Wednesday, July 31, 2019

Claire Lombardo

Claire Lombardo earned her MFA in fiction at the Iowa Writers’ Workshop. She was born and raised in Oak Park, Illinois. The Most Fun We Ever Had is her debut novel.

From Lombardo's Q&A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: In a review in The Guardian, Hannah Beckerman wrote, "If ever there were to be a literary love child of Jonathan Franzen and Anne Tyler, then Claire Lombardo’s outstanding debut, which ranges from ebullience to despair by way of caustic but intense familial bonds, would be a worthy offspring." What do you think of that assessment?

A: I’m a huge fan of both, so I’m entirely star-struck and flattered beyond compare! Both Franzen and Tyler write the kind of fiction I’ve always aspired to—character driven, patient, and generous, with healthy doses of dark humor and earnestness.

One of my favorite Anne Tyler novels is The Amateur Marriage, and while the central relationship in that book is very different than the marriage at the center of Most Fun, it does so beautifully the thing I’m constantly striving for as a writer—it gives the reader the sensation of existing within another family, privy to the conflicting thoughts and egos and perceptions and insecurities and grudges of its members.

And The Corrections is really just...[read on]
Visit Claire Lombardo's website.

The Page 69 Test: The Most Fun We Ever Had.

Writers Read: Claire Lombardo.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, July 30, 2019

Louisa Treger

Louisa Treger's new novel is The Dragon Lady.

From her Q&A with Barbara at Women Writers, Women's Books:

What inspired you to write The Dragon Lady? How much research was involved?

The Dragon Lady began with a question from a friend. ‘Have you seen Zimbabwe’s secret Monet?’ The painting was allegedly hidden in the vaults of the National Gallery of Zimbabwe to keep it safe from Robert Mugabe, who was then President.

My mother was born in South Africa, so I have strong roots in that part of the world, and on a trip to Harare I managed to access a few of the ‘secret’ paintings. There was no Monet, but I did see works by Rembrandt and Durer, donated to the Gallery by Sir Stephen Courtauld and his wife, Virginia [Lady Virginia ‘Ginie’ Courtauld AKA "The Dragon Lady"]. My curiosity was well and truly piqued and I began to research them. The more I found out, the more I became convinced that theirs was a fascinating untold story.

Quite a lot of research was involved, including a trip to the Courtaulds’ house in Zimbabwe, where I slept in Virginia’s room and discovered a ghost on the...[read on]
Visit Louisa Treger's website.

The Page 69 Test: The Lodger.

My Book, The Movie: The Lodger.

Writers Read: Louisa Treger (December 2014).

Coffee with a Canine: Louisa Treger & Monty.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, July 29, 2019

Lisa Grunwald

Lisa Grunwald is the author of the novels The Irresistible Henry House, Whatever Makes You Happy, New Year’s Eve, The Theory of Everything, Summer, and the newly released Time After Time. Along with her husband, Reuters Editor-in-Chief Stephen J. Adler, she has edited the bestselling anthologies Women’s Letters and Letters of the Century. Grunwald is a former contributing editor to Life and a former features editor of Esquire. She and Adler live in New York City.

From Grunwald's Q&A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: What was the inspiration for Time After Time, and for your characters Joe and Nora?

A: This novel started with a story I found in another book, specifically a book called Grand Central, which was written in 1946. There was a ghost story in there—a fairly classic ghost story, as it turned out. But I’d never heard it before.

A young woman shows up at the gold clock in Grand Central early in the morning, lost and confused. A gateman offers to walk her home, but she disappears on the way. Worried about what’s happened to her, he continues to the address she’d given him and rings the doorbell. An old woman answers and says “This happens every year. That was my niece. She died in a gas explosion 35 years ago.”

I was working on something else at the time, but I couldn’t get this story out of my head, and I started to wonder what it would be like to write about a ghost in Grand Central.

Then I had lunch with a friend of mine, an architect and historian named James Sanders. He remembered the book Grand Central, and specifically a passage that described what sunrise was like inside the terminal on several special days of the year. He proceeded to explain Manhattanhenge to me...[read on]
Visit Lisa Grunwald's website.

The Page 69 Test: Time After Time.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, July 28, 2019

Cara Black

Cara Black's newest novel featuring private investigator Aimée Leduc is Murder in Bel-Air.

From Black's interview with Molly Odintz at CrimeReads:

Aimée Leduc’s mother was absent for much of the series; in your latest, she’s now returned to Paris to form a relationship with her daughter and granddaughter, but still struggles with domesticity. What’s your inspiration for her character, and what needs to happen (without giving anything away) to repair Aimee and her mother’s fraught connection?

Aimée and her mother, an American who may or may not have ties to the CIA and left Aimée’s father to raise her by himself, have a fragile relationship. Aimée doesn’t really know her, so this is new territory for both of them.

I was afraid readers might think my mother had been a spy–she’d turn in her grave if that happened—so I wrote a reader’s note as a way to explanation that Sidney Leduc is not based on my own mother. It’s funny what conclusions people will come to! Aimée’s mother Sydney is a woman who, for Aimée’s safety, left her in the care of her father when she was put in prison and stayed out of her life to protect her. Aimée has a hard time accepting that so...[read on]
The Page 69 Test: Murder at the Lanterne Rouge.

My Book, the Movie: Murder at the Lanterne Rouge.

The Page 69 Test: Murder below Montparnasse.

The Page 69 Test: Murder in Pigalle.

My Book, The Movie: Murder in Pigalle.

My Book, The Movie: Murder on the Champ de Mars.

Writers Read: Cara Black (June 2018).

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, July 27, 2019

Laura Benedict

Laura Benedict is the Edgar- and ITW Thriller Award- nominated author of seven novels of suspense, including the recently released The Stranger Inside. On the lighter side of mystery, Benedict wrote Small Town Trouble, a cozy crime novel, for the Familiar Legacy series. Her Bliss House gothic trilogy includes: The Abandoned Heart, Charlotte’s Story (Booklist starred review), and Bliss House. Her short fiction has appeared in Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine, and in numerous anthologies like Thrillers: 100 Must-Reads, The Lineup: 20 Provocative Women Writers, and St. Louis Noir. A native of Cincinnati, she lives in Southern Illinois with her family.

From Benedict's Q&A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: How did you come up with the idea for The Stranger Inside, and for your character Kimber?

The Stranger Inside came from several places: my frequent nightmares about strangers trying to get into my house (occasional zombies, too), my general paranoia, and so many news stories about people whose houses end up being occupied by strangers while they're on vacation, in the hospital, or have listed an unoccupied house for sale. It's often difficult to evict these criminals, which is one of the reasons Kimber's story gets complicated.

I love complex characters. A protagonist who is a good person with only slight or non-tragic flaws is dull to write, which is why my novels often challenge readers' expectations of a protagonist's assumed righteousness. Kimber isn't just a victim of a random crime. She's something more. The book is as much about her as...[read on]
Visit Laura Benedict's website.

The Page 69 Test: Bliss House.

The Page 69 Test: The Abandoned Heart.

The Page 69 Test: The Stranger Inside.

Writers Read: Laura Benedict (February 2019).

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, July 26, 2019

Laura Lippman

Laura Lippman was a reporter for twenty years, including twelve years at The (Baltimore) Sun. She began writing novels while working full-time and published seven books about “accidental PI” Tess Monaghan before leaving daily journalism in 2001.

Her work has been awarded the Edgar ®, the Anthony, the Agatha, the Shamus, the Nero Wolfe, Gumshoe and Barry awards.

Lippman's new novel is Lady in the Lake.

From her Q&A with Eva Jurczyk for The Rumpus:

Rumpus: Do you think there’s fear of writing female characters who are unlikable?

Lippman: I think the trick is that you want to create human characters but you don’t want to fall into these patriarchal traps of the woman as a nag, the woman as a bitch, the woman as bossy. I think the smartest female writers I know are trying to figure out that middle path between the perfect character and the character who has flaws in this old-fashioned, sitcom kind of way. Gillian Flynn really threw down the gauntlet when she created Amy in Gone Girl. That’s a pretty hard character. There’s nothing to like about her. But she’s full, and she’s complete, and she’s interesting, and she very much owns her agenda and what she’s doing. I think that raised the bar a lot. A lot of women who were working in crime fiction, didn’t go out necessarily and create characters in the vein of Amy but they’re like, if my character can’t have blood on her hands, if my character can’t make mistakes, if my character is the perfect person who daintily steps through the plot and ties everything together and makes everyone feel good about themselves, is that the kind of book I want to be writing?

Speaking only for myself, that’s really uninteresting to me. When I wrote series fiction about Tess Monaghan, who still pops up here and there, she was always really imperfect. And not imperfect in that fake way, you know the fake imperfection you sometimes find in female characters. They’re like, “Oh I forgot to put my lipstick on before I left the house.” She was truly imperfect. She was impulsive. She was cranky. She wasn’t always kind to people. And she could be quite tactless. And that was always very...[read on]
Visit Laura Lippman's website.

The Page 69 Test: Another Thing to Fall.

The Page 69 Test: What the Dead Know.

The Page 69 Test/Page 99 Test: Life Sentences.

The Page 69 Test: I'd Know You Anywhere.

The Page 69 Test: The Most Dangerous Thing.

The Page 69 Test: Hush Hush.

The Page 69 Test: Wilde Lake.

My Book, the Movie: Wilde Lake.

The Page 69 Test: Sunburn.

The Page 69 Test: Lady in the Lake.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, July 25, 2019

Susan Richards Shreve

Susan Richards Shreve's newest book is More News Tomorrow.

From her Q&A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: How did you come up with the idea for More News Tomorrow, and for your cast of characters?

A: One early morning, I was in our attic looking through my mother’s photographs and came upon a lovely one of my grandparents whom I never knew. They are sitting in a rowboat on a lake in front of the boys’ camp which my grandfather owned in northern Wisconsin. On the back of the picture, my mother had written Ollie and Helen, Camp Minnie HaHa, 1909. By the time I went downstairs to make coffee, a story was emerging in my head about a boys’ camp director in northern Wisconsin who confesses to murdering his wife at a camping site. He is sent to state prison, leaving their only child who is four years old.

The characters emerged slowly but I knew the camp director needed to have a point of view when the event occurs in 1941. The circumstances of the story required that I discover what happens to the child who is left knowing the repercussions of that event would not be known until years later and would likely define the lives of a family.

Then Thomas surfaced, the 13-year-old prescient outsider—who writes a journal of his family’s trip to the site of the crime. I began with...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, July 24, 2019

Kimi Eisele

Kimi Eisele's new novel is The Lightest Object in the Universe.

From the author's Q&A with Caroline Leavitt:

What I so loved about this novel is that even though it’s marked as dystopian, it didn’t really read that way to me. It seemed more real, more ground in human drama, and that was part of my delirious delight in it. Was this your intent?

Before I began the book, we lost a dear family friend to cancer. We visited her husband in New York City from time to time. One evening he excused himself from the table to call to someone in California he’d met through an organization that connected bereaved spouses for phone conversations. I don’t think it was a romantic connection, but I was struck by the intimacy of it, and how he was finding comfort there. Sorrow is solitary but often what keeps us going is human connection.

Also, I had worked with a lot of young activists and recognized their zeal for wanting to make the world more just. I began to wonder what would happen if the chipping away at dominant structures actually worked. What would the activists do if the world they wanted to topple actually toppled? That felt like a personal question as much as a political one.

I was less interested in the mechanism of collapse than I was in how a shared catastrophe might bring make us kinder—or not—towards one another. I thought a lot about the personal losses we experience in life—deaths, of course, but other disappointments and failings also—and wondered how those losses would be re-scaled in the wake of a national or global unraveling. It seemed unlikely that personal grief would dim. But maybe it could expand in some kind of...[read on]
Visit Kimi Eisele's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, July 23, 2019

Annie Ward

Annie Ward has a BA in English Literature from UCLA and a MFA in Screenwriting from the American Film Institute. Her first short screenplay, Strange Habit, starring Adam Scott was an official selection of the Sundance Film Festival and the Grand Jury Award winner at the Aspen Film Festival. She has received a Fulbright Scholarship and An Escape to Create Artists residency. She lives in Kansas with her family.

Ward's new novel is Beautiful Bad.

From her Q&A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: How did you come up with the idea for Beautiful Bad, and for your characters Madeline and Ian?

A: It was a long process, sometimes painful. I didn’t come up with the idea for Beautiful Bad--in the form in which it exists today—-until I’d completed several drafts of a very different book.

The original manuscript that I set out to write was a memoir called The British Bodyguard. It was heavily focused on my husband’s experiences working in close protection in the British army. Spending 16 years in places like Rwanda, Bosnia, and Iraq can take quite a toll on a person and I didn’t shy away from depicting the difficulties that came along with being married to a former soldier.

It was pretty raw and candid. My agent suggested I fictionalize it. I didn’t like that idea at the time. I was very personally invested in the memoir. It was heart-breaking but I abandoned the project.

It wasn’t until a few years later that my husband and I were talking about it and he joked, “The problem with the memoir was that everyone was waiting to see which of one of us was going to kill the other first.” It was at that moment that I finally had the idea to turn Beautiful Bad into the dark, domestic drama that eventually hit the shelves.

Maddie and Ian evolved out of characters that were based on me and my husband. I threw in a lot of lies, deceit, and madness and the result was a psychological thriller with...[read on]
Visit Annie Ward's website.

The Page 69 Test: Beautiful Bad.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, July 22, 2019

Kevin M. Kruse and Julian E. Zelizer

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

From their Daily Beast Q&A with Scott Porch:

The last two presidents have been a mixed-race professor with a Muslim name and an openly racist reality TV host. Are we at a point where history doesn’t offer much guidance for what comes next?

KRUSE: We’re historians. Our training is in hindsight. In a lot of ways, Trump does recall past presidential candidates. George Wallace is somebody who always comes to mind when I watch a Trump rally. You can look at what Pat Buchanan’s run did to the Republican Party as a precursor to Trumpism. What’s happening with social media builds on what happened with the internet and with cable TV before that and with talk radio before that.

We’re off the chart in a lot of ways, but we seem to be coming back to topics we’ve seen before. The question of what to do about the many misdeeds of the Trump administration leads back to the impeachment of Bill Clinton and to Watergate before that. I think it’s useful to use the past examples as a guide for what might come next.

A lot of what’s off the chart comes from Donald Trump.

ZELIZER: Even in the things that seem the most remarkable or unprecedented, we are trying in the book to provide some historical foundation for those changes. How do you have a president who breaks with norms and institutions? There are things that are very unique to him, but we have a lot in the book about how the Tea Party generation of Republicans—like government shutdowns—created room in the party for a president who...[read on]
Visit Kevin M. Kruse's website and Julian E. Zelizer's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, July 21, 2019

Colm Tóibín

Colm Tóibín is an award-winning Irish writer of fiction, nonfiction and poetry. His latest book is Mad, Bad and Dangerous to Know: The Fathers of Wilde, Yeats and Joyce.

From the author's Q&A with Lisa O’Kelly for the Guardian:

When did you get the idea to write a book about the fathers of Joyce, Yeats and Wilde?

It began with an invite from Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia, to give the 2017 Ellmann lectures, which are in honour of Richard Ellmann, the great American critic and biographer of Joyce, Yeats and Wilde. I started to think about all three writers and because I had loved that book of Yeats’s father’s letters [Letters to His Son WB Yeats and Others, 1869-1922 by John Butler Yeats]. I started to think of them in relation to their fathers and decided that would be my subject. By the time I had written the lectures, I found myself having nearly written a book.

Fathers and mothers are often at the heart of your work...

I am interested in families and what family does. It’s not as though I make a deliberate decision to write about it, it just comes up in book after book. Even in the novel I am writing, it’s...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, July 20, 2019

Courtney Maum

Courtney Maum is the author of the novels Costalegre, Touch, I Am Having So Much Fun Here Without You, and the handbook Before and After the Book Deal: A writer’s guide to finishing, publishing, promoting, and surviving your first book, forthcoming from Catapult. Her writing has been widely published in such outlets as BuzzFeed; the New York Times; O, the Oprah Magazine; and Poets & Writers. She is the founder of the learning collaborative, The Cabins, and she also runs a service called “The Query Doula” where she helps writers prepare their manuscripts and query letters for an agent’s eyes.

From Maum's Q&A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: Why did you decide to write a novel based on the lives of art collector Peggy Guggenheim and her daughter, Pegeen?

A: I was originally researching Peggy Guggenheim for a different project, and it was in that research—reading Peggy’s memoirs and so forth—that I noticed the erasure of her daughter, Pegeen.

It wasn’t that Pegeen wasn’t in the memoirs, or that her mother denied her existence or anything, it’s just that when the topic of her daughter did come up, (which was rarely), Peggy didn’t seem to ascribe much importance to her existence. Pegeen was like an accessory that Peggy remembered to wear out of the house once in a while.

This marked me. My feelings were hurt for her, for Pegeen. And I started thinking about what it would be like to have “modern art” as a rival for your mother’s love. What it would be like to be forced to move all over the world, to have your formal education halted, in order for your mother to protect the artists she most cherished.

I decided to answer these questions, to explore what life in the 1930s would have been like for...[read on]
Visit Courtney Maum's website.

The Page 69 Test: I Am Having So Much Fun Here Without You.

The Page 69 Test: Touch.

The Page 69 Test: Costalegre.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, July 19, 2019

William Boyle

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

From his Q&A with Steph Post:

What was the most difficult scene in any of your novels for you to write? How did you manage it?

There’s a scene in A Friend Is a Gift You Give Yourself that starts out as a long screwball set piece and descends into chaos and violence. That was the hardest (and yet most fun) thing I’ve ever written. There were a lot of moving parts, a lot of characters to keep track of. This was especially a challenge given that I tend to like keeping things small (“Fewer moving parts mean fewer broken pieces,” as David Bazan sings.) The other challenge there was the tonal shift from screwball comedy to violent tragedy. I studied one of my favorite films, Something Wild, to see how Jonathan Demme accomplished it so...[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

Thursday, July 18, 2019

Cate Holahan

Cate Holahan's newest book is One Little Secret.

From her Q&A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: How did you come up with the idea for One Little Secret, and for your cast of characters?

A: My two daughters, ages seven and nine, had asked to join their friends at sleepaway camp for the first time ever. Camp wasn’t something I’d experienced during childhood. So, like any good journalist-turned-over-protective mom, I began researching the heck out of various facilities in Maine.

As I journeyed down the Internet rabbit hole of camp articles, I stumbled upon a 2016 New York Post piece about parents going wild after sending their kids to camp for the summer. Reading it gave me the idea of a group of kid-free type-A parents, with lives more entangled than they realize, behaving badly and...[read on]
Visit Cate Holahan's website.

Coffee with a Canine: Cate Holahan & Westley.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, July 17, 2019

Catherine Chung

Catherine Chung was born in Evanston, IL, and grew up in New York, New Jersey, and Michigan. Writing has been her life-long passion, but as an undergraduate she indulged in a brief, one-sided affair with mathematics at the University of Chicago followed by a few years in Santa Monica working at a think tank by the sea.

Eventually she attended Cornell University for her MFA, and since then she and her books have been given shelter and encouragement from The MacDowell Colony, Jentel, Hedgebrook, SFAI, Camargo, The University of Leipzig, VCCA, UCross, Yaddo, Civitella Ranieri, The Jerome Foundation, the Ludwig Vogelstein Foundation, and the Constance Saltonstall Foundation. Her brother, Heesoo Chung, has also given her a bed and fed her lots of ice cream at criticał times.

Chung is the recipient of a National Endowment for the Arts fellowship and a Director’s Visitorship at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton. She was a Granta New Voice, and won an Honorable Mention for the PEN/Hemingway Award with her first novel, Forgotten Country, which was a Booklist, Bookpage, and San Francisco Chronicle Best Book of 2012. She has published work in The New York Times, The Rumpus, and Granta, and is a fiction editor at Guernica Magazine. She lives in New York City.

Chung's new novel is The Tenth Muse.

From her Q&A with Steph Cha for Guernica:

Guernica: The Tenth Muse is a book framed by both storytelling and math. Math problems become parables; the story of a theorem becomes the story of several lives. I’m interested in how you use these two methods of describing the world, and how you see them playing off of and interacting with each other.

Catherine Chung: The physicist Freeman Dyson once famously (among mathematicians at least) compared mathematicians to birds and frogs. He said the mathematicians who are birds survey everything from up above, and delight in mapping far vistas and getting a sense of the big picture, whereas frogs live in the mud and see the objects around them in all their tiny, complex details, and that is their understanding of the world. I’ve always thought that’s a good description of writers as well, and that the metaphor can probably extend to any field of study or kind of person. We’re all trying to understand the world from our different perspectives, from where we stand and how we look at the world—whether it’s grand and sweeping, or intimate, detailed, and granular. It’s good to remember that our individual ways of seeing the world are never the whole picture, and that, taken together, they give us a richer, more comprehensive sense of not even what the world is, but how we might apprehend it.

So I just wanted to give some sense of that in this book, to play with how the vast and the intricate are always at play in any moment. To view a life in terms of the sweep of history that encompasses it, but also at the personal level. And the ways different points of view—the mathematical and the scientific, but also the...[read on]
Visit Catherine Chung's website.

Writers Read: Catherine Chung.

My Book, The Movie: The Tenth Muse.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, July 16, 2019

Margaret Verble

Margaret Verble is an enrolled citizen of the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma. Her first novel, Maud's Line, was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize. She lives in Lexington, Kentucky.

Verble's new novel is Cherokee America.

From her Q&A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: Cherokee America is inspired by your own family history. What's the blend between the fictional and the historical in the novel?

A: The plot lines of Cherokee America are pure fiction. To my knowledge, none of the characters based on real people ever got themselves into the kind of messes I’ve created for them in the book.

However, the fiction is planted in real locations, life histories, and relationships. For instance, the bawdy house is real. I’ve been on its porch many times. And the ominous black thunder cloud that appears over the Bushyhead detachment of Cherokees as they start their journey on the Trail is a documented fact.

Also, Nannie Cordery, who carried the same name in real life, really was, as a small child, picked up by the Cherokees somewhere in Arkansas. But was she given away accompanied by a ham? Not to my knowledge. That’s...[read on]
Visit Margaret Verble's website.

My Book, The Movie: Maud's Line.

Writers Read: Margaret Verble (March 2019).

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, July 15, 2019

David B. Coe/D.B. Jackson

D.B. Jackson is the pen name of fantasy author David B. Coe. He is the award-winning author of more than twenty novels and as many short stories. His newest novel, Time’s Demon, is the second volume in a time travel/epic fantasy series called The Islevale Cycle. Time’s Children is volume one; Jackson is working on the third book, Time’s Assassin.

From his Q&A with Claire O’Dell:

Tell us about The Islevale Cycle and, about Time’s Demon in particular.

The Islevale Cycle is a time travel/epic fantasy series that tells the story of Tobias and Mara, Walkers – time travelers – who Walk back through time hoping to prevent a devastating war. Upon their arrival in the past, however, the assassination of their sovereign traps them in a dark misfuture with the only survivor of the assassination plot: the sovereign’s infant daughter. They have to keep the princess safe as the assassins seek to finish their work, and as the two of them seek to reestablish the rightful line of ascension to the throne.

That’s a very basic overview – there’s a lot more to the story than that: subplots, secondary characters, a romance or two, lots of intrigue. In short, I tried to blend in all the ingredients readers might hope to find in a sprawling epic fantasy. The first book, Time’s Children, came out last October. Time’s Demon is the second book in the trilogy, and as such it deepens the story and introduces new perils and conflicts, while also starting to resolve certain key plot points. Tobias, Mara, and the infant princess, Sofya, are on the run, pursued by the sovereign’s killers. They are aided by a variety of characters – humans and “demons,” or Ancients, as they’re called in Islevale. In particular, this second book focuses on Droë, a Tirribin, or time demon, who is fascinated by human love in general, and infatuated with Tobias in particular. She seeks to help him, but she’s deeply jealous of Mara. And since Tirribin are deadly predators, this is a...[read on]
Visit D. B. Jackson's website and blog.

The Page 69 Test: Thieftaker.

The Page 69 Test: Time’s Children.

Writers Read: D.B. Jackson.

The Page 69 Test: Time’s Demon.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, July 14, 2019

Andrea Bobotis

Andrea Bobotis's new novel is The Last List of Miss Judith Kratt.

From her Q&A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: How did you come up with the idea for The Last List of Miss Judith Kratt?

A: My novel is based on a murder that happened in my family two generations before me. It was a story I'd heard all throughout my childhood, and I think I had to write it down in order to free myself of it.

Q: The novel takes place in a South Carolina town--how important is setting to you in your work?

A: Very important! I would go so far as to say that setting is a separate character in my novel. The fictional town of Bound, South Carolina, is small and insular enough to provide a perfect breeding ground for the secrets and intense family dynamics that drive the plot.

What's more, my novel is set in the late 1980s, when the textile industry is beginning to collapse in the South, with flashbacks to the onset of the Great Depression, when dependence on cotton deepened economic loss. Ultimately, the decline of ...[read on]
Visit Andrea Bobotis's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, July 13, 2019

Thelma Adams

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

From Adams's Q&A with Yona Zeldis McDonough for the Lilith blog:

YZM: How about the historical accuracy of your other novel, Bittersweet Brooklyn, which deals with the mafia back in the East?

TA: There’s a lot of fact to Bittersweet Brooklyn, a novel that had the working title Kosher Nostra. I based it on my grandmother, the late Thelma Lorber Schwartz, and her infamous older brother Abraham “Little Yiddle” Lorber. While he became a relatively low-level fixer in the Jewish mob, Murder Inc., she’s the book’s focus. They were schleppers, the American-born children of immigrants who left Drohobych, Ukraine in the late 19th Century. Abie’s shameful stories, or the facts of his criminality, were not frequently shared by my father, Abie’s nephew. I don’t think he knew the full extent of his uncle’s crimes and associations.

Strangely, I knew even less about the other, quieter brother, Louis. I discovered that the man for whom my father Lawrence was named was a genuine war hero. In contrast to his older brother Abie, Louis channeled his violence into...[read on]
Learn more about the book and author at Thelma Adams' website.

The Page 69 Test: Playdate.

My Book, The Movie: Playdate.

The Page 69 Test: Bittersweet Brooklyn.

My Book, The Movie: Bittersweet Brooklyn.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, July 12, 2019

Chris Tebbetts

Chris Tebbetts's new YA novel is Me Myself & Him.

From his Q&A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: How did you come up with the idea for Me, Myself, and Him, and for your character Chris?

A: The prologue of this book—where Chris passes out doing whippets behind the ice cream store where he works—is autobiographical. I first wrote about it as a short piece of creative nonfiction but then started to wonder what might happen to a character in the same position.

My first idea was that it would be a traditional novel, following Chris (who I named after myself, to reflect the combination of memoir and fiction I was using), who gets shipped off to live with his famous but difficult father in California for the summer as a result of his drug-fueled accident.

However, as I pecked away at that idea, and wrote… and wrote…and wrote… I just couldn’t seem to get Chris on that plane to California. It was like the story wanted him to stay home in Ohio, and I wasn’t quite sure why.

After some further writing and exploring, that notion eventually led me to writing a dual narrative where we follow Chris through two different outcomes. In one thread of the story, Chris is busted for...[read on]
Visit Chris Tebbetts's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, July 11, 2019

Mike Jay

Mike Jay has written extensively on scientific and medical history. His books on the history of drugs include High Society: Mind-Altering Drugs in History and Culture and The Atmosphere of Heaven. He lives in London.

Jay's new book is Mescaline: A Global History of the First Psychedelic.

From his Vice Q&A with Max Daly:

I was surprised to find out the Plains Indians took mescaline. Can you tell me more?

The Plains Indian peyote ceremony developed when the tribes were taken into forced captivity on the reservations. Before then, it was known only to those who visited the areas of Mexico and southern Texas where it grew—mostly Apache bands such as the Lipan and the Mescalero. But after the Texas-Mexico railroad opened in 1881, peyote from Texas began to reach the Comanche, Kiowa, and Apache reservations in Oklahoma.

Following the Ghost Dance ceremonies in 1890, which were suppressed after the massacre at Wounded Knee, communal singing and dancing was banned on the reservations. Peyote ceremonies took place in tipis, away from the prying eyes of government agents. Participants ate peyote buttons, usually dried, while seated all night around a central fire, purified with prayers, tobacco, and incense, and sang songs accompanied by a drum and rattle that passed around the group. Songs were channeled during the ceremonies and different traditions and forms of ritual evolved.

For men who had been brought up as warriors, the peyote meeting became a microcosm of their vanished world. Peyote worship preserved their culture and identity and nurtured an ethos of self-respect, particularly abstinence from...[read on]
Visit Mike Jay's website.

The Page 99 Test: Mescaline.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, July 10, 2019

Catherine Chung

Catherine Chung was born in Evanston, IL, and grew up in New York, New Jersey, and Michigan. Writing has been her life-long passion, but as an undergraduate she indulged in a brief, one-sided affair with mathematics at the University of Chicago followed by a few years in Santa Monica working at a think tank by the sea.

Eventually she attended Cornell University for her MFA, and since then she and her books have been given shelter and encouragement from The MacDowell Colony, Jentel, Hedgebrook, SFAI, Camargo, The University of Leipzig, VCCA, UCross, Yaddo, Civitella Ranieri, The Jerome Foundation, the Ludwig Vogelstein Foundation, and the Constance Saltonstall Foundation. Her brother, Heesoo Chung, has also given her a bed and fed her lots of ice cream at criticał times.

Chung is the recipient of a National Endowment for the Arts fellowship and a Director’s Visitorship at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton. She was a Granta New Voice, and won an Honorable Mention for the PEN/Hemingway Award with her first novel, Forgotten Country, which was a Booklist, Bookpage, and San Francisco Chronicle Best Book of 2012. She has published work in The New York Times, The Rumpus, and Granta, and is a fiction editor at Guernica Magazine. She lives in New York City.

Chung's new novel is The Tenth Muse.

From her Q&A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: Why did you choose to focus on a mathematician in your new novel, and how did you come up with your character Katherine?

A: I love mathematics, and at its highest levels I feel like it's closer to poetry than anything else, or maybe music or even mysticism in the way it makes me feel. I love that it can contain statements that are incredibly profound and clear and far-reaching in their implications, but also mind-bogglingly complex.

So I wanted to write about someone who does math at that level, and I wanted also to write about a woman who's incredibly talented and brilliant in a field that has always been incredibly lacking in women. The few women who did rise to the top and accomplish great things have amazing life stories of commitment and dedication and passion and grit.

Q: What do you think Katherine's story says about the challenges faced by women mathematicians over the past half-century or more?

A: I think the stories of women in mathematics are really...[read on]
Visit Catherine Chung's website.

Writers Read: Catherine Chung.

My Book, The Movie: The Tenth Muse.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, July 9, 2019

Timothy Jay Smith

When Timothy Jay Smith quit an intriguing international career to become a full-time writer, he had a host of real life characters, places and events to inspire his stories. His first novel, Cooper’s Promise, in some ways is still the most autobiographical of his novels, though he was never an American deserter adrift in Africa. But he was in The Mining Pan bar and he did meet Lulay and he did stowaway on a barge that landed him in an African jail.

His third novel, The Fourth Courier, is set in Poland in 1992. In it Smith looks back at the fall of communism in Eastern Europe, as witnessed through the eyes of an FBI Special Agent on assignment to stop a nuclear smuggling operation out of Russia. Smith’s newest book continues his style of page-turning thrillers steeped with colorful characters.

From Smith's Q&A with Rich Ehisen:

Open Mic: We’ll talk about process in a bit, but right now tell me a bit about “The Fourth Courier.”

Smith: The timing of the book is the spring of 1992, about three to four months right after the fall of the Soviet Union, which was dismantled legally on Christmas Day 1991. That is an important thing to note because that’s when the border between Russia and Poland became very porous and there was a lot of fear that Russia was unable to really handle or secure all the nuclear material that it had. The story is basically that there has been a series of gruesome murders in Warsaw, Poland in the spring of 1992. On the hands of the third victim they discover traces of radiation. Because all three men had been murdered in the same way, the theory becomes that the couriers carry nuclear product out of Russia into Poland to go on to some place in the world. the US sends an FBI agent to work with the Polish police in order to investigate the case and try to figure out what’s really going on.

Open Mic: This had some basis in reality for you, correct?

Smith: Yes. I was on an assignment around that time in Latvia, where I had a meeting with a decommissioned and very unhappy Russian general who at the end of the meeting suggested we go somewhere where no one could hear us. He took me way out into this forest, I had no idea what was going on, and he said he could get me anything I wanted. I looked very puzzled at him and said ‘I don’t know what you mean.’ He said, “atomic.” There had been some discussion in our meeting about Russia’s nuclear arsenal in Latvia, and he apparently had some control over it so I think he had totally misunderstood why I was there and thought this was something he might be able to sell and...[read on]
Visit Timothy Jay Smith's website.

Writers Read: Timothy Jay Smith.

My Book, The Movie: The Fourth Courier.

The Page 69 Test: The Fourth Courier.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, July 8, 2019

Richard Zimler

Richard Zimler's novels include The Search for Sana, The Last Kabbalist of Lisbon, and The Seventh Gate. He has won many prizes for his writing and has lectured on Sephardic Jewish culture all over the world. He now lives in Porto, Portugal, where he teaches journalism and writes.

Zimler's latest novel is The Gospel According to Lazarus.

From his Q&A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: How did you come up with the idea for The Gospel According to Lazarus?

A: The idea came to me in a very disturbing dream I first had in 1989. To explain, I need to go back to a few years before that…

One of my elder brothers, Jerry, grew ill with AIDS around 1986. At the time, I was living in the San Francisco Bay Area and he was working in New York as a clinical psychologist. I helped him through a series of debilitating opportunist infections, including one that caused lesions in his brain and left him with dementia for about a week.

It was tremendously upsetting, of course. In fact, I often felt as if I’d been trapped in a merciless, ongoing nightmare. Caring for him in New York hospitals – feeding him and walking him around in his wheelchair – also gave me frequent panic attacks. I constantly feared that I, too, might die young – if not of AIDS, then of some other disease or misfortune.

Jerry died on May 6, 1989. He was only 35 years old. I was crushed. Losing a brother or sister makes you...[read on]
Visit Richard Zimler's website.

The Page 99: Guardian of the Dawn.

The Page 69 Test: The Gospel According to Lazarus.

My Book, The Movie: The Warsaw Anagrams.

Writers Read: Richard Zimler.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, July 7, 2019

Naomi Booth

Naomi Booth is the author of Sealed.

From her interview with Ross Jeffery & Anthony Self at Storgy:

‘Sealed’ is described as a ‘gripping modern fable on motherhood, and a terrifying portrait of ordinary people under threat from their own bodies.’ The novel deals with a particular disease that provides a unique horror element in the narrative that is very eco-based. Global warming has become a prevalent speaking point at the moment, so was this a commentary on our environment at the moment, or was this something you always wanted to address?

NB – At the time I was writing Sealed, I was reading a lot of non-fiction about climate change and the environment. The critic Timothy Morton uses the term “dark ecology” to describe the way that we’re looped into the world and are profoundly connected to all other life-forms. He argues that we’ve already entered the next mass extinction event, that we’re past the point of no return, that we are already, in some senses, the walking dead. I found this a really uncanny and affecting idea. I was also read a wonderful book by Eula Bliss called On Immunity, in which she discusses the experience of pregnancy in relation to environmental contamination. She argues that our bodies, even at birth, are already polluted: she cites research that shows all kinds of chemicals and toxic substances, including paint thinners and DDT and triclosan, present in breast milk. These ideas really got under my skin, and I found myself wanting to...[read on]
Visit Naomi Booth's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, July 6, 2019

Dominic Smith

Dominic Smith is the New York Times bestselling author of five novels, including The Last Painting of Sara de Vos.

His new novel is The Electric Hotel.

From Smith's Q&A with Deborah Kalb:

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

A: One of the things I'm interested in as a writer is what I think of as the gaps and silences of history. So when the Library of Congress put out a report about five years ago saying that more than 75 percent of all silent films have been lost forever, I was intrigued.

I kept wondering whether there was a lost masterpiece in all this vanished celluloid. And as I started to research the world of early silent film, I discovered that America’s first movie town was Fort Lee, New Jersey, not Hollywood, and that some landmark films were made before World War I.

This was the seed of the book, which tells the story of a lost silent film that ruined the famous French director and actress who made it. It also tells the story of the rise and fall of...[read on]
Visit Dominic Smith's website.

The Page 69 Test: The Mercury Visions of Louis Daguerre.

The Page 69 Test: Bright and Distant Shores.

The Page 69 Test: The Electric Hotel.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, July 5, 2019

Meghan Holloway

Meghan Holloway found her first Nancy Drew mystery in a sun-dappled attic at the age of eight and subsequently fell in love with the grip and tautness of a well-told mystery. She flew an airplane before she learned how to drive a car, did her undergrad work in Creative Writing in the sweltering south, and finished a Masters of Library and Information Science in the blustery north. She spent a summer and fall in Maine picking peaches and apples, traveled the world for a few years, and did a stint fighting crime in the records section of a police department.​​

She now lives in the foothills of the Appalachians with her standard poodle and spends her days as a scientist with the requisite glasses but minus the lab coat.

Holloway's new novel is Once More Unto the Breach.

From the author's Q&A with Rich Ehisen:

Open Mic: Let’s talk about language. Your narrative flows so beautifully, but still feels economical, with no wasted words. Writers sometimes fall in love with the beauty of sentences over their value to the story. Do you ever struggle with that? And if so, how do you overcome it?

Holloway: I love lyricism in writing both as a writer and as a reader. I strive for vividness and for a very sensory reading experience when I’m writing, but it is a challenge to not get caught up in the writing itself. I have to also remember that I am a storyteller. I try to keep the idea in the back of my head that regardless of how lovely a sentence flows, how beautiful it is on the page, it still needs to move the plot forward. If it doesn’t, I need to be ruthless in cutting it despite how pretty it is. That’s not easy and it takes a lot of practice, but one thing that helps is that once I finish a draft I usually print it out on paper and go through it and read it aloud. That helps me figure out how well the story flows, and also where I need to cut out the loveliness and...[read on]
Visit Meghan Holloway's website, and follow her on Facebook, Twitter, and Istagram.

My Book, The Movie: Once More Unto the Breach.

The Page 69 Test: Once More Unto the Breach.

Writers Read: Meghan Holloway.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, July 4, 2019

Whitney Scharer

Whitney Scharer is the author of The Age of Light.

From her Q&A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: You write that your "fascination with [photographer Lee Miller] sprang from images--images of her and images taken by her." What were some of the particular images that you found especially compelling?

A: There are so many images of and by Lee that I find fascinating. One thing I loved was how she often reinterpreted portraits of herself, created by Man Ray and other men, in her own work.

In one of Man Ray’s photos, he has Miller in the nude, her head caged inside a fencing sabre guard. Lee took the sabre guard and used it in her own shoot: in her version, her model is at ease, with the sabre guard wrapped around her shoulders like a shawl. Lee’s image reclaims the sabre guard from the sadomasochistic overtones it had in Man Ray’s work. When I was drafting my novel, I used the sabre guard photographs as a jumping off point for one of the first scenes I wrote.

Another of the first images I used in drafting my book was Dave Scherman’s photo of Lee bathing in Hitler’s bathtub after Hitler had fled Munich at the end of the war. Her expression in the pictures is...[read on]
Visit Whitney Scharer's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, July 3, 2019

Kamala Harris

Kamala D. Harris is a lifelong public safety and civil rights leader, and is currently serving as a U.S. Senator from California. Her new book is The Truths We Hold: An American Journey.

From her interview with Wei Tchou for The Cut:

You wrestle with the idea of power and how people who are in power help people who are disadvantaged by the system. How do you think about power as somebody who has had a lot of it?

I mean here’s the thing. First of all, my first and my entire career was as a prosecutor. Until I came to the United States Senate. And at a very young age in my life and my career I spoke these words, which I write about in the book, but it was part of my identity which I would declare every time I walked into the courtroom: “Kamala Harris for the people.” And I took it very seriously.

So the concept there, and how I wrote about it in the book, is that “for the people,” not “for the victim” alone, but “for the people” because our system of justice was designed with an understanding that a harm against any one of us is a harm against all of us. And I feel very strongly about that in terms of how we should proceed and then think of and handle any one of us being harmed. We should proceed and think of this as a harm against all of us.

And if you study our system of justice, that’s a value that was a founding principle of our justice system and therefore who we are as a country. And so I’ve used my positions to...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, July 2, 2019

Jennifer Kincheloe

Jennifer Kincheloe is the author of the novels The Secret Life of Anna Blanc and its sequel The Woman in the Camphor Trunk. The third novel in the series, The Body in Griffith Park, is out this month.

From Kincheloe's Q&A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: How did you come up with the idea for your character Anna Blanc?

A: She just popped out. She was supposed to be an homage to Alice Stebbins Wells, a middle-aged minister who became the first cop in LA in 1910. But Anna turned out nothing like Alice.

In some ways, I took my own characteristics at 19 and stretched them. For example, I was relatively privileged. Anna was filthy rich. I was brave. Anna's downright heroic. I was a little self-absorbed. Anna begins the series incredibly self-absorbed.

Q: Did you always know you'd be writing more than one book about Anna, and do you think she's changed at all from one book to the next?

A: The Secret Life of Anna Blanc was supposed to be my practice novel. It was my first, and I didn't think anyone would ever read it. But when my writer's group reacted favorably to the book, and it subsequently sold, I decided I'd like to write more in the series.

And yes, Anna is growing up, changing within each book in some...[read on]
Visit Jennifer Kincheloe's website.

The Page 69 Test: The Woman in the Camphor Trunk.

Coffee with a Canine: Jennifer Kincheloe & Monkey.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, July 1, 2019

Scott Shapiro

Scott Shapiro is a professor of law and philosophy at Yale and the co-author, with Oona A. Hathaway, of The Internationalists: How A Radical Plan to Outlaw War Remade the World.

From his May 2019 interview with Isaac Chotiner for The New Yorker:

When you say that there is a long history of conservatives being mistrustful of laws of war, do you mean both international ways of regulating what our troops can do in war, like some sort of world court, and also our own laws or the military’s own laws?

Yes. So John Bolton, for example, has waged a war on the International Criminal Court for many years, since the beginning of its existence, and spent an enormous amount of time when he was in the State Department going around the world, trying to get countries to sign what we’ll call the Article 98 agreements, which basically said that these countries would not coöperate with the court in prosecution of American service personnel, and then denied them foreign aid if they didn’t.

But his objection has been very much about the notion that an international tribunal will prosecute American service personnel. Whereas there is another strand that objects even to our own government, our own military, prosecuting our own service personnel, and there are several strains to it, some of them being understandable, some of them being quite reprehensible. When I say understandable, I think that there are arguments. I don’t think they carry the day, but let me just say that there are at least arguments that make sense.

So one of them is war is hell, and shit happens, and it’s very hard to hold soldiers to such high standards. Oliver Wendell Holmes’s famous expression, that “detached reflection cannot be demanded in the presence of an uplifted knife,” comes to mind—the idea being that, if you’re in that situation, you can’t be expected to follow all the rules perfectly. There’s also the idea that there are too many rules, and that the rules are too constraining and that we’re tying, as they say, our boys’ hands. And it’s especially problematic in cases where there’s an asymmetry, where the U.S. military is fighting a group that doesn’t follow the rules. So it’s not just that we have a lot of rules, we’re fighting other militaries who are ostensibly bound by those rules, too. But, also, what do we do when they’re not following the rules, they hide among civilians.

Those, I think, are arguments that need to be taken seriously, and people have obviously debated them, and it’s not obvious what the solution should be in particular cases. I went and I watched a lot of the Fox News clips about these cases that it seems like Trump was responding to. And they sometimes use these arguments, but they also use the arguments like, “These are our guys and you need to protect them. They’re risking their lives for us and we have to protect them.” And it’s tribalism. Like...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue