Thursday, August 17, 2017

Jennifer Fenn

Young adult author Jennifer Fenn has been filling notebooks since she was in elementary school. She’s never without a book! Fenn is terrified of corn fields but has jumped out of a plane, eats her cereal without milk, and has run a marathon.

She is a graduate of Lycoming College and Rosemont College’s MFA program, and lives with her husband, daughter and Scottish terrier in Downingtown, PA.

Fenn's new YA novel is Flight Risk.

From her Q&A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: Flight Risk was inspired by a true story. What intrigued you about it, and at what point did you decide it would make a good book?

A: Flight Risk was inspired by the story of Colton Harris-Moore, dubbed The Barefoot Bandit, a teenager who evaded police for two years and stole several planes before he was eventually caught in Bermuda.

His story is fascinating. As a teenager without any flight training, how did he pull it off? And perhaps more importantly, why?

I became aware of this story while Harris-Moore was still on the run, and I found myself—a writer, a teacher, a generally law-abiding citizen—rooting for him not to get caught, which led me to examine why society loves certain anti-heroes, including fictional ones, like Walter White and Tony Soprano, for instance.

The basic facts of the story...[read on]
Visit Jennifer Fenn's website.

The Page 69 Test: Flight Risk.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Kristi Belcamino

Kristi Belcamino's recent books include City of Angels, her first YA novel, and Blessed are the Peacemakers, the latest installment in her Gabriella Giovanni mystery series. From her Q&A with Steph Post:

Steph Post: Nikki Black, the teenage protagonist of City of Angels is as badass in the story as she looks on the novel's cover. What prompted you to create a young, but tough-as-nails, heroine for your book?

Kristi Belcamino: I don’t have a profound answer except to say that I love reading about tough-as-nails heroines and love writing them even more!

SP: One of the elements of City of Angels that really sets it apart from other young adult novels is the setting of the '90s underground L.A. scene. How important do you think the setting of the novel is to its story and to its framing of Nikki's character?

KB: This is one of my books where I feel like the setting needed to be its own character. The atmosphere, the pervasive feeling of living in L.A. during that time, the deep knowledge that history was being made, is, in a way, that same feeling of being young and free of major responsibilities, just stepping out into the world with your whole life ahead of you. When I lived in Los Angeles at the time it felt like ...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Margot Livesey

Margot Livesey's latest novel is Mercury.

From her Q&A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: How did you first come up with the idea for your novel Mercury?

A: There were two things that propelled me. One was writing a column for The Boston Globe. I was a guest editor for six weeks, and I wrote a couple of columns, and then there was a massacre in Binghamton, New York.

I was struck by the [fact that] the perpetrator was a fairly recent immigrant to the States, and he had known how to get a bullet-proof vest, a weapon, ammunition. I have been here off an on for 30 years, and had no idea how to get a gun. I decided to write my next column about that—how to get a gun in Massachusetts.

Happily, it turned out to be hard to do. I didn’t explicitly make clear my views on gun control, but you could tell my attitude. The day it was published, I got 120 emails, and messages on my home answering machine.

Five men called, none identified themselves, and each said slightly threatening things. I was really interested. Massachusetts is one of the most liberal states and yet this was a really volatile issue. I was hard at work on another novel [at the time].

A couple of years later I was having a drink with an old friend who happened to be Scottish, who told me he was searching for something in the trunk of the car and found a gun...[read on]
Learn more about the book and author at Margot Livesey's website and Facebook page.

The Page 69 Test: The Flight of Gemma Hardy.

The Page 69 Test: Mercury.

Writers Read: Margot Livesey (October 2016).

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, August 14, 2017

Eva Dillon

Eva Dillon's new book is Spies in the Family: An American Spymaster, His Russian Crown Jewel, and the Friendship That Helped End the Cold War.

From her Q&A with Alicia Jackson at NY Literary Magazine:

Tell us about your CIA father…

Growing up, I always thought that my father’s job at the State Department explained our peripatetic lifestyle as we moved from continent to continent. Then, when I was seventeen in New Delhi, India, his diplomatic cover was blown, exposing his real career with the CIA to me and my six siblings. However, it would be decades before the extent of his clandestine activities became clear to us.

What we ultimately discovered: his role as a handler for the CIA’s most valuable Soviet double agent during the darkest moments of the Cold War.

Code-named TOPHAT, Dmitri Fedorovich Polyakov was a World War II hero turned military intelligence officer who volunteered his services to the United States when he was under cover at the UN in 1961. A principled man motivated by his love of his country, he wanted neither money nor asylum. Instead, by alerting the US government to its deficiencies in the arms race via a wealth of classified material, he sought to prevent a superpower face-off, helping to keep the Cold War from becoming hot. My father and Polyakov developed a close friendship over the years that transcended the ideological divide and endured until their respective tragic final days.

When I discovered the relationship my father had with the Cold War’s highest-ranking, longest-serving Soviet asset, I wanted, primarily, to honor General Polyakov and his service. But the more tactical and emotionally motivating factor for me was when I learned that...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Wendy Wahman

Wendy Wahman is the author and illustrator of the new children's picture book, Rabbit Stew.

From her Q&A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: How did you come up with the idea for Rabbit Stew, and—of course, without giving away the ending!—did you know how it would end before you started writing the story?

A: I make my dog’s food. Years ago, I was mixing up a massive pot of meat and veggies for them, and “rabbit stew” popped into my head. The ending was the thought, so yes, I knew instantly. It's all in the title, isn’t it. Depending on how you read it.

At first the chefs were a brother and sister. My friend, author/illustrator, Nina Laden suggested making them foxes, and the...[read on]
Visit Wendy Wahman's website, blog, Facebook page, and Twitter perch.

Coffee with a Canine: Wendy Wahman & LaRoo and Jody.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, August 12, 2017

Christina Kovac

Prior to writing fiction, Christina Kovac worked in television news. Her career began with a college internship at Fox 5’s Ten O’Clock News in Washington, DC that turned into a field-producing job—making minimum wage while chasing news stories, gossiping with press officers, and cultivating sources—while somehow making rent on a closet-sized apartment on Capitol Hill. After a stint as weekend editor at WRC TV and senior editor at the ABC affiliate, she went on to work at the Washington Bureau of NBC Network News, as a desk editor and news producer in such stories as that of missing DC intern, Chandra Levy.

After being late to pick up her kids at daycare one too many times, Kovac left television to start a writing career. Now she writes psychological thrillers set in Washington, DC.

Kovac's debut novel is The Cutaway.

From her Q&A with Elena Hartwell at Arc of a Writer:

You've spent years working in television news, how did that prepare you to write a novel?

Writing a novel and working on a two-minutes story with video are such entirely different beasts, and none of my friends in TV could understand why it was taking me so long. Our deadline was always 6:30:00. Every night. The show had to get done.

One of my friends used to joke that he’d use his social security payment as a book marker for whenever I finished my debut (I got it done before his retirement, so ha! But long after the many stories he wrote for the Today show).

That said, working television news gave me stories that somehow weave together into novel form, as well as opportunities to observe and talk to people I may never have met otherwise, and these people sneak up on the page. The DC metropolitan area is so vibrant and diverse, so beautiful and misunderstood, and sometimes quite dangerous, which is perfect for...[read on]
Visit Christina Kovac's website.

My Book, The Movie: The Cutaway.

The Page 69 Test: The Cutaway.

Writers Read: Christina Kovac.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, August 11, 2017

Devoney Looser

Devoney Looser is the author of The Making of Jane Austen.

From her Q&A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: You begin the book by stating, "She was not born, but rather became, Jane Austen." What were some of the key factors along the way that turned her into the Jane Austen we're familiar with now?

A: Austen has long been an author who enjoyed both critical acclaim and popular worship. (Or we could say critical worship and popular acclaim!)

I think we've done a better job charting how critics and family descendants helped launch Austen’s reputation than we have the early popular aspects of its growth.

Popular media, including book illustration, dramatic adaptation, and film adaptation, gave Austen’s name and image new dimensions. These things put her in front of bigger audiences, and recovering that history shows us that there were debates about the kind of author she was from a pretty early point in her afterlife.

It’s really interesting to me that there was a time in the 1890s when...[read on]
Visit Devoney Looser's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Ariel Levy

Ariel Levy's memoir is The Rules Do Not Apply. From the transcript of her Fresh Air interview with Terry Gross:
GROSS: So having lost a baby after carrying it for five months, has that helped you understand - and having, like, fallen in love with this baby who died, like - I don't know - minutes or hours after he was born...

LEVY: Yeah, like, 10 minutes, yeah.

GROSS: Has that helped you understand people who are really staunchly anti-abortion and who consider every fetus to be like this baby that you fell in love with?

LEVY: I've never thought that that thinking was insane or incomprehensible even though I'm passionately pro-choice and I was raised by people who are passionately pro-choice. I mean I was sort of raised in the pro-choice movement because my dad worked for NARAL and NOW and Planned Parenthood.

But I've never thought it was incomprehensible. You know, I've always - it's always made sense to me that if you thought this was a life and you thought people were ending other people's lives, that that would be horrifying to you. I've always understood that point of view. I just don't think that that should trump the life of the mother, who, you know - there's no question about her consciousness, right? I mean it - we don't - it's, like, you don't know what's there in terms of a soul when you have a fetus. But you know this mother has a soul (laughter) and a life and that she should be self-determining and that she knows better than someone else what's going to be the best outcome for her life and her child's, you know?

And I - that just hasn't - I've always felt - I don't know what to say - sympathetic. I mean that sounds condescending, and I don't mean it that way. I've just always felt that I - it - I didn't - I never found the other side...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Janelle Brown

Janelle Brown is the New York Times bestselling author of the novels All We Ever Wanted Was Everything, This Is Where We Live, and the newly released Watch Me Disappear.

From her Q&A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: How did you come up with the idea for Watch Me Disappear?

A: There wasn’t one particular genesis. It was a slow process. It changed a lot of times.

A couple of things—my husband has temporal lobe epilepsy. I was always fascinated by the way his brain works, the fact that he has experiences where reality shifts. He has experiences of the world that I don’t have. I knew I wanted to write about that—I had an image of a teenage girl who sees her dead mother. Is it real or is it epilepsy? It grew from there.

Also, I had a friend who was a problematic character, who vanished from my life for a while.

I realized I was writing a mystery. I got halfway through and had to rethink things.

Q: The book looks at how well we know people we’re close to. What intrigues you about that topic?

A: I think we have a notion that once you love someone and are loved back, you become...[read on]
Learn more about the book and author at Janelle Brown's website.

The Page 69 Test: All We Ever Wanted Was Everything.

The Page 69 Test: Watch Me Disappear.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Al Franken

Senator Al Franken graduated from Harvard College. Before running for office, he spent 37 years as a comedy writer, author, and radio talk show host, and has taken part in seven USO tours, visiting our troops overseas in Bosnia, Kosovo, Iraq, Afghanistan, and Kuwait. Franken was first elected to the United States Senate in 2008 and re-elected (by a much larger margin) in 2014. His new book is Al Franken, Giant of the Senate.

From the transcript of Franken's interview with The New Yorker's David Remnick:

REMNICK: What’s your understanding of Russia and the Trump Administration, broadly defined? It seems to me that it may not be that the Trump Administration or Trump officials overtly colluded, in a kind of spy-movie, apocalyptic sort of way, but they opened themselves up—Trump, in particular, in his business dealings over the years—to compromise in a way that now affects policy. It’s not just a matter of embarrassment of the Trump Administration, but policy—how he behaves vis-à-vis foreign policy.

FRANKEN: Well, ironically, of course, he’s signing the sanctions—because he has to, or he’d be overridden—against the Russians. You know, we will see. I have faith that Mueller will get to the bottom of this. I think he’s tough, smart. I think he’s hired great people. He’s hired people to look at those financial dealings. I mean, it’s clear that Donald [Trump], Jr., said, in 2008, that a disproportionate amount of money in their operation was coming from Russia. I mean, there’s no question. And the Russians have a way of compromising people so they’ve got them. I think we will find out that aspect of it, I think, through Mueller. And that’s why I think it becomes a constitutional crisis if Trump fires him. If he fires him, it will be without cause, and that will create a crisis.

REMNICK: Clearly, Donald Trump, on some level, has talent, performative talent, at the microphone. He appeals to people in a way that reaches their gut and their funny bone, even, whether you like it or not. And as somebody who’s spent so much time in comedy, and in front of the camera, and writing for “Saturday Night Live,” does he remind you of anybody? Is he an Andrew Dice Clay figure? How would you assess his comedic talent?

FRANKEN: I...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue