Tuesday, April 30, 2019

Ashley Jardina

Ashley Jardina is an Assistant Professor of Political Science at Duke University. Her new book is White Identity Politics.

From her interview with The New Yorker's Isaac Chotiner:

How has white identity changed over the past several decades?

One thing that’s different is how salient and politically relevant it is. We don’t have good public-opinion data going back in time to indicate that levels of white identity in the population have changed, or that now more people are identifying with their racial group than in the past. But what’s certainly clear is the extent to which white identity, or racial identity for some whites in the United States, matters for how they view the political and social world.

Think about white identity as being episodic and contextual. It’s politically relevant when something happens in the environment that makes it relevant, or when élites try to activate it, but it’s not always a force in politics in the way that we’re observing it to be today. If we could go back to the nineteen-twenties, in the wake of massive immigration to the United States, or if we could go back to the civil-rights movement, there are periods when there was a challenge to the dominant status of whites. There’s a possibility that the United States was no longer going to be defined by whiteness. These are places in time in which we might have seen white identity matter just as...[read on]
Visit Ashley Jardina's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, April 29, 2019

John A. Farrell

John A. Farrell is the author of Richard Nixon: The Life.

From his Q&A with The New Yorker's Isaac Chotiner:

Was there ever a moment in the Watergate scandal akin to this one, in terms of where Democrats were substantively and politically?

Yeah, I would say probably in the fall of 1973, before the Saturday Night Massacre set everything aflame. The Democrat-led Watergate Committee had spent all summer calling all of Nixon’s henchmen up to the Hill, and had unearthed and dug up a lot of stuff, particularly John Dean’s testimony, which said, “Yes, the President obstructed justice.” But the country was waiting for a smoking gun, and they had just reëlected Nixon by a huge landslide, a historic landslide, and they were suspicious, probably rightly so, that Democrats were seeking to settle old grievances, to settle in Congress what they couldn’t settle at the ballot box. And so you had this period in September and October of 1973 when lots of stuff was happening. Spiro Agnew was resigning. The Arabs and Israelis went to war. But the public-opinion polls showed there was still great hesitancy about Watergate and that a vast majority of people were much more concerned about the economy.

Did events then change, or did the Democrats do something that changed things?

No, I think primarily events changed things, primarily the Saturday Night Massacre. People knew there were tapes in 1973, because that had come out during the Watergate Committee hearings. And they were sort of widely saying, “Well, the tapes are going to show who is telling the truth, John Dean or Nixon, and we will wait for them to come out. And when it went to the courts, it was seen as the process working. And then, all of a sudden, Nixon took this radical step of firing [the special prosecutor Archibald] Cox, and forcing [Attorney General] Elliot Richardson and [Deputy Attorney General] William Ruckelshaus to resign, and all of a sudden people said, “Wait a minute, he is not waiting for the courts to act and for the tapes to come out so we know what the truth is; he is covering up.”

That pretty much solidified mainstream liberal Democrats behind impeachment. You had Tip O’Neill going on the House floor and...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, April 28, 2019

Sally Hepworth

Sally Hepworth is the bestselling author of The Secrets of Midwives, The Things We Keep, The Mother's Promise, and The Family Next Door.

Her new novel is The Mother-in-Law.

From Hepworth's Q&A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: How did you come up with the idea for The Mother-in-Law, and for your characters Lucy and Diana?

A: The idea came to me while hosting my in-laws, who stayed with us for six weeks following the birth of my third child.

On this particular trip, my (beloved) father-in-law had been pestering me continually about what my next book was about. Now, I didn’t know what my next book was going to be about, given the fact that I had just given birth! But he wouldn’t let it go.

Finally I told him, in jest: “I’m going to write about a woman who murders her father-in-law.” We laughed about it, but the more I thought about it, I decided it wasn’t a bad idea.

Still, I thought it would be an even better idea if I substituted Mother-in-Law for Father-in-Law. My father-in-law was bummed, because he was looking forward to his 15 minutes of fame, but...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, April 27, 2019

Anne Harrington

Anne Harrington's new book is Mind Fixers: Psychiatry's Troubled Search for the Biology of Mental Illness.

From the transcript of her Fresh Air interview with Terry Gross:

GROSS: So I think the first drug that was used to treat manic depression was lithium, which you write was previously marketed as a health tonic. That amazed me when I read it.

HARRINGTON: Really? The first thing to know about lithium to understand its strange place in the history of psychiatry is that unlike all the other drugs, it wasn't invented in a laboratory. It's an element. It's found in the natural world. And it's found, for example, in certain kinds of spas in Europe that, in the past, you know, bragged about their high lithium content of their drinking water. And so it had a place in spa culture. It had a place as a feel good tonic. It was, for a period of time, an ingredient in a new lemon-lime soft drink that became quite popular in - up through the 1950s that gets renamed 7UP. And there's a...

GROSS: 7UP had lithium in it?

HARRINGTON: 7UP had lithium in it, and there's - no one quite knows for sure why Griggs (ph), the inventor of this soft drink - it had a very convoluted previous name. But it was renamed 7UP, and some think that this might be a reference to the atomic number of lithium. It's just under seven and the up meaning the suggestion that it lifts the mood. Lithium is no longer in 7UP. Cocaine is no longer in Coca-Cola.

GROSS: (Laughter) Right.

HARRINGTON: But there was this previous history of lithium. And then lithium sort of fortunes as a product, and it's used in all sorts of other things too that have nothing to do with, you know, the health industry. But its fortunes as a product in the health industry take a nosedive when it is used as the basis - or a compound of lithium is used as the basis for a salt substitute that ends up, people believe, causing heart problems and even several deaths. And so there's a warning sent out by the AMA and then eventually FDA that, you know, these salt substitutes - take them off the market. This is a dangerous drug. And so lithium's emergence in psychiatry emerges against the background of two relevant facts. One, it has a reputation now for being dangerous and, two, it's not going to make a pharmaceutical company very much money because they can't patent it.

GROSS: So is lithium still, like, a drug of choice for treating patients with bipolar disorder?

HARRINGTON: I think there are a lot of people who say it's a very...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, April 26, 2019

Renée Rosen

Renée Rosen's new novel is Park Avenue Summer.

From her Q&A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: Why did you decide to focus on Helen Gurley Brown in your new novel, and how did you come up with the idea for her (fictional) assistant, Alice?

A: I knew I wanted to set a book in New York City in the 1960s and I wanted it to be centered around a glamorous industry. Mad Men already had the corner on advertising, so I went with magazines. Initially I was thinking of a fictional magazine and a full cast of fictional characters. It wasn’t until I had a conversation with my editor that we realized we had to tell Helen Gurley Brown’s story.

That led to the next dilemma--whose point-of-view should the story be told from. There were so many non-fiction books already out there about HGB, even some that Brown wrote herself. I didn’t want to just fictionalize what had already been done and so beautifully before, so, enter Alice Weiss. I wanted to show HGB’s influence on a typical “Cosmo girl.” Using Alice as a vehicle also enabled me to...[read on]
Visit Renée Rosen's website, blog, and Facebook page.

The Page 99 Test: Every Crooked Pot.

My Book, The Movie: Dollface.

The Page 69 Test: Dollface.

The Page 69 Test: What the Lady Wants.

My Book, The Movie: What the Lady Wants.

Writers Read: Renée Rosen (February 2017).

My Book, The Movie: Windy City Blues.

The Page 69 Test: Windy City Blues.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, April 25, 2019

Don Winslow

Don Winslow's The Border is a follow-up to his 2005 novel The Power of the Dog and 2015’s The Cartel. From the author's Southwest Review Q&A with William Boyle:

WB: Michael Connelly wrote this about The Cartel: “[It’s] a first-rate edge-of-your-seat thriller for sure, but it also continues Winslow’s incisive reporting on the dangers and intricacies of the world we live in. There is no higher mark for a storyteller than to both educate and entertain. With Winslow these aspects are entwined like strands of DNA.” I wonder what it’s like to work with that idea in your head, that you’re educating people, that you’re dealing with some people who are crime fiction fans who will be on board and some people who are smart who will know you’re getting it right, but then you’re also dealing with a whole host of people who are buying into falsehoods, maybe even believing that stuff in Sicario: Day of the Soldado is reality.

DW: I have to forget about all of that. I’m aware of all of it: My education is as a historian, and that’s the way I tackle these things. But then I have to remind myself I’m not writing history, I’m writing a novel. I’m writing what better be a good, exciting, interesting story, albeit with a lot of information. The way I view my job is that I’m supposed to bring people into a world they couldn’t otherwise enter. I’m their guide. When I’m writing, even though I’m aware of everything you just mentioned, dead-on, I have to throw all of that away. I’ve gotta be inhabiting the character’s mind, I’ve gotta be seeing the world through the character’s eyes. I won’t consider any of that stuff, period. Because then I’m writing polemics or history. The other thing is you have to avoid the...[read on]
Learn about Winslow's hero from outside literature.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, April 24, 2019

Tim Johnston

Tim Johnston's latest novel is The Current.

From his Q&A with Deborah Kalb:

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

A: The idea dates back to a short story I wrote just before I began my previous novel, Descent, back in 2007.

That story, called "Water," is set in small-town Minnesota and concerns the drowning of a young woman in the local river and the search for her killer. The law casts a serious eye on one young man, but charges are never filed, the truth is never known, and everyone in the story is damaged irrevocably, The End.

The inspiration, you might say, came seven years later, in a café in Memphis. I was reading student stories, minding my own business, when two young women pretty much demanded that I stop reading student stories and begin writing theirs. (These were young women in my mind, just to be clear, and not actual young women.)

They intended, they let me know, to...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, April 23, 2019

Louis Bayard

Louis Bayard's new novel is Courting Mr. Lincoln.

From his Q&A with Mackenzie Dawson for the New York Post:

Lincoln was open about sharing a bed with [his best friend, Joshua] Speed — was this a common arrangement at the time?

It was a common arrangement among bachelors because beds were expensive. [What was strange] was the length of time [they shared the bed] — three years. And they got married late in life.

What research did you do?

I learned as much as I can about these guys, and the book is a promiscuous mixture of fact and invention. The book that was helpful was “The Intimate World of Abraham Lincoln” by C.A. Tripp. He was a Kinsey Institute sex researcher and the first to declare that Lincoln was homosexual. The book is a bit over-the-top and was savaged at the time, but it was the first to bring up that possibility. Although [Lincoln biographer] Carl Sandburg brought up in his 1926 biography that the friendship had a...[read on]
Learn more about the book and author at Louis Bayard's website.

The Page 69 Test: The Black Tower.

The Page 69 Test: The Pale Blue Eye.

The Page 69 Test: The School of Night.

The Page 69 Test: Roosevelt's Beast.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, April 22, 2019

Robert Dugoni

Robert Dugoni is the critically acclaimed New York Times, #1 Wall Street Journal and #1 Amazon best selling author of The Tracy Crosswhite series, My Sister’s Grave, Her Final Breath, In the Clearing, and The Trapped Girl.

Dugoni's new novel is The Eighth Sister.

From his Q&A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: Why did you decide to focus on your character Charles Jenkins, who's appeared before in your work, in this new novel?

A: I had a story fall into my lap. A true story of a CIA agent accused of espionage. Long story short, I wanted to write a novel and Jenkins, a former CIA agent living on Camano Island, was perfect for the novel I was crafting. He’d worked against the KGB in Mexico City. He was now married with kids and therefore vulnerable.

The Eighth Sister isn’t based on a true story, though the trial pretty strongly reflects true events. I also really had a soft spot for Jenkins. I thought he was a character people would...[read on]
Visit Robert Dugoni's website and Facebook page.

My Book, The Movie: The Eighth Sister.

Writers Read: Robert Dugoni.

The Page 69 Test: The Eighth Sister.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, April 21, 2019

Robert A. Caro

For his biographies of Robert Moses and Lyndon Johnson, Robert A. Caro has twice won the Pulitzer Prize for Biography, has three times won the National Book Critics Circle Award, and has also won virtually every other major literary honor, including the National Book Award, the Gold Medal in Biography from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, and the Francis Parkman Prize, awarded by the Society of American Historians to the book that best “exemplifies the union of the historian and the artist.” In 2010 President Barack Obama awarded Caro the National Humanities Medal, stating at the time: “I think about Robert Caro and reading The Power Broker back when I was twenty-two years old and just being mesmerized, and I’m sure it helped to shape how I think about politics.” In 2016 he received the National Book Award for Lifetime Achievement. The London Sunday Times has said that Caro is “The greatest political biographer of our times.”

Caro's new book is Working.

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

DAVIES: This is FRESH AIR, and we're speaking with Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and biographer Robert Caro. He has a new book about his life working and writing these biographies. It's called "Working: Researching, Interviewing, Writing."

After you finished "The Power Broker" - this book about this towering figure who exercised powers in many unseen ways - Robert Moses, you decided you wanted to write about Lyndon Johnson. Why?

CARO: Well, I never was interested in writing a biography of Robert Moses or Lyndon Johnson. I never had the slightest interest in writing a book just to tell the story of a great man. I wanted to use their lives to show how political power worked. That's what I was interested in.

And with Moses, I came to see - I didn't really understand - you know, as you're doing a book, you're finding - you're realizing what you're doing. You don't realize - I've realized, I'm writing a book about urban political power, power in cities. I said, if I ever have - remember; I was broke. My editor had told me no one was going to read this book. I said, if I ever could do another book, I'd like to do national political power, and I'd like to do it through Lyndon Johnson.

Well, as it happens, I say, well, my publisher isn't going to let me do that because I've signed the contract. In order to get enough money to do "The Power Broker," I had to sign a two-book contract, and the second one was to do a biography of Fiorello La Guardia, the mayor of New York. So I was starting on the La Guardia biography. I didn't want to do it.

I figured my publisher was never going to let me out when my editor, Bob Gottlieb - Robert Gottlieb - he calls me up one day. And he says - now, Bob. He says, I know you're a terrible temper. We used to have terrible fights. He said, I want you to come in. I have something I want to talk to you about, and I want you to promise me you won't lose your temper until I finish. And I said, OK.

And he says, I don't think you should do a biography of Fiorello La Guardia, and I have an idea who you should do a biography of. And it should be a biography of Lyndon Johnson. And you should do it in volume so we don't have to cut any of this stuff out. I always felt I increased my advance by some substantial sum by not saying, what a great idea - by saying, oh, I'll think about it (laughter).

DAVIES: (Laughter) OK. When I read the first volume of your series about Lyndon Johnson, which is "Path To Power," I always tell people who are daunted by reading a book as long as you write them - trust me; you will find this fascinating from Page 1.

And what you begin
...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, April 20, 2019

Ann Weisgarber

Ann Weisgarber was born and raised in Kettering, Ohio. She has lived in Boston, Massachusetts, and Des Moines, Iowa. She is the author of The Promise and The Personal History of Rachel Dupree, which was longlisted for the Orange Prize and shortlisted for the Orange Prize for New Writers.

Weisgarber's new novel is The Glovemaker.

From her Q&A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: How did you come up with the idea for The Glovemaker, and for your character Deborah?

A: It started with a vacation in Utah’s Capitol Reef National Park and an apple. The park service maintains the orchards that were originally planted in the 1880s by white settlers, and allows visitors to pick fruit during harvest season. The apples were ripe when I was there a few years ago, and as I climbed a ladder to pick one, I thought about the people who planted the trees.

Who were they? What drove them to live is such an isolated and harsh landscape?

Haunted by these questions, I bought a few books at the Visitor Center. One of the settlers was a married woman who owned 20 acres in her own name. Doing more research, I discovered that she didn’t have children and her husband had disappeared from public records. This woman became...[read on]
Visit Ann Weisgarber's website.

My Book, The Movie: The Promise.

The Page 69 Test: The Glovemaker.

Writers Read: Ann Weisgarber.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, April 19, 2019

Chip Cheek

Chip Cheek's new novel is Cape May.

From his Q&A with David Adams:

How did you get the idea for Cape May?

I’ll give you a little bit of backstory. I come from a family of people who’ve worked on the railroad in Georgia going back to the beginning of the 20th century, and I was always interested in that. After my MFA, I began working on a novel steeped in the Jim Crow era in Georgia and drawing on stories from my family’s history. I was dealing with murder and race, all this compelling stuff, but I kept getting sidetracked by the love stories. For reasons that are lost in time now, I decided to marry two of my characters to each other and send them on a honeymoon. I was immediately transported; I wanted to stay in that world forever. But I was supposed to be writing this other novel about the railroad and Jim Crow. So I shelved it.

A couple years later, on probably my third novel attempt, the same exact thing happened again–I married two of my characters, sent them on a honeymoon. This was in the summer of 2014, after I got married. This time, I decided that the “important” novel I’d been working on was not the novel–it was this novel, the one set in Cape May. When I let go of...[read on]
Visit Chip Cheek's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, April 18, 2019

Lia Purpura

Lia Purpura’s new collection of essays is All the Fierce Tethers (Sarabande Books). Her most recent collection of poems is It Shouldn’t Have Been Beautiful (Viking/Penguin.) She is the author of three previous collections of poems (King Baby, Stone Sky Lifting, The Brighter the Veil); three previous collections of essays (Rough Likeness, On Looking, Increase), and one collection of translations (Poems of Grzegorz Musial: Berliner Tagebuch & Taste of Ash).

From her Q&A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: How was the book's title (also the title of one of the essays) chosen, and what does it signify for you?

A: In this moment, to recognize the ways we’re all tethered to each other and to others, the land, the elements that sustain us all and are in themselves alive and sentient is, to my mind, the most urgent project we’re engaged in.

If we are to live together with some sense of equity and justice, if we are to sustain varied communities (and not monocultures of any kind) and see those variations as necessary, then the tethers between us must be recognized not as gossamer and fragile but...[read on]
Writers Read: Lia Purpura (April 2010).

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, April 17, 2019

Rich Karlgaard

Rich Karlgaard is the author of Late Bloomers: The Power of Patience in a World Obsessed with Early Achievement.

From the transcript of his interview with NPR's Rachel Martin:

MARTIN: So in the book, it's not like you're saying don't celebrate these people who we see doing incredibly remarkable things at young ages. We can do that. It's just that we also need to celebrate people for whom success comes later.

KARLGAARD: Well, absolutely. Now, here where I live in Silicon Valley, it's kind of ground central for putting pressure on teens and young adults because there are so many examples of young adults who have gone out and done tremendous things, whether it's the two founders of Google, whether it's Mark Zuckerberg at Facebook.

MARTIN: Right.

KARLGAARD: The pressure that this is putting on kids, teens and parents is incredible. So this pressure cooker and this idea that we're putting kids on a conveyor belt - they're supposed to trade their youthful curiosity for determined focus - is having on the whole, I believe, a very bad outcome. And that's why...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, April 16, 2019

Crystal King

Crystal King is a novelist, editor, professor, social media professional, and critical & creative thinker.

Her debut novel, Feast of Sorrow, is about Marcus Gavius Apicius, the man whose name is on the world’s oldest known cookbook.

Her new novel, The Chef's Secret, is a story about a famous Italian Renaissance chef, Bartolomeo Scappi, who was the cuoco segreto (private cook) to several Popes.

From King's Q&A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: How did you learn about 16th century chef Bartolomeo Scappi, and why did you decide to write a novel based on his life?

A: When I was doing research for Feast of Sorrow and wanted to understand more about the ancient Roman gourmand Apicius, I kept coming across the name Bartolomeo Scappi as one of the most important chefs in the history of Italian cuisine.

I picked up the cookbook more out of curiosity than anything else. But I found that the cookbook is very readable and there is a lot of really fascinating information about the various regions where the food is from and about Bartolomeo's employers in the papal kitchen, and the various cardinals he worked for.

But there's not much about him and his life. There's a few small details like his nephew and apprentice, Giovanni, worked for him, and we know about the banquets that he created for his wealthy employers. But we don't have any idea where he lived or how much money he made or if he was in love or if he had any children. And...[read on]
Visit Crystal King's website.

The Page 69 Test: Feast of Sorrow.

Writers Read: Crystal King (March 2019).

The Page 69 Test: The Chef's Secret.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, April 15, 2019

Erin Lee Carr

Erin Lee Carr is a New York-based director, producer and writer. Her memoir is All That You Leave Behind.

From the transcript of the author's NPR interview with Scott Simon:

SIMON: I have thought in my mind if there's a nice way to phrase this, and I'm afraid I can't, so let me try anyway, OK? Addiction damn near killed your mother and your father, and it damn near ruined the lives of you and your sister. Wasn't that enough to warn you away from drinking?

CARR: I think it's a good question. I think that there's, one, a genetic component to this. But the first time I tried cocaine, it really felt like a part of my DNA had been completed. And later, I realized because that's how my life started. That would make complete sense.

So what I can offer you is what I learned about my dad through what he told me, through "The Night Of The Gun" - it did stop me at certain moments from really developing the addiction into something that was like his. Like, I was really lucky that not only was there this really intense example of what addiction looked like, there was what sobriety looked like. You know, for me, I need to be very clear that for the majority of my life, my father was a sober man.

SIMON: You talk in the book - you did find sobriety hard.

CARR: Yes. I mean, the...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, April 14, 2019

Marcia Butler

Marcia Butler has had a number of creative careers: professional musician, interior designer, documentary filmmaker, and author. As an oboist, the New York Times has hailed her as a “first rate artist.” During her musical career, she performed as a principal oboist and soloist on the most renowned of New York and international stages, with many high-profile musicians and orchestras – including pianist Andre Watts, and composer/pianist Keith Jarrett. Her interior designs projects have been published in numerous shelter magazines and range up and down the East coast, from NYC to Boston, to Miami. The Creative Imperative, her documentary film exploring the essence of creativity, will release in Spring 2019.

Butler’s nationally acclaimed memoir, The Skin Above My Knee, was one of the Washington Post’s “top ten noteworthy moments in classical music in 2017.”

Butler's debut novel is Pickle's Progress.

From her Q&A with Caroline Leavitt:

Q) What inspired you to write this story about twins and complicated family relationships? How does their relationship exemplify the themes or messages you wanted to examine?

A) A few things came together for me when I began this novel. The surface inspiration was a set of identical twin sisters I knew from college days. One of them had just become engaged and confided in me that she was worried that her fiancé was attracted to her sister, who appeared virtually indistinguishable. She summoned the courage to ask him and he denied any attraction whatsoever. She felt reassured and relived. (They are still married!) Yet, I remained suspect; how could he not be attracted to the sister? This notion became the territory which I then explored more deeply in my novel regarding nature vs. nurture in family of origin.

Another influence inserted itself into Pickle McArdle’s character and story line in an almost stealth way. I recognized this only after the book was complete. This is an example of how the author will most assuredly insert some aspect of herself because she is writing from her personal psychological prism, and cannot help doing so. I came from a large family with five children and was always painfully aware that I was not the favored child. And it became my childhood mission to...[read on]
Visit Marcia Butler's website.

The Page 99 Test: The Skin Above My Knee.

My Book, The Movie: The Skin Above My Knee.

The Page 69 Test: Pickle's Progress.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, April 13, 2019

Lydia Fitzpatrick

Lydia Fitzpatrick's new novel is Lights All Night Long.

From her Q&A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: You note that your protagonist Ilya was originally supposed to be a minor character in the novel. Why did you end up making him the focus of the book?

A: Sadie was the protagonist of the novel’s first few incarnations (there have been many!), and Ilya was a minor character meant to capture her attention briefly.

I’m generally resistant to the mystification of the writing process (maybe the muse was more apt to sing pre-Internet?), but the moment Ilya appeared on the page did feel charged.

I normally write exposition long and scenes short, but the scene when he and Sadie met went on and on, it became unwieldy and awkward, because, I realized, I didn’t want Ilya to leave the story. I wanted to know what had brought him from Russia to Louisiana, who he’d left behind, and in exploring his past, I found...[read on]
Visit Lydia Fitzpatrick's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, April 12, 2019

Bret Easton Ellis

Brett Easton Ellis's new book is White.

From his Q&A with Isaac Chotiner at The New Yorker:

You have a section in your book where you talk about President Trump’s comment about Mexicans being rapists. And then you have another section where you talk about Michelle Obama being “breathlessly condescending” when she said, “When they go low, we go high.” I am trying to understand why one of those things sets you off and the other you seem kind of neutral about.

You know, I think “sets me off” suggests that I am enraged, and I think the voice in the book is pretty chill and neutral. And what I am talking about is all in context. With the Trump thing, that is true. He said that once, in his very first speech, and didn’t say it again, and there were people who had picked up on it and were still repeating it a year or two years later. Without putting that in context, yeah, I guess that bothered me.

O.K., but Trump says lots of racist things. We can all agree on that, right?

[Pauses] Sure.

So he says lots of racist things. This thing was only said once. Why does people being upset about it, or people being upset about the fact that we have a President who regularly says bigoted things, bother you?

No, no, no, no, no. That just twisted up what I meant.

Tell me what you meant.

You think I am defending a racist.

No, I asked why liberals repeating Trump’s remark about Mexican immigrants being rapists bothers you so much.

Because it didn’t seem to be truthful, and it seemed to be exaggerated and said over and over again. You think I am defending Trump somehow? I am bothered by people using that one thing two years later.

There are a lot of things to get angry about: children being separated from their parents, Trump saying nice things about marchers in Charlottesville. What is it that bothers you about this?

You do know that plenty of people don’t think that? You do understand that?

Don’t think what?

Don’t think all these things you are saying about Charlottesville. What does he have, a ninety-three-per-cent approval rating, or, let’s say, a hundred per cent, from his base? Let’s say it is, over-all, way up, from thirty-eight per cent to fifty per cent, or even higher. And let’s say Latinos are now fifty-per-cent approval for Trump.

That’s not true, but O.K.

Well, whatever.

I am looking at the FiveThirtyEight average. He is at forty-two per cent.

O.K., but whatever. There is another side of the aisle.

I am not arguing that people don’t support him. You aren’t denying Trump says racist things regularly. I am just trying to understand why liberal opposition to Trump bothers you so much.

I don’t know if he does think racist things so regularly. I...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, April 11, 2019

Steven Rowley

Steven Rowley is the author of The Editor.

From his Q&A with Jennifer Rubins for the Penguin Random House Audio blog:

Who is the most challenging character you’ve written and why?

Jacqueline Onassis, without a doubt. Not only was she a living, breathing person, she’s someone I have enormous respect for. I never wanted it to feel like I was using her as a gimmick to attract eyes to my story—she deserves better. I wanted her to have real narrative purpose, to drive the action of the story. On top of that, she’s so incredibly well known; everyone is going to have an opinion on how she sounds and appears. What little leeway I had stemmed from how private she was during this extraordinary third act in her life. She only granted one interview during her entire career in publishing. This made research a challenge, but fortunately there are several books on her time as an editor and I was able to speak to people who had met and worked with her. Additionally, I read several of the books she had edited around the time of my story to inhabit some of the topics that interested her, and to imagine what might have been on her professional mind. From there, I...[read on]
Visit Steven Rowley's website.

Coffee with a Canine: Steven Rowley & Tilda Swinton.

My Book, The Movie: Lily and the Octopus.

Writers Read: Steven Rowley (June 2016).

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, April 10, 2019

Elliot Ackerman

Elliot Ackerman is the author of Waiting for Eden.

From his Q&A with Deborah Kalb:

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

A: The book started with the first line, “I want you to understand Mary and what she did …” The only thing was that I didn’t know at that point what Mary had done, only that her husband, Eden, was in this debilitated state in the hospital. I also didn’t know who the narrator was, there was just this voice.

The novel then became a series of questions: Who is Mary? What did she do and why? And who is this narrator who is pleading with us to understand her? Often that’s how my books get started, with a question.

Q: At what point did you decide who would narrate the story?

A: Early on, I knew that I wanted this book to feel very intimate. I understood the book’s mood immediately and such intimacy usually lends itself to a first person narrator.

But the set up of the book caused all these problems with...[read on]
Visit Elliot Ackerman's website.

The Page 69 Test: Green on Blue.

My Book, The Movie: Green on Blue.

My Book, The Movie: Dark at the Crossing.

The Page 69 Test: Dark at the Crossing.

Writers Read: Elliot Ackerman (February 2017).

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, April 9, 2019

Ron Rapoport

Ron Rapoport is the author of Let's Play Two: The Legend of Mr. Cub, the Life of Ernie Banks. From the transcript of his interview with NPR's Scott Simon:

SIMON: You tried to do a book with Ernie Banks, didn't you?

RAPOPORT: I did. We had long conversations about all kinds of things - growing up in segregated Dallas, missing school for a whole year to pick cotton with his dad, playing with Buck O'Neil in the Negro Leagues, coming to those awful Cub teams, fighting with Leo Durocher, his problems with his family and getting adjusted to life after baseball.

I was really excited about it, and then he pulled the plug. Scott, I could've strangled him. He decided he didn't want to do it. So I decided that we would turn it into a biography. And I talked to more than a hundred people.

SIMON: You pointed out and may have discovered the reasons why he didn't talk about himself a lot, which we should explain is exactly what those of us who are fans usually want someone like Ernie Banks to do.

RAPOPORT: Well, people would talk to Ernie. And they'd say, my golly, I had a chance to talk to my childhood hero. What a thrill. And then they'd pause a minute and say...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, April 8, 2019

Shelley Sackier

Shelley Sackier is the author of The Freemason's Daughter, Dear Opl, and the recently released The Antidote.

From her Q&A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: How did you create the world you write about in The Antidote?

A: Sometimes I feel I spend more time on researching my books than I do actually penning the story. But this is where I feel most creatively inspired. I seek out books, experts, and places within the world that will formulate a setting which is the ground where I plant my narrative seeds.

It feels rather effortless to choose a canvas where the sphere of the story will unfold, as long as I pursue those old textbooks, or hedge witches, or biologists, or crumbling castles and steep myself within them. The world is rich with hidden realms waiting to be discovered. I love the...[read on]
Visit Shelley Sackier's website.

Coffee with a Canine: Shelley Sackier & Haggis.

My Book, The Movie: The Antidote.

The Page 69 Test: The Antidote.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, April 7, 2019

William Boyle

William Boyle's new novel is A Friend Is a Gift You Give Yourself.

From his Q&A with Scott Montgomery at MysteryPeople:

MysteryPeople Scott: Rena and Wolfstein are such unique characters. How did they come into mind for the book?

William Boyle: A Friend Is a Gift You Give Yourself started for me when my neighbor in Brooklyn told my mother and me a story about being invited over to our other neighbor’s house on the corner. When she got over to his house, he put on a porno movie and made a move on her. She left immediately, rushing home to her apartment. My brain was lit up with what ifs. What if she’d lashed out at him? What if she was a former mob wife, now a widow, who had felt protected her whole life but no longer had that sense of safety? My brain went there because the apartment she now lived in, the same one I had grown up in, was where the gangster Gaspipe Casso lived for years. What if, on top of that, she was intensely lonely, estranged from her daughter and granddaughter? That’s how Rena Ruggiero came to be.

The character of Lacey Wolfstein grew out of my desire to explore someone who was the polar opposite of Rena in so many ways: someone who had depended on friendship her whole life, someone who had lived hand to mouth, who had flown by the seat of her pants, who had been daring and wild and who could teach Rena to see the world in new ways. I’d always been fascinated by adult film star Lisa De Leeuw, who faded into obscurity and then disappeared, the legend being that she’d used dying of AIDS as a cover to assume a new identity and exist off the grid. I wanted to imagine an alternate history for someone like her, someone who had...[read on]
Visit William Boyle's website.

My Book, The Movie: Gravesend and The Lonely Witness.

The Page 69 Test: Gravesend and The Lonely Witness.

Writers Read: William Boyle (September 2018).

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, April 6, 2019

Madeline Miller

Madeline Miller was born in Boston and grew up in New York City and Philadelphia. She attended Brown University, where she earned her BA and MA in Classics. She has taught and tutored Latin, Greek and Shakespeare to high school students for more than fifteen years.

She has also studied at the University of Chicago’s Committee on Social Thought, and in the Dramaturgy department at Yale School of Drama, where she focused on the adaptation of classical texts to modern forms.

The Song of Achilles, her first novel, was awarded the 2012 Orange Prize for Fiction and was a New York Times bestseller. It has been translated into over twenty-five languages including Dutch, Mandarin, Japanese, Turkish, Arabic and Greek. Miller was also shortlisted for the 2012 Stonewall Writer of the Year, and her essays have appeared in a number of publications including the Guardian, Wall Street Journal, Lapham's Quarterly and NPR.org.

Miller's second novel, Circe, was an instant #1 New York Times bestseller.

From her response to prompts at the Guardian:

The books that changed my life

There are many. Homer’s The Iliad and The Odyssey are the obvious answers. Virgil’s Aeneid was so profound and exciting it moved me from nerdy enthusiasm to actual classical scholarship. Isabel Allende’s The House of the Spirits showed me that books can fill you with both rage and awe. Lorrie Moore’s witty precision made me want to be a writer. And Shakespeare: directing his plays taught me so much of what I know about storytelling.

The book I wish I’d written

Books are too personal to be able to swap writers, I think. Still, Lily King’s Father of the Rain.

The book that is most overrated

I usually have...[read on]
Visit Madeline Miller's website.

See Madeline Miller's top ten classical books.

My Book, The Movie: The Song of Achilles.

Writers Read: Madeline Miller (May 2018).

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, April 5, 2019

Samantha Downing

Samantha Downing currently lives in New Orleans, where she is furiously typing away on her next thrilling standalone.

My Lovely Wife is her first novel.

From Downing's Q&A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: How did you come up with the idea for My Lovely Wife, and for your character Millicent and her husband?

A: It began with a documentary about a couple who kidnapped a woman and held her captive. The idea grew from there, as I tried to imagine what kind of woman would do this, and why? How would they do it and get away with it? How could they have jobs, raise children, all while hiding this dark secret?

As I started to write the book, the suburban life of this family became a real part of the story. There are a lot of elements people will recognize…and others they definitely won’t!

Q: Did you know how the novel would end before you started writing it, or did you change things around as you wrote?

A: I had...[read on]
Visit Samantha Downing's website.

The Page 69 Test: My Lovely Wife.

Writers Read: Samantha Downing.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, April 4, 2019

Pete Buttigieg

Pete Buttigieg, born in Indiana in 1982, is currently serving his second term as mayor of South Bend. A dynamic national lecturer and TEDx speaker, as well as a Rhodes Scholar and Navy veteran, Buttigieg was educated at Harvard and Oxford. He and his husband, Chasten Glezman, live in South Bend, Indiana.

His new book is Shortest Way Home: One Mayor's Challenge and a Model for America's Future.

From Buttigieg's Q&A with David Remnick for The New Yorker:

David Remnick: Mr. Mayor, I have to begin with a kind of good-news, sort of bad-news question. One day after Barack Obama met, that one time, with Donald Trump, I had an interview with the outgoing President, in the Oval Office. It went for a couple of hours. The White House was like a funeral parlor. We talked a long time about the election just past. And, at one point, I said, “Mr. President, what do you have on the bench? What does the Democratic Party have on the bench?” And he did a long kind of Obamaian pause, and then he said, “Well, there’s Kamala Harris, in California.” And I think he kind of made a routine mention of Tim Kaine, and then he said, “And then there’s that guy in South Bend, Indiana. The mayor. I think he was a Rhodes Scholar,” he said, and then he couldn’t quite place the name, or maybe he didn’t dare try to pronounce it. What’s been your relationship with Barack Obama?

Pete Buttigieg: You know, I first spent a little time with him when he travelled to South Bend. He was on his way to Elkhart—Elkhart County, as you know, the R.V. capital of the country, and something of a bellwether economically, and went through horrible circumstances in the Great Recession. And so he was coming toward the end of his Presidency, to take a bit of a victory lap and remind everybody how successful the auto rescue had been, because Elkhart was doing great by the end of his term, and they had arranged for me to spend some time with him in the vehicle as he went from South Bend airport over to Elkhart—about a half-hour that we got to chat. It’s the only time in my life I wished that commute would be longer instead of shorter. And that was the first time, other than a handshake or a photo, that I’d really visited with him. But really, you know, obviously, I admire him, and really admired a lot of...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, April 3, 2019

Valerie Jarrett

Valerie Jarrett was the longest serving senior adviser to President Barack Obama. Her new book is Finding My Voice: My Journey to the West Wing and the Path Forward.

From her Q&A with Isaac Chotiner at The New Yorker:

How did your idea of political power change between when you arrived at the White House, in 2009, and when you finished serving, eight years later?

Let’s begin with some fundamentals that I think are the same. The power doesn’t come from the top down—it comes from the bottom up. One of the reasons why I’m glad that I started in local government is that you are very proximate to the people you serve. It’s not about you—it’s about them, and they remind you of that all the time. One of the many reasons why I was attracted to joining President Obama’s Administration is that he had that same perspective he had when he was a community organizer.

What I was unprepared for when I arrived in Washington—and it took me a good while to figure out—is that the Republicans were willing, in the middle of the worst economic crisis of our lifetime, to put their short-term political interests ahead of what was good for the country. When President Obama was a senator in Springfield, even a junior senator, he had this ability to work across the aisle. That was a strategy that he employed and that we all followed when we first arrived in Washington, and we hit a wall. I was not prepared for that, and that took some getting used to. He tried a thousand different ways to get them to come around.

If this had been clear to you and everyone in the Administration on January 20, 2009, what do you think you could have done differently?

I think we would have...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, April 2, 2019

Phaedra Patrick

Phaedra Patrick's new novel is The Library of Lost and Found.

From her Q&A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: How did you come up with the idea for The Library of Lost and Found, and for your character Martha?

A: Libraries have always been a big inspiration for me, when I was growing up and now, still. As a child, I remember going to the library each Saturday and sitting down on the carpet to look at all the gorgeous books. I think I knew from an early age that I wanted to write books too, and to see my own work sitting on the shelves.

When I started to write The Library of Lost and Found, I had an image in my head of a small library perched on top of a hill, overlooking the crashing waves of the sea. I was also influenced by my childhood love of fairy stories, and the two came together nicely.

The inspiration for Martha’s character came from...[read on]
Visit Phaedra Patrick's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, April 1, 2019

Roxana Robinson

Roxana Robinson’s forthcoming novel is Dawson's Fall.

From her Q&A with Annasue McCleave Wilson at Publishers Weekly:

You address contemporary issues—addiction, PTSD—in your recent work. Why move to historical fiction?

The impetus for my fiction is something that confuses and disturbs me; here I wanted to explore the subject of slavery in America and my own family’s connection to it. The subject existed in the past, so that’s where I had to go to write about it. I think of this as rich and complicated literary terrain, the setting for great historical novels like Wolf Hall, Beloved, and War and Peace. It makes immediacy more difficult. But since my family was a source, I had direct access to their experience, both through their archive and also through the culture that families pass down to their descendants. And, as in all my novels, I was exploring the moral consequences of ...[read on]
Visit Roxana Robinson’s website.

The Page 69 Test: Cost.

My Book, The Movie: Cost.

The Page 69 Test: Sparta.

Writers Read: Roxana Robinson (June 2013).

--Marshal Zeringue