Tuesday, July 31, 2018

Jennifer Gilmore

Jennifer Gilmore's new novel is If Only.

From her Q&A with Caroline Leavitt:

I always think there is a why now moment for an author to write any book. What were the origins of this one for you?

If Only, which on the surface is a book about adoption, but is also about all the ways we imagine what our lives could be and could have been, has this premise that our lives are not necessarily destined. That one small thing could have changed our course. (The science behind the Butterfly Effect, in chaos theory, deals with this idea, too.) I have an adopted child and I hate to think that we weren’t as destined to be together as biological children and their mothers are, but it nagged at me. The what if’s. What if my child’s birthmom hadn’t chosen us. I could go down a spiral and become undone by the thought. And then, as a novelist, and a novelist who writes about teens, I wondered: what made her make the decisions she did. How did she go about it? That’s when my imagination kicked in. I wanted to include her many possibilities, as well as her biological daughter’s many possibilities, which I call the If Onlys. I wanted to connect them. But I couldn’t have written this book when I first came home with my son. My thinking had to be more processed and less emotional. I think when you’re really writing you look in the face a lot of the stuff that makes you uncomfortable or scared. That’s the sweet...[read on]
Visit Jennifer Gilmore's website.

Writers Read: Jennifer Gilmore (June 2010).

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, July 30, 2018

Jonathan Santlofer

Jonathan Santlofer's new memoir is The Widower's Notebook.

From his Q&A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: You’ve written that “men are neither trained nor expected to express their feelings.” At what point did you decide to write this memoir about the loss of your wife?

A: I’d say the decision was kind of made for me. For two years after my wife died, I kept notebooks—things I couldn’t say in public. I found myself transcribing notes and the book wrote itself. I didn’t think of writing a book.

I have to credit several women I know who encouraged me to write it…Men are not brought up to express their feelings. It was difficult, but it became less so as I did it.

Q: Yes, in the book you write that you asked yourself, “Do men actually write these kinds of books?” What do you see as some of the most common perceptions and misperceptions about how grief affects men?

A: I wouldn’t have been able to answer that a while ago. The culture gives us a narrow bandwidth. Men are not supposed to grieve openly. There are gender stereotypes regarding grief--I hope they change. Changing stereotypes was a motivating factor in writing this book. People should be able to grieve as they want to.

The men I know are more open [than their parents, but] my men friends would come over and hang out and would not...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, July 29, 2018

Gabriel Tallent

Gabriel Tallent is the author of My Absolute Darling.

From his Q&A with Alison Flood for the Guardian:

You’re talking about painful scenes in the book. Were they hard to write and did you feel a responsibility to get it right, to tread the line between exploitation and honesty?

People talk about treading that line, but that’s not a real thing, that doesn’t make sense, no such line appears. It’s not as if the more truthful you become the more closely you approach exploitation. That doesn’t seem to be true about writing. Look, in college, I studied cultural history of the 18th century. These concerns grow up with the English novel. The questions of compassion and exploitation are central to the very origins of the novel. The problems presented by rendering a moral predicament are immensely close to my heart and knit into my entire intellectual history.

It’s frustrating to come from an academic background and to see those problems handled in ignorant and ham-fisted and short-sighted ways when these are immensely complex problems. But because of this fucked-up world we live in, you’re always caught in this predicament, whenever you try and render the predicament of harm whenever you try and render those stakes, you run these risks. But the risks seem clearly worth it, because what is the alternative? The alternative is...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, July 28, 2018

Anita Hughes

Anita Hughes's new novel is California Summer.

From her Q&A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: How did you come up with the idea for California Summer, and for your character Rosie?

A: I came up with the idea for California Summer remembering a bad break-up with a boyfriend. You can put your whole heart and soul into a relationship and then it's over and you have nothing. It's a frightening feeling. I wanted to make Rosie grow from the experience, and become much more confident.

Q: The book sets up a contrast between Rosie's life in Los Angeles and the new community she builds for herself in Montecito. What made you choose those two locations?

A: I spent a few days in Montecito and fell in love with it. It's so close to Los Angeles - and people from LA are frequent visitors - but...[read on]
Learn more about the book and author at Anita Hughes's website.

My Book, The Movie: Market Street.

My Book, The Movie: Lake Como.

My Book, The Movie: French Coast.

My Book, The Movie: Island in the Sea.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, July 27, 2018

Miriam Parker

Miriam Parker's new novel is The Shortest Way Home.

From her Shelf Awareness Q&A with Katie Noah Gibson:

Tell us about the inspiration for The Shortest Way Home.

In a lot of ways, this book is a dream for me. I love reading, I love wine, I love travel. This was a book I wrote in the mornings, on vacation and on the weekends away from my job. I decided I was going to take all the things I loved and write a book about them.

Are you a wine enthusiast? Have you spent time in Sonoma, where the book is set?

I've always loved wine. I love California, and I've been to Sonoma a number of times. The first time was when I was finishing graduate school and at a crossroads in my life. I had considered "quitting my life" and moving to California. I stayed in downtown Sonoma, found a winery and joined their wine club. I didn't stay there: I ended up coming back to New York and working in publishing. But the winery had lodged in my brain, and I...[read on]
Visit Miriam Parker's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, July 26, 2018

Janna King

Janna King's new novel is The Seasonaires.

From her Q&A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: What was the inspiration for The Seasonaires, and for your character Mia?

A: Not to sound narcissistic, but Mia is a lot of me. She's a fish out of water, feeling like the outcast at the “popular kids” party. I've always felt that way, even though it may have seemed like I had it together.

With age, I don’t really even try to “put it on” anymore. I’m a proud mess and am very attracted to the messiness of life, which is a theme in the novel. The curated, aspirational brand ambassador lifestyle portrayed in The Seasonaires seems so perfect. We all know nothing is perfect.

Also, like me, Mia wants to be optimistic, but she’s cautious. I’m a realist, even a pessimist sometimes, with a lot of deep down hope. I want things to work out, but prepare myself for anything (though nothing could’ve prepared Mia for what happens during her summer).

Mia’s moxie is inspired by my daughter, who will go head-on at any challenge. Mia has a goal: she sees the world of fashion as a way out of her difficult home life, so she applies for the job as seasonaire even though she has no idea what she’s doing and she’s breaking some rules.

She’s also a bit...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

Dan Kaufman

Dan Kaufman is the author of The Fall of Wisconsin: The Conservative Conquest of a Progressive Bastion and the Future of American Politics. From his Slate Q&A with Isaac Chotiner:

There’s been a conservative revolution in this country over the last 40 years or so. How did it happen in Wisconsin specifically?

Like in a lot of places, money was being injected into Wisconsin politics since 1976, with Buckley v. Valeo, and then it kept increasing with Citizens United, but the real proximate cause was the Tea Party wave in 2010 that swept Scott Walker into office as well as gave Republicans complete control over both houses of the state Legislature. Scott Walker was somebody who was very ambitious and had cultivated as Milwaukee County executive a lot of conservative national political organizations, including Americans for Prosperity, which is the Charles and David Koch political arm, and a very important component of the conservative national infrastructure, called the Bradley Foundation, which is actually based in Milwaukee but has almost $1 billion in assets and gives grants across the country.

He picked a fight with the public employees’ union as Milwaukee County executive, and when he was elected governor, he immediately launched what became known as Act 10. You can see it telegraphed in his inaugural address, where he says, essentially, that the public employees can no longer be the haves and the taxpayer the have-nots. So it’s the politics of resentment. You’re looking at it in the context of the financial crisis. People are really hurting. A lot of places in Wisconsin, particularly in the rural areas, have been hollowed out for decades, so you might have places where some of the few people with health insurance are the people who work for the school or the state.

It was almost like an audition for him. He clearly had national aspirations and was trying to curry favor with people like David Koch. He wouldn’t take interviews with local reporters, but when a blogger impersonated David Koch, he...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, July 24, 2018

Katia D. Ulysse

Katia D. Ulysse is a fiction writer, born in Haiti. Her latest novel is Mouths Don't Speak.

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

Q: How did you come up with the idea for Mouths Don't Speak, and for your character Jacqueline?

A: Hi Deborah. Thank you for giving me the opportunity to chat with you about Mouths Don’t Speak.

Jacqueline Florestant, the protagonist in Mouths Don’t Speak, came to me long before I wrote the novel. The novel begins in the aftermath of the catastrophic earthquake that nearly annihilated Haiti in 2010; however, Ms. Florestant lived in my imagination long before then.

She is flawed, as most of us are. She doesn’t have answers to her many problems. She’s a woman trying to keep sane, in the midst of tragic events.

Before typing the first word on a page, I knew that Jacqueline’s husband, Kevin, was a Marine. I knew he was a combat veteran suffering from severe PTSD. I knew they were in love. I knew there was a child. I knew, also, that she had a very strong connection with Haiti; I was not sure exactly what that was until I sat down to write the story.

I wrote and rewrote the story many times before I felt that I had explained the characters’ motives. I imagined these people, who turned out to be composites of dozens of characters; each has a...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, July 23, 2018

Bill Browder

Bill Browder is the force behind the Magnitsky Act and author of Red Notice: A True Story of High Finance, Murder, and One Man's Fight for Justice. He was mentioned by name by Russian President Vladimir Putin in the July 2018 press conference with Donald Trump in Helsinki.

From his Q&A with Slate's Jacob Weisberg:

Jacob Weisberg: The press conference was an extraordinary spectacle. There was a piece Masha Gessen has up in the New Yorker describing it, and she was comparing Putin and Trump and their styles as liars. Putin lies in this “dull, bureaucratic tone,” the sort of boring, authoritative way, which is very different from the way Trump lies, which is like this paranoid, hysterical tone. Weirdly, when you put those two things side by side, Putin is the one who looks more dignified.

Bill Browder: I wouldn’t call Putin a credible liar because once you’ve lied a certain number of times, then everybody assumes you’re lying. But it’s to the extent that you don’t know. It all sounds, as you say, very boring and credible, because why would he say anything otherwise? The only way that you know Putin is such an incredible, bald-faced liar is by looking at his history. For example, he lied about the Russian troops in Crimea when everybody saw these troops.

He lied about the Russian missile shooting down MH17 when you have Russian troops talking on the radio about, “Oops. We shot down a passenger plane.” He lied about the doping in the Olympics when the evidence was incontrovertible. He lies about everything. So basically, no matter what his style of lying is, he’s a bald-faced liar, and...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, July 22, 2018

J.L. Butler

J.L. Butler (AKA Tasmina Perry) is the author of the new psychological suspense novel Mine. From her Q&A with Deborah Kalb:

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

A: I trained as a lawyer and have had some experience in the world of family law. The push and pull of human emotions in divorce proceedings, particularly between people who love, or have loved each other is both sad and fascinating and a novelist; I recognized it would be powerful subject matter for a book.

But actually it was “setting” or location that really prompted Mine. I love the area in London known as the Inns of Court.

The legal profession in the UK is a little different to that in the States. In the UK the field of law is split into two fields – you’re either a solicitor (which I was,) or a barrister. Solicitors have more direct contact with the client, barristers (like Amal Clooney) are more trained in court advocacy.

The Inns of Court is where most of the barristers’ chambers (or offices) in London are located – and it’s a magical and bewitching pocket of the city. The buildings look like something from a Charles Dickens movie; barristers wear gowns and white horsehair wigs, so visiting the Inns of Court does feel as if you are stepping back in time.

I often go for a wander around the Inns of Court just to soak up the atmosphere and I’ve always thought it would be a terrific location for a novel. When I put that together with the concept of a man who wanted his difficult estranged partner to get out of his life, I had the central premise for Mine.

As for the character of Francine, she is...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, July 21, 2018

Anne Tyler

Anne Tyler's latest novel is Clock Dance.

From her Q&A with Lisa O'Kelly for the Guardian:

Is there a classic novel that you feel you should have read but haven’t?

I have tried several times to read Wuthering Heights but it just strikes me as silly, so I always quit it. I don’t tell any of my friends this because women have very fond memories of reading it when they’re young and I don’t want to hurt their feelings.

Is there a book that you expected to like but didn’t like?

Oh, there are so many of those. I have a really strong dislike of the quartet of books by Elena Ferrante [the Neapolitan novels]. I can’t tell you how many people have told me I’m going to love them, and I couldn’t even finish the first one, let alone go on. A couple of times I was rude enough to say so to a friend and we came practically to blows. People feel very strongly about those books. But I just felt everything I was reading was fake. And there are so many other things to read. Having said that, I’m aware that I’m not fascinated by the subject of friendships, it’s not as fascinating...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, July 20, 2018

Elyssa Friedland

Elyssa Friedland's new novel is The Intermission.

From her Q&A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: You write in your acknowledgments that you came up with the idea for The Intermission while watching your husband load the dishwasher. How did that lead to this novel?

A: It’s true. I was brainstorming ideas for my second novel and nothing was inspiring me. Then one day I was sitting at my kitchen counter and my husband went to load the dishwasher.

Now I feel bad complaining about him because at least he does the dishes. But I will anyway. He lifted each dish from the sink and held in the air, analyzing its shape for a good five to ten seconds. Then he looked down at the dishwasher liked he’d never seen it before and contemplated for what felt like an eternity where to place the dish. And don’t get me started on what happened with an odd-shaped bowl!

So I like to say The Intermission was born in my kitchen. Watching my husband load the dishes in a much more deliberate and cautious manner than I would caused me to reflect on marriage generally.

Individuals have so many idiosyncrasies and no two people have the exact same way of thinking or come from identical backgrounds. And yet marriage is what our society proscribes. Two people with zero shared DNA are expected to cohabit and have children together. It’s a...[read on]
Visit Elyssa Friedland's website.

The Page 69 Test: Love and Miss Communication.

My Book, The Movie: Love and Miss Communication.

Writers Read: Elyssa Friedland (May 2015).

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, July 19, 2018

Carola Dunn

Carola Dunn's latest novel is The Corpse at the Crystal Palace: A Daisy Dalrymple Mystery (Volume 23).

From her Q& A with Vicki Mejia-Gewe at FangirlNation:

Daisy Dalrymple, your most famous series, is a mystery set in the 1920s where the main characters are the daughter of a viscount and the middle class Detective Chief Inspector of Scotland Yard. Why did you choose to focus on that era?

I’d already been writing Regencies for a good few years and I was intrigued by certain parallels between the 1920s and the 18-teens.

For instance, I’ve already talked about some of the changes in the lives of women between the two periods. But the Regency was already changing their situation. In terms of basics, look at the change in clothes. The wide hooped skirts of the earlier Georgians gave way to the Empire line, allowing far more freedom of movement. Fashion moved backwards later, alas, to hoops and bustles and 18″ waists, and then the horrific “S” bend of Edwardian corsetting. But by Daisy’s time, partly because of fabric shortages during WWI, clothes at last resembled something we might well wear today.

Ease of travel was another parallel. Compared to earlier Georgian times, in the Regency, roads were much improved, footpads and highwaymen much less frequently encountered, and someone invented springs for carriages, making them much more comfortable. The railway came along later, but unless you had money and lived not too far from a station, foot, horse, cart, or carriage was the way you travelled. In Daisy’s time, of course, the railways were still a common way to travel for all and sundry, but were supplemented by motor-cars and motor-buses that made it easier to reach out of the way places. The arrival of cars on the scene was an enormous change; so too was the influence of...[read on]
Learn more about the book and author at Carola Dunn's website and blog.

Coffee with a Canine: Carola Dunn and Trillian.

The Page 69 Test: Heirs of the Body.

The Page 69 Test: Superfluous Women.

Writers Read: Carola Dunn (July 2015).

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

R. F. Kuang

Rebecca F. Kuang studies modern Chinese history. She has a BA from Georgetown University and is currently a graduate student in the United Kingdom on a Marshall Scholarship.

Kuang's new book, her debut novel, is The Poppy War.

From Kuang's Q&A with Ilana C. Myer at the B&N Sci-Fi & Fantasy Blog:

The horrors of war as depicted in this book hit especially hard because they are based on real events. In most fantasy, including of the “grimdark” variety, we can tell ourselves that at least it’s fiction. Here, the impact is more intense because we know such things happened. Do you think this makes sense? What were your thoughts and feelings when tackling this material?

The reason why I haven’t been calling it grimdark is because I tend to see grimdark as employing violence and death as aesthetic, while The Poppy War employs violence for historical accuracy. There’s also this element of fetishism and gratuitous gore in (some, not all) grimdark that I don’t love. I think violence should serve a purpose other than making the book seem “edgy.” As an aside, a few people have mentioned that the violence and darkness in TPW is more harrowing precisely because we know that all of this actually happened. I didn’t exaggerate anything. Everything on the page–everything about the Rape of Nanjing or the atrocities committed by Unit 731–was...[read on]
Visit R. F. Kuang's website.

The Page 69 Test: The Poppy War.

Writers Read: R. F. Kuang.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Gale Massey

Gale Massey lives in St. Petersburg, FL. Her stories have appeared in the Tampa Bay Times, Walking the Edge, Sabal, Seven Hills Press, and other journals. She has been the recipient of scholarships and fellowships at The Sewanee Writers’ Conference and Writers in Paradise, and has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize.

Massey's debut novel is The Girl From Blind River.

From her Q&A with Steph Post:

How important is the setting in your novel?

Well, it’s crucial really. In Blind River there are broken sidewalks, freezing rain, a diner, a pawn shop. There’s a river that smells of runoff from the town’s only manufacturing plant. Then there’s the Walmart on the highway just outside of town. I love using weather to intensify a scene. Snow and ice, rain, leads to runny noses, freezing fingertips. These things create a scene and an atmosphere for the reader to experience. Jamie feels ensnared by her family and Blind River, I want the reader to feel what she feels, so they’ll root for her to get the hell out of there.

Are there any symbols running throughout your novel?

I use poker and gambling to symbolize some aspects of American culture. Children in this country are sold a dream they can rise from the circumstance they are born into, that the American Dream will come true for anyone willing to work hard enough, that pulling one’s self up from the bootstraps is actually possible. But many people are born into circumstance they will never find their way out of and the dream of making a better life for themselves and their children really isn’t viable. That’s why the lottery system has seen such a crazy boom in the last three or four decades. People living in poverty, such as the kind I grew up in, know deep down that education alone isn’t going to pull them out of their circumstances, that...[read on]
Visit Gale Massey's website.

My Book, The Movie: The Girl From Blind River.

Writers Read: Gale Massey.

The Page 69 Test: The Girl From Blind River.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, July 16, 2018

Tommy Orange

Tommy Orange's acclaimed debut novel is There There.

From his Q&A with Hannah Beckerman for the Guardian:

The novel explores what it means to be Native American today. What does it mean for you?

It’s meant a lot of different things over the years. Currently it means going back to see my dad, who lives in Oklahoma now, and slowly trying to learn the language, because while he’s fluent he didn’t raise us with it. It means making sure my son knows that he’s Native too. It’ll keep meaning more things along the way.

Why didn’t your dad teach you the language?

There’s a lot of pain related to the past, and I think he was wanting a fresh start, wanting to raise us in Oakland and have us figure it out for ourselves. I think if we had been born in the 21st century to a dad who was fluent in Cheyenne, we probably...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, July 15, 2018

Lucy Tan

Lucy Tan's new novel is What We Were Promised.

From her Q&A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: How did you come up with the idea for What We Were Promised?

A: As an MFA student at the University of Wisconsin, I wrote a short story set in Shanghai about two hotel maids being accused of stealing a bracelet. The feedback from my workshop was that the story had promise, but was limited by the form.

When my professor suggested I try writing it as a novel, I was relieved and excited. There was so much more I wanted to explore about the characters in that story, and turning it into a novel would allow me the space to do that.

The short story I initially wrote became the basis for the first three chapters of the novel told from the point of view of Sunny, one of the housekeepers who...[read on]
Visit Lucy Tan's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, July 14, 2018

Roxane Gay

Roxane Gay's books include Bad Feminist, Difficult Women, and Hunger.

From her Q&A with Laura Snapes for the Guardian:

You recently tweeted about the so-called “incels”, the internet subculture whose members refer to their inability to find a romantic or sexual partner as “involuntary celibacy”. Girls are taught that men will lay claim to their bodies. Why are we culturally resistant to teaching boys that they don’t deserve sex?

That’s just the way it is. We have to change that and we have to teach both young men and young women about enthusiastic consent. And that a woman can say “no” at any time and it may suck, but you still have to listen to that “no”. Until we get there, we’re gonna continue to see things like in Santa Fe, where a young woman rejected a man and he went to school and killed her and nine others. No one is guaranteed love or affection and I don’t say that callously, because I think that love and affection and sex are important and that everyone should have their shot. But the men that can’t get laid, there’s a reason. It’s because they’re sociopaths and nobody wants them, and I’m not gonna cry for them.

Who’s your literary hero?

I love...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, July 13, 2018

Amy Mason Doan

Amy Mason Doan's new novel is The Summer List.

From her Q&A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: How did you come up with the idea for The Summer List, and for your characters Laura and Casey?

A: I wanted to write a novel about girlhood friends reuniting after years of estrangement, but for a long time it was only the wisp of an idea.

Then one night two years ago I was camping with my family by the Oregon coast and some kids ran up with a scavenger hunt list. I gave them a graham cracker (one of the easiest items on the list, because it was S’mores city at the time). And they looked so excited, rushing off to get their next item.

I started picturing two grown women reuniting for a scavenger hunt. I knew it could be a satisfying, funny, poignant story if I told it right. I also knew that the women would need a good reason for the adult hunt, because I didn’t want it to be gimmicky. I realized they’d have to go on scavenger hunts as girls.

I’m an extremely visual writer. I need to play the story in my head and block it out like a film before I can set it down on paper. So before I wrote any of the high school scenes, I could picture young Laura—sensitive, lonely, teased for developing early and for her religious mother, spending her summers kayaking around this beautiful lake but desperate for a friend.

And I saw Casey moving in across the water like...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, July 12, 2018

Adam Tooze

Adam Tooze is the director of the European Institute at Columbia University and author of the forthcoming book, Crashed: How a Decade of Financial Crises Changed the World.

From his Slate Q&A with Isaac Chotiner:

[Chotiner:] Everywhere I look—from Brexit to Hungary to the rise of a populist government in Italy to Marine Le Pen making the final round in France to what’s happening in Germany right now—it all seems to fit under a similar rubric, which is the rise of right-wing populism. Do you think it’s helpful to put all of these events under the same rubric?

I’m not very compelled by the populism argument. I mean, I think at this point it’s become so much of a meme that it’s beginning to act into the world. Some of the protagonists do identify themselves as populist and they’ve been labeled as such, and so that labeling and that self-identification is beginning to exert effect. What I would agree with is to say that Europe, like the United States, has been subject to some common shocks, and the common shocks one might think of as being things like the financial crisis or the spectacular derailment of Western policy in the Middle East, in North Africa, in Western Asia, and that then creates flows of people and challenges that all these different countries and the EU, NATO, organizations like that, have to deal with.

When those sorts of entities are exposed to those kinds of common shocks, then what you see is national fault lines, national fragilities, manifesting themselves across all of those countries at the same time.

The Brexit disaster is completely predictable given the ambiguities of the relationship of right-wing Brits—and indeed left-wing Brits—to the EU. Now, that’s a completely different phenomenon from reservoirs of extreme nationalist public opinion in Hungary, which draw their historical inspiration from memes and themes of national persecution, which go all the way back to World War I and the dramatic aftermath of World War I. Modern Hungary is a shadow of what it once was, and has been throughout the 20th century, and at certain moments, nationalist politicians in Hungary can mobilize that.

And that isn’t the rhetoric of what we call Italian populism, which in fact has two distinct strands. One is the League, which is a previously regional party, which emerged out of Northern Italian resentment against everything south of Rome, and on the other hand the Five Star Movement, which is an unforeseen type of politics, which is much more modernist in a kind of freaked-out … it’s positively Californian, right, in its belief in tech, and the mechanisms of popular referenda. They then form a coalition, given the logic of European politics, with the League, which allows them both to govern, whilst in Britain the Tories are clinging onto power with the help of the most right-wing parties in Northern Ireland. Both of these are responses to the shocks that Europe has suffered since 2008. Do they add up to the same political phenomenon? I...[read on]
Visit Adam Tooze's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Amber Brock

Amber Brock's new novel is Lady Be Good.

From her Q&A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: How did you come up with the idea for Lady Be Good and for your character Kitty?

A: I often have ideas or characters come to me as I’m driving to work and listening to music. In Kitty’s case, I was listening to “Symphony in C” by Cake and “Walking on Broken Glass” by Annie Lennox when the image of a girl popped into my mind. She had platinum blond hair, bright red lipstick, and a wicked smile.

I immediately wanted to know what that girl was up to. I drew inspiration from the machinations in Dangerous Liaisons and Emma, and the story and characters started to take shape in my mind from there.

Q: What type of research did you need to do to recreate New York, Miami, and Havana in the 1950s?

A: I always do an enormous amount of research before and during the writing process. It’s probably my favorite part! For this novel, I read some fantastic non-fiction books (including...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Salman Rushdie

Salman Rushdie's latest novel is The Golden House. From his Q&A with Arifa Akbar at the Guardian:

Which classic novel are you most ashamed not to have read?

Middlemarch. I always get beaten up for it. I owned up to it on TV once – when they still had books programmes on TV – and the newspapers said: “He calls himself a writer!”

Who is your favourite literary hero or heroine?

Leopold Bloom in Ulysses, even though he eats food I can’t stand, like offal, beef and inner organs. He’s one of the all-time great literary figures.

What kind of reader were you as a child? Which books and authors have stayed with you since childhood?

I was a hugely obsessive reader, a real bookworm. My parents were very smart and didn’t force me to read just “good” books, so Batman comics were OK. It meant I got the bug at an early age. A lot of writers emerge from the cocoon of being great readers. Growing up in Bombay, I read whatever western children’s literature we got there; we didn’t get Winnie-the-Pooh so I discovered it much later. I read Lewis Carroll’s Alice and...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, July 9, 2018

Elizabeth Partridge

Elizabeth Partridge's latest book is Boots on the Ground: America's War in Vietnam, a new book for teens.

From her Q&A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: Why did you decide to write Boots on the Ground?

A: We saw a lot of coverage of the war on television and in magazines and newspapers when I was in high school and college. I was in the San Francisco Bay area where there were a lot of protests, and I often joined them.

I just could not see why our country needed to be in Vietnam, and I wanted us to get out. In the news coverage, I could see that not only were American troops being injured and killed, but Vietnamese military and civilians were as well. It all seemed senseless to me.

After the war, Vietnam veterans and protestors didn't mix. Most veterans rarely spoke about their service, just kept their heads down and tried to get on with their lives.

We had not yet learned as a country to separate the war from the warriors. Many veterans were traumatized, and there was little or no help for them from the Veterans Administration. PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) had not yet been invented as term to describe the complex mental health issues that some veterans face.

Several years ago I went to ...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, July 8, 2018

David Sedaris

David Sedaris's latest book is Calypso. From his Q&A with Andrew Anthony for the Guardian:

You write about your sister coming to see you at a gig, and you had someone close the door on her backstage, shutting her out of your life. It was the last time you saw her before she killed herself. Was that difficult to write about?

I didn’t mean to write about that. I thought: “Oh my, am I really doing this?” I thought it was important to do because anything that makes a story more complex is good to do. What I didn’t say in that story was whenever you talked to Tiffany it took you weeks to get over it, because she’d say something so disturbing or make you so angry, you couldn’t stop thinking about it.

Does it make you think you’re a heartless person?

When I read that out loud on stage, I can’t believe I did it. I can’t believe I’m reading it. It is just as bad as it sounds. That you’re going to have someone close the door on that person’s face, and they’re going to commit suicide and you’ll never see them again... there’s not a way to make that funny. I read someone saying you can’t surprise a reader without surprising yourself, and in your life what surprise is there? But there are things, admissions that you can make, or scratch below the surface and say how you actually felt, and you can be there at your desk and you’re just shocked. So I think that was a situation where the reader can be...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, July 7, 2018

Danielle Teller

Danielle Teller is the author of All the Ever Afters: The Untold Story of Cinderella’s Stepmother.

From her Q&A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: How did you come up with the idea of retelling Cinderella from her stepmother's perspective?

A: When I became a stepmother, I was surprised by how difficult it was to get comfortable in that role. My stepkids and I had to slowly build trust and affection over time.

At first, they chafed under my parental rules and mourned the loss of freewheeling weekends with their dad. I felt as though my stepchildren didn’t want me around except to fulfill their various physical needs; I joked that I was a “ghost-servant.”

I worried that no matter what I did, my stepchildren would never see me as a net positive in their lives, and that got me thinking about the bad reputation of stepmothers in fairy tales.

What if those stories were inspired by real people who weren’t evil but struggling in a fraught relationship with other imperfect human beings? From that...[read on]
Visit Danielle Teller's website.

Writers Read: Danielle Teller.

The Page 69 Test: All the Ever Afters.

My Book, The Movie: All the Ever Afters.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, July 6, 2018

Elizabeth Crook

Elizabeth Crook novels include The Night Journal, which received the Spur Award from Western Writers of America, and Monday, Monday, a Kirkus Reviews Best Book of 2014 and winner of the Jesse H. Jones Award from the Texas Institute of Letters.

Crook latest novel is The Which Way Tree.

From her March 2018 Q&A with Marisa Charpentier for the Texas Book Festival:

Why did you decide to write this book now?

When my son was fourteen he got lost in the canyons in Bandera County one night, and was finally located by search helicopters after a nine hour hunt, during which a mountain lion was spotted trailing through the canyon into which he had disappered. It was the scariest night of my life and left me obsessed with mountain lions and their attacks on humans. I read everything I could find on the subject. I guess I wrote this story partly because I had run out of real life accounts to...[read on]
Visit Elizabeth Crook's website.

The Page 69 Test: Monday, Monday.

The Page 69 Test: The Which Way Tree.

My Book, The Movie: The Which Way Tree.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, July 5, 2018

Amanda Robson

Amanda Robson's new psychological suspense novel is Guilt. From her Q&A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: How did you come up with the idea for Guilt, and why did you decide to focus on twins?

A: I have wanted to write a triangular story, about two women, and the man who comes between them, for a long time now. This stems from the fact that I have very close girlfriends, and sometimes devilishly wonder what would happen if our relationships were stretched by a third party.

Even though I am not lucky enough to be a twin, I chose twin sisters because I imagine them to have one of the tightest female bonds possible.

Q: The novel includes the theme of sexual harassment. Why did you decide to include that in the novel, and how does this story relate to the #MeToo movement?

A: The idea of sexual harassment came into my head as it just seemed to be the natural Machiavellian power play that a damaged character like...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, July 4, 2018

Sheena Kamal

Sheena Kamal is the author of the novels The Lost Ones and its sequel, It All Falls Down. From her Q&A with Sam Wiebe, author of Invisible Dead and Cut You Down, at The Thrill Begins:

SW: ...Let’s start with the protagonist of The Lost Ones, Nora Watts. She’s highly resourceful and tenacious, while also displaying tremendous vulnerability. How did you come up with her?

SK: Nora came to me very organically. I started becoming serious about writing when I worked in the film/TV industry, so what I saw first was a logline about a woman who discovers the daughter she’d given up for adoption has gone missing, and she doesn’t trust the authorities to look for the girl. Who doesn’t trust the cops? Someone who’s had bad experiences with them, an outsider, a loner. Then I wrote a line about her singing the blues and I suddenly got her personality. I sensed she had a huge identity crisis that’s always hovering over her shoulders. Writing the story can be difficult, but understanding Nora never is.

How was it for you creating Dave Wakeland? Did you think about him a lot first or did he manifest on the page right away?

SW: With Invisible Dead, I knew I wanted a protagonist who’d embody some of the old school virtues of classic detective fiction, but who wouldn’t feel anachronistic. I wanted to avoid the cliche of the heroic loner in a corrupt world; in some ways the novel is about Wakeland coming to grips with his own complicity in the social ills he investigates.

For me, the classic detective writers
...[read on]
Visit Sheena Kamal's website.

Writers Read: Sheena Kamal (August 2017).

The Page 69 Test: The Lost Ones.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, July 3, 2018

Rebecca Makkai

Rebecca Makkai's new novel is The Great Believers.

From her Q&A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: How did you come up with the idea for The Great Believers, and why did you decide to focus on the AIDS crisis in Chicago?

A: I did not decide to write about the AIDS crisis in Chicago. I set out to write a different book. What’s now the subplot of Nora’s story in Paris in the art world was the book. An older woman had been an artist’s model in Paris, in the ‘20s…She could only live until about the ‘80s, so [the story] would be set in the ‘80s.

I had an art story in the ’80s, so AIDS could be in the book, but that could be a subplot. I wanted to set the book in Chicago, and as I started doing research, I was learning amazing and devastating stuff. That’s where the story wanted to go.

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

A: Part of the epigraph from...[read on]
Learn more about the author and her work at Rebecca Makkai's website, Facebook page and Twitter perch.

My Book, The Movie: The Borrower.

The Page 69 Test: The Hundred-Year House.

My Book, The Movie: The Hundred-Year House.

My Book, The Movie: The Great Believers.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, July 2, 2018

Randi Hutter Epstein

Randi Hutter Epstein's new book is Aroused: The History of Hormones and How They Control Just About Everything. From the transcript of her interview with NPR's Lulu Garcia-Navarro:

GARCIA-NAVARRO: The book is organized around stories from key moments in hormone research. And I have to say, many of the studies they were doing in the early days were pretty gruesome.

EPSTEIN: When we say study, we tend now to think of the randomised clinical controlled trial. You know, you have one sample here. You compare it to another. When they were doing studies, they were doing sort of weird experiments on people and dogs and all kind of things. So there was Harvey Cushing. He was one of the first people to talk about that pituitary tumors can really muck you up and like send a lot of hormones awry. But here's what he tried to do that didn't work out that's kind of a wacky experiment. He had a 48-year-old man that had a pituitary tumor that was making him have double vision and headaches and other endocrine issues. And Harvey Cushing thought, what if we take a nice, healthy pituitary of a baby that just died if there is a newborn that didn't make it and just implant that in this old man, and then we just revive him and he'd be back to normal. Newspapers got a hold of it, as media tends to do. And there were wonderful headlines like baby brain, you know, broken brain fixed by baby. And it went wild in terms of, wow, we can now cure broken, old brains. And, spoiler alert, let's just say that we don't replace baby pituitary glands into grownups when they have pituitary tumors anymore.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Some of what these scientists were doing, though, was actually helping people. And you tell the story of a short 7-year-old called Jeffrey Balaban.

EPSTEIN: Yes. There was this huge optimism started in the 1920s when we figured out that insulin can help diabetics. So the thinking was, if we can change diabetes - which was a deadly disease - to a chronic illness, what else can we do? So originally the thought was, let's get growth hormone from cows just the way we got insulin from cows, and we'll give it to short kids. So...[read on]
Visit Randi Hutter Epstein's website and Psychology Today blog, Birth, Babies, and Beyond.

Writers Read: Randi Hutter Epstein (September 2010).

Coffee with a Canine: Randi Hutter Epstein, Ellie and Dexter.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, July 1, 2018

Natalie Starkey

Natalie Starkey's new book is Catching Stardust: Comets, Asteroids and the Birth of the Solar System.

From her Q&A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: In your new book, you ask whether comets and asteroids should be feared or revered. How would you answer that, and are there reasons that both might be true?

A: As someone who has studied comets and asteroids for much of my career I truly believe that they should be revered.

While these small space objects have the potential to wreak havoc on Earth if they collide with our precious planet in the future, the more we learn about them now – about what they are made of and how they behave – will better prepare us to deal with one if it’s headed our way.

Comets and asteroids are ancient explorers of the Solar System, born at a time before the planets existed and as such they hold a wealth of information about the early Solar System. If we want to discover how life and water arrived on Earth, then we need to study these small enigmatic cosmic voyagers to see if they’ll reveal their 4.6-billion-year-old secrets.

Q: What first intrigued you about comets and asteroids, and what do you see as some of the most common perceptions and misperceptions about them?

A: For many years I’ve been fascinated by...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue