Sunday, February 18, 2018

Mira T. Lee

Mira T. Lee's debut novel, Everything Here is Beautiful, was named a Top Winter/2018 Pick by more than 30 news outlets, including The Wall Street Journal, Huffington Post, O Magazine, Poets & Writers, New York Magazine, Chicago Review of Books, Seattle Times, Buzzfeed, Marie Claire, Real Simple, and Electric Lit, among others. It was also selected as an Indies Introduce title (Top 10 Debut) and Indie Next pick by the American Booksellers Association..

From her Q&A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: How did you come up with the idea for Everything Here Is Beautiful, and for your character Lucia?

A: In 2010, I wrote a short story called "How I Came To Love You Like A Brother," which eventually formed the basis of the first chapter of my novel. Lucia was one of the characters, along with her sister, Miranda, and her first husband, Yonah.

I’d always loved these characters, and knew they had richer lives, and during the years when my two kids were very young, I kept thinking about a series of situational and moral predicaments I wanted to put them though.

I’ve always been drawn to questions with moral “gray areas,” where good people find themselves in conflict with one another even though no one’s at fault. Such questions fueled the plot.

I wanted to explore complicated family dynamics, the limits of love, what happens when what you want for yourself isn’t in the best interests of someone you love, and vice versa.

And I wanted to explore Lucia as a character who has a...[read on]
Visit Mira T. Lee's website.

My Book, The Movie: Everything Here Is Beautiful.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, February 17, 2018

Scott Cowen

Scott Cowen, president emeritus of Tulane University, is the author of Winnebagos on Wednesdays: How Visionary Leadership Can Transform Higher Education. From his Q&A at the Princeton University Press blog:

What’s up with the title? I’m intrigued.

The title emanated from something that happened in the spring of my first year as president of Tulane, after an undefeated season for our football team. I made the coach an offer he couldn’t refuse—and he refused. He said he was leaving for Clemson, where the program was so spectacular that fans lined up their Winnebagos on Wednesdays in anticipation of Saturday games. That’s when I realized Tulane was, for various crazy reasons, in the entertainment business, and we weren’t on the A list. For me, the anecdote became a metaphor for all the absurdities and challenges confronting higher education, and started me thinking about how to stop the madness and tackle our problems.

Why did you write the book?

We’re obviously at a tipping point in higher education, with rising skepticism about its value and escalating demands for accountability, affordability, and access. It’s a moment to take stock, and I finally...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, February 16, 2018

Marilyn Yalom

Marilyn Yalom's new book is The Amorous Heart: An Unconventional History of Love. Her other books include A History of the Wife and How the French Invented Love. From the author's Q&A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: You write that an experience at the British Museum inspired your new book. What initially caught your attention, and how did that eventually result in this book?

A: In 2011, I was attending an exhibition of medieval artifacts at the British Museum. In one case I saw a collection of gold coins and pieces of jewelry that were part of the Fishpool treasure hoard discovered in Nottinghamshire in 1966.

Suddenly a heart-shaped brooch caught my eye. I noticed the heart’s two lobes at the top and the V-shaped point at the bottom as if I were seeing them for the first time. Then for a brief moment I was invaded by images of hearts—the ones I had known all my life from valentines, candy boxes, balloons pendants and bracelets.

It dawned upon me that the perfectly symmetrical heart is a far cry from the lumpish organ we carry inside us, and I asked myself how the human heart had been transformed into such a whimsical icon. From that...[read on]
Visit Marilyn Yalom's website.

How the French Invented Love is one of Publishers Weekly's top nonfiction books of 2012.

Writers Read: Marilyn Yalom (January 2013).

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, February 15, 2018

Kristina Riggle

Kristina Riggle's latest novel is Vivian In Red.

From Riggle's Q&A with Steph Post:

What drew you to the genre you write in?

I’d been writing contemporary mainstream fiction about family conflict for years, and my agent challenged me to widen my scope to something more grand and expansive. I figured one way to do that was to write about a family over multiple generations, a family with a clouded legacy. That drove me to writing about the mid 1930s, and 1999. I got hooked on historical fiction. I used to be a journalist, and applying my research and interview skills to the 1930s world of Broadway, first generation Jewish-Americans in New York, and songwriting, was like an independent study. I loved it.

Were there any parts of your novel that were edited out, but which you miss terribly?

I don’t know that I miss it, but I had a painful cut from Vivian in Red. I had...[read on]
Visit Kristina Riggle's website.

Coffee with a Canine: Kristina Riggle & Lucky.

The Page 69 Test: Real Life & Liars.

The Page 69 Test: The Life You've Imagined.

The Page 69 Test: The Whole Golden World.

The Page 69 Test: Vivian In Red.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Cynthia Swanson

Cynthia Swanson's newest novel is The Glass Forest.

From her Q&A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: How did you come up with the idea for The Glass Forest?

A: It’s an idea that rambled around in my head for a long time. It began years ago, when I considered what it might feel like to find yourself living in the home of a missing person. How could you resist looking everywhere for clues? That was the seed of the story, and the particulars came into fruition over many more years.

Q: You tell the story from three characters’ perspectives. Did you write the book in the order it appears, or did you move things around as you went along?

A: I started writing it as it appears. But partway into my first draft, I realized I...[read on]
Visit Cynthia Swanson's website.

The Page 69 Test: The Bookseller.

The Page 69 Test: The Glass Forest.

Writers Read: Cynthia Swanson.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Tim Rogan

Tim Rogan is the author of The Moral Economists: R. H. Tawney, Karl Polanyi, E. P. Thompson, and the Critique of Capitalism. From his Q&A at the Princeton University Press website:

Doesn’t the profile of these writers—dead, male, English, or Anglophile, writing about a variety of capitalism long since superseded—limit their contemporary relevance?

No. Their main concern was to discover and render articulate forms of social solidarity which the dominant economic discourse concealed. They found these on the outskirts of ‘Red Vienna’, on railroads under construction in post-war Yugoslavia, but most of all in the north of England. They believed that these inarticulate solidarities were what really held the country together—the secret ingredients of the English constitution. Though they belonged to a tradition of social thought in Britain that was skeptical towards Empire and supportive of the push for self-determination in India and elsewhere, they raised the prospect that the same dynamics had developed in countries to which British institutions had been exported—explaining the relative cohesion of Indian and Ghanaian democracies, for instance. More broadly E. P. Thompson in particular argued that factoring these incipient solidarities into constitutional thinking generated a more nuanced understanding of the rule of law than nineteenth-century liberalism entailed: in Thompson’s hand the rule of law became a more tensile creed, more capable of accommodating the personal particularities of the law’s subjects, more adept at mitigating the rigors of rational system to effect justice in specific cases. The profiles of the late-twentieth century commentators who continue the critical tradition Tawney, Polanyi and Thompson developed—especially Amartya Sen—...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, February 12, 2018

Jillian Medoff

Jillian Medoff is the acclaimed author of I Couldn’t Love You More, Hunger Point (both national bestsellers) and Good Girls Gone Bad.

Her new novel is This Could Hurt.

From Medoff's Q&A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: You note that This Could Hurt was inspired by your interactions with a former boss who had suffered a stroke. How did that experience lead you to create the world you depict in the novel?

A: I have a long-time career as a management consultant. I advise HR executives on how to communicate with employees during organizational changes that range from big high-stress events (i.e., mergers & acquisitions) to smaller but equally complicated benefit modifications (i.e., implementing a 401(k) plan).

I've worked for several Fortune 500 companies (Deloitte, Aon, Segal), so I had a comprehensive understanding of HR but mostly from the outside looking in.

In 2009, I was laid off from Aon after 10 years and took a job in the HR department of a research company. My boss, a woman in her 60s, was a bully who lied, yelled, and tormented her staff; she also appeared to be losing her faculties. She told me she'd had a stroke a few years before, and I wondered if this accounted for her erratic behavior.

She had a small staff of senior managers—much like in This Could Hurt. They'd worked with her for many years, and were very loyal, despite fearing her wrath. (The company had gone several rounds of layoffs, so they probably thought that by saving her, they’d also save themselves. Unfortunately, business doesn’t always work that way.) They covered for her in meetings and behind the scenes in ways that...[read on]
Visit Jillian Medoff's website.

My Book, The Movie: This Could Hurt.

Writers Read: Jillian Medoff.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, February 11, 2018

Steph Post

Steph Post is the author of A Tree Born Crooked (2014) and Lightwood (2017) as well as a short story writer, reader, teacher and dog lover (among many other things...).

Her new novel is Walk in the Fire.

From the author's Q&A with The Next Best Book Blog:

Would you rather start every sentence in your book with ‘And’ or end every sentence with ‘but’?

‘And.’ I love starting sentences with this word anyway! It adds a cadence that really clicks with my brain for some reason. And (notice, I just used it there) I tend to hold to the school of thinking that everything said after the word ‘but’ is bullshit.

Would you rather write in an isolated cabin that was infested with spiders or in a noisy coffee shop with bad musak?

These are pretty much two of the worst places I could possibly imagine to be, let alone write in. If forced to choose, I suppose I’d have to go with the coffee shop. I do like coffee, at least.

Would you rather think in a language you could understand but write in one you couldn’t read, or think in a language you couldn’t understand but write in one you could read?

Jesus, who comes up with these questions? Thinking about it, the second choice sounds pretty interesting. I think it would be fascinating to not understand your thoughts at all until they had been written down. It would really add some gravity to the power of the written word.

Would you rather write the best book of your career and never publish it or publish a bunch of books that leave you feeling unsatisfied?

Both of these seem...[read on]
Visit Steph Post's website.

Coffee with a Canine: Steph Post & Juno.

My Book, The Movie: Lightwood.

The Page 69 Test: Lightwood.

My Book, The Movie: Walk in the Fire.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, February 9, 2018

Leslie Connor

Leslie Connor's new novel for kids is The Truth as Told by Mason Buttle. From her Q&A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: How did you come up with the idea for your new book, and for your character, Mason Buttle?

A: Characters are always composites of people I have met, read about, or can imagine. That’s who Mason is. I spun all the deeply earnest, honest, underdog kids I have ever observed into his character. I knew him before I knew his story—if that makes any sense.

I always ask, what has made this character the way I am seeing him in my mind’s eye? What has happened? That’s what eventually brings the backstory to the surface. Then I can ask what happens next?

My plots are fed by nonfiction, including newspaper articles, but those are merely jumping off points for my imagination.

Q: Given the novel's title, the concept of truth comes up a lot in the book. Why did you decide to focus on that?

A: I was very interested in taking a good look at the way we...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, February 8, 2018

Bethany Ball

Bethany Ball was born in Detroit and has lived in Santa Fe, New Jersey, Miami, and Israel. She now lives in New York with her family.

Her latest novel is What To Do About The Solomons.

From Ball's Q&A with Steph Post:

What was the best review you ever received? The worst?

The best review was the New York Times, absolutely. What was so great about it was that the reviewer felt so much warmth for the characters. I was worried that I had been too hard on them, showed too much of their foibles and faults. I was happy she felt love for them, because I certainly do.

The worst review I received was from a teacher in my high school. I didn’t know her, I’d never been her student, but she gave me one star and said I clearly didn’t know what I was talking about. It seemed hurtful because my school district is one where about 15% of the kids go on to college. Maybe I was in a vulnerable place when I read that, but it hurt. But a bunch of my teachers did read the book and are proud of me. And I have nothing but...[read on]
Visit Bethany Ball's website.

The Page 69 Test: What To Do About The Solomons.

--Marshal Zeringue