers and wives. They're educated, but they're still expected to come home and be mothers. The last time I was in Athens, I remember there was a gay bar, so there's been a shift. But I haven't really been able to...[read on]
Visit Annie Liontas's website.

The Page 69 Test: Let Me Explain You.

My Book, The Movie: Let Me Explain You.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Louis Sachar

Louis Sachar's latest novel is Fuzzy Mud.

From his Q & A at the Guardian:

Are you a fast reader? How many books do you think you could read in a day?

I am not a fast reader. To me, that’s like asking if you can eat a big piece of cake in three seconds. That’s not the point of cake, or of books. I like to take my time to fully enjoy each.

We are very excited about your new book Fuzzy Mud and love it! What excited you most about your new book?

I like Tamaya a lot. She’s not your typical spunky, sassy, kind of main character. She’s the kind of kid that people might overlook, but inside, she’s stronger and braver than the other more extroverted people around her.

Do you have a favourite genre of fiction now or when you were younger?

I liked sports stories and stories about...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Martine Bailey

Martine Bailey’s first historical novel, An Appetite for Violets, is a gastronomic mystery tale set in 18th century Europe. Written as a book of recipes, it takes a young cook on a murderous trip from England to Italy. Bailey lives in Chester, England and as an amateur cook, won the Merchant Gourmet Recipe Challenge and was a former UK Dessert Champion.

From her Q & A at Psychologies:

Can you tell us about the inspiration behind the story - Erddig Hall in Chester? And about your passion for food and historical cookery?

The idea for An Appetite for Violets came to me in the beautiful 18th-century kitchen of the National Trust property, Erddig Hall. I picked up a few hand-written recipes for roast venison and almond pudding and felt they brought the past vividly to life. I pictured a clever young cook working at the scrubbed table, who would be wrenched from her comfortable life and use her talents to survive. I wanted to evoke a world of lost recipes, an account of a journey to foreign lands spiced with plot twists and murder.

I originally started baking to save money and feed my son, making traditional specialities like Bakewell Tart, gingerbread and fruitcakes. Then one day, I entered a Merchant Gourmet contest with a Spanish dish for a Smoky Asturian Stew. I was amazed to win; the prize was a cookery course in Provence, France. One thing led to another and...[read on]
My Book, The Movie: An Appetite for Violets.

The Page 69 Test: An Appetite for Violets.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, August 14, 2015

Kathleen DuVal

Kathleen DuVal is the author of Independence Lost: Lives on the Edge of the American Revolution.

From her Q & a with Deborah Kalb:

Q: You write, “This book focuses on the Gulf Coast, from Florida to Louisiana, because of the astounding number of competing interests that came into conflict there.” What were some of the most important interests?

A: In the battles on the Gulf Coast, the British fought against the Spanish empire, not against the rebelling American colonists. The king of Spain hoped to take advantage of the American rebellion to attack Britain and seize some of its North American colonies for the Spanish empire.

Besides the two main competitors, there were countless smaller groups with their own reasons for fighting in the war or trying to stay out of it.

There were European colonists who had come to North America seeking land and prosperity from their homes in England, Scotland, Ireland, Wales, France, Spain, the German provinces, and other parts of North America.

There were enslaved and free people of African descent. And there were American Indian nations who were still in control of most of the North American interior and did not want...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Susan Spann

Susan Spann is a transactional attorney focusing on publishing law and a former law school professor. She has a deep interest in Asian culture and has studied Mandarin and Japanese. Her hobbies include Asian cooking, fencing, knife and shuriken throwing, traditional archery, martial arts, rock climbing, and horseback riding.

Spann's novels include Blade of the Samurai and Flask of the Drunken Master.

From her 2014 Examiner Q & A:
1. If you could go back in time and be any figure from history, who would it be?

Bucephalus – the beloved horse of Alexander the Great. I’d get to see plenty of history, be cared for like a king … and it wouldn’t bother me that they hadn’t yet invented indoor toilets.

2. What year in history would you have liked to live in?

One that involves indoor plumbing. I love medieval history, but I’m not a big fan of the chamber pot.

3. You're having a dinner party and you can invite 5 people from history, who would they be?

Assuming I’m also permitted translators: Shogun Tokugawa Ieyasu, Genghis Khan, Sir Edmund Hillary, Joan of Arc, and...[read on]
Visit Susan Spann's website.

My Book, The Movie: Blade of the Samurai.

Writers Read: Susan Spann.

The Page 69 Test: Blade of the Samurai.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Bill Crider

Bill Crider's new Dan Rhodes Mystery is Between the Living and the Dead.

From his Q & A with Ben Boulden at Gravetapping:

Too Late to Die (1986), which introduced Sheriff Dan Rhodes, was the first book you published under your own name. There are now 22 entries in the series. When you devised Sheriff Rhodes did you intend it to be a series, or was it an “accidental” series?

When Ruth Cavin, then an editor at Walker, bought the first Dan Rhodes novel, I received a letter (some of your younger readers might have to google that term) from her saying how much she liked the book and that she was buying it. She concluded with, “You are working on a sequel, aren’t you?” While I hadn’t planned on doing a series because I didn’t know that anyone would ever buy the first book, I wrote her back and told her that of course I was working on a sequel and that I’d send it to her as soon as it was done. I never dreamed that I’d still be writing about the sheriff 30 years later, though.

Have you been surprised by the length and success of the Sheriff Dan Rhodes series?

Absolutely surprised. As I mentioned above, I had no expectation that there would be a second book, much less more than 20. I don’t know how much success the series has had. It sneaked into paperback a few times, but it never made any bestseller lists. Ebooks have given it a real boost, though, and now that Crossroad Press has made all the early books available, the series is doing very well, indeed.

Are there any specific rewards or pitfalls that come from writing a long term series?

There’s a considerable reward in being able to write about characters you enjoy. Writing about Blacklin County is like visiting a real place for me, and I enjoy every trip I take there. I suppose the pitfalls are....[read on]
Learn more about the book and author at Bill Crider's website and blog.

Read the Page 69 Test entries for Crider's A Mammoth Murder, Murder Among the OWLS, Of All Sad Words, Murder in Four Parts, Murder in the Air, The Wild Hog Murders, Murder of a Beauty Shop Queen, Compound Murder, and Half in Love with Artful Death.

Learn about Crider's choice of actors to portray Dan Rhodes and Seepy Benton on the big screen.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Louisa Treger

Born in London, Louisa Treger began her career as a classical violinist. She studied at the Royal College of Music and the Guildhall School of Music, and worked as a freelance orchestral player and teacher.

Treger subsequently turned to literature, gaining a First Class degree and a PhD in English at University College London, where she focused on early twentieth century women’s writing. Married with three children, she lives in London.

Treger's new book, her first novel, is The Lodger.

From the author's Q & A with Amy Shearn at Electric Lit:

AS: Like me, you first discovered Dorothy Richardson while researching Virginia Woolf, who considered the now-forgotten Richardson an innovator of modernism. What made you actually seek out her novel Pilgrimage, and what struck you most about her writing?

LT: I sought out Pilgrimage because it seemed Dorothy Richardson was someone little-known, who had tried to do something extraordinary. It was her originality and courage that struck me the most. Her aim, in her words, was to “produce a feminine equivalent of the current masculine realism.” She was fearless about smashing narrative conventions like plot, structure and narrator, and she created a new, fluid way of writing that rendered the texture of a woman’s consciousness as it records life’s impressions; life’s minute to minute quality.

Dorothy’s desire to fix experience in words as vividly as it is lived particularly resonated with me. As she says in The Lodger: ‘How could she catch that moment; how to make the words come alive on paper, exactly as they were lived, directly from the center of consciousness?’ That’s what...[read on]
Visit Louisa Treger's website.

The Page 69 Test: The Lodger.

My Book, The Movie: The Lodger.

Writers Read: Louisa Treger.

Coffee with a Canine: Louisa Treger & Monty.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, August 10, 2015

Andrea S. Boyles

Andrea S. Boyles is the author of Race, Place, and Suburban Policing.

From her Q & A at the University of California Press blog:

You begin the preface of Race, Place, and Suburban Policing with the shooting death of Michael Brown in Ferguson (e.g., a St. Louis suburb). On the year anniversary of his death, what do you see that has changed?

A lot has happened since Mike Brown’s death, from increased social awareness and grassroots mobilization efforts to the grand jury’s decision to not indict Officer Darren Wilson and additional Black citizen-police conflicts.

More directly, in the wake of the Department of Justice (DOJ) report, the following changes occurred within Ferguson’s city government:

John Shaw, the city manager, resigned. The DOJ investigation found him encouraging the use of the municipal court in generating revenue for the suburb; Municipal Court Judge Ronald Brockmeyer resigned. Brockmeyer presided over the Ferguson municipal court, where DOJ found racially discriminate practices to be pervasive. He was replaced by a MO Supreme Court state appointed judge; Police Chief Thomas Jackson resigned. It was determined by the DOJ that his officers engaged in problematic policing tactics & used citizens to generate city revenue; the DOJ investigation also turned up racist emails, consequently, leading to the firing of two police officers and a court clerk in connection; a citizen review task force has been appointed to vet and make recommendations for establishing a Ferguson citizen review board; and following the first municipal election after Mike Brown’s death, Ferguson’s City Council now has three black council persons out of six. Previously, there had only been one.

Other occurrences included the use of body cameras by Ferguson police officers, the replacement of two makeshift Mike Brown memorials at the scene of his shooting with a bronze dove and plaque on what would have been his 19th birthday; modified practices with the municipal court and its response to citizens; increased community activities and partnerships such as volunteerism, activism, job fairs, and revitalization efforts for Ferguson schools, businesses, and neighborhoods. Furthermore, there is a push for reform in the entire St. Louis region, particularly as there are additional DOJ investigations underway and black citizens in the inner-city and suburbs face on-going bias treatment in a wide array of ways across the social spectrum.

In sum, there have been quite a few changes—subtle/overt, better/worse, immediate/forthcoming—throughout the year in Ferguson. Hence, it is important to note that “change” can be broadly interpreted, particularly when accounting for power and privilege or the lack thereof as experienced in everyday living among diverse populations. Nevertheless, the aftereffects from Mike Brown’s death and other cases alike are...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Heather Lende

Heather Lende's new book is Find the Good: Unexpected Life Lessons From a Small-Town Obituary Writer.

From her Salon interview with Marilyn Johnson:

You write about older people in your town; you also write about young people, the native Tlingit, fishermen, hippies and loners. My favorite Haines resident might be Granny, who wears a large red helmet and shin guards and travels with a shopping cart and a dog. You were surprised to hear one day she had gone to London – as it turned out, to minister to the homeless during the Olympic festivities. Does Alaska attract eccentrics and originals? Do you “find the good” and the offbeat, as well?

I was at a wedding reception in the rain the other day, with lots of old friends and some new ones, and we actually talked about this, wondering if maybe we are a little nuts. We concluded that people who live here choose to, so they — we—me — have that in common, and it shapes our community. Haines is not an easy place in many ways. Weather. Winter. Remote yet intimate. The people who like it here wouldn’t, or maybe couldn’t, live happily anywhere else, and so there is certain respect given to the other survivors. There are residents who brag, “I died and came to Haines.” I am one of them. Granny is more of a nomad. She calls herself a pilgrim, and she never came back to Haines from London. She is in Juneau now, to be closer to medical care and other services (there is no hospital in Haines), but her dog Sissy is still here, and attends church faithfully.

You were a New Yorker who went to Alaska on your honeymoon and stayed. Now you hunt and fish and built your own chicken coop. Were you outdoorsy and resourceful as a child?

I didn’t build the chicken coop, but I designed it, and I care for the hens in it and maintain it. I have always been athletic, and outdoorsy. As a child in rural New York, I was a tomboy; I played baseball, sailed and climbed trees.

Now, I like to hike, swim, ride my bike and hunt, but I am not a killer. I did go bear hunting...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, August 8, 2015

Val Brelinski

Val Brelinski's new novel is The Girl Who Slept with God.

From her Q & A with Caroline Leavitt:

I always want to know what sparks a book? What was haunting or obsessing you at the time that made you feel that this was the book you absolutely had to write?

My family’s strict evangelicalism has colored absolutely every part of my life, so it was very natural that when I finally began to write at age 40 (!), thoughts about my unusual upbringing poured out of me and onto the page in a nearly effortless stream. My novel is a fictional account of one girl’s adolescence that very closely resembles my own. I felt so very strongly about this female and her family and their agonized interactions because they are essentially me and my sisters and my parents, only slightly rearranged.

Your novel is so soulful and so spiritual, as it tackles big questions of faith and family--both of which can help us and offer comfort, or they can destroy us. Can you talk about that, please?

I know that my parents believed utterly that their faith and the choices they made because of it were in their daughters’ best interests. They genuinely worried that my sisters and I might go to hell if we didn’t follow their fundamentalist dictates—a problematic situation because I was...[read on]
Visit Val Brelinski's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, August 7, 2015

Ilona Andrews

Ilona Andrews, the pseudonym for husband-and-wife Andrew and Ilona Gordon, writes the hugely popular Kate Daniels series.

From their Q & A with Diana Biller for The B&N Sci-Fi & Fantasy Blog:

I’m always fascinated by your description of post-Shift Atlanta. How do you both approach your worldbuilding? How much of it is pulled from real life Atlanta (for example, do you guys take trips to Atlanta and look at skyscrapers and think, “Huh, that would be fun to destroy in our next book”?)

I guess we try to make it interesting and original, but still believable. We lived for several years in Georgia and we both traveled frequently to Atlanta for our jobs. I feel like we knew the city well enough to realistically turn it into a post-apocalyptic landscape. Yes, Ilona did turn the building she went to for corporate training into one the skyscrapers we…mutated, I guess would be the word. We also use Google Maps to make sure we’re putting stuff where it’s supposed to be, or where it was before we wrecked it.

World mythology is such a frequent thread in your books. If you could each pick one mythological figure/deity/whatever to have dinner with, who would it be?

For Ilona it would be Loki; she says he would have the best stories. Along the same vein, for me it would be...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Ginger Adams Otis

Ginger Adams Otis's new book is Firefight: The Century-Long Battle to Integrate New York's Bravest.

From her Q & A at the New York Daily News:

Question: You’re a journalist who has never been a firefighter. How do you know so much about life inside a firehouse and how did you get firefighters to share their stories and feelings with you, especially about a topic as sensitive as race?

It took more than 10 years of reporting to build up some basic trust among a lot of the firefighters I relied on for “Firefight.” I feel like most of them were confident I was not out to do a hatchet job on the FDNY. Many are not named, but they spoke to me on background and their experiences are folded into the story. I try to be fair in my reporting — but still, there are inevitably some times when what you report angers people. But when you’ve been around for as long as I have, you almost become like wallpaper — people just get used to seeing you, and they come to accept your presence as something normal. After so many years of covering this story, I’d heard pretty much every different viewpoint firefighters had to offer and I actual tried hard to...[read on]
Visit Ginger Adams Otis's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Meg Waite Clayton

Meg Waite Clayton's new novel is The Race for Paris.

From her Q & A with Caroline Leavitt:

I always ask writers what the “spark” moment was for his or her book. What was haunting you that led to this story?

The idea for The Race for Paris actually came to me while I was doing research for my first novel, The Language of Light. I read photojournalist Margaret Bourke-White’s autobiography, Portrait Of Myself. Something she said in that—about motherhood, I think I can say that much without spoiling the plot—really moved me. I had to read the autobiography in the stacks of the Vanderbilt library because it was out of print and couldn’t be checked out, so you can picture me sitting in the stacks, weeping.

The story really began to take shape when I read about how Martha Gellhorn got to cover the Normandy invasion. Only male journalists were allowed to go. (The excuse: “no women’s latrines there, and we aren’t about to start digging them now”—never mind that the press camps were generally set up in lovely big French chateaus with running water and sometimes whiskey literally on tap.) Martha stowed away in the loo of a hospital ship and went ashore with a stretcher crew, one of the very few correspondents to cover the invasion from French soil. nAnd her reward for her bravery? She was taken into custody on returning to England, and stripped of her military accreditation, her travel papers, and her ration entitlements. She was confined to a nurses’ training camp until she could be shipped back to the U.S.

So here’s what she did: She...[read on]
Learn more about the book and author at Meg Waite Clayton's website and blog.

Meg Waite Clayton is the nationally bestselling author of The Four Ms. Bradwells, The Wednesday Sisters, and The Language of Light—all national book club picks.

The Page 69 Test: The Four Ms. Bradwells.

The Page 69 Test: The Wednesday Daughters.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, August 4, 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 Jay Quigley for Animal Charity Evaluators:

JQ: Your book provides a compelling overview of effective altruism (EA) as a philosophy and social movement. What is the most important lesson that someone not familiar with effective altruism—animal activist or otherwise—can take away?

PS: It’s hard to boil it down to just one lesson, but if I have to do that, I’d say: stop to think before you make your choices! Whether it is a choice about where to give, what career to follow, where to volunteer, you should make sure that your head has a major role in your decision, as well as your heart.

JQ: One of the recurring questions that comes up in your book is the question of which cause to support. You seem to allow readers to draw their own conclusions about which of the main causes to support—be it poverty, animals, existential risk, or EA movement-building. But when it comes time for someone to make a donation—or choose a career—what factors should people think through in choosing a cause?

PS: Think about where you can make the biggest difference. One of the reasons I am not prescriptive about the choices you mention is that it is so difficult to compare, say, the suffering of hens kept for their entire lives in battery cages with the suffering of a woman in a developing country with an untreated obstetric fistula. We don’t have a methodology for doing that. With existential risk, the difficult philosophical question is how to take into account the loss of the untold billions of humans who, if we do not minimize risks to the survival of our species, and the worst happens, will never come into existence.

JQ: What does the best evidence—and/or your experience—suggest are some of the best ways to create new effective altruists and/or effective animal activists?

PS: First, get the ideas out there, through all the media you can access. Then...[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.

Visit The Life You Can Save website, Facebook page, and Twitter perch.

The Page 99 Test: The Life You Can Save.

The Page 99 Test: The Most Good You Can Do.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, August 3, 2015

Naveed Jamali

Naveed Jamali's new book is How to Catch a Russian Spy: The True Story of an American Civilian Turned Double Agent.

From his Q & A with Sam Fellman for MilitaryTimes:

Q. Your bio says you don't intend to travel to Russia anytime soon. Seriously, are you ever worried about reprisal by the Russians?

A. The Russians are a professional military. They're used to losing, they're used to winning. I think that this is a story that they hope runs its course and they don't want to bring any more attention to this. The other advice I got is not to humiliate them.

Q. Putin's Russia has made itself a Western opponent again. You faced down the Russians and won. What are your takeaways from that?

A. I think one of the most interesting things is that my entire operational experience consisted of in-person meetings. The Russians were terrified about using any type of electronic communications. I would talk to my handler [about using email or phones to no avail]. That fear drove...[read on]
Visit Naveed Jamali's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, August 2, 2015

Christy Wampole

Christy Wampole’s debut essay collection is The Other Serious: Essays for the New American Generation. From her Q & A with Michele Filgate for Salon:

In the introduction, you write: “Essays are barometers of the intellect. We are all atmospheric creatures, influenced by the cultural weather around us; the essayist takes it as her role to say something about the way the atmosphere plays upon a person and exerts pressure on the mind and its bearing.” Something I’m always curious about, as a fellow essayist: What gave you the confidence to become an essayist? I feel like it takes a certain amount of belief in your opinions and your personal voice to set your arguments on the page. Have you ever struggled with that, or has that always come naturally to you?

I started to write essays because the form allows you to vent those thoughts that have no other outlet. For me, the diary entry, the short story, or the poem just didn’t cut it because they seemed to lack a certain reflective element that I believe to be the core of the essay genre. Essay writing has been for me a matter of necessity and, in some ways, therapy. I’ve written so many essays that will never see the light of day, crafted purely for myself. I’ve come to the conclusion that thoughts not put down in writing might as well never have been thought.

Regarding those essays that do make their way to the public, it isn’t that I think my opinions are worth more than someone else’s; it’s that I believe everyone should be essaying all the time and I’m simply doing my part in what I wish were a universal project. Sadly...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, August 1, 2015

Naomi J. Williams

Naomi J. Williams was born in Japan and spoke no English until she was six years old. Her debut novel, Landfalls, is a fictionalized account of the 18th-century Lapérouse expedition.

From her Q & A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: What did you see as the right blend of history and fiction as you were writing Landfalls?

A: I tried to hew as closely to known "facts" as I could for this project. Not because I think that's how you're "supposed" to do historical fiction or because I owe it to readers or even to the memory of the Lapérouse expedition.

It was just a challenge I set for myself, a set of constraints around which to work, like the challenge of writing a Shakespearean sonnet, with its particular rules and conventions. I didn't, for instance, make up or conflate any members of the expedition. And I never knowingly altered the timeline of events.

But around those general outlines, I fabricated a lot. I imagined personalities and motivations and emotional baggage, of course.

Many of the women in the book are...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue