Friday, August 31, 2018

Laura Shovan

Laura Shovan's new middle-grade novel for kids is Takedown.

From her Q&A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: You note that you became interested in wrestling when your son was involved with the sport. What inspired your characters Mikayla and Lev?

A: My son started wrestling in second grade and stuck with the sport through middle school. There’s a lot of my son in Lev’s character, including his best wrestling friends, the Fearsome Threesome.

When our family was active in the sport, there were no girls on my son’s teams. It was rare to see a girl competing at tournaments. By the time I started working on Takedown, that was changing. Over the past several years, women’s wrestling has been growing as a sport.

I had a lot of fun developing Mikayla’s character. Through her, I got to write about what it’s like to be a girl in...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, August 30, 2018

Jeremy Finley

Jeremy Finley is the author of The Darkest Time of Night.

From his Q&A with Lenny Picker at Publishers Weekly:

Who in your family gave you the idea for this novel?

To have my mother-in-law, who often holds conversations with sewing in her lap, casually mention that she had once worked as a secretary in an astronomy department for a professor who did alien abduction research, was a true lightning-bolt encounter. She went on to mention that she used to take bizarre messages for him, from people who believed they’d been abducted. I used her to create the character of a woman who quietly served her family, while harboring a secretive, hidden life that no one, not even her husband, was aware of.

You’ve dealt with missing persons’ cases in the course of your work. Did you draw on any actual cases for the novel?

In my career as a reporter, I have written extensively about missing people. I did not want any of the true-life cases I have researched to be reflected in a work of fiction. While I certainly have interviewed detectives repeatedly about their processes of trying to find missing people, I...[read on]
Visit Jeremy Finley's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, August 29, 2018

Inman Majors

Inman Majors is the author of five novels including the newly released Penelope Lemon: Game On!.

A native of Tennessee, Majors received his BA from Vanderbilt University and his MFA from The University of Alabama. He is a professor of English at James Madison University and makes his home in Charlottesville, Virginia.

From Majors's Q&A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: How did you come up with the idea for Penelope Lemon?

A: The idea for the book came after years of coaching my son’s youth baseball teams in Waynesboro, Virginia, a small Appalachian town over the mountain from Charlottesville.

My teams were populated primarily by kids with single moms who worked at the Little Debbie factory, the Target distribution center, and other places where they punched the clock.

I admired the toughness of these women, their moxie, good humor, and grace. They seemed to keep a lot of balls in the air at once—working tough jobs, taking kids to sports practices, worrying about the oil light on their cars—and to do so with sense of self intact.

These were women in their 20s and 30s, most of them with more than one child to raise, most of them living paycheck to paycheck. It struck me that they didn’t feel particularly put-upon by life.

This was life: scrambling to be in two places at once, scrambling to pay bills, scrambling when life throws you a curveball like a blown head gasket on the car or the sudden loss of a job.

The character in this book is something of...[read on]
Visit Inman Majors's website.

The Page 69 Test: Penelope Lemon: Game On!.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, August 28, 2018

William Boyle

William Boyle's novels include The Lonely Witness.

From his Q&A with Dawn Ius at The Big Thrill:

What can you tell us about the inspiration for THE LONELY WITNESS?

My grandmother was housebound and had communion delivered weekly. She also had a woman sitting with her a few days a week, a sort of caretaker while my mother was at work. This was when her dementia was in its nascent stages and she could still be alone some of the day. That woman, my grandma’s caretaker, was the mother of a kid I went to school with; I liked him back then, but he’d gone down a pretty dark path somewhere around junior high. I started to wonder what would happen if he just showed up instead of this woman, and what if he’d turned out bad. And then there was Amy—I was reading a lot of Dorothy Day, and I saw how Amy had embraced the good part of the Catholicism of her youth and how she was trying to make meaning of her existence in a new way. Those things came together, and the book just opened itself up to me.

This book is many things, and could be categorized numerous ways—but I love the term “gritty” and think it’s a great fit for THE LONELY WITNESS. Who are some of the writers that have influenced your work?

Thanks—I really like the term “gritty,” too. It definitely reflects my interest in exploring the dark underside of things. Megan Abbott and Sara Gran are two of my biggest writing heroes. I think their influence is all over this book. David Goodis, Larry Brown, Flannery O’Connor, Denis Johnson, William Kennedy, Chester Himes, Elmore Leonard, James M. Cain, Donald...[read on]
Visit William Boyle's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, August 27, 2018

Katharine Weber

Katharine Weber grew up in New York City and has lived in rural Connecticut since 1976, when she married the cultural historian Nicholas Fox Weber. (They have two daughters and a grandson.) She also spends parts of the year in West Cork, Ireland, and in London. She is the author of five previous novels and a memoir.

Weber's new novel is Still Life With Monkey.

From her Q&A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: You write that part of the inspiration for your new novel was a friend of yours who was injured in an accident. How did you come up with the characters of Duncan and Laura?

A: In writing about the profound effects a spinal cord injury can have on a life, thinking about the before and after of such a traumatic event, I recognized early in the process of planning the narrative that an accident and its aftermath inevitably have a huge impact on the people in that person’s life, especially partners and siblings.

For the novel to have emotional resonance, there had to be conflict between Duncan’s ambivalence about living this new life and at least one other person, someone who desperately wants him to choose to keep living. There is no emotional velocity if a character wants something and there’s nobody else in the story to share or oppose the want.

Virginia Woolf once wrote in her diary, “I meant to write about death, only life came breaking in as usual.” Life is other people, other characters.

I have always been drawn to fiction that portrays the complexity and nuance of marriages of long duration, and I count...[read on]
Visit Katharine Weber's website.

The Page 99 Test: Triangle.

The Page 69 Test: True Confections.

The Page 99 Test: The Memory of All That.

Writers Read: Katharine Weber.

My Book, The Movie: Still Life With Monkey.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, August 26, 2018

Craig DiLouie

Craig DiLouie is an author of popular thriller, apocalyptic/horror, and sci-fi/fantasy fiction.

In hundreds of reviews, his novels have been praised for their strong characters, action, and gritty realism. Each book promises an exciting experience with people you’ll care about in a world that feels real.

These works have been nominated for major literary awards such as the Bram Stoker Award and Audie Award, translated into multiple languages, and optioned for film.

DiLouie's new novel is One of Us.

From his Q&A with Shaz at Jera’s Jamboree:

Please summarise One of Us in 20 words or less.

One of Us is a dark fantasy described as The Girl with All the Gifts meets To Kill a Mockingbird.

What was the idea/inspiration for your novel?

Published by Orbit in the second half of July 2018 and available in hardcover, trade paperback, eBook, and audiobook, One of Us is about a disease that produces a generation of monsters now coming of age in ramshackle orphanages in the American Deep South.

Abused and rejected by the human race, they aspire and become willing to fight for the same rights and opportunities as everybody else, resulting in a violent uprising. The result is a misunderstood monster novel that is also an examination of prejudice, violence, and what makes a monster a monster.

The concept had several influences, notably Southern Gothic literature; The Island of Dr. Moreau, with is examination of what makes a beast a beast; and the film Conquest of the Planet of the Apes, with its beastly underclass rising up against their masters. I particularly liked the idea of...[read on]
Visit Craig DiLouie's website.

My Book, The Movie: One of Us.

The Page 69 Test: One of Us.

Writers Read: Craig DiLouie.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, August 25, 2018

A.J. Banner

A.J. Banner's new novel is After Nightfall.

From her Q&A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: How did you come up with the idea for After Nightfall, and for your character Marissa?

A: Our rescued cats whisper book ideas into my dreams while I sleep. They might as well, as I have no idea where I get my ideas.

I love Stephen King’s quote from his book On Writing: “…good story ideas seem to come quite literally from nowhere, sailing at you right out of the empty sky.” This is absolutely the case.

Perhaps my first thought about After Nightfall was the first sentence: “Lauren is flirting with my fiancé over the dinner I spent hours preparing.” I knew someone would die after a party, and all the guests would become suspects, but I unearthed the rest of the story as I worked through several drafts.

Marissa might have popped into my mind as a speech language pathologist conjured to treat Anna, a child in the story who suffers from speech disfluencies. Where did Anna come from? Who knows? Maybe...[read on]
Visit A.J. Banner's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, August 24, 2018

Ian McEwan

Ian McEwan's novels include Chesil Beach and Atonement.

From his Q&A with Rosanna Greenstreet at the Guardian:

Which living person do you most admire, and why?

Angela Merkel. Under attack from all sides, she tries to keep alive the dreams of a tolerant, inclusive, open society.

What is the trait you most deplore in yourself?

My second serve at tennis.

What makes you unhappy?

Species extinction, habitat destruction and climate change.

Who would play you in the film of your life?

Clint Eastwood.

Which book changed your life?

The Go-Between
by LP Hartley. I read it at the age of 13 and identified strongly with its central character, Leo. Atonement was in part my tribute to...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, August 23, 2018

Stephen McCauley

Stephen McCauley is the author of The Object of My Affection, True Enough, and Alternatives to Sex. Many of his books have been national bestsellers, and three have been made into feature films. The New York Times Book Review dubbed McCauley “the secret love child of Edith Wharton and Woody Allen”, and he was named a Chevalier in the Order of Arts and Letters by the French Ministry of Culture. His fiction, reviews, and articles have appeared in the New York Times, the Washington Post, Harper’s, Vogue, and many other publications. He currently serves as Co-Director of Creative Writing at Brandeis University.

McCauley's new novel is My Ex-Life.

From his Q&A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: How did you come up with the idea for My Ex-Life and why did you decide to focus on two ex-spouses reuniting after many years?

A: I've always been interested in writing about friendships that are close and loving and that perhaps blur the definitions of "friend" and "lover."

I know a lot of people who, through internet stalking and such, have started writing to and flirting with exes. It's the lure of history and the familiar combined with a new and exciting context.

In this case, the exes know they will never be a couple again in the same way, so it made for...[read on]
Visit Stephen McCauley's website.

Writers Read: Stephen McCauley.

The Page 69 Test: My Ex-Life.

My Book, The Movie: My Ex-Life.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, August 22, 2018

Rebecca Makkai

Rebecca Makkai's new novel is The Great Believers.

From her Q&A with Reading Women:

Why did you choose the title The Great Believers for your novel?

It’s from an F. Scott Fitzgerald essay called “My Generation.” I first encountered just the line “We were the great believers,” and was intrigued by the contrast between that and what Gertrude Stein had said to Hemingway (“You are all a lost generation.”) When I saw the full quote, which I use as an epigraph to the novel, I was even more struck by the question of what happens to the survivors of a decimated generation. My book is mostly about the AIDS generation in Chicago, and only a little about the Paris arts scene before and after WWI, but I like that the title helps tie them together.

When did you first start thinking about the parallels between the Lost Generation in the 1920s and the generation that suffered through the AIDS crisis in the 1980s and 90s?

Those parallels really started for me with...[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

Tuesday, August 21, 2018

Jane Lazarre

Jane Lazarre is the author of the memoir, The Communist and the Communist's Daughter.

From her Q&A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: Why did you decide to write this memoir about your father, and how long did it take you to complete it?

A: I decided to write this memoir about my father over 40 years after his death for many reasons – some formal and intellectual, and some in Toni Morrison’s words, “deep story” reasons.

I realized I had large gaps in my knowledge of my father’s life as an immigrant, not even knowing what ship he came on from Kishinev, Romania in the early 1900s, nor much about his life in the American Communist Party, nor of his experiences as a volunteer in the Abraham Lincoln Brigade in the Spanish Civil War in the late 1930s.

I knew he had been in prison in Philadelphia as a young man for making a political speech, but I did not know much more than that. Finally, I had in my possession a huge FBI file I had obtained many years before, and I wanted to make use of it.

As to formal reasons, I have...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, August 20, 2018

Cherise Wolas

Cherise Wolas's new novel is The Family Tabor.

From her Q&A with Mignon Fogarty, Grammar Girl:

GG: To what extent does grammar play a role in character development and voice?

CW: The deep-diving I do into the marrows of the people in my novels—I never call them characters because they are completely real and alive to me—organically creates their unique voices, their specific cadences of thought and speech, which includes how they grammatically express themselves. The particular voices come naturally, but then I work very, very, very hard to get each voice absolutely right; every interiority and every line of dialogue must belong to that particular person, and could not be thought or spoken by any other person in the book.

I feel incredibly fortunate that the ways in which my fictional people think and express themselves, affects readers so much they feel my people jumping off the page and into their own lives. With The Resurrection of Joan Ashby, I’ve received many requests from readers asking where they can purchase the story collections and novels written by Joan Ashby and excerpted in the book. This lets me know that I made Joan Ashby fully real and completely alive. This overwhelming response is joyous to a writer. And the same incredible response seems to be happening with The Family Tabor, for...[read on]
Visit Cherise Wolas's website.

The Page 69 Test: The Resurrection of Joan Ashby.

The Page 69 Test: The Family Tabor.

Writers Read: Cherise Wolas.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, August 19, 2018

Christina June

Christina June writes young adult contemporary fiction when she’s not writing college recommendation letters during her day job as a school counselor. She loves the little moments in life that help someone discover who they’re meant to become – whether it’s her students or her characters.

June is a voracious reader, loves to travel, eats too many cupcakes, and hopes to one day be bicoastal – the east coast of the US and the east coast of Scotland. She lives in Virginia with her husband and daughter.

Her debut novel, It Started with Goodbye, was released in May 2017; the newly released Everywhere You Want to Be is its companion.

From June's Q&A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: How did you come up with the idea for Everywhere You Want to Be, a modern-day Little Red Riding Hood story?

A: I knew Tilly, the "evil" stepsister from my first book It Started With Goodbye, had a story to tell, and after going with my good friend, Lisa Maxwell, on a research trip to New York (for her New York Times bestseller The Last Magician), I wanted to write a New York book too!

And what better substitute for the evil forest in Little Red Riding Hood than the skyscrapers of NYC? The rest just fell into place as I began to brainstorm.

Q: What did you see as the right blend of the traditional fairy tale and your new characters?

A: A lot of fairy tales we loved as children have just a few really recognizable elements, but when you dig deeper, it's the themes that stick with us.

I wanted to make sure the things we associate with the story were there--the red cape, the big bad wolf, Grandma, the basket of bread--but...[read on]
Visit Christina June's website.

Writers Read: Christina June.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, August 18, 2018

Vince Beiser

Vince Beiser's new book is The World in a Grain: The Story of Sand and How It Transformed Civilization.

From his interview with NPR's Lulu Garcia-Navarro:

GARCIA-NAVARRO: I want to start with the obvious. How are we running out of sand? It would seem to be an infinite resource.

BEISER: It would seem. Well, in fact, there is an awful lot of sand in the world. It's, in fact, the most abundant thing on the planet. But at the end of the day, there's only so much of it like anything else in the world. And how we can be running out of it is it's also the resource that we consume more of than anything else except for air and water. So you put it all together, especially concrete, and we are using 50 billion tons of sand every year. That's enough sand to cover the entire state of California.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Wow. And there are different types of sand, though. You point out in your book sand in water is more important for industrial use than desert sand.

BEISER: Yeah. One of the great ironies of the whole issue is desert sand, which, you know, we have so much of, is basically useless. And the reason for that is the No. 1 thing that we use sand for is making concrete. And desert sand is too round to work in concrete. Desert sand has been worn down through thousands of years of erosion by wind tumbling and tumbling it and tumbling it. So the grains - the actual grains themselves end up kind of rounded with their edges and corners broken off, whereas sand that you find in riverbeds and on beaches and at the bottom of the ocean is more angular. So it locks together much better to form concrete.

It's like the difference between...[read on]
Visit Vince Beiser's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, August 17, 2018

Keith O'Brien

Keith O'Brien's new book is Fly Girls: How Five Daring Women Defied All Odds and Made Aviation History.

From his Q&A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: How did you come up with the idea for Fly Girls, and how did you choose the five women to write about?

A: I stumbled upon this idea by accident in the spring of 2016. I read a stray line in another book – a line that mentioned a female air race in 1929.

To be honest, I had never heard of such a thing. So I dug down a little. And then I dug a little more. And then I went to the library and I stayed there, spending long nights in newspaper archives. It quickly became clear to me that this was an important story that needed to be told.

Choosing the characters – really focusing the story – was the next step. Lots of women flew airplanes between 1927 and 1937 – the decade when Fly Girls takes place.

Who do you include? Especially when each of them is so fascinating? And who do you leave out? This is where it’s important to know your story, know your narrative.

Once I knew that, it was pretty simple to figure out which characters mattered. I was telling a story about women fighting for the right to fly and race airplanes. You can’t do that without...[read on]
Visit Keith O'Brien's website.

The Page 99 Test: Outside Shot.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, August 16, 2018

Cynthia Miller-Idriss

Cynthia Miller-Idriss is the author of The Extreme Gone Mainstream: Commercialization and Far Right Youth Culture in Germany.

From her Q&A at the Princeton University Press website:

Why did you write this book?

I stumbled across the new forms of commercialization analyzed in this book while I was sorting through photographers’ databases in search of a cover photo for my first book. I was immediately hooked—fascinated by how much had changed in German far right subculture since I had completed my prior fieldwork five years earlier. The skinhead aesthetic that had dominated the youth scene since the 1980s had all but disappeared, and was replaced with mainstream-style, high-quality commercial brands laced with far right ideology, symbols, and codes. I planned to write an article about it, but the project wouldn’t let me go. I literally found myself waking up in the middle of the night thinking about the codes, trying to disentangle their meanings and wondering whether youth even understood them. I felt compelled to understand it, and that’s what led to this book.

How does the coding work within the commercial products?

The brands and products encode historical and contemporary far right, nationalistic, racist, xenophobic, Islamophobic, and white supremacist references into...[read on]
Visit Cynthia Miller-Idriss's website.

The Page 99 Test: The Extreme Gone Mainstream.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Helaine Becker

Helaine Becker is the author of the new children's picture book, Counting on Katherine: How Katherine Johnson Saved Apollo 13. From her Q&A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: Why did you decide to write a children's picture book about the mathematician Katherine Johnson?

A: I was working on another book about space for National Geographic when I stumbled across a brief snippet on line about Katherine Johnson. This was well before Hidden Figures came out, so there was almost nothing out there about her. I was smitten. I wanted to make sure everyone else out there knew how amazing she was!

Throw in the mix that I am a staunch feminist and sick and tired that women's accomplishments - minorities too - are continuously erased from the record. I wanted to set the record straight.

Q: How did you research the book?

A: Katherine Johnson was 96 years old at that time. It wasn't easy to find her - she...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Tim Harford

Tim Harford's latest book is Fifty Inventions That Shaped the Modern Economy.

From his interview with Fareed Zakaria:

ZAKARIA: Steam engines, silicon chips, social media, these are the sorts of inventions that people point to when asked what made the modern economy, but the undercover economist Jim Harford looks at the subject differently. He always puts a twist on any subject he covers and that's why I love reading his columns in the "FT" and his books.

His latest book is called "50 Inventions That Shape the Modern Economy."

Tim Harford, so you have figured out what are the 50 inventions that shaped the modern economy. Actually they are the fun ones. This is sort of--

TIM HARFORD: Yes. Yes. Not the steam engine, not the motor car, the ones that we don't appreciate, the ones that we overlook. The bar code or barbed wire or one of my favorites is paper. It's--

ZAKARIA: Paper? Explain that.

HARFORD: Well, when I started looking on this book, "50 Inventions," people said you must talk about the Gutenberg press, the movable type printing press that was revolutionary, it was disruptive, the novel, the newspaper, all of this was made possible by the printing press. And of course, that's true but the whole point of the printing press is it's a way of mass producing writing and there is no point in mass producing writing unless you can also mass produce a writing surface.

And that's paper, and if you try to use a printing press on, say, animal skin parchment or silk, you can do it, technically it works, economically completely impossible. So then paper was just a wonderful symbol to me of an invention that's very inexpensive, it's quite simple and it's disruptive, it's important because it's so inexpensive.

ZAKARIA: And the gramophone. Another strange invention to my mind, why do you think it defined or -- you know, the modern world?

HARFORD: Well, the thing about the gramophone is...[read on]
Learn more about the book and author at Tim Harford's website, Facebook page, and Twitter perch.

Tim Harford: top 10 undercover economics books.

The Page 69 Test: The Undercover Economist.

The Page 69 Test:The Logic of Life.

The Page 99 Test: Adapt: Why Success Always Starts with Failure.

The Page 99 Test: The Undercover Economist Strikes Back.

Writers Read: Tim Harford (February 2014).

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, August 13, 2018

Nicola Cornick

Nicola Cornick is a writer and historian who was born and brought up in the north of England. Her new novel is The Phantom Tree.

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

Q: How did you come up with the idea for The Phantom Tree, and for your character Alison?

A: A number of threads came together to form The Phantom Tree. I’ve always been interested in the lesser-known figures from history, especially women whose stories have been lost from the historical record.

One of these was Mary Seymour, the daughter of Queen Katherine Parr and Thomas Seymour. There is no account of what happened to Mary beyond the age of about three and I found this fascinating and was increasingly drawn to tell her story.

At the same time I saw a little portrait on the wall of my uncle’s house. He had picked it up in a market and was excited to find it had an inscription on the back claiming that it was a picture of Anne Boleyn.

Being a writer with a penchant for mysteries I started to speculate: Was it really a lost portrait of Anne or could it be some other Tudor lady? Mary Seymour, perhaps… And the story started to grow from there.

When I first started writing the book it was all about Mary, and Alison was a minor character but...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, August 12, 2018

Megan Abbott

Megan Abbott's new novel is Give Me Your Hand.

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

GARCIA-NAVARRO: .... You've set mysteries in gymnastics clubs and cheerleading teams and now the oh-so-brutally competitive science academic community. But your work focuses on this fine line between friendship and rivalry, and you do this so well. How do you explore what's almost a trope about women without making it a trope?

ABBOTT: Yeah. It is really tricky. I mean, there's that phrase that sort of gets bandied around - frenemy, you know? - for those women in our lives who we are very close to. But there is that competitive instinct. And I think part of it is that - is still, as a culture, women are not supposed to be ambitious or competitive in the same way. And when they are, it's frightening. So it gets sort of subverted or pushed down or suppressed. And then, when it does emerge, it can emerge in odd ways. And I'll confess while I was writing this that it was during the presidential campaign, so sort of the fear of female ambition was...[read on]
Learn more about the book and author at Megan Abbott's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, August 11, 2018

Marianne Levy

Marianne Levy's new novel for kids is Katie Cox vs. the Boy Band; it's a sequel to Katie Cox Goes Viral.

From her Q&A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: What was it like to write about Katie again, and do you think she's changed at all since book one?

A: The second book picks up just a month after the end of the first, because I wanted to keep exploring Katie's sense of discombobulation.

She's famous, but she doesn't feel famous, her life is changing, in that she's got a recording contract and a fan base, but day to day, many things, like her messy bedroom and her school routine, are exactly the same.

She's caught between these two worlds now, almost two different versions of herself. And that's...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, August 10, 2018

Leah Franqui

Leah Franqui's new novel is America for Beginners.

From her Q&A with Adam Vitcavage at Writer's Bone:

Adam Vitcavage: Starting with a few questions directly related to this book, the novel follows a woman named Pival dealing with grief. Was there a particular event that inspired this plot?

Leah Franqui: There absolutely is an event that inspired this novel, but the plot about Pival’s grief was an act of imagination. When my now-husband and I graduated from graduate school, his parents and older sister came to our commencement from India. They had never been to the United States, nor outside of India much if at all before they came, and they had decided that after the graduation events they would take a tour of the United States, despite my husband’s loud and vocal protests. All their friends had done it, this is what people do, and for a lot of people there is this mentality in travel that if you are going to do it you have to cover as much ground as possible, it’s like Pokémon Go, you gotta catch ‘em all! Americans do this in Europe, you know, cover five countries in seven days or something like that. So even though it went against his foundational principles, my husband decided if his parents were going to take this trip covering seven cities in 11 days, he would have to go with them.

It was that trip, which, by the way, expressly guaranteed 11 Indian dinners, and really meeting my now-in-laws for the first time, that inspired this novel. Getting to know them also really informed this story. But it was also my mother-in-law’s negative reaction to homosexuality, which was...[read on]
Visit Leah Franqui's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, August 9, 2018

Fiona Davis

Fiona Davis began her career in New York City as an actress, where she worked on Broadway, off-Broadway, and in regional theater. After getting a master's degree at Columbia Journalism School, she fell in love with writing, leapfrogging from editor to freelance journalist before finally settling down as an author of historical fiction. She's a graduate of the College of William & Mary and is based in New York City.

Davis's new novel is The Masterpiece.

From her Q&A with Nancy Gilson for The Columbus Dispatch:

Q: What made you decide to write “The Masterpiece” about the Grand Central School of Art?

A: The idea came during an author talk for my second book (“The Dakota”). A reader said she could get me a behind-the-scenes tour of the Grand Central Terminal. The tour was spectacular. We got to go into the crosswalks, so we were looking down at the concourse ... and to an abandoned train car that supposedly belonged to FDR.

But it all didn’t really connect until I read about the School of Art, which no one seems to know about. It was founded by (painter) John Singer Sargent. ... I didn’t know much about fine arts, and it terrified me to start writing about painters and illustrators, but I did a lot of research.

Q: Your main characters are based on real artists who taught at the school: painter Arshile Gorky and illustrator/industrial designer Helen Dryden. How different are the characters from the real people?

A: I would say they are more...[read on]
Visit Fiona Davis's website.

My Book, The Movie: The Address.

My Book, The Movie: The Masterpiece.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, August 8, 2018

Cherise Wolas

Cherise Wolas's new novel is The Family Tabor.

From her Q&A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: How did you come up with the idea for this new novel, and for the members of your fictional Tabor family?

A: The fictional Tabors have been with me for a very long time. I first imagined them during a snowstorm when I was living in a small town in Washington.

They lived in a rambling house, knew how to speak a dead language, and the youngest child was a hemophiliac who created alter egos for himself. That first iteration is in a tiny story called "Aramaic" that was published in Narrative magazine.

Their second iteration was in a long story called "An Unexpected Conversion." A new version of the Tabors appeared. They were clarifying themselves as a contemporary family and refusing their quasi-magical components.

Their third iteration appears in my debut novel, The Resurrection of Joan Ashby. Joan Ashby is an acclaimed story writer and her second collection, Fictional Family Life, is about a 15-year-old hemophiliac named Simon Tabor and his alter egos; and a 15-year-old boy named Simon Tabor who throws himself off the roof of the family home because...[read on]
Visit Cherise Wolas's website.

Writers Read: Cherise Wolas (November 2017).

The Page 69 Test: The Resurrection of Joan Ashby.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, August 7, 2018

Laura van den Berg

From NPR's Scott Simon's Q&A with Laura van den Berg about her latest novel, The Third Hotel:

SIMON: What is it about you and horror?

VAN DEN BERG: Well, I think my favorite horror films are really grounded in human psychology, which is to say I think through sort of extreme dislocations of reality. Whether it's via the monstrous or the paranormal, horror actually can really get at some of the most fundamental human questions.

If I may, there's a really fantastic horror movie called "The Babadook." And it centers around a mother-son relationship. And this mother is raising her son as a widow, and so they're on their own. And the son is having trouble. And they both become very isolated. And then, they begin to be menaced by this creature, this outside force.

And that's a movie that really beautifully navigates the ambiguity of - is there a monster in the house in the literal sense, or is this sort of feeling of the monstrous being generated by the psychic state of the characters? And I think that's the sort of aspect of horror, the strand of horror that interests me most powerfully in terms of...[read on]
Visit Laura van den Berg's website.

Writers Read: Laura van den Berg (January 2010).

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, August 6, 2018

Lillian Li

Lillian Li's work has been published in Guernica, Granta, Glimmer Train, Bon Appetit, and Jezebel. Originally from the D.C. metro area, she lives in Ann Arbor.

Li's new novel is Number One Chinese Restaurant.

From her Q&A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: How did you come up with the idea for Number One Chinese Restaurant?

A: Whenever I start to talk about writing Number One Chinese Restaurant, I find I always begin with the summer before I wrote the novel, which was the summer I was a waitress at a Chinese restaurant.

When most people hear this, they assume I must have known I wanted to write about the restaurant before I started working there, but that wasn’t the case. I just wanted to make some money before grad school. The fact that the restaurant was a Chinese one was a complete accident.

I didn’t realize at the time that I could get a waitressing job by strolling into an Applebee’s and asking if they were hiring; my mom ended up finding the job through the classified section of the local Chinese newspaper.

As soon as I was hired I realized it was going to be an…awkward fit. For one, I was younger than all the other waiters by at least two decades, though most were in their 50s and 60s.

I was also the only American-born Chinese—everyone else had emigrated from China—and English was my first language while it was their second, third, sometimes fourth language.

But most importantly and egregiously of all, I ...[read on]
Visit Lillian Li's website.

Writers Read: Lillian Li.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, August 5, 2018

Tiffany Brownlee

Tiffany Brownlee was born in San Diego, California, and, as with many authors, her love for reading and writing began at an early age. Because her father was in the Navy, she and her family moved around far more often than she would have liked (she went to five elementary schools–not kidding!), but despite the many moves, her love of education, books, and writing remained.

Her family’s final move brought her to New Orleans, Louisiana, where she went on to study for and earn her B.S. in Psychology at Xavier University of Louisiana. Immediately after graduation, Brownlee began work as a Teacher’s Assistant while also pursuing a teaching certification from The University of Holy Cross. Juggling both school and work as a full-time teacher’s assistant was a little hectic for her, but she still managed to squeeze in some time to read and work on a YA novel idea that she’d thought up while rereading Emily Bronte’s Wuthering Heights (one of her favorite classics). That idea eventually became Wrong in All the Right Ways, her newly released debut novel.

Brownlee currently works as a middle school English teacher in New Orleans.

From her Q&A at Liv's Wonderful Escape:

What inspired you to write Wrong In All The Right Ways?

I was inspired to write Wrong in All the Right Ways when I finished rereading the book Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte. Originally, I ready her book while in high school, and I’m partly embarrassed to say this, but I hated it. So I gave it a few years, and after I graduated college, I picked it back up and I fell in love with it! I was obsessed, so much so that I ended up fashioning a novel that centered on a relationship just as complicated as Catherine and Heathcliff’s but this time, putting a YA spin on it to answer a new question: What would happen if foster siblings and fell in love? That’s the whole basis of Wrong in All the Right Ways: forbidden love and how to handle falling in love with...[read on]
Visit Tiffany Brownlee's website.

My Book, The Movie: Wrong in All the Right Ways.

Writers Read: Tiffany Brownlee.

The Page 69 Test: Wrong in All the Right Ways.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, August 4, 2018

Abby Fabiaschi

After graduating from The Taft School in 1998 and Babson College in 2002, Abby Fabiaschi climbed the corporate ladder in high technology. When her children turned three and four in what felt like one season, she resigned to pursue writing.

Fabiaschi's debut novel is I Liked My Life.

From her Q&A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: You note that your novel initially was inspired by a loss you experienced as a teenager. How did you end up creating the characters of Eve, Madeline, and Brady?

A: Yes, I set out to explore grief compounded by guilt during those tender teenage years where we are all still in search of our voice and true self. With that goal in mind, I created a what-if scenario, tapping into the perspectives of the mother and the father as well, in the hopes of creating a holistic, layered narrative.

Q: You started an initial version of the book when you were 24, and put it away for seven years. How did your vision for the novel change over that time?

A: The heart of the story didn’t change, but the mother and husband’s perspective matured. When I completed the first draft I’d been married about a month and had no children.

When I revisited the story, I had a much better understanding of the institution of marriage, its roots and complexities, and I also had...[read on]
Visit Abby Fabiaschi's website.

The Page 69 Test: I Liked My Life.

Writers Read: Abby Fabiaschi (February 2017).

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, August 3, 2018

Will McIntosh

Will McIntosh's new novel is The Future Will Be BS Free.

From his Q&A at Adventures in YA Publishing:

Will, what was your inspiration for writing THE FUTURE WILL BE BS FREE?

I was giving a test in the 300-student Intro to Psychology class I taught at William and Mary until recently. With so many students, you need at least two proctors, so a graduate student with a background in physiology was helping me. When the room was nearly empty, we got talking about future developments in her field. I asked if it might be possible to use a brain scan to tell when people were lying, and she told me about a part of the brain whose function was to resolve internal discrepancies. When people lie, that part of the brain is very active, and a brain scan, an fMRI, might one day be sensitive enough to detect this. That got me thinking about the implications of someone inventing a portable, foolproof lie detector.

What scene was really hard for you to write and why, and is that the one of which you are most proud? Or is there another scene you particularly love?

There's a scene where the brilliant teens who invent this portable lie detector realize that...[read on]
Learn more about the book and author at Will McIntosh's website.

My Book, The Movie: Soft Apocalypse.

Writers Read: Will McIntosh (December 2011).

My Book, The Movie: Hitchers.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, August 2, 2018

Kent Wascom

Kent Wascom's new novel is The New Inheritors.

From his Q&A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: How did you come up with the idea for The New Inheritors, and for your character Isaac?

A: While Isaac is the primary focus of the novel (it begins and ends with him), he came along much later in the book’s development. I worked on this book for almost a year before I settled on Isaac as the central character.

Up to that point I'd written a ton of backstory for the Woolsack family members, some of the Rule Chandler section, but the manuscript was basically a series of false starts and flashbacks.

I'd been nursing the germ of an idea for a story about an artist on the Gulf Coast in the early 20th century, inspired in part by Walter Anderson, whose relationship to nature in his life and work stands in stark opposition to the rapacity of his and our time.

Isaac's backstory, the first 50 or so pages of the book, came pretty close to...[read on]
Visit Kent Wascom's website.

Writers Read: Kent Wascom (July 2015).

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, August 1, 2018

Gina Wohlsdorf

Gina Wohlsdorf's new novel is Blood Highway.

From her 2016 interview at The Reading List:

Which book has had the biggest impact on your career so far?

So far? Jealousy by Alain Robbe-Grillet. Security was this cool little seed of an idea for a long time, but I didn’t have the faintest notion how to get it to sprout and grow. A professor at my MFA program assigned Jealousy, which has this super-detached narrator — so detached that he never identifies himself as the narrator. My mind just clicked, and Security slammed into focus. I wrote the first draft in 19 days, and I knew I had...[read on]
Visit Gina Wohlsdorf's website.

The Page 69 Test: Security.

Writers Read: Gina Wohlsdorf (June 2016).

My Book, The Movie: Security.

--Marshal Zeringue