Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Leslie Pietrzyk

Leslie Pietrzyk is the author of the story collection This Angel on My Chest.

From her Q & A with Caroline Leavitt:
I always ask writers on my blog what sparked them writing a particular book. I know the answer to this, but it’s so moving, I’d love for you to talk about it.

Yes, my first husband died of a heart attack when he was 37 and I was 35, and many of the experiences and the emotional turmoil in THIS ANGEL ON MY CHEST are based on my own life. That said, the book is fiction, and plenty of elements are made up or fictionalized. The opening story, “Ten Things,” was actually written in the throes of grieving, the first thing I wrote after Robb died. I started the rest of the book years later, sparked by a random breakfast conversation at an artists’ colony. Someone mentioned she was teaching a class on the literature of subcultures, and I decided to spend the day writing about a subculture, since the novel I brought to work on wasn’t going anywhere. This ended up being the story “The Circle,” about a young widow’s support group similar to the one I attended for several months. Once in that world, I couldn’t leave, and I scribbled out dozens of ideas for stories exploring that part of my life. I’m so grateful that I was up early enough for breakfast that day.

How difficult was it, after such a loss, to write this book? Did anything surprise you while you were writing?

Almost fifteen years had passed since Robb’s death, so I had a lot of time to grieve and gain perspective. Even so, yes, some of these stories were...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Chris Holm

Chris Holm is an award-winning short-story writer whose work has appeared in a number of magazines and anthologies, including Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine, Needle: A Magazine of Noir, and The Best American Mystery Stories 2011. His Collector trilogy, which blends fantasy with old-fashioned crime pulp, wound up on over forty Year’s Best lists. David Baldacci called Holm's latest, the hitman thriller The Killing Kind, "a story of rare, compelling brilliance." He lives in Portland, Maine.

From Holm's interview with Angel Luis Colón for the Los Angeles Review of Books:

In The Killing Kind, we’re introduced to Michael Hendricks — simply put: a hit man who kills other hit men. Now, there’s a rhyme and reason to it, and like most protagonists we’ve met in noir or suspense novels, it’s redemption. But to that point, do you believe that Hendricks is truly redeemable? His actions are still, in essence, selfish.

That question is the central tension of Hendricks’s story, and doubtless why I couldn’t leave the short well enough alone. While I’m proud of what “The Hitter” accomplished, both critically and from a narrative perspective, it didn’t answer the question to my satisfaction.

For a long time, the question that drove my writing was, “What makes an ostensibly good person do bad things?” But lately, I think that’s been supplanted by, “What’s the worst a person can be and still come back?” I’m also fascinated by an individual’s ability, or lack thereof, to achieve sufficient velocity to escape his or her own past. Hendricks — who went straight from the foster system to the military, where he discovered he had a knack for killing but not necessarily the stomach — affords me space to explore all three.

Is Hendricks redeemable? I’m not sure yet. But it seems to me that, either way, a life of violence is unlikely to be redeemed by more violence. Unfortunately for Hendricks...[read on]
The Page 69 Test: The Killing Kind.

Writers Read: Chris Holm.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, September 28, 2015

Claire Messud

Claire Messud's latest novel is The Woman Upstairs.

From the author's Q & A with Bovey Rao for The Harvard Crimson:

FM: Your most recent novel, The Woman Upstairs, draws on allusions to Henrik Ibsen’s, A Doll’s House. Which other works have influenced your writing?

CM: I think lots of different things. I always think that when you are writing fiction, it’s like being a magpie. You pick up little pieces from one place and fly off and pick up pieces from another place. There’s certainly references to Ibsen, but I didn’t reread Ibsen. I wasn’t trying to write some riff on Ibsen. […] Dostoyevky’s Notes from the Underground was on my mind. There were a lot of other things that I’m not thinking of right now, but it is always a funny combination. I think a lot of it is unconscious. A lot of it we are not aware of, until afterwards, and then you make up a story about what you were doing.

FM: Does The Woman Upstairs have a central message?

CM: I don’t know that I was trying to get a message across particularly... There were different things I was trying to explore, and one of them was...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Arthur Benjamin

Arthur Benjamin is the Smallwood Family Professor of Mathematics at Harvey Mudd College, and is also a magician. His new book is The Magic of Math: Solving for x and Figuring Out Why.

From his Q & A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: What do you think are some of the most interesting connections between math and magic?

A: Mathematicians and magicians both want their audience to wonder: How did you do that? The magician keeps the method secret, but the mathematician wants you to understand. Math is not just solving for X. It's also figuring out why.

Q: You write that 9 is the most magical number. Why is that?

A: As a kid, I loved the fact that the multiples of 9: 9, 18, 27, 36, and so on, had the magic property that their digits would always add to a multiple of 9.

Here's a magic trick based on this fact. Think of any two digit number. Add their digits together. (So if you were thinking of 42, the digit sum is 6.) Now subtract that sum from the original number. (Example: 42 – 6 = 36.) Now add your digits together. (Example: 3 + 6 = 9.) You should now be thinking of the number 9.

Q: What are some of your favorite strategies to encourage people who are scared of math or don’t like it?

A: I like to motivate math with...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Negar Mottahedeh

Negar Mottahedeh is the author of #iranelection: Hashtag Solidarity and the Transformation of Online Life.

From her Q & A with Jadaliyya:

Jadaliyya (J): What made you write this book?

Negar Mottahedeh (NM): Writing ‪#‎iranelection was for me about the witnessing of a sea-change brought about in our life as global citizens by an epic solidarity around the first long trending global hashtag in 2009. No social media platform had seen masses of people from all over the world engage one another about something that happened in a country that was largely foreign to many of them. What I saw was people from the remotest corners of the world, like Alaska, to the most populated cities in China and the United States, participate in a people’s uprising by collaborating around the hashtag #iranelection and transmitting time sensitive information about what was happening in Iran using this hashtag.

J: What particular topics, issues, and literatures does the book address?

NM: In the aftermath of the 2009 Iranian Presidential election, there was a global uprising online and on the ground in Iran in response to the demand by the Iranian people to have a recount of the vote. Millions believed that their vote was never counted. The state denied the free expression of this movement in Iran, dictated an end to the protests, and actively engaged in a violent suppression of the voices of the people. Hundreds died and thousands were imprisoned.

Hundreds of thousands of subscribers on Twitter engaged the hashtag #iranelection for over a year to reclaim the vote of the Iranian people and to protest and record the violence of the state against its own. Flickr, Yfrog, Twitpic, and YouTube became the extensions of this act of witnessing. In the book I show how...[read on]
The Page 99 Test: #iranelection.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, September 25, 2015

Erica Jong

Erica Jong's new novel is Fear of Dying.

From her Q & A with Jeff Baker for The Oregonian:

Do you do poetry readings?

I had won all the poetry prizes when I was a young poet. I won the Bess Hokin Prize, which W.S. Merwin and Sylvia Plath won, and then I wrote "Fear of Flying" and I was the Happy Hooker of literature. Poets disowned me. I didn't disown them. I would have happily stayed reading and teaching, and I have done a lot of teaching and writing seminars, but I was shunned because I had a bestseller.

You became too popular.

I became too famous. They were jealous. It's nothing but that. You can understand that in a world where writers are treated like (bad word). Can we say that in a family newspaper?


They're treated like poo-poo or whatever. I think that in a country where writers are treated very poorly and then someone becomes famous the hostility is extreme. Women are not allowed in the door. It's envy.

You were showing me that button you're wearing and saying you thought everyone is a feminist, but everyone doesn't identify that way.

All I can tell you is I think Donald Trump is a godsend for Hillary because he's...[read on]
See: Erica Jong's six top books that deal with death.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Anne Perry

Anne Perry is the international bestselling author of over fifty novels. The most recent (21st in the series) of her novels featuring the private detective William Monk and volatile nurse Hester Latterly is Corridors of the Night.

From Perry's Q & A with Caroline Leavitt:

What sparked the whole Monk series?

Monk's appearance and my feelings about him came from a dream. He was a man I was always quarrelling with, and yet I trusted him absolutely to do what he believed was right, and knew he would never hurt me. That started me thinking. His predicament of having no memory came from wondering how much any of us are the sum of all that we have been, remembered or not, I was held by the thought of being a stranger to yourself. How much are we answerable for what we cannot recall? Different people see any of us in widely different ways. Many of us at some time ask........who am I? And who is my enemy, who is my friend?

Did you ever imagine you were going to be this famous?

No, I certainly did not imagine I would be famous. I don't understand it, but I am grateful, not for the fame, but that so many people apparently like what I write. Yes, I worry about every book. I go through stages of thinking it's good, then complete rubbish, then middling, then...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Gillian Tett

Gillian Tett's latest book is The Silo Effect: The Peril of Expertise and the Promise of Breaking Down Barriers.

From the transcript of her interview with Fareed Zakaria:
ZAKARIA: You take on these central ideas that we all think of as very good, which is efficiency, specialization, doing what you do to the nth degree. Why is that a problem?

TETT: Here is the issue. We think we live in a hyper connected world. We have our cell phones, our airplanes, our supply chains, our markets. They link us all together. But the reality is, when you look at how we live and think, we are actually as fragmented, if not more fragmented, than ever before. And sometimes that specialization is good. You need to have experts. You need to have departments that do things. You need to have professions. The problem is though that when you have hyper specialization and when you have those different professions and departments that don't talk to each other and connect, then you start to get big problems. You get people who can't see opportunities and they can't see risks either.

ZAKARIA: Sony. One of your great examples of Sony, which was so dominant in the world of consumer electronics, and kind of went by the wayside, what happened?

TETT: My book tells the stories of companies who were filled with bright individuals who do some really dumb things, and tragically Sony is one example of that. If you think back to what happened at the turn of the century, you had a generation of music listeners who were obsessed with the Walkman, and by all logical reasoning Sony should have dominated the era of digital Walkman. Because it had not just computing, it had electronics, it had a great brand, and it had its music label inside Sony. You want to know why it did not happen?

It's because around the turn of the century, Sony tried to get into the whole idea of a digital Walkman, a portable electronic Walkman, an Internet Walkman, and it launched not one but two competing products because it had different departments that could not talk to each other or collaborate, and that created a situation where they cannibalized each other, and essentially Steve Jobs jumped in with the Apple and the iPod, and these days we're all carrying...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Wendy Lee

Wendy Lee's latest novel is Across a Green Ocean.

From her Q & A with Amy Sue Nathan:

Amy: Where did the title of the novel originate? Was it something you knew right away on your own? A collaborative effort? Did it pop into your head one day or was it the result of endless brainstorming sessions? Can you share with us if there were any other titles?

Wendy: The title comes from a line in the book and refers to a couple of things: a place in China called Qinghai Province, which literally means “green sea”; and the Pacific Ocean that separates China and America, which I think remains forever in the minds of some immigrants. It pretty much was the only title that came to mind and the only one I considered. Fortunately, no one asked me to change it.

Amy: How did you come up with the idea for the novel? Was it a spark? A character? Something personal?

Wendy: I had spent a few years working on a different novel, about a Chinese-American family with three daughters where the father has passed away, and something about it just wasn’t clicking. The daughters come back home, they grieve, and that was it. I wondered what it would be like if one of the characters wasn’t so much like me–which turned out to be Michael, the gay son in ACROSS A GREEN OCEAN–and what if that character found out something about his father that prompted him to go to China. That led me to set part of the book in Qinghai Province, which is located in the northwestern part of China and a place that I don’t think has been written about a lot. It’s very special to me, as I spent my first year out of college teaching English there. I also wove into that storyline a little of my family history, as I have a great-uncle who was...[read on]
Visit Wendy Lee's website, Facebook page, and Twitter perch.

My Book, The Movie: Across a Green Ocean.

The Page 69 Test: Across a Green Ocean.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, September 21, 2015

Jonathan Weisman

Jonathan Weisman, a reporter for the New York Times, is the author of the new novel No. 4 Imperial Lane.

From his Q & A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: Why did you decide to set your novel in the late 1980s, with flashbacks to 15-20 years earlier?

A: This goes to what is true and what is fiction. I really did study abroad my junior year and really did take a year off, ending up caring for a fallen-aristocrat-turned quadriplegic. His sister, Joanna, had indeed eloped with a Portuguese doctor and somehow ended up in Angola, where the revolution swept her off to South Africa.

That was the framework for the fictional backstory. But it worked for what I wanted to do. Thatcher's Britain was an exhausted former empire trying to remake itself, to get off of its knees. Portugal's collapse in the early ‘70s was the end of the old-style colonial empire. They were perfect bookends for the story I was trying to tell.

Q: How did you choose the book’s title, and what role do you see imperialism playing in the novel?

A: The working title of the novel was actually "Empires End," no punctuation, just a statement. Imperialism and its inevitable demise is...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Daniel Schlozman

Daniel Schlozman is an Assistant Professor of Political Science at Johns Hopkins University.

His new book is When Movements Anchor Parties: Electoral Alignments in American History.

From Schlozman's Q & A with Debra Liese at the Princeton University Press blog:

Tell me a bit about the book.

DS: When Movements Anchor Parties is about five social movements across American history that confronted American political parties. Two movements forged long-running alliances with parties: organized labor with the Democrats starting in the New Deal years and the Christian Right with the Republicans starting in the late 1970s. Two movements couldn’t make alliance work, and basically collapsed: the Populists in the 1880s and 1890s and the antiwar movement in the 1960s. And finally the abolitionist movement got inside the Republican Party but, as Reconstruction fell apart, couldn’t stay inside the party.

What’s your argument?

DS: The book does three things at once. First, it narrates the stories of these alliances and would-be alliances. And those stories go a long way to getting us our polarized politics. So much of what we’re arguing about today, about race, about wealth, about work, about war, about values, and so much of what’s politically possible or not, goes back to these confrontations between parties and movements.

Second, and more analytically, the book offers a framework to make sense of why movements do – or do not – get inside parties. Basically parties accept movements inside their coalitions if they prefer them to other paths to majority. Movements need to convince pragmatists inside parties that they’ll be a good electoral bet, and that they won’t upset the apple cart and disrupt the rest of party coalition too much. So movements have got to offer resources to parties that they can’t get elsewhere – votes, and the money, time, and networks needed to get votes. In return, parties will deliver policy for their group allies. That’s the exchange that makes alliance work. But it’s a tall order.

And finally, it’s a new way to understand big moments in...[read on]
Visit Daniel Schlozman's website.

The Page 99 Test: When Movements Anchor Parties.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Wednesday Martin

Wednesday Martin's new book is Primates of Park Avenue: A Memoir.

From her Q & A with Jia Tolentino for Jezebel:

How’s it been in the lead-up to your pub date? I read that Page Six piece about Upper East Side housewives “panicking” that they’ll make a surprise appearance.

It’s funny that people are taking that angle, because the book is not a tear-down. It’s not a tell-all that names names. It’s not even a satire, although parts of it are funny. I hate to sound boring, but Primates of Park Avenue is a work about tribal behaviors. I think of it as cultural critique in a lot of ways. It tells a story about motherhood in one very particular context.

Yeah. I think people might be expecting this book to be a hate-read, but you walking a fine line well; you’re sharp but never cutting. You could very easily have absolutely skewered this lifestyle, taken stuff out of context to make people seem hateable. Were you ever tempted to go more on the dishy side?

In my heart, I’m two things. I’m a feminist, and I’m a researcher who’s interested in the lives of women worldwide, particularly women with children. This has always been my way of seeing the world, because it’s what my mother taught me. She was very interested in biology, she was a feminist; I grew up with Gloria Steinem and Jane Goodall as my role models.

So that was buffering me, even in the worst moments when I felt shut out—when women were competitive and aggressive in ways that I felt I couldn’t understand. Because of my training and my background, I always just turned to wanting to figure it out. Really, you can’t set someone up and figure them out at the same time. As funny as their lives might seem to you, you have to
...[read on]
Learn more about Primates of Park Avenue and the author at Wednesday Martin's website.

The Page 99 Test: Stepmonster.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, September 18, 2015

Megan Abbott

Megan Abbott is the Edgar®-winning author of the novels Queenpin, The Song Is You, Die a Little, Bury Me Deep, and The End of Everything. Her 2012 novel, Dare Me, was chosen by Entertainment Weekly and Amazon as one of the Best Books of 2012 and is soon to be a major motion picture.

Abbott's latest novel is The Fever:

From the author's Q & A with Alex Segura for PEN America:

When did being a writer begin to inform your sense of identity?

I think being a reader informs my sense of identity far more—perhaps because I can remember so much about my life before I began writing fiction, and yet I can’t remember anything before loving books. It’s through books, by books, and with books that I discover everything. And writing is just my way of trying to bust into that rich terrain.

Whose work would you like to steal without attribution or consequences?

Daniel Woodrell.

Where is your favorite place to write?

I’m most productive in...[read on]
Learn more about the book and author at Megan Abbott's website.

My Book, The Movie: The Fever.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Anna Bikont

Anna Bikont's new book is The Crime and the Silence: Confronting the Massacre of Jews in Wartime Jedwabne.

From her Q & A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: Why did you decide to write a book about the Jedwabne massacre, and how long did it take to research the book?

A: I decided to write the book in 2000, after Jan T. Gross’ Neighbors was published, which was the first book about Jedwabne. The research took three years. Three years sensu stricto, 365 days multiplied by three. I was so obsessed that I was not doing anything else. And one additional year to write the book.

Q: Has public reaction in Poland about the subject of Jedwabne, and the subject of antisemitism, changed since you started working on this book?

A: Oh yes, definitely. Jedwabne has opened a huge national discussion in Poland. In my book, I wrote about taboos like the hateful antisemitism of the Catholic Church before and during the war or Poles enriching themselves at the expense of murdered Jews. These are still not favorite topics for Poles to speak out about, yet...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, September 16, 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 South African Glamour:

GLAMOUR: What inspired you to write the story of Dorothy Richardson?

Louisa: I discovered Dorothy Richardson, the writer whose life the book is based on, by accident. I was researching Virginia Woolf in the University of London Library and I found a review by Virginia of one of Dorothy’s novels. In it, Virginia credited her with creating “a sentence which we might call the psychological sentence of the feminine gender.” I thought this sounded interesting and decided to find out more. I became fascinated by Dorothy’s books and her life: she was highly unconventional in both. She couldn’t settle down and conform to any of the limited roles available to women, but smashed just about every boundary and taboo going – social, sexual and literary. The more I learnt about her, the more strongly I felt that her story should be told.

GLAMOUR: Did you find it difficult writing about the struggles of a historical woman, or do you think women face the same issues nowadays?

Louisa: The issues Dorothy struggles with in The Lodger are...[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

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Vu Tran

Vu Tran's new novel is Dragonfish.

From his interview with NPR's Scott Simon:

SIMON: You have me convinced after reading this novel that noir is a very good genre to tell the stories of immigrants.

TRAN: In my view, noir or crime - whatever you want to call it - there's always that interplay between what is knowable and unknowable. And there's always that aspect of stories that are hidden from people. And I think the story of the immigrant is similar. I think all immigrants have stories that they're either willing to tell or unwilling to tell. And I think the reasons for them not wanting to tell those stories have always been interesting to me.

SIMON: Can I get you to talk a bit about your background?

TRAN: I was born outside of Saigon. And I was born in 1975 in September, which was actually four months after the fall of Saigon. My father left Vietnam before I was born. He was a captain in the South Vietnamese air force. In 1980, my mother took my sister and I, and we escaped Vietnam by boat. We...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, September 14, 2015

Lisa Brackmann

Lisa Brackmann's latest novel is Dragon Day.

From her Q & A with Steph Cha for the Los Angeles Review of Books:

STEPH CHA: I love how you open the book with an immediate commentary on the heavy use of dragons in media about China. How do you see your books fitting into the broad category of literature about China?

LISA BRACKMANN: Well, first a confession: Dragon Day was my working title. It fit with the vague Chinese astrology theme I had going on: there really are Dragon Days and Sheep Days and every-other-sign-of-the-Chinese-zodiac days, and you think about a day ruled by the most powerful and charismatic sign, Dragon, and it sort of fit the theme of the book. But I was embarrassed to actually use “dragon” in a title, because as Ellie puts it, “It’s such a fucking cliché,” and I feel like a part of what I’m trying to do in this series is to talk about China in a way that might not be familiar to a lot of Western readers — and by that, I mean the China of today and the China I’ve experienced over the last few decades. One of the reasons that I wrote the first book in the series was that I hadn’t seen modern China portrayed all that often in American fiction. I wanted to talk about what China is like now. China is really important in the world that we’re living in, and it’s easy to construct some sort of abstract, idealized (whether for good or for ill) image of it. I am not an expert on all things China by any stretch, but...[read on]
Learn more about the book and author at Lisa Brackmann's website and blog.

The Page 69 Test: Hour of the Rat.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, September 12, 2015

Jennifer Pashley

Jennifer Pashley's new novel is The Scamp.

From her Q & A with Barrett Bowlin for Fiction Writers Review:

Barrett Bowlin: Since we’re drinking, let’s start off with that. Alcohol figures prominently in The Scamp, both as a way to make characters more comfortable and with allowing them to make mistakes. How would you say alcohol figures into your short stories and your novel as a plot device?

Jennifer Pashley: It’s not purposeful. It ended up becoming part of the plot in The Scamp, especially where it figures into Rayelle’s past. But it’s one of the things that I often find is present in conversations. For example, I’ve also had a lot of characters who were smokers and who have gone through a lot of cigarettes. There’s something very social and meditative about both acts. Sitting and drinking with somebody is a good device for getting into further conversation. It’s the same thing with a cigarette: it’s an interruption and it’s a pacifier at the same time.

You’ve had down-on-their-luck, sad-story girls a lot in your stories before, but this was the first time I’d seen someone as slick and ragged as Khaki, our serial killer, pop up in your work. What was the invention of Khaki like? How did she come about?

She was always the “other” character in the book, even after five significant drafts. Her violent tendencies weren’t as specific in earlier drafts—they were a little bit different—but I’ve started to see her as someone who had a really deranged motive. She wasn’t just a zero in the sense of doing drugs or stealing from people. Beyond that, she had a savior complex. She knew what her actions were and what she was doing, but there was a terrible irony in calling herself a “safe house.” It’s a particularly grandiose and deranged idea that she has. But once I started to explore the bigger elements of Khaki, she...[read on]
Visit Jennifer Pashley's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, September 11, 2015

Ursula K. Le Guin

Choire Sicha interviewed Ursula K. Le Guin for Interview magazine. Part of their dialogue:

CHOIRE SICHA: Can anyone be a writer? I used to have strong opinions about this, and I feel like I've lost them along the way.

URSULA K. LE GUIN: You want strong opinions? Anybody can write. You know, one of my daughters teaches writing at a community college. She teaches kids how to put sentences together, and then make the sentences hang together so that they can express themselves in writing as well as they do in speaking. Anybody with a normal IQ can manage that. But saying anybody can be a writer is kind of like saying anybody can compose a sonata. Oh, forget it! In any art, there is an initial gift that had to be there. I don't know how big it has to be, but it's got to be there.

SICHA: You can't labor your way into being a poet, can you?

LE GUIN: No. You just can't. But that's not to say that being a poet doesn't take a hell of a lot of work.

SICHA: It really doesn't seem that rewarding. Is that a terrible thing to say?

LE GUIN: I think there are writers who don't enjoy writing, and I feel sorry for them. I love it. I don't care how hard the work is. I would rather be...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Stephen P. Kiernan

Stephen P. Kiernan's new novel is The Hummingbird.

From his Q & A with Laurie Hertzel for the Star Tribune:

Q: The protagonist of “The Hummingbird” is a hospice nurse, and the scenes are written with a lot of detail. What kind of research did you have to do to get that kind of authority?

A: My first book (“Last Rights”) was a nonfiction examination of end-of-life medical treatment, and I learned about hospice for that project. After its publication, thousands of people told me the stories of the care their loved ones had received in their final days — most of it painful, futile, expensive and unwanted.

Hospice was the opposite: pain-free, concerned with the patient’s emotional and spiritual well-being, and interested in comfort when a cure is no longer possible. That work was the foundation on which I built the character of Deborah Birch, whose humane medical care grew to become a means of even wider healing.

Q: “The Hummingbird” also deals with PTSD and its effect on returning soldiers and their families. Why did you decide to pair these two extremely weighty themes together — end of life and PTSD?

A: This book is actually...[read on]
Learn more about the book and author at Stephen Kiernan's website and blog.

My Book, The Movie: The Curiosity.

Writers Read: Stephen Kiernan (July 2013).

The Page 69 Test: The Curiosity.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Heather W. Petty

Heather W. Petty's new novel is Lock & Mori.

From her Q & A with Miss Print:

MP: What was the inspiration for Lock & Mori? What drew you to Sherlock Holmes as source material?

HP: I read an article on nemesis relationships, where the writer mentioned offhand that everything we know about Moriarty is what Sherlock tells us. He’s the only one who meets Moriarty in the canon. Those kinds of gaps are like chocolate cake to writers. Pretty much any time I can ask the question “What if?” I get super excited. In this instance, I thought, what if Sherlock lied to Watson for some reason? What if he’d known Moriarty since they were kids? What if something that happened when they were kids is why they’re rivals as adults? The story kind of spiraled out from there.

MP: Working off the last question, in the original stories, Moriarty is a villain. Period. What drew you to Moriarty as your narrator and protagonist? How did you go about reframing a villain as the hero of her own story?

HP: The whole idea of taking the characters back to their teen years creates an opportunity to reverse engineer a master detective and master criminal to who they might have been before. And really, Sherlock has been...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Robert Wuthnow

Robert Wuthnow's latest book is In the Blood: Understanding America's Farm Families.

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

Why do you think people who don’t know much about farming might find this book interesting?

Everybody – whether we live in a city, suburb, or small town – depends on farms for the food we eat. We know about problems with fast food, slaughterhouses, pollution, and the like. We also hear discussions every few years about farm policies. But for the most part, farming is out of sight and out of mind. In part, I wanted to give farmers a voice. I wanted people who know very little about farming to at least have something to read if they did happen to be interested.

Apart from questions about food and farm policies, the reason to be interested in farmers is that our nation’s culture is still the product of our agrarian past. Correctly or incorrectly, we imagine that today’s farmers represent that heritage. In one view, they represent conservative family traditions, hard work, living simply, and preserving the land. In that view, it is easy to romanticize farming. A different view holds that farmers are country bumpkins who couldn’t do anything better than continue to farm. In both these views, farmers are actually serving as a mirror for us. I wanted to hold that mirror up to see what it showed – about the rest of us as much as about farmers.

You say farmers think the public doesn’t understand them. What misperceptions need to be corrected?

One of the most serious misperceptions is....[read on]
Read more about In the Blood at the Princeton University Press website.

The Page 99 Test: Red State Religion.

The Page 99 Test: Small-Town America.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, September 7, 2015

Howard Axelrod

Howard Axelrod's new book is The Point of Vanishing: A Memoir of Two Years in Solitude.

From his Q & A with Caroline Leavitt:

Can you please talk about what it means to see differently?

Everyone, I think, has had some experience with seeing differently. After you fall in love, or after a friend has died, or even after you finish a beautiful book--in each case, the air around you feels distinctly different: your eye penetrates in ways it didn't before, and you become attuned to the world, for whatever period of time, in a new way. Of course, if you went to an ophthalmologist, she'd say nothing had changed, but if you went to a phenomenologist--imagine the eye chart!--or just a good friend, she'd agree that something had. Sometimes these changes in vision, which are really changes in consciousness, happen through accident, sometimes through effort, and sometimes through both. That combination of accident and effort is what my book is about, but my change in vision started more prosaically, with a physical change in vision.

When I was blinded in my right eye, the difficulty was of making sense of a world that had suddenly become larger, whose rules had changed in an instant. Without depth perception, nothing looked solid to me; I no longer trusted physical surfaces--they looked permeable--and, soon enough, no longer trusted my own surfaces, the parts of my identity that came from circumstance. My blindness started me on a search for a deeper kind of orientation, for something other than the visual world that I could trust. Which, ultimately, is what sent me into solitude in...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, September 6, 2015

Edward Mendelson

Edward Mendelson is the author of Moral Agents: Eight Twentieth-Century American Writers.

From his Q & A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: You write of the authors that “all were troubled by the discordance between a mask and a face.” How did they reconcile their public and private lives?

A: The happiest and most artistically successful reconciled their private and public lives by withdrawing or refusing fame and honors. The unhappiest (Lionel Trilling, Saul Bellow) thrust their private selves into a kind of prison and tried to live up to their heroic public images. They got lots of admirers, but they tended to despise them.

Q: Saul Bellow, you write, “was driven throughout his life by his search for some ultimate and invisible spiritual reality.” How did that search affect him, and did he ultimately find what he was searching for?

A: Bellow was always looking for someone to guide him toward spiritual meanings, and he always admired Rudolf Steiner and Steiner’s German-Romantic mystical ideas. At one point, Bellow flew to England in the hope of making himself a disciple of ...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, September 5, 2015

Amy Stewart

Amy Stewart's new novel is Girl Waits With Gun.

From her Q & A with Caroline Leavitt:

I always want to know what sparks a particular book? What was it about Constance that captivated you?

It started with one 1915 newspaper article. I was actually researching a gin smuggler named Henry Kaufman for The Drunken Botanist. I wondered what else he might have done, and his named turned up in a New York Times story about a silk factory owner who ran his car into a buggy being driven by the Kopp sisters. I never did figure out if it was the same Henry Kaufman, but the case was interesting, so I kept it.

Now this happens all the time when I'm doing research, and maybe the same is true for you. I run across some unrelated story and think, "Hmmm, that's odd. I'd better keep that." But this was different. I set aside my Drunken Botanist research for the day and kept looking for stories about the Kopps. By the end of the day, I had a stack of clippings and a major crush on these three women. Constance in particular was just so badass. She was a large woman--around six feet tall, 180 pounds--and she was thirty-five and unmarried when this started. When Henry Kaufman started harassing her family, she was just so fierce--maybe because she had nothing to lose, maybe because...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, September 4, 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 Mark Rubinstein for The Huffington Post:

First novels are often semi-autobiographical. How much of your life has seeped into Where All Light Tends to Go?

Some of Jacob's characteristics are similar to mine. For instance, his unwillingness to trust people or his sense that things won't turn out well are characteristics we share. His story however, is not mine. But, it is a story with which I'm familiar, having grown up around people who, very early on, were surrounded by drugs, and whose lives were pretty much determined from an early point. It wasn't on a level like Jacob's, but in Charlotte, North Carolina, there were a lot of kids I knew whose parents weren't around. They grew up on the streets where drugs and violence were everywhere. Drugs were the economic means of survival.

In reality, I grew up in a privileged household--not from a monetary standpoint--but in the sense my parents loved me, and would have done anything to ensure my success. That just wasn't the case for most of the people I knew. So Jacob's story, while having some roots in my own experiences, is really a product of my imagination.

Some people have compared your novel to the TV series, Breaking Bad and to the film, Winter's Bone. Are there any connections?

There are definitely connections to...[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

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Chris Laoutaris

Chris Laoutaris's new book is Shakespeare and the Countess: The Battle that Gave Birth to the Globe.

From his Q & A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: How did you first learn about Lady Elizabeth Russell, and what surprised you most in the course of your research for this book?

A: I first came across the formidable Elizabeth Russell while conducting research for my doctorate. She was, highly unusually, a prolific designer of funerary monuments (normally a male occupation). This intrigued me, so I decided to delve deeper.

Imagine my surprise when I discovered that she had also led an uprising of local neighbours to ban Shakespeare and his fellow actors from their newly built theatre in the Blackfriars district of London! She won that particular battle, and it was one of many battles during her controversial career.

During my research I discovered more of her extraordinary exploits, like the fact that she had constructed her own personal dungeon in the grounds of her country estate, in which she would regularly incarcerate her enemies.

She also instigated several riots, which resulted in acts of kidnapping, breaking-and-entering and armed clashes. Elizabeth Russell was...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Bridget Foley

Bridget Foley's debut novel is Hugo & Rose.

From the author's Q & A with Caroline Leavitt:

I always want to know what sparks a book--but you talk about that in the extraordinary acknowledgement pages of your novel. Please can you tell us about the grief, bravery and courage it took for Hugo & Rose to emerge, and how writing the book changed you? Was there anything in it that surprised you?

Shortly after I finished the first draft of HUGO & ROSE, I became pregnant with identical twin girls. I edited the book on bed rest, my belly making the reach to the keyboard a bit more difficult each day. The plan had always been for the book to go to market in September because the girls were due in November, which meant that all book business would have been cleared by then. Best laid plans.

On September 1st, the girls’ placenta abrupted which caused them to be born 10 weeks early. They were small but their prognosis was good. My agent called to see if we should put off the book sale; my husband and I talked about it. We were picturing ourselves trying to deal with two newborns at home while undergoing the stress of the sale… so we decided it would be best to do it on the timeline we had planned.

Right after we pulled the trigger my daughter Giddy took a turn. She was transferred to a different hospital and suddenly we were spending our days talking about blood counts and liver numbers. Our life became shuttling between hospitals, talking to doctors and sitting by the beds of our girls. We got...[read on]
Visit Bridget Foley's website.

My Book, The Movie: Hugo & Rose.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Steph Cha

Steph Cha's latest novel is Dead Soon Enough: Juniper Song Mysteries (Volume 3).

From her Q & A with Ivy Pochoda for the Los Angeles Times:

So “Dead Soon Enough” is the third installment in your Juniper Song series. How has Song developed, grown or changed in the course of her adventures?

Song started out as this directionless millennial with an unresolved family tragedy and zero passion in her life, and then I put her through the ringer and ruined things for her even further. She's taken it all pretty well, actually. Made a few new friends, got a job. She's working as a private investigator now, and she's good at it, so there's that. She's had a lot of illusions shattered for her, and she knows people can be pretty crummy, but she still can't help trusting the ones she likes and hoping for the best.

You were pretty young when your first novel “Follow Her Home” came out. How do you feel you’ve changed as a writer since then?

I was 27 when it was published, but “Follow Her Home” is the novel I started writing when I was 22 years old, so, yeah, I've changed a lot. Almost everything I've learned about writing has happened on the job, some while I was writing the first book, and definitely some after. I like to think I've gotten better. I'm more comfortable with...[read on]
Visit Steph Cha's website and Twitter perch.

Coffee with a Canine: Steph Cha and Duke.

My Book, The Movie: Follow Her Home.

The Page 69 Test: Follow Her Home.

Writers Read: Steph Cha (April 2013).

--Marshal Zeringue