Thursday, January 31, 2019

A.F. Brady

A.F. Brady's new novel is Once a Liar.

From her Q&A with Heather Gudenkauf:

Heather: Tell us more about Peter Caine. What drew you to this character? What challenges did you face writing about a not so nice main character?

AF: I really enjoy writing flawed, anti-heroic characters. I feel in life and literature the focus often falls on the loveable ones, and I think it’s unfair. Not everyone is a stupendously likeable person, but everyone has a story. My stories are almost always based in redemption in some way. Seeking it, failing to find it, finding it, or continuing the search forever.

Peter Caine is a mix of a number of people I’ve known in life, both personally and professionally. I have worked with a lot of true sociopaths, and I find them unbelievably fascinating. Perfection and adoration are a little slow for me, a little boring. I’d rather have dinner with a villain, just to see how he ticks. That was the idea behind Peter Caine. Who are you, and why are you like this?

ONCE A LIAR also explores how people aren’t what they appear to be on the surface, whatever the surface may be. We should always look a little deeper to see the truth. We’re all M&Ms; whether you look at is as hard outside and soft inside, or shiny outside and dark underneath.

Heather: Both ONCE A LIAR and your first novel THE BLIND take place in New York City. Why did you choose to set your stories in Manhattan?

AF: I’m…[read on]
Visit A.F. Brady's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, January 30, 2019

Amanda Sthers

Amanda Sthers's new novel is Holy Lands.

From her Q&A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: How did you come up with the idea for the Rosenmerck family, and why did you decide to write their story as an epistolary novel?

A: I read an article in a very serious French newspaper explaining how to raise pigs in Israel. For once, Muslims and Jews were agreeing on something or more precisely against the same thing. I found the paradox hilarious; it was the starting point.

Then, I wanted a metaphor on what is happening between Israelis and Palestinians. At the end it’s a big family affair. How can you fix a broken family?

I felt that letters will give a sense of immediate promiscuity and help us enter in a very personal story. Also, in a dysfunctional family like the one I am describing, silences are as important as words and only letters could give this feeling. I think we all instinctively hear what is...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, January 29, 2019

Audra Wolfe

Audra J. Wolfe is the author of Freedom’s Laboratory: The Cold War Struggle for the Soul of Science (2018) and Competing with the Soviets: Science, Technology, and the State in Cold War America (2013). A Philadelphia-based writer and editor, her work has appeared in the Washington Post,, Slate, and the popular podcast American History Tellers, as well as more scholarly venues.

From Wolfe's Physics Today interview with Melinda Baldwin:

PT: In your book you argue that the Cold War bolstered and spread a vision of science as a neutral, apolitical activity. Tell us a bit about how that happened.

WOLFE: The idea that science is neutral or somehow apolitical existed before the Cold War, but it took on new significance in the ideological struggle that pitted capitalism against communism. As they looked out at the international political landscape in 1947, US policymakers were alarmed at the evident appeal of communism, particularly in Western Europe. The Marshall Plan, the massive economic assistance program to rebuild war-torn Europe, was one response to that crisis.

The Soviet Union retaliated by relaunching its international propaganda operation, the Communist Information Bureau, usually known as the Cominform. That prompted the US to step up its own propaganda campaign, including everything from overt information programs like the Voice of America broadcasting agency to covert cultural campaigns like the CIA’s funding of the British literary magazine Encounter.

Science was just as much a part of those campaigns as art, music, literature, or sports. US propaganda boasted of an American commitment to empiricism, objectivity, basic research, and internationalism in science and contrasted that with a caricature of Soviet science as based on state authority, political litmus tests, practical applications, and nationalism.

We still hear echoes of those ideas nearly 30 years after the fall of the Berlin Wall. It’s an institutional legacy. Many of our most important scientific institutions...[read on]
Visit Audra J. Wolfe's website.

The Page 99 Test: Freedom's Laboratory.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, January 28, 2019

James Lee Burke

James Lee Burke's latest novel is The New Iberia Blues (Dave Robicheaux Series #22).

From his CrimeReads interview with Dwyer Murphy:

Alcoholism and addiction are important strands to the books. So many of these characters battle with addiction of one kind or another. Do you see that condition as something that binds them and their world together?

Alcoholism and other forms of addiction seem to accompany the gift of creativity. But addiction is also the enemy of the artist. As Pablo Neruda once suggested, alcohol seems to free the writer from distraction, but if he continues to use it to write and to enhance his life he will destroy his art and then his mind and finally his soul.

In New Iberia Blues, Dave gets a new partner, Bailey Ribbons, a former middle school teacher who’s relatively new to the detective ranks. With a long-running series and a sometimes prickly protagonist like Dave, do you worry about introducing a new partner? Any concerns over upsetting Dave’s world, or is that the point?

The young detective with whom Dave is working is based on the character Clementine Carter in John Ford’s famous film about the passing of the American frontier. For Dave the young detective, Bailey Ribbons, is a symbol of ...[read on]
Visit James Lee Burke's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, January 27, 2019

N.D. Galland

N.D. Galland is the author of the new novel On the Same Page. Her other books include I, Iago, Stepdog, and The Rise and Fall of D.O.D.O.

From Galland's Q&A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: How did you come up with the idea for On the Same Page, and for your character Joanna?

A: There really are two newspapers on Martha’s Vineyard, and they really do have a complicated relationship. Years ago, it occurred to me that this would make a fun premise for a novel, but I wasn’t writing contemporary novels, so I didn’t think it should be “my” project.

After a decade, nobody else had claimed it as a premise, and by then I’d written Stepdog, so I’d demonstrated to myself that I could, in fact, write a playful contemporary story (instead of my usual psychologically-intense historical fiction).

The looming lawsuit of the story was inspired by an actual legal conflict between a wealthy summer resident and the town government, although all other details were different.

Joanna is about 50 percent a younger version of me (a writer who grew up on the Vineyard, returning home as an adult) and 50 percent...[read on]
Visit Nicole Galland's website, Facebook page, and Twitter perch.

The Page 69 Test: Stepdog.

My Book, The Movie: Stepdog.

Writers Read: Nicole Galland (August 2015).

Coffee with a Canine: Nicole Galland & Leuco.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, January 26, 2019

Barry Eisler

Barry Eisler's new novel is The Killer Collective.

From his Q&A with Matthew Turbeville:

MT: Can you tell our readers (as few spoilers as possible, please!) about what and who Livia Lone and John Rain are in relation to this new book—how they have evolved and if this is the first of your books our readers buy, can you give us just enough clues to figure out how to read the book as a standalone? What essentials must the reader know before diving in?

BE: All my books are designed to function both as series entries and as standalones, so anyone can appreciate The Killer Collective with or without having read any of the previous Rain or Livia books.

If I had to compare Rain and Livia…well, they’re both survivors, they’re both killers, they’re both exceptionally methodical. But the differences are probably more significant: Livia was created by trauma, while Rain’s origins lie in an innate attraction to conflict. Livia is motivated by a deep-seated need to protect, while Rain’s motivations are less noble. And Livia is primarily a sheepdog, intent on guarding the sheep, while Rain is much more a wolf, grappling with guilt about having preyed on others.

Rain has been around for a while—he was first published in 2002!—and in some ways he’s changed. He’s less the lone wolf he was at the outset. He has a clan now, which creates complications. He’s older, and grappling with an increasing awareness of his own mortality, and with the increased weight of the life he’s led and what he’s done. He’s been trying to retire—to kill his way out of the killing business—but never quite seems to make it.

And Livia teamed up with Rain’s partner, former Marine sniper Dox, in the previous book, The Night Trade, and that turned into an interesting relationship. So I started wondering…what would happen if Livia, in the course of her Seattle PD sex-crime detective duties, uncovered something so big that she was targeted in an attempted hit? Would she call on Dox for help? Would Dox call on Rain?

And what if Rain had...[read on]
Visit Barry Eisler's website.

The Page 69 Test: Livia Lone.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, January 25, 2019

Rachel DeWoskin

Rachel DeWoskin's new YA novel is Someday We Will Fly, which takes place in Shanghai during World War II.

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

Q: You note that two photos of Jewish refugee children in Shanghai inspired the idea for Someday We Will Fly. How did you create your character Lillia and her family?

A: My novels are all concerned with human beings in trouble, people on the peripheries, trying to figure out how to transcend contexts that are unfamiliar or excruciatingly difficult. Lillia is that kind of character; she's tough and imaginative, and although her life circumstances are tragic, she manages to demonstrate the sort of resilience teenagers often do.

I came up with Lillia from those photos of children who had escaped Nazi-occupied Europe and were living in Shanghai--their toys and clothes and scrubbed faces made me want to explore how their parents had managed to come to Shanghai in terror, land in a place as unfamiliar as any place could possibly be, and then still build childhoods for their children. They made schools, sports teams, and beautiful dolls for their children.

Of course Lillia is also a composite of my daughters, an imaginary rendering of them forward. She's in many ways parts of me, and I tried to make her both of her own era and recognizable as one of us--someone with the same hopes and dreads we have now.

Part of the way Lillia survives is by...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, January 24, 2019

Barbara Lee

Congresswoman Barbara Lee was first elected to represent California's Ninth District in 1998. She is the author of Renegade for Peace and Justice: A Memoir of Political and Personal Courage.

From her Q&A with Slate's Christina Cauterucci:

I’ve been thinking a lot about power in numbers when it comes to race and gender representation in Congress. Some studies of women in business leadership suggest that there needs to be a critical mass of people from underrepresented groups to make a tangible difference, because one person alone can be more easily ignored or tokenized. Does that resonate with your experience in Congress?

Absolutely. You know, it’s really good to have allies. And coming to Congress then, as a progressive African-American woman, it took a while to build the level of collegiality that others have, especially white men, because there were so few of us.

In terms of speaking out in a meeting or at a hearing with new ideas—folks would shake their heads and say “Great,” or whatever. Then 10 minutes later they would reiterate the same thing I just said, as if it were new. [Laughs.] It’s just like being invisible. You know what that’s like, being invisible? But let me tell you: I wasn’t gonna let that happen. I was working for former Congressman Ron Dellums, who passed away in July. And when I started working as a chief of staff on Capitol Hill, there were maybe two African-American women as chiefs of staff, OK? Maybe three, but I think it was two. I had to represent Ron at meetings with Cabinet officials. And I’d walk into those meetings, and primarily white men were there, and I would engage in the meeting, and it was almost like I just wasn’t there. Or they didn’t recognize me as a chief of staff, or they would never call on me to ask my question or make my point. Or they sometimes didn’t know that I was a chief of staff, they thought I was another staffer just taking notes to take back to the congressman. You know, it was very ugly and demeaning, disrespectful.

So I remember those days, and we’ve made a lot of progress, but let me tell you, we have a long way to go. You still have institutional biases, you have to break through all of that sexism and racism. You have to really confront that all of the time, whether it’s subconscious or conscious.

[Congress is] still just a microcosm of America. It takes a while. But...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, January 23, 2019

Mesha Maren

Mesha Maren is the author of the new novel Sugar Run. Her short stories and essays have appeared in Tin House, Oxford American, Crazyhorse, Southern Cultures, Hobart, Forty Stories: New Writing from Harper Perennial, and elsewhere. She is the recipient of the 2015 Thomas Wolfe Fiction Prize, a 2014 Elizabeth George Foundation grant, an Appalachian Writing Fellowship from Lincoln Memorial University, and fellowships from the MacDowell Colony and the Ucross Foundation. She is the 2018-2019 Kenan Visiting Writer at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and also serves as a National Endowment of the Arts Writing Fellow at the Beckley Federal Correctional Institution.

From Maren's Q&A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: How did you come up with the idea for Sugar Run, and for your character Jodi?

A: Sugar Run came to me as Jodi--like she showed up in my mind and started talking to me, I don’t know where she came from, there is no particular person that I modeled her off of, she just showed up and I became smitten.

I started writing down little scenes, bits of things, most of it came to me as sharp images at first: a curtain blowing in the wind, a plastic cup of whiskey with melting ice, the smell of lemon cleaning product, the way your skin feels when you slide below the surface of the swimming pool after lying in the sun for a long while.

I spent years just gathering these snippets and then following the snippets until a plot began to appear, but at first it was Jodi--her voice and perspective--and images, lots and lots of images.

It was like I had to widen the lens, I would start with this tight perspective on a chandelier and then ask...[read on]
Visit Mesha Maren's website.

Writers Read: Mesha Maren.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, January 22, 2019

Taylor Adams

Taylor Adams directed the acclaimed short film And I Feel Fine in 2008 and graduated from Eastern Washington University with the Excellence in Screenwriting Award and the prestigious Edmund G. Yarwood Award. His directorial work has screened at the Seattle True Independent Film Festival and his writing has been featured on KAYU-TV’s Fox Life blog. He has worked in the film/television industry for several years and lives in Washington state.

Adams's new novel is No Exit.

From the author's Parade Q&A with Lambeth Hochwald:

We have to know how you came up with this storyline.

The first thing I do is keep a draft document open with tons of half-formed ideas, possible settings and characters and match them together. I’ll then come up with a premise of something I might not mind spending a year working on. In this case, it was the rest stop as a setting, wayward college student as a heroine and the villain underestimating the heroine. I wanted to play with their shifting perception of each other. I also wanted to convey the idea of witnessing a crime worthy of intervention and what happens next.

You sound really nice, but I have to say No Exit is really scary. How does a nice guy like you write such terrifying stuff?

I’ve gotten that before. One of my dad’s co-workers read one of my books and asked if it bothered him that there’s so much darkness in it. I totally get it. I don’t think I’m different in person as I am as a writer. It’s more that...[read on]
Visit Taylor Adams's website.

The Page 69 Test: No Exit.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, January 21, 2019

Tommy Tomlinson

Tommy Tomlinson is the author of The Elephant In The Room: One Fat Man's Quest To Get Smaller In A Growing America.

From the transcript of his interview with NPR's Melissa Block:

BLOCK: Let's go back a bit and talk about your family because you write about your parents growing up poor during the Depression. They were families of sharecroppers. And food, for them, was vital. It was sustenance. There was never enough of it - really changed for you, as a kid growing up in Georgia, when food became equated with love, that this was something that they could provide for you, that they could give you enough to eat. And you did.

TOMLINSON: Yeah. I grew up in a Deep South family. My mom and dad always worked with their hands and their backs. They burned off thousands and thousands of calories just at work. And my generation - by the time I came around, I led sort of a soft life thanks to all the work they did to get us there. And so I basically have had desk jobs my whole life. I've always - almost always been a journalist.

But the Southern meals - those big fried chicken and collard greens and biscuits and cornbread and pecan pie, all those sort of things - those never went away because those became not just fuel for the generations that came before me. By the time I came around, it was a tremendous symbol of love and wealth, you know? In a poor Southern family - this, of course, is true in many cultures - food is the richest thing they have. It is - in my family was - the one thing where we felt wealthy is when we sat down at the table.

And that was also an expression and still is in my family of love. Look at this thing...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, January 20, 2019

JoAnn Chaney

JoAnn Chaney is the author of As Long as We Both Shall Live: A Novel.

From her Q&A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: How did you come up with the idea for As Long As We Both Shall Live, and for your characters Matt and Marie?

A: ALAWBSL came about in the same way most of my ideas do—it starts with a real situation and becomes something more. I was watching Dateline one night and saw the story of a Colorado man who had two wives die under suspicious circumstances and my imagination picked up from there.

As for Matt and Marie, I wanted to write about a successful, nice couple you might see anywhere. A couple you’d think has everything going for them, including the perfect marriage, and then the reader gets to see the rot underneath. Every relationship has problems, but this one—oh man, this one has...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, January 19, 2019

Steph Post

Steph Post's new novel is Miraculum.

From her Q&A with Tabitha Blankenbiller for The Rumpus:

The Rumpus: I’m high-key obsessed with first lines, and I love yours: Daniel stood in the center of the midway and felt its beating heart. Was it your first actual sentence or something that came together after cutting that beginning throat-clearing?

Steph Post: Ah, thank you! I think first lines are so important—they set the tone for the entire novel. I always think of an opening line as a promise. Like a secret, between myself and the reader. Hopefully, it’s a promise I can keep. I do a huge amount of revision during novel writing—it’s a constant process of layering—and Miraculum, in particular, had many changes along the way. The first line, though, stayed the same from the very first moment I scrawled it down in one of my many, many notebooks. It just came, fully formed, and I knew it was right. You know, now that I think about it, I almost never go back and change the opening line of a novel from the very first draft. Everything else, yes, but somehow that promise always comes out right on the first try.

And concerning this line in particular—I absolutely wanted to open with Daniel standing on the midway, the carnival blossoming all around him, because that’s where I wanted the reader to find herself as the journey of the story begins. In a strange way, too, Daniel is our guide into this topsy-turvy world. He’s the most mysterious character, but he’s also an outsider to the Star Light Miraculum and so we’re able to learn about...[read on]
Visit Steph Post's website.

Coffee with a Canine: Steph Post & Juno.

My Book, The Movie: Lightwood.

The Page 69 Test: Lightwood.

My Book, The Movie: Walk in the Fire.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, January 18, 2019

Katrin Schumann

Katrin Schumann is the author of The Forgotten Hours.

From her Q&A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: You've said that the idea for The Forgotten Hours was inspired by people you knew. How did the initial inspiration turn into the book, and how did you come up with your character Katie?

A: There was a dark moment in my life when I went through a couple of difficult experiences--through two close friends on opposite ends of the spectrum--involving consent and assault accusations.

At the time, I was so involved emotionally that it took over my life. I felt protective and afraid, and my loyalty was badly shaken. I learned how incredibly hard it is to admit to yourself that your instincts might be off. I felt unmoored and lost.

I kept thinking, what am I supposed to be learning from this? In a way, I too was a casualty, and I realized that my experience was more universal than I'd initially thought--all those who are accused of crimes, whether they’re guilty or innocent, have loved ones who suffer along with them.

I think of them as peripheral victims, and I wanted to find a way to explore and explain that experience. I chose a narrow lens through which to look: the daughter of the accused, because I wanted...[read on]
Visit Katrin Schumann's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, January 17, 2019

Madhuri Vijay

Madhuri Vijay is the author of The Far Field.

From her Q&A with Scott Burton for the Los Angeles Review of Books:

SCOTT BURTON: Place is an important feature in your new novel, The Far Field. It largely plays out in Bangalore and a small village in mountainous Kashmir. What made you want to set the novel in these places?

MADHURI VIJAY: In part, sheer familiarity. I grew up in Bangalore, and I spent a couple of years living and working in a village in Kashmir, so to set the novel in those two places seemed like the natural and obvious choice. But I was also aware that those places haven’t yet found much of a footing in fiction, and that was, I’m sure, part of their appeal. Countless Indian novels have been set in Bombay, Delhi, and Calcutta, but far fewer have been set in Bangalore. Likewise, I’ve read a fair number of books set in the lovely and embattled Valley of Kashmir, but none set in the region where I was living. I suppose I wanted in some small way to feel like I was treading fresh ground.

Equally vivid are the characters in the novel. We follow Shalini, the narrator, as she searches for a man from her past after her mother’s death. We discover she possesses a rich interior life as we follow her often-conflicted relationship with the other characters. Was she an enjoyable character to write?

She was fairly challenging, actually. The adult Shalini is so remote and closed-off, so hamstrung by doubt and suspicion, that...[read on]
Visit Madhuri Vijay's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Dana Czapnik

Dana Czapnik is a 2018 NYSCA/NYFA Artist Fellow in Fiction from The New York Foundation for the Arts. In 2017, she was awarded an Emerging Writers Fellowship from the Center for Fiction. Czapnik earned her MFA at Hunter College where she was recognized with a Hertog Fellowship. She’s spent most of her career on the editorial side of professional sports including stints at ESPN the Magazine, the United States Tennis Association and the Arena Football League. Her debut novel, The Falconer, will be published by Atria Books, an imprint of Simon & Schuster, in January of 2019. A native New Yorker, she lives in Manhattan with her husband and son.

From Czapnik's Q&A at Goodreads:

GR: What sparked the idea for The Falconer?

DC: Several years ago Toni Morrison tweeted, “If there's a book you want to read, but it hasn't been written yet, then you must write it.” That’s basically the story with The Falconer. I’ve spent my whole life looking for Lucy in fiction and never found her, so I just decided to write her myself.

I’ve always wanted to read a first-person narration and character study of a young woman in New York, wondering and thinking and observing. I’ve read so many wonderful novels with young men doing that, I really craved a female character who felt similarly universal and also microscopically specific.

GR: Did you find yourself influenced by any particular books or authors as you worked on your debut?

DC: Of course the most obvious one is J.D. Salinger. Lucy Adler would never exist without the Glass family or Holden Caulfield, who was the first friend I met...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, January 15, 2019

John Lanchester

John Lanchester is the author of five novels, including The Wall, the best-selling Debt to Pleasure and Capital, as well as several works of nonfiction, including I.O.U. and How to Speak Money. His books, which have been translated into twenty-five languages, have won the Whitbread First Novel Prize, the Hawthornden Prize, and the E. M. Forster Award of the American Academy of Arts and Letters. He is a contributing editor to the London Review of Books and a regular contributor to The New Yorker. He lives in London.

From Lanchester's TLS interview:

Which author (living or dead) do you think is most overrated?

Henry James.

What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?

“Watch the little things” – time management advice from my tutor John Kelly.

To what extent, in your view, is writing a political act?

Always and everywhere to...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, January 14, 2019

Kelly Jones

Kelly Jones's new novel for kids is Are You Ready to Hatch an Unusual Chicken?.

From her Q&A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: What do you hope kids take away from the book?

A: That it's not a bad thing to ask people if they can help you out sometimes, and that it doesn't mean you don't know how to do things, or couldn't learn. Asking for help means competent people can get more things done, not less!

(This is something I think I'll spend the rest of my life trying to learn -- yet another way Sophie is a faster learner than I am.)

Q: Who are some of your favorite authors?

A: Too many to count, of course, but...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, January 13, 2019

Kevin Kruse and Julian Zelizer

Kevin M. Kruse and Julian E. Zelizer are the authors of Fault Lines: A History of the United States Since 1974.

From their Q&A with Denise Valenti:

Why were the 1970s a pivotal point for polarization in American politics?

We feel that during the 1970s many of the foundations of today’s country took form — the increasing polarization of the parties, the fragmentation of the media landscape, the rise of economic inequality, the origins of mass social movements that pulled the country in different directions. Although any one year would be an artificial starting point, the resignation of President Nixon in 1974 really proved to be a turning point that helped move us into this new era.

Why haven’t these strains on American political life and unity resolved themselves?

That’s a major theme in the book. First of all, these divisions are deeply rooted in our institutions and widespread in our society, and can’t be easily overcome. Second, as we note at several points, there have increasingly been incentives for different political actors not to resolve these issues — things like partisan news outlets which present viewers a worldview that discourages compromise, or gerrymandered congressional districts which lead politicians to push their politics to the extremes rather than reach across the aisle.

How have these divisions culminated in the presidency of Donald Trump?

We see President Trump as...[read on]
Visit Kevin M. Kruse's website and Julian E. Zelizer's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, January 12, 2019

Laura Sims

Laura Sims's new novel is Looker.

From her Q&A with Deborah Kalb:

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

A: Until fairly recently I lived in a Brooklyn neighborhood comprised mostly of middle- to upper-middle class families, with the odd celebrity mixed in.

In Brooklyn, whether you’re just barely managing to rent a basement apartment or living in a fully renovated brownstone that’s only one of several homes you own, you can’t help mixing and mingling with everyone around you, at least to some extent. It has an equalizing effect, but class differences still stand out in sharp relief—especially in the case of a celebrity.

Though they walk the same pavement you do, you see they don’t have to hustle quite as much; city life isn’t such a struggle for them as it might be for you. Their lives can look exalted from the outside, contained in a bubble.

So one day I was walking home from the grocery store in the middle of the dead heat of August, lugging bags of food up the street, dreading the long climb up the stairs to my apartment, when a movie star passed by.

This was not an uncommon experience, but it always gave me a little frisson: I know that face! Something we all do, I think, when this happens.

She was groomed to perfection, even on this unbearable day, and was striding weightlessly, it seemed to me, up the block. I watched her for a moment, and while I felt a slight twinge of envy, as we all probably do, this voice popped into my head that was rife with bitterness; it would not be silenced.

I knew instantly it was the voice of a woman whose disappointments, frustrations, and rage were pushing her with increasing velocity to the edge of...[read on]
Visit Laura Sims's website.

See Sims's list of five fully immersive novels of psychological suspense.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, January 11, 2019

Rabeah Ghaffari

Rabeah Ghaffari is the author of To Keep the Sun Alive: A Novel.

From her Q&A with Alana Mohamed at The Rumpus:

The Rumpus: Why don’t we begin with you introducing yourself? Where are you from?

Rabeah Ghaffari: I was born in Iran and I lived there until I was eight years old. My father, who worked at the festival of arts in Shiraz, was invited to the University of Michigan for a one-year artist residency. Before he left, his friend told him, “You should take your wife and daughter with you,” so we left and three months after we left the revolution began. And we didn’t go back. My father was given political asylum and we ended up staying. I’ve been in New York since 1981.

Rumpus: Did you ever leave New York?

Ghaffari: I went to USC for six months and turned around and came right back. I was there for just six months and I really didn’t… it was a culture shock. I came back to New York and I ended up going to NYU for a semester and then I dropped out. I never went to college, really. I went to the Esper studio, and I was in a little theater group with women and we used to do various shows around the city. I would go to auditions for, like, “Terrorist Wife Number One.” I was just really miserable about it.

In 2002, my father was directing Ta’zieh, which was coming to Lincoln Center, and so I suggested that we should make a documentary about that. I went back to Iran to shoot Ta’zieh with my father and it was sort of magical. That was the first time I had been back in twenty years. And when I went back my cousin, who I hadn’t seen since I was eight years old, she said to me, “Do you want to go back and see what’s left of the orchard?” My grandmother had an orchard we used to play in when we were kids. The novel—it’s not autobiographical, it’s fiction—but…

Rumpus: It sounded like a beautiful place, in the novel.

Ghaffari: It was edenic. Because it was enclosed, they would just let us loose. Sometimes we would eat so many fruits we’d get sick; we’d just be covered in juices.

When we went, there was nothing left. There was a piece of the adobe wall that was left. I remember my cousin and I were standing there and...[read on]
Visit Rabeah Ghaffari's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, January 10, 2019

Thomas Kohnstamm

Thomas Kohnstamm's new novel is Lake City.

From his Q&A with Caroline Leavitt:

Lake City is a fabulous mix of class and cultures, which I think is particularly appropriate given what’s going on now in politics. Do you think that most people can—like your hero—figure out what the truly right thing to do is? And if not, what the hell do WE do?

Lane, the protagonist, makes a lot of mistakes before kind of, sort of starting to get a few things right. In our dog-eat-dog, hyper-capitalist environment we are asked to make daily decisions where we balance our personal good against the wider good. Everyone likes to say that they are always thinking of others but also nobody wants to be the sucker. We place a ton of cultural value on the trappings of success and not on “he led a nice quiet life, didn’t rock the boat and was really dependable for those close to him.” We are all a combination of successes and failures. It sucks that current leadership models that one should always consider their personal needs before anyone or anything else.

Lake City is also really funny, particularly about Seattle, but I have to say this could take place in Brooklyn, too. Why do you think our world has gone so haywire?

Well, my grandfather was an orphan from Brooklyn and I’m not sure that the world is more haywire now than when he was a kid during WWI. That said (and this is not funny), we do have a fragmentation of society, family and a globalized market which is...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, January 9, 2019

Kiese Laymon

Kiese Laymon is a black southern writer, born and raised in Jackson, Mississippi. Laymon attended Millsaps College and Jackson State University before graduating from Oberlin College. He earned an MFA in Fiction from Indiana University. Laymon is currently the Ottilie Schillig Professor of English and Creative Writing at the University of Mississippi. He served as the Distinguished Visiting Professor of Nonfiction at the University of Iowa in Fall 2017. Laymon is the author of the novel, Long Division and a collection of essays, How to Slowly Kill Yourself and Others in America, and Heavy: An American Memoir.

From his Q&A with Poppy Noor for the Guardian:

You were raised by women – your mother and grandma – how was that?

We hear about absent fathers but not present mothers. A present father wouldn’t have helped me at all, if he was modelling harmful behaviour daily. My grandmother, mother and aunt were pretty good at loving. They tried. They failed often. But their ability to love is why I’m talking to you today. My book is all about love. We can talk about the difference between black and white or Democrats and Republicans but if we don’t learn to love the people we purport to love, we have no chance. Trump says he loves America. Is there any proof of that? No. There’s absolutely no proof that that man loves America.

Would Trump be a better man if he was raised by women?

One of the most useful things that people like Kavanaugh and Trump show us is that having lots of money, a two-parent family and going to the best schools doesn’t necessarily produce the best men.

Your mother wanted to protect you from the things that can happen to black boys – incarceration, gang violence, police violence. But in the end that harms you, too...

White people in the US have been so violent to black folk, and there is a belief that if we present ourselves as perfect, we have a better chance of coming home, of not suffering, of getting more access to healthy choices and second chances. As a kid it struck me that...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, January 8, 2019

Blythe Roberson

Comedian Blythe Roberson is the author of How to Date Men When You Hate Men.

From her Q&A with Karen Chee:

You worry in the book about the stereotype of women writing only about “dating and their anxiety disorders.” Did you get over that fear? Do you feel newly empowered?

After thinking really hard about dating and romance for nine months, I did come out on the other end feeling like it isn’t a frivolous thing to write about at all. I don’t know if I would say I feel “empowered,” because that’s become something I feel like we’re supposed to think comes from, like, getting laser facials or some shit. But writing this book made me really aware of how dating is informed by how women are socialized, how society expects women and men to act, how capitalism is served by women fixating on finding a partner. I feel like I haven’t misused my time or let myself down. I’ve had women telling me that the book was really personally meaningful for them. I’m never going to be president and legally force all men to give all women they know $20,000, so writing this book feels like, hopefully, a worthwhile thing I can do for the world.

Did the book clarify anything about dating for you personally?

Oh, everything! One of the pleasures of writing it was figuring out...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, January 7, 2019

Issa Kohler-Hausmann

Issa Kohler-Hausmann is the author of Misdemeanorland: Criminal Courts and Social Control in an Age of Broken Windows Policing.

From her Q&A with Jackson Smith for Public Books:

Jackson Smith (JS): Most of the infractions adjudicated in “misdemeanorland” are not violent, but violent crime does appear to haunt misdemeanorland. As you note in the book, it is at the core of the Broken Windows theory of policing. Could you speak to how conceptions of violent crime shape misdemeanorland, even if violent crime is not what is being adjudicated there?

Issa Kohler-Hausmann (IK): Haunting is a great way of putting it. Violent crime haunts misdemeanorland in a couple of ways. First, policing is concentrated in spaces with more crime. The police will always say that and they are mostly right. I don’t think that necessarily answers the fairness question, or the justice question, but let’s just say for the sake of argument that this is true. The important thing to remember is that what Broken Windows policing is doing is essentially casting a very, very wide net over those spaces and essentially asking everyone who is hauled in to prove that they are not a bad guy. It feels acceptable to have this vast dragnet, because we essentially think it is fair to put the burden on the people who live in high-crime neighborhoods to prove that they are not high-crime people. This is acceptable because they are black and brown people.

The other point is that people will ask, “Well, isn’t it true that this policing diminished serious crime in New York?” The answer is that nobody knows and certainly nobody knows the magnitude and the extent to which this may be true. You also have to think about the mechanism for reducing crime. Is it by virtue of bringing in a lot of people for misdemeanors? By definition, somebody who is arrested for a misdemeanor is...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, January 6, 2019

Anna Crowley Redding

Anna Crowley Redding is the author of the new young adult book Google It: A History of Google.

From her Q&A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: How did you research the book, and did you learn anything that especially surprised you?

A: When I research, the first thing I do is read as much as humanly possible on any topic. Books, articles, interviews, whatever I can get my hands on. And then I pick up the phone and start calling people who touch any part of a subject that requires a deeper understanding.

There were so many things that surprised me and fascinated me about Google. One of the aspects of the research that I loved was talking to people who used Google’s technology in a life-changing way.

Like the first driverless car passenger, a man who is legally blind. To be able to get into a car and go wherever you need to is something that I personally take for granted day in and day out.

After talking to Steve, whose story is featured in the book, it was really...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, January 5, 2019

Mesha Maren

Mesha Maren's new novel is Sugar Run.

From her Entertainment Weekly interview with David Canfield:

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: This took you several years to write. What did the initial sketching of Sugar Run look like?

MESHA MAREN: Jodi came to me very strongly, and everything fell into place around her. In about 2010, she took up residence in my brain. I don’t have a sense of where she came from or what specific person or experience. But I started thinking about her, and became infatuated with her. I started daydreaming about her all of the time, working on the book then, on and off. I was teaching myself how to write with this being my first novel. There were many times when I felt like I wasn’t sure if I could write a novel, and definitely wasn’t sure if I could write this novel. But Jodi was very strongly in my mind. I’d put the pages in a drawer and be like, “I’m giving up on this project,” but she haunted me!

During the time I was working most intensively on the novel, I was working as a waitress in a little diner in Iowa City. I remember attempting to abandon the project and then going through my day waitressing, and really feeling like I was giving up on a friend or a partner or something. Like I’d neglected her. I felt guilty, like she was mad at me. I kept coming back to it because I felt like I owed it to her in some kind of way. I remember at some point, too, I made this pact in my mind with Jodi, where I was like, “I’m going to...[read on]
Visit Mesha Maren's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, January 4, 2019

Stanley Corngold

Stanley Corngold is the author of Walter Kaufmann: Philosopher, Humanist, Heretic.

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

How did you come to write this book?

There is an immediate cause and a deeper one. The immediate cause was the Princeton University Press’s renewed interest in the work of Walter Kaufmann. After publishing a new edition of Kaufmann’s masterwork Nietzsche: Philosopher, Psychologist, Antichrist, the Press decided to republish another distinguished work by Kaufmann—The Faith of a Heretic (1959, 2015). I was approached to write a preface and gladly accepted. To do the job I read a good deal more of Kaufmann and was struck by his astonishing range of interests and the clear and vital precision of his writing. I then proposed a book to the Press that would cover the (near) entirety of his corpus—Walter Kaufmann: Philosopher, Humanist, Heretic—and here it is—a critical compendium to all his major works.

You said there was a deeper reason.

Yes, my “experience” of Walter goes back to early days. As I note in a chapter on Kaufmann’s extraordinary first book, “In summer 1954, a naval cadet in the NROTC unit at Columbia University, I lay sprawling on the steel floor of the destroyer USS Steinaker reading Nietzsche: Philosopher, Psychologist, Antichrist, the cover quite visible and flagrant. An officer saw me and shouted, ‘Why are you wasting your time reading this book!’ Ever since then, I have felt myself especially protective of this book, the author, and his subject.

Is that necessary? Does Nietzsche need protection from serious readers?

One reads that Kaufmann, on arriving at Princeton in 1947 as an assistant professor of philosophy, was introduced to Albert Einstein...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, January 3, 2019

Jason Stanley

Jason Stanley's new book is How Fascism Works: The Politics of Us and Them.

From his Q&A with Chauncey DeVega at Salon:

Two years into Donald Trump's presidency, how are you feeling?

My earlier book, "How Propaganda Works," was published the month that Trump declared his candidacy. It focused on demagoguery and language. Watching what has happened with Trump over these two years, I feel panic about Trump's use of immigrants as scapegoats. It is a strange and scary thing watching these familiar storylines from history play themselves out.

In a rising fascist or authoritarian movement there is pleasure in seeing the "out-group," whoever that may be, suffer harm. Violence and suffering functions as a type of fuel for those such as Trump and his supporters.

Trump has "blooded the hounds." When you start getting your supporters to inflict great harm on people and to be complicit in moral monstrosities, then they subsequently go along with you. They're guilty too. In some ways that is how the mafia and organized crime works. The leaders or bosses get people to do crimes with them and then they're complicit. That is where the loyalty comes from. Trump's rallies and other events fulfill that function.

Anger is encouraged. Fear is amplified and people are whipped into a panic. Then Trump promises he's going to protect them. His supporters are made to feel resentful and angry at the fear, and what and who they believe is causing it. What keeps me up at night with worry right now is...[read on]
Visit Jason Stanley's website.

The Page 99 Test: How Propaganda Works.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, January 2, 2019

Nancy Kress

Nancy Kress's many books include over two dozen novels, four collections of short stories, and three books on writing. Her work has won six Nebulas, two Hugos, a Sturgeon, and the John W. Campbell Memorial Award. Kress’s work has been translated into two dozen languages, including Klingon, none of which she can read.

Her latest novel is Terran Tomorrow: Book 3 of the Yesterday's Kin Trilogy.

From the author's File 770 Q&A with Carl Slaughter:

CARL SLAUGHTER: Where did you get the idea for the science premise?

NANCY KRESS: The trilogy revolves around microbes, especially pathogens that cause epidemics of various kinds. Medicine has made good strides against bacteria-caused epidemics, but bacteria mutate, swap genes, and develop antibiotic resistance so fast that sometimes our drugs and vaccines aren’t effective (witness the hit-or-miss gamble with flu shots every year). And we really can’t handle viral epidemics except by containment (witness Ebola, until recently). Humanity is overdue for a major pandemic. These ideas fascinate and scare me. Fear is good for plotting.

CS: Same question for the plot.

NK: Science is only compelling to most readers if it happens to people. So in the trilogy, a variety of characters cope with a pandemic on two planets: a geneticist, an Army Ranger, two brothers with vastly different ideas on how to live on a devastated Earth, aliens who are not what they seem, a man more at home in the alien culture than in his own. These people fight, love, cope, strive. For me, plot always...[read on]
Visit Nancy Kress's website, and follow her on Twitter and Facebook.

The Page 69 Test: Tomorrow's Kin.

The Page 69 Test: If Tomorrow Comes.

The Page 69 Test: Terran Tomorrow.

My Book, The Movie: Terran Tomorrow.

--Marshal Zeringue