Monday, November 30, 2015

J.K. Rowling

J.K. Rowling is the author of 15 books, including the seven Harry Potter novels, The Casual Vacancy and, as Robert Galbraith, three crime novels including the recently released Career of Evil. From her conversation with Lauren Laverne, radio and TV broadcaster, and former lead singer of Kenickie, as shared at the Guardian:

LL I wanted to ask you about naming things, because you have an interesting relationship with the power of names. Obviously, having written under different pseudonyms, and having characters with these wonderful, Dickensian, perfectly fitting names.

JR I think they were offering odds of 100-1 that I’d call my son Voldemort. 100-1! It was worth a bet. But you’re right, names are really important. Choosing a pseudonym for Robert Galbraith was a really big deal.

LL How did you do that?

JR Well, when I was a child I wanted to be called Ella Galbraith. So I thought I might be LA Galbraith, but then I didn’t want to use initials.

LL You’d give the game away.

JR Yes, and I really didn’t think it through – there’s also JK Galbraith, the famous economist. It was only after I’d chosen Robert, for Robert Kennedy, who’s my political hero of heroes, that I thought, it’s as though I want to be found! What am I...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, November 29, 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 Daniel Torday for The Rumpus:

The Rumpus: As much as I loved so many aspects of this expansive first novel, I think what grabbed me from the first—from the title, even—is how adept you are at crafting and living inside of a voice. And not just one voice: multiple voices. I’ve always felt a little skeptical of that “find your voice” advice for writers, and I remember feeling really freed in my early twenties when I read an interview with one of my favorite writers who said something like, Your job isn’t to find your voice, but to find a voice, for each character, each book. How did you think about the development of voice for each character here?

Annie Liontas: For a long time, I conceived of voice as this wild, untamed, mythical beast that you wrestled onto the page. I still think it is that, on some level—something you channel rather than create. But voice is also artifice, entirely constructed. When it’s real, when it works, it comes, I believe, from empathy and from truly inhabiting another existence, if not person. As a young writer, I didn’t know any of this; it’s only something I’ve developed through practice. What I knew instinctively back then was that I could “do” voice—that maybe it was all I could do—and so I stayed away from writing programs for a long time. I had heard that everyone ends up coming out sounding the same (not true!) and was afraid I’d lose the one thing I had been given.

With Let Me Explain You, I thought about throwing my voice—a kind of living ventriloquism that gets me out of me and into each of my characters. I discovered fairly quickly that Stavros has a big voice (though his humor came far later). He was so big, in fact, that most early readers suggested I write the entire novel in his voice alone. But I knew this had to be...[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

Saturday, November 28, 2015

Derek Haas

Derek Haas's fourth novel featuring the hit man Columbus is A Different Lie. From the author's Q & A with Steph Cha at the Los Angeles Review of Books:

STEPH CHA: Columbus’s philosophy involves finding a connection with his mark, and then severing that connection through the act of killing. There’s something very authorly about this, and it makes me wonder about your relationship with your characters. You’re a writer and, as far as I know, a man of peace. What’s your connection to Columbus? Is he in fact your dark double?

DEREK HAAS: My wife asks me that all the time. There are aspects to Columbus that I share: his fondness of literature and storytelling, his love for his family, his attraction to rogues and underdogs, his joy for his work. I hope I’m more honest than he is. He lies to himself quite a bit, and even more to others. His upbringing was very different from mine. His morals don’t line up with mine. Maybe I should sever the connection!

So where did Columbus come from? What attracted you to the idea of writing a hit man?

I liked the idea of a contract killer who was assigned to kill his own father. I liked the symbolism of him traveling from east to west, from spring to winter, from the birthplace of the nation to the west coast over the course of the first novel. I wanted a name that evoked America, a country born out of violence. Plus, I just like...[read on]
Learn about who Haas has imagined playing Columbus on the big screen.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, November 27, 2015

Dawn Lerman

Dawn Lerman is a board-certified nutrition expert and a contributor to the New York Times Well Blog. Her company, Magnificent Mommies, provides nutrition education to students, teachers, and corporations. She lives in New York City with her two children, Dylan and Sofia.

Lerman's new book is My Fat Dad: A Memoir of Food, Love and Family, with Recipes.

From her Q & A with NPR's Michel Martin:

MARTIN: You know, people are used to the cliche of the Jewish family where food is the center of everything, but you kind of turned that story on its head. Your father couldn't stop eating, and her mother almost seemed to hate food. And you write in the book that growing up, you were always hungry. Tell us a little bit more about that.

LERMAN: Well, growing up, my dad was 450 pounds, and every week, he was on a new diets. And whatever diet he was on, we had to be on to support him. When he was on Atkins, we were on Atkins. When he was on the cabbage soup diet, that's all we ate - was cabbage soup. So I was always hungry. We never had real food in my house. And my mom was a want-to-be actress, and she was always running from auditions. And she only had time for a can of tuna fish over the sink. and she was rebelling against her mother, who cooked obsessively. And she felt - wanted more from her life, and food was just not in that equation.

MARTIN: So why was your father so obsessed with food?

LERMAN: His mother worked in the garment district from the time she was 13 years old. She was a Russian immigrant, and that was the way she showed love to him. She would feed him obsessively. And to him, food meant love, and I think that was his way of stuffing his emotions and not dealing with anything. So he just...[read on]
Visit Dawn Lerman's New York Times blog and Facebook page.

Writers Read: Dawn Lerman.

The Page 99 Test: My Fat Dad.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, November 26, 2015

David Mitchell

David Mitchell's novels include The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet, Cloud Atlas, Black Swan Green, and most recently, Slade House. From Mitchell's interview with Fresh Air producer Sam Briger:

BRIGER: So the first chapter of this book, "Slade House," started out as a story you wrote on Twitter. Why did you want to write a story on Twitter? And why did you decide then to expand the original story into a longer book?

MITCHELL: I wanted to write the story on Twitter because I was a little bit embarrassed of having this Twitter account that my publisher really was only ever using to publicize bookshop appearances and the like. However, I don't really want to tweet about my private life. I don't feel it's that interesting and my privacy is important. So I didn't really have a means to use it as it felt legitimate until I hit upon the idea of using it as a sort of a vehicle for fiction which is what I'm interested about. So I already had the story. I translated it into tweets and then put those out over the course of about two or three weeks last year.

BRIGER: Did you like the restrictions that Twitter placed upon you?

MITCHELL: I like what I had to do to circumvent those restrictions. I view many artistic endeavors as being perhaps an analogist to straitjackets. And the more demonic and torturous the straitjacket is, the more audacious the act of escapology has to be to get out of that straitjacket. And if all goes well, that audacity, that escapology turns into an original manuscript. It's something not quite like something we've read before. And so yeah, it isn't - I like the restrictions. I like what you what to do to get around the restrictions.

BRIGER: The victims of the "Slade House" - right before their souls are going to be devoured, they actually see their souls - like their souls are these - float in front of their faces. And they're these globes. They look to some like tiny galaxies. And each one of them finds that soul beautiful. And not all of these people you have sympathy for. One of them is a corrupt and racist police officer. But since all of them see this all as beautiful, does - that suggested to me some sort of redemption. Was that your intent?

MITCHELL: Every character that I'm asking the reader to root for has to have...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

David Eagleman

David Eagleman is the author of The Brain: The Story of You.

From his Q & A with Stephanie Cross for the Guardian:

You underscore how little conscious control we have over our decisions – will science eventually rule out free will altogether?

There’s a lot of debate about this. There are many neuroscientists who feel that we probably don’t have free will because fundamentally it’s all pieces and parts interacting and it’s difficult to see where you could slip the ghost into the machine.

And you?

Personally I feel like the jury is still out in the sense that our science might still be a little bit too young to understand exactly what we mean by free will; and certainly it’s the case that we have the illusion that we have free will, which means at minimum that would need to get explained. But what we can conclude is that if we have any free will at all, it’s going to be the smallest bit of what’s happening – much smaller than anyone ever intuited about themselves – because who you are comes about as this confluence of your genetics and all the experiences you’ve ever had, and that’s what sends brains off on...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Jonathan Sacks

Rabbi Jonathan Sacks is the former Chief Rabbi of Britain and author of Not in God's Name: Confronting Religious Violence. From his conversation with Fareed Zakaria:

ZAKARIA: One of the things you stress in the book is that every religion has had these seeds of extremism and that it is through this kind of reform that you get rid of it. But you are cautious against the kind of blanket condemnations of Islam. You know, you try to use a very soft touch.

SACKS: Well, Islam is a great faith that's had remarkably wonderful periods of history. In the early middle ages it was the epitome of tolerance. And then Spain, as I say, under the Umayyads, Jews, Christians and Muslims lived together in greater freedom than at any other times in the Middle Ages. Not liberal democracy by our standards, but at least an advance on anything until then. All I can say from Jewish and that matter, Christian history is that when religion turns violent, it begins by murdering its enemies, it ends by murdering its co-religionists. And it then inflicts a self-imposed injury on faith itself. The violence in Judaism internally in the first century caused the catastrophe that took his nearly 2000 years to get over. The violence between Christians, Catholics and Protestants in Europe in the 16 and 17 centuries, led to four centuries of secularization. Religion begins when it chooses the part of violence by assaulting its enemies, but it becomes its own most serious victim.

ZAKARIA: And in a sense the pattern you're describing is exactly what we're seeing where these terrorist organizations began as exclusively anti-Western, but now it's the Sunnis killing the Shia. How does one grow moderates? What is the - what is the path forward? You know, how should particularly westerners view this, you know, what is really an internal debate within Islam. How to help the good guys?

SACKS: Well, you know, what you try and do is try and create...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, November 23, 2015

Susanna Hislop

Susanna Hislop is an actor and a writer and the Artistic Director of Slip of Steel, and is an editor of the online literary quarterly The Junket. Her first book Stories in the Stars: An Atlas of Constellations was BBC Radio 4’s Book of the Week over Christmas 2014. From her Q & A with Caroline Leavitt:

Why do you think we are all so fascinated with the sky?

It’s right on top of us! It engulfs us. It lights us, darkens us, rains on us, shines on us, feeds and kills us: and even now, in an age governed by science and reason, most of us – and certainly me – have absolutely no real sense of what it is or how it works. Mostly it just makes us feel, keenly, our place in some vast and greater truth, or rather chaos or untruth: filling us with magic and fear.

What do stories about the constellations really tell us about ourselves?

I think they tell us about our need to name things. To place things, make sense of things, and also, more darkly, to own things. We like to tell stories – lies in fact – about who we are and how we got here to make us feel as if we mean something. And of course historically, the differing constellation narratives tell us a huge amount about the different societies that invented them (I was particularly interested in tracing the socio-political metamorphoses of the women in stars). Having said that, one of the things I found most incredible researching the book, was how several constellation myths are in fact echoed across continents and time by entirely different people and cultures – these uncanny similarities tell us something essential about what it is to be human, and about the very profound – although in modern society, often ignored – relationship we have with nature, that very physical, animal instinct and understanding of...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Peter Guralnick

Peter Guralnick is the author of Sam Phillips: The Man Who Invented Rock ‘n’ Roll. From his Q & A with Scott Timberg for Salon:

The subtitle of your book is “The Man Who Invented Rock ‘n’ Roll.” I don’t think you’re the first person to call him that, and the phrase served as the title for a documentary years ago. Overall, give us a sense of how important Phillips was to the birth and early evolution of the music.

What I think was remarkable about Sam, besides the fact that from a tiny little storefront studio in Memphis, so much music came out of such a tiny space, from something that was essentially a one-man operation. From Elvis to Carl Perkins to Johnny Cash to Jerry Lee Lewis, [he created] what was essentially the dominant strain of rock ‘n’ roll during the first few years of its existence.

What I think is extraordinary about Sam is that he had a vision for rock ‘n’ roll long before the music existed, long before he was even able to give expression to it… Years before he even conceived of building a recording studio, he conceived a music that could bridge all gaps, that could deny category… An African-American-based music that could leap across the chasms of race and social origin and class. And when he opened his studio, the first hit he had come out was [Ike Turner’s] “Rocket 88.” It doesn’t matter how you label it – the fact is, it was an extraordinary hit, it sold over 100,000 copies.

In his first public utterances, in the Memphis Commercial Appeal, he spoke of that same vision. Of “Rocket 88” being the kind of music that could appeal to all kinds, that could reach a mainstream audience, that could bridge that gap. While the record may not have fully realized what we envisioned for it, that was clearly what he was looking to achieve from the moment he started recording anyone.

He had the same vision for...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Cat Winters

Cat Winters's new novel is The Uninvited. From her Q & A with Sarah Skilton at B&N Reads:

While researching [the ghost story set in 1918] The Uninvited, what was some of the more shocking information you uncovered about the time period?

What shocked me the most was discovering the mistreatment of and violence against German Americans and other immigrants during the WWI period. I set The Uninvited specifically in Illinois because of a real-life lynching of a German-born coalminer named Robert Prager in April 1918. He was killed by a mob of approximately three to four hundred men for purportedly making “disloyal utterances against the United States.” Eleven men went to trial for his murder on June 1918. All eleven were declared “not guilty” and freed. Prager’s murder wasn’t the only 1918 act of violence committed against an immigrant in the name of patriotism, unfortunately. I don’t think we hear enough about the paranoia that gripped the nation during this war, but I think we could learn a lot from it.

Having previously written about the Spanish flu and WWI for your debut YA novel, the critically acclaimed In the Shadow of Blackbirds, was it enjoyable to revisit that era? Are there any aspects of life in that time that you wish were still in play today?

Revisiting the Spanish flu itself was a little dark and intense, but...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, November 20, 2015

Margaret Sands Orchowski

Margaret Sands Orchowski is the author of The Law That Changed the Face of America: The Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965. From her Q & A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: Why did you decide to write a book focused on the 1965 immigration law?

A: I’ve been involved with migrants all my life. I particularly have been involved with Latinos. When I came to Washington in 1998, I got back into journalism; I was working for a Hispanic magazine.

It was a perfect melding of my background and interest. I was interested in how we managed immigration over our history. Immigration is about work—why is it in the Judiciary Committee? I got curious about how our laws evolved. The 1965 act affected my family; I was married to an immigrant.

I’m a lifetime Democrat, and a big fan of the Kennedys. I knew this law was [JFK’s] legacy. It’s so maligned now, this law—it’s the most liberal, generous immigration law. I’m going, Why are, particularly Democrats, demanding it be fixed? Along with this to be the 50th year, it was the perfect time to delve into it.

Q: And what do you see as the legacy and impact of the 1965 law today?

A: There were tons of unintended consequences. To understand that...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Rebecca Kanner

Rebecca Kanner's new novel is Esther.

From her Q & A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: Why did you decide to write a novel based on the story of Queen Esther?

A: I had originally...set out to write stories about the women in Genesis. I didn’t get very far; I wrote Sinners and the Sea [about Noah’s wife], and then I wanted to go beyond Genesis and write the story of Esther.

In the Megillah, her submissiveness and reaching for Mordecai [didn’t seem sufficient]—it takes more than a pretty face to win a king. I wanted her to be a little smarter. I wanted her to wait to tell the king she was Jewish because [of her intelligence].

Q: How much of your novel was taken from the biblical story of Esther and how much is your own invention?

A: I took the basics from the story, but there was still a lot to fill in. I like the writings of Herodotus. I wanted to mostly stick with the Megillah, but add to it, in the Jewish tradition of midrash, coming up with an explanation of why Esther delayed telling the king she was...[read on]
Visit Rebecca Kanner's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Wallace Stroby

Wallace Stroby’s The Devil’s Share is the latest novel featuring one of the most compelling anti-heroes around today, heistwoman Crissa Stone. From the author's Q & A with Sonja Hartl of the German crime fiction magazine/website Polar Noir:

SONJA HARTL: How did you develop the idea for COLD SHOT TO THE HEART? Why is your protagonist female?

WALLACE STROBY: I’d always wanted to write an entire novel from the point of view of a career criminal, but someone with whom the reader might have a certain amount of sympathy. Part of my third novel, GONE ‘TIL NOVEMBER, was written from the perspective of an aging black hitman, while the rest was from the point-of-view of a female sheriff’s deputy and single mom in a rural Florida town, the only woman in an otherwise all-male department. With COLD SHOT TO THE HEART, I wanted to combine those two ideas, and have my criminal also be a woman in an overwhelmingly male environment. That raised all kinds of interesting possibilities.

SH: I have to admit that I am a little skeptical when male crime authors have female protagonists. Was it difficult for you to write a crime novel with a woman as a main character?

WS: Actually, I found it freeing in some ways, because a woman in that position would...[read on]
Learn more about the author and his novels at the official Wallace Stroby website and The Heartbreak Blog.

The Page 69 Test: Gone 'til November.

The Page 69 Test: Cold Shot to the Heart.

The Page 69 Test: Kings of Midnight.

The Page 69 Test: The Devil's Share.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Paul Strathern

Paul Strathern is the author of Death in Florence: The Medici, Savonarola, and the Battle for the Soul of a Renaissance City.

From his Q & A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: In the book, you write, "Yet this clash between the secular and the religious has continued to reverberate down the centuries..." What is the legacy today of the events in Florence 500-plus years ago?

A: Lorenzo de Medici was a standard-bearer for the values of the Renaissance. Savonarola, on the other hand, believed in a return to the ancient spiritual values. In simple terms, Lorenzo de Medici can be seen as a liberal, whereas Savonarola was more of a fundamentalist.

Though this is, of necessity, a gross simplification. The battle between these two figures in 15th century Florence can be seen as epitomising a battle which has undergone a sudden resurgence in our contemporary times: the contest for hearts and minds between the freedom and values of the western world and fundamentalism which opposes such “degeneracy.”

The struggle which took place in Florence so long ago is once again as relevant as ever. The battle is no longer for “the soul of a Renaissance city,” but for the soul of...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, November 16, 2015

John Grisham

Rogue Lawyer is John Grisham's thirtieth novel. From the author's interview with Bill Tipper for The Barnes & Noble Review:

The Barnes & Noble Review: What I was immediately struck in by Rogue Lawyer, by comparison to earlier books, was a shift in your writing style and kind of the diction and velocity of the prose. It took me a minute to orient myself. I thought, “This is as hard-boiled as I think I’ve read John Grisham.” Was that your intention?

John Grisham: Oh, sure. I started writing it probably three years ago, just as an idea. I have a lot of ideas for stories based on real cases I read about, usually something dealing with a horrible injustice in the system, something that I would love to see addressed or fixed or exposed or written about. There are a lot of those.

BNR: Some kind of flaw in the way that we think about justice and the law that produces a story.

JG: Sure. A lot of those, though, cannot stand up to the rigors of a full-length novel. So they are smaller stories. I want to address the issues: I want to meet some of the characters. For years I’ve been thinking how can I do that in such a way that I can make it compelling and readable and a whole lot of fun. So I came up with this voice, which is basically me, my observations of the system. When I was a lawyer, I sort of admired the guys who were really out-there, the fearless guys who were taking the bad cases, who would take the case nobody else would take, who were in court all the time, who were basically just kind of fearless. I wasn’t that way. I was a bit too nervous.

This all came out in the character of Sebastian: A voice, the guy who’s at war with the system, the guy who’s fighting for injustice, and then through him we can...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Laura Dave

Laura Dave is the author of the critically acclaimed novels The First Husband, The Divorce Party, London Is The Best City In America, and the newly released Eight Hundred Grapes.

Three of her novels have been optioned for the big screen with Dave adapting Eight Hundred Grapes for Fox2000.

From Dave's Q & A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: How did you come up with the book’s title, and what does it signify for you?

A: I wanted to pick a title that spoke to how much goes into winemaking - how each glass of wine is an expression of so much work. I had never thought about how many grapes were in a bottle - as soon as I found out how many grapes it takes to make a single bottle of wine, it seemed like the perfect metaphor for...[read on]
Visit Laura Dave's website.

Writers Read: Laura Dave (June 2015).

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Anne Enright

Anne Enright is an Irish author. Her novel The Gathering won the 2007 Man Booker Prize. Her latest novel is The Green Road. From the author's Q & A with Alex Clark at the Guardian:

In The Green Road, there’s a magnetic but also rather problematic mother - whose four children you follow to New York, Africa and over Ireland. Families are key to your work, aren’t they?

People say I write about the family all the time, but in fact I just put people into that shape, or use that shape to write about deeper truths. I was more interested in separation and connection, disconnection and love.

The story of leaving and returning - or not returning - that informs your novel runs through the history of Ireland…

Emigration has been a part of Irish life for hundreds of years, and my way into it was not through the nostalgia of the emigrants in London or Boston, because there’s quite a difficult relationship between the Irish person at home and the emigrant abroad; by the second or third generation, those emigrants turn Ireland into a certain kind of idea – which informs our own idea of Ireland, but also begins to kitschify it a little and sentimentalise it. All of that is difficult and above all else there’s an amount of shame swilling around all of that situation. The emigrants who left Ireland left because they were poor, and they left because there was nothing for them. The emigrants when I was growing up in the 80s, when I was a teenager, left not only because there weren’t any jobs, but because the moral atmosphere of the country was unbearably claustrophobic, and because in order to be themselves, they had to leave, in order to possess their own life. You had that feeling in the 80s that your life was elsewhere, that your real life was in New York or London, and not in this squabbling country that was always talking about goddamn contraception like it was...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, November 13, 2015

David Spade

David Spade's new memoir is Almost Interesting.

From his conversation with Mike Sacks for Esquire:

Did you ever talk to [Johnny] Carson later after your first appearance on his show?

Carson was so scary. I knew him a little bit just from TV. It was really my mom who loved him when I was growing up. But he visited me backstage afterwards when I was in the dressing room. He knocked on the door, and I opened it with my shirt off like a psycho, because I thought it was all over.

I didn't realize this at the time, but I would never see him again in my life. I had my shirt off and I was a fucking B.O. festival. I'm sure a wave hit him like one of those nuclear bombs knocking over houses, in like, slow motion. I had a bottle of Pepto-Bismol and was chugging it, and I've got it all over my mouth, and he goes, "Hey, I wanted to tell you you did a good job out there, but you didn't come over to the couch." If Johnny really liked a comedian, he called them over to talk.

And I said, "Oh my God, I was so nervous! I didn't think I was supposed to go over!" And he goes, "You did a good thing out there." I apologized for the Pepto and he said, "I'm trying to quit the stuff myself."

He gave you a joke.

He gave me a joke! I'm sure this all meant nothing to him, but I loved it.

Why hadn't you gone over the couch when he beckoned you over? That's a huge honor for a stand-up. It happens very rarely.

The producer, Jim McCawley, told me...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Thomas Vinciguerra

Thomas Vinciguerra's new book is Cast of Characters: Wolcott Gibbs, E. B. White, James Thurber, and the Golden Age of The New Yorker.

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

Q: What are some of the main differences between The New Yorker during the period you write about and the magazine today?

A: The New Yorker today is a far more analytical and interpretive magazine than it used to be. William Shawn, the successor to Ross, in his recollections of Ross, said Ross didn’t care what a reporter thought. Today, there’s a lot more thinking going on at The New Yorker—people from Janet Malcolm to Malcolm Gladwell.

In the period I’m writing about, Ross and his cohorts were mainly interested in straight journalism, clever humor, bright fiction, funny drawings, and whimsical observations. I don’t think there was a lot of interpretation going on in the period I write about. Any heavy thoughts were...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Carmiel Banasky

Carmiel Banasky is the author of The Suicide of Claire Bishop: A Novel.

From her Q & A with Ryan Krull for The Brooklyn Rail:

Ryan Krull (Rail): So I’ve got to start by talking about West [a New Yorker with schizophrenia, who sees the painting of Claire’s suicide in a gallery and immediately becomes obsessed with it and its elusive artist], who, for me, was one of the oddest and most relatable characters I’d read in long time. The ways in which his schizophrenia manifests itself are exaggerated versions of how we all behave privately in our minds. Was it a conscious decision to make him more relatable by way of his symptoms?

Carmiel Banasky: That was really the project of the book. I don’t think all readers are going to feel that way. They might feel put off by West. I didn’t start off with any kind of agenda, but when I went back to revise and I needed something to keep me going, it was the idea that I wanted his experience to be relatable, both for people who have experienced schizophrenia and other types of mental illness, but also for people who’ve never had those experiences. I wanted to bring the reader as close as possible to West’s logic and consciousness, in an uncomfortable way, like there’s no escape. Reminding myself of that reminded me why I was doing this at all.

I wanted to counter the only images we see of schizophrenic people on the news, which is when there’s been violence or crime. I’ve had two friends who’ve been diagnosed with schizophrenia and I’d never read anything like their experiences. I wanted to...:[read on]
Visit Carmiel Banasky's website.

The Page 69 Test: The Suicide of Claire Bishop.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Benilde Little

Benilde Little is the author of the memoir Welcome to My Breakdown. She also wrote four best-selling novels: Good Hair, The Itch, Acting Out, Who Does She Think She Is?

From the author's Q & with Caroline Leavitt:

What I loved about this book was how brave you were about writing about depression. So many people dismiss clinical depression as just the blues, but it isn’t--it’s many, many dark nights of the soul and it’s difficult to find your way out. But the book is also about grief--the death of your mother--and how that jump started depression, which began to change your worldview. Can you talk about all of this, please?

I still miss her, although it’s no longer a daily or even weekly thing and the pain does not cut into my marrow anymore. My worldview got a little more cynical because I’m conscious of feeling so much more alone. I’m no longer that idealist who believed nothing really bad ever happens. She was the person who understood me best and loved me the deepest so the absence of that is a tough thing to accept, but I have. I became the matriarch of my family and I don’t want to be, so I’m probably more resentful than I was. I’m waiting to get the feeling of freedom some people experience after they loose a parent, where you no longer give a crap, but that hasn’t happened to me. My husband says he felt that after losing his dad.

When it’s gone, it’s gone and there are no rituals to duplicate what my mother was to me. I have to live with that and sometimes it just makes me mad. I’ve never liked...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, November 9, 2015

Patricia Appelbaum

Patricia Appelbaum is the author of St. Francis of America: How a Thirteenth-Century Friar Became America's Most Popular Saint.

From her Q & A with Gina Mahalek at the University of North Carolina Press website:

Gina Mahalek: Why did you want to write about St. Francis?

Patricia Appelbaum: He is everywhere in American culture. People who are not otherwise interested in saints often know about St. Francis and admire him. You can buy a statue of him at Walmart or at a garden center. You can download songs about him from iTunes. Mainline Protestants, evangelicals, and Roman Catholics all sing hymns by or about him, and some Eastern Orthodox honor him. The Blessing of the Animals on St. Francis day is a public phenomenon in New York and has spread across the nation. We don’t see this kind of multidimensional popularity and creative expression with, let’s say, St. Thomas Aquinas or St. Catherine of Siena.

GM: Did Pope Francis have anything to do with this?

PA: I started the book before Pope Francis was elected, but I find him a very striking figure. A famous Roman Catholic theologian remarked that no previous pope has dared to take the name of Francis. The saint’s example is a very challenging one—a call to...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, November 8, 2015

Alonzo Hamby

Alonzo Hamby is the author of Man of Destiny: FDR and the Making of the American Century.

From his Q & A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: You write of FDR that "he was the New Deal." What was the impact of Roosevelt's personality on the New Deal programs, and how would you characterize the overall success of the New Deal?

A: Roosevelt's personality, transmitted over the airwaves, was central to the New Deal. Radio transmission of a leader's voice was comparatively new and projected a sense of authority and leadership directly into the households of ordinary individuals. Television would have a similar impact for the next generation of Americans.

Q: What was the impact of Theodore Roosevelt on FDR's policies and world view?

A: TR clearly had an impact. He was the first of what political scientists call "the modern presidents." He used the mass media (newspapers and magazines in his day) to project an image of activism and authority along with a concern for ordinary middle-class Americans.

He also engaged in unprecedented activism in foreign policy (Panama canal; mediation of the Russo-Japanese war). He combined images of being a reformer at home and activist leadership in foreign policy. The young FDR...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, November 7, 2015

Jenny Milchman

Jenny Milchman's latest novel is As Night Falls.

From her Q & A with Lance Wright at Omnimystery News:

Omnimystery News: Your books to date have all been stand-alone novels, but is there any element that ties them together?

Jenny Milchman: Yes, there is. I'd like you to meet my series character: Wedeskyull, NY. It's a small town in the Adirondacks, somewhere in Franklin County, an always wild and sometimes terrifying land. It's true that most writers don't mean a place when they say they are writing a series, but in my case the town is a recurring character. Readers can read each of my three novels — Cover of Snow, Ruin Falls, and As Night Falls — as stand-alones. But if all three are read, they will get to see small characters from one book make bigger appearances in another and vice versa. The town is seen through the prism of many different eyes. I was inspired by Stephen King's Castle Rock as a child, and later by Louise Penny's Three Pines. I think that place or setting can be as much of a force in a novel as any character or sequence of events.

OMN: Into which fiction genre would you place your books?

JM: Syndicated reviewer Oline Cogdill coined a term for a sub-genre: family thriller. Booklist reviewer Stacy Alesi, also known as the Book Bitch, uses the description domestic suspense. Both are...[read on]
Learn more about the book and author at Jenny Milchman's website.

My Book, The Movie: Cover of Snow.

The Page 69 Test: Cover of Snow.

Writers Read: Jenny Milchman (May 2015).

The Page 69 Test: Ruin Falls.

My Book, The Movie: Ruin Falls.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, November 6, 2015

Atul Gawande

Atul Gawande is a surgeon, writer, and public health researcher. His books include Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End.

From Gawande's Q & A with Tim Adams for the Guardian:

How surprised have you been by the success of your book Being Mortal, which is, after all, an unvarnished account of how we age and die?

The book was delayed a little, which meant it came out in the holiday season. The marketing people at the publisher were like, “We are bringing out a death book for Christmas?” I wrote the book with no intention of making it easy on people. The most surprising thing was it seems people have been giving it as a gift to each other: kids to parents, and parents to kids.

As a culture, we tend not to talk about the question that has always obsessed humans: what makes a good death?

It’s more that as a culture I think we get the question wrong. The question is not how to have a good death, but how to have a good life right to the very end. We are, given advances in medicine, most of us going to spend a good deal of time with serious life-threatening illness. The key question we need to ask is what are people’s priorities when they have to deal with that? I tell the story of a man who said: “I only want to stay alive as long as I can watch football on television and eat ice-cream.” Fine. That would not have been enough for my dad. He said he would like to live as long a...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Ben Winters

Ben H. Winters is the author of eight novels, including most recently World of Trouble, the third novel in the Last Policeman Trilogy. Book two in the series, Countdown City, was an NPR Best Book of 2013 and the winner of the Philip K. Dick Award. Countdown City is the sequel to The Last Policeman, which was the recipient of the 2012 Edgar Award from the Mystery Writers of America; it was also named one of the Best Books of 2012 by and Slate.

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

DF: What inspired your Last Policeman trilogy?

BW: I have always wanted to write a detective story. Because I was pitching this book to Quirk Books, a publisher that skews toward books with big hooks and big concepts (i.e. Pride and Prejudice and Zombies), I knew I wasn't going to just do your basic police procedural or detective book. I thought a cop solving cases even though the world was going to end was a pretty sharp angle, and that's where I came up with the asteroid.

DF: How much of yourself ended up in Detective Hank Palace? Would you handle a looming apocalypse as well as he does?

BW: I wish I was more like him. I doubt very much that I would have the integrity to keep working, and hang on to my moral sense, as long as he does. The thing is, my job (writer, writing teacher) isn't like being a police officer: nobody relies on it for their immediate safety or well being. I hope I would handle the looming apocalypse by protecting my children as much as I could for as long as I could.

DF: How did you develop the rest of the characters and themes in The Last Policeman? What are some of the things you wanted to explore in this world on the brink of extinction?

BW: Once I had this basic plot idea (cop solving crimes though the world is ending), once I got going on it, the themes...[read on]
Learn more about the book and author at the official Ben H. Winters website.

My Book, The Movie: The Last Policeman.

The Page 69 Test: The Last Policeman.

The Page 69 Test: Countdown City.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Susan Dworkin

Susan Dworkin is the co-author, with Edith Hahn Beer, of The Nazi Officer's Wife.

From her Q & A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: As you worked on the book, what surprised you most about [Edith Hahn Beer's] story?

A: I had not realized what a phenomenally sexist regime the Nazis were. I realized Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale had taken inspiration from this regime. The oppression of women, the horrible program where women were forced to have babies with men who were racially pure…

I did not realize the Nazis had created a situation in which most German men [of a certain age] were at the front, and the country was filled with slave laborers [from other countries]…her description of the home front was...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Richard Dawkins

Richard Dawkins, one of nonfiction's bad boys, is the author of The Magic of Reality: How We Know What's Really True and other books. From the transcript of his interview with Fareed Zakaria:

ZAKARIA: In your wonderful book, "The Magic of Reality", you talk about some of this. So, how would you explain to somebody who says I don't believe in evolution? What to you use is the most powerful evidence for evolution?

DAWKINS: I think the most powerful evidence is probably not fossils. Although fossils are the main evidence for the actual history of life. The most powerful evidence that evolution has happened is probably molecular genetics. Because whereas in Darwin's time, the comparative data, you look to human hand and you compare it with a bat's wing, a whale's flipper, a lion's paw. You see the same bones. You can identify them bone for bone, the human - the radius, the alnae, the falangies and so on. That was in Darwin's time. Now we can do that same kind of thing, but with molecules, with actual coded letters of DNA and equivalent in protein. You can actually look at long reams of code. And you can actually compare the letter by letter exactly as you might compare two versions of the Book of Jeremiah or something. I mean it's letter for letter comparison. And you can actually count the number of differences in millions between humans and chimpanzees, humans plus chimpanzees and monkeys. Trus, hippopotamuses, you can take any two animals you like and look at their molecules and literally count the number of letters that are different. And that is just so overwhelmingly strong evidence. Darwin would have...[read on]
Richard Dawkins is Lee Child's hero (outside of literature).

Learn about Richard Dawkins's five favorite books.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, November 2, 2015

Nick Hornby

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

Hornby is also the author of four screenplays: Fever Pitch, An Education, Wild and Brooklyn.

From his Q & A with Kate Kellaway for the Guardian:

Is the technique of writing for the screen about less-is-more, showing rather than telling?

Screenwriting is about condensing. But I like writing dialogue and minor characters are fun. There is an intertwining of commercial need with art: producers always want to “cast up”. If you can find room for a Jim Broadbent or a Julie Walters [playing minor roles in Brooklyn], it will boost the film’s commercial prospects. It is joyous to look at a minor character and wonder how he or she can become more major.

Is adapting from a novel you did not write like picking up a foreign language – do you try to catch the tone of the book?

Brooklyn and Wild spoke to a readership. There is no point alienating that readership just because you have seen something in the book that could make a movie. It is too disappointing for people. Brooklyn is a beautiful, literary novel but we had to amplify it because its feelings and gestures are so understated. Colm Tóibín sees to it that the reader has to...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Barry Wolverton

Barry Wolverton is the author of The Vanishing Island.

From his Q & A with Stephanie Painter for Memphis Parent:

How do you use mythology in your story?

Mythology and folklore are supreme acts of invention that any creative writer has to admire. In fantasy and science fiction, we emphasize "world building" because our stories take place in alternate time periods or universes. But we're just playing at it — our worlds only have to make sense within the confines of a book. The original myth-makers and storytellers were, in a sense, building the world people actually lived in. Another compelling thing about mythology is how you have these fundamental patterns in stories across every culture, no matter how diverse: how the world began; how it will end; explanations for natural phenomena. And this plays a big role in The Vanishing Island, when Bren, trying to decode an ancient map, realizes the key may lie within the overlap of...[read on]
Visit Barry Wolverton's website.

The Page 69 Test: The Vanishing Island.

Writers Read: Barry Wolverton.

--Marshal Zeringue