Monday, July 31, 2017

Jenni L. Walsh

Jenni L. Walsh spent her early years chasing around cats, dogs, and chickens in Philadelphia's countryside, before dividing time between a soccer field and a classroom at Villanova University. She put her marketing degree to good use as an advertising copywriter, zip-code hopping with her husband to DC, NYC, NJ, and not surprisingly, back to Philly. There, Walsh's passion for words continued, adding author to her resume.

Becoming Bonnie, her debut novel, tells the untold story of how church-going Bonnelyn Parker becomes half of the infamous Bonnie and Clyde duo during the 1920s. The sequel Being Bonnie will be released in the summer of 2018.

From Walsh's Q&A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: You've noted that you originally wrote about Bonnie and Clyde's crime spree, before turning to telling Bonnie's story. Why did you decide to focus on Bonnie?

A: Yes, when I first began writing, I had every intention of telling their crime spree story. While there are various nonfiction accounts of Bonnie and Clyde’s life on the lam, I saw an opening for a fictional retelling.

I dove in, but Bonnie and Clyde’s background came as a surprise to me. There isn’t much known about Bonnie’s adolescent years, but from what I gathered, she started life as a very wholesome individual. Bonnie sang at church, received straight As, won spelling bees, and participated in beauty pageants.

I had this moment where I thought… but she ended up as a fugitive? How? So...[read on]
Visit Jenni L. Walsh's website.

Writers Read: Jenni L. Walsh.

The Page 69 Test: Becoming Bonnie.

My Book, The Movie: Becoming Bonnie.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, July 30, 2017

Megan Frampton

Megan Frampton's newest novel is Lady Be Bad.

From her Happy Ever After / USA Today interview with Joyce Lamb:

Joyce: Welcome to HEA, Megan! Please tell us a bit about your new release, Lady Be Bad.

Megan: Lady Be Bad is the first in a new series called The Duke’s Daughters — basically, it’s riffing off the Bennet sisters, only in my situation, the runaway daughter remains a runaway, and the other sisters have to clean up the mess.

Joyce: What inspires your book ideas?

Megan: The characters themselves. I usually start off with a strong feeling for who these two are, and how they first meet one another.

Joyce: Do you have any particular rituals that help you get into the writing frame of mind?

Megan: A liter bottle of seltzer at my side. Other than that, no.

Joyce: Do you have a pet that hangs out with you while you’re working?

Megan: Kiki, my...[read on]
Visit Megan Frampton's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, July 29, 2017

Karin Tanabe

Karin Tanabe's new novel is The Diplomat's Daughter. From her Q&A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: Your new novel features three main characters, two of whom are men. What was it like to write from a male perspective this time?

A: I knew I wanted Emi to be the object of two men’s affections when I started to write, but I wasn’t sold on also writing the male perspective, especially twice!

But in the end, I decided I wanted to take the book around the world, and the only good way to do that was to also show Christian and Leo’s stories up close and personal. Christian and Leo both experience the violence of war very differently than Emi, and I liked being able to reveal what each gender went through.

In the end, I really enjoyed writing from the male perspective, and would definitely be open to doing it again!

Q: The novel includes scenes set during the World War II era in Europe, Asia, and the United States, which must have involved a great deal of research. Can you say something about how you researched the novel, and did you learn anything that particularly surprised you?

A: The research was certainly...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, July 28, 2017

Ed Lin

Ed Lin's latest book is Incensed. From his Q&A with TAP-NY:

Can you tell us about your latest novel, Incensed?

Incensed is the sequel to the first book, Ghost Month. It’s very timely in that it discusses LGBTQ issues in Taiwan while in the convention of a mystery set during the Mid Autumn Festival, when family is traditionally together–the Taiwan take on it is eating barbecue together and going into the country to see the full moon, which symbolizes the family together.

What was the inspiration behind the series?

I’m trying to explore Taiwanese history and culture. Each book is centered on a different holiday in Taiwan. The country has so much to offer the world. Other island nations, such as Ireland and Jamaica, have made their story well-known globally but Taiwan hasn’t bridged that gap yet.I remember reading an interview with the director Wei Te-sheng and he said that Taiwan has never been the...[read on]
Learn more about the book and author at 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

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Jennifer Kitses

Jennifer Kitses's new novel is Small Hours. From her Q&A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: How did you come up with the idea for Small Hours, and for your characters Helen and Tom?

A: For me it was all pretty tied together—I had the situation, I had Tom’s storyline I wanted to deal with. I wanted to capture the feeling of how much can happen in a single day.

I have twin daughters—they were in preschool, I was freelancing and trying to take care of them. Going back and forth between Tom and Helen—that was the kind of life I was living. My husband and I were having intense days that weaved together. [It’s the idea of] having separate days in separate worlds.

Q: So you knew from the beginning that you would go back and forth between them?

A: I had the two storylines, and I wanted to go back and forth.

Q: How did the idea that the action would take place in one day affect the writing process?

A: There were constraints because of that. I was checking train times to my imaginary town. Devon isn’t real but I didn’t want to create a train that wasn’t there. Even the sunrise time [which plays a role in the story].

The other part is that I allowed myself the ability to...[read on]
Visit Jennifer Kitses's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Richard Reeves

Richard Reeves's new book is Dream Hoarders: How the American Upper Middle Class Is Leaving Everyone Else in the Dust, Why That Is a Problem, and What to Do about It. From his MarketWatch interview with John Coumarianos:

MarketWatch: As an immigrant to the United States, how long did it take you to realize how stratified the classes were here?

Reeves: It was a combination of looking at transitional matrices [tables showing mobility] during the day — the U.S. is pretty sticky at the top — and listening to people talk and operate on the weekends and evening. In the U.K. we do class in plain sight. Here’s it’s more quiet. There’s a kind of collective national self-denial about it.

Q: You write: ‘Far from abandoning marriage, college-educated Americans are busily rehabilitating the institution for the modern age, turning it into a child-rearing machine for a knowledge economy.’ All of that sounds like a pretty unerotic business.

A: America is where the most powerful women in the history of the world are more likely to get and stay married. It might have been hard to imagine that the most educated and economically powerful women would get married at high rates. But there is an acknowledgment that this is the best way, especially for the kids. If it’s not “‘til death do us part,” it’s at least “til the last high-schooler departs.” So there is some empty-nest divorce, but not much. People are getting married later so they have their more romantic experiences...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Gian Sardar

Gian Sardar's new novel is You Were Here. From her Q&A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: You've said that you've "always been fascinated with invisible layers." How did that fascination lead to the creation of You Were Here?

A: I love the idea that we’re inside a living, breathing history. That everywhere and everything we touch is full of a life we just can’t see, and that sometimes we might sense those past stories in ways that don’t seem logical; a strange moment of pause on a street corner where someone took their last breath, an unexpected feeling of happiness in a place where someone said “I do,” or a feeling of loss in a place where someone said a final goodbye.

I’ve always been fascinated by those invisible worlds that came before us, as well as with the stories of the past that create our present, yet another layer.

Everything that came before us forms the platform on which we stand and I love to imagine how far back that might stretch - whether it’s your life, your parents’ lives, or even a life you could have lived before.

In so many ways our histories began long, long ago, and it’s that idea and that fascination that led me to write a book in which one layer is exposed.

In You Were Here, you see the past, and with that you understand the history of objects and places, as well as glimpse the components that...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, July 24, 2017

Jesse Eisinger

Jesse Eisinger is a senior reporter and editor at ProPublica, and the author of The Chickenshit Club: Why the Justice Department Fails to Prosecute Executives. From his Fresh Air interview with Terry Gross:

GROSS: This is FRESH AIR. And if you're just joining us, my guest is Pulitzer-Prize-winning business reporter Jesse Eisinger, who's a senior reporter and editor with ProPublica and author of the new book "The Chickens Club: Why The Justice Department Fails To Prosecute Executives." And the book tries to answer the question, why were no executives punished with the exception of one after the financial meltdown of 2008?

So when you ask the question, why weren't more individuals prosecuted, you know, after the financial meltdown, I expected the answer to be, well, there was this word that came down, like, protect the banks or, you know - that's not what you found. It's not...


GROSS: Yeah, you found that - I mean the big picture I think is that you found that the Department of Justice lost a lot of prosecutorial tools that it used to have.

EISINGER: Yeah. The Department of Justice suffers a series of fiascos, losses. And they lose tools and there are bad rulings from the courts. And that ends up depriving the prosecutors of tools to prosecute these individuals. And they lose that focus and end up settling on corporations. So yes, it wasn't Tim Geithner, the treasury secretary, calling up Eric Holder and saying, lay off the banks. It was a kind of slow evolution.

GROSS: What's an example of a tool that you think could have been used to good effect after the financial meltdown that the Justice Department no longer was able to use?

EISINGER: Well, prosecutors used to be able to say to companies, if you want to claim that you're cooperating with our investigations, then you have to...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, July 23, 2017

Anne Sibley O'Brien

Anne Sibley O'Brien's new novel for kids is In the Shadow of the Sun.

From her Q&A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: As you noted, you grew up in South Korea. How did that affect the writing of this novel?

A: I can't imagine how I could have managed without that experience. One of the issues of writing across cultures is understanding your own lens as an insider or outsider.

Growing up in Korea I was both, a foreign, high-status American child, while living in the Korean community, absorbing Korean life and language through my young eyes and ears, skin and bones.

It's given me the gift of lifelong relationships with close friends and extended and immediate family who are Korean — including our daughter — and so many connections within the Korean American community. All of this...[read on]
Visit Anne Sibley O'Brien's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, July 22, 2017

Steven Pinker

Stephen Pinker's books include The Better Angels of Our Nature and The Sense of Style: The Thinking Person’s Guide to Writing in the 21st Century. From his Q&A at Undark Magazine:

UD — On Twitter [in 2016], you wrote that “all words have [more than] one meaning” and also that “mature adults resist taking pointless offense.” We wonder about the word “all” here. How do you square that, for example, with unambiguous, sexually or racially derogative words?

SP — Actually, it’s not easy to find words that are unambiguously derogatory; it always depends on the context. The most offensive word in contemporary English is “nigger”(from negro, Spanish for “black”), but it was far less incendiary in the antebellum South. … And today the term is famously used in a teasing or affectionate manner among African Americans, as if to say “We’re so intimate that we can call each other offensive names without taking offense.” “Queer,” “dyke,” and “bitch” have also been appropriated by their original targets, and there is a magazine for hip young Jews called Heeb.

Of course the speaker and tone are everything. In the movie “Rush Hour,” Jackie Chan plays a Hong Kong detective who innocently follows the lead of his African-American partner and greets the black patrons of a Los Angeles bar with “Wassup, my nigger!” A small riot breaks out.

Even putting aside these consciously defiant acts of reclaiming, most taboo words have, or had, non-taboo senses. Many racist and misogynistic terms started out as metonyms, in which people were demeaningly referred to by...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, July 21, 2017

Sarah Creech

Sarah Creech is the author of two novels, Season of the Dragonflies and The Whole Way Home.

From her Q&A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: Why did you decide to set [The Whole Way Home] in the world of country music, and how did you come up with your character Jo?

A: I chose Nashville for a few reasons: I’ve had the pleasure of meeting some great musicians like Margo Price, Chance McCoy of Old Crow Medicine Show, J.P. Harris and the Tough Choices, Dale Watson, Jack White (this list goes on and on), and at one point or another in their musical careers, they’ve made Nashville their home.

This musical city full of so much diverse talent captured my imagination and I knew I wanted to explore it. Also, I chose this world because it has such a rich narrative tradition and blends so many different styles that define America, from Appalachian folk songs to African American spirituals, yet the genre itself has been largely overlooked by scholars.

My female protagonist, Jo Lover, was born from deep reading about women’s roles in the history of country music. Her background and her present circumstances are curated from the history I encountered. Her transformation from a world of poverty to a world of fame is a familiar one. (Dolly, Loretta, and Elvis too).

I was drawn to the experience of women in male-dominated fields and what kind of persona a woman must present to navigate those power dynamics.

I’m fascinated too by...[read on]
Visit Sarah Creech's website.

My Book, The Movie: The Whole Way Home.

The Page 69 Test: The Whole Way Home.

Writers Read: Sarah Creech.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Joshua Green

Joshua Green's new book is Devil’s Bargain: Steve Bannon, Donald Trump, and the Storming of the Presidency. From the transcript of his Fresh Air interview with Terry Gross:

GROSS: Steve Bannon has said with pride that he created the alt-right. And during the Trump campaign, there was a lot of anti-Semitism and racism being unleashed on the Internet, particularly on Twitter. And as you point out in the book, a lot of journalists were getting a lot of anti-Semitic imagery and language directed at them, particularly Jewish journalists. Do you think Steve Bannon is implicated in that at all?

GREEN: Oh, I think he's implicated, yeah. You know, in all the time I spent with him, I never heard Bannon say anything anti-Semitic. And if you talk to people who worked at Breitbart and left who are critical of him, they don't think he is either. You know, I heard Islamophobia and sexism and all sorts of things which I, you know, include - never heard anti-Semitic.

But I think the best answer to the question came in an answer that Bannon gave in a 2014 Vatican conference. A tape of this resurfaced over the last six months or so through BuzzFeed where he's asked about the racism and the anti-Semitism that seems to be a big part of the far-right wing. Bannon's answer was to kind of shrug his shoulders and say, well, I think all of that stuff is just going to wash out in the end. He seemed to think of it as kind of a necessary evil and that if he was going to storm the gates of the establishment fortress, that he really couldn't pick and choose between who his allies were. And so he was happy to align himself with people who had very, very ugly viewpoints. And I think that became, in a worrisome sort of way, part of Trump's appeal to a pretty important bloc of voters who wound up supporting him.

GROSS: Do you see Steve Bannon as a true believer?

GREEN: Absolutely. You know, early on when I first met him, I thought he was a typical Washington grifter who was kind of glomming on to the Tea Party-Palin thing as a way to make money. And it became clear pretty early on that, no, Bannon really believes this stuff to a degree that's almost scary. And he will keep fighting for this idea of an anti-immigrant nationalism come hell or high water.

GROSS: And what about President Trump? What drives him? Do you think he's a true believer?

GREEN:...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Rachel Kadish

Rachel Kadish's new novel is The Weight of Ink. From her Q&A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: You've written that the inspiration for The Weight of Ink came from thinking about a question Virginia Woolf asked about Shakespeare's sister. How did that question end up turning into this novel, and what do you think your book says about the role of women in the 17th century?

A: I often start writing when something bothers me and I don’t know why. In A Room of One’s Own, Virginia Woolf posed the question: what would have happened to an equally talented female Shakespeare? Woolf’s answer, “she died without writing a word,” haunted me. I thought: what would it take for a woman of that era not to die without writing a word?

Well, for one thing, she couldn't have been obedient. She would have had to be a genius at breaking rules.

I realized I wanted to write a story about what it might take for a woman not to be defeated when everything around her is telling her to sit down and mind her manners.

Q: The book includes both historical and modern-day characters. Did you have a preference when it came to writing the different sections of the book?

A: It was definitely easier writing the...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Simon Toyne

Simon Toyne is the author of The Boy Who Saw: A Solomon Creed Novel.

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

It’s clear that “The Boy Who Saw” explores some dark themes based on some recent political events. Will you tell our readers what those events are and how they relate to the novel?

The central story revolves around a killer who has murdered a tailor and is trying to get the names of other people to kill. Along with the body of this tailor, the police discover a wall in his shop on which is written in blood, ‘Finishing what was begun.’ The ritualistic murder suggests it had something to do with the Nazi death camps. The victim, this tailor, was one of only four survivors from a specific death camp.

As the anniversary celebrating the end of the Second World War looms, someone is trying to complete the murders that began seventy years earlier. The novel is also set amidst the current political shift in both America and Europe—the turning toward hard, nationalistic right wing politics. The nationalists are looking for scapegoats, just as the Jews were scapegoated by Germany in World War II.

The entire story is really about the importance of remembering our history; otherwise, it will repeat itself. While it’s a thriller, with Solomon becoming a suspect who must escape and clear his name, it deals with modern themes and larger concerns set against the backdrop of a survivor’s memoir which ties it into what is happening today.

I like to explore...[read on]
Learn more about the book and author at Simon Toyne's website, Facebook page, and Twitter perch.

My Book, The Movie: Sanctus.

The Page 69 Test: Sanctus.

The Page 69 Test: The Tower.

My Book, The Movie: The Tower.

My Book, The Movie: The Searcher.

Writers Read: Simon Toyne (October 2015).

The Page 69 Test: The Searcher.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, July 17, 2017

Elliot Ackerman

Elliot Ackerman's new novel is Dark at the Crossing.

From his Q&A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: How did you come up with the idea for Dark at the Crossing and for your character Haris?

A: I had started to travel to southern Turkey in 2013 when I was covering the civil war there, and became friendly with a number of people who were activists in the revolution.

I was interested in the idea of how you tell the story of the revolution. It can seem impenetrable when you get into the different fighting groups. The more I’d spend time with the revolutionaries, they’d say, “I fell in love with the revolution, the idea that we could reimagine the country, and when it failed, I found myself heartbroken.”

I thought maybe I could tell a story that follows that emotional arc. What is the emotional equivalent of going through a failed revolution? A failed marriage. When it doesn’t work out and you’re left with the emotional wreckage.

To the characters in the book—I wanted to tell a story. I had the idea of a guy, Haris Abadi, a man of two identities. The spelling of his name was intentional. It’s a Western-sounding name with the Arab spelling. It’s a good framework to tell the story.

Since the book came out, I’ve been asked why I have protagonists who aren’t...[read on]
Visit Elliot Ackerman's website.

The Page 69 Test: Green on Blue.

My Book, The Movie: Green on Blue.

My Book, The Movie: Dark at the Crossing.

The Page 69 Test: Dark at the Crossing.

Writers Read: Elliot Ackerman.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Sam Wiebe

Sam Wiebe's novel Last of the Independents won the Kobo Emerging Writer Prize and an Arthur Ellis Award, and was nominated for a Shamus award. His second novel, Invisible Dead, was published by Random House Canada and Quercus USA. His short stories have appeared in Thuglit, Spinetingler, and subTerrain, and he was the 2016 Vancouver Public Library Writer in Residence. He lives in Vancouver.

From Wiebe's Q&A with Maggie Meyers at BookTrib:

BT: What literary pilgrimages have you gone on? (If any)

SW: I’ve been to the Oxford Bar in Edinburgh, John Rebus’s watering hole. And I’ve been to Stratford-upon-Avon.

BT: What’s your favorite under-appreciated novel?

SW: I read John McFetridge’s Everybody Knows This is Nowhere and thought it was the first crime novel by a Canadian that was as good or better than anything published in the US or UK. He writes social-realist, working-class fiction about...[read on]
Visit Sam Wiebe's website.

Writers Read: Sam Wiebe.

My Book, The Movie: Invisible Dead.

The Page 69 Test: Invisible Dead.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, July 15, 2017

Phaedra Patrick

Phaedra Patrick's new novel is Rise and Shine, Benedict Stone. From the author's Q& A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: How did you come up with the idea for your character Benedict, and why did you choose gemstones as a focus for your new novel?

A: I was always aware, as a child, that each month of the year has a gemstone connected to it. My birth month is August, so my stone is a Peridot and I used to be a little jealous that other months had (what I thought were) more glamorous gems, such as Garnet, Amethyst and Emerald.

When I got engaged I chose a silver ring with a Peridot and decided to find out more about the gem. Peridots are supposedly good for easing tension, stress and anxiety in relationships – quite a good thing before getting married! I wanted to find out more about other gemstones so I started to read about those too.

I thought that Benedict would make a good character to take on a journey of discovery. He’s a large man, a jeweller, and stuck in...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, July 14, 2017

Dina Nayeri

Dina Nayeri's new novel is Refuge.

From the transcript of her NPR interview with Ari Shapiro:

ARI SHAPIRO, HOST: In the new novel "Refuge," Dina Nayeri tells a story very much like her own. Nayeri left Iran with her mother when she was 8 years old. Her father stayed behind. The same is true of this book's protagonist, a character named Niloo. Niloo's father even comes from the same Iranian small town as Nayeri's father. Here's how the author describes it.

DINA NAYERI: Ardestoon, my father's childhood home, is an ancient village of unpaved roads, dotted in crushed mulberries, hand-crafted outdoor rugs swept with brooms, rows of pickle jars the size of children lining every house.

It has two rivers, two gardens, an orchard connected to a natural pool with ducks, a mosque, a medium-sized mountain and a famous two-story aqueduct, an 800-year-old structure that the people of the village don't even realize they should be proud of because they are too busy living uncomplicated lives that Baba calls overflowing and poetic.

SHAPIRO: Dina Nayeri's mother converted to Christianity, so she had to flee Iran with her children to escape persecution. While Nayeri's father continued his familiar Iranian life, his daughter traveled the world, moving to the United States and then to Europe. The divide between father and daughter helped define Dina Nayeri's life, and it defines this novel, "Refuge."

NAYERI: I remember a professor telling me that, you know, you can either have...[read on]
Learn more about the book and author at Dina Nayeri's website.

The Page 69 Test: A Teaspoon of Earth and Sea.

My Book, The Movie: A Teaspoon of Earth and Sea.

Writers Read: Dina Nayeri (February 2013).

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Melissa Savage

Melissa Savage's new novel for kids is Lemons.

From her Q&A with Deborah Kalb:

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

A: I wanted to provide some very patient and supportive people along Lemonade’s journey of grief that would navigate that loss with gentle guidance and love. Supportive people with the ability to help Lemonade to embrace the memories of the past versus trying to forget to ease the pain.

I wanted to write a story about people who embrace the special loved ones they’ve lost with gratitude and joy in addition to the sadness that inevitably comes with grieving.

Q: The book is set in 1975--why did you choose that time period?

A: I find that we are all so focused on technology and I wanted to take a break from that and let kids of today experience what it was like when we didn’t have Google at our fingertips.

Q: One of the themes in the book is the search for Bigfoot. Why did you decide to focus on that?

A: I love the mystery of Bigfoot, mostly because...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Rick Wartzman

Rick Wartzman's new book is The End of Loyalty: The Rise and Fall of Good Jobs in America.

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

GROSS: You know, we were talking earlier about unions and how early on, like, Kodak didn't unionize because the workers felt that the benefits at Kodak were good enough. Kodak tried to be on its own competitive with unions. How has the union situation in the four companies you profile changed in the past few years? Like, what is the importance of unions in those organizations now, and how powerful are they compared to the power they had in the past?

WARTZMAN: Well, in terms of how much - how powerful they are, they're a shadow of themselves. But you know, now the auto workers - you know, after the bankruptcy, there have been some gains restored. But you know, they had to go to a two-tier wage structure where even unionized employees coming into General Motors were starting at much lower wages. And suddenly auto workers were facing something they never did before. Again, this used to be a path to a really solid middle-class life. And now even auto workers, you know, are struggling to get by.

At other companies like General Electric, unions just have - you know, they're still there, and - but they've become much less a presence as the company has shifted into this kind of new economy and digital economy. And there are just fewer and fewer union jobs at a company like that. And that is reflective of what's happening across America. We're now at a point where fewer than 7 percent of private sector workers are unionized in this country. And it's just clearly not enough to have the kind of collective voice and countervailing power against corporate power that, again, was able to lift wages and benefits for all folks, not only those carrying union cards but other blue-collar workers and even white-collar workers in the past.

GROSS: What do you see as one of the big turning points in the weakening of unions?

WARTZMAN: Well, there were a couple of things going on. Unions definitely...[read on]
The Page 99 Test: Rick Wartzman's Obscene in the Extreme: The Burning and Banning of John Steinbeck's The Grapes of Wrath.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Mark Lukach

Mark Lukach's new memoir is My Lovely Wife in the Psych Ward. From his Q&A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: You note that you started working on this book around the time that your wife was first hospitalized. Did you know early on that you would be writing a book about your experiences?

A: I had no idea this would be a book. I’m a history teacher. Writing was something I was doing at night when Giulia was going to sleep. In addition to running on the beach, I’d send emails to my parents and her parents. They were really long.

They were a way of making sense of what was going on. If I was trying to explain the unpredictable, irrational things to my parents and her parents, I had to sort out my thinking. It was a private email thing.

When Giulia got better, I needed her to understand my experiences. I had done a lot of research, and she was so consumed by her [experiences], she took for granted that the cheery disposition I was putting on was authentic. I was trying to hold myself together.

Post-recovery, I was feeling pretty bad. Giulia had a hard time hearing it. There was a disconnect. I started writing mostly for her. That became a much more manageable medium for her. It seemed like a launching point for discussion.

The book was so personal in the beginning. We both realized [it would be good to] make it available to the public at large. Especially from...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, July 10, 2017

Paul Beatty

In 2016, Paul Beatty became the first American to win the Booker prize with his fourth novel, The Sellout. From his Q&A with Kate Kellaway at the Guardian:

When you started The Sellout, to what extent did you know where you were going with it?

I started with the idea of rendering segregation in a contemporary context. I was asking myself: how do you segregate something without having any power? I was intrigued to try to figure it out. I have a pretty good sense of direction, although I don’t know how I’m going to get there. But the real seed for the book was the character of Hominy [former child actor and latter-day, self-appointed slave]. I tend to like underappreciated characters: you think you see one thing, you might be seeing something else.

I was affected by what you said when you received the Booker prize – you were visibly moved yourself – about writing having given you a life…

I am fortunate in having found something I enjoy, even though I hate doing it too. Writing is a struggle, full of weird contradictions.

As a satirist, do you think there is anything that ought to be satire-proof?

No… but...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, July 9, 2017

Janet Benton

Janet Benton's new novel is Lilli de Jong.

From her Q&A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: You note that you came up with the idea for the book when you were caring for your baby. What specifically inspired the creation of Lilli?

A: That’s where the mystery comes in, where her specific voice came from. I was learning about wet nurses in history and nursing my daughter, and I started hearing a young wet nurse railing about the unfairness of her circumstances. The young man paid no price for their night of indiscretion, and look at her. It was an act of empathy, I suppose. A character began to take shape.

Q: What kind of research did you do to recreate Philadelphia in the 1880s, and did you learn anything that especially surprised you?

A: I was surprised at how much people hated and still hate unwed mothers. They had sex without being married, whether it was consensual or not, yet these people didn’t and don’t hate the woman’s partner or rapist. The woman alone bears the shame and the hatred.

In my research, I learned that these young women were shunned, hounded on the streets, victimized over and over. They would hide their pregnancy with tightly laced corsets, but that eventually would become too painful, and imagine what that would have done to the baby.

And most hospitals were...[read on]
Visit Janet Benton's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, July 8, 2017

Victoria Redel

Victoria Redel's new novel is Before Everything.

From her Guernica interview with Annie DeWitt:

Guernica: This book dismisses the cliché of women as necessary enemies fighting for the male gaze. In fact, their friendships, rather than their marriages, or even their children, seem to fuel them. I wondered if you might talk about how you claimed that power?

Victoria Redel: It wasn’t a power that needed to be claimed. It’s truly how I feel. I don’t buy any image of women as enemies or inevitably bitchy. Are women angry or ambitious? Yes, sometimes—and why shouldn’t they be? Maybe men believe our primary focus is the male gaze, but what woman in the midst of her life would agree? It is part of an oversimplified portrayal of women that has nothing to do with women’s actual lives. The women in Before Everything have been one another’s close confidantes over many years. They bear one another’s contradictions, they speak up to one another, and they show up for each other. I don’t think this is exceptional, and not only among intimate friends. Hasn’t every woman had the experience of walking into a public bathroom—let’s say at highway rest stop—and some woman washing her hands next to you says the most personal revealing statement? Maybe she looks up and catches your eye in the mirror, says, “Whoa, when did I start looking like my mother?” Or she might say, “I might have to kill my husband and my kids before this road trip is over.” And you nod and laugh, “I know. I know.” You say, “I’ve already killed mine three times this summer.” And then...[read on]
Visit Victoria Redel's website.

The Page 69 Test: Before Everything.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, July 7, 2017

John Pfordresher

John Pfordresher's new book is The Secret History of Jane Eyre: How Charlotte Brontë Wrote Her Masterpiece. From his Q&A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: How would you describe the relationship between Charlotte Bronte and her fictional creation, Jane Eyre?

A: Despite Brontë’s vigorous denials, there is a remarkably close relationship between herself and her heroine. This was necessitated by her simultaneous wish to make the novel as realistic as possible, and her acknowledgement that her own life experience had been strictly limited.

In pursuing the aim, as she wrote, of taking “Nature and Truth as my sole guides,” she had necessarily to draw upon her own past life. She didn’t know much else.

My book thus has been able to make a series of connections between what can be known about Charlotte Brontë, both the things she observed and did, and also the intensely vivid fantasy life which she had cultivated since early adolescence, and the resulting novel.

Jane Eyre, all of the evidence suggests, is a product of Brontë’s ability to transform her past self into...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, July 6, 2017

Edward Luce

Edward Luce is the author of The Retreat of Western Liberalism. From his Q&A with Isaac Chotiner at Slate:

One of the most depressing things about your book is that when people like Trump come to power they make every social and economic problem that they were elected to solve much worse. Is there anything that gets you hopeful, or is this just a horrific picture with no upside?

So let me say one unhopeful thing before I say one hopeful thing. The unhopeful thing is that we are living through what my colleague Martin Wolf labels very correctly as pluto-populism. We’ve got a plutocratic sort of class and Trump is executing well. Perhaps he’s not competent enough to execute it, but at any rate he’s hoping to push through, I guess, the most plutocratic fiscal plans we’ve ever seen in terms of the shift of public resources and the tax windfalls for the wealthiest people. That is very, very Latin American. It tends to happen in the most unequal societies with no middle, a big bottom, and a powerful top. And so that’s my fear.

My hope is that we actually do learn as societies from our mistakes. I’m going to give you a really odd example here, which is Iran. There’s just zero chance, as I understand from people who do know Iran well, that a clown like Ahmadinejad could be elected in the foreseeable future back to the presidency. They’ve been through this pantomime and they’ve stuck with Rouhani because they understand—it being in very recent memory—what the theatrical and highly damaging diversions do to their pocketbooks and to their stability as a society. So that’s my hope: that we...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Dana Alison Levy

Dana Alison Levy's new novel for kids is This Would Make a Good Story Someday.

From her Q&A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: How did you come up with the idea for your new book, and for your main character, Sara?

A: There was no one “ah-hah!” moment with this book, but rather a quieter series of “what if” moments.

What if I write a story about Ladybug’s family (she’s a secondary character from The Misadventures of the Family Fletcher, for those who don’t know!). What if it’s told from her 12-year-old sister’s point-of-view? What if they are taking a family trip?

So Sara already existed, because I mention her (in I think only one line, almost at the end of Misadventures). But everything else just followed.

Q: Did you need to do much research on the cities Sara and her family visit in the course of the story?

A: I really did! I wish I had thought to take a cross-country train trip with my family and written it all off as a work expense, but...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Steph Post

Steph Post’s new novel is Lightwood.

From her Q&A with Kevin Catalano at The Coil:

The last time we talked about A Tree Born Crooked, you told me about the need for more badass women in writing. You certainly delivered that here. I noticed that almost without exception, the women in your book force the men’s hands in one way or another: Sister Tulah intimidates the baddest of dudes by her sheer presence and will (and never with a gun); Shelia uses information to manipulate men and, in a way, orchestrate the final climax; and Ramey’s strength, courage, and independence are necessary for Judah to succeed, and survive. (I especially love when Judah tells her, “You’ve always been mine.” and she responds, “No. I’ve been my own.”) How deliberate were these choices?

This is one of the moments when I get so excited for people to read the sequel, because as the story develops, these three women really come into their own in powerful, unexpected ways. I don’t have an agenda in the writing of badass female characters; I just write the sorts of characters that I would want to read about and who I identify with. And those characters are badass women. But I definitely, wholeheartedly, feel like we need more of these types of female characters, especially in this genre. Unfortunately, the grit-lit, country-noir, whatever-you-want-to-call-it genre, is a bit of a boy’s club, and I think that landscape needs to expand. I could go on for hours on this topic, but to go back to your original question, I...[read on]
Visit Steph Post's website.

Writers Read: Steph Post.

My Book, The Movie: Lightwood.

The Page 69 Test: Lightwood.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, July 3, 2017

Jonathan Morduch & Rachel Schneider

Jonathan Morduch and Rachel Schneider are the authors of The Financial Diaries: How American Families Cope in a World of Uncertainty. From their Q&A at the Princeton University Press blog:

Why did you write this book?

We have both spent our careers thinking about households and consumer finance, and our field has reams and reams of descriptive data about what people do—savings rates, the number of overdrafts, the size of their tax refunds. We have lots of financial information but very little of the existing data helped us understand why—why people make the financial decisions they make, and why they get tripped up. So we decided to spend time with a group of families, get to know them very well, and track every dollar they earned, spent, borrowed, and shared over the course of one year. By collecting new and different kinds of information, we were able to understand a lot of the why, and gained a new view of what’s going on in America.

What did you learn about the financial lives of low- and moderate-income families in your year-long study?

We saw that the financial lives of a surprising number of families looks very different from the standard story that most people expect. The first and most prominent thing we saw is how unsteady, how volatile households’ income and expenses were for many. The average family in our study had more than five months a year when income was 25% above or below their average.

That volatility made it hard to budget and save—and it meant that plans were often derailed. How people were doing had less to do with the income they expected to earn in total during the year and more to do with when that income hit paychecks and how predictable that was. Spending emergencies added a layer of complexity. In other words, week-to-week and month-to-month cash flow problems dominated many families’ financial lives. Their main challenges weren’t...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, July 2, 2017

Gina Sorell

Gina Sorell's new novel is Mothers and Other Strangers.

From her Q&A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: How did you come up with the idea for Mothers and Other Strangers, and for your main character, Elsie?

A: I've always ben obsessed with identity and the idea of belonging. And I've always been fascinated by people's recollections of their own lives and how we edit our own personal histories to serve our own purposes. I wanted to write about that and about family and secrets, and the lies we tell when the truth is too much.

Elsie is familiar to me; a complicated woman who has survived a cold and distant parent that hasn't nurtured them. And yet, she is someone whose capacity for love and a desire for a happier life, compels her to try and understand what shaped her mother and created her failings.

She does this in an effort to not only move on and heal, but also out of a genuine desire to have some sort of relationship with her mother. My own mother is amazing, thankfully. But...[read on]
Visit Gina Sorell's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, July 1, 2017

Meg Gardiner

Meg Gardiner's new novel is UNSUB.

From her Q&A with Jeff Abbott at the Los Angeles Review of Books:

JEFF ABBOTT: UNSUB asks the dramatic question: “What if a killer like the Zodiac returned?” How did you come up with this premise?

MEG GARDINER: The premise found me. I grew up in California, where the Zodiac wasn’t a theoretical threat. He was a nightmare: a killer who wore an executioner’s hood, attacked young couples, then bragged about it to the police and media. He taunted the public, wrote still-unsolved cryptograms, and threatened to shoot kids on school buses. He sowed terror.

Then he disappeared. He’s never been identified.

I was haunted by that. And I wondered: If the Zodiac left the stage on his terms — somebody so violent, so vicious, so eager to play mind games and hungry for publicity — what’s to stop him from returning?

That was the genesis of UNSUB.

It’s the start of a series featuring investigator Caitlin Hendrix. Did you plan for this to be a series, or did Caitlin seem like she had more story to tell once you started writing?

Both! Caitlin has a will to seek justice — she’s a cop’s daughter and has a bone-deep conviction that wrongs need to be put right. She also loves the thrill of the hunt. There’s a...[read on]
Learn more about the book and author at Meg Gardiner's website, blog, Facebook page, and Twitter perch.

The Page 69 Test: The Dirty Secrets Club.

The Page 69 Test: The Memory Collector.

My Book, The Movie: Meg Gardiner's Evan Delaney series.

The Page 69 Test: The Liar's Lullaby.

My Book, The Movie: Meg Gardiner's Jo Beckett series.

The Page 69 Test: The Nightmare Thief.

The Page 69 Test: Ransom River.

The Page 69 Test: The Shadow Tracer.

Writers Read: Meg Gardiner (June 2014).

The Page 69 Test: Phantom Instinct.

--Marshal Zeringue