Friday, June 30, 2017

Trish Doller

Trish Doller's new YA novel is In a Perfect World.

From her Q&A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: Why did you decide to set your new novel in Cairo, and how did you come up with the idea for your characters Caroline and Adam?

A: It's been a dream of mine to write a romance set in another country, but I knew I wanted to step outside Europe. Early on, I decided that Caroline's mother would be going to work in another country, but it wasn't until after I looked at the Doctors Without Borders website, that I knew she was going to work for a humanitarian agency.

From there, Cairo presented itself as the perfect setting because it's accessible, plausible, and impossibly romantic. I could easily see Caroline falling for someone whose culture and faith were very different from hers.

And to be completely honest, I loved the idea of an Egyptian boy being cast as the romantic hero, instead of the villain.

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

A: The title came to me very early on because this is the story of two people whose...[read on]
Visit Trish Doller's website.

Coffee with a Canine: Trish Doller & Cobi.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, June 29, 2017

Theodora Goss

Theodora Goss's debut novel is The Strange Case of the Alechemist’s Daughter. From her Q&A with Ardi Alspach for the B&N Sci-Fi & Fantasy blog:

The Strange Case of the Alchemist’s Daughter shows a woman’s version of classics like The Island of Dr. Moreau, “Rappaccini’s Daughter,” Frankenstein, and The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. What prompted you to tell their stories? And why these monsters in particular?

It all started in graduate school. I was writing a doctoral dissertation on nineteenth-century gothic fiction, which is a more academic way of saying that I was writing about monsters. And I noticed that in most of the novels I was reading (basically the ones you mentioned, plus some others like Dracula), there was something going on with female monsters. For example, in Frankenstein, it’s important that Victor starts to create a female monster, but then disassembles her because she could mate with his male monster, and their offspring could outcompete human beings. In The Island of Dr. Moreau, for most of the novel, Moreau is trying to turn a puma into one of his Beast Folk. The Puma Woman he creates eventually kills him, but she is also killed in the process. She’s not mentioned very much in the novel—she’s both central and peripheral.

It seemed to me that in these novels, female monsters were particularly deadly, often deadlier than the male monsters. But...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

David Papineau

David Papineau's new book is Knowing the Score: What Sports Can Teach Us About Philosophy (and What Philosophy Can Teach Us About Sports). From his Q&A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: How did you come up with the idea for your new book, and what do you see as the connection between sports and philosophy?

A: I’ve always been a keen sports fan and amateur athlete, but I’d never put these enthusiasms together with my philosophical day job until recently. But then a couple of years ago I was asked to do a lecture in a series on philosophy of sports.

I wasn’t excited by the obvious topics – like “what is the definition of a sport?” or “what is the value of sports?” – and so instead I addressed an issue that’s always puzzled me, namely, how do athletes in fast-reaction sports like baseball and tennis select their shot when there’s scarcely enough time to see the ball?

This turned to be a philosophically fascinating question, with all kinds of implications for general issues like consciousness and free will. This rather opened the floodgates for me. I realized that many aspects of sports provide material for...[read on]
Visit David Papineau's website.

The Page 99 Test: Philosophical Devices.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Heidi Pitlor

Heidi Pitlor grew up in Concord, Massachusetts. She got her B.A. from McGill University in Montreal and moved out to Colorado, where in Denver and Boulder she worked as a nanny, receptionist, freelance writer, bus girl, rape crisis counselor and counselor to homeless and runaway teenagers. She moved back to Massachusetts to earn her M.F.A. in Creative Writing from Emerson College and worked as a temp at Houghton Mifflin Company. Soon after, she was hired as an editorial assistant in the company's trade division. She eventually became an editor and later a senior editor at Houghton Mifflin (now Houghton Mifflin Harcourt). She wrote fiction early in the mornings before work and published her first novel, The Birthdays, in 2006. She has been the series editor of The Best American Short Stories since 2007. Her writing has appeared in such publications as Ploughshares, The Huffington Post, and Labor Day: True Birth Stories by Today's Best Women Writers.

The Daylight Marriage is Pitlor's second novel. From her Q&A with Annie Weatherwax at The Ploughshares Blog:

AW: Art & politics—there are some camps that think they should never mix. What’s your view? Are there times in history when pure aesthetics is more desirable? Is there ever a time (like now) where mixing art and politics is more imperative?

HP: I think every artist is and should be different. For me, this has been a clarifying moment. We are really seeing the bigotry, sexism, racism, homophobia etc. that has been hidden just below the surface of our country for so many years. Personally, I can’t separate politics and art. Long ago, as an undergraduate, I studied political science. I’ve always had strong convictions about women’s rights and civil rights. The current situation in our country has, to my mind, bled beyond the usual confines of politics. So much is at stake, from civil rights to education to safety and security and the environment. Essentially, the future is at stake. I myself am unable to write about anything that feels...[read on]
The Page 69 Test: The Daylight Marriage.

My Book, the Movie: The Daylight Marriage.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, June 26, 2017

Jonathan Levi

Jonathan Levi's latest novel is Septimania. From his Q&A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: You've said that you first heard about the historical Kingdom of Septimania--which Charlemagne gave the Jews of Southern France--in the late 1970s. Did you think at the time that you'd end up writing a novel about it?

A: In the late 1970s, I was working on bringing out the first issue of Granta. Although I was writing plays, the idea of writing a novel—especially since I was editing extraordinary writers at the time—was far from my mind.

The historical Kingdom of Septimania seemed more a part of the fabric of an England woven at the time by Monty Python, the Bonzo Dog Doo Dah Band, and a House of Lords that debated the existence of the Loch Ness Monster while the country was paralyzed by a transportation strike.

It was only 20 years later that my memory of Septimania joined with my desire to write something about the search for origins, and I thought—hey, there might be a novel here.

Q: The book includes a variety of locations and time periods--did you need to do much research to write this, and did you learn anything that especially surprised you?

A: A large amount of library research, and many conversations with historians and others went into the conception of Septimania. But most of it...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, June 25, 2017

Robert I. Rotberg

Robert I. Rotberg is the author of The Corruption Cure: How Citizens and Leaders Can Combat Graft.

From his Q&A at the Princeton University Press blog:

What explains Nordic and Antipodean exceptionalism?

RR: The Nordics and Australia/New Zealand were all outrageously corrupt before the early years of the twentieth century. But the rise of what we call ethical universalism gradually replaced the particularism of early corruption. A new civic consciousness, educational attainments, and the widespread embrace of new aspirations and the appropriate methods for achieving such goals led to a shunning of corrupt dealings. A special chapter of the book examines how these nations and others discarded corrupt pursuits.

What works best to reduce corruption?

RR: The key shift is to alter the mindset of citizens from accepting the inevitability of corruption to refusing to countenance corrupt dealings. Political leadership is essential. In every modern case where a country has abandoned (or greatly reduced) corruption, a political leader – a president or a prime-minister – has understood the dangers of corruption within the body politic and has punished politicians and bureaucrats who thus stole from the people or abused their trust. Where corruption has been reduced sustainably, a political leader has led the way. Other initiatives include limiting opportunities for discretion, putting all interactions between a citizen and a permit-granting official, or a law maker, online, strengthening the operations of auditors general and ombudsmen, strengthening the ability of judges to refuse bribes, encouraging judges to penalize corrupt persons severely, welcoming and supporting a free media, thus adding to the increased transparency and investigative accountability which is foundational in any successful battles against graft and sleaze, and creating...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, June 24, 2017

Dean Robbins

Dean Robbins is the author of the new children's picture book Margaret and the Moon: How Margaret Hamilton Saved the First Lunar Landing. From his Q&A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: Why did you decide to focus on computer expert Margaret Hamilton in your new book?

A: A couple years ago I noticed a striking photograph that had gone viral on social media. It pictures a typical-looking young woman from the 1960s, with wire-rim glasses, long hair, a stylish dress, and a charming smile. She stands next to a stack of paper that reaches over her head.

This was Margaret Hamilton with the code she wrote for NASA’s Project Apollo as director of software programming. The viewer realizes this is no ordinary young woman, but a genius who helped get astronauts to the moon using early computer technology.

It was revelatory to learn that a woman had played such a significant role in the 1960s space program, given the male faces we’re used to seeing from that era. It occurred to me that this might be a powerful story to tell for children.

Q: How did you research her life, and what did you find out about her that particularly fascinated you?

A: There wasn’t much published information about Margaret Hamilton, so I had to start digging—something I enjoy as a longtime journalist. I tracked down...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, June 23, 2017

C. A. Higgins

C. A. Higgins is the author of Lightless, Supernova, and the newly released Radiate. She was a runner-up in the 2013 Dell Magazines Award for Undergraduate Excellence in Science Fiction and Fantasy Writing and has a B.A. in physics from Cornell University.

From her Q&A with DJ at MyLifeMyBooksMyEscape:

DJ: What is Radiate and then the Lightless trilogy about?

C.A.: In the first book, Lightless, the small crew of a top-secret and highly advanced military spacecraft (the Ananke) discover a stowaway aboard their ship. They quickly learn he has connections to a terrorist (the Mallt-y-Nos) determined to overthrow their dystopian society, but the stowaway—Ivan—isn’t as helpless as he may seem. Meanwhile, the Ananke itself has been acting strangely, almost as if it were trying to communicate.

The second novel, Supernova, is about the Mallt-y-Nos herself; the heroine of Lightless, Althea; and Ananke, now a sentient machine; as they navigate the chaos of the solar system resulting from the end of Lightless. Radiate follows two characters who were missing from the events of Supernova: Ivan and his companion Mattie. In contrast to the heroines of Supernova, who all have a great deal of influence, for better or worse, over the state of the solar system, Ivan and Mattie are almost swallowed up in the chaos of the civil war. They’re desperately trying to survive, to catch up to the Mallt-y-Nos, to maybe right some of the wrongs they’ve caused—and to avoid the Ananke, who’s hunting them across the solar system and drawing ever closer. And, despite the immense loyalty and affection we saw between the two men in Lightless, their relationship has a number of unresolved tensions that the stress of their situation starts to bring out.

DJ: What were some of your influences for the Lightless trilogy?

C.A.: The Battlestar Galactica reboot was a big influence—the existential trauma of the Cylons influenced Ananke, and the idea of “humanity’s children coming home” and visiting doom on their progenitors while humanity runs itself ragged trying desperately to...[read on]
Visit C. A. Higgins's website.

The Page 69 Test: Lightless.

Writers Read: C.A. Higgins.

The Page 69 Test: Radiate.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Courtney Maum

Courtney Maum is the author of the acclaimed novel I Am Having So Much Fun Here Without You, the new novel Touch, and the chapbook Notes from Mexico. Her short fiction, book reviews, and essays on the writing life have been widely published in outlets such as The New York Times, O Magazine, Tin House, Electric Literature, and Buzzfeed, and she has co-written films that have debuted at Sundance and won awards at Cannes. At various points in her life, she has been a trend forecaster, a fashion publicist, and a party promoter for Corona Extra.

From Maum's Q&A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: You mentioned in our previous interview that you usually write from a male point of view, yet in this book your main character is a woman. How did you come up with the idea for your character Sloane?

A: Well, I find it easier to write from a male point of view, that’s for sure! (The further the character is from my own reality, the easier it is for me to make up a fictional life for him/her!)

But with Sloane—the thing is, this character had to be a woman. I used to work in trend forecasting and I never came across a single man in the profession. Certainly we had male clients, and there were male decision makers at the companies we consulted for, but the trend forecasters and trend spotters were always female.

There is just a truth and a power to the female instinct. It’s fascinating, and it can be a heavy thing to bear. I think this is where the notion of the maternal instinct comes from, the idea that women are naturally “better” at being parents—it comes from the fact (and I do believe it’s a fact) that women generally have keener instinct than men.

I happen to not believe that women are “made” to be mothers, or that they’re naturally better parents simply by virtue of their sex, but the instinct thing is indisputable. Women are just biologically more “awake” then men.

Accordingly, I really wanted to...[read on]
Visit Courtney Maum's website.

The Page 69 Test: I Am Having So Much Fun Here Without You.

Writers Read: Courtney Maum.

The Page 69 Test: Touch by Courtney Maum.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Elizabeth Anderson

Elizabeth Anderson's new book is Private Government: How Employers Rule Our Lives (and Why We Don't Talk about It).

From her Q&A at the Princeton University Press blog:

Most contemporary discussions of work focus on wages, benefits, and unemployment. You want to focus on the power of employers over workers. How does that matter for workers today?

EA: Millions of workers in the United States labor under humiliating and abusive conditions. Most poultry workers, for example, aren’t allowed to use the bathroom during their shift, and are told to wear diapers to work. The vast majority of restaurant workers suffer from sexual harassment. Managers scream at warehouse workers when they can’t keep up with the grueling pace, or get injured on the job. They search workers’ bodies and personal property, and listen in on their conversations with co-workers. These conditions aren’t inherent in these types of work. The aren’t like the dangers that firefighters unavoidably face. They are imposed by employers. Employers can do this because they have power over workers and can threaten their livelihoods if they don’t submit. This kind of unaccountable power is objectionable even when workers are paid decently. Many professional and managerial workers who enjoy good pay are pressured by their bosses to contribute to political candidates their bosses prefer, and know that their contributions are being monitored. Workers up and down the organization chart are bullied by their bosses. It’s high time that we drew attention to these problems. Work doesn’t have to be this way.

You claim that current political discussions confuse government with the state. Why is that a point of confusion, and why is it important to distinguish the two?

EA: Politicians are constantly telling people that “the government” is interfering with their freedom. What they mean by “government” is the organs of the state—the Federal government, or agencies of the 50 states. This way of talking misleadingly suggests that if we only got the state out of our hair, we’d be perfectly free to lead our lives as we choose. It masks the fact that other kinds of governments, with unelected leaders, also rule our lives. The workplace is a type of government, and bosses are the rulers of this government. It’s important to...[read on]
Writers Read: Elizabeth Anderson (October 2010).

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Katherine Nichols

Katherine Nichols's new book is Deep Water: From the Swim Team to Drug Smuggling.

From her Q&A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: Why did you decide to write about the Coronado Company [a drug cartel that originated in Coronado, California, in the 1970s], and what did you discover in the course of your work on the book that especially surprised you?

A: Hearing tales of the Company was an inevitable part of growing up in Coronado, which inspired me to use the premise and create a fictionalized account. Based on that manuscript, Simon & Schuster offered me a contract for the nonfiction book. I did not expect to appreciate going beyond the criminal records of these multi-faceted men, and really trying to know them as human beings.

Q: How did you research the book, and were the participants usually willing to speak with you?

A: The research was difficult and elusive, so I tried to approach it in a structured manner by first obtaining archived court records. This required...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, June 19, 2017

V. Sanjay Kumar

V. Sanjay Kumar's latest novel is The Third Squad.

From his interview with Dyuit Basu for the Deccan Chronicle:

You usually set your books in specific city backdrops. How intrinsic is the city backdrop to your plot?

The city is everything. The city is the writer Italo Calvino’s muse as well. In his book Invisible Cities he said, ‘You take delight not in a city’s seven or seventy wonders, but in the answer it gives to a question of yours.’

I have questions, many of them, and they arise when I walk the streets of cities like Mumbai, Chennai, Delhi and Kolkata. I am an inadvertent explorer; I observe people and overhear conversations. These days, I measure my walks in sentences. Each sentence triggers...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Massimo Pigliucci

Massimo Pigliucci's new book is How To Be a Stoic: Using Ancient Philosophy To Live a Modern Life.

From his Q&A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: Why did you decide to write your new book?

A: It took me a number of years to experiment with several philosophies of life (Catholicism, Secular Humanism, Aristotelianism) before finding Stoicism, somewhat by accident -- because of a tweet from the University of Exeter that invited me to "celebrate Stoic Week."

Once I began studying and practicing Stoicism it immediately clicked; I saw that it has the potential -- at least for some people -- to dramatically alter the way you look at things and live your life.

I love writing, so the first thing I did was to compose a column for The New York Times about my ongoing investigation of Stoicism. It went viral, so I decided to begin publishing a blog that would allow me to share my experiences with others. From there the idea of writing a book was...[read on]
The Page 99 Test: Nonsense on Stilts.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, June 17, 2017

Patrick Millikin

Patrick Millikin is the editor of The Highway Kind: Tales of Fast Cars, Desperate Drivers and Dark Roads. From his Q&A with Steph Post:

SP: In the preface for the collection, you write about the American mythology of cars and how it developed in the transition from horse to automobile and owes much to both Westerns and crime fiction. I find this idea fascinating and I was hoping you could elaborate a little more on how America, cars and genre fiction all fit together.

PM: I think it was just a natural progression. When you think of the classic Western hero, it’s typically a loner on horseback, one who has largely abandoned the confines of the civilized world for the freedom of the frontier. The horse provided mobility, and in some ways I suppose it represents man’s domination of the natural world. Of course, there’s a distinctly American wanderlust that plays into this whole mythology. Think of Huck Finn lighting out for the territories, now that’s a classic American archetype. The West, or the idea of it, becomes such a huge part of the transition from the Western novel to early American crime fiction. California, and particularly Los Angeles, was touted by boosters as the Promised Land, where people could escape from their old lives and pursue the “American Dream.” So much of the early crime fiction, set in LA and elsewhere, explores the messy reality underneath this facade. Of course, the advent of cars played an enormous role in this. One thinks of Philip Marlowe cruising the mean streets in his car, or the anonymous road-side diners of James M. Cain. There are...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, June 16, 2017

Hena Khan

Hena Khan's new novel for kids is Amina's Voice. From the author's Q&A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: How did you come up for the idea for Amina’s Voice, and for your main character, Amina?

A: I wanted to write a middle grade novel that featured a Pakistani-American Muslim girl but focused on universal themes like friendship, dealing with change, and finding confidence.

Amina is a shy girl trying to find her voice, both literally and figuratively, and in many ways she represents parts of my own personality when I was that age.

I think there are a lot of stories out there nowadays with female protagonists who are outspoken, confident, go-getters and while I think they are important role models, it’s important for the quieter girls...[read on]
Visit Hena Khan's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Annie Hartnett

Annie Hartnett is a 2013 graduate of the MFA program at the University of Alabama, and was the 2013-2014 Writer-in-Residence for the Associates of the Boston Public Library. She currently teaches classes on the novel and the short story at Grub Street, an independent writing center in Boston.

Hartnett's debut novel is Rabbit Cake.

From her Q&A with Rachel Kaplan at Tin House:

RK: Animals are clearly very important to you. Did you have any formative experiences that shaped your relationship to them? Or, what’s a favorite memory of a childhood pet?

AH: Growing up, we had a dog and a rabbit. I loved the dog, but the rabbit was mine, not a family pet. His name was Rockafella Quintin Bunnybun, and he hated my older brother. Rocky would run at my brother with his mouth open, ready to bite, but Rocky let me hold him like a baby. And my brother always used to joke that Rocky ran a drug cartel out of my bedroom. We were weird kids.

RK: If you weren’t already married, which literary figure would you trade vows with?

AH: Oh god, I’d never marry a writer. But I’m trying to think of a juicy answer… I think it would have to be a woman… Amy Hempel? We could collect dogs and she is very...[read on]
Visit Annie Hartnett's website.

The Page 69 Test: Rabbit Cake.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Sarah Scoles

Sarah Scoles's new book is Making Contact: Jill Tarter and the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence. From her Q&A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: Why did you decide to write this book about astronomer Jill Tarter?

A: If I’m being totally honest, I set out to write a novel, and found I wasn’t great with plot, so I decided to think about a nonfiction topic I could bring storytelling to, without having to come up with the events myself.

I had watched [the movie] Contact when I was a young teenager, and was fascinated by the topic. I worked at a telescope in West Virginia and in Puerto Rico, and was mulling it over, doing research on SETI and Jill. She was the basis for the main character in Contact.

She had done a lot of interviews, but the books written about the search for extraterrestrial intelligence were 20 years old, and no one had told the full story of Jill’s life.

Q: So what happened when you approached her?

A: It took her a few months to return my email. She asked me to send an outline. We met in person at a conference, and I...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Marc Fisher

Marc Fisher is a senior editor at the Washington Post and the author, with Michael Kranish, of Trump Revealed: The Definitive Biography of the 45th President. From his Q&A with Isaac Chotiner for Slate:

OK, then let’s talk about the present. Is Trump self-aware about the fact that his presidency is not going well, and if so, what do you think he makes of that?

I think he has a remarkable capacity for denial, and I think there have been very few occasions over the course of his life where he has been slapped in the face with his failure, whether it was his bankruptcies, the failures of any number of his businesses, the failures of two marriages. In each case, he has an almost admirable ability to move through life as if those losses and failures hadn’t happened, and to portray them not in a crass political spin sort of way but in a really gut-level, deeply felt way as things that didn’t bother him and things that he didn’t even acknowledge.

By living in the moment rather than dwelling on the past or even acknowledging the past, he has the ability to keep going. People who were with him when his casinos were going down, when he was suffering through these bankruptcies, and being in this humiliating position of groveling before bankers, thought, “He’s going to come in the next day utterly crushed and not willing to face people, and humiliated,” and it never happened. He came in just as bright and bullish as he’d been the day before. That capacity serves him well I think in some ways, but it also divorces him from reality in some ways. That, I think, is what people around him have come to find...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, June 12, 2017

Sadeqa Johnson

Sadeqa Johnson's new book is And Then There Was Me: A Novel of Friendship, Secrets and Lies.

From her Q&A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: For much of the book your main character, Bea, is pregnant, serving as a surrogate for her husband's cousin. Why did you decide to include surrogacy as a theme in the book?

A: I decided to include surrogacy because it's not a topic that comes up a lot even though it happens more than we know. When I started researching the topic I was fascinated with the information that I found and wanted to really share that experience with readers. Bea carrying Lonnie's cousin's baby also gave her another level of sainthood that I liked. Again, putting everyone's needs before her own.

Q: Another theme is bulimia. Why did you choose to incorporate that in the novel?

A: It wasn't a conscious effort to include bulimia. I was writing the first draft of the story and Bea threw up on my page. I stopped for a second and I could feel the hairs raise up on my forearms. I wrote down, Bea are you bulimic? And Bea said...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Julian Zelizer

Julian Zelizer is a professor of history and public affairs at Princeton University, and the author, most recently, of The Fierce Urgency of Now: Lyndon Johnson, Congress, and the Battle for the Great Society. From his Q&A with Morton Keller for The Atlantic:

Keller:...[I] continue to take exception to your tendency to see our politics today as a confrontation between a generally reasonable Democratic-left and an out-of-control Republican right. To criticize the tone of the over-the-top “resistance” to Trump is not to ignore his manifest defects. Those defects do not justify the increasingly obscene, out-of-control quality of that criticism, however complicit he was in injecting those strains into our political discourse.

The closest comparison in my historian's recollection was the ugly, obscene innuendo that the unreconstructed right applied to FDR in the 1930s. Before some of our more excitable knee-jerk readers accuse me of equating FDR and Trump, I assure them that I have no such intent in mind.

My point is this: I foresee no upgrading of our current degraded political dialogue until both sides pull back, which I don't expect to happen until one or the other of them concludes that it costs them more than it gains. The reaction to the Kathy Griffin photograph is encouraging; the success of the more scurrilous late-night talk show hosts, and Trump's continuing unpresidential blogging, is not.

Aside from that, we seem to be in general accord on this matter.

Zelizer: I still think that the alliance between the right and the mainstream of the GOP has become much closer than the left and the Democratic leadership. It's fair to distinguish. Everything is not equivalent. It is difficult to imagine Democrats nominating anyone as far out as Trump. But in the context of the Tea Party generation—Trump made sense.

The opposition to Trump, who ran a campaign that revolved around xenophobia, nativism, Islamophobia, sexism and a real hostility to so many segments of the nation is very different than the opposition to FDR. The current opposition is driven by serious and legitimate concerns about the possibility of wrongdoing in the election and obstruction of justice that are not simply partisan or ideological. Trump is...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, June 10, 2017

Penrose Halson

Penrose Halson is the author of The Marriage Bureau: The True Story of How Two Matchmakers Arranged Love in Wartime London.

From her Q&A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: Of all the stories you tell in the book, is there one that's a particular favorite?

A: This is almost impossible to answer - I found them all totally engrossing (and there are many others, equally riveting, which could have been included only in a book twice as long!).

I still laugh when I re-read the funny ones, such as Miss Bud and her bust bodices (Chapter 11, Sex, Tragedy, Success and Bust Bodices) and feel a pang for Martha, who was raped (also Chapter 11). But if I have to choose one, it is the poignant story from Chapter 17, Loneliness and Heartbreak.

Archibald Bullin-Archer, from an upper-class family to whose standards of success he does not conform, is introduced by Dorothy Harbottle, a middle-aged, tender-hearted interviewer at the marriage bureau, to Ivy Bailey.

Miss Harbottle knows they are right for each other, although Ivy is only a shop assistant, of a lower class. Archie and Ivy, both modest, shy, sensitive, inexperienced, and crushingly lonely, do indeed rejoice in one another, and decide to marry. They...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, June 9, 2017

Gail Godwin

Gail Godwin's new novel is Grief Cottage.

From her Q&A with Caroline Leavitt:

Do you remember the moment the novel was conceived?

I remember the exact moment. I was walking on the beach at Isle of Palms. Early morning. I saw some little shell creatures burrowing into the wet sand to keep from being eaten by the birds. I thought: "Everything seems to be sending me a message. Some good, some not." I heard it as the boy Marcus's thought. He had lived in my mind for some years. First as a boy who has lost his family and goes to live with a guardian at the beach. He keeps sane from grief by discovering two old people sitting on the porch of a dilapidated beach house. They are interested in him and knows no. He visits them every day. Only much later does he realize they were ghosts.

Then when I was writing Flora (2013), Helen and her guardian Flora are listening to a spooky radio program in 1945. I made up a boy going to live with a crusty aunt who makes beach art to support herself. He goes for long walks and discovers an old ghost couple living in the ruins of a burned down cottage.

It wasn't until Grief Cottage that I began to understand Marcus's unusual history with his late mother, and appreciate his complexities. And the inhabitant of the ruined cottage was now the ghost of a...[read on]
Visit Gail Godwin's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, June 8, 2017

Stephanie Powell Watts

Stephanie Powell Watts's new novel is No One Is Coming to Save Us. From her Q&A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: No One Is Coming to Save Us is billed as a retelling of The Great Gatsby. How do you see the relationship between the two, and how did you come up with the idea for your novel?

A: Deborah, thanks so much for spending the time with me. I love The Great Gatsby and I always have. In no way is my book a retelling of that story. The characters are all different and the stories are vastly different. I have joked that except for the characters, setting, race, time period and language, my book is identical to Gatsby!

Where I think my book is calling on Gatsby or in conversation with Gatsby is in the shared themes. My book is about Americans in a difficult economic landscape trying to find their place in terms of class and community position and family.

My characters are just one generation from being very poor. The memory of that poverty lingers in their thinking. Most of the characters are just a generation from segregation in the south. The vestiges of that difficult past are everywhere.

My characters like Jay Gatsby and like Nick are strivers and believers, but for some significant reason feel like they don’t belong even in the world they were born into. I am...[read on]
Visit Stephanie Powell Watts's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

David Joy

David Joy is the author of the Edgar nominated novel Where All Light Tends To Go (Putnam, 2015), as well as the novels The Weight Of This World (Putnam, 2017) and The Line That Held Us (Putnam, TBD). He is also the author of the memoir Growing Gills: A Fly Fisherman's Journey (Bright Mountain Books, 2011), which was a finalist for the Reed Environmental Writing Award and the Ragan Old North State Award.

From Joy's Q&A with Barbara DeMarco-Barrett:

Are you imagining a reader, or readers, for your work as you write?

In the old days, I would’ve said, No, I never imagine the reader. Toni Morrison has that famous line that, “If there’s a book that you want to read, but it hasn’t been written yet, then you must write it.” That was how both of my first novels came about. With the first, I was obsessed with Daniel Woodrell. I was especially obsessed with his novels Tomato Red and The Death of Sweet Mister. I remember reading Tomato Red over and over, probably a dozen or more times over the course of a month, trying to figure out what he was doing, how he made the story move that fast. When I sat down to write Where All Light Tends To Go it was because I wanted another Daniel Woodrell novel and one didn’t exist. I wrote the kind of story I was yearning to read. With the second novel, it was that same sort of thing. I think I was obsessed with Donald Ray Pollock and Cormac McCarthy and Larry Brown at the time. I think The Weight Of This World came out of that. It came out of that same necessity of having nothing left to read and having to write the story I wanted to read. With both of those books, I didn’t care whether anyone else liked it or not. I wrote those books for myself. I’m glad other people enjoy them, but if they didn’t, it wouldn’t have mattered. I’d have still written them.

Now for why I set this answer up this way, when it came time to write the third novel, I had one book out in the world from a major publishing house and the second was coming down the pipe. At that point I was sitting on the biggest stage in the world as far as writing goes and it was impossible for me not to notice the readers. It’s impossible not to care what people think when they’re talking about it in the New York Times. It was impossible not to wonder why some books take off and others don’t. The business changed that for me. So I wrote a novel where...[read on]
Visit David Joy's website.

The Page 69 Test: Where All Light Tends to Go.

My Book, The Movie: Where All Light Tends to Go.

The Page 69 Test: The Weight of This World.

Writers Read: David Joy.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Ellen Emerson White

Ellen Emerson White's new YA novel is A Season of Daring Greatly. From her Q&A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: How did you come up with the idea for A Season of Daring Greatly and for your character Jill?

A: I'm a lifelong baseball fan, and do a lot of sports photography, professionally and otherwise. I also coach a 15U (male) baseball team in East Harlem. So, I'm around the game a lot--and am almost invariably the only woman around. So, I guess it was inevitable that I would end up writing about all of that at some point.

Jill fits the profile of the kind of woman I think could actually break the professional barrier--a tall, left-handed pitcher, who works off a plus-change and curve, seems like the most plausible fit to me.

Also, frankly, I found Jill amusing, and liked it that she doesn't take herself too seriously. No female player is going to be able to play professionally, without having a sense of humor.

The title of the book comes directly from the famous "in the arena" speech, which was given by Teddy...[read on]
Visit Ellen Emerson White's website.

Coffee with a Canine: Ellen Emerson White & Patrick.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, June 5, 2017

Al Franken

Senator Al Franken graduated from Harvard College. Before running for office, he spent 37 years as a comedy writer, author, and radio talk show host, and has taken part in seven USO tours, visiting our troops overseas in Bosnia, Kosovo, Iraq, Afghanistan, and Kuwait. Franken was first elected to the United States Senate in 2008 and re-elected (by a much larger margin) in 2014. His new book is Al Franken, Giant of the Senate.

From the transcript of Franken's interview with NPR's Terry Gross:

GROSS: This is FRESH AIR. And if you're just joining us, my guest is Senator Al Franken. He has a new memoir that's called "Al Franken, Giant Of The Senate." So you write that one of the things that shocked you the most was after President Obama was elected, Mitch McConnell said the single most important thing we want to achieve is for President Obama to be a one-term president.


GROSS: Do you feel like that changed the tone in the Senate in any way?

FRANKEN: Well, yeah. I mean, I wasn't shocked that he thought it. I was shocked that he said it. And I write about the - I call it the curdling of Washington. Which was that Mitch chose basically to filibuster pretty much everything and to slow things down. That was about slowing things down so that we could not - he'd filibuster somebody. And we'd get 60 votes for cloture. And then we'd have to wait 30 hours of debate till we could vote. These are the rules. And then we'd have a vote on a judge. And the judge would get voted 99 to 1.

So they were filibustering things that they were not against. To overcome a filibuster, you have to take a lot of time. And so this really soured, made it hard to get things done. But McConnell wanted to defeat, to deprive Obama of achievements. That's how he did it. And it really did sour things very badly. And we still live with...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, June 4, 2017

Augusta Scattergood

Augusta Scattergood is a former librarian turned book reviewer turned middle-grade author. Her books include Glory Be and The Way to Stay in Destiny.

Her latest book is Making Friends with Billy Wong.

From Scattergood's Q&A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: How did you come up with the idea for your most recent book, Making Friends with Billy Wong?

A: The town I grew up in had a large number of grocery stores run by Chinese Americans. That didn’t seem at all unusual to me!

Then I read an essay by one of my high school friends about what it felt like to grow up there as a young Chinese American during the Civil Rights era. It was powerful. When I read it, I felt there was a story and a history to share with middle-grade readers.

Q: You tell the story from the perspectives of two characters, Azalea and Billy. Why did you decide to tell Billy's story in verse?

A: Billy’s chapters are more poetic than poetry! They are letters, lists, notes. I worked so hard on those pieces and I hope they give a sense of what Billy’s world was like.

I relied heavily on my friends for advice, for their own words. But it was hard to capture the southern voice of a Chinese boy in straight narrative. Then one day I sat with a legal pad under a tree and started doodling, and Billy’s...[read on]
Learn more about the book and author at Augusta Scattergood's website and blog.

The Page 69 Test: The Way to Stay in Destiny.

The Page 69 Test: Making Friends with Billy Wong.

Writers Read: Augusta Scattergood (September 2016).

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, June 3, 2017

Richard Dawkins

Richard Dawkins, one of nonfiction's bad boys, is the author of The Magic of Reality: How We Know What's Really True and other books. From the transcript of his May 2017 interview with NPR's Scott Simon:

SIMON: I want to - look, I respect atheists and atheism. But I want to pick up a nice argument we used to have every couple of years with Christopher Hitchens, your friend. And that's - you can respect atheism. I've covered a lot of wars, famines and tragedies. And it seems to me, truly, every theater of suffering I've ever been to, there is a dauntless nun, priest, clergy or religious person who was working very selflessly and bravely there for the good of human beings. And I don't run into organized groups of atheists who do this.

DAWKINS: Well, there aren't enough of them perhaps. I mean, of course, I don't deny that there are a lot of religious people who do good things, including in the ashes of war. There are a lot of good people in the world. Some of them are religious. Some of them are not.

The Center for Inquiry, which I'm now associated with - my foundation is now associated with, does an enormous amount where it can. For example, we have a program called Secular Rescue, where we go in there and, literally, rescue people in danger of their lives because they are threatened because they're apostates or blasphemous and are threatened.

You know, there are many countries in the world where apostasy and blasphemy are punishable by death. I think it would be very unfair to suggest that there's any imbalance between the number - the amount of good that's done by religious people and the amount of good that is done by non-religious people.

SIMON: I wouldn't want to suggest that. But I do wonder, am I just not seeing the world correctly to see large numbers of well-motivated atheist lending their lives to trying to better the world? Or they're - if I might put it this way, are they more concerned about just being right intellectually?

DAWKINS: Oh, I don't think so at all. Now, I think maybe, if I may say so, you haven't looked hard....[read on]
Richard Dawkins is Lee Child's hero (outside of literature).

Learn about Richard Dawkins's five favorite books.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, June 2, 2017

Leah Kaminsky

Leah Kaminsky, a physician and award-winning writer, is Poetry & Fiction Editor at the Medical Journal of Australia. Her debut novel, The Waiting Room, is followed by We’re all Going to Die. She conceived and edited Writer MD, a collection of prominent physician-writers, which starred on Booklist. She is co-author of Cracking the Code, with the Damiani family. She holds an MFA in Creative Writing from Vermont College of Fine Arts.

From Kaminsky's Q&A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: How did you come up with the idea for The Waiting Room, and for your main character, Dina?

A: The book has been with me for many years. In my 20s I wanted to write a book about my mother’s war experiences as a teenager in the Lodz ghetto, Auschwitz and finally, Bergen Belsen. She was the sole survivor of her entire family.

After she died I only remembered a handful of the stories she had told me and, sadly, there was no one left to ask.

It took me a long time to build on those snippets of my mother’s narrative via fiction. I wanted to create a character who, like me, had been a reluctant listener in her youth. She is named after Dina’s cat in Alice in Wonderland, who...[read on]
Visit Leah Kaminsky's website.

My Book, The Movie: The Waiting Room.

Writers Read: Leah Kaminsky (November 2016).

The Page 69 Test: The Waiting Room.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, June 1, 2017

Ben H. Winters

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

From his Q&A with a group of high school students in Katy, Texas:

How would you respond to criticisms that say that this is not your story to tell, as a white person?

I absolutely understand and respect those readers who view a work like this with skepticism, given A) a long and ugly history of white artists representing black characters in gross ways, and B) a long and ugly history of people of color not being afforded the opportunities to tell their own stories. I only hope that if people do actually read this book, they discover that A) I approached my characters and my story with as much knowledge and research and respect as I was able, in order to NOT be one of those gross voices; and B) this book is not me as a white person trying to “pretend to be black”, or claim authority on black history, but rather me as a white person trying to be honest about American history—to do what all white Americans should do more of, which is to reckon with and take responsibility for a long history of systematic racism against nonwhites.

I do take deep exception to the idea that I, as a white person, could never possibly credibly write a black character—to suggest that whites and blacks are so different that the act of fictional empathy could never bridge the gap is...[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