Thursday, June 30, 2016

Michelle Latiolais

Michelle Latiolais's new work of fiction is She.

From her Q & A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: The book takes place in Los Angeles. How important is setting to you in your writing, and could this have taken place somewhere other than L.A.?

A: Now Deborah, are you really asking me that question. As my colleague Ron Carlson says to students, “nothing happens nowhere,” and if the writing could happen anywhere, are there sentient characters on the page? Or perhaps the writing takes “place” in a deprivation chamber?

Of course, now, I suppose, we have a lot of stuff happening online, or in the ether, that place, or realm, or domain, love it, domain, technology’s feudalism!

But being serious, that is an amazing arena of freedom for some people, and for a kind of artistic collaboration, and I respect that, but I’d be lying if I also didn’t say that one of the pre-eminent reasons I go to books, serious books, is to...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Peter Rock

Peter Rock is the recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship, a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship, and a Wallace Stegner Fellowship. His adult novel My Abandonment won the Alex Award.

Rock's new YA novel is Klickitat.

From his Q & A with Pique Beyond the Book:

There seems to be something in the air with survivalist stories lately. Your character Audra wants to practice wilderness survival and is inspired by a writer and naturalist named Tom Brown, Jr. How did you first encounter Brown’s work and why do you think Audra is so enamored with him?

Several years ago I was working on a book, The Shelter Cycle, which was inspired by a church in Montana that believed the world might/would end in 1990, and built vast underground shelters, where they planned to live for up to seven years. I was driving around this strange landscape, above where various shelters were buried, with one of these believers, and he told me that one night, deep underground, another member of the church told him about Tom Brown, Jr., a “true adept,” and so I started reading Brown’s works. One of my contacts had even gone to the special training camps Brown runs out in the wilderness of New Jersey–part of what draws Audra, and anyone, is this sense that if we were more attuned, as animals are, to our environment, we’d be both happier and more aware of all the invisible signs around us. I myself almost got some research money to go train with Brown. His story is fascinating, too; he claims to have had various lessons and wisdom passed down to him from “Grandfather,” a Native American who took Brown under his wing, but many suspect that story is not true, so there are many haters. But Brown’s books are fascinating; I have spent an especially large time reading his books about how children might...[read on]
Learn more about the book and author at Peter Rock's website.

The Page 69 Test: My Abandonment.

The Page 69 Test: The Shelter Cycle.

Writers Read: Peter Rock.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Adam Christopher

Adam Christopher is a novelist and comic writer, and award-winning editor. His books include Made to Kill, volume 1 in The LA Trilogy.

From Christopher's Q & A with Joel Cunningham for the B&N Sci-Fi & Fantasy blog:

What was the genesis of  [Made to Kill]? How did you find the way in?

I really love that kind of detective fiction—hard-boiled stuff of the ’40s and ’50s—and I really love Raymond Chandler. And the idea came about—he wrote to his agent in the mid-’50s complaining about science fiction, saying, “Can you believe this rubbish?” And he wrote 140-word short story, and it was complete nonsense. But it was Raymond Chandler nonsense, so there’s still something in it. His style and voice. And I was like, “Well clearly he should have written a science fiction novel.” So I thought maybe I should be the one to write it. I wrote novelette for [that] was the origin story of the main character, Ray, who’s the robot detective. It was so much fun to write, that style and voice, that the trilogy just kind of sprang from that. I’m not sure that I’m calling it pastiche, because I love Raymond Chandler, and there’s absolutely no way that I could ever try and emulate his style, because it’s...[read on]
Made to Kill is among Nicole Hill's top six novels that explore the stranger, more fantastical, science fictional side of Hollywood.

The Page 69 Test: Made to Kill.

My Book, The Movie: Made to Kill.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, June 27, 2016

Pamela Erens

Pamela Erens's new novel is Eleven Hours.

From her Q & A with Caroline Leavitt:

To me, pregnancy and giving birth were the most profound states of my being. It changed everything. And I think in Eleven Hours, you’ve captured absolutely everything about its nature. Did anything take you by surprise as you were writing? Some subliminal memory?

Not really! I guess I’ve permanently forgotten whatever I’ve forgotten about my own childbirth experiences. I think it’s useful for writers to have highly selective memories, actually. What sticks is what’s has a certain heat to it, a resonance. It becomes usable as material, even if in very altered form. The birth in Eleven Hours resembles the ones I went through only glancingly. I tried to draw on my memory of what contractions felt like—which was difficult, as pain is hard to reconstruct when it’s over. But other than that, Lore’s labor is a complete invention: something I felt could happen in just that way.

This novel is a slim one, yet it’s so crushingly powerful, I don’t see how you could have made it longer. I’m wondering if writing it was in any way like childbirth?

Well, I did try to make the book longer! I was worried about it being too short to be considered a novel, yet it obviously wasn’t a short story. I tormented myself by looking up definitions of the novel: “over 40,000 words” “over 60,000 words,” and so forth. Every time I added material, I thought: Great! But within days I would have cut something else. And now whatever word count it came to—I no longer even know—seems utterly irrelevant.

How writing this book was like childbirth: The process...[read on]
Visit Pamela Erens's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, June 26, 2016

Janet B. Taylor

Janet B. Taylor is the author of Into the Dim.

From her Q & A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: How did you come up with the idea for Into the Dim, and for your main character, Hope?

A: [I thought,] “I’d like to see what would happen if you took a modern teenager and thrust them into the Middle Ages, and see how they would deal with it."

As far as Hope goes, I had her in mind for a long time. I adore all those awesome kick-ass heroines in literature nowadays.

But...most of us are not sword or martial art experts, trained since birth to be killers. Many of us at that age were awkward and socially inept. Hope is all that, plus a big old bunch of phobias.

The only thing she has going for her is...[read on]
Visit Janet B. Taylor's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, June 25, 2016

Wesley Chu

Wesley Chu's new book is The Rise of Io, the first in a new series set in the same world as his breakthrough Tao trilogy. From his Q & A with Joel Cunningham for the B&N Sci-Fi & Fantasy blog:

After three books, we thought we were done with the Tao universe. Did you? When did you realize there was more story to tell?

I remember writing the The Rebirths of Tao’s epilogue and getting a little melancholy. Roen will forever be my firstborn, and I love him like I love Eva, and people who follow me on Twitter know I Dean Koontz-level love my dog. But I feel like I left him in a good place.

If you think about it, the guy had something like a thirty-five year arc in the trilogy. That’s a solid run. I’ve put him through the ringer more times than I could count. Not gonna lie; I get a really weird joy out of kicking his ass.

Way I figure, the dude deserves a break, his pizza, and an occasional cameo to yell at the kids to get off his lawn. Same with Tao. I think I explored their relationship to the fullest. It’s time to see what the other Quasing are up to.

As for realizing I had more stories to tell, the original book two for the Tao series was The Lives of Baji. That obviously never happened, but I have always wanted to continue the story from another Quasing’s point of view.

I’m really sorry that point of view ended up being Io. Oops.

What sets the Io books apart from the Tao trilogy?

Roen is by far my readers’ favorite character. He’s lovable, honest, clumsy, and sometimes dumb as a cardboard box. You never question his heart, though. He’s a solid guy who...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, June 24, 2016

Sarah McCoy

Sarah McCoy is the New York Times, USA Today, and international bestselling author of The Baker’s Daughter, a 2012 Goodreads Choice Award Best Historical Fiction nominee; the novella “The Branch of Hazel” in Grand Central; The Time It Snowed in Puerto Rico; and The Mapmaker’s Children (Crown, 2015).

Her work has been featured in Real Simple, The Millions, Your Health Monthly, Huffington Post and other publications. McCoy has taught English writing at Old Dominion University and at the University of Texas at El Paso. She calls Virginia home but presently lives with her husband, an Army physician, and their dog, Gilly, in El Paso, Texas.

From McCoy's Q & A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: Why did you decide to pair the stories of Sarah Brown, daughter of the 19th century abolitionist John Brown, and Eden Anderson, a fictional modern-day woman?

A: I’m spellbound by this interplay—by the impact of Sarah Brown on us, the contemporary Eden Andersons of today….Sarah Brown and Eden Anderson mirror each other in so many subtle ways. The beauty of their interwoven story is how readers interpret their reflection….

They differ in the way each of us differs from our neighbor, our sister, our friend, even the closest person to us. Because our life recipes are composed of different ingredients, in a different timing, and influenced by external and internal components that we might not ...[read on]
Visit Sarah McCoy’s website, Facebook page, and Twitter perch.

The Page 69 Test: The Time It Snowed in Puerto Rico.

The Page 69 Test: The Baker's Daughter.

Coffee with a Canine: Sarah McCoy and Gilbert.

The Page 69 Test: The Mapmaker's Children.

My Book, The Movie: The Mapmaker’s Children.

Writers Read: Sarah McCoy (May 2015).

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Margaret Dilloway

Margaret Dilloway has been a writer ever since she learned how to write. In high school she was a California Arts Scholar in creative writing and she won a National Council of Teachers of English writing award. She practiced writing in a variety of forms, such as being a theater critic and a contributing editor for two weekly newspapers, doing technical writing, and writing plays, before publishing three critically acclaimed books for adults: How to Be an American Housewife, The Care and Handling of Roses with Thorns, and Sisters of Heart and Snow. Her research for Momotaro: Xander and the Lost Island of Monsters included a trip to Japan and a samurai sword-fighting class. Dilloway lives in southern California with her husband, three children, and a goldendoodle named Gatsby.

From Dilloway's Q & A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: Sisters of Heart and Snow follows women in two different time periods. How did you come up with the idea for the book and for its structure?

A: My mother was from a samurai family so I knew I wanted to write something along those lines. I looked up "samurai women" and found Tomoe Gozen, who lived in the 12th century, and wanted to write about her. She was a female captain, said to be the best archer in Japan, an incredible swordswoman, and...[read on]
Visit Margaret Dilloway's website and blog.

Coffee with a Canine: Margaret Dilloway and Gatsby.

My Book, The Movie: The Care and Handling of Roses with Thorns.

The Page 69 Test: The Care and Handling of Roses with Thorns.

My Book, The Movie: Sisters of Heart and Snow.

The Page 69 Test: Momotaro: Xander and the Lost Island of Monsters.

My Book, The Movie: Momotaro: Xander and the Lost Island of Monsters.

Writers Read: Margaret Dilloway.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Yona Zeldis McDonough

Yona Zeldis McDonough is the author of novels such as A Wedding in Great Neck and You Were Meant for Me as well as dozens of books for children. She is the editor of and a contributor to The Barbie Chronicles: A Living Doll Turns Forty, as well as All the Available Light: A Marilyn Monroe Reader.

McDonough's latest novel is The House on Primrose Pond.

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

Q: Why did you choose New Hampshire as the location for your novel?

A: I have set my past six novels in and around New York City. This was less an active decision and more of a default position. Setting in a novel should function almost as a “character”, and to make that “character” come alive, you have to know it well—the sights, sounds and smells of a place. Since I was raised in New York and have lived here for most of my life, writing a New York setting came effortlessly to me. But recently I began to chafe at that very ease and wanted to push my own boundaries. I turned to New Hampshire because it’s a state I have come to love. My husband is from Portsmouth, NH and we have visited and spent time there during the course of our marriage. And for many years, we rented a cottage in an enchanted, lakeside spot and that is where I chose to set The House on Primrose Pond. I knew the place intimately, and so I could write about it with confidence and with passion. I wanted the place to come alive to the reader, and in order to make that happen, it had to be fully, gloriously alive to me.

Q: The story is mainly told from a single point of view, with one exception. Care to comment?

A: The story is mostly Susannah’s: how she copes when she loses her husband in a bicycle accident, how she feels as she attempts to rebuild her life in a new place. But the character of Alice, the elderly neighbor who at first offers friendship but later seems almost a threat, needed some greater explanation and I could only do that if I wrote a couple of chapters from her point of view. Without a glimpse into her heart and soul, Alice’s behavior toward Susannah and more importantly her daughter Calista, could seem questionable, and even malign. I did not...[read on]
Learn more about the author and her work at Yona Zeldis McDonough's website.

Coffee with a Canine: Yona Zeldis McDonough & Willa and Holden.

Writers Read: Yona Zeldis McDonough.

The Page 69 Test: The House on Primrose Pond.

My Book, The Movie: The House on Primrose Pond.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Miranda Beverly-Whittemore

Miranda Beverly-Whittemore's new novel is June.

From her Q & A with Caroline Leavitt:

I love the whole idea of old Hollywood glamour and I bet the research was a hoot. How did you research this? What surprised you about the research (or better yet, disturbed you?)

I’ve long been obsessed with celebrity. Maybe as a little girl I wanted to be rich and famous (one of my first memories is oohhhing and ahhhing over Princess Diana’s wedding on a newsreel, projected on a bed sheet in the backyard of the British Embassy in Dakar, Senegal), but I quickly realized how unpleasant so many aspects of that life are, and the whole idea of being watched all the time still terrifies me.

Then, after my first novel came out, I was a co-producer on a short adaptation of that book to film, and had my first experience on a real Hollywood set. It was enchanting to watch the well-oiled machine that filmmaking is (especially as a writer who spends most of my time as a maker completely by myself) —everyone has their specific job, and when all those jobs are fitted together, the whole thing works. I realized I wanted to write not just about celebrity, but about a film set, and I thought there was no better witness to such a place than a child who gets to be a part of it.

In June, there are two generations of celebrities—in the modern day, two sisters, one an A-lister a la Jennifer Aniston, and the other a character based on Carrie Fisher; at the beginning of the book, you discover they’re the daughters of the movie star who is the celebrity in the book’s 1955, a matinee idol named Jack Montgomery. Having a family of movie stars across sixty years gave me the opportunity...[read on]
Visit Miranda Beverly-Whittemore's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, June 20, 2016

Mark Singer

Mark Singer has been a staff writer at The New Yorker since 1974. His new book is Trump and Me.

From Singer's Q & A with Rachel Cooke for the Guardian:

In his introduction to your book, the editor of the New Yorker, David Remnick, traces Trump’s decision to stand for president to the 2011 White House correspondents’ dinner, when Obama made jokes about him. [In a dig at Trump’s obsession with his citizenship, Obama said he was ready to make his “birth video” public; he then showed a clip from The Lion King.] Do you agree that humiliation was the spur?

It’s not clear. In terms of his ego, that would mean he felt those jokes, and I doubt he can feel anything. But if you see the video of him, he’s seething. Watch it on YouTube. It’s terrific!...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, June 19, 2016

Alison Umminger

Alison Umminger is the author of American Girls. From her Q & A with Melissa Albert at the BN Teen blog:

American Girls has some of the trappings of a sunny, more traditional story—the cute famous guy, the glamorous location—but it takes a darker, unexpected path. How much of the story’s shape did you know going in?

I guess that I’m what they call a “pants-er” in that I rarely know what I’m going to write when I start a book. I had Anna and her voice in my head for a very long time, but originally she had a dead mom and a Marilyn Monroe obsession, both of which seem kind of absurd when I think about where the actual novel went. For a long time, too, I wanted her to be in love with Dex, her sister’s boyfriend, but those interactions just kept skewing creepy. The book took on a life of its own when I was writing the scene on the roof where Anna first meets her sister’s ex-boyfriend, Roger, again, and he tells her that she’s “kind of like a Manson girl.” I honestly believe there’s something outside the writer about writing, because I really did feel like the book told me exactly what it wanted to do next from that point on. My biggest concern was that in spite of the dark material, the book did not glorify or glamorize those murders, even as I sought to find...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, June 18, 2016

Jennifer Gilmore

Jennifer Gilmore's new YA novel is We Were Never Here.

From her Q & A with Caroline Leavitt:

Every novel seems to spark from something that haunted the writer. What sparked you to write this?

That’s very true. I was quite sick in my twenties. What happened to me haunted and invigorated me, like our past always does. I wanted it to take place fictionally though in a time when it would be most shocking. Being sick as a young person is a strange thing, but when you are 16, as Lizzie is here, and you’re not yet comfortable in your skin, that’s a terrible thing. So what if your illness is what, in the end, gives you the power to actually be yourself? I wanted to look at that. How you get power out of being powerless.

I have to ask about the title, which I love with a passion. Can you talk about that please?

Titles are difficult. I’m so glad you like it! I was thinking about Lizzie wishing this time in her life had never happened. But if it had never happened then the wonderful things that came out of that experience—falling in love, making friends, becoming open to life, really—wouldn’t have happened either. She only realizes this later. For a long time she wishes none of it had happened, and the boy she meets has his own secrets , a past he wishes he had not been present for as well.

Illness, especially long-term or chronic, is like being in another country where you don’t know the language, and you captured it absolutely perfectly. What was it like to write about?

Writing about being sick...[read on]
Visit Jennifer Gilmore's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, June 17, 2016

Andy Mozina

Andy Mozina is a professor of English at Kalamazoo College and the author of the short story collections The Women Were Leaving the Men, which won the Great Lakes Colleges Association New Writers Award, and Quality Snacks, which was a finalist for the Flannery O’Connor Prize.

Mozina's new book is Contrary Motion.

From his Q & A with Christine Sneed:

1. Tell us a little about your book.

Contrary Motion is about a divorced harpist living in Chicago getting ready for a principal harp audition with the St. Louis Symphony. In the months leading up to the audition, he runs a gauntlet of emotionally charged situations: his father dies; his ex-wife, whom he’s still in love with, gets engaged; his current girlfriend grows distant; his daughter starts acting out. As a pick-me-up, he starts moonlighting by performing for dying people at a hospice. It’s a lot of fun! Booklist went so far as to call it “rollicking.”

2. You have a knack for writing very funny prose. Most writers would say that it's not an easy feat. Who are some of your influences? And, just curious, have you ever done stand-up?

That’s very nice of you to say! I love Stanley Elkin, Colson Whitehead, Aimee Bender, Jennifer Egan, Donald Barthelme, David Foster Wallace, George Saunders, Mary Gaitskill, Flannery O’Connor, etc.

I actually have five pretty polished minutes of stand-up ready to go. I’m waiting until I master my obliviate charm, so if my set goes horribly, I can erase it from the memories of all present, including myself. I think I’m getting close because when I use the charm on my wife, she just puts two fingers to her temples and...[read on]
Visit Andy Mozina's website.

The Page 69 Test: Contrary Motion.

Writers Read: Andy Mozina.

My Book, The Movie: Contrary Motion.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Ramona Ausubel

Ramona Ausubel's new novel is Sons and Daughters of Ease and Plenty. From her Q & A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: How did you come up with the idea for the family you write about in your new novel?

A: I knew I wanted to write about money and to chase the question of what money can get you and what it can’t, so I thought about a family that went from one extreme to another—huge amounts of money and then very little.

I’ve thought about this a lot in my life (I’m betting we all do—money is both central to everything we do and completely beside the point, right? Love is all you need! Except for all the other things.).

Each of the characters in the book has a different relationship to having and not having, to their birthplace in society and the place they might occupy without the riches.

At the same time that the story is serious— about race, class, gender and the American Dream—I also really wanted to seek those issues out by way of a series of adventures.

I wanted the characters to do what I think us humans often do—run away. I wanted the running to help them see who they are when all the trapping are removed, to see what matters to them and what they want, eventually, to...[read on]
Visit Ramona Ausubel's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Daniel O'Malley

Daniel O'Malley is the author of The Rook and the newly released Stiletto.

From his Q & A with Joel Cunningham for the B&N Sci-Fi & Fantasy blog:

One thing I appreciated about the first book was the immense care you put into building out the world and its history, its structures and organizations, even its bureaucratic red tape. How did you get about developing all of that, and how much of it actually makes it onto the page?

I don’t start out with a fully mapped world. It’s always about answering the questions that occur to me. And every answer always leads to more questions. If this woman knew she was going to lose her memories, then how did she know? And why would she believe that? If there are supernatural government officials running around dealing with secret threats, where do they come from? How do they get identified? If they’re inhuman, where do they live? Where do they get buried? Where do they work? And who pays for all the therapy they’d need?

Once I knew that I was going to have a secret Government department, I knew that I’d need some organizational structure (that’s Government Department 101, you’ve got to have an org chart), but it’s very much about broad strokes, and filling in the detail as it comes up. So, for me it’s a combination of plotting and flying by the seat of my pants.

I write a lot of material in my first draft, it’s very much a vomiting on the page of all my ideas. Then I leave it to fester for a while, and come back and see what works. I prune, I polish, I prune, I polish, and I send it off to my editor, who gently points out that there’s still a good deal of polishing and pruning to be done. I also like to go off on tangents, to give little side stories that might not be immediately relevant to the main story, but help illustrate a theme or an aspect of the world. Sometimes those get cut, sometimes they turn out to be...[read on]
Visit Daniel O'Malley's website and blog.

Coffee with a Canine: Dan O’Malley and Sally.

Writers Read: Daniel O'Malley (April 2012).

The Page 69 Test: The Rook.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Karl Jacoby

Karl Jacoby is the author of The Strange Career of William Ellis: The Texas Slave Who Became a Mexican Millionaire. From his Q & A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: How did Ellis make his money, and how unusual was his story at the time?

A: I was desperate to get my hands on bank records. It’s a little suppositive. One main thing that happened in the Gilded Age was the birth of middle-class America, consumer society.

Almost everything that was emerging as a consumer item was linked to Mexico: automobiles were linked to petroleum and rubber. Electrification and the telephone were linked to copper wires…

Americans realized they were tremendously connected to Mexico. When Porfirio Diaz opens up Mexico to U.S. investment, a lot of Americans don’t understand Mexico and how to navigate there. William Ellis is a broker who helps facilitate that, selling almost a fantasy of Mexico as a land where everybody can...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, June 13, 2016

Stephen King

Stephen King's newest novel is End of Watch. From his Rolling Stone interview with Andy Greene:
What do you hope people say about you after you're gone?

It would be nice if people said, "He worked hard. He left a rich legacy of novels and did the right things in the community." Beyond that, I don't expect much of an afterlife. I think there's more for singers and songwriters and musicians than writers.

You don't think people in 50 years will be reading The Stand?

That would be really nice. They might read The Shining. They might read Salem's Lot. I think horror novels and fantasy novels have a longer shelf life than other kinds of books. I think of big bestsellers from when I was a kid, like Seven Days in May and the novels of Irving Wallace. You get a blank look if you mention those names. That's what happens to most writers. People move on.

What music moves you the most?

The first thing that comes to mind is...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, June 12, 2016

P.J. Brackston

P.J. Brackston's latest mystery novel is The Case of the Fickle Mermaid.

From her Q & A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: What do you see as the right blend between the modern references and the fairy-tale era conventions in these novels?

A: I wanted to be playful with the conventions of writing historical fiction. The fairy-tale element gave me the freedom to reinvent things and change things. Or at least, that’s the way I see it!

I do write more conventional historical fiction (as Paula Brackston), which I enjoy, but with this series I wanted to be a bit more adventurous. Purposefully putting in anomalies and anachronisms is a risky strategy, but I think it can give a story a truly original and individual feel.

Also, the traditions of fairy-tales are very broad. Some are more “realistic” than others. Many are common to different cultures and languages so have fundamental differences even though the essential story is the same. I think they are...[read on]
Visit Paula Brackston's website.

Writers Read: Paula Brackston (February 2013).

Coffee with a Canine: Paula Brackston & Bluebell.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, June 11, 2016

David Remnick

David Remnick is the author of The Bridge: The Life and Rise of Barack Obama. From his 2010 Q & A with Mary Ann Gwinn for The Seattle Times:

Q. Do you remember the first time you heard about Obama?

A. I do. Around the office, somebody mentioned that there was a guy with a funny name, running for the Senate, and we were looking for election stories to do that weren't presidential elections. The more I heard about him from the writer, Bill Finnegan, the more it became obvious that it would be a great piece [titled "The Candidate," it ran in The New Yorker in May 2004].

And there was even mention of him running for president [then]. I became completely incredulous. I lost a bet with my editor, Dorothy Wickenden. She said, "I think this guy could be president." I thought, there was no way in the world. Hillary Clinton was running; a guy named Barack Hussein Obama in a post 9/11 world?

Q. What are the special problems and challenges of writing about a sitting president?

A. Some of them are obvious. To write a history of a president who's...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, June 10, 2016

Jonathan Balcombe

Jonathan Balcombe's new book is What a Fish Knows: The Inner Lives of Our Underwater Cousins. From his Q & A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: You describe fish as “the most exploited (and overexploited) category of vertebrate animals on Earth.” How has that situation developed?

A: We’ve been fishing for millennia. Most fishing…has been sustainable, not self-destructive. In the last couple of centuries we’ve developed trends that are problematic, with a growing population and advances in technology.

It’s like bobbing for apples with our hands, not our mouths. People are able to locate large schools of fishes with technology, and are able to take as many as they want to, [leading to extinction for some species].

Q: Do you see this trend continuing?

A: In the near future. I’m hopeful [looking further ahead that people] will start to change their behavior. There’s a 10 percent decline in meat consumption in the U.S. over the last decade, so trends change. In the near future, the situation doesn’t look great, but I’m hopeful there will be a turning point.

It’s critical for...[read on]
Learn more about the book and author at Jonathan Balcombe's website.

The Page 99 Test: Second Nature.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, June 9, 2016

Arsalan Iftikhar

Arsalan Iftikhar is the author of Scapegoats: How Islamophobia Helps Our Enemies and Threatens Our Freedoms. From the transcript of his interview with NPR's Michel Martin:

MARTIN: Now I want to talk about the second part of the title of the book, though, which is that it helps our enemies and threatens our freedoms. That's what you say islamophobia does. I mean, the premise of your book is that there is a broader, corrosive effect on the society if that mentality is maintained. Tell me why you think that.

IFTIKHAR: Well, because as I look at American history, right? Because even though the fill-in-the-blanks is Muslims today, tomorrow it could be anyone else. I mean, when the USA Patriot Act came out in 2001, you know, this was a 348-page document that trumped 50 federal laws. And it wasn't just targeted at brown Muslims who were suspected of terrorism. This allows the federal government to come in and, without a warrant, get all of your information without even notifying you, going to college registrars, getting all their information. I mean, it affects everybody.

You know, political rhetoric leads to laws. And that's important to keep in mind, is that again, you know, the internment camps of World War II didn't come out of a vacuum. You had people - President Roosevelt's general, who was the head of Pacific Command, James DeWitt, was quoted in Congress as saying once a Jap, always a Jap. I mean, this sort of anti-Japanese rhetoric was actually what led to the internment camps.

And that's the thing, is that, you know, we can't just see this as, you know, ha ha, this is just kind of silly political rhetoric that's coming out. This could - you know, if somebody - if Donald Trump comes out tomorrow and says, you know, we should put Muslims in internment camps - well, you know, we've had them in the past. Who's to say that...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Emily Arnold McCully

Emily Arnold McCully is the author of the new children's book, Clara: The (Mostly) True Story of the Rhinoceros who Dazzled Kings, Inspired Artists, and Won the Hearts of Everyone ... While She Ate Her Way Up and Down a Continent.

From her Q & A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: How did you learn about Clara the rhinoceros, and was there anything that particularly surprised you about her story?

A: I learned about Clara when browsing the stacks of my local university library (a wonderful boon to have access to it--browsing yields wonderful discoveries not usually available when simply searching for titles on a computer).

The book, by Glynnis Ridley, a scholar, is a detailed examination of every aspect of Clara's journey. I saw a children's book embedded in its detail.

I was as innocent of information about the rhinoceros as those 18th century Europeans, so much surprised me. I was very impressed by the endurance of both Clara and the Captain, and by the effect she had on onlookers.

I had seen Longhi's paintings in Venice and always found them wonderfully evocative. They aren't really very accurate portraits, but...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Fawaz Gerges

Fawaz Gerges is a professor of international relations at the London School of Economics and author of ISIS: A History. From his Q & A with World Policy Journal:

WPJ: While you write that the United States-led invasion of Iraq in 2003 was responsible for the initial rupture of Iraqi society, your book emphasizes the failure of al-Maliki to build strong and healthy governance in the years following. What action, if any, do you believe Western powers could have taken a decade ago to help minimize today’s situation with ISIS?

FG: There is no single cause that really explains the resurgence of ISIS. This is a very important point. Many commentators and journalists really simplify it a great deal. The global jihadist movement existed before the U.S. invasion, and the most important factor in the rise of al-Qaida in Iraq was not only the invasion. It was also the dismantling and destruction of Iraqi institutions. This allowed al-Qaida to infiltrate politics, to plant itself within the local Sunni communities, and to depict itself as a defender of the Sunnis. Besides the U.S. invasion and the destruction of state institutions, the third factor in the rise of al-Qaida in Iraq was the dismal failure of the post-Saddam Hussein political elite in Iraq to mend the ideological and social rift between the Sunnis, Shiites, and Kurds.

However, there are two major mistakes made by the U.S. that could have prevented not only the emergence of al-Qaida in Iraq but also the deepening of sectarian tensions.

The first one was the dissolution of the Iraqi army and security forces. In one stroke, the U.S.-led occupation authorities dissolved the army, thus turning three hundred thousand Iraqis into potential rebels. And secondly, sadly, the U.S. helped construct a sectarian based regime in Iraq by dividing the spoils along sectarian lines, as opposed to building a system based on citizenship and the rule of law. These mistakes are still with us today. Iraq does not really have a functioning, effective army, because the army had to be built from scratch.

These three factors: the U.S. invasion, the dissolving of Iraqi institutions, and replacing Saddam Hussein’s regime with a sectarian-based system really helped al-Qaida in Iraq, which is now called ISIS. Do you see what I’m trying to say? ISIS is not alien. It did not...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, June 6, 2016

Laurie Ann Thompson

Laurie Ann Thompson is the author of the children's picture book Emmanuel's Dream: The True Story of Emmanuel Ofosu Yeboah.

From her Q & A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: How did you learn about Emmanuel Ofosu Yeboah, and why did you decide to write a picture book about his story?

A: I first heard about Emmanuel’s story in 2005 when he appeared on the Oprah Winfrey Show to help promote a documentary about his life, Emmanuel’s Gift, which Oprah herself narrated.

I was working on a book for teens about unsung heroes, people who’ve changed the world but whose names and faces we may not recognize, and I knew instantly that one of the chapters in that book had to be about Emmanuel!

His story was so inspiring to me, both because of the obstacles he overcame and the way he went about it, that I just couldn’t...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, June 4, 2016

Cathryn J. Prince

Cathryn J. Prince is the author of American Daredevil: The Extraordinary Life of Richard Halliburton, the World's First Celebrity Travel Writer.

From her Q & A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: Why did you decide to write a biography of Richard Halliburton?

A: The seeds for the book were planted a long time ago. When I was growing up my father used to tell the story of how he absolutely had to see the Taj Mahal because one of his favorite books when he was a boy was Richard Halliburton’s Complete Book of Marvels.

He’d talk about the way Halliburton used words to bring the monument to life, so much so that when he was serving in in the Air Force in Vietnam he used a rare R&R to travel to the Taj Mahal. The story stayed with me.

Then in 2013 my parents took my daughter to Memphis. While there they visited Rhodes College and saw the Richard Halliburton exhibit that Bill Short maintains as part of the Richard Halliburton collection.

At the time I was working on Death in the Baltic, which was a dark, somber subject to say the least. So when I heard them talk about their visit to the college, and the many things of Halliburton that were there, something clicked.

I could so easily visualize him, his boundless energy, his swashbuckling good looks, and all the things he did - from flying around the world in an open cockpit plane, to swimming the Panama Canal.

I felt compelled to write the book because I believed that not only what he did - his adventures and writing - but who he was - a fearless and hardworking person - would...[read on]
Learn more about the book and author at Cathryn J. Prince's website.

The Page 99 Test: Death in the Baltic.

Coffee with a Canine: Cathryn J. Prince & Hershey and Juno.

The Page 99 Test: American Daredevil.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, June 3, 2016

Laura Lippman

Laura Lippman 's new novel is Wilde Lake.

From the author's Q & A with Gabriella Souza for Baltimore Magazine:

How did the idea for this book come to you?

Well, it’s a little bit of a convoluted story. It began when the Woody Allen/Dylan Farrow story surfaced again. I read a lot, and I thought a lot about it. The conclusion I came to is that as an individual, I was going to believe people who said they were sexually assaulted. I just decided for my own humanity that I would start always at a place of saying, 'Yes, the victim is telling the truth' . . . But then I thought, if you really embrace this idea, how do you deal with the story told in To Kill A Mockingbird? Big disclaimer: I don’t think Tom Robinson is a rapist. He’s clearly innocent. But, I thought, what if you thought of it differently, but not in the pre-Civil Rights era? And where would this story be most interesting? It’s about an African-American man who is handsome and is generally seen as a good person. He is accused of raping a young woman who’s seen from being from the other side of the tracks, not as being a particularly well-thought-of member of society . . . I thought about the era in which I grew up, and the place I went to high school, and I began thinking, 'This is a story that...[read on]
Visit Laura Lippman's website.

The Page 69 Test: Wilde Lake.

My Book, the Movie: Wilde Lake.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, June 2, 2016

Mary Simses

Mary Simses's new book is The Rules of Love & Grammar.

From her Q & A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: How did you come up with the idea for The Rules of Love & Grammar, and for your main character, Grace?

A: The idea started with something that happened when I was a teenager. When I was 14, I had a huge crush on a boy in my ninth grade class. He was very cute and very popular. Unfortunately for me, he was dating another girl who was also very cute and very popular (definitely more in his league). But he was always friendly to me, as he was to everyone…

That memory [of our one dance together] had been rattling around in my head for years, and I guess it was destined to emerge in a story sooner or later. Although I wanted to use an incident like that as a springboard, I didn’t know where one dance was going to take me in terms of a whole book.

And then another idea came to me through a conversation I had with a friend. We were talking about how people often feel guilt over the death of a loved one – they didn’t do this or they should have done that – and how it can haunt someone forever. It was an idea I wanted to explore and with those two fragments, I began to build a tale.

I think the character of Grace came to me largely because of a little article I read years ago in a newspaper. It was a story about two guys who were traveling across the country and along the way they were correcting all the grammatical mistakes they encountered – in restaurant menus, posters, newspapers, flyers, you name it.

They explained how they would approach the “owner” of the mistake and ask if they could correct it. Most people said yes; others were...[read on]
Learn more about the book and author at Mary Simses's website and follow her on Facebook.

My Book, The Movie: The Irresistible Blueberry Bakeshop & Cafe.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Sebastian Junger

Sebastian Junger's new book is Tribe: On Homecoming and Belonging.

From his Q & A with Adam Linehan for Task & Purpose:

Over the past couple of years, I’ve heard a lot of American veterans express interest in flying to Iraq to join the fight against ISIS as civilian volunteers. Quite a few of them have. Why do you think some combat veterans miss the battlefield? Why do they volunteer to go back?

The demands of combat on the human mind and body are extraordinary. Human likes functioning at an extraordinary level. They love it. And so I think it’s very hard to find a job back home that requires you to function at the level that combat requires. The stakes are life and death. In other words, they’re the highest stakes possible. There’s a huge amount of adrenalin, and the requirement of very intense interpersonal commitment and bonding with other people — all those things produce just a cocktail of pleasurable endorphins and hormones in the bloodstream. All these things really feel good to the human brain. So it’s very, very hard to find a job that reproduces that feeling in the civilian world.

Do you think people can become addicted to combat?

I don’t think the chemical reactions to adrenaline rival those of synthetic drugs — cocaine, stuff like that. When you use the word addiction, you’re really talking about a chemical dependency. I don’t think anyone is chemically dependent on adrenaline. I think...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue