Thursday, October 31, 2019

S.C. Gwynne

S.C. Gwynne is the author of Hymns of the Republic: The Story of the Final Year of the American Civil War and the New York Times bestsellers Rebel Yell and Empire of the Summer Moon, which was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Critics Circle Award. He spent most of his career as a journalist, including stints with Time as bureau chief, national correspondent, and senior editor, and with Texas Monthly as executive editor. He lives in Austin, Texas, with his wife.

From Gwynne's Q&A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: Why did you decide to focus on the last year of the Civil War in your new book?

A: The final year defined, in so many ways, the lasting legacy of the war. It was, for one thing, much more desperate, brutal, violent, and hate-driven than the earlier years of the conflict, which some historians have referred to as a “band box war.” Meaning that young men marched off to war to the sound of bands playing with dreams of glory and quick victory in their heads.

The last year of the war saw the rise of enormously violent anti-civilian warfare in the form of William Tecumseh Sherman’s marches and Phil Sheridan’s destruction of the Shenandoah Valley. There was also the rise of the extremely violent guerrilla war, mostly in the northern states of the South.

The final year of the war also saw 180,000 black troops in the Union army, 10 percent of the total—over 60 percent of whom were former slaves. Their presence...[read on]
Visit S.C. Gwynne's website.

Writers Read: S. C. Gwynne.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, October 30, 2019

Jaquira Díaz

Jaquira Díaz is the author of Ordinary Girls, a memoir, and I Am Deliberate, a novel.

From the transcript of her interview with NPR's Steve Inskeep:

RACHEL MARTIN, HOST: The writer Jaquira Diaz has a story about escaping the disasters of her own family. Born in Puerto Rico, she spent her early years in a public housing project. Her mom worked all the time, and her dad...

JAQUIRA DIAZ: My father was a drug dealer.

MARTIN: As a child, she would see him counting out the wadded dollar bills he had earned in that deadly trade. Later he moved the family to Miami and found work that was lawful. But Jaquira Diaz says her mother was temperamental, violent and finally diagnosed as schizophrenic. The writer describes their life in a memoir titled "Ordinary Girls." She talked with Steve Inskeep.

STEVE INSKEEP, BYLINE: How did you understand what was going on around you?

DIAZ: At first, I didn't really. I thought everyone lived like this because there were so many other families in el caserio that were dealing with similar things. It wasn't until I was a grown woman looking back at these things and realized how much violence made its way into our everyday lives, into our childhood games, how much we thought that was normal.

INSKEEP: What kinds of violence were there in your home or around your home?

DIAZ: There was a lot of drug-dealing. There were fights. There were raids. The cops would...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, October 29, 2019

Kim Harrington

Kim Harrington's new middle grade novel for kids is Revenge of the Red Club.

From her Q&A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: How did you come up with the idea for Revenge of the Red Club, and for your character Riley?

A: I wanted to write a book that I wish had existed when I was at that age. A period positive book with a lot of girl power, heart, and humor. But it would also tackle a lot of today’s important issues.

And I knew I needed a special character to make that happen. Riley is smart, passionate, but a little bit edgy. She’s not afraid to get in trouble if it’s for the right reason. She makes mistakes, but she learns from them. And I think that’s important.

Q: What do you think the book says about attitudes toward body image and menstruation?

A: The book is a pretty realistic portrayal of some of the issues kids (and adults!) go through, and I really wanted the result to be that the reader feels more body positive and period positive at the end of the book. We need to...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, October 28, 2019

Holly George-Warren

Holly George-Warren is a two-time Grammy nominee and the award-winning author of sixteen books, including the New York Times bestseller The Road to Woodstock (with Michael Lang, 2014) and the new biography Janis: Her Life and Music (2019).

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

GROSS: So why do you - why do you and so many others consider Janis Joplin the first woman rock star? And I presume when we say rock star, we're eliminating - like, rock 'n' roll. (Laughter) We're eliminating, like, girl groups; we're talking about, like, rock-rock.

GEORGE-WARREN: Yes. Janis Joplin broke down a lot of barriers to become the woman that she was in the 1960s, when at that point in time there weren't too many women taking center stage, not only on stage, in the recording studio, but even as far as a point of media attention. And Janis created this incredible image that went along with her amazing vocal ability, her talent and also her live performance, which was very, very different than most of the women that came before.

GROSS: For people who haven't seen her live or on film or video, how was her live performance different?

GEORGE-WARREN: What made Janis really different as a live performer is that she connected with her audiences by tapping into her deepest feelings. And there was this authenticity that came across. She wasn't just standing up there singing; she was basically emptying out her guts through that amazing voice of hers and touching her audience members like they had never been touched before.

I've talked to people who saw her back in 1966, '67, and they talk about it as if it was yesterday, especially women, I think, because she was able to express deep-down emotions - shame, disappointments, hurts - that I think a lot of women in her audience couldn't express themselves. And Janis was not only just singing to them; she was...[read on]
See Holly George-Warren's ten best music biographies.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, October 27, 2019

Trish Doller

Trish Doller's new YA novel is Start Here.

From her Q&A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: How did you come up with the idea for Start Here, and for your characters Willa and Taylor?

A: I was looking for photos of the Bahamas for a different project when I stumbled on the website of two young women--lifelong best friends--who'd spent two years traveling America's Great Loop together.

I read their entire blog in a single sitting and I started thinking about the kind of stresses a friendship might sustain in a situation like that. Which then made me wonder what it would be like if the people on the trip were not-so-great friends.

That led me to friendship trios and how there's always one friend who is the glue that holds the trio together. What if the glue is gone? Will the other two friends stay friends? Let's put them on a boat and find out!

In this particular story, all three girls (and their parents) are amalgamations of people I have known; girls my daughter knew when she was young. I grew up in Sandusky and my kids spent their childhoods there, so...[read on]
Visit Trish Doller's website.

Coffee with a Canine: Trish Doller & Cobi.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, October 26, 2019

Svetlana Alexievich

Svetlana Alexievich was born in Ivano-Frankivsk, Ukraine, in 1948 and has spent most of her life in the Soviet Union and present-day Belarus, with prolonged periods of exile in Western Europe. Starting out as a journalist, she developed her own nonfiction genre, which gathers a chorus of voices to describe a specific historical moment. Her works include The Unwomanly Face of War (1985), Last Witnesses (1985), Zinky Boys (1990), Voices from Chernobyl (1997), and Secondhand Time (2013). She has won many international awards, including the 2015 Nobel Prize in Literature “for her polyphonic writings, a monument to suffering and courage in our time.”

From her interview with Luke Harding for the Guardian:

Which book or author do you always return to?

Dostoevsky. His Crime and Punishment and Demons. He goes deep into human beings, the way he sees the darkness inside the soul and illuminates it. My favourite literary hero is Dostoevsky himself. He’s both hero and antihero. It’s an awful thing that Russian writers don’t generally live much beyond 50, with the obvious exception of Tolstoy. Chekhov was dead by 44.

What book would you give to a young person?

Marina Tsvetaeva’s diaries and notebooks. She manages to catch what she feels, to write words that have already been purified, to record what we whisper to ourselves before we wake up and this vanishes. She deals in what I call alive words.

How do you feel about our troubled political era?

People have gone back to the middle ages, to medieval prejudices. Those who come from the USSR or Russia and move to the west take their prejudices with them. They are a deeply conservative bunch. If you switch on Russian TV it says that Europeans are decadent, that everyone in the west is gay....[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, October 25, 2019

Zoe Fishman

Zoe Fishman's new novel is Invisible As Air.

From her Q&A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: Why did you decide to write about a character who's addicted to opioids in your new novel?

A: That was actually the starting point of the novel. I was and continue to be very interested in the way this epidemic has ripped through the country, destroying so many people's lives, and almost always beginning with a doctor's prescription.

Oxycodone knows so class or gender or economic strata, and I wanted to write about an unlikely, rather invisible victim: an upper-middle-class working mom who knows better but still can't help herself.

Q: You write, "So although Sylvie and the Snow family's situation is different than mine, it's my hope that by writing myself through grief, I was at least somehow able to write them authentically through it too." How did your own experience with grief inform your writing of the novel?

A: It made me much more...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, October 24, 2019

Elizabeth Chiles Shelburne

Elizabeth Chiles Shelburne grew up reading, writing, and shooting in East Tennessee. After graduating from Amherst College, she worked at The Atlantic Monthly. Her nonfiction work has been published in The Atlantic Monthly, Boston Globe, and Globalpost, among others and her short fiction has appeared in The Broad River Review and Barren Magazine. Her essay on how killing a deer made her a feminist was published in Click! When We Knew We Were Feminists, edited by Courtney E. Martin and J. Courtney Sullivan. She is a graduate of Grub Street’s Novel Incubator. She lives outside Boston with her husband and four children.

Shelburne's new novel is Holding On To Nothing.

From her Q&A with Rachel Barenbaum at Dead Darlings:

Elizabeth, let’s start by talking about my favorite character: Lucy. She makes one big mistake—with Jeptha, and ends up pregnant. She owns the consequences, does everything she can to deal with the fall out. In this sense, she’s strong. But at the same time, she might have decided to try to make a family because she missed hers so desperately. And she gave up her dream, changed course all to try to mold herself and her life around Jeptha. What were you thinking when you created her with these dichotomies?

That is a great question! I think Lucy is a really strong character who is a victim of her place, time and circumstances. While getting an abortion would have allowed her to continue on her path, it just isn’t something she would do. (And I continue to be interested in the regional split—readers up North often question her decision, whereas my Southern readers reason, “Of course she wouldn’t.”) I wasn’t thinking of her as someone who molded herself to Jeptha, but to her circumstances. I think she so desperately misses her family that the baby feels like a home to her (“nothing cobbled” as I say in the book) and Jeptha, in his best moments, feels like maybe he can also be a part of that. Her longing for that family, for that sense of belonging, is so fierce that she makes decisions that in retrospect are...[read on]
Visit Elizabeth Chiles Shelburne's website.

The Page 69 Test: Holding On To Nothing.

My Book, The Movie: Holding On To Nothing.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, October 23, 2019

Douglas Waller

Douglas Waller's new book is Lincoln's Spies: Their Secret War to Save a Nation.

From his Q&A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: Why did you decide to focus on four Civil War spies—Allan Pinkerton, Lafayette Baker, George Sharpe, and Elizabeth Van Lew--in your new book?

A: I’m not a Civil War historian. I was a correspondent for Newsweek and Time, and I covered the CIA. My last two books were on the head of OSS [the Office of Strategic Services] in World War II, Wild Bill Donovan, Franklin Roosevelt’s spymaster; and on four CIA directors who worked for OSS. For the next book, I decided to switch wars. I’m glad I did; it’s a fascinating subject.

I picked four [spies]. One was a failure. One was a scoundrel. Two were very successful spies.

Allan Pinkerton was a famous detective, but was a failure as a military intelligence officer.

Lafayette Baker was an absolute scoundrel. He was like Lincoln’s J. Edgar Hoover; the difference was that Baker didn’t have much interaction with Lincoln, and Baker was far more corrupt.

George Sharpe is one of the heroes, a George Smiley type. He was highly educated and spoke several foreign languages. He headed up intelligence for General Hooker. He pioneered all-source intelligence, and would produce reports.

Elizabeth Van Lew was the...[read on]
Visit Douglas Waller's website.

My Book, The Movie: Disciples.

The Page 99 Test: Disciples.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, October 22, 2019

Rob Delaney

From the transcript of actor and comedian Rob Delaney's onstage interview with Emily Nussbaum at The New Yorker Festival:

You’ve had two major health catastrophes in your life, one in the United States and one in the United Kingdom—you were severely injured in the car crash, when you were twenty-five, and then what you’ve been through with Henry [note: Delaney's two-and-a-half-year-old son died of a brain tumor in January of 2018]. I know that health care is central to how you think about things, and I wonder if you can talk about the difference between the experiences with U.S. health care and U.K. health care.

The short version is it’s better to get sick in the U.K. than here. I’m a pretty vocal advocate for Medicare for All in the U.S. and for support of the N.H.S. in the U.K. I had private health insurance that I paid for back in 2002 when I had my accident—this was pre-A.C.A., or Obamacare—so, when I started to generate fairly sizable hospital bills, my insurance company just dropped me, which they could do back then. So I was paying for surgeries with credit cards. People in this room have done that—maybe they’re doing it right now.

So I knew something needed to change here. I knew my dad and my stepdad get care from the V.A., and I knew if you were very poor or over sixty-five there was something for you. I just thought, it’s really weird that some people get health care from the government and some people don’t. And then I went to the N.H.S. in the U.K., and I remember walking into our local general practitioner to sign up my family and being, like, [breathing heavily] “So what do you need? Do you need a retinal scan? What fluids from me do you need?” And they were, like, “What’s your address?” And I was, like, “O.K., now what else?” That’s it. Now we can go to the doctor. It’s not free—your tax dollars pay for it—but, if you get sick in the U.K., you don’t immediately begin to stress out. What’s the story with my deductible? Was my private prescription plan sold three weeks ago without my knowledge to another company, so I got dropped because I didn’t answer an e-mail? The stress that you have when you get sick in the U.K. is so much less than over here because the financial element isn’t a part of it. You’re still sad or angry because your knee fell apart or something’s wrong with your butthole, but you don’t have the ancillary stress of what’s going to happen to my wallet.

We had the worst possible outcome in the U.K. Our son died. He would have died here; there’s nothing you can do for this type of tumor in a kid that young. What we didn’t have to do was spend hours, days, weeks, months on the phone with billing offices or insurance companies making sure this M.R.I. would be covered. And that was time that we got to spend with our son, the little boy that I just described, rather than with some actuary on the phone in Indiana.

So, yeah, I want to abolish private health insurance in the United States. I want to smash it and destroy it. We have to do it, because the amount of money we spend on health care for people in Medicaid and Medicare and Tricare—we’re doing that, and then we’re paying private health-care companies, C.E.O.s who are making hundreds of millions of dollars, and spending money on advertising. “Your choice! Get the plan that’s right for you”—what the fuck is that? The plan is go to the hospital and it’s covered. There’s your choice. Yeah, I’m a zealot on that one, and I won’t stop until...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, October 21, 2019

Joyce Carol Oates

Joyce Carol Oates is the author of such national bestsellers as The Falls, Blonde, and We Were the Mulvaneys.

From her CrimeReads interview with Thomas Pluck:

TP: Your latest thriller is Pursuit, which chilled me to the bone. It’s like a Grimm’s fairy tale updated for our time, on the danger of disallowing our loved ones to have secrets… Can you tell us briefly about the genesis of this story?

JCO: I had been haunted for years by the same “vision” that haunts the young woman protagonist—I think it was an emblem to me of the absolutely worst, most horrific & appalling thing that could happen to anyone. Which is why I eventually created an entire short novel about it, and made that novel (unexpectedly, I hope) a tender story honoring marital love. (I know—it sounds virtually impossible in our #MeToo era of terrible men and their enablers to seriously/positively depict marriage—yet all around us are marriages of people who truly love each other.)

I have usually focused on conflicts within the family & marriage—(of course: art is about conflict, unavoidably)—& had wanted to write about a genuinely idealistic young husband in love with a mysteriously wounded/ elusive young wife. So, there are dramatically contrasting marriages in Pursuit—the marriage of Abby & Willem & the marriage of Nicola & Lew Hayman (himself a victim of...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, October 20, 2019

Katherine Reay

Katherine Reay's newest novel is The Printed Letter Bookshop.

From her Q&A with Deborah Kalb:

Books. Love. Friendship. Second chances. All can be found at the Printed Letter Bookshop in the small, charming town of Winsome.

One of Madeline Cullen’s happiest childhood memories is of working with her Aunt Maddie in the quaint and cozy Printed Letter Bookshop. But by the time Madeline inherits the shop nearly twenty years later, family troubles and her own bitter losses have hardened Madeline’s heart toward her once-treasured aunt—and the now struggling bookshop left in her care.

While Madeline intends to sell the shop as quickly as possible, the Printed Letter’s two employees have other ideas. Reeling from a recent divorce, Janet finds sanctuary within the books and within the decadent window displays she creates. Claire, though quieter than the acerbic Janet, feels equally drawn to the daily rhythms of the shop and its loyal clientele, finding a renewed purpose within its walls.

When Madeline’s professional life falls apart, and a handsome gardener upends all her preconceived notions, she questions her plans and her heart. Has she been too quick to dismiss her aunt’s beloved shop? And even if she has, the women’s best combined efforts may be too little, too late....[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, October 19, 2019

Steph Cha

Steph Cha's new novel is Your House Will Pay.

From her CrimeReads Q&A with Lisa Levy:

What’s interesting is that if somebody asked me, “Oh, is Steph’s new book a crime novel?” I would say, “Well, it’s a novel with a crime in it, but it’s really about two different families.”

Yeah. And I think that’s how I conceived it. I think of it as a social crime novel.

You’re in a long tradition of people who have been critiquing culture through crime fiction.

I think because I come from a crime background, it’s easier to see it as a crime novel. I think if it were a debut, I feel like it would be pushed as a literary novel, you know? Because it’s somewhere in the middle. I think it does what a literary novel does, and I think it does what a crime novel does, too. At least the ones that I gravitate towards. It’s not a mystery, but I definitely didn’t want to minimize the crime element of it because it’s all about the aftermath of these two crimes. And that very much interested me. The people who are left behind, and how they deal with the fallout.

As I was writing this, it occurred to me that that Sean and Grace, who are the main characters in this book, in other types of crime novels Sean and Grace would be the side characters that the police officer talks to for a part of the chapter to ask what’s going on? What was your relationship to the victim or the suspect? And they’d be kind of color, and then you move on. So, it’s interesting to kind of flip it so that you’re spending all your time with these characters while the police detective and the journalist are these two white dude characters in the background coming in and out.

What’s interesting is it doesn’t unfold as an investigation. That’s one of the definitions of a crime novel is that something happens, and then somebody spends a whole lot of time figuring out how and why that thing happened. It’s dealing with themes that are much deeper than that. When I wrote down what I thought the themes were for this novel, I had things like judgment: what is judgment and who gets to judge? What is guilt? What’s atonement? What’s grace? I think grace is a big theme in the book, as well as a really important character. Because I felt like I saw the situation through her eyes the most clearly.

Those are definitely a lot of themes I was working with. I think I was interested in particular in the way that people who are...[read on]
Visit Steph Cha's website and Twitter perch.

Coffee with a Canine: Steph Cha and Duke.

My Book, The Movie: Follow Her Home.

The Page 69 Test: Follow Her Home.

Writers Read: Steph Cha (April 2013).

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, October 18, 2019

Elizabeth Earley

Elizabeth Earley's new novel is Like Wings, Your Hands.

From her Q&A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: How did you come up with the idea for Like Wings, Your Hands, and for your characters Kalina and Marko?

A: I've always been fascinated with the body, both its genius design and its inherent limitations.

The limitations that attend the human condition, as I see it, are crippling, even for the healthiest of bodies. Our senses mislead us. There’s the visible spectrum.

The average seeing human eyes are sensitive to a very narrow band of frequencies within the enormous range of frequencies of the electromagnetic spectrum. But there are also other types of limitations to our vision — photoreceptivity, angular resolution, field of view.

There’s hearing range. The average hearing human ear can detect a limited range of sound frequency. We measure that in units we call Hertz, which is something some guy once came up with. Then there’s hearing threshold limitations, which refers to the pressure of sound and is measured in decibels.

Then there are the closely related senses of taste and smell, arguably the weakest of the human senses. Physicists have been challenged to objectively gauge the intensity of flavor and odor perception, and with that lack of an absolute unit of measurement, thresholds are difficult to determine.

The sense of touch is the most complex and different parts of the human body have different levels of sensitivity to everything from contact to temperature to itchiness to pressure. We know it has something to do with what we call “sensory neurons.” Nevertheless, its mechanisms are poorly understood.

Even the way we organize our environment with names and categories and units of measurement is conducted from within our limitations. The point is...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, October 17, 2019

Danielle Steel

Danielle Steel is a novelist who has written over 180 books, including the newly released Child's Play.

From her Q&A with Tara Sonin for the B&N Reads blog:

Child’s Play, your newest novel, introduces the reader to Kate, a successful woman who has lots of ideas about how her life and the lives of her three adult children should be. Her steadfast devotion to certain ideals—high quality education, marrying well, etc. reminded me about a section in the Glamour piece where you discussed the differences in how you experienced your early working life and how your children have experienced theirs. Was the inspiration for this book drawn from your own observations as a mother?

My observations in Child’s Play come from my experience as a mother (of many children. I have 9), and from what I’ve seen around me among young people and parents. We want the best for our kids, but our plans for them aren’t always what they want or what is suited to their life. It takes strength and courage to find the right path in life, and it takes patience, understanding and great love to let your children follow the path that seems right to them. And sometimes the two are very different!!

I loved how Kate really thinks she knows her children but they are all keeping things from her, to varying degrees. As she described her relationships with them, I felt only encroaching dread because I knew that the more clearly she defined them, the more wrong she would wind up being. Without betraying their privacy of course, what are some of the things about your own children that have surprised you as they’ve grown up?

Motherhood and mothering is always surprising!! Life is surprising!! My children have...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, October 16, 2019

Susan Rice

Ambassador Susan E. Rice is currently Distinguished Visiting Research Fellow at the School of International Service at American University, a Non-Resident Senior Fellow at the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government, and a contributing opinion writer for The New York Times. She serves on the boards of Netflix and the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts and previously served on several nonprofit boards, including the U.S. Fund for UNICEF.

Rice earned her master’s degree and doctorate in international relations from Oxford University, where she was a Rhodes Scholar, and her bachelor’s degree from Stanford University.

Rice's new book is Tough Love: My Story of the Things Worth Fighting For.

From the transcript of her interview with Fareed Zakaria:

ZAKARIA: Before we get to Syria and Ukraine, I got to ask you about the moment -- you write about in your book when President Obama calls you and asks you to be his ambassador to the United Nations. A storied position. A cabinet position. And you respond by saying, well, thanks very much but I was hoping you would ask me to be National Security adviser.

I think that the technical term for that is chutzpah.

RICE: Yes. That's the play.

ZAKARIA: Why did you do that and what was his reaction which you don't recount?

RICE: Well, actually his reaction was quite cool. He said, you know, I really would consider that down the road, but in the moment I wanted somebody -- because he was dealing with the financial crisis -- that would be perceived as able to step in the job, hit the ground running on day one and he wanted a general for that. And you'll recall he selected General Jim Jones who is a four-star NATO commander. But he said, look, I really want you to go to the U.N. And I think you'll do a great job and let's see what happens after that.

ZAKARIA: You know that --

RICE: But let me explain the chutzpah.

ZAKARIA: The chutzpah -- it does give you a reputation.

RICE: Well, you know what, Fareed, I think lots of guys would have done the same. And I say that in the book. And one of the things I admire most about President Obama is that he didn't expect differently from women than men. I think, you know, for me, it took little guts to say that.

It was honestly how I felt. I was perfectly ready to accept that it was his choice to make. But what I say in the book is women have to advocate for themselves and if they don't, other people won't. And many men, many of my male colleagues have...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, October 15, 2019

J. Anderson Coats

J. Anderson Coats is the author of The Green Children of Woolpit.

From her Q&A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: The Green Children of Woolpit was based on real 12th century chronicles--how did you learn about the story and at what point did you decide it would be the basis of your new book?

A: I’m not sure I can pinpoint a particular moment when I stumbled over this story and had an a-ha moment. I was the kind of nerdy teen who had research interests, and since then I’ve read a lot about the middle ages and medieval culture.

Deciding to create my own fictionalized account was a collaboration between myself and my amazing Atheneum editor. I brought up this story pretty much at random during a conversation about potential projects, and she was intrigued. Editors are wonderful people, and vital to the creative process.

Q: How did you research the book, and did you learn anything that particularly intrigued you?

A: I did a lot more internet research for this book than I ordinarily do. Mostly I’m a brick-and-mortar, page-and-cover kind of researcher, but in this case, I wanted to explore not just the historicity of the story, but the considerable amount of folklore and legend that’s grown up around it...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, October 14, 2019

Sara Faring

Born in Los Angeles, Sara Faring is a multi-lingual Argentine-American fascinated by literary puzzles.

After working in investment banking at J.P. Morgan, she worked at Penguin Random House. She holds degrees from the University of Pennsylvania in International Studies and from the Wharton School in Business. She currently resides in New York City.

Faring's new novel is The Tenth Girl.

From her Q&A with Melissa Albert for the BN Teen blog:

Please pitch your debut in one sentence.

Buenos Aires native Mavi cons her way into a teaching role at an elite Patagonian finishing school with an astonishingly terrible history, and her future proves to be…even more astonishing and terrible.

What was the spark that became this book?

I took the trip of a lifetime to Paris with all of the women in my family for my grandmother’s 85th birthday. She calls us the matriarcado (matriarchy in Spanish). We spent the whole time stuffing our faces with buttery French pastry (almost as good as Argentine facturas), then collapsing in an apartment and talking/telling stories/laughing hysterically after we discovered a Marilyn Monroe-esque wig in a shop that looked like my (very fabulous and dramatic) grandmother’s hair…and everyone pretended to be her. (You don’t do this at family reunions? Oh).

One of my cousins is a brilliant psychotherapist (fun fact, Argentina is the country with the most psychologists per capita in the world), and some late nights, she would lead our group through hypnotherapy sessions, which frankly had more of a séance feel. We shared stories from the entire length of our family’s verbal history, stories that might have otherwise been forgotten in the years to come. Once I’d heard a few of these family tales, I felt an urgent need to learn everything I could and write a book to...[read on]
Visit Sara Faring's website.

My Book, The Movie: The Tenth Girl.

The Page 69 Test: The Tenth Girl.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, October 13, 2019

Poppy Alexander

Poppy Alexander's new novel is 25 Days 'Til Christmas.

From her Q&A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: How did you come up with the idea for 25 Days 'Til Christmas, and for your characters Kate and Daniel?

A: Now, that’s an interesting one! It all came about in a way which is becoming increasingly common in publishing, from what I can gather: A commissioning editor at the British publisher, Orion, was chatting with my agent about the books she was buying, and she happened to mention that she was failing to find the kind of Christmas-themed novel she was after.

My agent then approached me to ask whether I would be prepared to look at an idea this editor had around a girl selling Christmas trees and a man who was grieving and the two characters being attracted to each other’s loneliness in the lead up to Christmas.

She had some really lovely examples of how Kate had loved Christmas in the old days but now she was a widow bringing up her son Jack on her own, she didn’t feel like doing all those things in the lead up to Christmas.

By the time I had given Daniel a bit more of a back story about losing his disabled sister and decided...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, October 12, 2019

Craig DiLouie

Craig DiLouie is an author of popular thriller, apocalyptic/horror, and sci-fi/fantasy fiction.

In hundreds of reviews, DiLouie’s novels have been praised for their strong characters, action, and gritty realism. Each book promises an exciting experience with people you’ll care about in a world that feels real.

These works have been nominated for major literary awards such as the Bram Stoker Award and Audie Award, translated into multiple languages, and optioned for film.

DiLouie's new novel is Our War.

From his Q&A with Tammy at Books, Bones & Buffy:

For readers who haven’t read Our War yet, can you please tell us about the story?

I’d be happy to, Tammy—and thanks for having me as a guest on your blog! Set in the near future, Our War is a dystopian adult novel about a brother and sister forced to fight on opposite sides of a second American civil war, and the people whose lives they touch.

The read is more similar to what you might find in books like The Handmaid’s Tale than dystopian action-adventure like The Hunger Games. While there is certainly action in the story, it is not so much a war novel as a novel about a war.

Otherwise, I should point out the novel was published by Orbit, one of the world’s leading speculative fiction publishers, and is available in all formats, both online and in bookstores.

The events in Our War seem eerily familiar, especially if you live in the United States.

I thought the story I was writing was prescient, but just in the past few weeks it seems torn directly from today’s headlines. The novel presents a president who is impeached and removed from office but refuses to step down. Right-wing militias regard the impeachment as a soft coup by the Deep State and mobilize in a national armed protest that becomes a revolution. These concepts should be familiar to those following the news lately.

When did you start writing the book, and why did you decide to tackle such a potentially volatile subject matter?

Thematically, Our War is about political tribalization in the United States and its consequences. I conceptualized the novel in 2017 and finished it in 2018. The president in the story is loosely based on ...[read on]
Visit Craig DiLouie's website.

My Book, The Movie: One of Us.

The Page 69 Test: One of Us.

Writers Read: Craig DiLouie.

The Page 69 Test: Our War.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, October 11, 2019

R.H. Herron

R.H. Herron's new novel is Stolen Things.

From her Q&A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: How did you come up with the idea for Stolen Things, and for your characters Laurie and Jojo?

A: Great question! I was a 911 dispatcher for 17 years, so I'd always wanted to write a book about one. When I finally got the chance to do so, a scandal was happening at a local police department, in which a dispatcher's daughter was in grave danger, put there by the police officers themselves. I couldn't let go of the idea, so I fictionalized Laurie and Jojo in order to give them a better ending.

Q: Do you usually know how your novels will end before you start writing them, or do you make many changes along the way? What was the case with this book?

A: Oh, I wish I knew how they would end! I know a lot about my books before I start, but I never know the ending! I always...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, October 10, 2019

Ann Patchett

Ann Patchett's newest novel is The Dutch House. From her Q&A with Hannah Beckerman at the Guardian:

The protagonists in The Dutch House become obsessed with their childhood home after they’re turfed out by their stepmother. Do you think people too often get fixated on the past?

So many people just get stuck in their childhood and shoulder that burden through everything. It becomes their defining feature in life. Danny and Maeve [the novel’s main characters] chew on their loss of the house: they make it a fetish. I see people doing that and I just think, You can’t still be feeling this loss. You’ve made this your hobby.

Property is both a sanctuary and a burden in the novel. Was that something you set out to explore?

I hadn’t consciously set out to explore that and yet the further along I went the more I could see it and the more I could think about the burden of things. I am somebody who feels the burden of things. I think I would have made a swell nun.

The novel is also about memory: whether we can only ever view the past through the prism of the present. Do you think memory is ultimately unreliable?

Yes, I think that memory is almost a living thing for every person. I was in downtown New York on September 11 with a friend and...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, October 9, 2019

D.A. Bartley

D.A. Bartley's new mystery novel is Death in the Covenant, the second in her series about Detective Abish Taylor.

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

Q: This is your second book about Detective Abish Taylor. How do you think she's changed from one book to the next?

A: Abbie is slowly opening herself up to life. She was still reeling from having lost her husband in Blessed Be the Wicked.

In Death in the Covenant, we get to see her flirt with the idea of romance. She and her dad are making inroads in their relationship, and Abbie’s made peace with living in a place where she’ll never quite fit in.

Q: Did you know when you were working on the first book that you'd be writing another one?

A: Yes and no. I don't think I'm different from most writers in that when I was working on my very first book, it was pretty much all I could see.

Having said that...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, October 8, 2019

Julie Hirschfeld Davis & Michael Shear

Julie Hirschfeld Davis and Michael Shear are journalists with The New York Times. Their new book is Border Wars: Inside Trump's Assault On Immigration.

From the transcript of their Fresh Air interview with Terry Gross:
Terry Gross: Michael Shear, Julie Hirschfeld Davis, welcome to FRESH AIR. So let's start with something a lot of America is talking about, alligators and snakes in moats around the Mexican-American border. This is one of the ideas that Trump had, to have, like, basically a moat, (laughter), across the border with alligators and snakes and who knows what else in the water. It sounds so preposterous. It sounds medieval. What was the context of this proposal?

JULIE HIRSCHFELD DAVIS: Well, President Trump has been just taken with this idea of a physical barrier of the wall for many years. And he would talk about it and have very vivid descriptions of what he wanted it to look and feel like. He considers himself a builder. That's one of the reasons his advisers initially thought of the wall. It was almost as a mnemonic device to get him to sort of remember to talk about illegal immigration and his plans for cracking down on it. So going in, he was thinking about the physical aspects of this structure. But he came to really be frustrated with the inability to get the wall built quickly, and he would sort of cast about for other ideas of how he could make it more effective or something else he might be able to do.

And so he would raise this idea of a trench, and maybe we could have a water-filled trench. And he raised it so many times that, actually, his aides finally went and got a cost estimate for what a trench would cost. And it was going to be three times more expensive as a wall. But it didn't really deter him because he was so enamored with this idea of having countermeasures. And so when they would have discussions about these things, sometimes he would raise, well, you could have snakes inside it, or you could have crocodiles inside it - or alligators inside it - excuse me.

And even though it seemed preposterous to his advisers the first and second times that he would bring this up, they kind of got to the point where they couldn't really tell whether he was serious or not serious. All they knew, all he seemed to really know, is that he wanted something that would be dangerous, and threatening and a deterrent.

GROSS: Yeah. He wanted something that would be punitive that would, like, maim people or burn people, cut them to pieces. This is what you write in the book. So what are some of the more extreme ideas he had for a punitive barrier?

MICHAEL SHEAR: Right. So he talked about this constantly. He - the wall, in his view, should not just be kind of a structure that would stop people on the other side, but that anybody who tried to climb it would be hurt severely. So he talked about painting it black. He would always say flat black, Kirstjen - talking to Kirstjen Nielsen, his Homeland Security secretary. He'd say, I want it to be black. And that was because he wanted it to...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, October 7, 2019

Jake Burt

Jake Burt's new middle grade novel for kids is The Tornado.

From his Q&A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: You note that you experienced something similar to the bullying that your character Bell deals with in The Tornado. Why did you decide to write about it?

A: It was time. I started writing it just as my daughter began middle school. Her transition afforded me an opportunity to really reflect on my own middle school experience, and I was stunned by how much I couldn’t remember. Every time I tried to recall something positive, the experience of being bullied - and, just as importantly, not standing up for others who were similarly treated - rose to the forefront.

I always knew that it impacted me, but I wasn’t quite ready to come to grips with just how profoundly it did. The Tornado was my way of more fully exploring and coming to terms with...[read on]
Visit Jake Burt's website.

The Page 69 Test: Greetings from Witness Protection!.

Writers Read: Jake Burt (November 2017).

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, October 6, 2019

Clay McLeod Chapman

Clay McLeod Chapman's new novel is The Remaking.

From the transcript of his NPR interview with Scott Simon:

SIMON:... Your novel suggests that witches are tired of having their stories appropriated.


SIMON: They want to tell their own stories.

CHAPMAN: I think, you know, women in general - like, why relegate it to witches? But I think with this specific story, yes, like, it's - I want to focus on this idea of the autre (ph), the male gaze, you know, suddenly kind of boxing these particular women in.

And, you know, time and time again, we take these stories, and we spin them out until they're no longer owned by the people who are kind of the source, the point of origin. And I think that goes into filmmaking, novel writing. I'm - my hands aren't clean here. There's blood on my hands.

SIMON: I was about to point out, I mean, this is clear source appropriation on your part.

CHAPMAN: Yeah, and I want to kind of own that. One of the biggest questions I asked writing this was...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, October 5, 2019

Eileen Pollack

Eileen Pollack graduated with a BS in physics from Yale and earned an MFA in creative writing from the University of Iowa. She is the author of the novels The Bible of Dirty Jokes, A Perfect Life, Breaking and Entering, and Paradise, New York, the short-story collections In the Mouth and The Rabbi in the Attic, and the nonfiction books The Only Woman in the Room: Why Science Is Still a Boys’ Club and Woman Walking Ahead: In Search of Catherine Weldon and Sitting Bull.

Pollack's new novel is The Professor of Immortality.

From her Q&A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: How did you come up with the idea for The Professor of Immortality, and for your character Professor Maxine Sayers?

A: I had just moved to Ann Arbor to teach in 1994, and the Unabomber manifesto [written by Ted Kaczynski] came out in The Washington Post. Not long after, David Kaczynski and his wife went to the FBI—they recognized some of the language and the ideas. It was hard for David to turn his brother in.

The University of Michigan realized [Ted Kaczynski] got his Ph.D. in math from Michigan. If you’re a graduate student at Michigan, you have to take a course outside your area of study.

As someone teaching writing [as I did], you got to know your students well. I have had many students who were young men, were bright—and were angry. I’d always taken them as my special projects. I have a physics degree from Yale; I have an older brother who could be a handful. I’d always try to connect with them. Often, I broke through and we became close. I thought many of them were in a lot of pain.

I was interested in Kaczynski. The more I read about him, the more I began to feel for him. If I’d read the manifesto and recognized the words of a former student, would I have turned him in? I’m interested in radical action, in what shaped him.

So I had a figure of a professor who starts to suspect a former student she cares about. I was interested in...[read on]
Visit Eileen Pollack's website.

The Page 69 Test: A Perfect Life.

The Page 69 Test: The Professor of Immortality.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, October 4, 2019

Paul Krugman

Paul Krugman’s newest book, Arguing with Zombies: Economics, Politics, and the Fight for a Better Future, will be out in January.

From his Q&A with Carol Tannenhauser for the West Side Rag:

WSR: Do you think [changes in commercial real estate on the Upper West Side of New York City] could be the result of a permanent shift in the way people shop? Are mom-and-pops a thing of the past?

PK: What I’m worried about more than a change in shopping habits is gentrification. Big cities in general, and New York in particular, have become desirable places for high earners to live. It’s driving up costs and it does reduce the distinctiveness of the place. There’s a kind of cycle of destruction: someplace is interesting and has character and, because of that, people start buying places and moving in and, in so doing, they drive up real estate prices and destroy the character they came in search of.

WSR: They also drive up the height of buildings.

PK: Well, that’s a funny thing, because I actually, in general, think New York does have to build up. There’s only so much land and you want to be able to accommodate people. While there are places where the buildings are really overshadowing, there are lots of parts of Manhattan that are unnecessarily low rise. Up is the only direction to go.

WSR: If only the tall ones provided affordable housing.

PK: You could have tall ones that do, and, look, if people can...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, October 3, 2019

Stephen Chbosky

Stephen Chbosky's new novel is Imaginary Friend.

From his CrimeReads interview with Michael Seidlinger:

Reading Imaginary Friend makes me nostalgic—pop quizzes, sleepovers, ghost stories, the fear of being grounded—as a child our worldview is smaller and capable of harboring a whole different set of terrors. A child’s imagination runs wild. What are some of those priceless nostalgic things that still crawl to you when you allow time to reflect back? What crept into Imaginary Friend (no spoilers! Okay maybe a few)?

Every age has its own set of fears. When I was a child, nothing scared me more than the witch in Hansel & Gretel. So, she became part of the character (mini spoiler) the hissing lady. When I was older, I was afraid of failing tests. So, that became Christopher’s nightmare in school. I grew up in Western, PA, where the woods felt haunted. The deer were everywhere. And the clouds in the sky, which may (or may not) be watching us. This book is filled with everything that ever scared me (and everything that ever gave me hope).

Has there been a book that scared you so effectively it rendered you speechless? What about a movie? Scariest real-life experience?

Stephen King has written so many incredible books, it is impossible to narrow it down to one. I think The Stand is his greatest novel. The Shining is his...[read on]
Seven books that influence Stephen Chbosky's writing.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, October 2, 2019

Sharon Marcus

Sharon Marcus is the Orlando Harriman Professor of English and Comparative Literature at Columbia University. She is a founding editor of Public Books and the author of the award-winning Between Women: Friendship, Desire, and Marriage in Victorian England and Apartment Stories: City and Home in Nineteenth-Century Paris and London.

Marcus's new book is The Drama of Celebrity.

From her Q&A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: The actress Sarah Bernhardt is a major focus of The Drama of Celebrity. Why did you choose to highlight her and her career in the book?

A: Before Lady Gaga, before Elizabeth Taylor, before Gloria Swanson, there was Sarah Bernhardt. Born in France in 1844, in the 1870s she became the first global superstar. A classically trained actress who was also a genius at self-promotion, Bernhardt was one of the first famous people to develop a private persona for public consumption.

We know very little about her true private life — the father of her only child, for example, remains a mystery. But by letting painters and photographers into her home, where she also granted interviews to journalists into her home, by having herself portrayed sleeping in a coffin in her bedroom, she gave strangers the impression that they knew her intimately.

The celebrity culture we live with today began in the mid-19th century with the rise of the cheap press and commercial photography, the rapid spread of information via telegraph cables, and the ability of people to move themselves around the world via steamships and railways. Born at the perfect time to take advantage of all of these technologies, Bernhardt became the...[read on]
Learn more about The Drama of Celebrity at the Princeton University Press website.

The Page 99 Test: The Drama of Celebrity.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, October 1, 2019

Lawrence Wright

Lawrence Wright's acclaimed books include the Pulitzer Prize–winning The Looming Tower: Al-Qaeda and the Road to 9/11.

From his Austin Monthly interview with David Leffler:

Your Pulitzer Prize–winning book, The Looming Tower, meticulously examines the events that lead to 9/11. Where were you that day?

On Tuesday, Sept. 11, I got in my car after meeting a group of friends for breakfast. NPR was on; that’s when I found out the first plane had hit. The second hit shortly after I got home. It was chilling: I’d previously written this movie, The Siege with Denzel Washington and Bruce Willis, that had postulated what would happen if a terrorist strike hit New York City. Like so many others, I was stunned, but I had to do something. I told The New Yorker, “Put me to work.” More than five years—and hundreds of interviews later—The Looming Tower went to print.

Another of your books, Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Belief, was converted into an HBO documentary. How did the Church of Scientology react to its creation?

They never actually sued me, but boy, did they threaten me. They relentlessly harassed my sources, who were ex-Scientologists; I’ve never run into people quite as frightened as they were. They stood to lose a lot, from persecution from the church, the loss of contact from their families, lawsuits, and, of course, the church’s own kind of informal prison system. Private investigators—I would say, very incompetent ones—followed me around too, mainly at public events. One even came to one of my gigs and...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue