Thursday, December 31, 2015

Joseph Wallace

Joseph Wallace is the author of three novels: Diamond Ruby, set in 1920s New York City; the global apocalyptic thriller Invasive Species; and its follow-up, the newly released Slavemakers.

From his Q & A with Lauren Sarner at Inverse:

How do you go about conceptualizing your ideas into stories that feel plausible?

Before I started writing fiction, I was a nature and science writer for many years, so I was sort of fascinated by the odd corners of science. It’s also what people are often interested in reading about. To me, wasps are really fascinating because they’re extremely highly evolved. They’re still not completely understood. For example, the venom in an average wasp sting has so many chemicals in it that they’ve only figured out what constitutes a tiny percentage of it — even with the most advanced techniques of studying such things. So I love the idea of something that’s evolved to be as complicated as that.

But mostly it’s that they have an extraordinary ability to get their way through enslavement. My most vivid example of this is that within the last couple of years, I’ve come up with the fact that there’s a virus only found when wasps inject it into the prey that they are going to lay their eggs in. It is used to help disable the immune system of the prey so the wasp’s eggs can thrive. As far as I can remember, it’s not found anywhere else.

So when I was sitting there trying to figure out a way to end the world, it was inevitable to me that wasps would...[read on]
Visit Joseph Wallace's website.

The Page 69 Test: Slavemakers.

Writers Read: Joseph Wallace.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Natasha Solomons

Natasha Solomons is the author of the new novel, The Song of Hartgrove Hall. From her Q & A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: Music plays a big role in The Song of Hartgrove Hall, and serves as a form of communication for some of the characters. Why did you choose music as a main theme in the novel?

A: I’m a terrible musician and a dodgy singer – and perhaps that’s why I’m so fascinated by musicality in other people. As a writer I’m intrigued by different forms of creativity – I’ve written about painters, sculptors, singers, but this time I wanted to focus on a composer.

I’m really lucky to have a lovely studio in the garden with a gorgeous view of the hill. It rises up out of the fields and I sit and watch as the weather forms above the ridge. As Pooh Bear would say, “it’s my thinking place.”

I wanted to explore a musician’s relationship with the landscape. I draw my inspiration from where I live, and Fox, the curmudgeonly narrator of The Song of Hartgrove Hall, does likewise.

He discovers the theme for his first symphony when he hears the folk songs sung by the local shepherds and labourers. For Fox music is as much part of the landscape as the gorse bushes dotting the hillside.

I also wanted to explore how people...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Lisa Brackmann

Lisa Brackmann's latest novel is Dragon Day. From her Q & A with Taylor at New In Books:

You’re hosting a dinner party and can invite anyone, alive or dead, fictional or real. Who’s coming to dinner?

Uh oh, another “list question.” I think I mentioned that I suck at list questions. Okay. In no particular order, and this is nearly totally random, because honestly, if you said to me, “Hey! How ‘bout if I invite So-And-So and What’s-her-name” to dinner,” I’d be like, “Sure! I’ve always thought So-And-So and What’s-her-name” sounded interesting!” Anyway, I’m going to go with real people who have passed away.

Zhou Enlai, the first Premier of the People’s Republic of China. Helen Foster Snow, Edgar Snow’s first wife. She also went to Yan’an when it was the Red Army HQ during the Second World War. Maybe Gertrude Bell, who I know very little about but who was a female adventurer at a time when that was a difficult thing to be. Tony Gwynn and Ken Caminiti, because they are two of my favorite Padres, and they died too young. Thomas Jefferson. Susan B. Anthony. Rachel...[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

Monday, December 28, 2015

Louis de Bernières

Louis de Bernières's latest novel is The Dust That Falls From Dreams.

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

How often do you have sex?

At present, not at all. I don’t have a partner.

What song would you like played at your funeral?

You Can’t Always Get What You Want, by the Rolling Stones. I sing it to my children when refusing their requests, so this can be their revenge.

Tell us a joke.

What do you call a woman with one foot either side of a ditch? Bridget....[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, December 27, 2015

Brian Boyd

Brian Boyd is well known for his extensive writing on Vladimir Nabokov, including a two-volume biography, analyses of Pale Fire and Ada, or Ardor, and the collection of essays, Stalking Nabokov.

From his Q & A with Nika Knight for Guernica:
Guernica: How did you first encounter Nabokov’s work?

Brian Boyd: My parents both left school at fourteen, during the Depression, and didn’t know how to feed my appetite for reading. They ended up buying a corner store where we had magazine orders and it was my job to sort them out. I would check out the magazines and read everything from cover to cover, practically. Then they moved up to a bookstore with a lending library, which had Lolita in it. I was about twelve or thirteen at the time and realized that this was both a dirty book and a classic, so I went for it. It was over my head, but a few years later, in ’69, when I was sixteen, there was a Time magazine cover story on Nabokov at the time of Ada’s being published. I was sorting out magazine orders for my family and I read this featured interview that had the wonderful headline, I have never met a more lonely, more lucid, better balanced mad mind than mine.

I was blown away. I went to the library to get his latest novel, which was Pale Fire, and I just adored it. I followed every clue that he dropped—which meant reading it about three times in the course of reading it for the first time—and it seemed to open up so many avenues of discovery all the way through. I’ve been...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, December 26, 2015

Emily Ross

Emily Ross received a 2014 Massachusetts Cultural Council finalist award in fiction for her novel Half in Love with Death. Her fiction and nonfiction have been published in Boston Magazine, Menda City Review, and The Smoking Poet. She is an editor and contributor at Dead Darlings, a website dedicated to discussing the craft of novel writing. She attended Sarah Lawrence College and the University of Massachusetts Boston, and is a 2012 graduate of Grub Street’s Novel Incubator program.

From her Q & A with Louise Miller at the Debutante Ball:

What was the inspiration for your novel?

The word inspiration makes me think of a bolt out of the blue, but that’s not how it happened for me. I was struggling with plotting my novel, Half in Love with Death, when my sister suggested I turn to a true crime for inspiration, and not just any crime. She confided in me that when she was twelve she’d been obsessed with the disturbing case of, Charles Schmid, ‘the pied piper of Tucson.’ My sister’s interest in this crime I’d never heard of came as a complete surprise to me. But when she showed me an old but still chilling Life Magazine article about this case, I could see why it had transfixed her so many years ago.

In 1964, Schmid, killed Aileen Rowe, 15, and buried her in the desert. A year later he killed 17-year-old Gretchen Fritz (his girlfriend), and her sister Wendy, 13. He was handsome, popular, and he was a serial killer. My sister and I rarely talk about our difficult teen years, but as we discussed this case we remembered that there had in fact been a serial killer in our midst as well. He hung out in Provincetown with many of our friends in the sixties. He studied Buddhism and seemed like a cool dude, but he murdered several teen girls in 1969. My friends who knew him had no idea what he was capable of. No one did. I shivered to think how easy it would have been for something terrible to have happened to one of us. In light of this, my sister’s early preoccupation with Schmid seemed almost prescient.

As I read more about Schmid, I realized aspects of the crime aligned with themes I was already exploring in my novel. I also learned that he murdered the two sisters on August 16th—my birthday. I’m kind of...[read on]
Visit the official Emily Ross website.

The Page 69 Test: Half In Love With Death.

Writers Read: Emily Ross.

My Book, The Movie: Half In Love With Death.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, December 25, 2015

Matt Haig

Matt Haig's newest book, A Boy Called Christmas, is out now in the UK. From the author's Q & A with Charlotte Eyre at The Bookseller:

Why did you decide to write a Christmas book?

For a few years I wanted to write a Father Christmas story. Originally I wanted to do it as a novel for adults, a more cynical take on Christmas, but then I decided to do something a bit more confident, something that actually had a real Christmas feel. My son Lucas asked me: “What was Father Christmas like as a boy?” That was the start of A Boy Called Christmas.

What happens in the story?

It is an origin story for Father Christmas, so it is about how an ordinary human boy called Nikolas becomes the magical superhero we know as Father Christmas. Nikolas is a poor boy living with his woodcutter father in a forest in Finland. His dad goes on a mysterious quest to find proof of the elf kingdom. When he doesn’t return, Nikolas runs away from his ferocious Aunt Carlotta to find his father. On the way he discovers elves, a troll, bears, reindeer, the truth about his father and who he himself could grow up to become.

How much of the story is folklore and how much is from your imagination?

I wanted to start with the elements we know about Father Christmas—the elves, the sleigh, the reindeer, the red clothes and so on—and...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Nina Revoyr

Nina Revoyr's novels include The Age of Dreaming, which was nominated for the LA Times Book Prize; Southland, a Los Angeles Times best seller and “Best Book” of 2003; and Wingshooters, which won an Indie Booksellers’ Choice Award and was selected by O, The Oprah Magazine as one of “10 Titles to Pick Up Now.”

Revoyr's fifth novel is Lost Canyon.

From her Q & A with Lauren K. Alleyne at Femmeliterate:

LKA: Who were some foundational writers for you?

NR: You know, I wasn’t necessarily a sophisticated reader. I remember a lot of the then-important YA books, Robert Cormier, Lois Duncan. I also loved The Chronicles of Narnia. And there was something about that, maybe—I’m just now making this connection—that had something to do with being an immigrant, with the idea of leaving a comfortable world, going through a doorway and entering a completely new one where you didn’t understand any of the rules, any of the landscape, any of the people, and had to negotiate through that and find a place there. So maybe that’s part of why that series resonated for me. I also read and loved The Lord of the Rings, maybe again because of that whole idea of being part of a different world. It wasn’t really until college, and then beyond college, that I got exposed to the writers that really influenced me as a writer.

LKA: And who are some of those?

NR: Certainly people like Toni Morrison, Alice Walker, and Louise Erdrich, all of whom I loved and read at key points. I love Salman Rushdie. Those were people who really spoke to being a person of color, and to writing ideas of family history, identity, immigration, you know, finding your way within America as someone who was other. And then I was also drawn perhaps counter-intuitively to these folks who wrote a lot about the land, and folks who are more associated with rural white reality, which of course I was also exposed to. So I love Norman ...[read on]
Visit Nina Revoyr's website.

Coffee with a Canine: Nina Revoyr & Ariat and Russell.

The Page 69 Test: Lost Canyon.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

John Grisham

John Grisham's latest novel is Rogue Lawyer. From his Q & A with Rosanna Greenstreet for the Guardian:

When were you happiest?

This morning. I had a typical day: got up early, took the dog for a walk, went to the gym for an hour, then wrote for four hours. That makes me a very happy person.

What is your greatest fear?

Having a stroke.

What is your earliest memory?

My father was a cotton farmer, and the first thing I recall was picking cotton when I was five – it was perfectly miserable.

What was your most embarrassing moment?

It involved the passing of gas in church. I was holding my three-year-old daughter and she was the culprit, but...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, December 22, 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 Deborah Kalb:

Q: Why did you decide to write a family memoir, and why did you choose to focus it around food?

A: Originally I set out to write a cookbook. My daughter was in preschool; it was her first day. She had [always eaten] healthy food. She never had a tantrum [but after school that day] she was on the floor—she wanted ice cream.

I asked what you had for lunch—[she had] white bread, American cheese, chocolate milk, Oreo cookies. All the kids were running to the [ice cream] truck. I said, that’s not a snack! A snack is a mini-meal with protein…

I started teaching cooking classes at school, and gathering recipes. I started telling the story of each one—with my grandmother, my best friend. A recipe is more than the ingredients. It was recipes with mini-vignettes.

I wrote to The New York Times with the ideas. They were interested in the back story—a 450-lb. dad in the advertising industry. I started writing that. People were writing to me from all over the world, telling me about their grandmother, their dad who was overweight…it just hit a chord…. Then...[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

Monday, December 21, 2015

Jennifer Kincheloe

Jennifer Kincheloe is the author of The Secret Life of Anna Blanc, a historical mystery set in 1900's Los Angeles among the police matrons of the LAPD.

From her Q & A with Lori Rader-Day:

Lori: You based the heroine of The Secret Life of Anna Blanc on a real historical figure, a police matron. What was it about that woman and that role that spoke to you?

Jen: LAPD matron Alice Stebbins Wells became the first female cop in LA in 1910. She inspired the book. Alice was a political genius—a kind of evangelist for women in police work internationally. She changed the world of criminal justice forever. However, when I wrote the character of Anna Blanc, Anna ended up being very different from Alice. Anna is more like “I Love Lucy.”

I’m impressed with women who do big, great things. They’ve had to ignore all society’s negative messages about women and trust themselves instead. That takes great clarity and courage. I wish all women could trust themselves and their own strengths and brilliance the way Alice Stebbins Wells did. This is something Anna is learning in the book.

Lori: Anna is at once innocent and brave, silly and smart, feminine and feminist. What process did you go through to create her? How do you balance historical reality and modern expectations for “strong female characters”?

Jen: Anna just came out. There was no strategy involved at all. I was a little worried that she didn’t fit the current mold of “feminist hero” because she’s silly, naive and vain—a product of 1907 sexism and her father’s wealth. But she’s also dauntless and she runs circles around the cops intellectually. I didn’t want her to be too strong or too good. I wanted her to be like an everyday woman who simply believes in herself and never gives up. There are so many examples of strong, brave, flawed women in the Progressive Era. People just don’t remember them because they are left out of the history books. Carrie Nation is a favorite. She was a Temperance crusader. Women weren’t allowed in saloons, but that didn’t stop Carrie from going in with an axe and...[read on]
Visit Jennifer Kincheloe's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Patti Davis

Patti Davis's new novel is The Earth Breaks in Colors.

From her Q & A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: How did you come up with the idea for The Earth Breaks in Colors, and what does the novel’s title signify for you?

A: The title came long after the book was finished...I thought of two elements of the book, the racial issues and the fact that the earth broke—there was an earthquake. I thought of "Earth Breaks," and was Googling to see what titles were taken.

Q: And how did you think of the concept for the novel?

A: Sometimes I know how I come up with story ideas, and sometimes it’s a total mystery. This was a total mystery! I saw the first scene play out in my head. I thought when I saw a girl looking out the window, and she saw someone burying something, I thought, I wonder what he’s burying?...There was a gold clock—I wonder why he’s doing that? I kept following...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Eric Rauchway

Eric Rauchway's latest book is The Money Makers: How Roosevelt and Keynes Ended the Depression, Defeated Fascism, and Secured a Prosperous Peace.

From his Q & A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: What are some of the most common perceptions and misperceptions about FDR's monetary policies?

A: There's a lot of confusion about Roosevelt himself owing to the way his mind worked. As I explain in the book, Roosevelt came into office in March 1933 determined to end the gold standard, already persuaded that the gold standard had, through deflation, helped cause the Depression.

The first substantial act he took as president was to end the gold standard. Over the next 10 months or so of his presidency he took a series of further steps to replace the gold standard with provisions for managing the value of the dollar domestically and coordinating currency management internationally, so nothing like the Depression would happen again; by the end of his presidency he had realized this vision for both the U.S. and the world.

He was consistent in this purpose. But he did not lay out a detailed plan for it nor, I think, did he have one. Which is what seems to bother a lot of people.

Roosevelt had a particular kind of mind; as he said himself, early in his presidency, he was like a football quarterback: he knew he wanted to get his team to the end zone, and he knew what play he was going to run next.

But as for what he was going to do after that—well, he didn't see any point in thinking about that, because it all depended on how this next move worked out.

So he knew where he was going, but he didn't know, step-by-step, how he was going to get there—because Roosevelt knew he had to work through a political process, where there was opposition, and advances came piecemeal.

That way of thinking seems to me...[read on]
Visit Eric Rauchway'swebsite.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, December 18, 2015

Susan Cheever

Susan Cheever's latest book is Drinking in America: Our Secret History.

From her Q & A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: You write of drinking, “It is our big solution and it is our big problem.” How has alcohol taken on this dual perception?

A: It’s always had a dual perception. One interesting thing about our history is that we have trouble telling the difference between drinking, which is so great, and drunkenness, which is so dreadful. The big question is, where is the line between drinking, which is so good, and drunkenness, which is so bad? It always has a dual meaning.

Q: You write in the book about the pendulum swinging back and forth throughout U.S. history when it comes to attitudes about drinking.

A: The pendulum goes one way in the 1830s, when everyone is cognizant of how much alcohol helps in [various] jobs…it goes the other way in the 1930s, when we pass a constitutional amendment outlawing it. One of the interesting things about the duality is that it’s one of the great goods and one of the great evils, in one thing.

Q: In the book, you note, “The terms alcoholism and alcoholic were not even coined until the 1840s.” How did those terms come into being, and how did perceptions change during that period?

A: I don’t know the etymology of the terms, but what happened in the 1840s, and began in the 1830s, was...[read on]
Learn about Susan Cheever's five best books about obsession.

Visit Susan Cheever's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Triss Stein

Triss Stein is a small-town girl who has spent most of her adult life living and working in New York City. This gives her the useful double vision of a stranger and a resident which she uses to write mysteries about Brooklyn, her ever-fascinating, ever-changing, ever-challenging adopted home. Brooklyn Graves is the second Erica Donato mystery, following Brooklyn Bones.

Stein's latest novel is Brooklyn Secrets, the third Erica Donato Mystery.

From her Q & A with Lori Rader-Day:

Your Brooklyn series has an obvious locational focus and a feisty protagonist in Erica Donato. Tell us about Erica and what she has in common with Triss?

When I started this series, I wanted a character who was not me but had a more complicated, richer life than the heroine of an earlier short-lived series. She needed to be younger than me, so she would be dealing with the complications of building her life. (Now she’s a lot younger, as it took a long time to get it right. She hasn’t aged a bit but I sure have.) I wanted her to be a native, old time Brooklynite (not me) but with extra perspective (me, a little bit). Her current life, in a gentrifying part of town and a Ph.D. program in urban history, is a long way from the blue-collar neighborhood where she grew up. (Aha! A source of conflict, which all mysteries need!) I added a little—no, a lot!—more conflict by giving her a teen-aged daughter. (Nope, I didn’t have them when I started the book. Mine were all grown up, another way I have perspective she doesn’t.) Her life has not given her much sophistication but it has given her a lot of what used to be called moxie. (Do I have that? Not really.) She is a single mom, whose young husband died in an accident. (I’ve been married a lot of decades.)

And yet. Because I wanted to write about being a mother, she is one. Because I wanted to write about Brooklyn’s varied, fascinating and often mythologized past, she is a historian whose work takes her into some dark stories, both old and new. So though she is not me, in some ways she is me.

There was one more thing I needed. I could make long lists of all the protagonist qualities that would help to tell my stories, but...[read on]
Visit Triss Stein's website.

The Page 69 Test: Brooklyn Secrets.

My Book, The Movie: Brooklyn Secrets.

Writers Read: Triss Stein.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Stephen R. Bown

Stephen R. Bown's new book is White Eskimo: Knud Rasmussen's Fearless Journey into the Heart of the Arctic. From his Q & A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: How did you end up writing about the Danish-Greenlandic explorer Knud Rasmussen?

A: It was my U.S. publisher. We were throwing around ideas after my book on Roald Amundsen, and she said, I remember [hearing about] Rasmussen…All ideas come from a meeting of minds. I often have ideas that are completely self-generated, but she latched onto it and said that would be fascinating…

Q: How would you compare the two explorers, Amundsen and Rasmussen?

A: They were from the same time period, and were overlooked Scandinavian explorers. But they were very different people. Roald Amundsen was an extremely goal-driven individual…

Rasmussen wasn’t really interested in geographical objectives, or being the first to do [something]. His interest was in…the exploration of people as much as the exploration of geography. He wanted to visit every known Inuit on the planet. There weren’t accurate maps of the world up there. [He studied] that...[read on]
Learn more about the book and author at Stephen R. Bown's website and Facebook page.

My Book, The Movie: The Last Viking.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Steve Knopper

Steve Knopper is a Rolling Stone contributing editor and author of MJ: The Genius of Michael Jackson (2015).

From his Q & A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: Why did you decide to write a biography of Michael Jackson, and what do you see as some of the most common perceptions and misperceptions about him?

A: I wanted to write the book about Michael Jackson that I wanted to read. There are a lot of great books about him, but not a narrative that drills down on the dances and the music. [I wanted] the Peter Guralnick version. He’s a hero of mine. His Elvis Presley books…that’s what I was looking to do. How the albums were made.

I’ve done a lot of interviews on this subject [Michael Jackson’s life] recently, and I get asked a lot about, “He was a weirdo, that led him to be a child molester, how can you defend him as a genius?”

People forget that he went through a trial in 2005. It was a fair trial, and there was a not guilty verdict. That’s the standard any writer looking into Michael Jackson has to measure against…

I didn’t have any exclusive [with] children saying, “We were molested by him.” I tried to interview every child. Nobody was able to persuade me the not guilty verdict was [not valid]. I’m sympathetic to children who accuse people of sexual abuse and child molestation. You have to take them seriously. Usually they are telling the truth…

Q: As you researched the book, was there anything that particularly surprised or startled you?

A: This startled me most: I’d always thought of Michael as...[read on]
Visit Steve Knopper's website.

Writers Read: Steve Knopper.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, December 14, 2015

David Mitchell

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

BRIGER: In 2013, you published a book that you and your wife, Keiko Yoshida, translated from Japanese. It's called "The Reason I Jump." It's author, Naoki Higashida, was a 13-year-old boy at the time it was written. He's autistic and nonverbal. So the original book was written with Higashida pointing to Japanese characters on a grid, and then someone would transcribe those thoughts. And the majority of the book is in a question-and-answer form with him describing what it's like to live with autism. He answers questions like why can't you have a proper conversation? Why don't you make eye contact when you're talking? Your son has autism, and you've said that this book was incredibly helpful for you in understanding what your son's experience is like. What was so helpful about it?

MITCHELL: Because there was a lot of overlap between Naoki's presentations of autism and our son's, so that's the first thing. We think of autism as one set of fairly-defined symptoms. It's not; it's vast different, and there are as many different kinds of autism as there are people with autism, really. And just because of one book might be really helpful about one type, one manifestation, that doesn't mean it will be helpful for any others. But as it happens, there was quite a useful overlap between Naoki's autism and our son's, so that's reason one. Reason two - many books are written by experts or they're written by carers or they're written by people with autism, but very high functioning autism, more towards the Asperger's end of the pool than towards the kind of autism that our son has, which is fairly hardcore, fairly nonverbal. So again, there was that overlap there. And it was from the inside. It was from the planet of autism. It very often felt as if Naoki was giving our son a voice. And if our son could say what was happening in his head, then he would say something like this. This made me understand that so much more is going on in our son's head than is apparent and that many of the problems and the challenges that our son faces - and he gets enough from the autism itself, but we were compounding them. We were piling them on through our own ignorance about autism. And this is true for every autistic person on Earth. We cause a hell of a lot of the problems - us neurotypicals - because we don't get it. We jump to false assumptions. We even kind of congratulate ourselves on our knowledge that, for example, people with autism, kids with autism, they like to - they prefer to be on their own in the corner, lining up their toys in a line or something and they're happiest there, and they're not. They want the human interaction. It's just we're so lousy at that in studying how to do it that we get it wrong, thereby driving them into the corner. You see what I mean? We sort of confuse our wrong actions with their preferred behaviors. And they can't point it out because they have autism. What a fate, really, what a fate. But when you know that that mischievousness is there, when you know that intellect and intelligence and that desire for interactivity is there, then you change the way you behave. We did with our son, and it yielded good results. It's not a cure. The book...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Lisa Randall

Lisa Randall's latest book is Dark Matter and the Dinosaurs: The Astounding Interconnectedness of the Universe.

From her Q & A with Scott Timberg for Salon:

One of the things I came away from your book with is that scientists, even the most informed and erudite, don’t know the answers to a lot of the most basic questions of the universe…

I think for me the sign of true wisdom is being able to say, “I don’t know” when they don’t know. People who feel they have to say they know everything are typically not as bright. What distinguishes scientists is the ability to make advances in these questions: We don’t know the answer, how are we going to go about figuring it out?

I guess a lot of what you do is necessarily speculative. In some ways these are, at least in part, thought experiments?

Yeah — I don’t like that word. I know the Times review said that. You can call it that, but really, that’s what science is: You make hypotheses and you test them. Sometimes the data tells you the answer. But a lot of the time, with these really difficult experiments, where it’s really hard to observe things, you really need hypotheses, because you just won’t see things unless you’re looking for them. There are all these psychology experiments — the elephant on the basketball court. If you don’t know to look for it, you miss it.

As I tried to make really clear in the book, this theory is...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, December 12, 2015

Todd Hasak-Lowy

Todd Hasak-Lowy is the author with Michael Gruenbaum of the new memoir Somewhere There Is Still a Sun, which recounts Gruenbaum's experiences during the Holocaust. Hasak-Lowy's other books include the middle-grade novel 33 Minutes and the novel Captives.

From Hasak-Lowy's Q & A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: You mentioned just now, and you also note in your Afterword, “I didn’t want to work on this project when I was first given the opportunity.” Why was that, and what changed your mind?

A: Because of the historical events in question—along with Michael’s experiences—I want to acknowledge that this is a delicate matter.

Before writing this I obviously felt that the Holocaust is a hugely important event, and one that needs to be remembered. But I was also somewhat cynical in the sense that I thought we were doing a more than adequate job of this, in terms of the number of books being published on the topic.

So I didn’t much think my energy needed to be devoted to contributing this, and I also wasn’t sure I had anything new to say. Not to mention, I had my own projects I was working on.

So, all in all, at the beginning I took this on with a certain amount of ambivalence. Why did I take it on at all? Largely because my agent, Dan Lazar, thought it could be a great opportunity for me, in part because it was another chance to work with my incredible editor, Liesa Abrams.

Something amazing happened once I started writing Michael’s story, which was that through the process of putting it into words I found myself relearning the subject.

Because my earlier cynicism was inseparable from my arrogant sense that I knew the Holocaust to such an extent that I could, more or less, disregard it—or at least engage it from a distance. Indeed, this is something I think many of us do.

Many of us go deep into studying the Holocaust not long after we first learn about it. I did that myself, probably 25 years ago. But then you back off, or at least I did, at which point the Holocaust is reduced to a bunch of highly abstracted ideas.

I think this is understandable to a large extent, since it’s quite difficult to engage it fully on a day-to-day basis. Writing this book forced me to return to the thing itself, to...[read on]
The Page 69 Test: Captives.

--Marshal Zeringue.

Friday, December 11, 2015

Estelle Laure

Estelle Laure's new novel is This Raging Light.

From her Q & A with Shelley Diaz at School Library Journal:

This novel portrays a teen who must take on adult responsibilities. Why did you think it was important to tell Lucille’s story?

I am fascinated by family dynamics and how we parent, how we’re parented, and how each generation affects the last and the next. I truly don’t think every person is equipped to raise a family. What does “going out for a pack of cigarettes and never coming back” look like now, and how do kids handle that reality? There is a moment for every teen when they realize their parents don’t have all the answers. That’s as frightening as it is liberating, because it means anything is possible. That is an exciting, brutal moment to work with.

Music, art, cooking, dance—what made you decide to include these creative outlets and talents as part of the protagonists’ characterization?

It’s a natural way for me to build character, to look at how [people] create and expresses themselves. I mean, we’re all doing it all the time, whether we consider ourselves creative individuals or not, even when we’re passively listening to someone play music. We become a part of the experience and someone else’s art. The world would be a dead...[read on]
Visit Estelle Laure's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Kate Gavino

Kate Gavino is a Brooklyn-based writer and illustrator, and the author of the new book Last Night's Reading: Illustrated Encounters with Extraordinary Authors. From her Q & A with Deborah Kalb:
Q: How did you come up with the idea for this book?

A: Since I moved to New York seven years ago, I've always gone to readings since they're usually free and at my favorite bookstores. I've always doodled in notebooks while listening – it oddly keeps me focused.

At a Junot Diaz reading in 2013, he spoke about the importance of bearing witness to what you've seen, and as someone who is constantly observing, this rang especially true to me. I posted the quote alongside a portrait I drew of him on Tumblr, and that was the first official post on Last Night's Reading.

Q: You say in the book that you go to book readings to observe and to draw. Do you ever talk to the authors or ask them questions, or would that change the dynamic for your drawings?

A: I go to book readings to observe, so I don't usually talk to the author unless I happen to know them. I like...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Jojo Moyes

Jojo Moyes's latest novel, After You, is a sequel to the international bestseller, Me Before You. From her Q & A with Hannah Beckerman for the Guardian:

Your novels feature characters who are outsiders: the “leftovers”, as one character describes them. Why are you drawn to people living on the periphery, whether emotionally, physically or economically?

Because I think a lot of us feel that way. There’s not much interesting to me about people who fit happily into a group and whose life is fulfilled. I’m much more fascinated by the tension that comes from people not quite fitting with their surroundings. And I think most of us will spend some part of our lives feeling that we don’t.

Is that why so many of your female characters are often very ordinary, quite troubled, and in unglamorous jobs?

I feel like I’ve lived lots of different lives. Some of those lives involved doing some of those bottom-of-the-rung jobs and you learn an awful lot about human nature when you’re working in a minicab office late at night or serving drinks in a bar. I’m not intrigued by gilded lives at all. I’m curious about what happens to those people struggling to get somewhere in a society that increasingly tells them they can’t succeed, where...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Warren Zanes

Warren Zanes is the author of Petty: The Biography. From his conversation with Jamie Blaine at The Weeklings:

Reclusive, ambitious, mysterious, meticulous, focused, businessman, coolest guy in the room – your book describes Tom as all of these things. “Tinted windows on his soul” was my favorite. One always got the feeling that Tom Petty was a hard guy to get a handle on. How did you approach that as a writer?

I simply responded to the situation Tom gave me. He opened the door and invited me in. We talked, for many hours, over a few years. But I saw, sitting next to him, that he could be all the things you describe. Without contradiction. Rock and roll has the remarkable, beautiful capacity to change people’s lives. Glen Campbell, Elvis Presley, Joe Strummer, Carl Perkins, Tom Petty. But in changing those lives, rock and roll also demands a lot of the person undergoing such changes. They need to be several people, they need to find ways to protect themselves, they need to figure out how to trust and when not to. When pressed, I would have to say that I hope my own sons don’t get such a formidable task presented them. I hope rock and roll gives them its gift without taxing them so heavily. They probably wouldn’t be able to do it as well as Tom Petty has. Here’s a guy that’s kept the band together for forty years. Holy shit, right? And he’s still...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, December 7, 2015

Scott Pratt

Scott Pratt's new novel is Justice Redeemed.

From his Q & A with Mark Rubenstein at the Huffington Post:

Speaking of a difficult situation, the novel has a harrowing description of "diesel therapy." It's difficult to imagine this actually happens. Will you describe it for us?

'Diesel therapy' is done on some occasions in the federal system. If you won't tell federal prosecutors what they want to hear, or if you're a discipline problem in a federal prison, they put you in handcuffs and shackles. Then, you're loaded on a bus and fed a box lunch every day. They take you around the country, from prison to prison, or to county lockup facilities, where you're allowed to get off to use the bathroom, and that's it. They ride you around until they feel they're done with you, or until a lawyer--if you have one--forces them to stop. This can go on for ....[read on]
Visit Scott Pratt's website.

Coffee with a Canine: Scott and Kristy Pratt & their pack.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, December 6, 2015

Jennifer Miller

Jennifer Miller's new novel is The Heart You Carry Home.

From her Q & A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: Your characters include veterans from the Vietnam War and the Iraq War. What similarities and differences do you see on the impact those wars had on the veterans who fought in them and the country overall?

A: In terms of similarities, something I saw in talking with Vietnam vets and Iraq/Afghanistan vets is that it doesn’t matter where you fought—it is a singular experience of being in a situation that binds veterans across generations. They feel understood despite the vast age difference and how the military has changed. That’s a part of the connection.

Also, when you’re out in the field, the first priority is the people you’re with, trying to protect them, looking out for comrades.

A couple of things that have changed—Vietnam vets [generally] went in alone and came out alone. These days, there’s more emphasis on keeping people with their unit. Part of the reason has to do with the situation a lot of Vietnam vets experienced after their service. When you have that network, and more people...[read on]
Visit Jennifer Miller's website.

The Page 69 Test: The Year of the Gadfly.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, December 5, 2015

Ted Koppel

Ted Koppel's new book is Lights Out: A Cyberattack, A Nation Unprepared, Surviving the Aftermath.

From his Q &A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: In the book, you describe the U.S. as a country unprepared for a cyberattack on its power grid. Why do you think this degree of unpreparedness exists today, and what are your suggestions for what the government can do to prepare?

A: For all its many virtues, democracy can be an inhibiting factor when it comes to government responding quickly and forcefully to a looming danger. The electric power industry sometimes appears more concerned about maintaining its deregulated status and preserving its privacy than it is with protecting itself against cyber attacks. As things now stand, the federal government can only enforce regulations that the industry itself has approved by a two-thirds majority.

The very fact that the power industry is made up of 3,200 companies, all of which are interconnected but many of which are poorly protected, provides would-be cyber attacks with multiple points of accessibility. Like any chain, the power industry is only as strong as its weakest link when it comes to keeping out hackers.

Add to that the fact that many key components of the industry, such as large power transformers, are (on average) 38-40 years old, very expensive ($10 million and up), huge and difficult to transport and mostly produced overseas, and you get some sense of why the industry is vulnerable.

The government cannot simply order changes and the Chamber of Commerce, in particular, has been obstructive in...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, December 4, 2015

Holly Messinger

Holly Messinger's new novel is The Curse of Jacob Tracy.

From her Q & A at The Qwillery:

TQ: Who are some of your literary influences? Favorite authors?

Holly: Toni Morrison, pre-90’s Stephen King, Mary Balogh, Octavia Butler, Barbara Michaels, Charlaine Harris, Joss Whedon. I tend to value storytelling over beautiful prose. Style should be transparent, in my opinion, which is to say, a writer should have enough mastery over language to convey exactly a mood or feeling that will make me nod and go, "Yes, that's what that feels like," but not in such a showy way that I’m admiring the writer’s turn of phrase instead of empathizing with the character. I won't read books where the supposed appeal is the writer's clever imitation of someone else's style, because it always feels like a filter between me and the action, akin to having a head cold.

TQ: Describe The Curse of Jacob Tracy in 140 characters or less.

Holly: Cowboy tries to maintain his bromance in the face of his burgeoning psychic power & the intriguing English witch who wants to exploit it.

TQ: Tell us something about The Curse of Jacob Tracy that is not found in the book description.

Holly: I’d want to assure hesitant readers that while this may be a western, it’s...[read on]
Visit Holly Messinger's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Mary Pilon

Mary Pilon is the author of The Monopolists: Obsession, Fury, and the Scandal Behind the World's Favorite Board Game, a book about the history of the board game Monopoly (Bloomsbury, February 2015). She previously worked as a sports reporter at The New York Times and a full index of her work there can be found here, including dispatches from the London Olympics, doping coverage, features on legal and financial issues in sports and the occasional video shot from a dog sled or graphic novel about cage fighting in the heartland.

From June 2008 to November 2011, Pilon worked at The Wall Street Journal, where she covered various aspects of personal finance and the financial crisis for print and online editions and regularly appeared on national TV and radio. Among her lesser-known accomplishments: bringing slugs, yo-yos, the NYSE movie room and square dancing to the Journal’s front page.

From Pilon's March 2015 Q & A with David Greene at NPR:

GREENE: The true story of Monopoly begins long before Charles Darrow rolled the dice - a few decades, actually - with a woman named Lizzie Magie, who lived in Washington, D.C. and patented something called The Landlord's Game, which was, in some great irony, an argument against the concentration of wealth. Her game, though, had an incredible resemblance to modern-day Monopoly.

PILON: So Lizzie Magie was a pretty astonishing woman. She was an outspoken feminist. She had acted. She'd done some performing. She had written some poetry. And she was a game designer. And at the time that she patented her game, it was before women had the right to vote. And I was very surprised. I thought, you know, female game designers - they're getting more traction today. But it's still unusual. And at the time she put her patent application in, fewer than 1 percent of patents in the United States came from women.

GREENE: But Lizzie was a rare case. She got the patent, and her game began to spread around the country, including to the Quakers of Atlantic City, N.J., who added all the Atlantic City street names - Atlantic Avenue, Kentucky Avenue, Park Place. It was through a Quaker friend that Charles Darrow got his hands on the game board and sold it as his own to Parker Brothers. The company, like much of America, went with the tale of this down-on-his-luck...[read on]
Visit Mary Pilon's website.

The Page 99 Test: The Monopolists.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Matt Zoller Seitz

Matt Zoller Seitz is the author of Mad Men Carousel: The Complete Critical Companion. From his Q & A with Scott Timberg for Salon:

There’s been a debate around “Mad Men” from the beginning: Is it a handsome, well-designed exercise in nostalgia, or is it a show of dramatic depth that’s also a critique of society? How do you come down? Did the show deepen over time?

I think it was always a deep show – not just in relation to television, but in relation to anything. The first season is a bit more meticulously designed… I do slightly prefer the later seasons for their fragmentary nature.

One thing my friend Andrew said that I’ve quoted many times is that scripted dramas on TV tend to fall into one of two categories: They are novelistic, or they are like short stories. “Mad Men,” like “The Sopranos” before it, lived in both of those modes simultaneously, and did it at the level of the season. That’s what made it so fascinating.

I don’t think they had a bad season. And if you watch the entire thing again, and consider it in totality, you see what a complete vision it is. If you’ve read any of the literature that influenced the writers of the show – John Cheever, John Dos Passos is a huge influence, also John Updike… Dos Passos tells stories of characters of various socioeconomic background, and they’re followed like characters on a television show. And these novels are edited like a movie. And suddenly you’ll get the equivalent of a montage, where he’s interspersing newspaper stories, newsreel narration and popular song lyrics in an almost kaleidoscopic fashion. And then he’ll return you to...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Ceridwen Dovey

Ceridwen Dovey's new story collection is Only the Animals. From her Q & A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: How did you come up with the concept for this book?

A: One day halfway through my degree in social anthropology at NYU in New York, I was talking to the department secretary who was going out to Utah to volunteer at an animal shelter filled with dogs and cats that had been airlifted out of Beirut during the 2006 bombings.

She showed me some photos of these creatures while she was telling me about the shelter, and I felt some very powerful emotions – sorrow, pain, right to my core – that I somehow could not feel for the human victims of the same conflict.

And around the same time, one of my favourite professors at NYU, the brilliant anthropologist Emily Martin, told me about her pet parrot Ruben, who had witnessed the second plane hitting the Twin Towers on 9/11 with her, and had become very sick and stressed in the weeks afterwards.

And this story just brought me to tears on the spot. I wrote the parrot story – in very different form – that year, and it was the start of the whole project.

I didn’t really realise it was going to be a “project” until I found myself wanting to write from the perspective of an ape after finishing the parrot story – so I did that. And then I suddenly wanted to write from the perspective of a camel in colonial Australia.

That’s when I think I realised I was going to have to work through these animal voices in my head and...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue