Monday, April 30, 2018

Susan Goldman Rubin

Susan Goldman Rubin is the author of many biographies for young people, including Diego Rivera: An Artist for the People and Hot Pink: The Life and Fashions of Elsa Schiaparelli.

Goldman Rubin's new book is Coco Chanel: Pearls, Perfume, and the Little Black Dress.

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

Q: Why did you decide to write about Coco Chanel?

A: I was asked to do the book. I had done a book, Hot Pink:The Life and Fashions of Elsa Schiaparelli, and in doing the research, it was exciting to find out about people I never knew about before.

In the case of Schiaparelli, she was the designer who introduced hot pink to the fashion world in the 1920s. I was doing a program in San Francisco on Elsa Schiaparelli, and hot pink was the color of the year!

In the course of my research I found and wrote that she and Chanel were rivals. Elsa Schiaparelli was a single mother and adored her daughter at a time when it was rare that a woman would be abandoned and make a career for herself and take very good care of her daughter. It made her less nasty.

I wrote a little about it, and to my surprise they were both designing at the same time in Paris and would make very snippy remarks. When I read about it, I thought, kids will get this. My editor said, Would you want to do a book on Coco Chanel?

I leaped at the chance. I didn’t know much about her. My 12 ½ year old granddaughter knew about Chanel. I thought, Kids know this name. Then, the minute I started, I was wowed by her story.

I begin by...[read on]
Visit Susan Goldman Rubin's website.

Writers Read: Susan Goldman Rubin.

The Page 99 Test: Coco Chanel.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, April 29, 2018

Lucy Cooke

Lucy Cooke is the author of The Truth About Animals: Stoned Sloths, Lovelorn Hippos, and Other Tales from the Wild Side of Wildlife. From the transcript of her interview with NPR's Lulu Garcia-Navarro:

GARCIA-NAVARRO: All right. Now we're going to get to the nitty-gritty. I want to talk about penguin sex.


COOKE: Be warned. Be warned, listeners. Yeah. Well, I mean, penguins are one of those creatures that have been totally misunderstood. We always think of them as being great parents, monogamous...


COOKE: ...Fantastically faithful. The movie "March Of The Penguins" has much to blame, actually, because the thing about penguins is these are birds with tiny brains. They live in a very harsh environment. It's brutal living in the Antarctic. And so they are flooded with hormones that make them basically have sex with anything that moves and quite a few things that don't move, like dead penguins, for instance. So, you know, they...

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Right. I didn't see that in the "March of the Penguins" or in the many other penguin movies I've seen. Why is it? That seems so strange to me.

COOKE: Yeah, they left out the pathologically unpleasant necrophiliacs from the lineup. So the males are basically...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, April 28, 2018

Robert Parker

Robert Parker's new novel is Crook's Hollow. From his CrimeReads Q&A with novelist Steph Post:

Steph Post: Besides being a crime writer and a fan of crime fiction, you’re a fan of Grit Lit writers such as David Joy and, I’m flattered to say, myself. The niche market that Joy and I, Brian Panowich and Daniel Woodrell, Tom Franklin and others find ourselves in is sometimes small and so I have to admit that I was a bit surprised to find a reader in Manchester, England, who truly understood and appreciated the genre. How did you come to find yourself as a reader of American Grit Lit and what about the genre do you find so appealing?

Robert Parker: It’s true that I am indeed a “fan from afar” so to speak, and it’s great to have a chat with someone whose work inspires you. While it’s very kind of you to say that I’ve “got” the genre of Grit Lit, I’m not sure, as a British guy living in England, that I can fully appreciate the finer nuances. What I can say for sure is that my enjoyment and connection with the genre is solid, and I’m constantly finding myself burrowing further into it and finding great reads all the time.

For work, I end up reading lots of UK-set thrillers and detective stories, to keep on top of what the contemporary British crime scene is doing. For fun, I read absolutely all sorts of different stuff, right through from horror, noir, crime, suspense, Grit Lit and so on, but nothing has really grabbed me like the authors you mentioned.

Post: Why do you think that is?

Parker: I think what happened was I started reading some...[read on]
Visit Robert Parker's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, April 27, 2018

Amy E. Wallen

Amy E. Wallen is associate director at the New York State Writers Institute and teaches creative writing at the University of California, San Diego Extension. Her first novel, Moon Pies and Movie Stars, was a Los Angeles Times bestseller.

Wallen's new book is When We Were Ghouls: A Memoir of Ghost Stories.

From her Q&A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: You begin your memoir with a memory from your childhood in Peru. Why did you choose to start there?

A: I never expected to write a memoir, had no intention of writing one. In fact, over and over I swore I was a novel writer only. But I started to write a personal essay about the time my family dug up a grave.

When I discovered that my memory of who was graveside with me, that my brother who so vividly stood out in my memory was missing from the reality, a journey to explore ALL my memories of those years living overseas became insistent.

The discovery of what really happened throughout my childhood became the nagging resource for all the scenes in the memoir. After I realized I had a book-length work and not a short essay I tried out all sorts of structures for how to tell the bigger story.

The metaphor of digging up my family’s history was too great to...[read on]
Visit Amy Wallen's website.

The Page 99 Test: When We Were Ghouls.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, April 26, 2018

Jamey Bradbury

Jamey Bradbury's new novel is The Wild Inside.

From her Q&A with Elise Cooper for Crimespree magazine:

Elise Cooper: What genre would you put this book in?

Jamey Bradbury: A literary horror novel. I think it is hard to pin down because there is definitely a paranormal element.

EC: How did you come up with this story?

JB: At first, it was just a picture in my head of a family house in Alaska. It was inspired by a 1961 horror novel by Theodore Sturgeon, SOME OF YOUR BLOOD. The narrators are a Colonel, a military psychiatrist, and a patient who writes a journal of his thoughts. My protagonist, Tracy, also got her say in the form of her own journal, which she wrote at the encouragement of a school guidance counselor. This is how Tracy was born.

EC: Do you live in Alaska?

JB: I was an...[read on]
Visit Jamey Bradbury's website.

Visit Jamey Bradbury's website.

The Page 69 Test: The Wild Inside.

My Book, The Movie: The Wild Inside.

Writers Read: Jamey Bradbury.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Kathleen Belew

Kathleen Belew's new book is Bring the War Home: The White Power Movement and Paramilitary America.

From the transcript of her interview with NPR's Lulu Garcia-Navarro:

GARCIA-NAVARRO: You say that the fact that we see the Oklahoma City bombing through this lens as an individual actor, and we don't see it as part of the white power movement and its capacity for violence - you say that that's remarkable. What is the problem with that?

BELEW: I think the main thing is that what seems new and alarming in our current moment is not new. These events were covered in the front pages of national newspapers, on morning news magazine shows. And yet somehow we lost the understanding of this movement such that the altercation in Charlottesville can seem astonishing to people without this history. But this history shows us that what seems new is not new.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: As you point out, we are in a period where two long wars are taking place in Iraq and Afghanistan that have sent hundreds of thousands of Americans to battle. And those men and women have been coming home. And you link this with the 2016 election as well, with the rhetoric of the so-called alt-right that has become mainstream. You see this as part of the continuum.

BELEW: Yes. The history shows us that this movement never received a definitive stop in court or in public opinion. In every surge of Ku Klux Klan activism in American history, there is a strong correlation with...[read on]
Visit Kathleen Belew's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Priya Satia

Priya Satia is the author of Empire of Guns: The Violent Making of the Industrial Revolution.

From her Q&A with Slate's Isaac Chotiner:

Isaac Chotiner: How much is the story of guns intimately connected to the story of slavery?

Priya Satia: They’re very deeply connected in multiple ways, because guns were a very big trade item on the West African coast. They were used in the slave trade, and exchanged for slaves. In that way, they’re part of the slave trade. Then they’re also used to enforce slavery on plantations. They’re an instrument of discipline, and oppression, and violence in the whole slave plantation system that the British helped create, that trans-Atlantic system. But even after the slave trade is abolished in 1807, guns remain a big part of the trade with West Africa. They’re just exchanged for other types of goods instead. The end of the slave trade doesn’t actually spell the end of the gun trade in West Africa, but what initially drives the gun trade in West Africa is the European interest in procuring slaves.

And what is the connection between the period you are writing about and the prevalence of guns today?

The connection is the way the British expanded in the 18th century, and their involvement in various different types of colonial conflict all over the world. Guns are a big part of all of that. Guns are a part of their trade relations with so many parts of the world. Because of the multiple ways they’re used—as items of trade, as weapons of war, as items with symbolic value, even as a currency in a way, too—it becomes really difficult to regulate them as simply weapons of war. Look at today and...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, April 23, 2018

Sara Blaedel

Sara Blaedel's new novel is The Undertaker's Daughter, the first in a new series. From her Q&A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: The Undertaker's Daughter introduces a new character, Ilka. Why did you decide not to have a detective as your main character this time?

A: I’m not committed to only centering on detectives, though I am a huge fan of crime fiction. The process must be organic for me, and I’m open to exploring what feels right and captures my imagination. I wasn’t looking for a change. Instead, the concept came to me.

It was the experience I had after losing my parents that was the impetus for The Undertaker’s Daughter and Ilka. The woman I hired to handle the burials and funerals was and remains a bright spot in my life during the most difficult time.

I, at that time, had not the slightest idea of all that goes into being an undertaker. The whole process was a learning one for me, and I couldn’t...[read on]
Visit Sara Blaedel's website.

Writers Read: Sara Blaedel (February 2016).

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, April 22, 2018

Lawrence Wright

Lawrence Wright's latest book is God Save Texas: A Journey Into The Soul Of The Lone Star State. From his Guardian interview with Andrew Anthony:

You write about two Texases, what you call AM and FM, rural and city, reactionary and progressive. Do they represent a widening gap in the US as a whole?

The political and cultural fissures in Texas are very much like those in the country at large. One can divide it into Trump versus anti-Trump, or city versus rural. Those divisions are more pronounced in Texas, and certainly Texas has contributed to the division. A lot of the political movements that start in Texas tend to move into the national discourse. The demographics are not really reflected in the political delegation we have. People outside look at our politicians and think that’s Texas. It doesn’t represent the complexity of the state.

You write about the Kennedy assassination and the shadow it cast over Dallas. How much do you think that event influenced the conspiratorial thinking that we’ve seen since 9/11?

I don’t know that it affected the “9/11 truthers”, but it certainly created a pattern of wilful denial of the factual evidence in favour of a worldview that conspiracy thinkers have. If the facts don’t comport with your view of the world then...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, April 21, 2018

Ronan Farrow

Ronan Farrow's new book is War on Peace: The End of Diplomacy and the Decline of American Influence. From the transcript of his interview with NPR's Rachel Martin:

MARTIN: You sat down with Rex Tillerson in January, just months before he would be fired by President Trump. As you spoke with him, did you get the sense that he was following orders by making these dramatic cuts to the State Department, or did he believe in this as a key component of his mission?

FARROW: He was open in this interview about saying that he did defy the extent of the budget cuts, that he pushed back behind closed doors. But the fact is the underlying realities of his tenure in the job were devastating for the department. I mean, he told me point blank that his ardent defense of these deep, deep cuts to the department was partly born of inexperience. The idea of advocating for your institution, he said, he learned too late was something he was supposed to be doing. And that really astonished all of these other secretaries of state that I talked to.

MARTIN: What else was the through line in your conversations with all these former secretaries of state?

FARROW: Many of them said surprising and candid things. You know, a lot of these people have controversial histories but also a lot of insights about where we go wrong as a nation. Colin Powell is someone who, despite a divisive track record in some ways with his involvement in the Iraq effort, was...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, April 20, 2018

Sheila Roberts

Sheila Roberts's new novel is Welcome to Moonlight Harbor. From her Q&A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: How did you come up with the idea for your new series, and for your character Jenna?

A: I have wanted for ages to write about a woman who inherits a run-down hotel or motel and has to fix it up. Maybe because I always thought that would be fun to do. (I probably watched too many episodes of the old British sitcom Fawlty Towers.)

My husband couldn’t imagine anything more torturous (Probably because he also watched too many episodes of Fawlty Towers!) So, giving myself a fictional place to play with really scratched that itch.

As for Jenna, my heroine who is having to hit restart on her life, I think she embodies where a lot of women are these days. I wanted to give her some challenges but I also wanted to give her a new life and new hope. I want Jenna to be a reminder to all of us to...[read on]
Visit Sheila Roberts's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, April 19, 2018

Alma Katsu

Alma Katsu's latest novel is The Hunger.

From her Cheek to Geek Q&A with Chris:

When I finished the last page, I came out with a sense of hope and a whole new respect for the Donner Party. Even though it is historical fiction, I felt like I knew and admired these people more than ever before. You were really able to bring them to life for me. I’ve seen the same thing happen in friends that I’ve recommended The Hunger to. Everyone comes out with a newfound interest and respect for the Donner Party. Although The Hunger is historical fiction, was there something happening currently that made you feel that this story would resonate so well with an audience? What initially drew you to these characters and the need to tell their story?

First, let me say I’m so glad you enjoyed the book and thank you for the thoughtful review and for recommending it to your friends. It’s gratifying to know it’s the kind of book that readers want to talk about. It’s been interesting to see the response to the novel—starting out, you don’t know whether modern readers want to read about something like the Donner Party. Or maybe they’ll think they already know the story.

Like most Americans, I’d heard about the Donner Party but didn’t know the facts. I think “not really knowing” has created a mystique around it. I’d always been fascinated by it, but it wasn’t until I started doing the research that I knew I wanted to write about it. The story of the Donners isn’t just what happened at the end when they were trapped in the mountains, out of food, and facing the bleakest of circumstances. In a way, it’s not even what happened along the 2,000-mile trail. It’s the story of...[read on]
Learn more about the book and author at Alma Katsu's website.

The Page 69 Test: The Taker.

My Book, The Movie: The Hunger.

The Page 69 Test: The Hunger.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

David Ricciardi

David Ricciardi new novel is Warning Light.

From his Q&A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: How did you come up with the idea for Warning Light, and for your character Zac Miller?

A: Advanced technology is great, but as individuals and as a society, we've become very dependent on it.

I decided to yank the hero out of his comfortable life and put him in a dangerous, remote location to see how he survives. Zac is a desk jockey. A fit, smart, and determined desk jockey, but still a desk jockey. I hoped he was someone readers could identify with and say, "Wow. What would I do if that ever happened to me?"

Q: Did you know how the book would end before you started writing, or did you make many changes along the way?

A: I knew exactly how it would end before I started writing, but a funny thing happened on the way to the ending...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Frederic Wehrey

Frederic Wehrey is the author of The Burning Shores: Inside the Battle for the New Libya. From his interview with NPR's Mary Louise Kelly:

KELLY: The event of course that dominated front pages here in the U.S. about Libya was the death of Chris Stevens...

WEHREY: Absolutely.

KELLY: ...The U.S. ambassador to Libya who was killed in Benghazi in 2012. You knew Chris Stevens.

WEHREY: Briefly. Briefly. Not that well, but...


WEHREY: ...We crossed paths at the embassy.

KELLY: As you sifted through and tried to investigate those much-investigated events, what strikes you? What leapt out?

WEHREY: Well, the great tragedy of this was that Ambassador Stevens was so committed to outreach to the Libyan people and to a particular practice of diplomacy that really meant getting out on the street and meeting people from all walks of life. And the great tragedy of that attack was that it constrained that approach. It curtailed it. There was a tremendous retreat or retrenchment of America's diplomatic presence.

And part of that was understandable for the need to safeguard lives. But part of it, unfortunately, was the partisanship - that this became so politicized back in Washington, D.C., that it affected America's ability to engage on the ground in Libya. And that's what I really took away from talking to Libyans, who said, look; what happened to you after this attack? And this is a real tragedy 'cause Chris would've...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, April 16, 2018

Debra Dean

Debra Dean's new book is Hidden Tapestry: Jan Yoors, His Two Wives, and the War That Made Them One. From her Q&A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: How did you first learn of the story of Jan Yoors and his family, and why did you decide to write this as nonfiction rather than fiction?

A: A good friend of mine, Mitchell Kaplan, and I were standing in his bookstore one day and he said, “I’ve got your next book.” People say this to authors a lot, and it’s never, ever true – except this once. Mitchell’s sister is a documentary filmmaker and had met Marianne and Annabert Yoors when she was researching a film on polygamy. He started telling me this amazing story, and I was hooked.

My previous work has all been fiction and my novels—The Madonnas of Leningrad and The Mirrored World—are historical fiction, so it’s reasonable to expect that I would fictionalize this story as well. But in historical fiction, the fiction is created in the gaps between history, those blank areas where we no longer know what happened and so are free to invent.

In this case, though, there weren’t...[read on]
Learn more about the book and author at Debra Dean's website and Facebook page.

Writers Read: Debra Dean (September 2012).

The Page 69 Test: The Mirrored World.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, April 15, 2018

Juno Dawson

Juno Dawson is a YA novelist and author of the memoir The Gender Games. Her latest YA novel is Clean.

From Dawson's Q&A with Michael Hogan for the Guardian:

Drugs, sex and swearing feature highly in Clean, so what makes it a young adult novel?

The publishing world tends to focus more on the “young”, less on the “adult”. But I spend lots of time with teenagers and they’re truly the broadband generation. They’ve been online all their lives and seen things that would make milk curdle: beheadings, graphic violence, hardcore porn. Shielding them is never going to work. What makes this book YA is that it tackles issues in a non-judgmental way. We know these things exist, so let’s talk about them. I don’t think people will have a problem with how I’ve handled addiction. What might cause a fuss is [protagonist] Lexi’s positive attitude to sex. She clearly enjoys it. We never teach girls that sex should be enjoyable for them. That’s one thing porn absolutely doesn’t do. Pornography is not sex education.

Lexi’s heroin use is vividly portrayed. Do you have first-hand experience?

No. I was the most well-behaved adolescent, then went straight from university into being a primary schoolteacher. That’s not a job you could do half-cut. By the time I moved to Brighton a few years ago, I felt I’d missed my window to misbehave. So I....[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, April 14, 2018

Charles Soule

Charles Soule’s debut novel is The Oracle Year. From his Q&A with Ross Johnson at the B&N Sci-Fi & Fantasy Blog:

There’s a lot going on in the book (in a good way). You’ve got presidential politics, you’ve got televangelists, you’ve got like assassins. They’re going all over the world. I’m curious about the inception of the story. Did the story start out with scope, or is that something that built over the process of writing? Was it always that big?

It was always that big. The genesis behind the novel was really…it was partly that when I started writing it, I was still working as the lawyer and comics hadn’t blown up the way they subsequently have for me. It hadn’t become apparent that I could make a career, but I was working on it and trying really hard and, and fitting it around the edges like I do, like we spoke about earlier. And, so, I would have given a lot to be able to ask the question. Will this work out? Will this turn into something? Will I have the life that I want to have? And I figured that while that was my question at the time, everybody in the world has a question like. Whether it’s: Will I ever see her again? Will I ever achieve this goal that I’ve been working for? Will he get better? Whatever the question is, everybody has one.

And so I thought the appearance of a prophet in the world, Somebody who could hypothetically answer those questions would have massive ramifications all over the world in all kinds of societal structures: from politics, economics, to pop culture, to everything. And I wanted to write a book that explored that in as much detail and on as many levels as I could. I wrote about...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, April 13, 2018

Robert Kuttner

Robert Kuttner's new book is Can Democracy Survive Global Capitalism? From the transcript of his April 2018 interview with Fresh Air's Terry Gross:

GROSS: So let me move on to a different chapter here. The Congressional Budget Office reported this week that the national debt is expected to reach more than $33 trillion by 2028. I don't know if you know the answer to this, but how much of that estimate is because of the recent tax cuts?

KUTTNER: Well, the reason tax cuts are $1.5 trillion over 10 years, supposedly some of that will be made up by increased economic growth, although there's no evidence for that. The Republicans have played this game going back to Ronald Reagan. You enact a tax cut. You claim that the benefits will be so great that they will pay for the cost of the tax cut. That's known as supply-side economics.

And when that turns out not to be true, you discover the peril of the deficit. And then you cut a whole bunch of domestic programs to try and fill in some of the cost of that deficit and rising debt. So that was done under Reagan, was done under Bush one, under Bush two. And now the same script is being repeated under Trump. And the obvious answer is to repeal much of the tax cut if we're really concerned about deficits and debts.

GROSS: The House is going to vote on Thursday on a constitutional amendment to require balanced budgets. I realize that probably won't become a constitutional amendment, but is it the same people who were behind the tax cuts that now want to ask for a balanced budget amendment?

KUTTNER: Of course. And it's complete inconsistency, some might say hypocrisy that one week you increase the amount that needs to be borrowed - which is to say the national debt - by $1.5 trillion, and then a few weeks later, you're horrified that, oh, my goodness, that's actually going to increase the deficit. And we better have a balanced budget amendment. And, of course, if you ever had a balanced budget requirement, you would never have been able to have that tax cut.

I think the sponsors of the tax cut are vulnerable because...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, April 12, 2018

Anna Yen

Anna Yen's new novel is Sophia of Silicon Valley.

From her Q&A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: How did you come up with the idea for Sophia of Silicon Valley, and for your main character, Sophia?

A: The idea for the book was inspired by two things. First, Steve Jobs had passed away and a lot of things were being written and/or produced about him that I didn’t find to be accurate (or fair) at all.

I wanted to show the world my perspective, as someone who used to work closely with him, that he was an incredible mentor and role model if you knew how to listen, observe and absorb.

And that’s actually probably true of anyone you interact with — we all have room to grow and learn from others but we have to look beyond the surface layer and sometimes, put on some really thick skin.

The second reason is that I had just been diagnosed with a recurrence of cancer so I was of the mindset, “What is my legacy?”

I have young nieces and nephews - and I wanted to...[read on]
Visit Anna Yen's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Adam Winkler

Adam Winkler is a professor of constitutional law at the University of California, Los Angeles. He is the author of We the Corporations: How American Businesses Won Their Civil Rights (2018) and Gunfight: The Battle over the Right to Bear Arms in America (2011).

From the transcript of his Fresh Air interview with NPR's Dave Davies:

DAVE DAVIES: Adam Winkler, welcome to FRESH AIR. You tell many, many cases of corporations going before the courts and saying, if we were a person, we would have this right - the right to sue here, the right to freedom of speech, you know, the right to exemption from unreasonable searches and seizures. And they would argue that those rights ought to be afforded to corporations and businesses as well as people.

Is there ever any evidence that when the Constitution was drafted and the Bill of Rights, the founders thought of these rights as going to businesses as corporations as well as people?

ADAM WINKLER: There's no evidence that the framers ever intended the Constitution to protect business corporations, too. You can go through all of the ratifying conventions. The issue is just never raised. And in fact, the founding generation harbored a certain hostility towards corporations with Jefferson condemning what he called the aristocracy of our moneyed corporations.

And indeed, if we think about some of the key incidents in the revolutionary era, the Revolution was in part a revolt against a powerful corporation, too. We think of...[read on]
Learn more about We the Corporations at the publisher's website.

Adam Winkler, a professor of constitutional law at the University of California, Los Angeles, has been featured on CNN and in the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, and The New Republic.

The Page 99 Test: Gunfight.

The Page 99 Test: We the Corporations.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Ruth Downie

Ruth Downie is the author of a series of mysteries featuring Roman Army medic and reluctant sleuth, Gaius Petreius Ruso: Medicus, Terra Incognita, Persona Non Grata, Caveat Emptor, Semper Fidelis, Tabula Rasa, Vita Brevis, and the newly released Memento Mori.

From Downie's Q&A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: How did you come up with the idea for Memento Mori?

A: The hot springs at Bath – Aquae Sulis to the Romans – are a wonderful place to visit and I’ve wanted to set a book there for years. It was just a case of finding a story.

Initially I thought I’d base the murder mystery on the curses that angry visitors dropped into the spring in Roman times. Then I looked closer and realised there must have been much more going on in Aquae Sulis in terms of religion, politics and power, not to mention some very impressive water engineering. So in the end, the curses only formed a part of the story.

The sacred spring had to be central, though: the hot waters were the reason for the town’s existence, so...[read on]
Learn more about the book and author at Ruth Downie's website.

The Page 69 Test: Caveat Emptor.

The Page 69 Test: Tabula Rasa.

The Page 69 Test: Vita Brevis.

The Page 69 Test: Memento Mori.

Writers Read: Ruth Downie.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, April 9, 2018

Kelly Robson

Kelly Robson’s new time travel adventure is Gods, Monsters, and the Lucky Peach. From her Q&A with Ilana C. Myer at B&N Sci-Fi & Fantasy blog:

Many readers, including me, get excited at the idea of time travel. In Gods, Monsters, and the Lucky Peach, time travel is a vehicle for the exploration of themes about past and future, and what each owes the other. Can you talk about how this idea developed?

I’m a big Connie Willis fan, and her time travel stories have been a major influence on me. The great thing about time travel is concept is wide open. Every writer creates their own time travel rules to suit the stories they want to tell.

Connie’s really interested in the role of fate in the daily lives of people, so her time travel stories contain a lot of misplaced messages and calls for help that aren’t heard until the very last moment. I’m interested in something different.

What really gets me going is economics, in the broadest sense. When I say “economics” I don’t mean money. I mean what we owe to each other. This can take a lot of forms, from person to person, group to group, generation to generation, nation to nation, culture to culture, or between the past, present, and future. How do we interact? How do we behave responsibly, care for others, ensure our actions are moral and ethical, even under the most complex circumstances?

In our world right now, the biggest illustration of a failure to care for each other, or to recognize the humanity of others, is...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, April 8, 2018

Kate Hannigan

Kate Hannigan's new children's picture book is A Lady Has the Floor: Belva Lockwood Speaks Out for Women's Rights. From the author's Q&A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: Why did you decide to write a picture book about women's rights activist Belva Lockwood?

A: When Belva Lockwood first came to my attention, I was researching a book about Nellie Bly. I was so surprised to read about “the lady candidate” that I dropped the Nellie project and jumped right into learning about Belva and her campaign for president in 1884.

As I found out more about her—that she’d accomplished so much and was somewhat ignored by the mainstream suffragettes—I wanted to share it with the world. First woman on the ballot for president, first woman admitted to the bar of the Supreme Court, first woman to argue a case before the Supreme Court.

Belva faced daunting hardships and formidable obstacles along the way. She’s...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, April 7, 2018

Kiley Roache

Kiley Roache's new novel is Frat Girl.

From her Q&A with Kate Chesley for the Stanford Report:

Where did the inspiration for Frat Girl come from? How much did you draw from the Stanford experience?

The initial idea for Frat Girl came about when a male friend from my freshman dorm jokingly bet me $50 dollars to rush a fraternity. Although I did not end up taking him up on this, I started thinking about what that experience would be like for the first woman to join such a traditionally masculine group.

The book is set at a fictional school called Warren University, and while I share some similarities with the main character, Cassie Davis, there are also many ways we are different. The characters, setting and plot of the story are all made up.

However, I would say that the emotional truth of the story is based on my experience at Stanford. Like the characters in the book, throughout college I have made deep friendships, fallen in love, taken intellectually exhilarating classes, been encouraged by rock star mentors and found my true self. I think that the emotions I have felt and the lessons I have learned throughout Stanford are reflected in the book, and I...[read on]
Visit Kiley Roache's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, April 6, 2018

Peter Swanson

Peter Swanson's new novel is All the Beautiful Lies.

From his Q&A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: How did you come up with the idea for All the Beautiful Lies, and why did you set it in Maine?

A: I've had the basic idea for All the Beautiful Lies running through my head for many, many years. I always thought it would be a classic whodunit in which a son discovers his deceased father's secret life. And I always pictured it set in a coastal town.

When I wrote The Kind Worth Killing, a portion of that novel is set in the fictional town of Kennewick, Maine. And when I began to finally write All the Beautiful Lies I knew that it would be set in that same town.

Q: The novel is told from a variety of different perspectives. Did you write the book in the order in which it appears, or did you focus more on one character at a time and then move things around?

A: I always write my novels in the order in which I think they will appear, although...[read on]
Visit Peter Swanson's website, Facebook page, and Twitter perch.

My Book, The Movie: The Kind Worth Killing.

The Page 69 Test: The Kind Worth Killing.

Writers Read: Peter Swanson (February 2015).

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, April 5, 2018

Madeleine Albright

Former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright's new book is Fascism: A Warning. From the transcript of her Fresh Air interview with Terry Gross:

GROSS: Let's talk about what's happening in the United States. I want to read a passage that you write in your book, "Fascism: A Warning," a passage about President Trump. You write (reading) we've never had a president, at least in the modern era, whose statements and actions are so at odds with democratic ideals. Trump has spoken harshly about the institutions and principles that make up the foundation of open government.

In the process, he has systematically degraded political discourse in the U.S., shown an astonishing disregard for facts, libeled his predecessor, threatened to lock up political rivals, bullied members of his own administration, refer to mainstream journalists as enemies of the American people, spread falsehoods about the integrity of the U.S. electoral process, touted mindlessly nationalistic economic and trade policies and nurtured a paranoid bigotry toward the followers of one of the world's foremost religions.

Do you think that President Trump has the instincts of an authoritarian leader?

ALBRIGHT: I think that he is the most anti-democratic president that we have had in modern history and that his instincts are really in that direction. And I think that that's what worries him. And the passage that you read really does show that what he's trying to do is undermine the press and has disdain for the judiciary and the electoral process and minorities. And I think that his instincts are not ones that are democratic. And he is interested basically in, I think, exacerbating those divisions that I talked about. And so I am very concerned. And basically, this is - you know, I'd written the book because I have picked up that phrase, see something, say something. And I am seeing some things that are the kinds of things that we've seen in other countries. And so I'm saying...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, April 4, 2018

Viola Shipman

Viola Shipman is a pen name for Wade Rouse, a popular, award-winning memoirist. Rouse chose his grandmother’s name to honor the woman whose charm bracelet and family stories inspired him to write his debut novel, The Charm Bracelet, which is a tribute to all of our elders. Rouse lives in Michigan and writes regularly for People and Coastal Living, among other places, and is a contributor to All Things Considered. His new novel is The Recipe Box.

From Shipman's Q&A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: You note that your grandmother's kitchen helped inspire this novel. How did you create your character Sam and her family?

A: Yes, I grew up in her kitchen, asking questions as I tugged at the hem of her crisp white aprons embroidered with bright strawberries or pretty flowers.

My tiny grandma and her little kitchen seemed larger than life to me as a child: A vintage oven anchored one side, while sparkly countertops were engulfed by a bread box that held Little Debbies and Wonder Bread slices.

But the most prized possession in her kitchen was her recipe box. After my grandma died, my mom inherited my grandmother’s recipes. After my mom passed, I became the keeper of those recipes and memories.

Her original recipe box – which my grandfather, a woodworker, made for her – helped inspire the family in the novel because I learned about our family through the food my grandmother made. A brilliant baker, my grandma told stories as she cooked.

The character of Sam is based not only on myself but also on...[read on]
Visit Viola Shipman's website.

My Book, The Movie: The Charm Bracelet.

Writers Read: Wade Rouse (March 2016).

The Page 69 Test: The Charm Bracelet.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, April 3, 2018

Chelsey Johnson

Chelsey Johnson's new novel is Stray City.

From her Q&A with Caroline Leavitt:

I always want to know what haunted a writer (or propelled them) to write a specific novel. What was it for you?

So many things. I was driven from the outset by homesickness, by thinking about home and where you end up and why. The book actually originated from Ryan’s story, so I was writing about Bemidji, the town in northern Minnesota where my mom’s family is from, an hour from where I grew up. I feel deeply tied to northern Minnesota and yet I don’t know if I could ever return there to live, so I wrote my way through that tortured love and curiosity. Then I left Portland, and I didn’t mean to—it was supposed to be a one-year teaching gig that then turned into another and another—so I turned to Andrea’s perspective and wrote frantically, furiously trying to render the world I missed so much, trying to capture what it was, both so I could reinhabit it and also because I started to suspect I might not be able to go back to it, and I didn’t want to forget what it had been like. I’d never known a community or a city-love like that. But I also didn’t want the writing to be sentimental or nostalgic—I wanted to capture the contradictions and frustrations of...[read on]
Visit Chelsey Johnson's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, April 2, 2018

Anthony Grooms

Anthony Grooms is the author of Bombingham: A Novel and Trouble No More: Stories, both winners of the Lillian Smith Book Award for fiction. Born in Charlottesville, Virginia, he has taught writing and American literature at universities in Ghana and Sweden and, since 1994, at Kennesaw State University in Georgia.

Grooms's latest novel is The Vain Conversation.

From his Q&A with Margaret Evans for Lowcountry Weekly:

You’ve written a novel based on a “true story” – the murder of four people in 1940s rural Georgia. How did you come across this story and what about it captured your imagination?

I first learned of the story of the Moore’s Ford Bridge lynching from a news article in the Atlanta Journal and Constitution in 1991. The article was about Clinton Adams, who claimed to have witnessed, as a 10-year old, the murder of two black couples by local white people, including the police. What interested me about the story was that Adams, a white man, had kept the story a secret for over 40 years, and for all those years what he saw had tormented him. He was a witness who, until the article, had no means to tell his story. Even now, as he has been in the news recently since the FBI has closed the investigation into the case, he talks about his witnessing as...[read on]
Visit Anthony Grooms's website.

Writers Read: Anthony Grooms.

My Book, The Movie: The Vain Conversation.

The Page 69 Test: The Vain Conversation.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, April 1, 2018

Bart Ehrman

Bart Ehrman is a distinguished professor of religious studies at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. His new book is The Triumph of Christianity: How A Forbidden Religion Swept The World. From Ehrman's Fresh Air interview with NPR's Terry Gross:

GROSS: So your book on how Christianity spread through the world begins with how you started to feel doubt about your faith when you were in college. Why start your book there, with your personal doubt when you were a young man?

EHRMAN: Yeah. I debated how to start the book. And it occurred to me that in the ancient world when Christianity was taking over the religious scene, it was destroying the other religions in its wake. And people rarely think about what that meant for the people who supported these other religions. They were seeing their religion evaporate in front of their eyes.

And I realized that I had had a similar experience, that my religion had evaporated before my eyes and had been destroyed, not by an opposing religion but by my studies, by my scholarship. And I remembered the kind of anxiety and the frustration that I felt when that was happening, and it made me think, well, that's actually probably similar to what other people were feeling in the ancient world.

GROSS: But in the ancient world, a lot of pagans converted to Christianity. So they were substituting one belief system for another, whereas you had to live with perpetual doubt.

EHRMAN: Well, that's right. And they were substituting one thing for another. But in another sense, I...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue