Friday, November 30, 2018

David Hu

David Hu's new book is How to Walk on Water and Climb up Walls: Animal Movement and the Robots of the Future.

From his Q&A with Matthew Taylor at the Princeton University Press blog:

Why this book now?

The last twenty years have seen an explosion in the number and types of investigators studying animal motion, in large part due to the greater number of tools that can visualize the motion of animals. High speed videography has gone digital. CT-scanners originally for use in hospitals can now see the shapes and insides of animals with better clarity than ever before. These shapes can now be printed using 3-D printing and then subjected to physically tests, for example to show that a shark’s scales can increase its fuel economy.

What is unexpected about this book?

Many concepts from animal motion have no analogy in the built world. For example, most of the things we ride around on are hard, like the stiff frame of a car or bicycle. However, a great number of animals, especially insects, have evolved crushable bodies that enable them to survive impacts with their surroundings. Bees for example are so rushed to obtain pollen that they collide with hundreds of thousands of plant stems and flowers in a lifetime. Their wings have origami-based crush zones. Their hinges are made of a material called resilin, that is more springy than the springiest human-made material, Zectron, the main component in the 25-cent super ball.

What makes you qualified to write this book?

My laboratory...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, November 29, 2018

Yona Zeldis McDonough

Yona Zeldis McDonough's new book is Courageous.

From her Q&A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: What kind of research did you do on Dunkirk, and did you learn anything surprising?

A: Because I knew very little about the subject, I did a lot of reading about it—first-hand accounts, books by historians and even poems—I found several.

I also saw the recent movie that came out, which I also found very helpful with certain small but telling visual details, like the fact that many of the small boats chose to raise the Union Jack as they crossed then channel or that the men stranded at the shore became covered with sand. Those are the sorts of things that can really bring the story to life in the mind of the reader.

What impressed me was the...[read on]
Learn more about the author and her work at Yona Zeldis McDonough's website.

The Page 69 Test: You Were Meant For Me.

My Book, The Movie: You Were Meant for Me.

Coffee with a Canine: Yona Zeldis McDonough & Willa and Holden.

Writers Read: Yona Zeldis McDonough (February 2016).

The Page 69 Test: The House on Primrose Pond.

My Book, The Movie: The House on Primrose Pond.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

Thelma Adams

Thelma Adams is the author of the historical novel Bittersweet Brooklyn, the bestseller The Last Woman Standing and Playdate, which Oprah magazine described as “a witty debut novel.” In addition to her fiction work, Adams is a prominent American film critic and an outspoken voice in the Hollywood community. She has been the in-house film critic for Us Weekly and The New York Post, and has written essays, celebrity profiles and reviews for Yahoo! Movies, The New York Times, O: The Oprah Magazine,, Variety, The Hollywood Reporter, Parade, Marie Claire and The Huffington Post. Adams studied history at the University of California, Berkeley, where she was valedictorian, and received her MFA from Columbia University. She lives in upstate New York with her family.

From Adams's 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?

This book was a long time cooking. It began with personal essays and memoir, and expanded when my father shared a half-written short story he'd drafted with his-daughter-the-writer a few years before his death at 62 from a brain tumor. His prose – half typed, half scrawled, disappearing into an ellipse before it concluded – cracked open a new understanding of my father's past, one that was too painful for him to reveal in the jokes and banter and tall tales he told about his Brooklyn childhood.

He and my mother named me after my paternal grandmother, Thelma, who died the year before I was born. When I arrived, her death was new, still raw for my father. I presume there were a lot of heavy unresolved emotions when I entered the world, cross-eyed with an unformed hip and squalling angry. As I grew up – not a Mary or a Bonnie or a Sara – I found Thelma a heavy name to carry on the sunny schoolyards of Southern California where my Brooklyn-born father transplanted us. There were no other Thelma's. It was an old and odd name in a world that honored new and unexceptional. With that name, and the wild temper I inherited, I couldn't go with the flow.

In some ways the name shaped me – and it was only a matter of time before I tried to figure out the widow whose name I had, and wonder why she'd left so few memories behind. I swam myself out of Southern California through strong academics, went to Berkeley, embraced feminism, wrote poetry, believed that I could own and shape myself and my future. It was a very optimistic time: the cusp of the 80s. I was still being pushed along by the social reform movement of the 60s and 70s. I would make change. I would own my sexuality and not let men define me. And, yet, when I considered my grandmother, and imagined her with my strong spirit and intelligence and energy, I really wondered what...[read on]
Learn more about the book and author at Thelma Adams' website.

The Page 69 Test: Playdate.

My Book, The Movie: Playdate.

The Page 69 Test: Bittersweet Brooklyn.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, November 27, 2018

Steven Ujifusa

Steven Ujifusa is the author of Barons of the Sea: And Their Race to Build the World’s Greatest Clipper Ship. Barons of the Sea tells the saga of the great 19th century American clipper ships and the Yankee merchant dynasties they created. It is a story of high-stakes competition on the high seas, groundbreaking technical innovation in shipbuilding, and intense family rivalries. Nathaniel Philbrick described it as “A fascinating, fast-paced history…full of remarkable characters and incredible stories” about the nineteenth-century American dynasties who battled for dominance of the tea and opium trades.”

Fron Ujifusa's Q&A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: How did you first get interested in the 19th century clipper ships, and why did you end up writing Barons of the Sea?

A: I have been fascinated by ships and the sea since early childhood. My first book, A Man and His Ship: America's Greatest Naval Architect and His Quest to Build the SS United States (Simon & Schuster, 2012), grew out of my love of the great transatlantic ocean liners of the 20th century.

When considering a topic for a second book, I decided to go back a century and look at another type of fast ship that revolutionized global commerce.

Barons of the Sea also is about a quest to build a transcendently beautiful type of vessel, the American clipper ship, but it is also the story of...[read on]
Visit Steven Ujifusa's website.

The Page 99 Test: Barons of the Sea.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, November 26, 2018

Sarah McCoy

Sarah McCoy is the New York Times, USA Today, and international bestselling author of Marilla of Green Gables; The Mapmaker’s Children; The Baker’s Daughter, a 2012 Goodreads Choice Award Best Historical Fiction nominee; the novella “The Branch of Hazel” in Grand Central; and The Time It Snowed in Puerto Rico.

Her work has been featured in Real Simple, The Millions, Your Health Monthly, Huffington Post, Read It Forward, Writer Unboxed, and other publications. She has taught English writing at Old Dominion University and at the University of Texas at El Paso. She lives with her husband, an orthopedic sports surgeon, and their dog, Gilbert, in Winston-Salem, North Carolina.

From McCoy's Q&A with Caroline Leavitt:

I absolutely loved all the historical details. The writer Mary Morris once told me that in doing research, forget the dates, but look for the stories, the human drama. Can you talk about your research? What surprised you?

Out of the hundreds of cable channels, I could honestly do with just four: History Channel, Biography Channel, Turner Classic Movies, and PBS. I am a proud history geek. You can’t beat the drama of historical narratives. It’s too wild for anyone to make up! I write historical fiction because that’s what fires me up.

Lucy Maud Montgomery gave us two complicated, yet deeply lovable characters in Marilla and Matthew Cuthbert. She left an excellent literary breadcrumb trail, and I considered it a joy to follow it backwards to discover their younger selves. The most important part of doing Marilla justice was to pay attention to the Green Gables world that Lucy Maud Montgomery created. I...[read on]
Learn more about the book and author at Sarah McCoy’s website, Facebook page, Instagram page, and Twitter perch.

The Page 69 Test: Marilla of Green Gables.

Writers Read: Sarah McCoy.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, November 25, 2018

Nina Burleigh

Nina Burleigh's latest book is Golden Handcuffs: The Secret History of Trump's Women.

From her Q&A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: Did you learn anything particularly surprising during your research for the book?

A: The biggest surprise - the biggest printable surprise anyway - was the fact that, in the U.S. Census for 1929, Trump's mother lived as a maid, in the Carnegie mansion, at the bottom of a retinue of 20 servants, footmen, chauffeurs.

This fact, never reported before, is, to me, Trump's "rosebud," the key to his yearning for class and royal pomp, and even Ivanka's reported contention that the Trumps are America's royal family. This all came down from Ma Trump, a poor Scottish fisherman's daughter, gazing in at the life of one of America's richest families.

The second thing was how terrified women in this circle are - and some men.

The third thing is that Trump's infected with a sense of primeval taboo about...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, November 24, 2018

Peter Frankopan

Peter Frankopan is a historian at Oxford University, where he is Senior Research Fellow at Worcester College, Oxford and Director of the Oxford Centre for Byzantine Research.

His books include The Silk Roads: A New History of the World and The New Silk Roads: The Present and Future of the World.

From the author's interview with Andrew Anthony at the Guardian:

Were you surprised by the success of The Silk Roads?

I’m flabbergasted by how many people read it. I work on these parts of the world that I think are very interesting and important, like Turkey, Russia, Iran and further eastwards, and normally when I talk about what I do at dinner parties nobody wants to talk about these things with me. So I had no expectations at all that people would read my book or that the reviews would be so incredibly generous. So it was a huge shock. I was very lucky with the timing when it came out.

Has it affected your work in any notable ways?

I’ve just been at an event where we’ve had a visiting minister from Russia and that’s what’s changed. So yes insofar as I get grander and probably more exciting invitations to go and give lectures, which is flattering. On the other hand I’ve been an academic here at Oxford for more than 20 years and the satisfaction is in people realising that moving away from Eurocentrism and learning about different parts of the world in the past and the present is important.

Some critics suggested that your opinion in The Silk Roads that the region was rising again was rather optimistic. Is this new book an effort to back up that position?

No, in fact I think that’s a sloppy reading of someone who probably read the last paragraph. What I was saying in that book and in this book is that the global events of the past and the present are taking place in that land that’s between the eastern Mediterranean and China. Although we’re obsessed about Brexit and Donald Trump’s Twitter feed, the stuff that really matters is...[read on]
Visit Peter Frankopan's website.

The Page 99 Test: The Silk Roads.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, November 23, 2018

Amanda Searcy

Amanda Searcy's new novel is Watch You Burn.

From her Q&A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: How did you come up with the idea for Watch You Burn and for your character Jenny?

A: This book started with an image—like a photograph—in my head of these two girls standing in the ruins of an old motel pouring milk into a saucer for a kitten. I didn’t know much more than that, or even what kind of story it would be.

Over time my subconscious started collecting other bits and pieces and glued them together. I knew something had happened to Jenny. When I started focusing on her, it was Jenny herself who told me about her relationship with fire.

The other girl—Jenny’s friend Ro—popped into my head after I went to a lecture about services for people experiencing homelessness. Ro isn’t homeless, but there’s a reason she’s hanging...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, November 22, 2018

A. L. Kennedy

AL Kennedy's latest book, The Little Snake, is a novella written to mark the 75th anniversary of Antoine de Saint-Exupéry’s The Little Prince.

From her Guardian Q&A with Lisa Allardice:

What was it like to return to Saint-Exupéry’s much-loved classic?

If you read The Little Prince as a grownup it is pretty bloody sad. You think: “Oh shit, it’s about death.” There’s a funny snake and a snake that kills him. So I thought, I’ll do the snake because I quite like snakes.

The Little Snake is incredibly moving, yet joyful. It made me cry. Has it had that effect on other readers?

It does make people cry. It came out in Germany first and 50% of the time, during readings, we’d have to stop because too many people would be crying. It is about the inevitability of losing everything you care about. The rest of it has to be quite joyful otherwise you couldn’t read it. I hope. With some subjects, such as death, you can’t look at it directly, you have to look at it out of the corner of your eye. You have to have a balance, you have to have the salt and the sweet.

Did you intend it to be for both children and adults?

It’s for very young people up to old people. I don’t have any children, but it is all the things I would...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, November 21, 2018

Harriet Brown

Harriet Brown's new book is Shadow Daughter: A Memoir of Estrangement.

From her Q&A with Caroline Leavitt:

What was the moment when you felt haunted into writing this memoir?

On some level I’ve been waiting to write this book for years. Long before my mother died, even before our final estrangement, I knew I wanted to write about our relationship and about the larger issue of family estrangement—for myself, for the catharsis I hoped it would bring, and for other people who might be going through similar experiences and who felt alone with those feelings and problems.

Do you feel that you personally changed in the writing?

One thing that changed for me in writing this was that I had to—chose to—articulate to myself and on the page some of the inchoate thoughts and feelings that had been swirling around in my head for my whole life. Another thing was that I got to connect with so many other people who had struggled or were struggling with estrangement, and that was intensely instructional and liberating.

Did anything surprise you in the writing?

What surprised me most, and continues to surprise me, is just how...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, November 20, 2018

Nicola Moriarty

Nicola Moriarty is a Sydney-based novelist, copywriter and mum to two small (but remarkably strong-willed) daughters. In between various career changes, becoming a mum and completing her Bachelor of Arts, she began to write. Now she can’t seem to stop. Her previous works include the novel, The Fifth Letter, which was published in several countries and optioned by Universal Cable Productions for film and television.

Moriarty's latest novel is Those Other Women.

From her Q&A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: How did you come up with the idea for Those Other Women?

A: I’ve been involved with many mother’s groups – both online and in the real world, and one day it just occurred to me – shouldn’t there be a group for women who aren’t mothers but who do want to connect with one another?

From there, the idea grew over time – I don’t think there was any one incident that’s sparked the main plot.

But I wrote it because it seemed like a great opportunity to explore the pressures on women to conform to society expectations to become parents and the idea that all women are “meant” to have a maternal instinct. I also liked the idea of delving into the way women judge one another’s...[read on]
Visit Nicola Moriarty's website.

The Page 69 Test: The Fifth Letter.

The Page 69 Test: Those Other Women.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, November 19, 2018

Jaclyn Gilbert

Jaclyn Gilbert's debut novel is Late Air.

From her Q&A with Caroline Leavitt:

I always want to know about process. I understand that this brilliant novel was a short story first. (That was my experience, actually, with my first novel!) How did you transform it into a novel? How difficult (and exhilarating) was that?

A very good question that goes right into the heart of the process. I started this novel as a story for my first fiction writing workshop as an MFA candidate at Sarah Lawrence College. Around my class schedule, I began a habit of running along the Bronx River greenway. One October day, I ran past a park golf course and wondered about the possibility of a stray ball hitting me or another runner nearby. I thought suddenly of all my years of college running on the Yale campus golf course, and how never once I had considered these risks. Something about the terror of that hypothetical asked me to sit down when I got home to try and write it as a scene. I felt something lock in through the moment of writing—something about my past experience intersecting with my imagination as my pen scribbled over the page. When I shared the work with my class, I received several emails from readers wanting to know what happened—asking me what my plans for the story were. I began to consider the character of Murray as part of a larger work, or one that circled his own journey into his past around the inciting incident of a golf injury his star runner, Becky Sanders

At the time, I knew very little about traumatic head injury, but began reading as much as I could on the topic, studying regions of the brain, and the speed and distance required for a golf ball to incur severe damage. I also knew that the narrative felt too confined to the coach’s experience of his athlete’s accident, and I wanted to weave in a female perspective that could look at larger questions of...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, November 18, 2018

Christine O'Brien

Christine O'Brien's new book is Crave: A Memoir of Food and Longing. From her Q&A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: At what point did you decide to write this memoir, and how long did it take you to write it?

A: My first impulse is to answer this question by saying that I’ve been writing about my life since I was 9 and begged my mother to buy me a very ugly little green diary with gold-edged pages and a lock and key attached. I’ve always had the desire to record my life’s events.

More specifically, I began working on shaping various tucked-away pieces of my writing into a memoir while I was in the MFA program at Saint Mary’s College of California. In the MFA program I worked on the story of the Program for a year and the manuscript became my thesis.

Many more years went into the book after I graduated, in 2011, as I attended to it on and off. If I string together the hours I put into it, I would say that I’ve spent roughly five to six years working on this story.

Q: How was the book's title chosen, and what did you and the other members of your family crave during the years you were growing up?

A: The book was originally entitled Hungry but after Roxanne Gay’s memoir, Hunger, was released my editor at St. Martin’s Press thought we should rename it.

He noticed that I use the word “crave” many times throughout the story and felt the term encapsulated the meaning of the memoir even better than “hungry.”

My brothers and I craved almost anything you could think of because you name it, it was off limits. Literally. Even something like...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, November 17, 2018

Liane Moriarty

Liane Moriarty's new novel is Nine Perfect Strangers.

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

GARCIA-NAVARRO: You can tell in this book that you were clearly interested in how this idea of wellness functions in modern life. You know, we use words like self care all the time. What do you think people are looking for?

MORIARTY: So there's two sides to it. I think that in the modern world, we do seem to have so many more insecurities and, you know, mental health - mental illnesses. So we're all suffering from more anxiety and depression. But at the same time, I often wonder, is it because life is, really, so very good for the vast majority of us? And that's why you're looking for denial. Maybe, you know, if we were living in a war zone, then you're not thinking of, how can I transform myself? You're just thinking of survival. So is that part of it?

GARCIA-NAVARRO: You bring up a point because your books, in many ways, I think, are about the problems and hypocrisies of sort of the upper-middle class. But it's always written with a lot of affection.

MORIARTY: Yes, that's right. And that's exactly the way I feel about the wellness industry. So I believe in mindfulness. And I believe in...[read on]
Visit Liane Moriarty's website.

The Page 69 Test: What Alice Forgot.

Writers Read: Liane Moriarty (June 2011).

My Book, The Movie: What Alice Forgot.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, November 16, 2018

Dawn Raffel

Dawn Raffel is a journalist, memoirist, and short story writer whose work has been widely anthologized. A longtime magazine editor, she helped launch O, The Oprah Magazine. She has also taught creative writing in the MFA program at Columbia University; at Summer Literary Seminars in St. Petersburg, Russia; Montreal; and Vilnius, Lithuania; and at the Center for Fiction in New York. She now works as an independent editor and book reviewer.

Raffel's new book is The Strange Case of Dr. Couney: How a Mysterious European Showman Saved Thousands of American Babies.

From her Q&A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: How did you learn about Martin Couney, and at what point did you decide to write a book about him?

A: I thought I was going to write a novel set at the Chicago world's fair of 1933-34, and was doing some research when I stumbled across an eye-popping photo of the incubator sideshow. I found it extraordinarily strange--on first sight, a mashup of voyeurism, commerce, and the commodification of human life.

Then I discovered that this same doctor was also on Coney Island for 40 years. That did it. I put aside the novel in order to get to the bottom of this story, which turned out to be very different from what I had imagined. What had at first appeared to be exploitation turned out to be...[read on]
Visit Dawn Raffel's website.

The Page 99 Test: The Strange Case of Dr. Couney.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, November 15, 2018

Michelle Obama

Michelle Robinson Obama served as First Lady of the United States from 2009 to 2017. A graduate of Princeton University and Harvard Law School, Mrs. Obama started her career as an attorney at the Chicago law firm Sidley & Austin, where she met her future husband, Barack Obama. She later worked in the Chicago mayor’s office, at the University of Chicago, and at the University of Chicago Medical Center. Mrs. Obama also founded the Chicago chapter of Public Allies, an organization that prepares young people for careers in public service.

Her new book is Becoming.

From the transcript of Obama's interview with CBS's Gayle King:

KING: You've had a complicated relationship, it seems, with politics.

OBAMA: Mmm-hmm. Every time Barack came to me with the idea of running for an office, I was just like, "Please don't do this. Pick another career. You're gifted. Y'all went to college. You got a law degree. Can't you do anything else besides this?" There's so many ways to save the world. But every time I had to think to myself, that approach is selfish. Because I knew I was married to someone who was gifted and someone who could contribute. And but for the fact that I was married to him... it would be hard on me-- I would want him to run.

KING: Yeah. But he was always a different kind of guy.

OBAMA: He's a different guy--

KING: He's a different kind of dude. There's a great story in the book where you said, you wake up one night, and he's staring into space. Is he thinking about his dad? Or is something bothering him?


KING: And what was he thinking about?

OBAMA: Like...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Jeff Abbott

Jeff Abbott's new novel is The Three Beths.

From his Q&A with Matthew Turbeville at Writers Tell All:

MT: Where did your idea for The Three Beths come from, and would you mind talking about what it’s been like writing more everyday thrillers about women characters, especially starting with your last novel Blame, which was also welcomed with amazing acclaim from your peers and critics alike? What made you decide to go outside yourself and write about these women characters, and do you have a favorite?

JA: Well, first, the idea for The Three Beths came from a couple of different places. I thought about those missing persons cases you sometimes hear about where the police are convinced that a loved one or a relative had a hand in the disappearance, but they can prove nothing. So the accused, and the rest of the family, has to go on with their lives. What would it be like to be living inside that family, to be loyal to a missing parent and yet to also be loyal to the parent who is accused of murder? What goes on behind those walls? And then the other idea came from doing a search on social media once for an old friend, and seeing exactly how many hits I got just typing in her very common first name. . .it struck me that if I wanted to find a number of Beths, or Jeffs, or Michelles, that was easy to do. And then, because I write crime fiction, I wondered…[read on]
Learn more about the book and author at Jeff Abbott's website.

The Page 69 Test: Trust Me.

The Page 69 Test: Adrenaline.

The Page 69 Test: Downfall.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Rob Dunn

Rob Dunn is a professor in the Department of Applied Ecology at North Carolina State University and in the Natural History Museum of Denmark at the University of Copenhagen. His new book is Never Home Alone: From Microbes to Millipedes, Camel Crickets, and Honeybees, the Natural History of Where We Live.

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

GROSS: Cats and dogs. So many people have pets. What kind of microbiology do they introduce into our homes?

DUNN: So cats and dogs - and especially dogs - have a huge impact on what's in your home. And so if we were to swab your computer screen, Terry, and then look at look at which microbes were on the computer screen, about half of the variation between what's on your computer screen and somebody else's computer screen is whether or not there has been a dog in that room. And so they affect the microbes everywhere in the house. Their microbes drift up and around all over the place.

And so we can actually identify whether or not there's a dog in the house just based on the microbes 99 percent of the time. And cats have an effect, too, but it's more subtle. They seem to bring both bacteria and some fungi, and they make some things more rare. And it's hard to know just exactly which effect, what sort of effects the dogs and cats and their microbes are having. And they can be very complex. But one of the things we see is that people, especially in urban environments with dogs, tend to have kids who are less prone to allergy and asthma.

And one of the things that we think may be happening is that the dogs are actually a vehicle for the connection of those kids to just a little bit of nature, that in these environments in which we've isolated ourselves so much from the rest of the world, that the dirt on a dog's paw may be enough connection to forestall allergy and asthma, at least a little bit. We don't see that effect with cats. But with dogs, it's pretty strong. And by the same token, dogs in rural environments seem to have less effect on allergy and asthma, and we think that's because in rural environments, you're getting so many other exposures to nature that the dog matters...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, November 12, 2018

Sam Wiebe

Sam Wiebe is the author of Cut You Down, Invisible Dead and Last of the Independents, and the editor of the Vancouver Noir. Wiebe lives in Vancouver.

From his Q&A with Dana Gee for the Vancouver Sun:

Q: You are a crime writer by trade, so I was wondering looking back, are there books that terrified you?

A: Red Dragon by Thomas Harris and Zombie by Joyce Carol Oates. Both make you identify with very unpleasant people.

Q: What must a story be to be classified noir? What are the key elements?

A: Dennis Lehane called noir “working-class tragedy,” and I think there’s some truth to that. It’s about bad things happening to people a lot like us.

Q: What are the clichés that should be avoided when writing these types of stories?

A: It’s only a cliché if you do it poorly. A femme fatale in 2018 with a predilection for shoulder pads and venetian blinds would be silly. But a character well-versed in sexual psychology? Endlessly fascinating.

Q: Vancouver is not typically considered a noir type place, but that assumption is very wrong, right?

A: Dead wrong. Noir is about...[read on]
Visit Sam Wiebe's website.

My Book, The Movie: Invisible Dead.

The Page 69 Test: Invisible Dead.

The Page 69 Test: Cut You Down.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, November 11, 2018

Matthew D. Hockenos

Matthew D Hockenos is the author of Then They Came for Me: Martin Niemöller, the Pastor Who Defied the Nazis.

From his Q&A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: Why did you decide to write this biography of Martin Niemöller?

Today few Americans recognize the name Martin Niemöller (1892-1984). Many people, however, are aware of the German pastor’s famous post-World War II poetic confession:

First they came for the Communists, and I did not speak out – Because I was not a Communist.
Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out – Because I was not a Trade Unionist.
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out – Because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for me – and there was no one left to speak for me.

I wanted to take a closer, more critical look at the man behind the celebrated quotation.

Then They Came for Me tells the whole story of Niemöller’s life: his conservative Protestant upbringing in Germany; his experience commanding German U-boats in World War I; his animosity toward liberals and Jews; his initial support for Nazism; his later struggle with Hitler; his incarceration in Nazi concentration camps; and finally, his embrace of pacifism and peace movements during the Cold War.

On a lighter note, the book also portrays Niemöller as a loving father of seven children (two of whom died in World War II), a caring husband, a devoted pastor, and a charming albeit...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, November 10, 2018

William R. Newman

William R. Newman is the author of Newton the Alchemist: Science, Enigma, and the Quest for Nature's "Secret Fire". From his Q&A at the Princeton University Press blog:

People often say that Isaac Newton was not only a great physicist, but also an alchemist. This seems astonishing, given his huge role in the development of science. Is it true, and if so, what is the evidence for it?

The astonishment that Newton was an alchemist stems mostly from the derisive opinion that many moderns hold of alchemy. How could the man who discovered the law of universal gravitation, who co-invented calculus, and who was the first to realize the compound nature of white light also engage in the seeming pseudo-science of alchemy? There are many ways to answer this question, but the first thing is to consider the evidence of Newton’s alchemical undertaking. We now know that at least a million words in Newton’s hand survive in which he addresses alchemical themes. Much of this material has been edited in the last decade, and is available on the Chymistry of Isaac Newton site at Newton wrote synopses of alchemical texts, analyzed their content in the form of reading notes and commentaries, composed florilegia or anthologies made up of snippets from his sources, kept experimental laboratory notebooks that recorded his alchemical research over a period of decades, and even put together a succession of concordances called the Index chemicus in which he compared the sayings of different authors to one another. The extent of his dedication to alchemy was almost unprecedented. Newton was not just an alchemist, he was an alchemist’s alchemist.

What did Newton hope to gain by studying alchemy? Did he actually believe in the philosophers’ stone, and if so, why? And what was the philosophers’ stone exactly?

Newton’s involvement in alchemy was...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, November 9, 2018

Meghan MacLean Weir

Meghan MacLean Weir's new book is The Book of Essie.

From her Q&A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: How did you come up with the idea for The Book of Essie?

A: I wrote Essie at a time when my parents had moved in with my husband and me to help care for our children. We were incredibly lucky, but it was also challenging at times to be living with my parents as an adult, and it made me reexamine what it had meant to me, growing up, to be the daughter of a small-town Episcopal priest and to always feel as if I was being watched and judged and reported on.

Essie is under much more scrutiny than I ever was, given that her family is on a reality show and so is watched by the whole country rather than just the parishioners at her father's church, but I think that makes it more interesting for the reader, that the stakes for her are so high.

I also wanted to tell a story that would reflect on the ways in which...[read on]
Visit Meghan MacLean Weir's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, November 8, 2018

Reid Hoffman

Reid Hoffman is an entrepreneur and investor. In 1998, he was a founding Board member and executive vice president of PayPal. In 2003, he co-founded LinkedIn, the world’s largest professional networking service. He was an angel investor in Facebook and Zynga, and in 2009, he became a partner at the venture capital firm Greylock Partners. He currently serves on the boards of Airbnb, Apollo Fusion, Aurora, Coda, Convoy, Entrepreneur First, Gixo, Microsoft, Nauto, and Xapo, as well as not-for-profits Kiva, Endeavor, CZI Biohub and Do Something. Hoffman's latest book is Blitzscaling: The Lightning-Fast Path to Building Massively Valuable Companies.

From the transcript of Hoffman's Q&A with Fareed Zakaria:

ZAKARIA: Let me ask you about politics. You have been pretty active, and you say a lot of people who are in business share some of your dismay with what Trump stands for and what he's doing but they don't want to -- they don't want to say anything. Why?

HOFFMAN: Well, I think, you know, the classic thing is, "Hey, it's business; I've got a responsibility to shareholders; I have a responsibility to customers," and all of that. But I actually think that -- I have this phrase, "Spiderman ethics: With power comes responsibility."

And so I think, personally, that's it's part of having business leaders; you need to speak up about that future that you can see for all of us and you need to have your voice be heard. And so I have leaned into politics unlike ever I have done before because I think it's so dangerous, the path we're on, and we need to correct.

ZAKARIA: What do you say to people who point out that the Trump administration is presiding over, you know, record unemployment levels -- in other words, record lows; growth seems strong; what are you complaining about?

HOFFMAN: So I think there's at least two things. So one is I think Obama and the previous administration did a lot of good things. And so I think there is a tailwind from that. But I also think that people are underfactoring the amount of stimulus and just debt that's going into propping this up. And so they're using subsidies to try to block the impacts of tariffs and other kinds of things. And so I think we are taking a loan against the future that we need to be very cautious about....[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, November 7, 2018

Martha Freeman

After graduating from Stanford University, Martha Freeman worked as a newspaper reporter, copy editor, substitute teacher, college lecturer, advertising copywriter and magazine writer before finding her true calling as a writer of children's books. She has since written more than 20 books for children. Freeman's new children's picture book is If You're Going to a March.

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

Q: What inspired your new book, If You're Going to a March?

A: Like a lot of people, I have found myself going to a lot of marches since January 2017. To make lemonade out of the situation -- this is a good thing. I think many of us were complacent and the current political situation has shaken us awake. (Shaken us "woke"?)

At these marches, there were a lot of kids. Since many of the issues (gun violence, family separation, climate change) disproportionately affect today's kids today and as representatives of future generations -- this made sense.

But I thought young children especially might not know what to expect at a march, and might not know the larger significance of political action in a democracy even if they'd been to one or two. I also thought parents could use a book like mine as a jumping off point for...[read on]
Visit Martha Freeman's website.

My Book, The Movie: Strudel's Forever Home.

The Page 69 Test: Strudel's Forever Home.

Writers Read: Martha Freeman (January 2018).

The Page 69 Test: Zap.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, November 6, 2018

Peter Sagal

Peter Sagal is the host of NPR's Wait Wait... Don't Tell Me! and author of the new book, The Incomplete Book Of Running. From the transcript of his Q&A with NPR's Ari Shapiro:

SHAPIRO: Your personal record for a marathon was three hours and nine minutes.

SAGAL: Yes, it was. I'm so glad you brought that up because otherwise I would have had to.

SHAPIRO: (Laughter) You did it at age 46.

SAGAL: I did.

SHAPIRO: And you write in the book, I had shown at least to myself that time and age are not walls but fences, and fences can be jumped. That was 2011.


SHAPIRO: It's now 2018.

SAGAL: It sure is.

SHAPIRO: Do you still believe that time and age are fences that can be jumped?

SAGAL: What I was trying to do with that race is I had started seriously running at age 40, which is when according to all the studies your athletic performance begins to decline no matter what else you do. And it became very important to me to see if in fact I could at least delay that. And I did it. And it remains inspirational to me. But now that I'm some years older, I know that kind of time is behind me. So my emphases these days are different. I'm not running as fast as I used to or as long as I used to, but I'm still doing it almost every day.

And I think that in the future, although I will run until somebody or something stops me, I'll be doing it for different reasons. And those reasons will have more to do with...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, November 5, 2018

Ian Rankin

Ian Rankin's latest Rebus novel (the 22nd) is In a House of Lies.

From his Q&A at the Guardian:

Which writers most influenced your writing?

Muriel Spark was a huge influence. The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie – one of my favourite books ever – led me down this rabbit hole because Miss Jean Brodie is descended from a real-life Edinburgh character, William Brodie, who was gentleman by day and thief by night. So he became one of the influences for Jekyll and Hyde. Another influence was a book called Confessions of a Justified Sinner, by James Hogg, which is one of the first serial-killer novels.

Is there a book you really wish you’d written yourself?

A Dance to the Music of Time, by Anthony Powell. That book was a fascinating primer for me in how to write a sequence of books with the same cast of characters, and having the main character age along the way. This notion that life is a dance to the music of time – if you’re writing a series it’s...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, November 4, 2018

Kathleen Hall Jamieson

Kathleen Hall Jamieson is the author of Cyberwar: How Russian Hackers and Trolls Helped Elect a President.

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

Isaac Chotiner: What leads you to be confident enough to make the judgment that Russian interference likely provided Trump’s winning margin?

Kathleen Hall Jamieson: There are so many different pathways by which the effect on the electoral outcome could have been achieved that the likelihood that some combination of them achieved it is relatively high, and two of the three individual pathways are of themselves significant enough that they could have accomplished that end.

What are those pathways?

The first, which is the one that is the weakest of the arguments, is the Russian social media interventions.

First, they reached 126 million Americans that we know of through Facebook, and there was reach as well, although not that substantial, on other platforms.

Second, the message aligned with Donald Trump, because my argument isn’t that they put new messaging in, but rather that they amplified messaging that was already there. For example, you find very strong anti-immigrant appeals. You also find attacks on Hillary Clinton, or I should say on her candidacy, but also on Hillary Clinton the person, that are consistent with the Trump attacks. She’s corrupt. She’s lying. She should be in prison.

Isn’t this then a way of saying, “Well, you know. Trump could have spent slightly more money, and amplified his message, and that would have made the difference?”

Yes, because the argument about the impact of social media is that it increased the balance of the messaging in a way that on the margins would have made the difference. It is not an argument about new messaging.

What I argue is that there’s strong evidence that they were trying to mobilize evangelical Christians who were white, conservative Catholics, and they were trying to mobilize veterans and military households. Those are...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, November 3, 2018

Michael Caine

From Michael Caine's NPR interview with Ari Shapiro:

SHAPIRO: I'd like you to take us back to your youth, if you would. You were 6 years old when you were evacuated from London during World War II in the Blitz.


SHAPIRO: How did that experience shape the person you've become?

CAINE: It shaped it in a couple of ways actually. Mentally, I lived on a farm for six years, and I got a great education. And there was also another thing about - the war was an incredible thing for all of us in one way. And, I mean, talk about use the difficulty, which is my motto.

SHAPIRO: Use the difficulty.

CAINE: Yeah. Yeah, use the difficulty. But using the difficulty was - in the war, the only food you could get was organic food because they used all the chemicals in explosives. And so for six years, all we had was organic food. And there was no sugar. And all these things that we worry about so much now - in the war, you couldn't get them. So we all grew up sort of very healthily in the war.

SHAPIRO: Before the war, you were poor, malnourished. You say you had rickets. And the war actually helped you become a strong, tall, healthy person.

CAINE: Oh, yeah. Well, I came from a slum in London. And London then was very...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, November 2, 2018

Eugenia Kim

Eugenia Kim's new novel is The Kinship of Secrets.

From her Q&A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: You write that the The Kinship of Secrets was inspired by your own family's story. At what point did you decide to write this novel?

A: When I went to Korea in 2010, my second time, I did some book events for The Calligrapher’s Daughter. My sister, Sun, joined me there and while I had some vague idea of writing a continuation to The Calligrapher’s Daughter, I was somewhat resistant and I wasn’t sure what the story might be.

We took a train to Busan, to look at the neighborhood where my sister spent the war years, and on that train ride I asked her what it was like for her to have come to America at age 11.

I was 6 when she came to the U.S., so I wasn’t aware of why she’d been separated from the family (the Korean War and problems with U.S. immigration) for 10 years. I had assumed that she, like many immigrants, were eager to come to America.

But her answer to my question was, “It was the blackest day of my life,” and...[read on]
Visit Eugenia Kim's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, November 1, 2018

Lou Berney

Lou Berney's new novel is November Road.

From his BookPage interview with G. Robert Frazier:

Author Ivy Pochoda describes November Road as a novel that defies categorization—as part love story, part gangster story, part cross-country adventure. How would you describe it?

I love Ivy’s description of November Road. I didn’t set out to write a novel with so many different elements, but I know I’m drawn—as reader and writer—to stories that have a lot going on, a lot of layers, a lot of characters colliding with each other. I used to worry that was a weakness of mine, as a writer, but now I just kind of embrace it. There’s a quote, I think it’s from Don Quixote, I love: It’s better to lose by a card too many than a card too few.

Your hero, Frank Guidry, isn’t exactly a good guy. How did you tackle making him a person that readers could ultimately root for?

Frank Guidry is definitely not a good guy. But that doesn’t mean he can’t be likable and engaging and complicated, so I worked hard to make him all that. Most importantly, though, I needed to make him capable of change. I didn’t know until I wrote his last chapter if Frank actually would change, but I really wanted him to—and...[read on]
Learn more about the book and author at Lou Berney's website.

The Page 69 Test: Gutshot Straight.

--Marshal Zeringue