Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Saul Cornell

Saul Cornell, Paul and Diane Guenther Chair in American History at Fordham University, is the author of A Well-Regulated Militia: The Founding Fathers and the Origins of Gun Control in America.

From the transcript of his interview with CNN's Fareed Zakaria:

ZAKARIA: Professor Cornell, people say, well, the Second Amendment is sacrosanct and that is why there is a limit to what can be done about all of this. You've studied the history of it.

And what I recall in the 1930s and '40s, the federal government placed a lot of restrictions on gun ownership, and the Supreme Court went along with them. So how is that possible that if we have this fixed view of the Second Amendment?

CORNELL: Well, the simple fact is that we've always had gun regulation. Gun regulation existed at the time of the Second Amendment. It actually got more intense after the adoption of the Second Amendment.

And even if you accept Justice Scalia, who was pretty pro-gun and whose Heller decision, for the first time, defined the Second Amendment not in terms of a militia based right but in terms of a right that had little to do with -- nothing to do with the militia, even he conceded that there is wide room for regulation and that guns have been regulated for a very long time.

So, really, the Second Amendment poses no barrier to gun regulation, particularly if you think that the political process would weed out any extreme gun regulation measures. We could pretty much do almost anything that's being debated now, would be consistent with the Second Amendment. The real problem is...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Amy Bass

Amy Bass is the author of One Goal: A Coach, a Team, and the Game That Brought a Divided Town Together.

From her Q&A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: Why did you decide to write about this team of mostly immigrant soccer players from Lewiston, Maine, and given the current political climate, what do you think their story says about the role of immigrants and refugees in the United States?

A: I went to Bates College, which is in Lewiston, so I lived there years before the Somali community began to arrive. When the soccer team started to climb the national rankings in fall, 2015, a friend from college posted a newspaper article about them on Facebook.

Things in my head just began to click – there was so much heated dialogue at that moment about refugees; Syria was such a focal point; U.S. governors were saying “we don’t want you” about those who were fleeing Syria’s terror and violence.

But in Maine, these guys were playing soccer, making it work, coming together as a team, coming together as a community. This, I thought, is how America lives up to all those revered documents we keep in the National Archives.

There was – there is – so much fear driving and dividing this country. This story, I think, puts that fear...[read on]
Visit Amy Bass's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, February 26, 2018

Li-Young Lee

Poet Li-Young Lee's latest book is The Undressing. From the transcript of his interview with NPR's Sarah McCammon:

MCCAMMON: The inside jacket of this book, "The Undressing," says that this collection of poems, quote, "attempts to uncover things hidden since the dawn of the world." That sounds like a big undertaking. What do you mean by that?

LEE: Yeah (laughter). I was kind of shocked that I said that. I guess, you know, when one writes poetry, you enter into a relationship with the logos.

MCCAMMON: That's Greek for word, right?

LEE: Yes, it's the Greek for word. And when we write poems, we enter into a relationship - a deep relationship - with the logos, the word and with the dynamism of opposites, you know, meaning and nonsense, chaos and order and form and void. So it seems to me that when we write poems, we are trying to access or understand those deep laws. So that's what I meant, I guess.

MCCAMMON: Some of your poems seem to express almost a frustration, though, with poetry. For example, there's a section in your book where the speaker appears to be a woman. She's referred to as she. And she says, you call yourself a poet. You tame high-finisher of paltry blots. You publish doubt and call it knowledge. You destroy the wisdom of ages to gratify your envy. You murder benevolence and virtue with condescension. You pretend to poetry and destroy imagination.

Do you ever feel that way about your own writing?

LEE: Oh, that's...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, February 25, 2018

Jill Abramson

Almost 25 years ago, Jill Abramson and Jane Mayer wrote the book Strange Justice: The Selling of Clarence Thomas. From Abramson's February 2018 Q&A with Slate's Isaac Chotiner:

From your reporting on Thomas, is there any aspect of his tenure on the court that has surprised you or gone differently than you would have expected?

Nothing has surprised me. After his confirmation, he put a sign up, I think on his desk, that said, “I ain’t evolving.” And what he meant is some of the Republicans who championed his confirmation said that because of his background, because he grew up poor, African American in the South, he would empathize with people, and that his positions would evolve on the court. And I actually think none of that has come to pass.

He could have just put up a “No empathy” sign.

Yeah. I think it’s...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, February 24, 2018

Victoria Redel

Victoria Redel is the author of three books of poetry and five books of fiction. Her latest novel is Before Everything.

From Redel's Q&A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: How did you come up with the idea for Before Everything, and for your five main characters?

A: Deborah, I had been working on another novel when my best friend since I was seven passed away. After a period of deep silence, it became clear I wanted to write about friendship, about how a community of friends through life manage each other's life changes-- death being that most final change.

The characters emerged as I began writing. I knew I wanted a gang of childhood friends with all the sweetness and complication of people knowing one another through many phases and life events. And the rest of the characters--new friends, ex-husbands, the hospice nurse--all...[read on]
Visit Victoria Redel's website.

The Page 69 Test: Before Everything.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, February 23, 2018

Steph Post

Steph Post is the author of A Tree Born Crooked (2014) and Lightwood (2017) as well as a short story writer, reader, teacher and dog lover (among many other things...).

Her new novel is Walk in the Fire.

From the author's Crimespree interview with Kate Malmon:

Kate Malmon: Congratulations on the recent release of your latest novel, Walk in the Fire! Lightwood introduced us to Judah Cannon. That book ended in a fiery showdown between Judah, his father, an entire outlaw motorcycle club, and a Pentecostal preacher. That’s a pretty tough act to follow! What do you have in store for Judah Cannon in Walk in the Fire?

Steph Post: Thank you! Judah is going to go through some heartache in Walk in the Fire. By that, I mean he’s going to be wrestling with himself and those around him in a more complicated way than in Lightwood. In many ways, Judah is his own worst enemy in this next installment. The focus also shifts primarily from him to include more of his partner-in-crime, Ramey, and his nemesis, Sister Tulah. Because I knew I had the space to do so in this book, I really let myself delve deeper into the lives of the main characters, while also bringing some new faces on board. There are less fiery explosions, but the violence is more brutal and the stakes are...[read on]
Visit Steph Post's website.

Coffee with a Canine: Steph Post & Juno.

My Book, The Movie: Lightwood.

The Page 69 Test: Lightwood.

My Book, The Movie: Walk in the Fire.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, February 22, 2018

Deborah Reed

Deborah Reed's newest novel is The Days When Birds Come Back. From her Q&A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: How did you come up with the idea for your new novel, and for your characters June and Jameson?

A: I found myself living alone for the first time in decades, and going through some major life changes. I had recently returned to Oregon after two years of living in Los Angeles, and I was at once isolated and comforted by the beauty of the coast. I felt a bit like the princess in a castle, surrounded by splendor and completely alone.

My new neighbor happened to mention that the house I was renting was renovated by an interesting and unusual man with whom she had become friends. I can't explain what happened next.

I can't explain...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Rihannon Navin

Rhiannon Navin's new novel is Only Child.

From the transcript of her interview with NPR's Michel Martin:

MICHEL MARTIN, HOST: Four days ago, we received word about another one of those stories that we hate to report and you hate to hear - 17 people, many of them teenagers, were killed in a school shooting. And as journalists, I have to be honest with you, we often struggle to make sure that things don't seem mundane, they don't become ordinary, things especially like this that should never happen to anybody despite the fact that this follows a familiar pattern. And we find ourselves trying to make sense of it.

And remarkably, in this moment, there's a work of art that gives us insight. It's a novel. Just eight days before last week's tragic shooting in Florida, Rhiannon Navin released her debut novel "Only Child." It's a story about the aftermath of a school shooting told from the perspective of a 6-year-old who survived the shooting but his brother didn't. And Rhiannon Navin is with us now from our bureau in New York. Rhiannon, thank you so much for speaking with us.

RHIANNON NAVIN: It's an honor to be here. Thank you, Michel.

MARTIN: And, you know, it seems almost a ridiculous question, but I do have to ask, you know, what made you want to write this book?

NAVIN: Well, you know, it was a very kind of personal experience that I had a few years ago when my twins - when they just started kindergarten, they, you know, were 5 years old. They were sitting on their rug and deciphering their first words and just, you know, innocent and happy to be there. And then they experienced their first lockdown drill. And, you know, a voice comes on over the loudspeaker, it says lockdown. And their teacher locks the door, turns off the lights, ushers them into a closet or instructs them to hide under the desk.

And that same afternoon, I found my little guy, Garrett, hiding underneath our dining room table. And I said, you know, Buddy, what are you doing under the table? And he said, I'm hiding from the bad guy, Mommy. And, you know...[read on]
Visit Rhiannon Navin's website.

Coffee with a Canine: Rhiannon Navin & Oscar Wilde.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Laura Madeleine

After a childhood spent acting professionally and training at a theatre school, Laura Madeleine changed her mind and went to study English Literature at Newnham College, Cambridge. The author of The Confectioner's Tale, she now writes fiction, as well as recipes, and was formerly the resident cake baker for Domestic Sluttery. She lives in Bristol, but can often be found visiting her family in Devon, eating cheese, and getting up to mischief with her sister, fantasy author Lucy Hounsom.

Madeleine is the author of two new novels: Where the Wild Cherries Grow and The Confectioner's Tale.

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

Q: How did you come up with the idea for The Confectioner's Tale, and why did you set the novel in 1910 as well as 1988?

A: As happens with a lot of my work, the original idea for The Confectioner’s Tale had nothing to do with the story that now exists. I was driving around France in a campervan with my then-boyfriend during the summer of 2010, when I had just finished university.

It was July, the middle of a heat wave, and when we stopped in Saint-Émilion to cool off, we discovered a patisserie that sold canelés – little caramelized custardy pastries. I’d never seen them before, and so when we got home, I looked them up.

They have a fascinating history of popularity and rivalry, an official brotherhood and even secret recipes held in vaults! I was captivated by the artistry of patisserie, especially during the golden era of the Belle Époque, where aesthetics and luxury were...[read on]
Visit Laura Madeleine's website.

The Page 69 Test: Where the Wild Cherries Grow.

Writers Read: Laura Madeleine.

My Book, The Movie: Where the Wild Cherries Grow.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, February 19, 2018

Walter Mosley

Walter Mosley's new novel is Down The River Unto The Sea. From the transcript of his interview with NPR's Michel Martin:

MICHEL MARTIN, HOST: He was wrongfully accused - set up, actually - beaten within an inch of his life, confined to solitary in New York's notorious Rikers Island, and even now, a decade later, former police officer Joe King Oliver is still trying to get his life back on track. Sure, he's making ends meet with his private eye service. He's repaired his relationship with his teenage daughter and is cordial with his ex-wife. And he gets to listen to some Thelonious Monk now and then.

Does he really need to take on the complicated case of the activist-journalist accused of being a cop killer? Sure he does, especially when a mysterious letter on pink stationery ties the activist's case to the same corrupt cops who framed Joe 10 years earlier. You following all that? That is the set up of Walter Mosley's juicy new detective novel "Down The River Unto The Sea." And Walter Mosley is with us now from NPR West in Culver City, Calif. Thank you so much for speaking with us.

WALTER MOSLEY: Thank you for having me.

MARTIN: So this is - what? - number 53, book number 53 - 54?

MOSLEY: Something like that. It's one of those two numbers. You know, it's hard to tell because, you know, some of the books are, you know - I've published like maybe three or four books electronically. And it depends on what you count and what you don't count among those books that would make the difference.

MARTIN: OK. Well, so we're up there. So how did this one start? What was the nugget that got you started on this one?

MOSLEY: Well, you know, it was very clear to me. The first thing I thought of is all the black activists and intellectuals and political, you know, kind of in quotes "revolutionaries" from...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, February 18, 2018

Mira T. Lee

Mira T. Lee's debut novel, Everything Here is Beautiful, was named a Top Winter/2018 Pick by more than 30 news outlets, including The Wall Street Journal, Huffington Post, O Magazine, Poets & Writers, New York Magazine, Chicago Review of Books, Seattle Times, Buzzfeed, Marie Claire, Real Simple, and Electric Lit, among others. It was also selected as an Indies Introduce title (Top 10 Debut) and Indie Next pick by the American Booksellers Association..

From her Q&A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: How did you come up with the idea for Everything Here Is Beautiful, and for your character Lucia?

A: In 2010, I wrote a short story called "How I Came To Love You Like A Brother," which eventually formed the basis of the first chapter of my novel. Lucia was one of the characters, along with her sister, Miranda, and her first husband, Yonah.

I’d always loved these characters, and knew they had richer lives, and during the years when my two kids were very young, I kept thinking about a series of situational and moral predicaments I wanted to put them though.

I’ve always been drawn to questions with moral “gray areas,” where good people find themselves in conflict with one another even though no one’s at fault. Such questions fueled the plot.

I wanted to explore complicated family dynamics, the limits of love, what happens when what you want for yourself isn’t in the best interests of someone you love, and vice versa.

And I wanted to explore Lucia as a character who has a...[read on]
Visit Mira T. Lee's website.

My Book, The Movie: Everything Here Is Beautiful.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, February 17, 2018

Scott Cowen

Scott Cowen, president emeritus of Tulane University, is the author of Winnebagos on Wednesdays: How Visionary Leadership Can Transform Higher Education. From his Q&A at the Princeton University Press blog:

What’s up with the title? I’m intrigued.

The title emanated from something that happened in the spring of my first year as president of Tulane, after an undefeated season for our football team. I made the coach an offer he couldn’t refuse—and he refused. He said he was leaving for Clemson, where the program was so spectacular that fans lined up their Winnebagos on Wednesdays in anticipation of Saturday games. That’s when I realized Tulane was, for various crazy reasons, in the entertainment business, and we weren’t on the A list. For me, the anecdote became a metaphor for all the absurdities and challenges confronting higher education, and started me thinking about how to stop the madness and tackle our problems.

Why did you write the book?

We’re obviously at a tipping point in higher education, with rising skepticism about its value and escalating demands for accountability, affordability, and access. It’s a moment to take stock, and I finally...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, February 16, 2018

Marilyn Yalom

Marilyn Yalom's new book is The Amorous Heart: An Unconventional History of Love. Her other books include A History of the Wife and How the French Invented Love. From the author's Q&A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: You write that an experience at the British Museum inspired your new book. What initially caught your attention, and how did that eventually result in this book?

A: In 2011, I was attending an exhibition of medieval artifacts at the British Museum. In one case I saw a collection of gold coins and pieces of jewelry that were part of the Fishpool treasure hoard discovered in Nottinghamshire in 1966.

Suddenly a heart-shaped brooch caught my eye. I noticed the heart’s two lobes at the top and the V-shaped point at the bottom as if I were seeing them for the first time. Then for a brief moment I was invaded by images of hearts—the ones I had known all my life from valentines, candy boxes, balloons pendants and bracelets.

It dawned upon me that the perfectly symmetrical heart is a far cry from the lumpish organ we carry inside us, and I asked myself how the human heart had been transformed into such a whimsical icon. From that...[read on]
Visit Marilyn Yalom's website.

How the French Invented Love is one of Publishers Weekly's top nonfiction books of 2012.

Writers Read: Marilyn Yalom (January 2013).

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, February 15, 2018

Kristina Riggle

Kristina Riggle's latest novel is Vivian In Red.

From Riggle's Q&A with Steph Post:

What drew you to the genre you write in?

I’d been writing contemporary mainstream fiction about family conflict for years, and my agent challenged me to widen my scope to something more grand and expansive. I figured one way to do that was to write about a family over multiple generations, a family with a clouded legacy. That drove me to writing about the mid 1930s, and 1999. I got hooked on historical fiction. I used to be a journalist, and applying my research and interview skills to the 1930s world of Broadway, first generation Jewish-Americans in New York, and songwriting, was like an independent study. I loved it.

Were there any parts of your novel that were edited out, but which you miss terribly?

I don’t know that I miss it, but I had a painful cut from Vivian in Red. I had...[read on]
Visit Kristina Riggle's website.

Coffee with a Canine: Kristina Riggle & Lucky.

The Page 69 Test: Real Life & Liars.

The Page 69 Test: The Life You've Imagined.

The Page 69 Test: The Whole Golden World.

The Page 69 Test: Vivian In Red.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Cynthia Swanson

Cynthia Swanson's newest novel is The Glass Forest.

From her Q&A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: How did you come up with the idea for The Glass Forest?

A: It’s an idea that rambled around in my head for a long time. It began years ago, when I considered what it might feel like to find yourself living in the home of a missing person. How could you resist looking everywhere for clues? That was the seed of the story, and the particulars came into fruition over many more years.

Q: You tell the story from three characters’ perspectives. Did you write the book in the order it appears, or did you move things around as you went along?

A: I started writing it as it appears. But partway into my first draft, I realized I...[read on]
Visit Cynthia Swanson's website.

The Page 69 Test: The Bookseller.

The Page 69 Test: The Glass Forest.

Writers Read: Cynthia Swanson.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Tim Rogan

Tim Rogan is the author of The Moral Economists: R. H. Tawney, Karl Polanyi, E. P. Thompson, and the Critique of Capitalism. From his Q&A at the Princeton University Press website:

Doesn’t the profile of these writers—dead, male, English, or Anglophile, writing about a variety of capitalism long since superseded—limit their contemporary relevance?

No. Their main concern was to discover and render articulate forms of social solidarity which the dominant economic discourse concealed. They found these on the outskirts of ‘Red Vienna’, on railroads under construction in post-war Yugoslavia, but most of all in the north of England. They believed that these inarticulate solidarities were what really held the country together—the secret ingredients of the English constitution. Though they belonged to a tradition of social thought in Britain that was skeptical towards Empire and supportive of the push for self-determination in India and elsewhere, they raised the prospect that the same dynamics had developed in countries to which British institutions had been exported—explaining the relative cohesion of Indian and Ghanaian democracies, for instance. More broadly E. P. Thompson in particular argued that factoring these incipient solidarities into constitutional thinking generated a more nuanced understanding of the rule of law than nineteenth-century liberalism entailed: in Thompson’s hand the rule of law became a more tensile creed, more capable of accommodating the personal particularities of the law’s subjects, more adept at mitigating the rigors of rational system to effect justice in specific cases. The profiles of the late-twentieth century commentators who continue the critical tradition Tawney, Polanyi and Thompson developed—especially Amartya Sen—...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, February 12, 2018

Jillian Medoff

Jillian Medoff is the acclaimed author of I Couldn’t Love You More, Hunger Point (both national bestsellers) and Good Girls Gone Bad.

Her new novel is This Could Hurt.

From Medoff's Q&A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: You note that This Could Hurt was inspired by your interactions with a former boss who had suffered a stroke. How did that experience lead you to create the world you depict in the novel?

A: I have a long-time career as a management consultant. I advise HR executives on how to communicate with employees during organizational changes that range from big high-stress events (i.e., mergers & acquisitions) to smaller but equally complicated benefit modifications (i.e., implementing a 401(k) plan).

I've worked for several Fortune 500 companies (Deloitte, Aon, Segal), so I had a comprehensive understanding of HR but mostly from the outside looking in.

In 2009, I was laid off from Aon after 10 years and took a job in the HR department of a research company. My boss, a woman in her 60s, was a bully who lied, yelled, and tormented her staff; she also appeared to be losing her faculties. She told me she'd had a stroke a few years before, and I wondered if this accounted for her erratic behavior.

She had a small staff of senior managers—much like in This Could Hurt. They'd worked with her for many years, and were very loyal, despite fearing her wrath. (The company had gone several rounds of layoffs, so they probably thought that by saving her, they’d also save themselves. Unfortunately, business doesn’t always work that way.) They covered for her in meetings and behind the scenes in ways that...[read on]
Visit Jillian Medoff's website.

My Book, The Movie: This Could Hurt.

Writers Read: Jillian Medoff.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, February 11, 2018

Steph Post

Steph Post is the author of A Tree Born Crooked (2014) and Lightwood (2017) as well as a short story writer, reader, teacher and dog lover (among many other things...).

Her new novel is Walk in the Fire.

From the author's Q&A with The Next Best Book Blog:

Would you rather start every sentence in your book with ‘And’ or end every sentence with ‘but’?

‘And.’ I love starting sentences with this word anyway! It adds a cadence that really clicks with my brain for some reason. And (notice, I just used it there) I tend to hold to the school of thinking that everything said after the word ‘but’ is bullshit.

Would you rather write in an isolated cabin that was infested with spiders or in a noisy coffee shop with bad musak?

These are pretty much two of the worst places I could possibly imagine to be, let alone write in. If forced to choose, I suppose I’d have to go with the coffee shop. I do like coffee, at least.

Would you rather think in a language you could understand but write in one you couldn’t read, or think in a language you couldn’t understand but write in one you could read?

Jesus, who comes up with these questions? Thinking about it, the second choice sounds pretty interesting. I think it would be fascinating to not understand your thoughts at all until they had been written down. It would really add some gravity to the power of the written word.

Would you rather write the best book of your career and never publish it or publish a bunch of books that leave you feeling unsatisfied?

Both of these seem...[read on]
Visit Steph Post's website.

Coffee with a Canine: Steph Post & Juno.

My Book, The Movie: Lightwood.

The Page 69 Test: Lightwood.

My Book, The Movie: Walk in the Fire.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, February 9, 2018

Leslie Connor

Leslie Connor's new novel for kids is The Truth as Told by Mason Buttle. From her Q&A with Deborah Kalb:

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

A: Characters are always composites of people I have met, read about, or can imagine. That’s who Mason is. I spun all the deeply earnest, honest, underdog kids I have ever observed into his character. I knew him before I knew his story—if that makes any sense.

I always ask, what has made this character the way I am seeing him in my mind’s eye? What has happened? That’s what eventually brings the backstory to the surface. Then I can ask what happens next?

My plots are fed by nonfiction, including newspaper articles, but those are merely jumping off points for my imagination.

Q: Given the novel's title, the concept of truth comes up a lot in the book. Why did you decide to focus on that?

A: I was very interested in taking a good look at the way we...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, February 8, 2018

Bethany Ball

Bethany Ball was born in Detroit and has lived in Santa Fe, New Jersey, Miami, and Israel. She now lives in New York with her family.

Her latest novel is What To Do About The Solomons.

From Ball's Q&A with Steph Post:

What was the best review you ever received? The worst?

The best review was the New York Times, absolutely. What was so great about it was that the reviewer felt so much warmth for the characters. I was worried that I had been too hard on them, showed too much of their foibles and faults. I was happy she felt love for them, because I certainly do.

The worst review I received was from a teacher in my high school. I didn’t know her, I’d never been her student, but she gave me one star and said I clearly didn’t know what I was talking about. It seemed hurtful because my school district is one where about 15% of the kids go on to college. Maybe I was in a vulnerable place when I read that, but it hurt. But a bunch of my teachers did read the book and are proud of me. And I have nothing but...[read on]
Visit Bethany Ball's website.

The Page 69 Test: What To Do About The Solomons.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Janet Beard

Janet Beard's new novel is The Atomic City Girls.

From her Q&A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: You grew up near Oak Ridge. How did your longtime interest in the area's history lead to your writing this novel?

A: I first learned about Oak Ridge’s history on a field trip to the science museum there when I was around 8 years old and found it both intriguing and frightening. About 10 years ago, I saw a short television documentary that reignited my interest.

As a child, I was mostly disturbed by the idea of atomic weapons, but as an adult, I became more interested in the human stories of the thousands of people who came to work in Oak Ridge during the war, particularly the young women. Those stories became the basis for the novel.

Q: You tell the story from several characters' perspectives. How did you come up with the idea for these characters, and did you write the novel in the order in which it appears, or focus on one character at a time?

A: I always wanted to use an array of characters to capture the different aspects of life and work in Oak Ridge but knew I would focus on a young woman working in one of the plants where uranium was being enriched. So I started with the character of June and worked out from there.

I wanted her to find out what was going on at Oak Ridge and thought she could have a relationship with someone who...[read on]
Visit Janet Beard's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

Adam Haslett

Adam Haslett is the author of the short story collection You Are Not a Stranger Here, which was a Pulitzer Prize and National Book Award finalist, and the novel Union Atlantic, winner of the Lambda Literary Award and shortlisted for the Commonwealth Prize. His books have been translated into eighteen languages, and he has received the Berlin Prize from the American Academy in Berlin, the PEN/Malamud Award, and fellowships from the Guggenheim and Rockefeller Foundations.

Haslett's latest novel is Imagine Me Gone.

From the author's Q&A with Sally Campbell at the Waterstones blog:

Can you introduce your new novel and your intentions when you first set out to write it?

To me, in essence, the book is a love story about a family. A young woman discovers her fiancé has been hospitalized for depression, but she decides to marry him in any case, and from that first act of love a family grows, faced over four decades with both the necessity and at times the impossibility of saving the people they love from what troubles them. How far will you go to save the people you love the most? That’s the question the book implicitly asks. My intention was to specify that dilemma as exactly as I could.

When you were writing Imagine Me Gone, did you feel a sense of responsibility with regard to it being a novel that portrays mental illness? Were you hampered at any point knowing that this is still an area that is widely misunderstood?

I think of the phrase “mental illness” as a kind of conceptual suitcase into which we tend to deposit a broad swath of human experience and then conveniently close the lid, label the case, and store it as far from ourselves as we can. The fact is...[read on]
Imagine Me Gone is among Saskia Lacey's fifty incredible literary works destined to become classics.

The Page 69 Test: Imagine Me Gone.

Visit Adam Haslett's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, February 5, 2018

Elizabeth LaBan

Elizabeth LaBan lives in Philadelphia with her restaurant critic husband and two children. She is the author of The Restaurant Critic’s Wife, the young adult novel The Tragedy Paper, which has been translated into eleven foreign languages, and The Grandparents Handbook, which has been translated into seven foreign languages, and Pretty Little World, which she co-authored with Melissa DePino.

LaBan's new novel is Not Perfect.

From her Q&A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: How did you come up with the idea for Not Perfect, and for your main character, Tabitha?

A: The true initial kernel of the idea came from a song we used to sing at my kids’ elementary and middle school about accepting that it is impossible to be perfect. It’s a funny song to sing at a school, but also very catchy and true.

At first I thought the book would be about a family that gets in too deep financially – partially because they love their kids’ expensive school so much that they can’t let it go even when they can’t afford it anymore – and so they begin to steal to keep up with their lifestyle.

But that didn’t really work. They didn’t need the things they wanted, and they ended up coming off as spoiled, selfish people. So I began to wonder what it would take for someone who seems to have everything to have to steal, and I thought of Tabitha.

Once I could picture her standing in...[read on]
Visit Elizabeth LaBan's website.

The Page 69 Test: The Restaurant Critic's Wife.

Writers Read: Elizabeth LaBan (January 2016).

The Page 69 Test: Not Perfect.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, February 4, 2018

Elizabeth Catte

Elizabeth Catte is the author of What You Are Getting Wrong About Appalachia.

From the transcript of her interview with NPR's Kelly McEvers:

KELLY MCEVERS, HOST: Appalachia is this long, diagonal region that stretches from New York state down to Alabama - 400 counties, 25 million people. And the story of Appalachia has been told many times over the decades often by writers and photographers who travel there to show poverty and struggle. More recently during the campaign of Donald Trump, who got a lot of support in Appalachia, the story of the region was told by a writer named J.D. Vance in his book "Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir Of A Family And Culture In Crisis."

Vance wrote about his family history of drug addiction and violence. And since then, he's become a kind of spokesperson for the region. None of this sits well with Elizabeth Catte. She's an historian based in Virginia who has written a slim-but-pointed rebuttal to J.D. Vance. It's called "What You Are Getting Wrong About Appalachia."

ELIZABETH CATTE: There's a projection of his realities onto the lives of everybody in the region, and it's not in my mind accidental. It's right there in the subtitle of the book. It's a memoir of a family, but is also a memoir of a culture in crisis. The universalizing that is done in the book is something that's become a trademark of J.D. Vance's engagement as a pundit and a political up-and-comer. And so my book is certainly a criticism of "Hillbilly Elegy," but I'd also like it to be read as an interruption to a claim of ownership about my life and the people around me.

MCEVERS: How do you think people think of Appalachia now because of projects like this? And what would you like to tell those people? (Laughter) You know, like, what image would you like to sort of replace in their mind?

CATTE: Something very ordinary. I think the problem that we're starting to see from "Hillbilly Elegy" - and it's...[read on]
Visit Elizabeth Catte's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, February 3, 2018

Renée Shafransky

Renée Shafransky's new novel is Tips for Living.

From her Q&A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: How did you come up with the idea of Tips for Living and your main character, Nora?

A: My mom loved mysteries, so I wanted to write I book she would’ve enjoyed. I had a disaster of a marriage, which was a springboard for Nora’s situation as a woman trying to pick up the pieces of her life after a heart-breaking betrayal. I'm a psychotherapist, so I also work with people grappling with these issues.

I wondered what it would be like to create a story about a woman who thinks she’s done with the pain and anger, but is pulled back into it when her ex and his wife move to her small town. Then they’re murdered!

Q: Your novel is set in a small town, Pequod. How important to you is setting in your writing?

A: Setting is...[read on]
Visit Renée Shafransky's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, February 2, 2018

Joan Ryan

Joan Ryan is the author of the 1995 book, Little Girls in Pretty Boxes: The Making and Breaking of Elite Gymnasts and Figure Skaters. From her interview with Isaac Chotiner for Slate:

Isaac Chotiner: Was any aspect of the Nassar case surprising to you, and how do you think it fits in with the thesis of your book?

Joan Ryan: I think it fits in exactly, tragically, with the thesis of my book. It’s a culture where abuse is normal. The abnormal becomes normal. I was surprised by the scope of it, frankly. That it’s upward of, it could be 200 girls and young women over the course of 20-odd years. That’s almost unfathomable. But the fact that it happened is not unfathomable. I say that because pedophiles … and I actually didn’t really know this, but the word grooming, you know how they groom their victims to trust them? The girls are like, “This isn’t right, but I trust this guy.” That’s what happened with the culture in gymnastics. As I say in my book: You train when you’re injured, you starve yourself, so a coach can say to you, “No, you’re not injured. You’re not in pain. Get back up on the balance beam. You’re just being weak and lazy.” And they get back up on the balance beam.

For people who haven’t read your book or don’t know what the culture of gymnastics is like, can you talk a little bit more about how it is different from other sports that young people, or young women, engage in?

First of all, unlike any other Olympic sport or any sport I can think of in which these athletes are training to be the best in the world, you’re dealing with children. In men’s gymnastics, these guys are adults. They’ve gone through puberty. They’re usually not on the Olympic team until after they’ve gone to college or are in college. That’s not true for female gymnastics, so that’s No. 1. They’re children.

No. 2, they have a small window of opportunity to be the best in the world, often before they hit puberty. In the United States, it’s a culture that has been so influenced by Eastern Europe, really because of Bela Karolyi. He came over here after Nadia Comaneci, and he brought his system with him, which was a system of abuse. His job, and he says this, his job was to create gymnasts, not to create healthy young women. And other coaches...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, February 1, 2018

Dara Horn

Dara Horn's new novel is Eternal Life.

From her Q&A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: You note that you read a number of news stories about companies seeking to solve the issue of immortality--but that the people involved in the stories were mostly men. What made you decide to create your immortal character Rachel?

A: Exactly that. It wasn’t just these “life extension” enthusiasts (not all of whom are men, but the most flamboyant “I’m going to live forever!” ones mostly are). It’s also the entire literary history of the idea.

Immortal characters are nothing new in literature, right? Tuck Everlasting, The Highlander....the Epic of Gilgamesh....immortality and the quest for it is a theme as old as literature. But what’s weird about those stories is that they’re almost never about fertile women. And when you swap out that 2,000 Year Old Man for a 2,000 Year Old Mom, the whole story changes.

My main character Rachel has been married dozens of times and has had hundreds and hundreds of children—and outlives them all, which makes immortality less fun. Once I switched the gender on the typical story...[read on]
Learn more about the author and her work at Dara Horn's website, Facebook page, and Twitter perch.

The Page 99 Test: The World to Come.

The Page 99 Test: All Other Nights.

The Page 69 Test: A Guide for the Perplexed.

The Page 69 Test: Eternal Life.

Writers Read: Dara Horn.

--Marshal Zeringue