Saturday, February 29, 2020

Kathleen Barber

Kathleen Barber is a former attorney, incurable wanderer, and yoga enthusiast. Originally from Galesburg, Illinois, she is a graduate of the University
of Illinois and Northwestern University School of Law. She now lives in Washington, DC, with her husband and son. Her first novel, Truth Be Told (2017, originally published as Are You Sleeping), has been adapted as a series for Apple TV+ by Reese Witherspoon’s Hello Sunshine media company.

Barber's new novel is Follow Me.

From her Q&A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: You write that the inspiration for this novel came from something you came across on the internet involving men who spy on women through their webcams. How did this discovery turn into Follow Me?

A: I don’t have the words to described how unsettled I was when I stumbled across an article entitled “Meet the Men Who Spy on Women through Their Webcams.”

I couldn’t decide what I found most horrifying: that it was reportedly very easy for these creeps to remotely install software on your computer granting them access to your hard drive and webcam, or that some of these men made a game out of collecting “slaves” (their name for the women they spied on) and then trading or even selling access to them amongst themselves.

I had such a visceral reaction to the article that I instantly knew I wanted to write about it. I wanted to explore how it felt to be on both sides of the comprised webcam, and so, in Follow Me, you’ll find a woman who is being secretly watched through her laptop and a man who is...[read on]
Visit Kathleen Barber's website.

The Page 69 Test: Follow Me.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, February 28, 2020

Kathleen Donohoe

Kathleen Donohoe's new novel is Ghosts of the Missing.

From her Q&A with Caroline Leavitt:
I always think something is haunting a writer into writing the books that they do, so I was wondering what was haunting you to write Ghosts of the Missing?

In 1979 six-year-old Etan Patz disappeared off a Manhattan street while walking to the school bus alone for the first time. He was two weeks older than me, and I’m from Brooklyn, NY. I knew what a city sidewalk looked like at eight o’clock in the morning. Even to a child, it was clear that whatever happened to Etan began quietly. He was seen by a mailman waiting to cross Wooster Street, in sight of the bus stop. Then never again. After thirty-eight years, a man was convicted of his murder, but Etan has never been found.

I’ve since read about hundreds of missing persons cases (The internet has made it easy.) Haunting, certainly, are thoughts of the families, suspended between grief and hope. There are the disappearances themselves, those with circumstances that defy logic, coupled with the awareness that they do not, in fact, defy logic. Every one, no matter how inexplicable, has an answer. Nobody actually vanishes into thin air.

But I think what haunted me into writing this book are what I call the last knowns. By this I mean the last definitive sighting. Or the last probable sighting, when it’s uncertain. Ghosts of the Missing is very much about this--the final moment when...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, February 27, 2020

Emma Copley Eisenberg

Emma Copley Eisenberg's debut book is The Third Rainbow Girl: The Long Life of a Double Murder in Appalachia.

From her Q&A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: In a New York Times review of The Third Rainbow Girl, Melissa Del Bosque calls the book "an unflinching interrogation of what it means to be female in a society marred by misogyny, where women hitchhiking alone are harshly judged, even blamed for their own murders." What do you think of that description?

A: I love this, it's such an astute reading.

Del Bosque picked up so well on the work I was trying to do to show that it's not so much what happened in the moment these women were killed but rather everything that happened after that can teach us about the ways our culture tries to shove complicated histories of oppression and messy individual people into simple stories, in this case the simple story of Appalachian men being "dangerous" and women being "naive," destined to get murdered.

We live in a world where we will do almost anything for a dead woman, but very little for a live one and where we are content to use the coal and timber mined from Appalachian communities but are not much interested in understanding the real issues facing contemporary West Virginia.

If you zoom out and look at all the threads I try to trace in and out of the case in my book, what I hope you will see is that misogyny is...[read on]
Visit Emma Copley Eisenberg's website.

The Page 99 Test: The Third Rainbow Girl.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, February 26, 2020

Niraja Gopal Jayal

Niraja Gopal Jayal is a professor at the Center for the Study of Law and Governance at Jawaharlal Nehru University and the author of several books on Indian democracy, including Citizenship and Its Discontents: An Indian History.

From her interview with Isaac Chotiner for The New Yorker:

Has the rise of the Hindu right, especially over the past couple of decades, made you think differently about the design of the Indian constitution and Indian democracy? Or do you think that any democratic system is vulnerable?

This is not something that came up only in the last fifteen years. The Hindu-right ideology has been there since the nineteen-twenties. It has never been the dominant strand of political ideology until recently. The Ayodhya movement was really the starting point of the B.J.P.’s growth and its emergence as a strong alternative to the mainstream parties. In the thirties, Vinayak Damodar Savarkar [a leader of the Hindu-nationalist movement] enunciated the idea of the two-nation theory—that Hindus and Muslims are actually two nations—even before the Muslim League [which pushed for the creation of Pakistan] took it up. Today, everyone identifies the two-nation theory with [Pakistan’s founding father] Muhammad Ali Jinnah, but actually it was Savarkar who first articulated the two-nation theory.

In a sense, the ruling party now actually avows that perspective. It does believe that this is the unfinished business of Partition. They do have a certain adherence to the idea that this is the national homeland of Hindus, and everybody else is a second-class citizen, here only on sufferance. It’s an ideological strand which has been around for a long time. It has not been hegemonic for a long time. It is now hegemonic.

How much do you think that, especially in the last several decades, the weakness of the “secular” establishment, often in the form of the Congress Party, is responsible for where India is today?

I think you are...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, February 25, 2020

Erik Larson

Erik Larson's books include Dead Wake: The Last Crossing of the Lusitania, The Devil in the White City, which was a finalist for the National Book Award and won an Edgar Award for fact-crime writing, In the Garden of Beasts, about how America’s first ambassador to Nazi Germany and his daughter experienced the rising terror of Hitler’s rule, and Isaac’s Storm, about the giant hurricane that destroyed Galveston, Texas in 1900.

The Splendid and the Vile, Larson's latest nonfiction thriller, offers a close-up view of Winston Churchill's first year as Great Britain's prime minister.

From Larson's BookPage interview with Christy Lynch:

The subjects you’ve tackled over the course of your career are quite broad and varied. Is there any common thread that unites your interests?

There’s no particular common thread, other than story. I’m always looking for compelling historical events that can be rendered in narrative form, with a beginning, middle and end, so that readers can get caught up in the action and live through it as if they didn’t know the ending. So that’s first. But a corollary motive is to answer the question: What was it like to have lived through that event? Then it becomes a matter of finding the right real-life characters whose experience provides the richest insight.

What compelled you to zoom in and write about this particular slice—just his first year as prime minister—of Churchill’s life and the lives of his family?

What drove me was an interest not so much in exploring that first year but rather in learning how Churchill and his family and inner circle actually went about surviving Germany’s aerial campaign against Britain. I mean, how really do you cope with eight months of near-nightly bombings—essentially a succession of 9/11s? It just happened that the Luftwaffe’s campaign coincided, rather neatly, with that first year. In fact, the year ended with...[read on]
See six books Erik Larson keeps returning to.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, February 24, 2020

Clare Beams

Clare Beams is the author of the story collection We Show What We Have Learned, which won the Bard Prize and was a Kirkus Best Debut of 2016, as well as a finalist for the PEN/Robert W. Bingham Prize, the New York Public Library’s Young Lions Fiction Award, and the Shirley Jackson Award. After teaching high school English for six years in Falmouth, Massachusetts, she moved to Pittsburgh, where she now lives with her husband and two daughters. She has taught creative writing at Carnegie Mellon University and St. Vincent College.

Beams's new novel is The Illness Lesson.

From her Q&A with Caroline Leavitt:

I always, always want to know what was haunting you that got you writing this fabulous novel? And did that haunting change as you were writing?

When I started The Illness Lesson, I had just finished six years of teaching high school English, and I think a lot of the questions teaching raised for me—about power, about students and our responsibilities to them—haunt this book. More concretely, the book was sparked by a visit to Fruitlands in Massachusetts, site of a failed commune established by Louisa May Alcott’s father, Bronson Alcott. The place itself is very beautiful, and what happened there had beautiful origins—lots of lovely and noble ideas about humans and their worth—and yet was so misguided in a practical sense (they had a lot of complicated and poorly thought-through theories about what they should and shouldn’t eat, no one really knew how to farm, they all almost starved to death, etc.). That kind of contradiction haunted me, and so did the question of who might end up paying for a contradiction of that kind. And as I wrote, the girls and Caroline and their plight began to...[read on]
Visit Clare Beams's website.

The Page 69 Test: The Illness Lesson.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, February 23, 2020

Beverly Long

Beverly Long's new suspense novel is Ten Days Gone.

From her Q&A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: How did you come up with the idea for Ten Days Gone and for your characters A.L. McKittridge and Rena Morgan?

A: I started thinking about the book several years ago. I was already contracted to write another few books so I couldn’t start working on it immediately. However, I think the many months that I stewed over it in my head were ultimately very helpful.

I knew I wanted to write a suspense but more specifically, a police procedural with a twist. The police know what the crime will be, when it will happen, and even, ultimately, who the victim will be. That still doesn’t make it easy to catch the killer.

In regards to A.L. McKittridge and Rena Morgan, I wanted a pair of detectives because I think the play of one character off another is always interesting, especially when both are strong characters.

A.L. is the more experienced detective and Rena has an appropriate amount of respect for him but she’s not a pushover. She can needle A.L. in a way that others can’t. They’re both good cops who have some depth to their character, both on and off the job.

I especially like that A.L. has a...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, February 22, 2020

Kim Ghattas

Kim Ghattas is the author of Black Wave: Saudi Arabia, Iran, and the Forty-Year Rivalry That Unraveled Culture, Religion, and Collective Memory in the Middle East.

From the transcript of her interview with Fareed Zakaria:
ZAKARIA: So explain where "Black Wave" comes from?

GHATTAS: That is where the way it was the cinema director, an Egyptian Cinema Director Youssef Chahine, who first used the term in the '90s as he was complaining about the fact that Egyptian women were donning the Saudi style Niqab the Face Veil and the Black Abaya.

But it is the rise of a trend that is dark, that is joyless, and that you can trace back to that year, 1979, when these two countries started to use all the tools at their disposal, including religion, to try to rally the masses to their side. And they also heightened sectarian differences and turned them into sectarian divisions and violence.

ZAKARIA: So explain what happens in 1979? Why is this a pivotal year?

GHATTAS: Well, 1979 is the year of the Iran revolution when Ayatollah Khomeini returns to Iran from exile it's the year when Saudi Zealots take hold of the Mosque in Mecca and lay siege to it for two weeks throwing the people that were more are killed the Zealots are put to death. It's also the year when the Soviet's invade Afghanistan and it is the first modern day jihad in our times, an effort backed by the United States. These three invasions...[read on]
Visit Kim Ghattas's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, February 21, 2020

Tina May Hall

Tina May Hall's new novel is The Snow Collectors.

From her Q&A with Deborah Kalb:
Q: How did you come up with the idea for The Snow Collectors, and for your character Henna?

A: The idea for the book came from research I was doing on Lady Jane Franklin, who was the wife of Sir John Franklin (whose 1845 expedition is referenced below). I really thought the book would mainly be about Lady Jane.

Then the idea of a present-day or slightly futuristic plotline came to mind, and I thought it would be a rather evenly-split dual narrative in the vein of A.S. Byatt’s Possession.

But as I wrote, I got more and more interested in Henna’s world, which is our world set very slightly in the future and is a landscape on the precipice of environmental collapse. I was really captivated by the idea of Henna navigating an eco-gothic world that is suffused with loss even as she tries to make sense of the smaller losses she is mourning.

Q: Why did you decide to include the 1845 Franklin expedition of the Arctic in the novel, and how did you research it?

A: When I happened on...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, February 20, 2020

Mark B. Smith

Mark B. Smith is University Senior Lecturer in Modern European History at the University of Cambridge and is a Fellow of King's College and the Royal Historical Society. He is the author of Property of Communists: The Urban Housing Program from Stalin to Khrushchev and the blog Beyond the Kremlin.

Smith's latest book is The Russia Anxiety: And How History Can Resolve It.

From his interview with East & West:

East & West: Why is the Russia Anxiety so powerful? Why many Western Europeans and Americans seem to have such a deep fear and suspicion of all things Russian? Many of the things otherwise perfectly respectful and educated people say about Russia and the Russians would be considered deeply offensive and even unforgivably racist if said about other countries. Do people enjoy or need scare stories?

Mark B. Smith: Russia’s size and proximity give it a unique status in the imagination of ‘the West’, or at least of some Western people. Over centuries, perceptions of Russia have historically followed a cycle between feelings of fear, contempt and disregard. In those periods when Russia has been held in contempt, for instance around the time of the Crimean War and in the very recent past, there was a kind of freedom to say what one liked about Russia. Some of this really is deeply offensive. I saw an American cartoon recently where ‘Russians’ in general, depicted as an ugly, overweight man, were equated with other groups, including ‘Nazis’ and ‘Racists’, as a threat to the United States. All this understandably causes long-lasting grudges among ordinary Russians. After all, as you suggest, we’re not used to seeing this kind of imagery used about other national or ethnic groups most of the time. But it’s important to remember that throughout history there have also been long spells of harmony and alliance in which Russia naturally forms a part of the international system and outsiders describe Russians with more respect. Presumably that will return sooner or later. And while the Russia Anxiety is a phenomenon associated with the United States and Western Europe, it doesn’t seem to have much purchase in Asia, Africa or Latin America. Meanwhile, Russia’s neighbours have rational or historical reasons to be cautious and fearful about Russian intentions. So...[read on]
Visit Mark Smith's Beyond the Kremlin blog, and learn more about The Russia Anxiety at the Oxford University Press website.

The Page 99 Test: The Russia Anxiety.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, February 19, 2020

Megan Kate Nelson

Megan Kate Nelson is a writer and historian living in Lincoln, Massachusetts. She has written about the Civil War, US western history, and American culture for the New York Times, the Washington Post, Smithsonian Magazine, Preservation Magazine, and Civil War Monitor. Nelson earned her BA in history and literature from Harvard University and her PhD in American Studies from the University of Iowa, and she has taught at Texas Tech University, Cal State Fullerton, Harvard, and Brown.

Her new book is The Three-Cornered War: The Union, the Confederacy, and Native Peoples in the Fight for the West.

From Nelson's Q&A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: Why did you decide to focus on the Civil War in the Western states, and why do you think this subject has not been covered as extensively as the impact further east?

A: I am from Colorado, and when I found out that there were battles between Union and Confederate forces in New Mexico, and that Colorado soldiers were vital to the Union’s victory there, I was astonished.

When I dug a little deeper and found out how indigenous peoples were involved in every aspect of the Civil War in the West, I knew I had to write about it. A handful of military historians have written books about this theater of the war, but no one had yet written a narrative history of the Civil War West, accessible to general readers.

There are a few reasons that the conflicts in this theater are so little known. One is that Civil War historians, in their work on the military, social, and political histories of the war, have focused overwhelmingly on the eastern theater, and only to some extent on the Trans-Mississippi West.

Because of this, most histories of the war include maps that just end at the 100th meridian, which is the eastern border of the far West. This suggests that 40 percent of the land mass of the United States did not even exist during the war. And because of this, historians tend to refer to the Trans-Mississippi theater as “the West,” which leads people to think, “what could be farther west than West?”

In western histories, too, the Civil War is a kind of blank space in the middle of the narrative. There has been a lot of work on the history of...[read on]
Visit Megan Kate Nelson's website.

The Page 99 Test: The Three-Cornered War.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, February 18, 2020

Joseph S. Nye

Joseph S. Nye's latest book is Do Morals Matter?: Presidents and Foreign Policy from FDR to Trump.

From the transcript of his interview with Fareed Zakaria:

ZAKARIA: So give us an example. We think of American Presidents following the national interest, doing what they needed to do. When did morality, you know, change a big decision?

NYE: Well, a great example is Harry Truman. Remember, Truman dropped the bomb on Hiroshima, Nagasaki, he had said he didn't lose any sleep over it. People don't realize that he also had a third bomb and refused to drop it because he didn't want to kill more women and children.

Five years later, when we were losing the war in Korea, Douglas Macarthur said, I want the right to drop 25 to 40 bombs on Chinese cities. And Truman said no. And he said no because of moral concerns.

Now, imagine that he had decided yes, and nuclear weapons became normal weapons. The world would look very different today. That's case where morals mattered.

ZAKARIA: In many cases, there were Presidents who were sort of trying to navigate between doing what they thought was the strategically important thing but still worried about morality, right?

NYE: That's right. I mean, it's rare that you could have a decision which is purely moral or sometimes Presidents will try to think of something which is in between, which is where...[read on]
Follow Joseph S. Nye on Twitter.

Also see: Joseph Nye's top 5 books on global power.

Writers Read: Joseph S. Nye (August 2007).

The Page 99 Test: Presidential Leadership and the Creation of the American Era.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, February 17, 2020

Bryan Gruley

Bryan Gruley is the Amazon Charts bestselling author of Bleak Harbor and the award-winning Starvation Lake trilogy of novels. He is also a lifelong journalist who is proud to have shared in the Pulitzer Prize awarded to the staff of the Wall Street Journal for their coverage of the September 11 terrorist attacks.

Gruley's new novel, Purgatory Bay, is set in the same fictional Michigan town as Bleak Harbor.

From the author's Q&A with Andrew DeCanniere at Chicago Splash Magazine:

Andrew DeCanniere: To begin at the beginning, what led you to write Purgatory Bay in the first place?

Bryan Gruley: Sure. First of all, the very first seed of this book came when I woke up in the middle of the night and, for some reason, I had the words to Ophelia by The Band in my head. It goes “Boards on the window, mail by the door. What would anybody leave so quickly for? Ophelia – Where have you gone?” So, that was my first conception of the character, Ophelia, who disappears early on in the book. Then, as I say in the acknowledgements, there was this mass murder I read about when I was a kid in Detroit. I was 10 years old and this family — the Robison family — was in their cottage in northern Michigan, and somebody broke in and just killed them all. They weren’t found for two or three weeks. It was in the paper all the time. A year or two later, my parents bought a cottage up north, not far from where those people were killed, and I used to lay in my bed in our cottage thinking about when this guy is coming to kill all of us. They hadn’t caught the guy, so — it was just some guy up there, right? That stayed with me all of these years, so I grabbed that and...[read on]
Learn more about the book and author at Bryan Gruley's website.

The Page 69 Test: Starvation Lake.

The Page 69 Test: The Hanging Tree.

The Page 69 Test: Bleak Harbor.

The Page 69 Test: Purgatory Bay.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, February 16, 2020

Alena Dillon

Alena Dillon's new novel is Mercy House.

From her Q&A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: Why did you decide to focus your novel around nuns, and how did you come up with the idea for Sister Evelyn?

A: When I worked at St. Joseph’s College, I was surrounded by sisters who challenged my perception of what it meant to be a holy person. They weren’t dry or dull. They were enterprising, wry, competitive, and so very dedicated to their mission, which made the Apostolic Visitation, an investigation of nuns conducted by the Vatican in 2010, sound all the more unjust.

The character of Sister Evelyn is, like so many characters, a composite of several people and my own imagination, but she is in large part inspired by a religious sister from the college who worked a night shift at a woman’s shelter and groaned every time the doorbell rang because it meant she had to get out of bed. That anecdote became my opening scene.

Q: The novel is set in the Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood. How important is setting to you in your work?

A: The story is set in Brooklyn partly because...[read on]
Visit Alena Dillon's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, February 15, 2020

Tembi Locke

Tembi Locke is an accomplished actor who has appeared in over forty television shows and films, including The Magicians, NCIS: LA, Animal Kingdom and Dumb and Dumber To. She is also a TEDx speaker. Her talk, What Forty Steps Taught Me About Love and Grief, traces her journey as a cancer caregiver. She is the creative voice behind The Kitchen Widow, a web series and grief support community that has received mentions in the New York Times and the Guardian. The author of From Scratch: A Memoir of Love, Sicily, and Finding Home, she lives in Los Angeles with her young daughter but can be found each summer on the island of Sicily.

From Locke's Q&A with Off the Shelf:

What was your inspiration for turning your story into a memoir?

This story had been swelling in my heart for years. Some of it even before Saro passed. I understood that there were aspects of our love story that were rare and beautiful. However, three years after his passing I was seated in Sicily with Zoela and across from us was Nonna. We were at the dinner table at the end of what had been like the perfect summer day. And I had a thought: How did we get here, especially given where we started AND given that the only person connecting us is gone? That question felt like the makings of a book. Yet it was another two years, actually the fifth anniversary of his passing, before I felt ready to write it. I needed to build up my...[read on]
Visit Tembi Locke's website.

The Page 99 Test: From Scratch.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, February 14, 2020

Jill Wine-Banks

Jill Wine-Banks is an MSNBC legal analyst, appearing regularly on the network’s primetime and daytime shows. She began her career as an organized crime prosecutor at the U.S. Department of Justice, which led to her selection as one of three assistant Watergate special prosecutors in the obstruction of justice trial against President Nixon's top aides. She has also served as general counsel of the U.S. Army, solicitor general and deputy attorney general of the state of Illinois, and executive vice president and chief operating officer of the American Bar Association. In each case, she was the first woman to hold the position.

Her new book is The Watergate Girl: My Fight for Truth and Justice Against a Criminal President.

From the transcript of Wine-Banks's Fresh Air interview with Dave Davies:

DAVE DAVIES: Well, Jill Wine-Banks, welcome to FRESH AIR. Let's talk about your experience in the Watergate investigation. You were hired at the age of 30 for the special prosecutor's office. You are an attorney with some experience. You'd done criminal prosecutions for the Justice Department. You were, I guess, the only woman trial lawyer on the team there. How were you regarded by all of these other men - the attorneys, the agents, others?

JILL WINE-BANKS: Well, it depends on what part of my career you're talking about. When I first started at the Department of Justice, again, I was the only woman trial lawyer. And no one really knew how to deal with me because they weren't sure whether to call me a woman lawyer, which is something I've always objected to. I think that distinguishes me in a way that's unfair from any other lawyer. I was a trial lawyer, not a woman lawyer. And so I've always corrected people on that particular thing.

I really ended up being very much accepted in the Department of Justice organized crime section, but it took me over a year to get my first trial, and that was because I was not even aware - I had no role models and no one to look to. And it took me a while to realize that the men I started with were starting to try cases. We all start doing appeals, but they had moved on to trials, and I hadn't. And so I had to confront my boss and say, how come? And he said, well, because you're a girl, and you'd be much more vulnerable in a courtroom. In appeals, you're just with lawyers. But in the courtroom, you'd be with Mafia members. And I simply said, well, what didn't you notice about me when you hired me as a trial lawyer? And that's how I got my first trial.

When I got to Watergate, I had only a few years of experience.

DAVIES: But they accepted you once you were on the team?

WINE-BANKS: Oh, at Watergate, I never felt unaccepted. There were a number of episodes where you would have to say gender played a role. Judge Sirica made several, I would have to say, sexist comments. One was during my questioning of Rose Mary Woods when he said, now, ladies, we have enough problems in this courtroom without two women arguing. And that was while I was cross-examining her, not arguing with her. He also said during my cross-examination of one of the defendants, Robert Mardian, Mr. Mardian, don't you know you can never win an argument with a lady?

And part of the trial strategy...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, February 13, 2020

Ismée Williams

Ismée Williams's new YA novel is This Train Is Being Held.

From her Q&A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: How did you come up with the idea for This Train Is Being Held, and for your characters Isa and Alex?

A: If you talk to anyone who knows me from high school, they will tell you that I am a complete romantic. It’s true! I love LOVE. So, I’m always inventing scenarios for romance.

Given that I live in New York, I’m on the subway a lot. I’ve always been intrigued by how the train commute brings New Yorkers of different backgrounds together, in very close proximity.

Every so often you see connections form between strangers, someone offering their seat to another or picking up a dropped ski hat. The 1 train seemed like the perfect setting for two individuals who live very different lives to cross paths–multiple times.

Q: Most of the novel takes place on the New York subway. Can you say more about what made you choose that setting, and how important is setting to you in your work?

A: I’ve been taking the subway (and bus) since I moved to New York in 1999. We live where we live because it is close to the 1 train, which I needed when I was a resident in pediatrics at Columbia University Medical Center since I often had to be at work before 6 am.

I took the subway when pregnant, then...[read on]
Visit Ismée Williams's website.

Coffee with a Canine: Ismée Amiel Williams & Rowan.

My Book, The Movie: Water in May.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, February 12, 2020

Steven Rowley

Steven Rowley is the author of The Editor.

From his Q&A with Caroline Leavitt:

I also always think that writers are haunted into writing their books, looking for some answer. What was haunting you?

There are minefields to navigate in telling our stories, in telling the truth about our families and the ones we love. Should you be more loyal to your loved ones? Or to the writing, to the truth. There are also consequences in not telling our stories honestly. THE EDITOR explores both, and hopefully shines a light on truth being the better way forward.

The Editor is about a writer who sells his book to Jackie Kennedy! The research must have been really fun! What surprised you? What did you learn that pulled the plot together?

I did a lot of research to make Jackie an authentic character. From the outset, I didn’t want to just use her, or trade on her name – she had to be a well-rounded character with real narrative purpose. That was something my editor pushed me on draft after draft. However, Jackie’s third act in publishing (which I think is the most interesting time in her life) is the least well documented. By the time she started her publishing career in the late 1970’s, she was done with the spotlight. She kept her head down and did the hard work. There are two great books (William Kuhn’s Reading Jackie and Greg Lawrence’s Jackie as Editor) about her career, so I started there. She only ever gave one interview during her career, to...[read on]
Visit Steven Rowley's website.

Coffee with a Canine: Steven Rowley & Tilda Swinton.

My Book, The Movie: Lily and the Octopus.

Writers Read: Steven Rowley (June 2016).

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, February 11, 2020

Kate Winkler Dawson

Kate Winkler Dawson's new book is American Sherlock: Murder, Forensics, and the Birth of American CSI. From her Q&A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: You note that you first learned of Edward Oscar Heinrich while looking through an encyclopedia of crime. What made you decide to write his biography?

A: I’ve never really been interested in biographies, I’m interested in events, but with American Sherlock, when I read about his train robbery case and his moniker “American Sherlock,” how could you not be fascinated by this?

I have a checklist—first, is this somebody people have heard of before? He didn’t have a Wikipedia page. Is he important? Is what he studied important now? How did he make history?

It has to be a cool time period for me, the older the better. I really like the 1800s and 1900-1950. The cases in his heyday fit in with the period I’m interested in.

One of the biggest challenges was, What is his archive like? Theodore Heinrich, his son, became famous and had an incredible archive. His Watson had an archive. That amount of information was really important to me. It took a long time to...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, February 10, 2020

David Quammen

David Quammen is the author of Spillover: Animal Infections and the Next Human Pandemic.

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

DAVIES: .... You begin your book with the story of a virus that appeared in Australia, which killed horses quickly and dramatically and painfully, and a number of people who treated them. And they had to do this detective work of finding what the reservoir host - what animal had this virus. How do you do that? How do they do that?

QUAMMEN: Well, in this case, it was a virus that was killing racehorses in a stable in a suburb of Brisbane, Australia, called Hendra. And some disease ecologists went in and said, well, we've got to identify the reservoir host. Where did this virus come from? And in particular, a man named Hume Field - he was a veterinarian. And he was working on a Ph.D. in ecology. He made this his dissertation project.

So he trapped all kinds of animals in the area surrounding the stables in the meadows of Hendra and elsewhere. He trapped rats and insects and small mammals of various different sorts and also trapped some bats. I think he caught a bat in a fence and tested it, tested all of them to see if he could find evidence of this virus. And he found it in the bats. He found it in two species of giant fruit bat that were native to that part of Australia.

And then the question became, how did the virus get from these giant fruit bats into these horses? And one of the fellows who worked on the response to this, another vet, a veterinarian, took me out to a meadow outside of this suburb of Hendra. And it was a big, hot, grassy meadow where they pastured horses.

For instance, one particular mare, when she was pregnant, they pastured her there. And there was just a single tree providing shade in the hot, subtropical Australian sun in this meadow. And this veterinarian pointed to it and said, there it is. That's the bloody tree - meaning that's the tree that this horse took shelter under for shade. It was a fig tree, and it attracted fruit bats.

The fruit bats came, ate the figs, dropped fruit pulp, dropped saliva, dropped feces onto the grass below. The horse ate the grass, picked up the virus. Then she was brought back to the stables, and she infected the rest of the horses. So it was Hume Field's detective work that...[read on]
Spillover is one of Laura Spinney's five best books about pandemics.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, February 9, 2020

Phil Stamper

Phil Stamper grew up in a rural village near Dayton, Ohio. He has a B.A. in Music and an M.A. in Publishing with Creative Writing. And, unsurprisingly, a lot of student debt. He works for a major book publisher in New York City and lives in Brooklyn with his husband and their dog.

Stamper's debut novel is The Gravity of Us.

From his Q&A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: The Kirkus Review of The Gravity of Us begins, "Gay romance goes interstellar in this quirky coming-of-age tale." What do you think of that description?

A: At the end of the day, as long as Kirkus isn’t yelling at me I don’t care what they say.

I do think they found a nice catchy way to get people interested in the book. One big challenge I didn’t expect was that most readers initially assume the teens are in space, or that the teens are astronauts. I’ve seen Maya Rudolph’s gays in space gif about 40,000 times, and it always cracks me up.

But it’s helped me learn how to describe my book better…and how to be clearer about the fact it’s a contemporary YA, that the gays are not in space, that their parents are the astronauts, and so on.

Unfortunately, Kirkus saying “gay romance goes interstellar” kind of furthers that misconception. It’s such a great line, but I always worry about misleading people.

Anyway, let me reiterate: The gays are...[read on]
Visit Phil Stamper's website.

The Page 69 Test: The Gravity of Us.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, February 8, 2020

Maja Lunde

Maja Lunde is a Norwegian author and screenwriter. Her new novel is The End of the Ocean.

From Lunde's Q&A with Amy Brady at the Chicago Review of Books:

Amy Brady: Do you think about the climate crisis beyond what you write about in your fiction?

Maja Lunde: In part, The End of the Ocean was written out of gratitude. Being Norwegian means being able to live surrounded by water in any form, wild waterfalls and tranquil lakes, majestic glaciers and pristine snow, and of course the fjords and the ocean. It also means being able to turn on the tap and fill a glass of fresh, clean drinking water. This is a true miracle. But a miracle available to very few, and ever fewer. Our freshwater resources are emptied, the glaciers are melting before our eyes, while the world is getting drier and warmer every year. Therefore, the novel also originates from my own anxiety. In Norway we say “write where it burns.” This is where it burns for me.

Amy Brady: The End of the Ocean focuses on two people–a father and his small daughter–who are refugees from a war-torn and climate change-impacted nation. Whereas many novels focused on climate change center around the most privileged, yours focuses on refugees. What inspired you to create David and Lou?

Maja Lunde: The story started with an image of a young man walking alone in a drought ridden southern Europe some time in our close future. I knew he was alone, I knew he had lost everything. And then I saw him finding...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, February 7, 2020

Christina McDonald

Christina McDonald's new novel is Behind Every Lie.

From her Q&A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: How did you come up with the idea for Behind Every Lie, and for your characters Eva and Kat?

A: The first seeds of Behind Every Lie began after I read the impact statement for Emily Doe, who was sexually assaulted by Brock Turner at Stanford University.

It really impacted me and I thought: how do you go on after that? Your self-trust and worth would be eroded. I wanted to write a story where my character was riddled with self-doubt that impeded her moving into a happy future.

So I came up with the idea for Behind Every Lie, which takes a thriller concept and places Eva, my protagonist, in a situation where she is riddled with self-doubt.

To start with, she’s been struck by lightning and can't remember if she murdered her mother, and this further erodes her self-trust. So she embarks on a journey to find out who she really is and what she’s capable of, while trying to solve the mystery of who murdered her mother.

Eva and Kat were really born from...[read on]
Visit Christina McDonald's website.

The Page 69 Test: The Night Olivia Fell.

Writers Read: Christina McDonald (February 2019).

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, February 6, 2020

Christopher Bollen

Christopher Bollen is the author of The Destroyers, Orient, which was an NPR Best Book of the Year, and the critically acclaimed Lightning People. He is the editor at large of Interview magazine. His work has appeared in GQ, the New York Times, New York magazine, and Artforum, among other publications. He lives in New York City.

Bollen's new novel is A Beautiful Crime.

From his Q&A with Mitchell Nugent at Interview magazine:

NUGENT: A Beautiful Crime is being compared to Patricia Highsmith’s The Talented Mr. Ripley series, which is probably the best compliment I can imagine. What do you make of the comparisons?

BOLLEN: I’m completely divided because I love Patricia Highsmith so much. I love how she can manage to juggle both the beauty of lies and the desires of lies with their evil underside as well. And all of the paranoia and murder and ugliness and nastiness that comes with it, too. I think it captures so much about the American personality, or the urban American personality, I think. I do think that there is a humongous difference between [A Beautiful Crime characters] Nick and Clay and Tom Ripley. Tom Ripley is a sociopath without a doubt. And I don’t think that Nick or Clay is a sociopath at all. I think it’s a very different motivation that brings about their own crimes than Tom. So for me, there’s a difference in the motivation in the heart of the main character.

NUGENT: Highsmith was often criticized for making Tom Ripley so empathetic and lovable, and yet at the same time so wickedly evil. Nick and Clay aren’t as extreme in their acts or villainous as Ripley, but I was wondering why you think readers are so drawn to these kind of crooked yet charming characters?

BOLLEN: I think we’re all kind of faced with the grifter, the charlatan, the fraud, the con artist. And I think it’s obviously because...[read on]
Visit Christopher Bollen's website.

The Page 69 Test: A Beautiful Crime.

My Book, The Movie: A Beautiful Crime.

Writers Read: Christopher Bollen.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, February 5, 2020

Sanam Maher

Sanam Maher is a journalist based in Karachi, Pakistan. For more than a decade, she has covered stories on Pakistan's art and culture, business, politics, religious minorities and women. A Woman Like Her: The Story Behind the Honor Killing of a Social Media Star is her first book.

From the transcript of Maher's interview with NPR's Renee Montagne:

RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST: The story of Qandeel Baloch was a harrowing one that gripped her home country of Pakistan. She was a social media star, ambitious, beautiful and daring. Her posts were often sexy - or for many in Pakistan, scandalous. That included her own large family, though they welcomed the money she sent home. Yet all that fame could not protect Qandeel from a tragic end. In 2016, one of her brothers murdered her in what's known as an honor killing. She was just 26. Journalist Sanam Maher is now out with a book on Qandeel's life and death. She joins us from Karachi. Welcome.

SANAM MAHER: Thank you for having me.

MONTAGNE: Tell us more about Qandeel and her social media persona, which could be quite risque in what is a socially conservative country.

MAHER: That's absolutely right. Qandeel was one of the first social media celebrities that we had in Pakistan. She became famous for the videos that she would post online to platforms like Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. And the videos and the photographs, the selfies that she put up, they were a mixed bag - I mean, just sort of ordinary things. She bought a new dress. And she would put it on. And she'd ask, do I look sexy? She would make videos about her thoughts on everything from politicians to movies to her crushes on certain cricketers. So we liked to watch her. We liked to make fun of her. We liked to see how this young woman was just expressing herself. And she became famous for doing pretty much that - like, just entertaining us.

MONTAGNE: Though there were other people - women - online at the time, what was it about Qandeel? What was the thing that pushed her right to the top?

MAHER: We do have a lot more women that...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, February 4, 2020

Bobby Duffy

Bobby Duffy is the author of Why We're Wrong about Nearly Everything: A Theory of Human Misunderstanding.

From his Q&A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: You begin the book with a discussion of whether the Great Wall of China is visible from space. Why did you start there, and how does that question, as you write, "highlight why there might be this gap between perception and reality"?

A: It’s a great way to get people to see the wider causes and implications of even simple misperceptions – partly because we know from surveys that about 50 percent of people wrongly think it is visible from outer space. And I confirm those sort of figures in just about every talk I do, with a huge range of audiences.

The point is not to make people feel stupid in any way, it’s to highlight how even this shows the four to five key points from the book and why we get things wrong and the implications.

First, we tend not to think about this sort of question very deeply, because it’s quite trivial. But we don’t give lots of day-to-day decisions a lot of thought either; that would be exhausting. Instead we use what Daniel Kahneman calls fast thinking, where we’re not engaging in careful consideration.

We also struggle with scales as humans, often mixing them up. So the Great Wall of China is extremely big, in fact it is one of the largest man-made structures on earth, but it’s its length that gives it that scale, and that doesn’t make it visible from outer space.

We also suffer from illusory truth bias, which means we’re more likely to believe and accept something when we hear it repeated several times. We’ll have heard this “fact” in many circumstances, and not thought much of it, but its repetition alone helps make it seem more real.

But it’s also more emotional than it might seem for...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, February 3, 2020

Emma Copley Eisenberg

Emma Copley Eisenberg's debut book is The Third Rainbow Girl: The Long Life of a Double Murder in Appalachia.

From her interview with Kiersten A. Adams at The Philadelphia Citizen:

Kiersten Adams: How did you come to want to write about the so-called Rainbow Girls in Pocahontas County?

Emma Copley Eisenberg: I heard about the murders while I was living there and I didn’t think too much of it; then I ended up renting a house just a couple of miles from where the women had died. The first telling of the murders that I heard was that these women were from elsewhere and they came to Pocahontas County to be a part of a hippie festival and the Pocahontas County locals just weren’t having it and were mad about it. Two guys just randomly killed these women—sort of for sex, but also because they were mad they were there. That was the official story; if you Google it, that’s what comes up.

I think there are ways my experience rhymes with those conditions of why the women came. And then there are ways my experience felt contradictory to that story, and I was just kind of like, This can’t be right. I just didn’t believe it, it smelled wrong, like a lie. So I became interested in learning more about their murders; to retell the official version and also figure out and dig deeper into this contradiction between a little, loving, connected, interesting community, and this violent event that had happened. How could those exist in the same place? was kind of my question.

I had also been hanging out with a bunch of...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, February 2, 2020

Philip Rucker and Carol Leonnig

Philip Rucker and Carol Leonnig are the authors of A Very Stable Genius: Donald J. Trump’s Testing of America.

From the transcript of their interview with Fresh Air's Dave Davies:

DAVIES: There's a lot in here about his relationship with President Putin. Wanted to - what insights did you get into how Trump thought he could deal with Putin and how Putin regarded President Trump?

RUCKER: You know, it's interesting. From the very beginning - this was right after the election, during the transition period, when Trump was trying to staff his cabinet. He was in an interview, a job interview, with one of his secretary of state candidates. And he turned to Reince Priebus, who was set to become the White House chief of staff, and asked Priebus, you know, when can I meet Putin? (Laughter) I want to meet Putin. Can I meet him before my inauguration?

And that would have been such an extraordinary breach of protocol, to be meeting with the Russian president before having met with the NATO allies, before being inaugurated, while President Obama was still in office. But it was indicative of Trump's burning desire to have a relationship, a friendship, a bromance with Vladimir Putin. He saw Putin and still sees Putin as a strongman, as someone who has the leadership abilities and kind of muscular machismo that's to be admired. And throughout the book, there are moments where Trump is admiring of Putin.

And he actually finally had his first meeting with Putin in Hamburg, Germany, on the sidelines of the Group of 20 summit. And he met for about two hours in private with Putin, and afterwards, he told Rex Tillerson, the secretary of state - who, by the way, has years of negotiating with Putin as the head of ExxonMobil - Trump told Tillerson, I've got this. I understand Putin. I just spent two hours with him. I know more about him than you do. You don't need to advise me anymore. I got it under control.

DAVIES: And he expressed the opinion that, you know, Putin does not have an agenda of undermining U.S. interests, right? You can be friends.

LEONNIG: That was definitely what the president said repeatedly to all of his aides. Tillerson, Pompeo, the entire national security firmament, the intelligence community was constantly trying to brief this president about the ways in which Putin tries to exploit American vulnerabilities and leap into situations where he can take some advantage.

In fact, Rex Tillerson was trying to school the president gently, not in a patronizing way, but gently school him about here's what Putin is doing every morning when he wakes up; he's looking for where we've got a hole, and he's going to dash over there, and we won't be fast enough to take advantage of it and stop him. And the president repeatedly rejected this, including rejecting the intelligence that he was brought constantly about the fact that Putin had...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, February 1, 2020

Anna Wiener

Anna Wiener writes about tech culture for The New Yorker; she also wrote a book, Uncanny Valley, about her time working for Silicon Valley startups.

From Wiener's interview with Jessica Zack for the San Francisco Chronicle:

Q: What excited you about moving to San Francisco in 2013 and joining the tech industry you admit you weren’t sure you were cut out for?

A: In part it was an experiment, when I was 25 and feeling stuck, in wanting my life to move faster. I felt like my identity was more aligned with the publishing world, but it’s a slow-moving industry and everyone’s climbing the ladder in a way that feels a little antiquated. Actually, it only felt antiquated once I got here and saw how fast people could move and how much opportunity there was, how quickly decisions were made.

I think what drew me is that I found this culture, the mood, the energy, the spirit of the workplace really intoxicating. I was drawn to the confidence all around me. I was suddenly surrounded by people who were so confident and convinced that they deserved to be where they were, and that what they were doing had moral value, if not moral superiority.

Q: That confidence was exuded almost exclusively by men. You write candidly about being a woman in tech, which you describe as being “in a position of ceaseless, professionalized deference to the male ego.”

A: I have a lot to say about that. My experience was fairly positive, given the range of things that have happened to other women I know. But the sense of it being a boys’ club was real. I was subjected to a fair amount of sexism at my first job, but it wasn’t a hotbed of sexual harassment. At my third job...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue