Sunday, July 31, 2016

Caitlin Moran

Caitlin Moran is the author of How to Be a Woman and other books.

From the transcript of her interview with Terry Gross for Fresh Air:

GROSS:...Caitlin Moran, ... why do you think so many people, so many women, don't want to be associated with the word feminism?

MORAN: I think it's simply because they don't know what it means. When - one of the reasons that I wanted to write a whole book about feminism, rather than just endlessly wanging on about it in a bar - which had previously been my technique in order to spread the word for the sisterhood - it was because I was meeting a lot of younger women. And I would kind of confidently say oh, well, you know, we're all feminists here.

And they would, with a look of horror, as if I had just banged them on the knee with a fork, go no, I'm not a feminist. And you go, what do you mean? And, you know, you kind of - you run through kind of, you know, what being a feminist means, sort of like voting and, you know, rape being illegal and not being a legal possession of your husband.

And they go, oh, yeah, yeah, yeah, no, we're into all of that. I said, well, you are a feminist then. Women are feminist by default. And you live in a feminist world. The first world is feminist. You are educated equally to boys. You're expected to go into equal employment with boys. In a marriage, you are legally equal. So, you know, you cannot deny we live in a feminist world.

GROSS: What made you realize that?

MORAN: I never didn't realize it. I was, I mean, I was brought up in a kind of, you know, very hippie, liberal family. And it was just always automatically assumed that men and women were...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, July 30, 2016

Danny Johnson

Danny Johnson's new novel is The Last Road Home.

From his Q&A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: How did you come up with your characters Junebug, Fancy, and Lightning, and why did you choose to set the book in the 1950s and '60s?

A: I grew up during that era, and the setting of the book came from my own childhood of spending every summer on the farm with my grandparents, who were tobacco farmers.

I lived in a city housing project until I was around 15, where it could get a little dicey much of the time, and tell folks the two things I learned best was the value of friends and how to be the fastest white boy in the project.

But, as soon as summer came, I looked forward to spending it on the farm, enjoying the peace of the slow life, watching how the natural world interacted, and I loved being alone.

My grandmother taught me to read at an early age, and she was an avid reader, letting me read the books she would get from the book-mobile when it came around every couple of weeks. My great grandmother also lived with them and taught me to count by sitting me on her lap as a small child and counting my knuckles.

I made friends with a couple of black kids around the community because there were no white kids, and we spent hours playing, me learning from them and them from me. I loved it.

As for Junebug, Fancy, and Lightning, one of the things I used to do when I had no ideas, was sit in front of my computer and simply begin typing the first words that came to mind, eventually making them into flash fiction stories or short stories and not caring if they sucked or not…somewhere in the mix of that, Fancy and Lightning came to me, like...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, July 29, 2016

Bryan Stevenson

Bryan Stevenson is the author of Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption and the executive director of the Equal Justice Initiative. From his interview with Fareed Zakaria:

ZAKARIA: I want you to tell the story of really what got you involved in this -- in this crusade that you are on. You're a young lawyer and you decide to get involved in the case of a guy, Walter McMillian, who was wrongly accused of murder and on death row when you met him, in a town that ironically was the town that is supposed to be the place where "To Kill a Mockingbird" was set, right...


ZAKARIA: Harper Lee's birth town?

STEVENSON: That's right. Well, I think it was that disconnect that really got my attention. When I finished law school, I was shocked to know that there were people on death row literally dying for legal assistance. We don't provide lawyers to even condemned prisoners.

And I met Walter McMillian in Alabama. He was convicted of a crime that took place in Monroeville, the very community where Harper Lee grew up and write "To Kill a Mockingbird." And that community loves the story. They romanticize it. They celebrate it. They put on plays about it. And yet they were completely indifferent to the plight of a black man wrongly accused of killing a young white woman, convicted in a trial that lasted a day and a half. The jury returned a verdict of life, but judges in Alabama, elected judges in Alabama, have the authority to override jury verdicts of life and impose the death penalty. And so the judge, whose name was Robert E. Lee Key, overrode the jury's verdict, imposed the death penalty, for a crime this man did not commit.

And it was a challenging case, because he was with many people when the crime took place. The entire black community knew he was innocent. But because they were there with him, they felt convicted; they felt condemned.

And I think what we have done in this country with mass incarceration, with excessive punishment, is not just incarcerate a lot of people, convict a lot of people, condemn a lot of people, but we have marginalized whole communities; we have demoralized whole communities.

And Walter McMillian's case tells that story. We fought for six years to...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Ethan Michaeli

Ethan Michaeli is the author of The Defender: How the Legendary Black Newspaper Changed America.

From his Q&A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: You worked at The Defender in the 1990s. What did you learn from working there, and why did you decide to write a book about the paper’s history?

A: I didn’t know anything about race in America, African American history, Chicago history, and the history of African Americans in Chicago when I got to The Defender. It all was a blind spot in my education….

The time I spent at The Defender was transformative…I learned about The Defender’s pivotal role in American history. I always felt it deserved a book. I started to get the ambition to write nonfiction, and no one else had told the story and it deserved to be told.

It came to me slowly. At times I thought it would be better to do a memoir about my time at The Defender, but at the end I thought the best way would be to walk the reader through the history of the paper.

Q: You begin the book with a preface set in 2004 featuring Barack Obama, then a senatorial candidate. Why did you choose that episode as the book’s opening section?

A: President Obama really is the end product of more than...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Megan Abbott

Megan Abbott's new novel is You Will Know Me.

From her Q&A with Kat Kinsman of Extra Crispy:

So much of your work is so dark and noir, and I'm trying to imagine the breakfasts of the women in your books.

In the noir world, they always have black coffee and a diner egg. The one meal you see cooked in noir novels is breakfast, because even the men would make their own breakfast. Raymond Chandler often had Philip Marlowe eat eggs and make coffee in the percolator. He had an elaborate percolator routine. One of my favorite noir novels—which was a big influence on me—was Mildred Pierce. She's famous in that for making pie. I always think that pie is a great breakfast. I remember my mom—that gave her permission to eat pie for breakfast, and she loved it. After you have pie for dessert, you can have it the next morning. That does come from...[read on]
Learn more about the book and author at Megan Abbott's website.

My Book, The Movie: The Fever.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Camille Perri

Camille Perri's new novel is The Assistants. From her Q&A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: You’ve worked as an assistant--how did your own experiences factor into the writing of The Assistants?

A: A lot of the book came from my own experiences or funny work-related horror stories fellow assistants shared with me. However, for the sake of humor and entertainment value, I blew up many of those real events and experiences tenfold. I wanted this book to be just like real life, but a little more fun than real life.

Q: Money, specifically student loan debt, is a major theme in the novel. How have readers related to that theme, and do you see the book appealing to a specific demographic, or not necessarily?

A: I’ve found that many people are itching to talk about money. Perhaps because we’re conditioned to think of money-talk as impolite, or because so many of us are stressed out about our finances, or ashamed of being in debt. I do think the book has resonated most with...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, July 25, 2016

Midge Raymond

Midge Raymond's new novel is My Last Continent. From her Q&A with John Wilkens for The San Diego Union-Tribune:

Q: What is it about Antarctica that makes it a good setting for a love story?

A: The character of Deb is a loner, and she’s been unlucky in love. She’s very passionate about animals and the environment, and she feels quite at home there. It’s a place that’s unlike anywhere else on Earth. And I think for people like Deb who don’t feel as if they fit in, it’s the perfect spot. It’s very isolated. But it’s also hard to have a relationship when you are going off to Antarctica all the time.

But when she meets a person there who has discovered Antarctica for similar reasons — Keller’s had a tragedy in his past that left him a little lost and unmoored — they bond. Antarctica is very much a third person in the relationship because it’s such a huge part of who they are.

Q: Penguins are characters in the book, too. Did you have an experience with penguins on your own trip, or was there something about the way they bond that spoke to you?

A: A little of both. I loved watching the penguins when I was in Antarctica. It’s a...[read on]
Visit Midge Raymond's website.

The Page 69 Test: My Last Continent.

Writers Read: Midge Raymond.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Marcia A. Zug

Marcia A. Zug is the author of Buying a Bride: An Engaging History of Mail-Order Matches. From her Q&A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: Why did you decide to write this book, and what do you see as the most common perceptions and misperceptions about these "mail-order matches"?

A: I wrote the book because it’s at the intersection of my two areas of interest, which I’ve been interested in for a long time—I teach family law and immigration law. This is one of the areas that hits both perfectly. I thought about writing it for a while. There was so much, it wasn’t hard to turn it into a book.

The common view of mail-order brides is that they’re desperate, exploited women, that it’s a horrible practice, and we should work hard to reduce it. That was my perception when I went into it.

One difference is that I recognized there was another view of mail-order brides, and I wondered why we had both, why it was [seen as] good before.

I found that the benefits in the past were real, and a lot were the same as modern mail-order brides receive—that as long as there are protections and regulations, this is a really good option for...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, July 23, 2016

Ben Winters

Ben H. Winters's new novel is Underground Airlines.

From his Q & A with Dimana Tzvetkova for Indianapolis Monthly:

Underground Airlines takes place in present-day Indy. The conceit is that the Civil War never happened, slavery continues in a few states, and Indiana exists as a destination on a latter-day underground railroad. What inspired the idea for the book?

I came into my own as a writer with this series of books called The Last Policeman trilogy. In writing those books, I discovered the kind of writer I wanted to be. That specifically involved writing mystery fiction, and imbuing it with, I guess, thematic resonance. You know, finding interesting ways of tackling a mystery so it’s more than just a puzzle and a solution. And like most progressive and engaged people, I found myself increasingly distressed about the things I was reading in the newspaper. Unfortunately, there continues to be a series of alarming, high-profile incidents of police violence in the African-American community. Those two things came together. The idea was to take the metaphorical idea that slavery is still with us and make it literal.

In what ways do you think we could be doing a better job about confronting racism?

Very often, when people think...[read on]
Learn more about the book and author at the official Ben H. Winters website.

My Book, The Movie: The Last Policeman.

The Page 69 Test: The Last Policeman.

The Page 69 Test: Countdown City.

Writers Read: Ben Winters (September 2014).

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, July 22, 2016

Amy Gottlieb

Amy Gottlieb is the author of The Beautiful Possible: A Novel.

From her Q&A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: How did you come up with the ideas for your characters Walter, Sol, and Rosalie, and for the dynamic that exists among them?

A: The novel began with Walter, a traumatized German-Jewish refugee caught between worlds. I was compelled by his poetic sensibility and plowed through early drafts to uncover his story.

Along the way, I stumbled upon the characters of Sol and Rosalie, who are struggling to make their way as a rabbinic couple in a postwar suburban synagogue.

The character of Rosalie was influenced by my mother and her friends, who were pushing against their traditional roles as suburban Jewish wives and mothers in the 1960's and '70s. I grew up listening to their stories and Rosalie's voice was very familiar to me.

Sol was my most elusive character, but I recognized his situation. For 14 years I worked as an editor for rabbis, and heard many accounts of religious doubt, professional ambivalence, and the inherent dissonance between a spiritual leader’s love of tradition and a community that may not understand that passion.

This is Sol’s plight, yet I had to write many drafts to understand how he loved both Walter and Rosalie. Each character is marked by...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, July 21, 2016

J. Aaron Sanders

J. Aaron Sanders is the author of Speakers of the Dead.

From his Q&A with NANO assistant editor Rebecca Devers:

Rebecca Devers: I want to start by congratulating you on Speakers of the Dead. The reviews are exuberant, and I have to agree that it was a fun read, if one can call a tale of corpses and corruption “fun.” I think what made it fun for me was the way the mystery plot was interwoven with what is clearly a great deal of research about nineteenth century New York City. Could you say a little about the process behind a novel like this one? I guess I’m wondering how you approached the balance of historical accuracy and creative license.

J. Aaron Sanders: I’ve said elsewhere that I researched this novel like I was writing another dissertation, and it’s true. I had that same dissertation feeling that every line needed to be backed up by research. In fact, I started researching Speakers of the Dead at the University of Connecticut when I was writing my dissertation. I spent the mornings on my dissertation and the afternoons on the novel. Half of the shelves in my library office were filled with books on violence in contemporary American male fiction writers and the other half were filled with books on Whitman and 19th-century New York. It took some time for me to wrap my head around the period before I could start writing, and even then, I would discover some detail that inflected my understanding of 1843 New York that I then had to account for in the narrative.

As for the tension between historical accuracy and creative license, that was something I had to get comfortable with. In other words, I was...[read on]
Visit J. Aaron Sanders's website.

The Page 69 Test: Speakers of the Dead.

Writers Read: J. Aaron Sanders.

My Book, The Movie: Speakers of the Dead.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Lindsay Hatton

Lindsay Hatton's new novel is Monterey Bay.

From her Q&A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: Why did you choose the Monterey Bay Aquarium—a place where you worked as a high school student--as one of the focal points of your novel?

A: Like many other people, I think the Monterey Bay Aquarium is magic. But to me, it’s a darkish magic. Many of my most formative and dramatic adolescent moments took place there, so in terms of creative fuel, it’s a very rich setting for me.

Q: Why did you decide to include actual historic figures in the novel, and what do you see as the right balance between the fictional and the historical?

A: I feel like it’s impossible to write about Cannery Row without mentioning Steinbeck. At first, he was a very peripheral character in my book but then, the more I researched him (and I did A LOT of research), the more I realized he’d be an amazing foil for Margot, the novel’s protagonist.

The same is true of Ed Ricketts. His real-life exploits and predilections...[read on]
Visit Lindsay Hatton's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Rachel Starnes

Rachel Starnes's new book is The War at Home: A Wife’s Search for Peace (and Other Missions Impossible): A Memoir.

From her Slate interview with Elissa Strauss:

Elissa Strauss: You’ve moved seven times now, had two sons in the process, and likely have three more moves over the next eight years. How’s that going?

Rachel Starnes: I’ve come to see these moves as a necessary evil. I’ve got my routine down now, and my coping strategies in place. But I still dread the effect it will have on my kids. My older son is 5 years old and he is starting to understand that we never go back. Also, while he has no fear of strangers, he has developed a real fear of being seen as a stranger, and it is just gut-punching to deal with that.

Is there something the military could do to decrease the frequency of relocations for families? Or ease the process?

It’s a tough question. There are certain military careers that require less in the way of moving, but my husband wasn’t interested in those careers; he wanted to fly planes. There is this inscrutable bureaucracy that makes the decisions and calls the shots as to where we move, and the whole process can feel very impersonal. In some ways that is good, because it feels like a machine, not a person, is spitting out the assignment. It’s just a roll of the dice.

There is an infrastructure in place to help ease transitions for children and spouses, but it varies in quality from base to base. Still, it’s difficult, which is probably why the homeschool movement is so big in the military. At first I was suspicious of it and how these children are even further separated from civilian culture. But...[read on]
Visit Rachel Starnes's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, July 18, 2016

Sara Blaedel

Sara Blædel’s latest novel in the US is The Killing Forest.

From her Q&A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: The theme of living in a small town runs throughout the book. What about small towns lend themselves to a good mystery plot? What about larger cities?

A: Both small and large cities can support great plotting, but what I really wanted for this story, as well as for The Forgotten Girls, was to return Louise Rick to her background.

She grew up in the exact same neighborhood and house as I did. We went to the same schools and participated in the very same sporting events.

So I know exactly what I am talking about when I say that young people who grew up Hvalsø all knew each other, and have a clear sense of the similarities, differences and nuances that connect and divide them.

The sense of intimacy can lead to excuses offered for questionable behavior: You know him, he doesn’t mean any harm; he just...[read on]
Visit Sara Blaedel's website.

Writers Read: Sara Blaedel.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Robert P. Jones

Robert P. Jones is the founding CEO of the Public Religion Research Institute. His new book is The End Of White Christian America. From his interview with NPR's Linda Wertheimer:

WERTHEIMER: You wrote an op-ed piece for The New York Times which basically grows out of this book. And in it, you ask the question, how have white evangelicals values voters become such big supporters of Donald Trump? I mean, this is a man who has married three times, who owns gambling businesses. He would not appear to be their kind of guy. What is the answer to that question?

JONES: (Laughter) You know, this has been, I think, one of the questions, if not the question, of the election campaign so far. Trump has essentially appealed to this group, not on the basis of values but on the basis of his willingness to, quote, unquote, "make America great again," right? And the most important piece of that is that last word, again, this harkening back. So Mr. Trump saw this early on.

Back in Iowa, when he was campaigning at the very beginning of the primary seasons, he made a speech at an evangelical college in Iowa and he said, I'm going to restore power to the Christian churches. We're not going to be saying Happy Holidays. We're going to be saying Merry Christmas again in this country. And it is this kind of direct appeal, and I think it's the power of that that really let him get leverage over Ted Cruz, right?

So Ted Cruz should have been the evangelicals' candidate by so many measures. He's southern Baptist himself, his father's a Baptist preacher. But yet I think the difference that people saw, ultimately, was that Ted Cruz was promising to carve out exemptions for evangelicals to the new realities while Donald Trump was promising to restore them to power. You know, Ted Cruz was trying to say, I'm going to find us a respectable retreat strategy, while Donald Trump was saying, no, I'm going to...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, July 16, 2016

Megan Abbott

Megan Abbott's new novel is You Will Know Me.

From her Q&A with E.A. Aymar of The Thrill Begins:

What brought on the move to your focus on teenage women as characters in your recent books? And why does it seem that elements of noir fits so well with those young women? I know you addressed this in regards to high school, but I’m curious about the particular application to females.

If I’m honest, it’s never been strategic. It’s more about following my interests and also trying to avoid well-trod terrain, to stake out newer territory within noir. For instance, my new book, YOU WILL KNOW ME, is about a woman whose daughter is a prodigy. It’s a lot about how a marriage functions when both the husband and wife are so deeply invested in their child. The families of prodigies are very compelling. How power operates in families in general fascinates me. And how it works among women, how it’s similar to, and different from, men. Noir is always about power and desire and to me they’re the engines of story. I guess it’s because I first learned story from...[read on]
Learn more about the book and author at Megan Abbott's website.

My Book, The Movie: The Fever.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, July 15, 2016

Charlie Mitchell

Charlie Mitchell's new book is Hacked: The Inside Story of America's Struggle to Secure Cyberspace. From his Q&A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: You write of cybersecurity, "Is it a military or law enforcement problem? Is it industry's responsibility to secure cyberspace, or is it government's? The answers easily fall into the 'all of the above' category." What are some of the most common perceptions and misperceptions about the cybersecurity problems facing the U.S. today?

A: There is a common perception that "someone else" is taking care of the problem, whether that's the government, big business or ... someone.

But this is an "all-hands" issue, extending into every household. People need to practice good cyber hygiene: strong passwords, changed frequently; not opening links blindly, etc.

Businesses need to employ "best practices" developed by industry groups and available for little or no cost.

And government needs to better explain expectations, including what it can and will do, and what it can't and won't do.

For instance, to this day no one knows how the U.S. government characterizes cyber attacks launched by foreign governments or associated entities. Are these acts of war? If so, can businesses be expected to bear the costs of defending against them?

It's an open debate and we are...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Midge Raymond

Midge Raymond's new novel is My Last Continent. From her Q&A with Graeme Simsion, author of The Rosie Project and The Rosie Effect:

What inspired My Last Continent?

When I visited Antarctica more than a decade ago, two things in particular stuck with me. One was the concern of the shipboard naturalists about the larger cruise ships that were beginning to visit the region. We were on a small expedition ship of around one hundred passengers; ships carrying thousands of passengers were venturing farther and farther south, which was troubling to them because if something were to happen to one of those ships, rescuers could be days away—and, given the extreme weather conditions and the distance from hospitals, this is an incredible risk. So I began to wonder what a catastrophic shipwreck in this region would look like.

The other thing that stuck with me was seeing a fellow passenger fall on the ice near a penguin colony. He was fine, fortunately, but seeing this happen reinforced the notion that, at the bottom of the world, you are at the mercy of the conditions and of the few people who are with you.

And of course, Antarctica is...[read on]
Visit Midge Raymond's website.

The Page 69 Test: My Last Continent.

Writers Read: Midge Raymond.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni

Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni's new novel is Before We Visit the Goddess.

From her Q&A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: Your new novel focuses on three generations of women. Why did you decide on that dynamic?

A: Before We Visit the Goddess looks at the connections and disconnections among three generations – that was important to me because I wanted to follow the dynamics of a family over a significant period of time and through differences in geography and culture to see what sustains us, and what poses challenges. Three seemed the right number.

Q: The book’s chapters jump around in time. Did you plan the structure before you started writing, or did you make many changes along the way?

A: I had always planned that this would be a non-chronological structure. It was a new challenge I wanted to set myself. I knew I wanted this novel to be organized around emotionally resonant moments and transformative moments in...[read on]
Learn more about the book and author at Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni's website.

The Page 69 Test: Oleander Girl.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Dana Cann

Dana Cann's new novel is Ghosts of Bergen County.

From his Q&A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: How did you come up with the idea for Ghosts of Bergen County and for your characters Gil Ferko, Jen, and Mary Beth?

A: I have vivid dreams, and the initial impetus for this novel came from a dream where a friend and I take heroin, shoplift in a mall, and are chased by store security. There’s a scene about a quarter of the way through the novel where all of these things happen to two of the characters.

Separately and consciously, I’d been thinking for some time about a hit-and-run accident, and this became the novel’s main plot thread. It took a few false starts to discover Gil Ferko, my protagonist, a private-equity misfit, but once I had him the other characters fell into place.

Q: You switch perspectives from one character to another. Did you prefer one character’s viewpoint to the others as you were writing?

A: Decisions regarding point of view are...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, July 11, 2016

Jessica Anya Blau

Jessica Anya Blau's books include The Summer of Naked Swim Parties, Drinking Closer to Home, and The Wonder Bread Summer.

Her new novel is The Trouble with Lexie.

From Blau's Q&A with Caroline Leavitt:

What is it about prep schools that somehow intensifies everything that possibly could happen in our lives?

Maybe it’s that when you take people out of the routines of home, family, parents and neighbors, they open up in a way they don’t usually. People reinvent themselves, recreate themselves and let loose when they’re away from home. You see this sort of group intensity/lunacy in adults when they go to conferences and writing colonies. They work hard, but they also play very hard—everything’s more charged up, your senses are sharper, you’re more engaged in what’s going on around you. Then, if you take that hyper-awareness, that openness, and couple it with hormones, exploration and close living quarters, there’s more drama than can fill a library of books.

Tell us about the writing of this particular book (I always think that each book is a whole different process.) What was different for you here?

Every book terrifies me. I can be overwhelmed with insecurities doubts, second-guesses. I have to continually talk myself into the work—remind myself that the process is what matters. I find great relief in...[read on]
Learn more about the book and author at Jessica Anya Blau's website, Facebook page, and Twitter perch.

Coffee with a Canine: Jessica Anya Blau and Pippa.

The Page 69 Test: The Wonder Bread Summer.

My Book, The Movie: The Wonder Bread Summer.

The Page 69 Test: The Trouble with Lexie.

My Book, The Movie: The Trouble with Lexie.

Writers Read: Jessica Anya Blau.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, July 10, 2016

Janine Joseph

Janine Joseph is the author of the new poetry collection, Driving Without a License.

From her Q&A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: Some of the poems include quotations from politicians, newspaper articles and immigration documents. Why did you decide to include those, and how did you select the material you included?

A: During my senior year of high school, when I found out that I was undocumented, I began scouring places like the Los Angeles Times for articles about immigration and the experiences of other undocumented immigrants in America.

I was looking for community, for a solution. In a way, I was also learning about who I “was” in the eyes and of America—and, to some degree, had internalized this new identity and narrative.

I clipped and saved every article in a hot pink, plastic folder, but I rarely ever had to return to them when writing the poems in Driving without a License. I was writing about my life, after all, and not using the gathered material as research for an imagined character.

The quotations from politicians, newspaper articles, and immigration documents, among others had become a part of me—of the language and dominant narrative that I was...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, July 9, 2016

Mohsin Hamid

Mohsin Hamid is the author of the novels Moth Smoke, The Reluctant Fundamentalist, and How to Get Filthy Rich in Rising Asia. His fiction has been translated into over 30 languages, shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize, featured on bestseller lists, and adapted for the cinema. His short stories have appeared in The New Yorker, Granta, and the Paris Review, and his essays in the Guardian, the New York Times, and the New York Review of Books. Born in 1971, he has lived about half his life, on and off, in Lahore. He also spent part of his early childhood in California, attended Princeton and Harvard, and worked for a decade as a management consultant in New York and London, mostly part-time.

From Hamid's Q&A with Rumnique Nannar for Nineteen Questions:

How did you start or decide to become a writer?

As a little kid, I was a big reader. I probably started with comic books and children’s stories, and then kept reading throughout my childhood and teens. I’m also quite a fantasist, so I would imagine countries and I loved atlases. I used to imagine little countries where no countries existed, and I was into Dungeons and Dragons as a kid (laughs). All of these things, in a way, were a real absorption into storytelling. When I went to university in the States, Princeton had a wonderful creative writing program with Joyce Carol Oates and Toni Morrison. I remember applying for one of the first creative writing workshops and getting in, and starting to write stories for them. Very quickly I realized that this was what I loved to do. So it was in university for the first time that I thought, I would like to be a professional writer.

You’ve talked about Haruki Murakami’s quote, “Writing a long novel is like survival training. Physical strength is as necessary as artistic sensitivity.” How important was walking during your process?

One of the skills that a writer needs to cultivate is...[read on]
Visit Mohsin Hamid's website and Facebook page.

Mohsin Hamid's most influential book.

Mohsin Hamid's 10 favorite books.

The Page 69 Test: The Reluctant Fundamentalist.

Writers Read: Mohsin Hamid.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, July 8, 2016

Mary-Louise Parker

Mary-Louise Parker is the author of Dear Mr. You, a collection of letters to the men in her life. She is also a Tony-, Emmy-, Obie-, and Golden Globe–winning actor, and has appeared on screen in Weeds, The West Wing, and Angels in America, and onstage in Proof. From her Q&A with Margo Rabb at Slate:

One deeply moving aspect of your book is how you write about the loss of your father. The last letter in the book, “Dear Oyster Picker,” is written to the anonymous man who picked the oysters for your father’s last meal. How did that letter evolve?

I think that last letter is the point of the whole book. It’s about a man I’ve never met, yet I felt so grateful toward him. I started reading all these facts about oyster pickers, and I had no idea what they go through. It wasn’t just a literary device—I really do envision this person, and the fantasy of him helped me make sense of life a little bit. The metaphor is that we’re all somehow working for each other in tiny ways, without knowing it.

Motherhood is a significant part of your book as well. You write that after having children, “Romantic love felt silly by comparison.” How did becoming a mother change you?

I wanted to be a mother my whole life, and there are so many fantasies of motherhood I’ve had that have come true—filling...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, July 7, 2016

Thelma Adams

Thelma Adams's new novel is The Last Woman Standing: A Novel of Mrs. Wyatt Earp.

From her Q & A with Caroline Leavitt:

What could be more fascinating than a novel about Mrs. Wyatt Earp? What sparked you to write this extraordinary novel?

A novel can have many origin stories. I saw -- somewhere, somehow, nearly a decade ago -- that Wyatt Earp was buried in a Jewish cemetery (a word I can never spell) in Colma, California. I became obsessed. Was Earp Jewish? No. So why would the famed gunslinger, the hero (or villain) of the Gunfight at the OK Corral be buried in a Jewish cemetery?

The answer was Earp's wife of nearly fifty years: Josephine Sarah Marcus Earp called Josie by some, Sadie by her family. That was the beginning. Here was a knot that I needed to untangle, a question of Jewish identity that intrigued me.

First and foremost I wanted to know who the hell Josie was. Who was this beauty who turned up on a few pages in the many, many books that praised or reviled Wyatt in that 'the man, the myth, the legend' way. Josie did write a memoir that was edited by her descendants, I Married Wyatt Earp. It exists in multiple formats, some truer than others. But all versions are to a certain extent opaque, so far from contemporary memoirs that scratch down to the sticky embarrassing truth like Running with Scissors or Wild.

One goal of Mrs. Earp's memoir was always to restore Wyatt's good name, and by extension Josie's place beside him. Because, in the conventional history of gunfights and border skirmishes, law and order, Republican and Democrat, she only existed at his side on the frontier. And, then, she's often portrayed as a floozy, an actress or dancer, a beautiful opportunist, an exotic, a Jewess. As a historian out of Berkeley, I knew that there were many alternate histories, and the history of women and the poor are not marked by battles won or lost. A social historian has to dig deeper and read between the records in order to discover what these forgotten people were about. Once I heard about Josie, I wanted to dig deeper and discover what made her tick.

One thing I wanted to know was...[read on]
Learn more about the book and author at Thelma Adams' website.

The Page 69 Test: Playdate.

My Book, The Movie: Playdate.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Michael Livingston

Michael Livingston is the author of The Shards of Heaven. From his Q&A at The Qwillery:

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

Michael: My tastes in literature are really quite diverse, from medieval writers like Chaucer to modern writers like Brandon Sanderson. On my shelf you'll find J.R.R. Tolkien next to Tennyson, Dan Simmons next to Shakespeare, and Parke Godwin next to Gilgamesh. I try to learn something from every author I've read.

TQ: Describe The Shards of Heaven in 140 characters or less.

Michael: It is history and fantasy colliding at the rise of the Roman Empire as Caesar's children fight to control the artifacts of gods old and new.

TQ: Tell us something about The Shards of Heaven that is not found in the book description.

Michael: At its core, this novel is about fashioning a reality from the fog of mythology. I have long been fascinated by the similarities between various legends of the ancient world, and so I tried to find a hidden thread that would bind them all together into a historical adventure that's part Indiana Jones and part Game of Thrones.

As an added bonus...[read on]
My Book, The Movie: The Shards of Heaven.

The Page 69 Test: The Shards of Heaven.

Writers Read: Michael Livingston.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Lawrence M. Schoen

Lawrence M. Schoen holds a Ph.D. in cognitive psychology and psycholinguistics. He’s also one of the world’s foremost authorities on the Klingon language, and the publisher of a speculative fiction small press, Paper Golem. He’s been a finalist for the John W. Campbell Award, the Hugo Award, and the Nebula Award. Schoen lives near Philadelphia.

His newest novel is Barsk: The Elephants' Graveyard.

From Schoen's Q&A with Jamie Greene at GeekDad:

GeekDad: You have a Ph.D. in cognitive psychology and psycholinguistics, and you use that background (maybe sometimes unconsciously) to flesh out your characters and fully develop the worlds you create. When it comes to your writing and your academic training, how much does each inform the other? Do they ever conflict?

LS: They’re so intertwined by now it’s hard to see where one ends and the other begins. There’s no conflict because understanding a psychological principle gives insight into the language I use, and the words and style and prosody that I choose in my writing are enhanced by a greater knowledge of how and why such things work as they do.

GeekDad: The bit of your author bio that really jumps out is not your doctorate but that you’re “one of the world’s foremost authorities on the Klingon language.” So I have to ask: have you read Shakespeare in the original Klingon?

LS: Not just read it, but published it! One of the things I’m proudest of in my more than two decades leading the Klingon Language Institute is...[read on]
Visit Lawrence M. Schoen's website and Twitter perch.

Writers Read: Lawrence M. Schoen.

Coffee with a Canine: Lawrence M. Schoen & Gej.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, July 4, 2016

Jo Perry

Jo Perry earned a Ph.D. in English, taught college literature and writing, produced and wrote episodic television, and has published articles, book reviews, and poetry. She lives in Los Angeles with her husband, novelist Thomas Perry. They have two adult children. Their three cats and two dogs are rescues.

Perry is the author of the novels  Dead Is Better and Dead is Best.

From her Q & A with Sarah Hardy:

Hi Jo and many thanks for joining me on my blog today. The Charlie & Rose Investigate series, where did the idea come from?

Hi to you, Sarah. It’s a pleasure to be with you today.

As for the source of Charlie and Rose, I wish I knew what it was. When I began the first book, Dead Is Better, I heard Charlie’s voice in my head, had a strong feeling for Rose and an intuition of where the plot would go. I had been thinking about death, about cruelty, had found a dog who changed me, and then after a long period of subconscious percolating, I felt compelled to write and the novel took shape.

You start each chapter with a quote about death, where did you find all the quotes and how long did you spend choosing and finding them?

There are two reasons for the quotations that open each chapter: First, to enlarge the mediation on death beyond Charlie. Second, they give the reader a break from Charlie’s voice and his point of view. A first-person narrative can become claustrophobic and I don’t want that. As for finding them, often they find me or I do searches and save the ones I think are pertinent, clever, wise, sardonic, or provocative or are from writers I admire. If anyone has a favourite death quote...[read on]
Visit Jo Perry's website.

Coffee with a Canine: Jo Perry & Lola and Lucy.

My Book, The Movie: Dead is Better.

The Page 69 Test: Dead is Better.

My Book, The Movie: Dead is Best.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, July 3, 2016

Geoffrey Kabaservice

Geoffrey Kabaservice is the author of Rule and Ruin: The Downfall of Moderation and the Destruction of the Republican Party, From Eisenhower to the Tea Party.

From his Q & A with Isaac Chotiner at Slate:

How has Trump’s takeover of the party changed the way you think about the GOP, assuming you did not predict this, because nobody did?

Yeah, I certainly was not Nostradamus. On the other hand, there are some parallels to the party’s history. The parallel a lot of people have been mentioning is Barry Goldwater in 1964. Goldwater’s seizure of the nomination was as unexpected back in those days as Trump’s was this year. Part of the reason is that Goldwater’s conservatism was not seen as the dominant strain in the party. It frankly had seemed to be an isolated or perhaps even marginal aspect of Republicanism.

I think you are right that Trump is as ideologically surprising as Goldwater, but he seems more surprising in terms of personality and background. Goldwater was a senator; Trump’s personality seems more shocking.

Yes and no. Think back to 1964.

I can’t think back that far, but go on.

Yes, of course, well, neither of us can. Just as Goldwater was poised to win the nomination after he defeated Nelson Rockefeller in the California primary, he voted against the Civil Rights Act. In so doing, he really took away the glory the party deserved for supporting the act. Republicans had voted for it in greater numbers than Democrats had. [Editor’s note: Because of their congressional majority, more Democrats than Republicans voted for the Civil Rights Act, but a higher percentage of Republicans did so.]* Goldwater, having done that, given that he was the party’s presumptive nominee, really threatened to change the identity of the party. And that was in some ways how it played out. Although Eisenhower had received something like 40 percent of the black vote in 1956, and even Richard Nixon had received a third in 1960, with Goldwater it plummeted to 4 to 6 percent...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, July 2, 2016

Shawna Yang Ryan

Shawna Yang Ryan's latest novel is Green Island.

From her Q & A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: How did you come up with the idea for your main character and her family, and why is she an unnamed narrator?

A: I struggled through multiple drafts with different narrative voices. Ultimately, I narrowed down the time frame for the book, and then it was easier to envision a character who could move through that time period.

For a long time, I was set on having a more male-centric book, but I found the father-daughter relationship very poignant, especially from the POV of a woman yearning for a better relationship with her father.

I was so consumed inside her head, I didn’t feel that I could go outside her and give her a name, some way that others identify her. And then when the book was done, I’d known her so long this way that no name seemed right. I also like the metaphorical resonances with being unnamed and Taiwan’s own issues over...[read on]
Learn more about the book and author at Shawna Yang Ryan's website.

The Page 69 Test: Water Ghosts.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, July 1, 2016

Simone Zelitch

Simone Zelitch's new novel is Judenstaat.

From her Q & A at The Qwillery:
TQ: What has influenced / influences your writing?

Simone: My own life and travels influence me, and too many authors to name, but in the case of Judenstaat, I need to give the big shout-out to George Orwell and in the case of everything else, James Baldwin, Leo Tolstoy, and Ursula K. Le Guin.

TQ: Describe Judenstaat in 140 characters or less.

Simone: This one was given to me by SF author Terry Bisson:

A widow stalks her husband’s assassin in a Jewish state carved out of Germany in 1948.

TQ: Tell us something about Judenstaat that is not found in the book description.

Simone: There’s a Stasi agent in it, and a very sweet and dogged Jewish mother. Also, it’s Nineteen-Eighty Four fan fiction not only thematically, but structurally. I even stole...[read on]
Visit Simone Zelitch's website.

--Marshal Zeringue