Monday, September 30, 2019

Virginia Reeves

Virginia Reeves's newest novel is The Behavior of Love.

From her Q&A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: You note that your late father-in-law inspired your character Ed. How did his life story lead you to create Ed, and how did you come up with the idea for your character Laura, Ed’s wife?

A: My late father-in-law, Mike, was a behavioral psychologist (not psychiatrist, like Ed) who worked at the institution in Boulder. His timeline was later than Ed's, but that experience definitely gave me a starting point.

The most poignant part of Mike's life that inspired Ed's character, however, was his tragic aneurysm and subsequent stroke at the age of 39. Like Ed, my father-in-law led two different lives—one before and one after his brain injury.

I only knew Mike in that second life, and there were times I was envious of the people who'd known him before. It took time and perspective to realize how fortunate I was to share in that second life. I like to hope I imbued Ed with some of Mike's better second-life qualities.

Though Laura shares some surface-level traits with my mother-in-law (they are both artists, for example), she is a complete amalgamation of various people (which is true of most all of my characters, I'd say). There are parts of Laura that are me, and parts of her that are my own mother. There are parts of her that...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, September 29, 2019

Serhii Plokhy

Serhii Plokhy's new book is Forgotten Bastards of the Eastern Front: American Airmen behind the Soviet Lines and the Collapse of the Grand Alliance.

From his Q&A with Richard Godwin for the Guardian:

What inspired you to tell the story of Operation Frantic now?

I grew up behind the iron curtain. The “great patriotic war”, as it is known in Russian, played a huge role in the collective memory and Soviet propaganda. But there was little space allocated to other allies. When I realised there were Americans at airbases in my backyard it was a “wow” moment.

Once I heard that there were all these volumes of KGB and Smersh [the Red Army’s counter-intelligence agencies] surveillance, I thought: “I’d better take a look!” On the one hand, you look at these documents and are disgusted so much spying was going on. On the other hand, as a historian, you’re delighted that someone was writing those reports.

How did the airbases come about?

There was military logic – but it was more about expectations. The Americans expected a long fight against the Japanese, so they wanted to show Stalin they were “good allies” to convince him to let them establish airbases in the far east. The Soviets didn’t see much advantage in the airbases militarily, but finally accepted the idea, wanting to charm the British and Americans into opening a second front against the Germans. Once the Americans and British had landed in Normandy, Stalin lost interest. And there was a devastating bombing raid on the bases. Also the eastern front moved fast, so they didn’t have the strategic impact they might have had. But...[read on]
My Book, The Movie: The Last Empire.

The Page 99 Test: The Gates of Europe.

The Page 99 Test: Chernobyl: The History of a Nuclear Catastrophe.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, September 28, 2019

Oyinkan Braithwaite

Oyinkan Braithwaite’s is the author of My Sister the Serial Killer.

From her CrimeReads Q&A with Molly Odintz:

Molly Odintz: My Sister the Serial Killer is, on one hand, a not-so-universal story about a woman who ends up helping her sister cover up a string of murders. It is also a much more universal story about sibling dynamics, and how in many a household, one sister ends up doing all the work—and cleaning up all the messes—while the other, more beautiful sister, has fun. What did you want to explore about family power dynamics in your novel?

Oyinkan Braithwaite: The power dynamic between the sisters, between the father and his children, between husband and wife, developed somewhat organically as I fleshed the story out.

Initially, it was going to be a story about two friends, but I wanted something beyond choice that bound the two women together. You choose who your friends are. You don’t choose your family. And I set out to explore the love, loyalty and betrayal between the sisters.

Then I became fascinated with examining the age old debate of nature vs nurture and the different responses to trauma within the family.

And while we’re talking about sisters—do you have one? And, if so, what did she think of the novel?

I have two sisters and a brother. At first...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, September 27, 2019

Christina Thompson

Christina Thompson is the author of Sea People: The Puzzle of Polynesia and Come on Shore and We Will Kill and Eat You All, which was shortlisted for the 2009 NSW Premier's Award and the 2010 William Saroyan International Prize for Writing.

From Thompson's Q&A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: Why did you decide to write this book about Polynesia, and how did you choose the aspects of the region's history and culture to focus on?

A: I have been writing about the history of the Pacific for more than 30 years, ever since I went to Australia for graduate school. I am especially interested in stories of people who came to the Pacific from elsewhere, and in the beginning I was largely focused on Europeans and their encounters with the indigenous peoples of the Pacific.

But these indigenous peoples, including the people we now know as Polynesians, also came to the Pacific from someplace else. And so in this book I look deep into the history of the Pacific and try to answer a series of questions about who Polynesians are, where they came from, and how...[read on]
Visit Christina Thompson's website.

The Page 99 Test: Come on Shore and We Will Kill and Eat You All.

The Page 99 Test: Sea People.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, September 26, 2019

Jonathan Safran Foer

Jonathan Safran Foer's new book is We Are the Weather: Saving the Planet Begins at Breakfast.

From his Slate Q&A with Inkoo Kang:

[I]s there a way to promote greater plant-eating other than this call to abstemiousness? [Foer advocates “no animal products before dinner” because meat production is such a big driver of climate change.]

A hundred percent. I approached a couple of chefs when I was writing this book, and chefs are bizarrely, or not bizarrely, the most enthusiastic endorsers of this idea. Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall in London, who literally wrote the book on meat, is a huge advocate of meat reduction. Yotam Ottolenghi just posted about my book, and it’s kind of worth seeing the little video that he made. [Editor’s note: In the video, Ottolenghi vows to “inject my vegetables with even more flavor.”]

Samin Nosrat, who does Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat, the way she describes it is “vegan during daylight.” I know her a little bit. I don’t know anyone on Earth who likes food and celebrates food and loves the culture of food more than she does. I find it unbelievably inspiring and brave that she would even enter this conversation, much less go that far. She hasn’t talked about it that much, but what I’ve read that she said is like, “This is hard. Man, I don’t know if I’m going to be able to do it. And I doubt I’ll do it consistently and I don’t want to do it, but we have to do it or we have to acknowledge that we’re giving up.”

[Editor’s note: Nosrat said about her “daytime” veganism, “I really don’t want to, but I feel like it’s something I have to do, and I feel like it’s what I need to, not necessarily bully other people into doing, but at least model for people.”]

We have to eat less meat. There’s no two ways around that unless we just decide to give up on climate change...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, September 25, 2019

Adrienne Mayor

Adrienne Mayor is a research scholar in Classics and the History of Science, and a Berggruen Fellow 2018-19, Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences, Stanford University.

Her newest book is Gods and Robots: Myths, Machines, and Ancient Dreams of Technology.

From Mayor's Q&A with James Pethokoukis for AEIdeas:

Pethokoukis: I often think about how science fiction stories seem to inspire actual inventions. One case is the Star Trek communicators, the design of which may have inspired the early flip phone. Did we see any of that in ancient Greece? Were things the Greeks tried to build inspired by stories, or did this work the other way around? Do the myths inspire actual attempts to create devices for the ancient Greeks?

Mayor: I think there is some evidence for that with real artisans and craftsmen and engineers, especially in what you might call the Silicon Valley of antiquity — the city of Alexandria in Egypt.

After the time of Alexander in the fourth Century BC up through about the first century AD, that city was a center of inventions that included self-moving devices, and robots, and automatons, some of them quite large and some of them miniaturized. So I found that many of the real inventions from that time period did actually feature mythological characters and situations. So, I think that the myths actually did inspire real technicians and engineers to build real self-moving devices and automatons.

Pethokoukis: You mentioned Alexandria as the Silicon Valley of the time. Given how much the Greeks focused on hubris, you know, arrogance gone wild in the cautionary tales, what would the Greeks have thought about Silicon Valley today? I mean, you work at Stanford University — what would they have made of the modern technologists?

Mayor: I think they would have thought back to the myth of Pandora, and I mentioned Prometheus. Prometheus was the guy who brought the gift of fire, actually the gods’ technology of fire, to the vulnerable humans. He was really worried about humanity and their survival. I mentioned that Pandora was brought down to earth to insinuate herself into human society. She was given as a bride to Prometheus’ brother, Epimetheus, and I think the Greeks had a sense of humor about these myths.

I mean, the name Prometheus means “foresight,” and the name of his brother Epimetheus, it means “hindsight,” the inability to look forward. And I think that the ancient Greeks today, if they traveled to Silicon Valley, would say...[read on]
The Page 99 Test: Gods and Robots.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, September 24, 2019

Rajia Hassib

Rajia Hassib's new novel is A Pure Heart.

From her Q&A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: How did you come up with the idea for A Pure Heart, and for your characters Rose and Gameela?

A: I wanted to write a novel that explored the complex personal and geopolitical situations that form the backdrop of any terrorist attack. I’m always dismayed by how often such attacks are spoken of as if they were easily explained. When the terrorist is a Muslim, so many people seem too ready to buy into his own justification of his heinous act.

But research has proven that the real motives are much more complex than the simple justifications that terrorists resort to in order to assume a moral position that makes them believe their acts are good, not evil.

One way to portray this complexity was to depict an attack where the terrorist and his victims all belonged to the same religion, a very common scenario that automatically rules out the most simplistic explanation of how the terrorist justified murder through labeling his victims as infidels. So this was how Gameela’s character was born—she was to be the victim.

Once I started working on the personal stories of the various characters...[read on]
Visit Rajia Hassib's website.

Writers Read: Rajia Hassib.

The Page 69 Test: In the Language of Miracles.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, September 23, 2019

Rachel Monroe

Rachel Monroe’s new essay collection is Savage Appetites: Four True Stories of Women, Crime, and Obsession.

From her Q&A with Molly Odintz at CrimeReads:
Molly Odintz: Your introduction takes us through a true crime convention where there are some cringeworthy moments of true crime fandom—as the true crime craze continues, are fans maturing in their approach to the subject matter, or are we still just as likely to hear a squee as a yech when talking about a serial killer at one of these things?

Rachel Monroe: Fandoms are complex ecosystems, and I think fans often have more self-awareness than they’re given credit for. That said, fandoms can also be insular and resistant to critique or pushback. During my experience at CrimeCon, which I write about in the book, I spoke with true crime fans who were very attuned to and critical of the more voyeuristic, exploitative aspects of the genre. I also met people who were unabashedly enthusiastic and hungry for sensation without seeming to acknowledge that these stories involved real people’s real trauma.

MO: You mention that interest in murder as subject of research has increased as real-life murder rates have fallen over the past few years, and that interest in murder increases when the victim is young, white, wealthy, or all of the above. Is empathy restricted for the least vulnerable? Has the 24-hour news cycle led us to cut ourselves off from only the most manageable pain?

RM: Some true crime fans say they’re drawn to the genre because...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, September 22, 2019

Lorenzo Carcaterra

Lorenzo Carcaterra is the #1 New York Times bestselling author of Sleepers, A Safe Place, Apaches, Gangster, Street Boys, Paradise City, Chasers, Midnight Angels, and The Wolf. He is a former writer/producer for Law & Order and has written for National Geographic Traveler, The New York Times Magazine, Details, and Maxim.

Carcaterra's new novel is Tin Badges.

From his Q&A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: How did you come up with the idea for Tin Badges, and for your character Tank Rizzo?

A: I had read quite a few books where the lead detective in a series can't seem to piece together his post-police department life. The character usually had two ex-wives and are bad at maintaining relationships; has children he never sees; and has drinking and, in some cases, drug issues. The life, in short, is a mess.

I wanted a lead character who, despite being shot off the job and missing the day-to-day activity of being a cop, had none of that baggage. Tank gets a three-quarter tax-free disability pension due to his wound; he inherited a four-story brownstone in the village and rents out the top two floors. He works out; loves sports; reads; travels; goes to the theatre; watches movies and TV, reads, collects wine.

More importantly, he has a close-knit community of friends--from his ex-partner to the woman he dates who happens to co-own his favorite restaurant; to the crew he uses to help him solve any cases that might come his way. Included in the mix is an old mob boss...[read on]
Visit Lorenzo Carcaterra's website.

Writers Read: Lorenzo Carcaterra.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, September 21, 2019

Angie Maxwell

Angie Maxwell is co-author of The Long Southern Strategy: How Chasing White Voters in the South Changed American Politics.

From her Salon interview with Paul Rosenberg:
First I want to ask about the need to understand the Southern strategy as something long-term and continuing or evolving, not just a one-time event.

In short, with the Southern strategy, the story we tell is that after the Civil Rights Act, first Barry Goldwater and then Richard Nixon really played to white racial angst, and the South flipped to red. But when you start looking at not just the electoral map, but voting trends, the South goes pretty heavily back to Jimmy Carter in 1976. And most Southern politicians don't change their party IDs during that period of time. You see from archival work and other scholarship how worried the GOP was post-Watergate that the inroads they made in the South they were going to lose. And sure enough, they do.

Now, if they were so adamant on a backlash to civil rights, then why pick Carter? But there this notion that Carter's one of them — he shares their Southern identity, they understand him, he’s a born-again Christian. So the South kind of goes back [to the Democrats]. Then the Reagan folks in 1980 dropped the Equal Rights Amendment from their platform. This to me is the bridge. In 1980, the Republicans are trying again to win those Southern voters back, because they’ve really based their electoral map on that. They took that fork in the road in the late '60s, and it's kind of hard, once you set your strategy, to say, "Oh, let's just pick a new one." So they dropped the ERA.

This was a radical thing to do because the Equal Rights Amendment — and second-wave feminism in general — was a completely bipartisan effort. There were legions of Republican women feminists. In fact, they were some of the leaders in the movement. At the 1977 National Women's Convention, the only national women's convention we've ever had, every living first lady of both parties was there.. All the major congresswomen from both parties were there. What happened then was Phyllis Schlafly's effort — she had written the book [A Choice, Not An Echo] that kind of inspired Goldwater to run years before — she started an anti-feminism counter rally, also in Houston, and had massive attendance at that, and their slogan was "family values."

The GOP took notice....[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, September 20, 2019

Peter Doggett

Peter Doggett's newest book is CSNY: Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young.

From his Q&A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: In the book, you write, "Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young have spent approximately two of the past fifty years as a functioning band, and the other forty-eight years fending off questions about why they are no longer together." How would you describe the dynamic between the four musicians?

A: In one word – “difficult”! And I hope my book explains why. The great joy of CSN and CSNY is that those bands are comprised of immensely talented, willful, driven musicians and songwriters, who can strike sparks off each other and inspire each other to heights they can’t always achieve by themselves. The other side of that equation is that all four of them are (like most creative artists) egomaniacs, each convinced that they know better than anyone what to do in every situation. Usually rock bands have one or two creative forces, and several support players to balance them out and keep them on the road. With CSNY, there was too much ego for their collaboration to work out on any regular basis.

The additional complication was...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, September 19, 2019

Rob Hart

Rob Hart's new novel is The Warehouse.

From his CrimeReads interview with Lisa Levy:

LL: Is this book crime fiction?

RH: In my head it’s still crime fiction because there’s there there’s a drug ring and there’s corporate espionage and there’s an overarching mystery to the whole story.

You know what crime fiction tends to evoke is very much on the street level whereas there’s a mix of a lot of stuff here that’s coming from a higher level. Look at the heroin crisis for example. If you trace that all the way back to the genesis it was pharmaceutical companies who were asking doctors to prescribe opioids and were squashing the thoughts about their different nature. And that sort of exploded to where we get tons and tons of street crime and tons and tons of people using drugs. It was really because a bunch of rich assholes wanted to be rich.

At the end of the day a book has a social conscience. I would argue that The Great Gatsby is a crime novel.

LL: I did argue The Great Gatsby is a crime novel.

RH: There we go. It’s about a gangster and it revolves around his murder. That’s very much a crime.

And at the end of the day everything’s a mystery. You don’t know what the ending is, but technically everything is a mystery if it’s not in the nonfiction section. Genre labels are kind of funny. I’ve been thinking about this a lot as I’ve been in this sort of speculative sci-fi whatever...[read on]
Visit Rob Hart's website.

My Book, The Movie: Potter's Field.

The Page 69 Test: Potter's Field.

Writers Read: Rob Hart (July 2018).

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, September 18, 2019

Deb Spera

Deb Spera is the author of Call Your Daughter Home.

From her Q&A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: You note that Call Your Daughter Home was inspired at least in part by your great-grandmother and grandmother. How did your family stories result in the creation of your three main characters, Gertrude, Retta, and Annie?

A: Really the most important thing that came from those stories was a sense of time and place. Branchville was such a distinct place when I was growing up. The way of life was so different from the suburbs of Louisville, Kentucky, and yet it was also somewhat the same. We always had a vegetable garden. My grandmother whom I called Mamaw, made something out of everything as did my great-grandmother, Mama Lane. Every old dress was turned into an apron or dishtowel. Jelly were made for winter. Corn was shucked and frozen for Christmas dinner.

Mamaw’s memories of Branchville were so different than mine. I experienced it as a place of plenty and she experienced it as a place of lack. She was loved, but she was hungry. So, Gertrude, Annie and Retta are complete works of fiction as were the circumstances in the book, but the stories I heard growing up...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, September 17, 2019

Christopher Ingraham

Christopher Ingraham is the author of If You Lived Here You'd Be Home By Now.

From the transcript of his NPR interview with Rachel Martin:
CHRISTOPHER INGRAHAM: I stumbled across this really cool dataset made by the USDA called the Natural Amenities Index. And what it did is it essentially ranked all 3,000-some odd counties in the United States on their natural beauty. So I wrote it up, and one of the interesting things is that the county that ended up dead last in this ranking was this little place I'd never heard of called Red Lake County in northwest Minnesota. It seemed like one of those classic middle-of-nowhere places, miles from the nearest highway.

So I just kind of mentioned that they were last place in this article - threw in a snarky little line about the absolute worst place to live is Red Lake County, Minn. - and sent it out and called it a day. And I thought that would be the end of it. But it was not.

MARTIN: It was not. So the people in northern Minnesota were not so pleased with your story. What happened?

INGRAHAM: They were very upset. And it wasn't just northern Minnesota. It was all over Minnesota. And they were sending me pictures of the county. You know, the state's representatives and U.S. senators got in on the action, the media in the state. It was just crazy. It was a frenzy.

MARTIN: But then someone finally convinces you. Someone actually issues an invitation. Like, if you're going to make this grandiose statement about our community, why don't you come visit? So...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, September 16, 2019

Suzanne Hinman

Suzanne Hinman holds a Ph.D. in American art history and has been a curator, gallerist, museum director, professor, and an art model. She owned an art gallery in Santa Fe and then served as director of galleries at the Savannah College of Art and Design, the world's largest art school. Her interest in the artists and architects of the American Gilded Age and the famed Cornish Art Colony in New Hampshire grew while associate director of the Hood Museum of Art at Dartmouth College. The author continues to reside near Cornish as an independent scholar.

Hinman's latest new book is The Grandest Madison Square Garden: Art, Scandal, and Architecture in Gilded Age New York.

From her Q&A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: Why did you decide to write this book about the second Madison Square Garden, and why do you see it as "the grandest"?

A: It is so difficult to answer this question because it was so long ago that I was both captivated and captured by the subject matter—I truly can barely remember a time when I wasn’t obsessed by this Madison Square Garden and its creators.

Likely it began when I first came to Dartmouth College in New Hampshire’s Upper Valley as associate director of the Hood Museum of Art and learned about the nearby home and studio of one of America’s finest sculptors, the Augustus Saint-Gaudens National Historical Park.

I fell in love with his beautiful 1893 goddess Diana, a half-sized version installed at the park. And when I learned its home had originally been the Garden designed by Stanford White, one of my favorite architects with a fascinating if troubled private life as well, I...[read on]
Visit Suzanne Hinman's website.

My Book, The Movie: The Grandest Madison Square Garden.

The Page 99 Test: The Grandest Madison Square Garden.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, September 15, 2019

Min Jin Lee

Min Jin Lee is a recipient of fellowships in Fiction from the Guggenheim Foundation (2018) and the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study at Harvard (2018-2019). Her novel Pachinko (2017) was a finalist for the National Book Award for Fiction, a runner-up for the Dayton Literary Peace Prize, winner of the Medici Book Club Prize, and one of the New York Times' "Ten Best Books of 2017." A New York Times bestseller, Pachinko was also one of the "Ten Best Books" of the year for BBC and the New York Public Library, and a "best international fiction" pick for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. In total, it was on over seventy-five best books of the year lists, including NPR, PBS, and CNN, and it was a selection for Now Read This, the joint book club of PBS NewsHour and the New York Times. Pachinko will be translated into twenty-seven languages. Lee's debut novel Free Food for Millionaires (2007) was one of the best books of the year for the Times of London, NPR's Fresh Air, and USA Today, and it was a national bestseller.

From Lee's 2017 Q&A with NPR's Lynn Neary:

LYNN NEARY, BYLINE: Min Jin Lee got the idea for her second novel when she was still a college student. The year was 1989. She went to a lecture by an American missionary who had been working with the Korean-Japanese in Japan. He told a story about a 13-year-old boy who committed suicide. After his death, the boy's parents found his school yearbook.

MIN JIN LEE: And in this yearbook, several of his classmates had written things like, go back to your country. And they had written the words, die, die, die. And the parents were born in Japan. The boy was born in Japan. And I think that story just really could not be more fixed into my brain.

NEARY: Lee, a Korean-American, was determined to tell the history of Koreans in Japan. She lived there for a while and interviewed many Korean-Japanese to get a sense of what life was like for them. She decided to tell their history through a multigenerational family story.

LEE: I was very interested in history, but I also thought, you know, history's not that interesting sometimes. And it can feel a bit medicinal. And I wanted it to be really fun, and I wanted it to be really exciting. And I also wanted...[read on]
Visit Min Jin Lee's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, September 14, 2019

Nicola Harrison

Nicola Harrison is the author of Montauk.

From her Q&A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: How did you come up with the idea for Montauk and for your character Beatrice?

A: I’ve spent a lot of time in Montauk. I used to own a house there - we bought it from a local lobster fisherman named Billy who was selling up and moving his family to Florida.

When we went into town and talked to the locals they all said, “Oh yeah, I know where you live, you live in Billy’s house up on the hill.” For years our house was referred to as Bill’s house and I was just so intrigued by the strong sense of loyalty and community.

Also in the years that we owned the house I saw Montauk change so much from a sleepy little fishing village into the popular destination that it is today. I think I just became obsessively nostalgic for the quaint little fishing village that it started out as.

A lot of the places that I write about in the novel are still thriving today – The Montauk Manor, Gurneys, The Yacht Club, Duryea’s, White’s Pharmacy, and others have since closed (such as Trails End). What’s nice about Montauk is that…[read on]
Visit Nicola Harrison's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, September 13, 2019

Samantha Power

Samantha Power is the Anna Lindh Professor of the Practice of Global Leadership and Public Policy at Harvard Kennedy School and William D. Zabel ’61 Professor of Practice in Human Rights at Harvard Law School.

From 2013 to 2017 Power served as the 28th U.S. Permanent Representative to the United Nations, as well as a member of President Obama’s cabinet. Her new memoir is The Education of an Idealist.

From the transcript of her NPR interview with Noel King:

KING: For a long time, it seemed like it was America's place in the world to go in and fix things when horrific atrocities were being committed. At the very least, America was to consider playing a role, even if it didn't play a role. And it just - in 2019, it seems like that's changed. How does someone like you respond to this large percentage of Americans that say, we just don't want to do it anymore, and we elected a guy because he said we're not going to do this anymore - we're not going to get involved in conflicts that are not our business?

POWER: First, I think it's really important to be clear what the it is. You know, what is the it that we're not going to be doing? I think the fatigue with the use of military force and the perception that it rarely addresses the root causes of the crises that bring us there in the first place - and that fatigue is entirely legitimate and maybe it's a healthy corrective to the kind of adventurism or maybe an overconfidence that existed for a long time. But if you then talk to people and you say, well, wait, how are we going to prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon? It requires diplomacy and engagement and foreign policy. You know, just yelling at them and telling them to be different is not a substitute for, you know, the kind of years-long investment in building a coalition to isolate Iran and then to, effectively, take the nuclear weapons program away. That's a much more constructive path, I mean, precisely because...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, September 12, 2019

Anna Sherman

Anna Sherman was born in Little Rock, Arkansas. She studied Greek and Latin at Wellesley College and at Lincoln College, Oxford. Sherman worked as an editor at Millennium Journal of International Studies, Financial Times Energy, and then, after moving to Asia in 2001, for Hong Kong University Press and other imprints in Hong Kong and Tokyo.

The Bells of Old Tokyo is her first book.

From Sherman's Q&A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: How did you come up with the idea for The Bells of Old Tokyo?

A: Tokyo is difficult to know for many reasons. It’s huge, of course, but also it's also hard to know because of how quickly the city changes. Not just year to year or month to month but day to day. Tokyo is a kaleidoscope.

I didn’t plan to write about the time-telling bells. Then I happened to see one. It was HUGE, bigger than I was, and when I stood next to it, I felt electricity: This…! This! I have to write about this!

I needed a way to shrink Tokyo, to fold it up like origami: it would be impossible to write about the entire place. The bells let me collapse geography and time.

Q: How do you see your depiction of Tokyo perhaps differing from other books or travel memoirs about the city?

A: Richard Lloyd-Parry wrote People Who Eat Darkness about...[read on]
Visit Anna Sherman's website.

The Page 99 Test: The Bells of Old Tokyo.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, September 11, 2019

Stephen King

Stephen King's new novel is The Institute.

From his Q&A with Xan Brooks at the Guardian:

Carrie was published against the backdrop of Watergate, Vietnam and the Patty Hearst kidnapping. Is America a more or less scary place to write about now?

The world is a scary place, not just America. We’re in the spooky house – on the ghost train, if you prefer – for life. The scares come and go, but everyone likes make-believe monsters to stand in for the real ones.

The Institute is about a concentration camp for children, staffed by implacable factotums. To what extent did Trump’s immigration policies affect the book?

Trump’s immigration policies didn’t impact the book, because it was written before that incompetent dumbbell became president. Children are imprisoned and enslaved all over the world. Hopefully, people who read The Institute will find a resonant chord with this administration’s cruel and racial policies.

You were raised in a working-class Republican household. What would your mother make of today’s GOP?

My mother bolted the GOP the last time she voted and cast a ballot for George McGovern. She hated the Vietnam war. I was sworn to secrecy, but feel the statute of limitations on that has run out. In Maine, lots of Republicans are more purple than red. It’s how Senator Susan Collins...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, September 10, 2019

Jennifer Ryan

Jennifer Ryan's new novel is The Me I Used to Be.

From her Q&A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: How did you come up with the idea for The Me I Used to Be, and for your character Evangeline?

A: The overall premise of the book came from something I’ve noticed in my own family. When something happens, everyone experiences the event in different ways. How they feel about what happens varies depending on their personal experiences and background.

When Evangeline gets into trouble, everyone in the family sees what happens in a different way and they have their own feelings about it. Their minds are made up.

Until the truth comes out.

The opening scene of the book where Evangeline is facing the parole board comes from the movie trailer for Ocean’s Eight where Sandra Bullock’s character is telling the board exactly what they want to hear, but in her mind she’s plotting what she’s going to really do when she gets out.

Evangeline has her own plans, but that all changes when the police...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, September 9, 2019

Margaret Atwood

Margaret Atwood's new novel is The Testaments: The Sequel to The Handmaid’s Tale. From the transcript of her NPR interview with Scott Simon:

SIMON: And what moved you to write a sequel 34 years after the original?

ATWOOD: Well, it seemed like time. People had been asking me to write a sequel for a long time, and I'd always said no because I thought they meant the continuation of the story of Offred, which I couldn't do. But then I thought, what if somebody else were telling the story? And what if it were, oh, 15 or 16 years later?

And it was also time because for a while, we thought we were moving away from "The Handmaid's Tale." And then we turned around and started going back towards it, ominously close in many parts of the world. And I felt it was possibly time to revisit the question of how do regimes like Gilead end because we know from "The Handmaid's Tale" that it did end.

SIMON: Tell us about these new narrators that pick up the action 15 years later.

ATWOOD: Oh, so there are three narrators. Two of them are...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, September 8, 2019

Emily Liebert

Emily Liebert's new psychological suspense novel is Pretty Revenge.

From her Q&A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: How did you come up with the idea for Pretty Revenge, and for your characters Kerrie and Jordana?

A: I was inspired by the idea of revenge and wanted to explore what could happen when, after two decades, a woman has the opportunity to ruin the life of another woman who wronged her when they were growing up. In my past novels, there have been characters who were based on friends and family members or, at the very least, characteristics of those people. But, with this book, the characters are pure fiction. I knew that the two protagonists had to be very different, but also share something, like...[read on]
Learn more about the book and author at Emily Liebert's website.

The Page 69 Test: When We Fall.

Writers Read: Emily Liebert (September 2014).

My Book, The Movie: When We Fall.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, September 7, 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 Chicago Review of Books interview with Lori Rader-Day:

Lori Rader-Day: I always ask: where did this book start for you, with an image, a character, with something else?

Laura Lippman: It started in so many places—in my desire to escape the present-day world after the election in 2016, in my re-reading of Marjorie Morningstar and getting upset at Wally Wronken’s dismissal of Marjorie as now much too old for him (she’s 39!) to a series of photographs from the Catskills resorts of the 1930s. I remember very clearly walking home on a bright, cold winter’s day, cup of coffee in hand, and seeing those photographs and thinking it was a sign that I was onto something with the idea of trying to figure out what happened to Marjorie Morningstar the day after she saw Wally.

Lori Rader-Day: I understood from something you wrote in the acknowledgments that Lady in the Lake went a way you didn’t predict. Are you frustrated or delighted by that kind of thing? Both?

Laura Lippman: I never expected to write a newspaper novel; it held no interest for me. But it made sense for Maddie, who’s obsessed with making her mark on the world. It seemed credible that she could, with some effort, write her way onto the newspaper. I don’t mind when my books change course—I think it’s a sign that I’m paying attention, following...[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

Friday, September 6, 2019

Claire McGowan

Claire McGowan's new thriller is What You Did.

From her Q&A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: How did you come up with the idea for What You Did?

A: I actually can't remember when I got the idea as it was a few years ago - but it's partly inspired by a house I used to walk past every day when I lived in the countryside, and also from wanting to write a book partly set in Oxford and about friendship.

Q: Did you know how the novel would end before you started writing it, or did you make many changes along the way?

A: I had longer than usual to write this one, as I started working on it several years ago on spec. The structure, where we get one chapter from everyone who was...[read on]
Visit Claire McGowan's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, September 5, 2019

Adam Tooze

Adam Tooze is the director of the European Institute at Columbia University and author of the forthcoming book, Crashed: How a Decade of Financial Crises Changed the World.

From his May 2019 New Yorker Q&A with Isaac Chotiner:

[Chotiner:] It seems like the center left and center right keep falling away, even if individual economic conditions are O.K. I know that isn’t true in certain countries. In Austria, the center right did well, and—

[Tooze:] And Spain. Spain is another key country. Once the U.K. leaves, it is the fourth-largest country within the E.U. And in Spain we see a reassertion of the social democratic Socialist Party, and it even looks as if the [center-right] People’s Party is coming back. So it is a very motley picture. But, to your point of what is going on with the center left and center right, I think that is indeed the core question. Part of the problem is that the center right was tempted to move away from its positions. It moved either to the far right, in the case of the French Republicans—they basically adopted a nationalist agenda—or, as critics of Merkel would say, she turned the C.D.U. into something more like the S.P.D. In terms of the agenda Merkel’s government has pursued, it is actually quite close to a social democracy, and, indeed, even the Green Party on various points. So that adds up to an incredible blurring of the lines. Certainly what has happened is the ability to silo a particular social constituency, a particular set of cultural values, a particular set of economic programs, even regions of the country, and say, “This is S.P.D. territory,” or, “This is Christian Democratic territory”—that’s gone. And so what we have are lots of different parties fishing in what, in many ways, is a soup of agenda items.

And if you combine that with anger at the status quo, it doesn’t seem like a good recipe for traditional parties.

Exactly. There is a branding issue. The most striking...[read on]
Visit Adam Tooze's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, September 4, 2019

Nicola Moriarty

Nicola Moriarty's new novel is Paper Chains.

From her Q&A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: How did you come up with the idea for Paper Chains and for your characters Hannah and India?

A: The idea for Paper Chains grew out of a difficult time I was having in my own life, involving depression and anxiety. I realised that if I wrote about these issues, it could actually be quite cathartic for me.

I had these desires to run away from life and from my family (which filled me with incredible guilt, of course), and I discovered that if I wrote about two women, Hannah and India, who were running away from their lives, then I could live out these fantasies on the page without actually following through in real life. In the meantime, I was getting treatment for my depression so that I could enjoy my own story again!

Q: How was the novel's title chosen, and what does it signify for you?

A: It was difficult to come up with the right title for this novel. Originally, I wanted to call it “Chasing India,” but it didn’t quite fit because it was about Hannah’s story too. In the end...[read on]
Visit Nicola Moriarty's website.

The Page 69 Test: The Fifth Letter.

The Page 69 Test: Those Other Women.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, September 3, 2019

Lyz Lenz

Lyz Lenz's new book is God Land: A Story of Faith, Loss, and Renewal in Middle America.

From her interview with Emma Green for The Atlantic:

Green: In your book, you seem ambivalent about something I think about a lot—this desire to understand and find empathy for people who theoretically stand across some kind of “divide” from us, as journalists or as readers. Clearly, you care about understanding people, because you spent two years researching this book, and you’ve stayed in Iowa instead of moving to the liberal cocoon of Brooklyn. On the other hand, you seem really angry—at these people, and at the fact that the national media fetishize nostalgic white cultures. How do you square that ambivalence?

Lenz: It’s just like being in a family. I grew up with seven brothers and sisters, and if there’s one thing I’ve learned, it’s that you can love someone and be deeply angry at them at the same time. This is a key tension in America: You can love this place and still be pissed at it.

This is a very personal thing for me. I was married to somebody who voted and pushed for policies that I believed were hurting America. The people in my churches, who have loved me through some really difficult times, were also the people I heard saying very homophobic things and hurting others. I love this place where I live, but I also want it to be better.

Green: What you just articulated seems to be the opposite of so-called cancel culture. There’s a spirit right now, on both the right and the left, of total elimination of the enemy. Do you see yourself as countering that culture, or homeless in a world that’s driven by those impulses?

Lenz: I think I might disagree with the characterization.

Green: Hit back, Lyz!

Lenz: [Laughs] I think that game of both-siderism is really dangerous, and here’s why: The conversation should be about who has power and who is not being given a voice.

I was recently talking with my pastor about this idea that...[read on]
Visit Lyz Lenz's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, September 2, 2019

Daphne Kalotay

Daphne Kalotay is the author of Calamity and Other Stories, which was short listed for the 2005 Story Prize. Her debut novel, Russian Winter, won the 2011 Writers’ League of Texas Fiction Prize, made the long list for the IMPAC Dublin Literary Award, was nominated for the Dayton Literary Peace Prize, and has been published in twenty-three foreign editions. Her second novel, Sight Reading, was a Boston Globe bestseller, a finalist for the 2014 Paterson Fiction Prize, and winner of the 2014 New England Society Book Award in Fiction. She has received fellowships from the Christopher Isherwood Foundation, the Bogliasco Foundation, MacDowell, and Yaddo. She lives in Somerville, Massachusetts.

Kalotay's new novel is Blue Hours.

From her Q&A with Caroline Leavitt:

I always think writers are somehow haunted into writing their books—what was haunting you?

At first, it was simply the ghost of New York City in the early 90’s—the struggles of that time (AIDS, the recession, the first Gulf War) along with the youthful energy and blithe naivete, which really does seem lost forever, swept away by the economic boom that put the city out of reach for young hopefuls and by, more broadly, 9/11 and our country’s wars in the Middle East. Then it was my dear friend Xavier, who works for the Red Cross, telling me his headquarters in Libya had been bombed; that was in 2012, less than a year before I heard on the news about an American serviceman being held by the Taliban. I started thinking about these two types of overseas work—military and humanitarian aid—and ideas for the book began to percolate.

What I loved so much about your book was how it zoomed from NYC to Afghanistan, from issues of race and class and how they impact our lives. This seems especially timely today.

I’m struck by the ways that...[read on]
Visit Daphne Kalotay's website.

The Page 69 Test: Sight Reading.

The Page 69 Test: Blue Hours.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, September 1, 2019

Monique Truong

Monique Truong's new novel is The Sweetest Fruits.

From her Q&A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: You note that "sugar and cornbread led me to Lafcadio Hearn." At what point did you decide to write a novel about him?

A: I first read about Hearn in a Southern foodways encyclopedia--I was fact-checking my second novel Bitter in the Mouth in which I wrote that traditionally Northerners added sugar to their cornbread recipes, while Southerners did not--and I saw an entry on Hearn that included a brief sketch of his life including his contribution to Southern food--he's credited with writing the first Creole cookbook in the U.S.--and almost instantaneously I decided to write about him.

The first hook for me was that he had written a cookbook. I think of food writers as a tribe apart and very much my tribe. I feel that we look at the world through a particular set of lenses, and by lenses I mean bowls, dishes, glasses.

The second hook for me was that Hearn was a consummate traveler and an immigrant twice over. As a former refugee and someone who now often writes far from home, I also consider migratory people to be part of my tribe. I was also intrigued that Hearn in 1890 had chosen East over West (Japan over the U.S.), the reverse of...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue