Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Robert Wilder

Robert Wilder is the author of a novel, Nickel, and two critically acclaimed essay collections, Tales From The Teachers’ Lounge and Daddy Needs A Drink, both optioned for television and film.

A teacher for twenty-five years, Wilder has earned numerous awards and fellowships, including the inaugural Innovations in Reading Prize by the National Book Foundation. He has published essays in Newsweek, Details, Salon, Parenting, Creative Nonfiction, plus numerous anthologies and has been a commentator for NPR’s Morning Edition.

From the author's Q&A with S. Jordan at Cease, Cows:

Q: Why did you title the book Nickel?

Without giving anything away, the novel is centered around a teenager’s best friend getting a mysterious illness and nickel (the metal) may have something to do with it. But I also thought about how something like nickel (the coin) can be so hard and yet have a certain beauty and value. In my years of teaching, I’ve seen how teenagers can seem so hard or tough, but there’s always something valuable about them and something they value if they dig deep enough.

Q: Describe the relationship between Coy and Monroe, the novel’s two main characters.

Coy and Monroe are the oddballs or misfits in a large public school. They band together to survive and develop a tight friendship based on similar tastes in music and pop culture, as well as a recognition of how the other suffers. They also develop their own vernacular—a type of code only the two of them understand. Even though their code can be funny or seem harsh, it’s a way of trying to protect themselves, process hardship, and understand a difficult (and beautiful) world.

Q: Coy and Monroe are fans of the 1980’s, and the novel is packed with pop culture references. What about the Eighties resonates so strongly with these teens?

I’ve seen...[read on]
Visit Robert Wilder's website and Facebook page.

The Page 99 Test: Daddy Needs A Drink.

My Book, The Movie: Nickel.

Writers Read: Robert Wilder.

The Page 69 Test: Nickel.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, February 27, 2017

Gavriel Savit

Gavriel Savit is the author of the young adult novel Anna and the Swallow Man. From his Q&A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: You've described your novel as a fairy tale, but added that your relationship with fairy tales is "complicated." How would you say Anna and the Swallow Man fits into the fairy tale tradition, and what do you find especially complicated about the relationship?

A: In some important ways, I think our fairy tales are the truest stories we allow ourselves to tell. This is probably because we assume that fairy tales are patently false.

It is, of course, a bit nerve-wracking to write a fairy tale about the Second World War for that reason-- despite the strength of the historical record, it seems that there are all sorts of crazy people invested in dismantling it, and one certainly doesn't want to be implicated in that.

On the other hand, I think it’s important to draw a distinction between truth and fact. Fairy tales are good at truth precisely because they dispense with fact, and without juggling these two perspectives on reality (internal and external respectively), we lose a lot of...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, February 26, 2017

Sally J. Pla

Sally J. Pla's new novel is The Someday Birds.

From her Q&A with Beth McMullen:

Birds and birding are central to this novel. Are you a bird watcher?

When I was a kid, yes. I was an amateur birder. I took it very seriously. I had a bird book, and a notebook for my observations.

My dad mocked me once, when I was tramping around the backyard. He said, “Oh, look! A yellow-bellied sapsucker!” He didn’t know anything about birds or birding, and he thought it was just some funny made-up name to tease me with.

I got super excited. I whispered, “Where? Where?” looking all around — and then he laughed at me.

That crushed me, because there really was such a thing as a yellow-bellied sapsucker, gosh darn it! It wasn’t a made-up bird at all! I showed it to him in my bird book, later on.

But you know, that was one of those childhood tipping-point “moments,” somehow. The moment I first felt really self-conscious. When I realized the intensity of my interests might make me different, different enough to warrant being mocked. Even by my own dad.

My dad is very loving, and he still feels regretful about that incident. In fact, he donated to the Audubon Society last year, because the sapsucker is now endangered. An act of yellow-bellied penance, to make me smile. Because the yellow-bellied sapsucker has been this running thing between us, for about forty years, now!

I know all that plays into...[read on]
Visit Sally J. Pla's website.

Coffee with a Canine: Sally J. Pla & Leo.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, February 25, 2017

Marilyn Singer

Marilyn Singer's many books for children include Echo Echo, Mirror Mirror, Follow Follow, and the forthcoming Feel the Beat. From her Q&A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: Echo Echo is the third of your books of reverso poems. How did you come up with the idea originally, and why did you choose to focus on Greek myths this time?

A: For readers who haven’t encountered it, the reverso is a poem with two halves. The second half reverses the lines of the first half, with changes only in punctuation and capitalization. That second part has to say something completely different from the first.

Reversos work particularly well based on narratives and as such fall into three categories which feature either: 1) one character with two POVs; 2) one character at two points in time; 3) two characters, usually with opposing POVs.

My first two books of reversos were based on fairy tales, which have strong stories, so I could make them fit into one of the above categories. Greek myths also have multi-layered narratives, and they are taught in school. In addition, I’ve always loved them, and so do most students. It was a natural extension to go from fairy tales to...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, February 24, 2017

Glenn Frankel

Glenn Frankel's new book is High Noon: The Hollywood Blacklist and the Making of an American Classic.

From the transcript of his Fresh Air interview with Terry Gross:

GROSS: "High Noon" was released in 1952. Carl Foreman, the screenwriter, who's the main character in your book, initially intended to make a western that would be a parable about the post-World War II world and the importance of the United Nations. But after the blacklist started, he decided to make "High Noon" a parable about the blacklisting era. So in what sense do you see and do - did he see "High Noon" as a parable about that era?

FRANKEL: Well, Carl talked about this later. Of course, he didn't say anything about it at the time...

GROSS: No, of course, yeah.

FRANKEL: ...Because it would have been dangerous to the movie. But I think you basically see it in the way he treats the community. This is set in the fictional place called Hadleyville, which sounds a lot like Hollywood. And what Carl - what the good citizens of Hadleyville do when faced with the threat coming on the train - you know, this bad guy who used to run the town is coming back and he's got three thugs waiting for him. And they're going to seek out and kill the marshal, the lawman, who had resisted them and put him in jail years earlier.

The lawman, Will Kane is his name in the film, played by Gary Cooper, thinks he can rely on the community the same way he did originally when they imprisoned these guys to support him. But he finds - and the core of the movie is him going around from place to place and person to person and to the church during a service and finding that the community is not backing him. There's a sort of moral corruption going on. There's a cowardice.

And he ends up standing alone. And that's exactly, I think, the point that Carl was trying to make, that Hollywood, when faced with these gunmen, thugs, whatever you want to call them of the committee coming back to Hollywood, didn't stand up. He found himself being shunned, friends crossed the street to avoid talking to him, his partners in the little film production company that created "High Noon" - and that was a very creative and interesting little group of people led by Stanley Kramer. He found himself suddenly facing a challenge from them. At first, they were very supportive.

But as time went on and Carl faced...[read on]
Visit Glenn Frankel's website.

My Book, The Movie: The Searchers.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Emily Jeanne Miller

Emily Jeanne Miller's new novel is The News From the End of the World.

From her Q&A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: How did you come up with the idea for the family you write about in The News From the End of the World, the Lake family, and for this novel?

A: For me, a novel comes from so many different places. In 2010 I became an aunt to twin boys—my sister’s kids. We’re twins. I didn’t have kids then and I adored [my nephews]. I had an uncomplicated love for them. Seeing my sister being a parent, [I saw] how much less complicated it is to be an aunt! I had never read about an uncle or aunt. It started as Vance’s story and the niece he adored. He was butting heads with his brother over his niece.

Q: So it started just with Vance’s point of view?

A: Yes, I think it got about...[read on]
Visit Emily Jeanne Miller's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

V.E. Schwab

V.E. Schwab’s new book is A Conjuring of Light, the concluding volume of her Shades of Magic trilogy. From her interview with Ardi Alspach at the B&N Sci-Fi & Fantasy blog:

Fantasy is often a way for a writer to illuminate a truth in our world–what truths are you hoping to illuminate with your writing?

Way to kick it off with a hard question, huh? I don’t ever sit down with a truth in mind. I usually learn it along the way. But I suppose one of the threads in my work is the idea that, more often than not, the world doesn’t hand you a path, you have to be willing to carve your own.

I’ve been to a few of your book events, and one of the topics that’s come up is the theme of all of your work—the idea of the monstrous. Can you tell our readers a little bit more about that?

Well, I’m fascinated by the idea of the monstrous, yes, but digging down, what really intrigues me is simply the other. The outsider. At the heart of every one of my stories are two kinds of outsides–those born into a society who don’t feel they fit, and those who enter a society and are told they don’t fit. I love the differences and similarities, the interplay between people and place, and the inherent tension that...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Camille Pagán

Camille Pagán's new novel is Forever is the Worst Long Time. From her Q&A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: You've noted that the idea for your new novel started with a single line. How did you eventually come up with your characters, James, Lou, and Rob?

A: James was with me from the very first page; I had his voice in my head as I began to write, and I channeled what I thought he would say and do, which then shaped the plot.

Rob was a natural extension of James. I thought: who would be James’ closest friend—and why? It seemed that James would be drawn to someone who was steady and represented stability, which James was lacking. And that person was Rob.

Creating Lou was a more complex process. I knew that James would make the (arguably unavoidable) mistake of falling for Rob’s fiancée, and that they would bond over writing. But it took several drafts for me to understand Lou’s own struggle with stability and trauma from her past.

Q: How was the book's title chosen, and what does it signify for you?

A: I had originally titled this novel...[read on]
Visit Camille Pagán's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, February 20, 2017

Kenneth Robert Janken

Kenneth Robert Janken is the author of The Wilmington Ten: Violence, Injustice, and the Rise of Black Politics in the 1970s. From his Q&A Hannah Lohr-Pearson at the UNC Press blog:

Hannah Lohr-Pearson: Who are the Wilmington Ten and why are they important?

Kenneth Robert Janken: The Wilmington Ten were Ben Chavis, Reginald Epps, Jerry Jacobs, James McKoy, Wayne Moore, Marvin Patrick, Ann Shepard, Connie Tindall, Willie Earl Vereen, and Joe Wright. They were nine black men in their teens and early twenties, many of them still in high school, and a white woman in her thirties, who participated in conflict and protests over the desegregation of the public schools in Wilmington, North Carolina, and were punished with the full force of the law for standing against discrimination. The case of the Wilmington Ten amounts to one of the most egregious instances of injustice and political repression from the post–World War II black freedom struggle. It took legions of people working over the course of the 1970s to right the wrong. Like the political killings of George Jackson and Fred Hampton, the legal frame-up of Angela Davis, and the suppression of the Attica Prison rebellion, the Wilmington Ten was a high-profile attempt by federal and North Carolina authorities to stanch the increasingly radical African American freedom movement. The facts of the callous, corrupt, and abusive prosecution of the Wilmington Ten have lost none of their power to shock more than forty years after the fact, even given today’s epidemic of prosecutorial misconduct. Less understood, but just as important, the efforts to free the Wilmington Ten helped define an important moment in African American politics in which...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Sari Wilson

Sari Wilson is the author of the novel Girl Through Glass. From her Q&A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: Are there any novels about dance that are particular favorites for you?

Astonish Me by Maggie Shipstead is so good and so well-crafted, kaleidoscopic. The Crane’s Dance by Meg Howrey, who was a professional dancer, is wry and moving, and has a real insider’s perspective.

I also really loved Dancer by Colum McCann, which uses the life of Rudolph Nureyev as base for all kinds of exploration into post-World War II Cold War history. I recently read Terez Mertes Rose’s new novel Outside the Limelight and loved its heart and craft. Outside the Limelight got an indie choice in Kirkus. I also have Zadie Smith’s Swing Time on my night table.

Q: How did you come up with the idea for this novel?

A: Well, I started out trying to write a memoir about my childhood ballet experience. Ballet was my great young love. After I stopped training that whole part of my life became locked in a very private place.

One day, I sat down and wrote what is now the entire first part of the novel—and then I cried. So I knew I had something. But...[read on]
Visit Sari Wilson's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Elif Shafak

Elif Shafak is an award-winning novelist and the most widely read woman writer in Turkey. Her books have been translated into more than twenty languages.

From her Q&A with Kate Kellaway at the Guardian:

You were born in Strasbourg, raised by a single mother – how did this affect you?

It had a huge impact. I didn’t see my father much. I met my two half-brothers in my mid-20s. I had to deal with being the other child. My father was a very good father to his sons but a very bad father to me. It took me a long time to accept that someone could succeed in many areas and fail in one. When my mother went back to college, my grandmother raised me. I called her Anne – mother in Turkish – and my own mother Abla, big sister.

And your mother became a diplomat…

This was unusual but she had studied hard, she was a linguist. She never married again. And she was able to do this because my less-educated grandmother supported her.

When did you realise you would become a novelist?

I started writing early because I was a lonely child. My life was boring, the world I created much more colourful. I’m aware of the pull of story land. Stefan Zweig writes about the urge to retreat into writing when the world is going crazy. I understand that but...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, February 17, 2017

Lucinda Rosenfeld

Lucinda Rosenfeld's new novel is Class. From her Q&A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: How did you come up with the idea for Class and for your main character, Karen?

A: The book was very much inspired and informed by my experience, first, exploring the public school system in Brooklyn, New York, where I live, in search of a kindergarten for my older daughter to attend; and, second, being a parent for the past six years in a mixed-race, mixed-income public school in a gentrifying--or, really, already gentrified--neighborhood.

Which is not to say that Class is an autobiographical work. But my angst and irritation over what I found to be a very inequitable school system--combined with an otherwise socially conscious parent population that seemed strangely apathetic about those inequities--definitely led me into the project.

I wanted Karen to stand in for the many well meaning, white, avowedly liberal mothers out there who, despite their belief systems, tend to act on fear when it comes to their own children.

But by making Karen Kipple a do-gooder by trade--she raises money for a hunger relief charity--I upped the ante slightly, since this is a woman who has devoted her life to helping those less fortunate than herself. Yet when it comes to her own daughter, Ruby, she can’t...[read on]
My Book, The Movie: The Pretty One.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Eric H. Cline

Eric H. Cline is the author of Three Stones Make a Wall: The Story of Archaeology. From his Q&A with Debra Liese for the Princeton University Press blog:

When did you become interested in archaeology? What inspired you to become an archaeologist?

EC: As I say at the beginning of this book, when I was seven years old my mother gave me a biography written for children called The Walls of Windy Troy. It was about Heinrich Schliemann, the man who discovered ancient Troy. After reading it, I announced that I was going to become an archaeologist. When I graduated from college with a degree in Classical Archaeology, my mother gave me the same book again.

How many digs have you been on and where?

EC: I’ve been going on digs since I was a sophomore in college. So far I’ve participated in more than thirty seasons of archaeological excavations and surveys, mostly in Greece and the Middle East, including Egypt, Jordan, and Israel. Most of them were at places that nobody but archaeologists have ever heard of, like Ayios Dhimitrios in Cyprus and Palaiokastro in Crete, which are both Bronze Age sites dating back to the second millennium BCE, but ten of those seasons were spent digging at Megiddo in Israel, which people have heard of because it is biblical Armageddon. I’ve also dug a bit in...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Ellen Umansky

Ellen Umansky's new novel is The Fortunate Ones.

From her Q&A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: Why did you decide to center your novel around a painting by the artist Chaim Soutine, and what do you think the book says about the importance of art?

A: Years ago, a friend asked me to go to an exhibit of Soutine’s paintings at the Jewish Museum with him. I had never heard of Soutine before, and truthfully, I was much more interested in the brunch that my friend promised me afterward.

But I went and I was floored. Soutine is rightly famous for his landscapes and his still lifes but I found his portraits mesmerizing. There was something about the way he captured the humanity of his subjects--people who were often overlooked, like cooks, waiters, or in my novel, a bellhop--that was deeply moving to me.

The exhibit delved into his biography too: he was born dirt-poor, the 10th of 11 children in a tiny Jewish Lithuanian village, and somehow made his way to Paris, where he worked as an artist. When the Nazis took over, he fled to the countryside, and he died during the war.

He was by many accounts difficult and awkward, a perennial outsider, like many of the people he painted. That awkwardness and longing is readily apparent in his art, and I was drawn to it. I found myself looking and wondering, what it would be like to look at one of his paintings for years on end? What could it mean to someone?

As to the second half of your question: I come to art as a novice, but I’m really interested in...[read on]
Visit Ellen Umansky's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Garry Kasparov

Garry Kasparov is a Russian pro-democracy leader, global human-rights activist, business speaker and author, and former world chess champion. His books include Winter Is Coming: Why Vladimir Putin and the Enemies of the Free World Must Be Stopped.

From Kasparov's Q&A with Alexander Bisley at Vox.com:

Alexander Bisley: “For somebody who was inconsistent in almost everything, being so consistent in defending Putin raises my suspicions,” you said last time we spoke. Now Rex Tillerson, who is a big business partner of Putin’s, as secretary of state?

Garry Kasparov: I still want to know who suggested Tillerson’s name, if not one of Trump’s Russia contacts, perhaps someone with the Kissinger group that is working with both sides. Tillerson is a serious guy, not a lightweight or crony like so many of Trump’s nominees. If he is actually dedicated to serving the United States, he could be a moderating force on Trump, because he won’t let Trump push him around and his leaving would be a huge embarrassment after such a battle to confirm him.

Maybe I’m too optimistic, of course, and he’s just there to facilitate oil deals and lift sanctions for Putin and Exxon Mobil. If the worst case is true, the circumstantial case for Trump being compromised by Russian intelligence will be incredibly strong. Don’t forget Wilbur Ross for secretary of commerce, who has big dealings with Putin oligarch Viktor Vekselberg.

GOP politicians are putting party over principles by supporting Trump so loyally, and by so doing, they reveal they don’t actually have any principles at all.

Alexander Bisley: What do you think of the controversial Steele dossier, which alleges that Russia has been “cultivating, supporting and assisting Trump for at least five years”? (The British author, former M16 agent Christopher Steele, has reportedly gone into hiding, “terrified.”)

Garry Kasparov: Even if only half of it is true, it’s...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, February 13, 2017

Marie Marquardt

Marie Marquardt's new young adult novel is The Radius of Us. From her Q&A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: You've worked with immigrants for many years--how did you come up with the idea for this particular story and what do you think readers might take away from it given the current political climate surrounding immigration?

A: For six years, I have worked with an incredible group of volunteers to run a Georgia non-profit that works with immigrants and asylum-seekers in detention.

I often visit with young Central American asylum seekers who have fled some of the most dangerous communities in the world, and who are detained in prison-like conditions while they away their asylum hearings immigration court.

These young people are incredible, resilient, and brave. Their stories are so important and compelling. Not many people know what’s happening to make these teens seek protection in the U.S., or what life is like for them when they arrive. I hope this story will give readers some insight into that, while also giving them a great love story.

The political climate surrounding immigration right now is incredibly tense and extreme, and I think that many of the actions being taken by our administration are fed by fear and misunderstanding.

I hope that The Radius of Us will give readers a chance to see the issues they are hearing about in the media through another lens. I think that one of the great powers of fiction is that it gives us a chance to experience empathy, to get a feel for what it might be like to live in completely different circumstances than our own.

If we can develop empathy, if we can dwell for a while in the stories and experiences of immigrants and asylum-seekers, then we'll begin to ask better questions about immigration policy, and...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Richard J. Evans

Richard Evans is a distinguished historian of 20th-century Germany whose books include an acclaimed trilogy on the rise and fall of the Third Reich. From his Q&A with Isaac Chotiner in Slate:

There has been a debate in the press and among progressives about whether, crudely speaking, [Trump] is a buffoon and crazy and has no plan, or whether he is canny and smart and has a real plan for authoritarianism. Was this debate similar to ones about Hitler, once he came to power?

Absolutely, yes. Many people thought that Hitler was a buffoon. He was a joke. He wasn’t taken seriously. Alternatively, they thought that he could calm down when he assumed the responsibilities of office. That was a very common belief about Hitler. There is a major difference in the sense that Trump speaks off the cuff in a very unguarded, spontaneous way. I think that’s true with his tweets. Hitler very carefully prepared all his speeches. They might seem spontaneous, but they were carefully prepared.

All we heard for months about Trump growing into the role has been proven false. But even the counterargument could be read two ways, either “He’s not going to grow into the role because he deep down is a fascist,” or “He’s not going to grow into the role because he’s a little bit off his rocker, and he’s not going to change because crazy people, especially as they get older, do not change.”

Yeah. I think it’s dangerous to regard Hitler, for one, as crazy. He was an extremist. I think that that’s a kind of evasion, really, of the things that they’re saying and doing, just to write them off as being crazy.

It is really is hard for me to see Trump as not being crazy, even though I don’t think of Hitler as crazy. The tweeting at 3 a.m. about cable news shows, just the inability to understand his own self-interest.

Yes. I think it’s much more fruitful to use a concept like irrationality. What that means is...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, February 11, 2017

Adelia Saunders

Adelia Saunders has a master's degree in international relations from Georgetown University and a bachelor's degree from NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts. She has taught English in Paris, written for an independent newswire at the United Nations, and assisted an agricultural economist in Uganda. She grew up in Durango, Colorado, and lives with her husband and two children in New York City. Indelible is her first novel.

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

Q: How did you come up with the idea for your novel Indelible, and for your three main characters?

A: The seeds of the book started when my husband and I were doing archival research in Vilnius, Lithuania. I spent a lot of time looking at old documents.

I was intrigued by the idea that long after a person died, all that was left in an official sense would be a few data points—a birth certificate, a marriage certificate, occasionally a letter written from the person, something that would hint at something more interesting.

But mostly it was about the bureaucratic data points—it was interesting filling in [between them]. What if you were to know what’s in a person’s file—if the person were wearing it on their bodies for one unfortunate person to read? [That was the idea] for Magdalena.

I am interested in genealogical research—for so many people, it’s so fascinating; it’s interesting what a hold it has on us, how people get interested in researching our families.

My father had done a lot of research. One of the characters he got interested in was someone related to me, my mother’s grandfather who abandoned his family when his children were very young and went to California and became a minor screenwriter.

From that came the idea of a man [the character Richard] looking for one family member who happened to be famous—he had a...[read on]
Visit Adelia Saunders's website.

Writers Read: Adelia Saunders.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, February 10, 2017

Brian W. Kernighan

Brian W. Kernighan is the author of Understanding the Digital World: What You Need to Know about Computers, the Internet, Privacy, and Security. From his Q&A with Debra Liese for the Princeton University Press blog:

Who is this book for? What kind of people are most likely to be interested?

BK: It’s a cliché, but it really is aimed at the proverbial “educated layman.” Everyone uses computers and phones for managing their lives and communicating with other people. So the book is for them. I do think that people who have some technical background will enjoy it, but will also find that it will help their less technical friends and family understand.

What’s the basic message of the book?

BK: Computers—laptops, desktops, tablets, phones, gadgets—are all around us. The Internet lets our computers communicate with us and with other computers all over the world. And there are billions of computers in infrastructure that we rely on without even realizing its existence. Computers and communications systems have changed our lives dramatically in the past couple of decades, and will continue to do so. So anyone who hopes to be at least somewhat informed ought to understand the basics of how such things work. One major concern has been the enormous increase in surveillance and a corresponding reduction in our personal privacy. We are under continuous monitoring by government agencies like the NSA in the United States and similar ones in other countries. At the same time, commercial interests track everything we do online and with our phones. Some of this is acceptable, but in my opinion, it’s gone way too far. It’s vital that we understand better what is being done and how to reduce the tracking and spying. The more we understand about how these systems work, the more we can defend ourselves, while still taking advantage of the many benefits they provide. For example, it’s quite possible to explore interesting and useful web sites without being continuously tracked. You don’t have to reveal everything about yourself to social networks. But you have to know something about how to set up some defenses. More generally, I’m trying to help the reader to reach a better than superficial understanding of how...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Katherine Zoepf

Katherine Zoepf is the author of Excellent Daughters: The Secret Lives of Young Women Who Are Transforming the Arab World. From her Q&A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: You write, “Like a generation of young Americans, my interest in the Arab world was substantially shaped by the September 11th attacks.” How did you end up spending so much time in the Middle East after that, and focusing particularly on the region’s women?

A: I had been someone before that who followed the news pretty keenly but I wouldn’t say I had a particular regional interest. I was right out of college and was curious about a lot of things.

At the time of the Sept. 11 attacks, I had just moved to New York and one of my classmates was killed, and suddenly I became a little obsessed with getting to the region and learning as much as I could. I’ve always been someone who understands things better when I can try to go to the place and see how the world looks from there…

Q: And the focus on women?

A: That came a little bit later. It was a natural interest. I went initially to the region as a news reporter. I was just doing ordinary…Middle East coverage from Syria and Lebanon.

I came to feel in the aggregate the Middle East reporting Americans were getting didn’t convey an overall picture of the region that felt very true to me.

I would go home to the States every few months—my friends and family were reading things [I and others were writing] and the questions they were asking, don’t you think people are brainwashed?

I realized that looking at the Middle East from afar, there was a picture of...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Hugo Drochon

Hugo Drochon is a historian of nineteenth- and twentieth-century political thought and a postdoctoral research fellow at CRASSH, the Centre for Research in the Arts, Social Sciences, and Humanities, at the University of Cambridge.

His new book is Nietzsche's Great Politics.

From Drochon's Q&A with Sean Illing at Vox.com:

Sean Illing: You don’t really write about Trump in the book, but you’ve suggested elsewhere that he’s a sort of caricature of Nietzsche’s idea of the ubermensch (often mistranslated at “superman”). Is that right?

Hugo Drochon: Well I've heard it said that Trump may represent some approximation of Nietzsche's ubermensch, and I think that's deeply mistaken. But the reasons why it's mistaken can help us think about what Trump actually is. First, it's wrong because Trump represents everything Nietzsche hated. The philistinism, the mediocrity, the worshipping of money for its own sake — this is exactly the opposite of what Nietzsche advocated. By ubermensch, Nietzsche meant someone who could live beyond good and evil, beyond conventional values, who refused to appeal to herd instincts.

There's a passage in Nietzsche's Thus Spoke Zarathustra in which he talks about the ubermensch, and I think it's quite relevant. Zarathustra, the protagonist, comes down from his mountain retreat and tells the people in the town square that he's going to teach them about the ubermensch, about what mankind should become, and the people are having none of it. They don't want to hear that they’ve stopped believing in God; that life is chaos; that nothing lasts; that they’re living in illusion.

Zarathustra realizes the people are too decadent to hear this and so he decides instead to teach them about the "Last Man." And the “Last Man” is the kind of person who doesn't want to think, who fears progress, who is risk-averse and desirous of comfort, who just wants everything to stay the same. Of course, the people erupt in joy when they hear this because this is what they really want.

This is what Trump is to me. This is what he represents. He's a kind of "Last Man" demagogue, telling the people that he's going make things great again, which is to say simple and how they once were — and they love him for it.

For Nietzsche, the celebration of a man like Trump was the inevitable result of...[read on]
The Page 99 Test: Nietzsche's Great Politics.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Caroline Leavitt

Caroline Leavitt is the author of Cruel Beautiful World, and the New York Times bestsellers Is This Tomorrow and Pictures of You, as well as eight other novels.

A book critic for the San Francisco Chronicle and People, she’s the recipient of a New York Foundation of the Arts Grant in Fiction, and was a finalist in both the Sundance Screenwriters’ Lab and the Nickelodeon Screenwriters’ Fellowships.

From Leavitt's Q&A with Beverly Willett at South Magazine:

What’s the most profound thing you’ve uncovered about yourself?

It was with my current novel. I ended up writing about my relationship with my real-life sibling. I meant it to be a love letter to our relationship. Growing up she was my hero. And then she changed and became troubled and unhappy. And I’m this Pollyanna. I kept trying to help her and the more I tried the worst things became with us. As I was writing, the question became “how do you help someone you love when they don’t want your help?” The answer is...[read on]
Learn more about the book and author at Caroline Leavitt's website and blog.

The Page 69 Test: Pictures of You.

My Book, the Movie: Pictures of You.

The Page 69 Test: Is This Tomorrow.

My Book, The Movie: Is This Tomorrow.

My Book, The Movie: Cruel Beautiful World.

The Page 69 Test: Cruel Beautiful World.

Writers Read: Caroline Leavitt (October 2016).

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, February 6, 2017

Peter Swanson

Peter Swanson is the author of three novels: The Girl With a Clock For a Heart, a LA Times Book Award finalist; The Kind Worth Killing, winner of the New England Society Book Award, and finalist for the CWA Ian Fleming Steel Dagger; and his most recent, Her Every Fear.

From his Q&A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: How did you come up with the idea for Her Every Fear, and for the book's title?

A: I’ve had the idea for many years although initially I thought of it as more of a love story than a murder mystery. I thought it would be interesting to have two characters fall in love with one another by living in each other’s apartment. I think it’s a much better story with a murder in it.

About the title, it was originally going to be just “every fear” which I took from James Fenton’s poem “A Staffordshire Murderer.” But I think “Her Every Fear” is catchier, and a better description of the book. Much of my main character Kate Priddy’s anxieties center on being a...[read on]
Read about Swanson's ten top books about voyeurs.

Visit Peter Swanson's website, Facebook page, and Twitter perch.

My Book, The Movie: The Kind Worth Killing.

The Page 69 Test: The Kind Worth Killing.

Writers Read: Peter Swanson (February 2015).

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, February 5, 2017

Katie Kitamura

Katie Kitamura's new novel is A Separation. From the transcript of her interview with NPR's Scott Simon:

SIMON: I'm going to try and be obscure about this.

KITAMURA: Oh, OK. I think I know what's coming (laughter).

SIMON: Well, midway through the novel...


SIMON: ...Da-da-dum (ph) - there's a murder. A lot of novels - a lot of novelists would use the mystery of a whodunit as a kind of lure to bring the reader through the rest of the story.


SIMON: I'll leave it there.

KITAMURA: Right. I mean, so that is probably the primary big piece of plot that happens in the book. One of the things that I was thinking about a lot when I was writing the book was if it would be possible to write something that really was about the mind and the consciousness of the narrator and where the real so-called plot developments that happen aren't things that happen out in the world. They aren't bits of action - somebody arrives, somebody leaves, somebody gets killed, somebody robs a bank, whatever it is.

And so I think the most dramatic shifts that happen in this story have to do with changes in perception on the part of the narrator, the way she comes to understand less and less of what she feels towards Christopher. To me, those are the most important and dramatic shifts. So that's why, in a way, I didn't want to use the kind of conventional plot device of a kind of mystery, although I think, in a lot of ways, I did try to steal...[read on]
Visit Katie Kitamura's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, February 4, 2017

Holly Webb

Holly Webb's new novel for children is Return to the Secret Garden.

From her Q&A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: How did you come up with the idea for Return to the Secret Garden?

A: It was a conversation with my editor, almost five years before I wrote the book. We were talking about our favourite books as children, and she suggested writing a sequel to The Secret Garden, which we'd both loved.

At the time I was shocked - I'd never considered it, and I wasn't sure how to approach someone else's characters, and the amazing setting of the original. But the idea grew on me slowly!

Q: How familiar do you think your readers will be with the original, and what did you see as the right balance between the original Secret Garden and your own characters?

A: It's so interesting. Lots of adults have told me that...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, February 3, 2017

Heather Graham & Jon Land

Heather Graham is a New York Times and USA Today bestselling author. She has written over one hundred novels and novellas including category, suspense, historical romance, vampire fiction, time travel, occult and Christmas family fare. Jon Land is the USA Today bestselling author of thirty-eight novels, including the bestselling series featuring female Texas Ranger Caitlin Strong. He is also the co-author of the nonfiction bestseller Betrayal. Their new novel is The Rising.

From the authors' Q&A with April Snellings for The Big Thrill:

THE RISING centers on a pair of fascinating characters: a high school football star raised by his adoptive Chinese parents, and a female science prodigy who serves as his ally, protector, love interest, and all-around foil. Can you tell us a bit about developing those characters?

HG: I think it’s something we often come across in life—not so much love at first sight, but incredible admiration, and then caring more and more deeply as you come to realize just how wonderful another person is. Life can be so superficial. I think that it was important to us that Sam and Alex come together in a far deeper way—and that what talents and assets each has work to help them both grow.

JL: Wow, that’s a great question, and I echo Heather’s comments entirely. I’d also add that this is really a hallmark of her work and what has made her a master of romantic suspense. Not too far into the book (spoiler alert!), Alex loses the two closest people he has in the world. So part of his growing attraction to Sam is that she’s all he has left, and she sticks with him against his own protestations to get herself out of harm’s way. That reveals so much about both their characters and, for me, the real treat is watching Sam’s attraction to Alex growing from a simple high school crush to something much deeper than that.

HG: Sam’s growing up to be a very modern woman, determined, brave, and sure of herself—and yet ready to listen and learn. She can stand alone, but is happy to lean on someone she loves.

JL: She’s fiercely independent, disciplined, and very goal-oriented. But...[read on]
Visit Heather Graham's website and Jon Land's website.

The Page 69 Test: The Rising.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, February 2, 2017

Ed Lin

Ed Lin is the author of several books and is an all-around standup kinda guy. Waylaid and This Is a Bust were both published by Kaya Press in 2002 and 2007, respectively, and both were widely praised. Both also won the Members’ Choice Awards in the Asian American Literary Awards. His third book, Snakes Can’t Run, was published by Minotaur Books in April 2010; it was loved by many and also won an Asian American Literary Award, and was followed by in One Red Bastard 2012 and Ghost Month in 2014. Lin, who is of Taiwanese and Chinese descent, is the first author to win three Asian American Literary Awards.

Lin's latest novel is Incensed.

From the author's Q&A with Molly Odintz at MysteryPeople:

MO: Incensed is, and isn’t, a crime novel – it does contain gangsters, guns, and murder, but it’s just as much about Taiwanese politics and Taipei nightlife. How did you balance the topics you wanted to explore with the crime genre?

EL: I’m trying to challenge the paradigm of what a crime novel is. I am really against the good-vs-evil dynamic. I feel like everyday people are capable of monstrous acts under certain circumstances and that we all have positive and negative elements to our personalities. I think about the taijitu, the so called “yin-yang” circle. In places where the white or black is still dominant, there are still small circles of the opposite element.

In my Taiwan series, I’m portraying crime as a societal outgrowth. Only crimes that a society deems intolerable are illegal, after all. I saw a documentary on PBS that profoundly affected me. A single mother working two jobs lost them both and fell behind on her mortgage payments. The bank repossessed her house and held a bankruptcy auction. Someone bought her house for $20,000. They got a bargain. The bank got its tax writeoff. The single mom had sank $30,0000 into that house over the years and she and her kids ended up in a homeless shelter. That’s a crime but perfectly legal. I think about that a lot, the individuals who suffer from what society accepts and tolerates.

In Incensed, I’m likening homophobia, and immigration to a lesser degree, to that line dividing acceptable and tolerable. There are “good” and “bad” people on both sides. Jing-nan himself finds himself to be more homophobic than he likes to admit, hence...[read on]
Visit Ed Lin's website.

The Page 69 Test: Snakes Can't Run.

The Page 69 Test: One Red Bastard.

My Book, The Movie: Ghost Month.

Writers Read: Ed Lin (October 2016).

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Melanie Wallace

Melanie Wallace's new novel is The Girl in the Garden.

From her Q&A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: You tell the story in The Girl in the Garden from a variety of perspectives. How did you decide which characters' points of view you wanted to show?

A: I’m not sure I can claim to have told a story from different perspectives, but I tried to use one narrative “voice” – a stylistically consistent one – to describe the different experiences of several main characters while giving each a singular way of speaking and his/her own take on the world.

As the novel took shape I realized I was concentrating on one character at a time, and so had to attempt to interweave very different lives and disparate experiences into a cohesive tale that allowed these characters to come together and interact – believably – with one another in one place.

Q: The novel is set in the 1970s. Why did you choose that time period?

A: In the 1970s, which I lived through as a young adult, it was still possible to encounter – and, in my main character’s case, survive because of – the kindness of strangers.

I also needed a timeframe in which two very different characters who had survived two very different wars – the Second World War, and Vietnam – could...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue