Saturday, September 30, 2017

Dennis Rasmussen

Dennis C. Rasmussen is associate professor of political science at Tufts University. His books include The Pragmatic Enlightenment.

His new book is The Infidel and the Professor: David Hume, Adam Smith, and the Friendship That Shaped Modern Thought.

From the author's Q&A at Princeton University Press:

Who were David Hume and Adam Smith, and why are they important?

Hume and Smith were eighteenth-century Scots who ended up becoming two of the most significant figures of the Enlightenment, and indeed the entire Western tradition. Hume is widely regarded as the greatest philosopher ever to write in the English language. He’s also among the most provocative of philosophers: a powerful critic of both religion and the capacities of human reason, as well as a forceful champion of commerce and the all-around benefits of civilization. Smith is almost certainly history’s most famous theorist of commercial society, or what we’d now call capitalism—in fact, he’s often hailed as the founding father of capitalism. As his modern interpreters never tire of pointing out, though, Smith was far more than an economist who theorized the invisible hand and championed free trade. Instead, he was a professor of moral philosophy who included political economy as just one of his many intellectual interests, and he recognized—to a greater degree than Hume, as a matter of fact—a number of potential dangers and drawbacks associated with commercial society. It’s truly remarkable that two thinkers of this stature were best friends for most of their adult lives; that’s a big part of what inspired me to write the book.

It’s certainly remarkable that they were best friends, but you go so far as to claim that theirs was the greatest of all philosophical friendships. That’s a big claim.

Yes, it is, but I think it’s a warranted one. In fact, it takes some effort to think of who the closest rivals would be. During the course of writing the book this became something of a parlor game that I played with fellow political theorists, philosophers, and intellectual historians: What was the greatest friendship in the history of philosophy? Most people’s first instinct is to say Socrates and Plato, but given the four-decade age disparity between them, their relationship was probably more one of teacher and student, or perhaps mentor and protégé, than one of equals, and in any case the record of their personal interactions is scant. Ditto for Plato and Aristotle. Locke and Newton admired one another, but could hardly be said to be close friends. Heidegger and Arendt had more of a (stormy) romantic relationship than a friendship, as did Sartre and de Beauvoir (with somewhat less drama). As for Montaigne and La Boétie, Lessing and Mendelssohn, Bentham and James Mill, Hegel and Schelling, Marx and Engels, and Whitehead and Russell, in each of these cases...[read on]
Learn more about The Infidel and the Professor at the Princeton University Press website.

The Page 99 Test: The Infidel and the Professor.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, September 29, 2017

Melissa Scholes Young

Melissa Scholes Young's new novel is Flood.

From her Q&A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: How did you come up with the idea for Flood, and for interspersing historical information about Mark Twain into the story?

A: Flood began as the story of Rose and Laura’s friendship. I wanted to write a female version of Huckleberry Finn and Tom Sawyer. These are friendships with so much history you can’t quit them, even as you covet what the other has. Laura and Rose have known each other their whole lives and they’ve stayed deeply connected even with distance and differences.

At the same time, I was researching the history of the Mississippi River and its running backwards in 1812 because of a series of earthquakes along the New Madrid Fault.

Growing up in Hannibal you hear stories about it, but the facts of how the river determines our daily life, as it did for Mark Twain growing up there, are fascinating. Once I realized the parallels between Twain’s story and Laura Brooks, I intentionally wove them together.

I needed another character, Laura’s high school English teacher, Ms. B, to teach the history as a book within a book for the local Tom and Becky pageant contestants. I wanted Ms. B to be an outsider shining a light on the literature for the insiders. When you grow up in a place like Hannibal, you...[read on]
Visit Melissa Scholes Young's website.

Coffee with a Canine: Melissa Scholes Young & Huckleberry Nacho Finn.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, September 28, 2017

David Litt

David Litt entered the White House in 2011 and left in 2016 as a Special Assistant to the President and Senior Presidential Speechwriter. Described as the “comic muse for the president,” Litt began contributing jokes to President Obama’s speeches in 2009 and was the lead writer on four White House Correspondents’ Dinners. He is currently the head writer/producer for Funny Or Die’s office in Washington, D.C.

Litt's new book is Thanks, Obama: My Hopey, Changey White House Years.

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

GROSS: So when you're writing speeches for President Obama or writing jokes for him, it's not just a question of how the president is going to react, it's also a question of how the world is going to react and how the press is going to react. So I'd like to ask you to give an example of something pretty minor, really, but that ended up getting criticized. And this was - I think it was your, like, your very first speech that you wrote for the president. It was a Thanksgiving Day speech. So tell us the story of that. And by the way, did you have to pardon a turkey in this speech? Is it one of those?

LITT: No. I, somewhat shockingly, managed to never do the turkey pardon. And I don't know how I managed to avoid that one. No, the turkey-pardon speech was always - that was sort of the most pun-laden speech of the year because there's all these Thanksgiving puns. So in some ways, it was fun. And in some ways - every way - it was sort of, by definition, it was sort of the - a festival of dad jokes.

But this was 2011. I was writing the Thanksgiving video address, which is not the most important presidential speech, not by a long shot. But it was my first video that I'd ever written for President Obama. And I treated this thing tremendously seriously. And I thought I had done it. I thought I had done the perfect job of capturing the spirit of Thanksgiving for America. And the problem was that I left out the word God or the Almighty.

And I will say, in my defense, at one point during the video, President Obama talked about giving thanks for blessings. So it's not like he was - you know, these blessings were coming from somewhere. It's not like we hadn't mentioned the idea of the Almighty at all. But this was enough for Fox News to jump on it and start a controversy. And by the time dessert was served, I was with my family, and I remember, you know, everyone was excited for me when we started the meal. And then by the end, it was clear this was going to be a story because Fox ran a Obama-leaves-God-out-of-Thanksgiving-address story.

The conservative media began to pick it up. And then the mainstream press - I use ABC News as an example - they didn't cover the omission of the Almighty in the speech because I think they would've agreed that was not a big deal, but they did cover the controversy. So they ran a separate story about the fact that Fox News had run a story and that conservatives were riled up about this issue. And so you watched as this thing, which wasn't really a story at all, but it was a very small omission - it gradually seeped into the news cycle. And I say that not because I am avoiding responsibility for it.

One of the things I learned as a White House speechwriter is that your job as a speechwriter is not to just write good speeches. Your job is to keep in the back of your mind the fact that there's a whole industry of people trying to take your words out of context. And that's politics. And so you need to write something that - where you read through it and you say, A, are we saying what we want to say? And B, can this, under no circumstances, be misconstrued to say something different? And those kind of dual responsibilities are one of the reasons writing for a president is so difficult.

GROSS: Isn't Thanksgiving a secular holiday?

LITT: (Laughter) Not according to Fox News, it's not. It is true that George W. Bush left God and the Almighty out of...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Terry Newman

Terry Newman is the author of Legendary Authors and the Clothes They Wore. From her Q&A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: Joan Didion is featured on the cover. Why was she selected for the cover, and what do her clothes say about her and about her writing?

A: Joan Didion is an icon in the fashion industry and the cover image by Julian Wasser is timeless. There is a message in my book that finding a style and being yourself is important.

The quote I found from Maya Angelou sums this up: “Seek the fashion which truly fits and befits you. You will always in be in fashion if you are true to yourself, and only if you are true to yourself.”

Didion’s effortless and amazing style stems from her being herself and the shot I used has a simplicity and elegance to it that is perfect. The photo was an obvious choice for me and the first one that came to mind when I started the book. Luckily Julian was keen and let me use it.

Didion uses clothes a lot in her writing – as a way into a subject. For example, when she wrote about the Manson murders in The White Album she uses Linda Kasabian and the story of buying her a dress to go to court as a foil for...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Margarita Engle

Margarita Engle, the national Young People's Poet Laureate, is the Cuban-American author of many verse novels, including The Surrender Tree, a Newbery Honor winner, The Lightning Dreamer, a PEN USA Award winner. Her verse memoir, Enchanted Air, received the Pura Belpré Award, Golden Kite Award, Walter Dean Myers Honor, and Lee Bennett Hopkins Poetry Award, among others. Her other books have received multiple Pura Belpré, Américas, and Jane Addams Awards and Honors, as well as a Claudia Lewis Poetry Award, and International Reading Association Award. Her picture book, Drum Dream Girl, received the Charlotte Zolotow Award for best picture book text.

Engle's latest books include Forest World and All the Way to Havana.

From her May 2017 Q&A with Angelica Shirley Carpenter at School Library Journal:

What was it like to have new Cuban titles, especially your childhood memoir, Enchanted Air, come out just as the United States took action to improve relations with Cuba?

Drum Dream Girl is about perseverance in seeking freedom, so it seems appropriate for a time when women are still struggling for equal rights. Advanced review copies of Enchanted Air arrived on my doorstep during the week when President Obama announced a restoration of diplomatic relations between the United States and Cuba. The book was released very close to the day when the U.S. Embassy in Havana reopened after more than half a century of Cold War hostility. Fortunately, in between those two thrilling moments, I was able to revise the historical note and time line at the end of the book, changing a memoir that had been intended as a plea for peace into a song of thanks.


What advice can you offer to parents or teachers who discuss the changes in Cuba with children?

Cuba has been marginalized by the United States for so long that you have to start out with a map, even with adults. The map makes it clear that this country is one of our closest neighbors—and that neighbors can be friends. I’m always saddened when children ask me, “What is Cuba?” instead of, “Where is Cuba?” That means they haven’t studied their close neighbor in class. Recently I met a high school U.S. history teacher who actually asked me...[read on]
Visit Margarita Engle's website.

Coffee with a Canine: Margarita Engle & Maggi and Chance.

My Book, The Movie: The Lightning Dreamer.

My Book, The Movie: Mountain Dog.

The Page 69 Test: Silver People.

The Page 99 Test: Enchanted Air.

The Page 69 Test: Lion Island.

Writers Read: Margarita Engle (September 2016).

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, September 25, 2017

Fiona Davis

Fiona Davis's latest novel is The Address.

From her Q&A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: Your last novel [The Dollhouse] focused on the Barbizon Hotel, and this novel [The Address] focuses on the Dakota apartment building in New York. What made you choose the Dakota this time, and do you see any similarities in the role these buildings played in the history of the city?

A: I chose the Dakota as the Barbizon book was in the pipeline for publication. I was looking around, and nothing was clicking. One day I came up from the subway, and it was glowing, as if it was saying, “Pick me!” [But] with John Lennon, [who lived at the Dakota and was killed outside the building in 1980,] there’s a lot as an author that you don’t want to get into.

Both buildings have changed over time, and both were places of refuge. The Barbizon Hotel was a place young women went to stay as they pursued their careers, and the Dakota was a place for the merchant class to live for upward mobility but they couldn’t get it.

The elite only lived in brownstones, and were not interested in living communally. It was people who were willing to take a risk in an apartment, and the Upper West Side was the Wild West of...[read on]
Visit Fiona Davis's website.

My Book, The Movie: The Address.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, September 24, 2017

Elana K. Arnold

Elana K. Arnold writes books for and about children and teens. Ver middle grade novel, A Boy Called Bat, is a Junior Library Guild Selection. She holds a master’s degree in Creative Writing/Fiction from the University of California, Davis where she has taught Creative Writing and Adolescent Literature.

From Arnold's Q&A at The Booking Biz:

Booking Biz: Where do you get the inspiration for your books?

Elana: Most of my books begin with a question, often based in my own life. For instance, when my kids were much younger, my husband and I made the decision to sell our home and most of our belongings and hit the road in an RV. It was an adventure and a growing experience in so many ways. Years later, when my kids neared adolescence, I wondered, what would happen if we had decided to take them on the road when they were 12 and 9 rather than when they were 7 and 4? Might it not have gone over quite so easily? Thus, FAR FROM FAIR was born.

A BOY CALLED BAT is an amalgam of many parts of my life: my respect and love for the ASD community, my ongoing obsession with unusual pets, and my affection for research, to name a few. Bat’s wonderful teacher, Mr. Grayson, and his wonderful school, the Saw Whet School, are modeled after my brother-in-law and the school he teaches for.

I love life. I love people. I love research and discussion and good food and warm animals plopped into my lap. There is so much, everywhere, to...[read on]
Learn more about the book and author at Elana K. Arnold's website.

The Page 69 Test: A Boy Called Bat.

Writers Read: Elana K. Arnold.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, September 23, 2017

Sarah Shoemaker

Sarah Shoemaker is the author of the new novel Mr. Rochester, which recounts the story of Jane Eyre from Rochester's point of view.

From Shoemaker's Q&A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: What did you see as the right balance between Charlotte Bronte's original story and your own inventions?

A: My intent was to write Rochester’s full story, from his earliest memories to the approximate time that Jane Eyre ends. Since Rochester is nearly 20 years older than Jane, that means that the story of his life before Jane takes more space in the book than his life with Jane does.

I used everything I could find about him that Bronte tells us in Jane Eyre (which is more than a casual reader might think) and then filled in with my own inventions.

My intention, of course, was to...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, September 22, 2017

William Drozdiak

William Drozdiak's new book is Fractured Continent: Europe’s Crisis and the Fate of the West. From his Q&A with Slate's Isaac Chotiner:

Isaac Chotiner: People tend to view [German Chancellor Angela] Merkel as the only thing standing between western democracy and the abyss, but how much do you think the different crises facing Europe are actually the result of her actions, and German actions more broadly?

William Drozdiak: The fact is that she was left alone, basically, to solve all these problems with the absence of leadership from other European countries and even from the Obama administration. She’s dealing with the debt crisis. She singlehandedly had to negotiate the Greek situation with her finance ministers, and then Obama outsourced to her dealing with Putin on Ukraine. She had no support from the feckless leadership in France. She was just overwhelmed and literally exhausted when I saw her.

But the Germans did make big mistakes. I think they pressed too hard on austerity and so now the income gap between North and South in Europe is worse than ever. They did not have a coherent policy on Ukraine because a lot of Europeans, even though they went along with sanctions, were grumbling about all the lost trade and, indeed, even within Germany that was the case. On Brexit, they could have had a deal in which they could have talked David Cameron back from doing his referendum, but not enough was done to let him off the hook. A lot of these problems, I think, resulted from basically Merkel just being overwhelmed.

On refugees, she showed great moral and humanitarian courage...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Claire Douglas

Claire Douglas's new novel is Local Girl Missing.

From her Q&A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: How did you come up with the idea for Local Girl Missing, and for your characters Frankie and Sophie?

A: When I was about 21 (in the mid-1990s) a girl from my street went missing after walking home from our local nightclub. It was a huge thing in our town - the police even came and interviewed me and the friends I was with that night as we would have arrived home around the time she went missing.

A few months later, in a different town not too far away, another young girl was murdered after leaving a club. Both these incidences really affected me and my friend and we promised each other that we would always make sure to leave a club together.

But it got me thinking about how I would have felt if it had been my friend who had gone missing. How would it have affected me all these years later? Would the guilt eat me up? Would I be desperate to know what had happened to her? The idea stemmed from there and ...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Hillary Rodham Clinton

Hillary Rodham Clinton is the first woman in US history to become the presidential nominee of a major political party. She served as the 67th Secretary of State—from January 21, 2009, until February 1, 2013—after nearly four decades in public service advocating on behalf of children and families as an attorney, First Lady, and Senator. Her new book is What Happened.

From the transcript of Clinton's conversation with Fresh Air's Terry Gross:

I think what some people are trying to figure out about your book and your tour, your book tour, is how much of it is about trying to defend our democracy — which you think is under attack, both by Russia but also by part of the right wing in America — and how much of it is just self-justification, like you lost, you're angry, you're specifically angry at some people, and Russia, and, like, where is the line? And I think a lot of people [are] more comfortable with the part where it feels like you're defending American democracy and less comfortable where you feel like you're just in it to justify yourself and to say, "I should've won, I did really win, and I'm really angry that I didn't."

But I think they go hand in hand. Because I don't think you could know the story without me also saying, "Look, I made mistakes", and I talk about...

You do.

All of the mistakes that I made, my campaign made, and I'm happy to acknowledge those, because that was part of the retrospective that I had to go through to write this book. I don't think you can understand what I am most worried about in defending democracy unless you follow along with what happened.

So yes, I do think sexism and misogyny played a role, and it's not just about me — I make that clear. I think voter suppression played a much bigger role than people are acknowledging. That is not going away. I think Comey cost me the election, but it was aided and abetted by Russia, WikiLeaks and all the other things we've now found out about Russia.

So take me out of the equation. I'm not running again. I'm not going to be on the ballot. So take me out of the equation and say, "OK, the mistake she made, maybe we can learn from that, etc., etc. But what do we have to worry about?" I think I do a very clear job of saying here are the things we need to worry about going forward. And I also try to say, "Hey this is something that we all have a stake in." I am fundamentally optimistic about our country, but...[read on]
Follow Hillary Clinton on Facebook and Twitter.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Denise Chanterelle DuBois

Denise Chanterelle DuBois is the author of the new memoir Self-Made Woman, which tells the story of her gender transition. From her Q&A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: Why did you decide to write this book?

A: I never really did intend to ever write this book. In fact, I never intended to ever write a book. Why should I? By 2010 I had reached a point in my life where at age 56, I was just relaxing.

I was enjoying finally becoming Denise, after decades in the closet, experiencing and enjoying classical music for the first time in my life, running/swimming, snorkeling on the beaches and coves on the north shore of Kauai, eating healthy, sleeping well, enjoying a close knit circle of friends, and just reflecting on my life as I watched the yellow sun set into the blue Pacific on the north shore almost every evening.

But something was off and it slowly began to gnaw on me. How could I possibly just end things here? How could I just melt back into society as Denise, take the easy road, not tell my story, and turn my back on others who I knew were out there suffering right now as I once did?

I was in a unique position to write my life story and this was the right time for me. Even if my story ended up saving just one person from checking out for good wouldn’t it still be worth it? Without question worth it!

And then I thought of...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, September 18, 2017

Katy Tur

Katy Tur is a correspondent for NBC News and an anchor for MSNBC. Her new book is Unbelievable: My Front-Row Seat to the Craziest Campaign in American History.

From the transcript of her Q&A with Fresh Air's Terry Gross:

GROSS: ... When you - when he was saying insulting things to you at rallies, what got the biggest, angriest response - angry at you, not at him?

TUR: Definitely December 7, 2015. This was a rally in Mount Pleasant, S.C. It was the day that he announced that he wanted to ban all Muslims from coming into America, even Muslims - at that point during the day, Muslims who might've been serving overseas in our military, Muslims who might've been overseas visiting friends or family, Muslim athletes who might've been, you know, at a match or a meet overseas, anybody, where there were questions about all sorts of well-known people that might not be able to get back into the country.

And this was a real turning point in his campaign. It was a real test of whether or not his support would stick with him. We hadn't had any primaries yet. Nobody had voted. But he was getting these massive crowds. And he was being excused for anything that he said. And this was a test - will his supporters condone him going after an entire religion?

At the time, San Bernardino had just happened a week or two before. People were scared about terrorism. This couple had gone into an office party, and shot it up and killed a number of people. And Donald Trump was saying that the administration in power - the Obama administration - was doing nothing to protect Americans, that they weren't vetting people properly, that they were putting your life at risk. Your family and your sons, your daughters, your wives, your husband, your grandparents are at risk every day because the Obama administration is not protecting you, and the media is complicit in this. So they're not only angry at Washington, they're angry at us, the journalists.

And this was one of those rallies where I felt like it was good to keep a lower profile. So I sat down on the stage - not the stage, the press riser. I wasn't standing up in front of my camera. I wasn't easily seen. I was just sitting, taking notes as he was talking. And we're waiting for him to announce the Muslim ban. He doesn't get to it yet in the rally. And suddenly, just like the first rally, I hear my name - Katy Tur. She's back there. Little Katy, what a lie it was. What a lie she told. And he's pointing at me in the crowd. The entire place turns, and they roar...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Ashley Shelby

Ashley Shelby is prize-winning writer whose fiction and essays have appeared in Slate, The Seattle Review, The Portland Review, Los Angeles Review, J Journal: New Writings on Social Justice, The Drouth (U.K.), Sonora Review, Post Road, Southeast Review, Third Coast, and other literary outlets. She's received the Red Hen Press Short Fiction Award, the Enizagam Short Story Award, the Third Coast Fiction Prize, and was recently named a Pushcart Prize nominee. Her newly released debut novel, South Pole Station, has received praise from Publishers Weekly, NPR, USA Today, Time, Library Journal, LitHub, Booklist, Kirkus Reviews, and Bookpage. It has also been named an Indie Next Pick for July.

From Shelby's Q&A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: How did you come up with the idea for South Pole Station, and for your main character, Cooper?

A: My sister, Lacy Shelby, spent a full year at Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station during the 2002-2003 research season as a production cook. She’s one of a select group of women who has ever spent the entire winter season at the South Pole—she even received a Presidential medal and commendation for this achievement.

Anyway, she would send me letters from Antarctica at a time when I was working as a young editor in New York, and though she was never long on details (discretion is key to life at South Pole), the culture she described captured my imagination.

Climate scientists working alongside carpenters, meteorologists, astrophysicists, and research techs matching wits with janitorial staff, administrators, and dining assistants—what can’t happen in an environment like that?

As for Cooper, she started out sharing some qualities with me—an artist with early promise who felt she hadn’t lived up to those expectations. But, as characters are wont to do, she took on a life and a personality of her own, and transcended the flimsy scaffolding I’d constructed for her.

I am always interested in the artistic imperative, how we obey or ...[read on]
Visit Ashley Shelby's website.

Writers Read: Ashley Shelby.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, September 16, 2017

Franklin Foer

Franklin Foer's latest book is World Without Mind: The Existential Threat Of Big Tech. From the transcript of his Q&A with NPR's Ari Shapiro:

SHAPIRO: (Laughter) In this book, you don't just argue that we should be clear-eyed about the costs of these free services [like Facebook and Google]. You argue that this is actually an existential threat. Explain what that threat is.

FOER: So if you're of a certain age, you have a good appreciation for the ways in which we've all become a little bit cyborg. I grew up using maps and having a sense of direction, and now I have a phone. I used to try to remember numbers, and now I have - I can just call them up instantly. And that's great. But what's happening right now is that we're in a phase of human evolution where we're merging with machines. And...

SHAPIRO: But why is that a bad thing? Like, so what?

FOER: So these companies - it's not necessarily a bad thing. But we're not just merging with machines. We've been merging with tools since the beginning of human evolution. And arguably, that's one of the things that makes us human beings. But what we're merging with are machines that are run by companies that act as filters for the way in which we interact and process the world. And so the values of those companies become our values.

We become dependent on these companies in a way in which...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, September 15, 2017

Kim Zarins

Kim Zarins is the author of the YA novel Sometimes We Tell the Truth.

From her Q&A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: How did you come up with the idea of a modern-day version of The Canterbury Tales, with high school students as the characters?

A: I'm a medievalist and have been teaching Chaucer for years, so when my agent and editors were discussing the possibility of me doing a retelling of Chaucer for teens, I was very keen on the idea. I took it and ran with it. It was such a delight to write.

Q: What did you see as the right balance between the original Chaucer and your own modern update?

A: I was willing to let go of Chaucer's Middle English and historical realities like the Black Death and so on, because I think sometimes if we see period dress, we forget how much we have in common with people from so long ago (think of seeing Shakespeare plays in modern dress—it can be very powerful!).

Modernizing the Tales meant the language and cultural contexts would become more relatable and accessible. (Some readers don't even know it's a retelling until I spill the beans in an Afterword at the end!).

I may not be faithful to Chaucer's Middle English or late-14th century life, but I sincerely hope I am faithful to the themes, issues, and layers within Chaucer's complex text. I wanted the novel to be enjoyable for someone new to Chaucer as well as readers looking for my modern play...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Ronlyn Domingue

Ronlyn Domingue is the internationally published author of The Mercy of Thin Air and the Keeper of Tales Trilogy—The Mapmaker’s War, The Chronicle of Secret Riven, and The Plague Diaries. Her essays and short stories have appeared in New England Review, Clackamas Literary Review, and Shambhala Sun as well as on, The Nervous Breakdown, and

From Domingue's conversation at Border Crossing:

Border Crossing: The Plague Diaries begins with a prophecy. The narrator, Secret Riven, has been given a choice to bring darkness or light:
I thought I had a choice to accept neither. I wanted no part of a prophecy, though my blood and bones knew it to be true. Foolish, because I’d read enough myth, lore, and fairy tales to know when one receives a call–hold a candle to a sleeping monster lover, search the world for a lost daughter, take a basket to Grandmother’s house, spin straw into gold–one must heed it.
Secret Riven is a particular archetype of heroine: a reluctant one, easily distracted. Could you talk about Secret’s struggle to accept her fate, and your reasons for writing such a reluctant heroine in our current age?

Ronlyn Domingue: From the moment she comes into the world, Secret is not ordinary. Birds have a council in the room soon after she’s born. Her mother is from a kingdom far away; Secret resembles the people of that region—black hair and tawny skin—and she also has eyes the colors of night and day. She doesn’t speak until she’s seven years old, and before that, she realizes she has the ability to communicate with creatures and plants. She copes by trying to hide her abilities and, literally, herself.

As she gets older, she suspects there’s something ahead for her. She gets attention she doesn’t want for...[read on]
Learn more about the book and author at Ronlyn Domingue's website, Facebook page, and Twitter perch.

The Page 69 Test: The Mapmaker's War.

My Book, The Movie: The Mapmaker's War.

The Page 69 Test: The Chronicle of Secret Riven.

My Book, The Movie: The Plague Diaries.

The Page 69 Test: The Plague Diaries.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Loretta Ellsworth

Loretta Ellsworth's newest novel is Stars Over Clear Lake.

From her Q&A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: How did you come up with the idea for Stars Over Clear Lake?

A: It was a combination of things that led to writing this book. I grew up in Mason City, Iowa, near Clear Lake and the Surf Ballroom, and had always wanted to write about this historic place. And when I was young and on road trips with my family, my father often pointed out the remains of a German POW camp in Algona.

It was serendipity that when I combined these two together, that the story seemed to sprout wings and take off.

Q: What kind of research did you need to do to write the novel, especially about German POWs in the United States?

A: I read a great deal about the POW camps in America and Iowa, visited the POW Museum in Algona, Iowa, and spoke with a descendant of a German POW who later immigrated to Iowa.

My novel required a great deal of research of the Surf Ballroom and Clear Lake, Iowa in the 1940s. When you’re writing about a real place, you want to make sure you get everything right.

I spent time in the Clear Lake Library, where they have a history room, and I also interviewed people who had attended dances at the Surf in the 1940s. And I had someone...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Jean Tirole

Jean Tirole, the winner of the 2014 Nobel Prize in Economics, has been described as one of the most influential economists of our time. He is chairman of the Toulouse School of Economics and of the Institute for Advanced Study in Toulouse and a visiting professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. His new book is Economics for the Common Good.

From the author's Q&A at the Princeton University Press blog:

Economics has come under sharp attack, especially since the 2008 financial crisis. Is it a science?

Economists’ judgment may be impaired by financial conflicts of interest, political friendships, or ambitions to be a publicly recognized intellectual. But we must also be humble and accept that as a science, economics is an inexact one. Like any science, it is built on to-and-fro between theory, which provides a lens to the world and allows us to understand observations and describe their implications, and empirical work, which measures the importance of effects and helps question the theory: lab experiments need fieldwork, econometrics, big data. But our knowledge is imperfect; good data may be unavailable, theories may oversimplify, and behavioral patterns and self-fulfilling phenomena (such as bank runs or bubbles) may complicate the analysis. Overall, an economist will generally feel more comfortable analyzing past events and proposing future policies rather than forecasting. A characteristic that is incidentally shared by doctors and seismologists, who detect environments that are conducive to a heart attack or an earthquake and provide useful recommendations, and at the same time may be hard-pressed to predict the exact timing of the event or even...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, September 11, 2017

Kayla Olson

Kayla Olson's new young adult novel is The Sandcastle Empire.

From her Q&A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: How did you create the world you describe in The Sandcastle Empire?

A: I created The Sandcastle Empire’s world by doing a lot of research, and by asking a lot of what if?

As far as the research goes, I stumbled upon an article similar to this one about how U.S. communities will face chronic flooding as sea levels rise, and started following the idea down a path of, well, how would those environmental changes affect the people who live in those areas? How would the ripples of those changes then spread into the rest of the country—and beyond?

It was the first time I’d thought about environmental change through the lens of what could happen in our world when sea level rise hits a tipping point, from a social standpoint, as opposed to simply how do we reverse environmental change, or prevent it from happening at all?

Aside from questions of those sorts, I watched numerous...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, September 10, 2017

Arnie Bernstein

Arnie Bernstein is the author of Swastika Nation: Fritz Kuhn and the Rise and Fall of the German-American Bund.

From his Q & A with Randy Dotinga for the Christian Science Monitor:

Q: What started this movement [The German-American Bund]?

The German-American Bund was born out of various factions and groups that came into being during the 1920s post-war era, when Germans immigrants and descendants of previous immigrant generations in the US were faced with enormous prejudices.

These groups looked back to the Fatherland, the rise of Hitler and National Socialism for inspiration. They adopted uniforms resembling those of SS and brownshirts, created family retreats where they could espouse their ideals in private with like-minded individuals, printed their own newspaper, and held parades among with other activities.

The Bund was led by Fritz Kuhn, who labeled himself “the Bundesführer." Kuhn was a German immigrant himself and a Hitler loyalist.

Q: How big was the group?

It's impossible to say, given that they were secretive and also bad record keepers. It's estimated they had between 15,000 to 20,000 official members. Those numbers don’t include non-members who were sympathetic to the Bund and its mission and may have provided...[read on]
Learn more about the book and author at Arnie Bernstein's website.

Writers Read: Arnie Bernstein.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, September 9, 2017

Sophie Chen Keller

Sophie Chen Keller's new novel is The Luster of Lost Things.

From her Q&A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: You've noted that the inspiration for this novel came from a "lost" flyer that you saw in Hawaii. How did that eventually turn into the book?

A: While camping on a volcano in Maui, I stumbled across a “Lost” flyer that someone had posted at the campsite. It was for a missing camera that contained irreplaceable family photos with sentimental value.

It was clear how much the camera meant to whoever posted the flyer, and I couldn’t stop wondering whether they had ended up finding it. I thought about all the things people lost, and what they were really looking when they looked for something like a missing camera. I wondered whether anyone responded to these flyers.

That’s when I had my first idea of who Walter would be—a boy who dedicated himself to answering “Lost” flyers. Naturally, that led me to the intriguing question of why he was doing it.

Upon returning from the trip, I began writing Walter’s story. I thought of it as a grown-up version of the books my mom used to read out loud to me before bed.

I wanted it to bring us back to those childhood classics, to that time when the world was bright and brimming with possibility. As we get older, it becomes...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, September 8, 2017

Michael Connelly

Michael Connelly's new novel is The Late Show. From his Q&A with Alafair Burke at the Los Angeles Review of Books:

ALAFAIR BURKE: An obvious first question: You already have two beloved series characters, Harry Bosch and Mickey Haller. Why introduce a new protagonist, Renee Ballard?

MICHAEL CONNELLY: There were three things pushing me toward Ballard. The first was that I knew I was embarking on writing my 30th book, which was something I never thought would ever happen, but since it was going to I thought I might as well mark the moment with something new. At this same time I happened to turn 60 years old — another thing I never thought would happen — and thoughts of mortality led me toward feeling that I had a duty as a storyteller not to rest on my laurels. I had not gone out with a new protagonist in 10 years. It was about time I did something new.

And the last thing was the clincher. On the TV show Bosch, we use real LAPD homicide detectives as accuracy consultants and one of them, Detective Mitzi Roberts, told me about her stint as the graveyard shift detective in Hollywood, about how you handle all kinds of cases — basically rolling on any call for a detective. Added to that I had seen Roberts as a detective and knew she was determined and fierce, qualities I love to put into my characters. I suddenly...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, September 7, 2017

Bonnie Pipkin

Bonnie Pipkin's new novel is Aftercare Instructions. From her Q&A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: How did you come up with the idea for Aftercare Instructions, and for your main character, Genesis?

A: I started writing the novel while I was in the MFA program at Vermont College of Fine Arts. I knew I wanted to tackle the topic of abortion, but do it in a way that felt like one piece of the larger picture. Having an abortion doesn’t have to define your existence. It is something you must process and heal from, but it’s not the whole story.

The first scene of the book came to me as the starting point: that a girl would have an abortion and her boyfriend would leave her during the procedure. After that, I had to learn who she was and what motivated her beyond that choice.

Q: In an interview with School Library Journal, you said of your decision to place your character's abortion before the story starts, "It was really important to me that the choice never be questioned and to approach this topic without shame." What has been the response to how you handled the issue of abortion in the book?

A: Of course there are people who are maybe seeking out the journey-to-the-choice perspective in a novel, but...[read on]
Visit Bonnie Pipkin's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Vanessa Grigoriadis

Vanessa Grigoriadis's new book is Blurred Lines: Rethinking Sex, Power, and Consent on Campus. From her Q&A with Isaac Chotiner at Slate:

Chotiner: One of the ideas you raise in the book is that maybe one of the reasons that sexual assaults are happening is because men feel constricted by the rise of feminism and can’t express themselves. But sexual assaults have actually gone down over the past couple decades, at a time we’ve seen more equality in the society at large. Is there any contradiction there?

Grigoriadis: Where do I say that? I don’t think I say that feminism is making guys ... I mean, I throw that out as an idea, but no, I don’t really believe that.

You write, “Guys might be asserting themselves in the bedroom because they can’t in other places.”

Yeah, I know. I know. I said that. [Laughs.] It was a weird idea. Look, I don’t know. We’re talking about these young millennials. If young girls are getting better grades than guys, if they’re playing sports really well, if they’re way more represented at prestigious universities than guys are, if they’re potentially going to be more employable than guys are, then why is it that so many of them are being violated, or at least feel violated, in the bedroom? That honestly isn’t a conversation that has gone on, and a lot of that is because America is a fucked up place and people don’t get sex ed. They don’t have any way to talk about this with their parents, because their parents are really deeply conflicted about sex and don’t want to bring it up with their kids and all that shit. That’s part of what it is. But it is true that it seems like sexual equality is...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Michelle Gagnon

Michelle Gagnon's latest novel is Unearthly Things.

From her Q&A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: How did you come up with the idea for this modern-day Jane Eyre story set in San Francisco?

A: I’ve always loved Jane Eyre--it was such a groundbreaking book for its time; Jane really qualifies as an early feminist.

My former husband was a fourth generation San Franciscan who was raised in the uber-wealthy high society world that the Rochesters inhabit (in fact, I used the building he grew up in as a model for their mansion).

It was so strange to me to discover, after nearly a decade of living in San Francisco, that there was this entire world most of the city barely knew about, complete with such dated traditions as cotillions and men’s clubs.

I wanted to show that dichotomy through the eyes of my Janie, who feels just as much like...[read on]
Learn more about the book and author at Michelle Gagnon's website.

The Page 69 Test: Don't Turn Around.

My Book, The Movie: Don't Turn Around.

The Page 69 Test: Don't Let Go.

My Book, The Movie: Don't Let Go.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, September 4, 2017

Claire Booth

Claire Booth is a former true crime writer, ghostwriter, and reporter. She lives in California. The Branson Beauty, featuring Sheriff Hank Worth, is her first novel.

Booth's latest novel is Another Man's Ground, the second Sheriff Hank Worth Mystery.

From her Q&A at Criminal Element:

Another Man’s Ground delves into unsettling territory, particularly in relation to the gruesome homicides. How do you manage to respect the gravity of the crime while simultaneously crafting a witty and entertaining story around it?

It’s a tricky line to walk. I really do believe that the effect crime—especially murder—has on people needs to be treated with respect. Naturally, that can be a very bleak and agonizing aspect of a story. I’m helped in pulling my books back from that abyss by the family life I’ve created for my main character. Hank has little kids who always bring him back to life, so to speak. And he has a very cantankerous father-in-law who lives with them. Having those two try to get along gives me a lot of opportunities to lighten things up.

What constitutes a crime that is worth novelizing?

Something about the crime you create has to be unique. But it doesn’t necessarily have to be...[read on]
Visit Claire Booth's website.

My Book, The Movie: Another Man's Ground.

The Page 69 Test: Another Man's Ground.

Writers Read: Claire Booth.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, September 3, 2017

Lucy Ives

Lucy Ives's new novel is Impossible Views of the World.

From her Q&A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: How did you come up with the idea for Impossible Views of the World, and for your character Stella?

A: Several years ago (six years, to be precise) I was supposed to be writing something else when the opening lines of the novel suddenly popped into my head. I wrote them down without knowing what they meant and went on to write the next couple of pages.

I struggled for a while to figure out what this was about: Why was I so interested in this curator? What was going on at the museum where she worked? It was all very weird and mysterious!

I kept going with the book and eventually, sort of like a “magic eye” image, it all started to make a kind of sense and a picture emerged.

It interests me that I’ve managed to write a literary mystery novel here, because certainly the story and characters, while very vivid to me, were not initially things I’d planned. They were very spontaneous, somewhat spookily so. It’s a little like...[read on]
Visit Lucy Ives's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, September 2, 2017

Kamila Shamsie

Kamila Shamsie's new novel is Home Fire.

From her Q&A with Vanessa Thorpe for the Guardian:

What was behind your own take on homegrown Islamist terrorism?

I was really intrigued by the way most people assume Islamic State propaganda is built on violence. Research by Charlie Winter [senior research fellow at King’s College] that I looked at shows much of it is about a sense of belonging and of state-building. It is not that I believe IS are really planning a welfare state equivalent out there, or anything like that; it is the fact this side of it has not been told. I also felt we are accused of sympathising if we say that a young man who goes out there is anything other than a monster. There is more sympathy for the girls, as if grooming can only apply to girls and be about sex.

Much of your new story pivots on secrets kept from loved ones. Is writing a secretive process for you?

The secrets kept inside this book are damaging, whereas a writer aims for their work, with which they have an intimate relationship for a while, to ultimately...[read on]
Learn about Kamila Shamsie's six favorite books inspired by literary classics.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, September 1, 2017

Lilliam Rivera

Lilliam Rivera is the author of the young adult novel The Education of Margot Sanchez.

From her Q&A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: How did you come up with the idea for The Education of Margot Sanchez, and for your main character, Margot?

A: The idea for the novel came to me somewhat from my own experience. My first job at 14 years old was working with my father. My father worked as a nursing aide in a private hospital in Manhattan.

At that time, I really looked up to my father. He could do no wrong. Although we never really worked in the same department, I did get to see him. It was the first time that I saw him doing humbling work. He took care of mentally handicapped children.

I got to see him in quite a different light. He became human, if that makes any sense. I tried to capture that moment in a teenager’s life when you see your parents for the first time, flaws and all.

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

A: I actually did not come up with the title. The title was done by...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue