Saturday, November 30, 2019

Emma Sloley

Emma Sloley's new novel is Disaster's Children.

From the author's Q&A with Leslie Lindsay:

Leslie Lindsay: Despite the apocalyptic themes, there’s a sense of optimism to DISASTER’S CHILDREN. Is the book intended to function a bit as a call to action? And what about hope?

Emma Sloley: It was hugely important to me to allow for hope in this story, just as I feel that hope is an essential component of the real-life fight against impending environmental and humanitarian disasters. The forces arrayed against those of us concerned about climate change and degradation of our natural world rely on apathy as a tool to keep people unengaged. If the end of human civilization seems inevitable, what’s the point of even trying anything? May as well keep burning those fossil fuels and partying like the world’s about the end, right? And I’m sympathetic to that stance. Apathy is very alluring! Action is difficult. It was also important to me to that the setting be one of immense natural beauty – fiction often presents us with bleak post-apocalyptic landscapes (and some of my favorite stories are set in those worlds), but instead I wanted to explore the possibilities that...[read on]
Visit Emma Sloley's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, November 29, 2019

Jennifer Cody Epstein

Jennifer Cody Epstein's latest book is Wunderland: A Novel.

From her Q&A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: You write that Wunderland was inspired in part by a piece in The New Yorker. What was the article about, and how did it lead to this book?

A: It was a 2013 article that my husband happened upon in The New Yorker, about a new U.S. translation of a somewhat obscure German book.

The article--by a U.S. writer who was also the publisher/editor of that translation (Helen Epstein, of Plunkett Lake Press) --recounted how Melita Maschmann, a former Hitler Youth enthusiast, had in her 1963 memoir Account Rendered written an intimate account of her rise and fall as a national socialist.

It's a confessionary account that takes the shape of a long letter to Maschmann’s childhood best friend, a girl who found herself classified as a Mischling--"mixed-race"--under Hitler’s race laws at roughly the same time Maschmann joined the girl’s branch of the Hitler Youth.

That story sparked both my interest and my imagination.

I’d known for years that I wanted to write about the Holocaust—not about the monstrous mechanics of the Final Solution (so many other authors have already done that, some far better than I could hope to), but something that would...[read on]
Visit Jennifer Cody Epstein's website.

The Page 69 Test: The Painter from Shanghai.

The Page 69 Test: The Gods of Heavenly Punishment.

Writers Read: Jennifer Cody Epstein.

The Page 69 Test: Wunderland.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, November 28, 2019

Caroline Moorehead

Caroline Moorehead is the New York Times bestselling author of Village of Secrets: Defying the Nazis in Vichy France; A Train in Winter: An Extraordinary Story of Women, Friendship, and Resistance in Occupied France; and Human Cargo: A Journey Among Refugees, which was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award. An acclaimed biographer, Moorehead has also written for the New York Review of Books, the Guardian, the Times, and the Independent. She lives in London and Italy.

Moorehead's new book is A House in the Mountains: The Women Who Liberated Italy from Fascism.

From her interview with Anita Sethi for the Guardian:

You have written three other books about the resistance. Where did your interest come from?

It stems from my interest in human rights. I’ve always been fascinated by courage and how people survive seemingly unsurvivable situations. What I found were these extraordinary people – who were actually ordinary people – who got up in the morning and thought: “No, I’m not going to put up with this any more.”

Tell me about the women in the book.

I discovered, to my surprise, that everyone thinks the Italians had no resistance. There were actually 600,000 who joined the resistance; of those, 70,000 were women. Under Mussolini, they were third-class citizens, had no rights, no voice, no equality. It was the women who were the first to...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, November 27, 2019

Marina Budhos

Marina Budhos's latest novel is The Long Ride.

From her Q&A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: You note that The Long Ride is based on the busing plan implemented in your Queens neighborhood in the late '60s and early '70s. Why did you choose that as a topic, and how did you come up with your character Jamila?

A: I had been working on some memoir material around my growing up in an unusual international and interracial community. The surrounding neighborhoods, however, in Queens, were very segregated and polarized around race, particularly when school integration plans began coming into place.

And while I did not personally go through the integration plan that this novel is based on, it was something that roiled the community and our schools. Thus, I was interested in capturing that story, that moment.

As well, I am mixed (half Guyanese-Indian and half Jewish-American), with a father who taught in a largely African-American high school, in a neighborhood many of my own friends would never go to. Many of my other friends were mixed and so we had...[read on]
Visit Marina Budhos's website.

My Book, The Movie: Watched.

The Page 69 Test: Watched.

Writers Read: Marina Budhos.

My Book, The Movie: The Long Ride.

The Page 69 Test: The Long Ride.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, November 26, 2019

Richard Stengel

Richard Stengel's new book is Information Wars: How We Lost the Global Battle Against Disinformation and What We Can Do About It.

From the transcript of his interview with Fareed Zakaria:
ZAKARIA: Let me ask you about something Fiona Hill said during her testimony. She talked about how the idea that Ukraine was actually the country that had hacked the 2016 election was part of a kind of Russian disinformation campaign. It was fiction. And yet it has taken hold in a large part of the American public that, you know, a lot of people in -- on the Hill, the Republicans believe it. A lot of people who watch Fox News believe it. What does one do about that kind of disinformation?

STENGEL: By the way, there are decades of Russian disinformation. The CIA caused AIDS. The CIA shot John F. Kennedy. All of these things get embedded in our psyches. That's why disinformation is so dangerous. It's hard to rebut it. It gets stuck in our brains. And the Russians are very good at it.

I think the other reason that disinformation works is people want to believe it, right? And it's confirmation bias. If the Republicans are looking for a conspiracy theory to help Donald Trump, of course, they're going to be more receptive to it. That's why disinformation works. It's not just a supply problem. It's a demand problem.

ZAKARIA: Right. And it seems to me the demand problem is almost at the heart of it. Because, as you said, there were conspiracy theories in the past, but you didn't have a third of sometimes half, sometimes more of Republicans believing it. I mean, if you have a desire to want to believe this, it becomes--

STENGEL: Yes. I mean, we may have something in our DNA to believe conspiracy theories. Maybe it's evolutionary, effective behavior. But, I mean, a third of voters during the last campaign believed that Hillary Clinton was running a child sex trafficking ring out of a pizza parlor in Washington D.C. I mean, that's part of the problem. And you can't...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, November 25, 2019

Pete Townshend

Pete Townshend, The Who’s guitarist and principal songwriter, is the author of a debut novel, The Age of Anxiety.

From his interview with NPR's Raina Douris:

Raina Douris: How much of The Age of Anxiety is about you?

Pete Townshend: I really wanted to write a proper fiction novel, at last. I was warned by my editor that if I went too far into general fiction, people would lose "me." I am a celebrity; I am known for what I do in a rock band, so with this book, I tried to stay in familiar territory. I'm not taunting people to try and find me in this. If they try and find me in this — they might, they might not, but I don't think I'm really there.

There are moments in it that get a little salacious. Was there anything in there that, knowing that people know who you are, you were uncomfortable writing? Was there anything you had reservations about putting in the book?

No. The "salacious" bits, if you like, are there to propel the narrative. The narrator is the godfather of a young musician. I wanted him to be an isolated, lonely voice, somebody who had married, lost his wife and was often in the company of younger people.

Why would I do that? Well, it's where I am. I'm in the music business, coming up to 75 years old, and I'm surrounded by young people. So I'm familiar with that world; I'm familiar with the machinery of it. I'm a man in my 70s who occasionally gets asked on a date by a younger woman.

The narrator is accused by somebody that's close to him of the possibility that he has...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, November 24, 2019

Nicholas Buccola

Nicholas Buccola's latest book is The Fire Is Upon Us: James Baldwin, William F. Buckley Jr., and the Debate over Race in America. He is the Elizabeth and Morris Glicksman Chair in Political Science at Linfield College, and he lives in Portland, Oregon.

From Buccola's Q&A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: You write of the 1965 debate between James Baldwin and William F. Buckley, "At Cambridge [University], the powder keg of their intellectual struggle blows up, for all the world to see." What were some of the reasons you focused on these two figures?

A: My way into the book was through Baldwin. I was invited to write an essay about Baldwin for a book, and I came across the debate with Buckley. I became mesmerized by the debate—here were two individuals with radically different backgrounds and views on stage. I began to think about a smaller book, and then it grew into a larger book.

The idea was to treat the debate as a way in, but the longer story would tell about Baldwin and Buckley, weaving intellectual history, political history, and a little personal biography into the story of the civil rights and conservative movements.

I’ve gotten questions about the pairing—it’s an odd couple to be sure, how they conceived of their roles, and the kind of thinkers they were. But there’s a way in which putting them together makes sense. Baldwin provides a lens to understand someone like Buckley. Buckley was a very important popularizer of the conservative movement, the kind of person we need to...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, November 23, 2019

Amber Cowie

Amber Cowie's latest novel is Raven Lane.

From her interview at Fuse Literary:

Robyn Harding calls Raven Lane “a sexy, provocative thriller about devastating secrets and shocking behavior in one bohemian, suburban enclave.” How will you explain this book to your neighbors?

Oh boy. I moved to a cute little cul-de-sac weeks after I finished Raven Lane, which is also set on a dead-end street with close-knit neighbors. The problem? On the fictional Raven Lane, there is sex, intrigue and betrayal. I was absolutely not inspired by my real-life neighbors while I wrote, but I get flustered when I talk about it, and I think it might make me look a bit guilty. The more I write, the more conscious I am of how much reality I’m bringing into my fiction, but there are always pieces of real life that my subconscious twists around to the point where they seem completely new while I’m writing. I can only see what they are based on after I emerge from the fog of the story. Also—Raven Lane is chock full of sex scenes, so the real question is how do I explain the book to...[read on]
Visit Amber Cowie's website.

The Page 69 Test: Rapid Falls.

Writers Read: Amber Cowie (February 2019).

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, November 22, 2019

Howard Andrew Jones

Howard Jones’s debut historical fantasy novel, The Desert of Souls (2011), was widely acclaimed by influential publications like Library Journal, Kirkus, and Publishers Weekly, made Kirkus’ New and Notable list for 2011, and was on both Locus’s Recommended Reading List and the Barnes and Noble Best Fantasy Releases list of 2011. Its sequel, The Bones of the Old Ones, made the Barnes and Noble Best Fantasy Release of 2013 and received a starred review from Publishers Weekly. He is the author of four Pathfinder novels, an e-collection of short stories featuring the heroes from his historical fantasy novels, The Waters of Eternity, and the new novel from St. Martin’s, the second in a new fantasy series, Upon the Flight of the Queen, the followup to For the Killing of Kings, which received a starred review from Publishers Weekly.

From Jones's Q&A with Elise Dumpleton at The Nerd Daily:

Upon the Flight of the Queen, the sequel to For the Killing of Kings, publishes on November 19th. If you could only describe your book in five words, what would they be?

Five words, eh? Stand and make a difference. I don’t think that would work as an elevator pitch, but it certainly sums up the feelings of the protagonists.

Upon the flight of the Queen and its predecessor, For the Killing of Kings, take the perspective of a woman soldier and a veteran officer as they stumble into a conspiracy that leads all the way to the throne. Truths have been twisted, facts invented, and the less powerful silenced and ignored. When Elenai and Kyrkenall ask the wrong questions, they’re framed for murder, declared traitors, and are forced to flee for their lives, their own friends in deadly pursuit. In both this book and the last, they have to stand up and make a difference.

By the start of book two the characters know their queen is corrupt, and they’re having to struggle to overturn her machinations while dealing with an invasion by their old enemies with almost no support. They have to go begging to their former allies, the winged lizards known as the ko’aye, because the invading Naor have control of immense dragons. Only the ko’aye can help them fight the beasts in the air.

Unfortunately, rather than helping the ko’aye defend their own lands as promised, the queen...[read on]
Visit Howard Andrew Jones's website.

View the animated book trailer for Upon the Flight of the Queen.

The Page 69 Test: The Bones of the Old Ones.

My Book, The Movie: The Bones of the Old Ones.

Writers Read: Howard Andrew Jones.

The Page 69 Test: Upon the Flight of the Queen.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, November 21, 2019

Declan Burke

Declan Burke's new novel is The Lammisters.

From his interview with Dominique Jeannerod for The International Crime Fiction Research Group:

What was your original idea?

I usually start with a setting, and then begin to people it with characters, and then give them a story to work with. I’d always wanted to set a book in Glenveagh Castle, in Donegal – it’s a beautiful setting, and I was fascinated by the idea that, in the 1930s, artists of all kinds would come from all over the world to stay at Glenveagh (Greta Garbo was probably the most famous). And I’d recently fallen head-over-heels for the work of PG Wodehouse, who I’d only very belatedly discovered. So the original and very vague idea was for a Jeeves and Wooster-style story set in Glenveagh; but when I sent my Bertie Wooster, aka Sir Archibald l’Estrange-B’stard, to Hollywood to bring a few movie stars back to Donegal, Archie refused to come back. And so The Lammisters is set in Hollywood, in 1923, amid the bootleggers, film stars and movie moguls of the Prohibition Era..[read on]
Learn more about the book and author at Burke's Crime Always Pays blog.

The Page 69 Test: Absolute Zero Cool.

My Book, The Movie: Absolute Zero Cool.

The Page 99 Test:: The Big O (Irish edition).

The Page 99 Test: The Big O.

Writers Read: Declan Burke (April 2015).

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, November 20, 2019

Catherine Wilson

Catherine Wilson is the author of How To Be an Epicurean: The Ancient Art of Living Well.

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

Q: How did you first become interested in Epicureanism, and at what point did you decide to write your new book?

A: My main field of expertise is 17th and 18th century history and philosophy of science—quite remote, you might think, from ancient philosophy and certainly from self-help!

But the Epicureans, who theorized that the world was composed of atoms and void, were the most scientifically sophisticated of all the ancient philosophical schools, so I gravitated towards their writings.

I was mainly interested, from the early 1980s onwards, in the theme of subvisible reality in the Scientific Revolution, and I wrote several books and many articles on that topic.

Then, in 2003 I published a book on moral and political philosophy Moral Animals, laying out some ideas about how morality works (or should work) from a naturalistic perspective.

When I started writing specifically about Epicureanism, there was already a solid literature on Plato, Aristotle and the Stoics, and their relation to 17th century philosophy. Epicureanism was I think considered a fringe philosophy by early modern scholars.

For one thing, it was atheistic and mortalistic, and every philosopher in the 17th century put God and the immortality of the soul right in the middle of their theories. When I argued that these references weren’t always to be taken at face value, I...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, November 19, 2019

Carrie Goldberg

Carrie Goldberg is the author of Nobody’s Victim: Fighting Psychos, Stalkers, Pervs, and Trolls.

From the transcript of her NPR interview with Michel Martin:

MARTIN: So there are so many eye-popping stories in your book, including your own. It's hard to know where to start. I mean, could you just give us a sense, as briefly as you can, of the range of things we are talking about here.

GOLDBERG: This book covers stories that range from revenge porn to young people who've been sextorted to a high school student who was sexually assaulted outside of school.

MARTIN: There is also a man you write about in the book who was also subjected to vicious behavior by a vengeful ex. Just tell us briefly what happened to him.

GOLDBERG: So when Matthew (ph) first came to me, he told me about when it first started. Somebody had approached him while he was outside smoking a cigarette and walking his dog and recognized him. And Matthew had no idea who this man was and came to learn that he'd been sent through the gay dating app, Grindr. And Matthew's like, I don't even have an account on Grindr. There must be some mistake.

And then a few minutes later, somebody else came. Over the next few months, it continued happening almost a thousand times. It turned out that Matthew's ex-boyfriend was impersonating him on Grindr. And Matthew did everything that any one of us would do. He made a dozen police reports. He got an order of protection against his ex. He flagged these profiles and nothing stopped...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, November 18, 2019

Elizabeth LaBan

Elizabeth LaBan lives in Philadelphia with her restaurant critic husband and two children. She is the author of The Restaurant Critic’s Wife, Not Perfect, and Pretty Little World, which she co-authored with Melissa DePino. She also wrote the young adult novel The Tragedy Paper, published by Knopf, which has been translated into eleven foreign languages, and The Grandparents Handbook, published by Quirk Books, which has been translated into seven foreign languages.

LaBan's newest novel is Beside Herself.

From her Q&A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: How did you come up with the idea for Beside Herself, and for your character Hannah?

A: There were a few things that came together to form the basic idea for the novel.

One was the title itself. I often use that phrase, saying that I’m beside myself, or someone else is beside herself, and at one point my husband said, “that would be a great title for your next novel.” So, I had that in the back of my mind.

More than that, though, I am always interested in exploring marriage and family, and how people deal with unexpected bumps, or sometimes huge potholes, in the road. When do people call it, knowing they just can’t stay in a particular situation, and when is it salvageable?

The main plot of Beside Herself came from that question, and then grew from there to include Hannah’s reaction and desperate attempt to figure out what came next.

Hannah is not based on any one person I know, she is someone I got to know as...[read on]
Visit Elizabeth LaBan's website.

The Page 69 Test: The Restaurant Critic's Wife.

The Page 69 Test: Not Perfect.

Writers Read: Elizabeth LaBan.

The Page 69 Test: Beside Herself.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, November 17, 2019

Tessa Arlen

Tessa Arlen's new novel is Poppy Redfern and the Midnight Murders.

From her Q&A with Jean Vallesteros:

What do you hope for readers to be thinking when they read your novel?

I have tried to take the reader back to the WWII Homefront in England and an isolated village trying to an American airfield that has been built on its outskirts. Rural England in 1942 was deeply conservative, immersed in tradition, and its country people often very narrow in their view. Little Buffenden is no exception: its villagers are a pretty insular bunch who strenuously resist change in all forms. But patriotism during the war years was the order of the day and Little Buffenden gradually comes to some sort of acceptance. Then one of the local girls who was dating an American is murdered. Inevitably the village closes ranks.

We all suffer from fear of the unknown: the fear of difference, or being different, in our world today. As I worked on the story I found myself paying attention to this theme: the business of being different or ‘other,’ either from within a close knit community or...[read on]
Visit Tessa Arlen's website.

See Tessa Arlen’s top five historical novels.

Coffee with a Canine: Tessa Arlen & Daphne.

The Page 69 Test: Death of a Dishonorable Gentleman.

My Book, The Movie: Death of a Dishonorable Gentleman.

The Page 69 Test: Death Sits Down to Dinner.

My Book, The Movie: Death Sits Down to Dinner.

The Page 69 Test: A Death by Any Other Name.

The Page 69 Test: Death of an Unsung Hero.

Writers Read: Tessa Arlen (November 2019).

The Page 69 Test: Poppy Redfern and the Midnight Murders.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, November 16, 2019

Lucy Ives

Lucy Ives's latest novel is Loudermilk.

From her Q&A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: You write, "When I began writing this novel, I was, mostly without knowing it, reproducing a trope from the libertine canon." How does Loudermilk fit into that canon?

A: I'm not sure if I can—or, one can—write a libertine novel in this era. When I wrote that my novel "reproduces" that trope, I meant that it quotes one aspect of an earlier style of novel-writing—probably without becoming part of that canon. Mistaken identity, weird twins, stories of metamorphosis: these are all things we associate with plays and prose that predate the 19th century (think about Shakespeare, for example).

You have to work pretty hard to get a scenario like this to seem believable in the contemporary moment, although some silly Hollywood films have been successful: Twins, Freaky Friday, and so on. And, to be honest, Loudermilk probably fits a bit more comfortably into that canon (i.e., the comic-loss-of-control-over-self/identity-in-the-U.S. canon), even as it has plenty of elements of high culture...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, November 15, 2019

Attica Locke

Attica Locke's latest mystery is Heaven, My Home.

From her CrimeReads Q&A with Molly Odintz:

Molly Odintz: As a Texan who grew up hearing about Lake Caddo as the only natural lake in Texas, I was really excited to see the book was set there. How do you think of geography when you’re writing?

Attica Locke: It’s usually the number one or number two thing I’m thinking about—particularly with the Highway 59 series. I knew before I wrote the first book that each book in the series would touch on a town along Highway 59. I wanted to write about Caddo Lake because I’d seen it as a child and as a young adult, and it’s so evocative and amazing and interesting. I knew I was going to write about Caddo Lake before I had a story—geography shaped this whole story.

MO: Is Lake Caddo as creepy and beautiful in real life as it is in the book?

AL: Probably creepier. I’m so glad I didn’t just go by photographs! There was a part of me that knew I had to go there. In March 2017 I did a research trip to Caddo Lake. I stayed in a cabin on the lake and then I went to Jefferson for a few days. I took a boat tour over part of the lake and to be in it is…I can’t explain it. I hope I captured it in the book. When you go through one of the Cypress forests, it’s so insanely majestic-looking—you’re literally floating through woods in water. It gets so quiet. They say it’s the Spanish moss, but if...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, November 14, 2019

Debbie Cenziper

Debbie Cenziper's new book is Citizen 865: The Hunt for Hitler's Hidden Soldiers in America.

From her Q&A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: What inspired you to write Citizen 865, and how did you choose to focus on the search for the men who worked in the SS camp in Trawniki, Poland, during World War II?

A: At a cocktail party in Maryland, I happened to meet a lawyer from the U.S. Department of Justice. Over a long conversation, she described a unit of Nazi hunters deep inside the massive federal agency that had spent decades tracking Nazi perpetrators in the United States.

Put simply: I was stunned that the work had gone for three decades. In a country that had sacrificed so much to defeat Hitler and save the Jews of Europe, how was it possible that Hitler's helpers were living in America's cities and suburbs?

Other journalists and authors have eloquently described the work of the Office of Special Investigations, which was established in 1979 in the Criminal Division of the Justice Department.

I found one of the unit's lesser-known investigations particularly compelling: the search for the men of Trawniki. I...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, November 13, 2019

Kimberly Sue

Kimberly Sue is the author of Getting Wrecked: Women, Incarceration, and the American Opioid Crisis.

From her NPR interview with Emily Vaughn:

What are some of the arguments that jail is not the best public health solution to opioid use?

Incarceration in many cases harms people. We know that, for example, having been in solitary confinement increases your risk of death after release — like in the case of Kalief Browder, a young Bronx man who killed himself after three years at Rikers.

And the rate of opioid overdose in the first two weeks after people leave prison and jail is between 30 and 120 times higher than the general population.

In most of the county-level jails in this country, people are forced to withdraw off lifesaving, stabilizing medications [like methadone] against their will. Methadone is a treatment for opioid use disorder that you cannot access in jails in many places in this country.

There are documented cases of suicide around the country — including in my book — of people who are going through withdrawal in jails and either committing suicide or dying as a combination of medical neglect and loss of body fluids related to dehydration.

Can you describe that example from your book?

One of the women I took care of and interviewed at MCI-Framingham, a women's state prison in Massachusetts, was in the health services unit — where they send people when they're first coming in — and she heard someone withdrawing from methadone. That person was screaming — she was, you know, in agony. And then...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, November 12, 2019

A.J. Banner

A. J. Banner's newest novel is The Poison Garden.

From her Q&A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: You said in our previous interview, "I have no idea where I get my ideas" for your books. Was that the case this time around too?

A: The sociopath I knew in my college years might have given me the idea (subconsciously) for the killer in The Poison Garden. I'm sure that dangerous encounter from my past will sneak into future books as well. Diabolical, narcissistic personalities make novels of psychological suspense so much more exciting, don’t you think?

Q: Poison plays a big role in the novel. Did you need to do much research to write the book?

A: For research, I loved reading Wicked Plants: The Weed That Killed Lincoln’s Mother and Other Botanical Atrocities by Amy Stewart, a fascinating A-Z rundown of plants that intoxicate, incapacitate or kill people. I also interviewed...[read on]
Visit A.J. Banner's website.

The Page 69 Test: After Nightfall.

Writers Read: A.J. Banner.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, November 11, 2019

Bernardine Evaristo

British writer Bernardine Evaristo is the award-winning author of eight books and numerous other published and produced works that span the genres of novels, poetry, verse fiction, short fiction, essays, literary criticism, and radio and theatre drama. Her writing and projects are based around her interest in the African diaspora. Her novel Girl, Woman, Other won the Booker Prize.

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

SCOTT SIMON, HOST: Bernardine Evaristo's novel "Girl, Woman, Other" has just been published in the United States after sharing Britain's Booker Prize with Margaret Atwood's "The Testaments." It follows 12 characters whose lives touch each other or come close or sometimes nowhere near and gives flesh-and-blood portraits of people who are often introduced with hyphens, like Amma, a socialist, lesbian playwright, and Megan/Morgan, who is nonbinary, and Winsome, a Barbadian Anglo immigrant and unhappy wife.

Bernardine Evaristo, a great writer who's Anglo-Nigerian, joins us from London. Thanks so much for being with us.

BERNARDINE EVARISTO: You're welcome. It's good to be here.

SIMON: Help set the scene of these unfolding shared stories for us.

EVARISTO: Yes. So basically, it's a novel about 12 primarily black British women. They're aged 19 to 93. The youngest, Yazz, is a university student, and the oldest, Hattie, is a farmer in the North of England. And I have women of every generation in between. They have different occupations, different cultural backgrounds, which very much reflects black British presence and history. So some of them have roots in Africa. Some of them have roots in the Caribbean. They are different sexualities.

And then the book opens with Amma, who is a black lesbian theater director. And she has a show opening at the National Theatre in London. She has spent nearly 40 years working in theater as a director and writer and very much on the margins feeling overlooked, very radical in her politics. And suddenly, she's got this big break. And then the story kind of goes off into all these other stories. And at the end of the novel, we see the show opening and the sort of gathering together of lots of characters in the book.

SIMON: You've said in interviews, I want to put presence into absence.

EVARISTO: Oh, well, so there are very few black British novels getting published. That's the truth of it. So when I decided to write this novel, I wanted to put as many black British women into it as possible to show the sort of heterogeneity of who we are in this society and to explore us as fully realized, complex, flawed individuals whose stories are...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, November 10, 2019

Sheila Weller

Sheila Weller is the author of the new biography, Carrie Fisher: A Life on the Edge.

From her Q&A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: Why did you decide to write a biography of Carrie Fisher, and how would you describe her legacy today?

A: I love to write about distinctive, iconic, complex women – I have a kind of history of that – and Carrie Fisher was about as iconic as iconic and complex as they come.

I was always aware of her charisma – the famous Carrie-Penny parties! – and I loved her book Postcards From The Edge.

When she died, so tragically (and with Debbie dying right afterward), in late December 2016, her role as a feminist heroine hiding in plain sight came into focus, by way of all the tributes. You realize sometimes that you “knew” something about someone deep in your subconscious, even when you didn’t.

Then came the Women’s Marches – and posters of Princess Leia and Carrie were hoisted high. Her significance was unmistakable.

In addition, I grew up in Beverly Hills and “Hollywood” – a bit older than Carrie, but I knew that world well.

My uncle owned the famous Sunset Strip nightclub, Ciro’s, where her mother, as a budding young star, learned to be “sophisticated.” My mother was...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, November 9, 2019

David Owen

David Owen's new book is Volume Control: Hearing in a Deafening World.

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

DAVE DAVIES: Well, David Owen, welcome back to FRESH AIR. What are some of the ways that moderate - even moderate hearing loss affects us that aren't so well-known?

DAVID OWEN: There are many, and it has an impact on health generally. People who have trouble hearing tend to have health - unrelated health issues, more unrelated health issues of all kinds. It puts a - it sort of overworks our brains. If you can't quite hear what people are saying, you have to work harder to figure it out, and the brainpower that you use to do that is brainpower that you can't use for anything else.

People who have trouble hearing also tend to withdraw. You know, I have an acquaintance who, at cocktail parties - he has a reputation for being just a grumpy, sullen person. But when I was working on this book, I realized that - I said, you know what? He really is - he can't hear, and the reason he sits at parties and glowers out at the crowd is that he doesn't know what's going on. So it has effects that we don't necessarily associate with it and that pervade all parts of our lives.

And then, you know, because of human nature, we tend to ignore it. The average wait for a person who first notices a hearing problem - the average delay between that moment and going to the doctor is 10 years. That's the average. So it's - we don't treat it the way we treat other sensory problems. If you have trouble seeing things, you go - you get glasses. But people tend to put off hearing - getting hearing aids for a long time.

DAVIES: Yeah, so people might be happier if they paid a little more attention to this.

OWEN: That's right. It's worth paying attention to.

DAVIES: You know, when I choose a restaurant, I think one of my highest priorities is...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, November 8, 2019

NoNieqa Ramos

NoNieqa Ramos is the author of the new YA novel The Truth Is.

From her Q&A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: How did you come up with the idea for The Truth Is, and for your character Verdad?

A: First, I had to realize I couldn’t write the book from transboy Danny’s perspective because I could never get his perspective right. It’s not my lane. There aren’t enough trans writers writing trans stories so it would have been plain wrong to do.

Ultimately, I enjoy writing characters who struggle with perception. I want them to chisel away at what they think is true and discover for themselves what is the closest approximation to reality. When I really found the voice of Verdad I wanted her to be high-functioning--going to school and succeeding in her classes--but still struggling with grief.

Verdad’s quest for truth, what is right and good--even if her own family members have told her otherwise--was what...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, November 7, 2019

Saeed Jones

Saeed Jones is the author of Prelude to Bruise, winner of the 2015 PEN/Joyce Osterweil Award for Poetry and the 2015 Stonewall Book Award/Barbara Gittings Literature Award. The poetry collection was also a finalist for the 2015 National Book Critics Circle Award, as well as awards from Lambda Literary and the Publishing Triangle in 2015.

Jones's new memoir, How We Fight for Our Lives, describes how owning his homosexuality required distancing himself from his mother's love, and was recently named winner of the nonfiction Kirkus Prize.

From the transcript of Jones's Fresh Air interview with Terry Gross:

TERRY GROSS: Saeed Jones, welcome to FRESH AIR. Let's start in the library, not just because you're a writer, but because the library is where you first went to get answers to your questions about homosexuality. So before you do the reading, I just want to set it up a little bit. You'd been reading James Baldwin's "Another Country," which had two significances for you. One was the content of the book, and the other was the photo in the book. So tell us a little bit about both, which will lead into the reading.

SAEED JONES: Sure. Yeah. My mom didn't graduate from college. She grew up in Memphis, Tenn. She went to, you know, a state school there for a few semesters, but she kept her books. And among them were, you know, copies of books by Toni Morrison and Alice Walker, James Baldwin. And by the time I am 12, as you see in the opening chapter of my memoir, I start gravitating towards those books because they're in the middle of our living room. And I pick up her copy of "Another Country," and I'm immediately pulled in by the language, the setting in Harlem. It's sexy. It's invoking jazz, and it feels like jazz as I'm reading it. And, you know, there are interracial relationships. There's queerness. There's bisexuality, a lot of fluidity, a lot of back and forth with all of the characters.

But also I found a Polaroid photograph of my mom and this man, this young man, that I didn't know that was dated Jackson, Miss., 1982. And so I asked my mom about it when she got home from work that day and she - my mom was a bit terse. She held her cards close to her chest when it came to life stories. And she just eventually kind of admitted that, you know, that was a friend of hers. They were close when they were college students. They would take road trips. And then she just kind of went on and then quickly just threw off that, you know, and later he found out that he was sick and killed himself. And I'm like, wait, what? Huh? And then she just quickly said...[read on]
Saeed Jones's top six books on family roots and grief.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, November 6, 2019

Lara Vapnyar

Lara Vapnyar's new novel is Divide Me by Zero.

From her Q&A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: In an interview with The Rumpus, you said, "This novel is my most intimate and biographical. I would say it’s a dark comedy that is part classic Russian novel, part Soviet math textbook, and part American self-help manual." Can you say more about the creation of Divide Me By Zero?

A: My initial approach was to write about the last year of my marriage which also came to be the last year in my mother’s life. I marveled at how people live their day-to-day lives for years, and nothing much happens. But then there are periods of high drama, when so much happens at once. I wanted to call the novel 11 Months, which would include the story of my love for B., my affair with Vadim, the dissolution of my marriage, and the death of my mother.

But then strange things started to happen to me all somehow connected to my late mother’s old books and clothes. I felt that my late mother’s ghost started haunting me.

Now, full disclosure. I don’t believe in...[read on]
Visit Lara Vapnyar's Facebook page.

Writers Read: Lara Vapnyar (August 2016).

The Page 69 Test: Still Here.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, November 5, 2019

Allison Stanger

Allison Stanger is Russell Leng ‘60 Professor of International Politics and Economics at Middlebury College, New America Cybersecurity Fellow, and an External Professor at the Santa Fe Institute. Her new book is Whistleblowers: Honesty in America from Washington to Trump.

From the transcript of Stanger's interview with Fareed Zakaria:

ZAKARIA: Allison, finally, there are people, the president himself and others, who really cast doubt on the efforts, the patriotism of these whistleblowers. There's something underhand, there's something kind of un-American about what they're doing. What do you say to that?

STANGER: Whistleblowing couldn't be more more American. Whistleblowers keep our elites honest. And it's an America tradition, as we discussed dating back to 1778. So it's important to realize that this is not a partisan, it's really an American issue. And if you look at the national security community, the intelligence community, they are doing something since Trump's election that they don't normally do. No previous president has been considered a national security threat by his own intelligence community. And we certainly haven't seen this sort of blatant corruption, the use of the office of the president for private gain, but I think Americans know that obviously Americans should elect their officials, not foreigners, and that public servants should serve the American people and not their own pocketbook.

So I'm hopeful that in the days ahead, we'll see...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, November 4, 2019

Sasha Dawn

Sasha Dawn teaches writing at community colleges and offers pro bono writing workshops to local schools. She lives in her native northern Illinois, where she collects tap shoes, fabric swatches, and tales of survival, and she harbors a crush on Thomas Jefferson. Her debut novel, Oblivion, was an Illinois Reads selection and one of the New York Public Library's best books for teens.

Dawn's new YA novel is Panic.

From her Q&A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: How did you come up with the idea for Panic, and for your character Madelaine?

A: My second young adult title, Splinter, starred Sami, a character loosely based on my eldest daughter. I knew I wanted eventually to write a book in tribute to my younger daughter (Madelaine, after whom the star of Panic is named), and as she grew, I centered on her love of music, which is an important element in many teens’ lives, and I knew I had the first character trait of my next protagonist.

This story is loosely based on Madelaine’s aspirations in musical theater. She attends one of the most prestigious performing arts academies in America, and while she has no trouble belting out a tune on stage in front of hundreds of people, she is an introvert and has limits when it comes to everyday interaction.

I learned a lot about...[read on]
Visit Sasha Dawn's website.

My Book, The Movie: Panic.

The Page 69 Test: Panic.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, November 3, 2019

Margaret Wilkerson Sexton

Margaret Wilkerson Sexton's new novel is The Revisioners.

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

SCOTT SIMON, HOST: "The Revisioners" is a story that ties together women of different generations in a family line of different races that spans more than a century. It opens with Ava, mixed-race, single mother who moves in with Martha, her declining white grandmother and is brought closure to the story and spirit of Josephine, her other grandmother's great grandmother who escaped from slavery as a child to become a landowner and a matriarch. Margaret Wilkerson Sexton's new book is "The Revisioners." And she joins us from the studios of Youth Radio in Oakland. Thanks so much for being with us.

MARGARET WILKERSON SEXTON: Thank you for having me. It's my pleasure.

SIMON: Tell us about Ms. Josephine, the overwhelming major character.

SEXTON: So Josephine is a former enslaved woman and a former sharecropper. And though she has that very haunting history, she's flourishing in 1924. She's in our '70s. She's widowed. But she has huge family support. She's lucked upon owning a 300-acre farm. So she has resources that she never would have imagined having. And she's doing well when we meet her. However, this is the year that a white woman next door. And Josephine is reticent at first. But soon, they do form this cautious relationship that grows until Josephine discovers that the neighbor is a member of the women's branch of the KKK. And then many, many, many generations later, we have Ava, who is a biracial woman, as you said, and who is financially strapped and is - and decides to move in with her white grandmother. But soon, her grandmother's behavior becomes erratic and even racist. And...[read on]
Visit Margaret Wilkerson Sexton's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, November 2, 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 Deborah Kalb:

Q: How did you come up with the idea for Holding On To Nothing, and for your characters Jeptha and Lucy?

A: Lucy came to me with the line "Lucy had a smile that made people feel safe," which was the first line of the book for a long time. I pictured a really strong young woman, who experiences a lot of loss in her life and yet manages to maintain a scarred optimism.

Jeptha is inspired by some of the boys and men I saw around me growing up, who sometimes had rough reputations but good hearts. Jeptha deeply wants to be a good man, but doesn't really know how. I knew if Lucy and Jeptha were in the same room, there would be...[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

Friday, November 1, 2019

Steph Cha

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

From her NPR interview with Ailsa Chang:

AILSA CHANG, HOST: Past is prologue is the perfect description of the tempest brewing at the heart of a new novel. It's called "Your House Will Pay," and it's written by Steph Cha, who's Korean American. The book's based on true events that took place around the 1992 LA race riots. It explores how those tensions still simmer today.

And when we spoke, I asked her how much those lingering tensions shaped her novel.

STEPH CHA: You know, I started writing this book in 2014 right after Michael Brown's murder. And the rise of the Black Lives Matter movement kind of happened in the beginning stages of my writing this novel. And I remember seeing news coverage of the rioting in Baltimore after the death of Freddie Gray. And during that riot, Korean businesses were also targeted. And a lot of the resentments that were expressed, they could've come right out of early '90s Los Angeles.

And I found that really interesting.

CHANG: Yeah.

CHA: You know, seeing this renewed attention in the media as I was starting to write this novel, I kept thinking, this is not about the past at all. This is about right now.

CHANG: Your story is based on the real-life shooting of Latasha Harlins. She was an African American teenager who was shot dead by a Korean American woman who was running a store in South LA back in 1991. This woman had thought that Latasha was...[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