Thursday, November 29, 2007

Marcus Sakey

In July 2007 John Kenyon of Things I'd Rather Be Doing interviewed Marcus Sakey, author of The Blade Itself and the forthcoming At the City's Edge.

Here are some of Kenyon's introductory remarks and two of the exchanges from the interview:

The Blade Itself is a taut, edgy thriller that lives up to the considerable hype, and marks Sakey as a new voice to watch in the world of crime fiction. It is the story of Danny, a southside hood who runs with Evan, a gun-happy thug. A botched burglary at a pawn shop sends the two in separate directions: Danny cleans up and goes straight while Evan heads to prison. Of course, nothing good lasts forever, and Danny has a hard time fitting a newly released Evan back into his life.

There is plenty of action here, but Sakey also salts his tale with considerable food for thought, riffing on second chances and the penal system in particular. The author spent 10 years in advertising and marketing before taking the plunge as a novelist, so he had to do significant research to promise verisimilitude in his story. He writes on his web site that he “shadowed homicide detectives, learned to pick a deadbolt in sixty seconds and drank plenty of Jameson.” But this is no term paper; he weaves this newly gleaned information into the story seamlessly.

Sakey's next book is another stand-alone, At the City’s Edge, about “a discharged soldier who returns from Iraq to find a similar war raging in his South Side neighborhood.” Set in Chicago, like The Blade Itself, it is due in 2008.

TIRBD: It seems to be a somewhat risky move to start a career writing stand-alones in the mystery/thriller genre rather than to initiate a series, but you've managed to succeed. Did you give any thought to this when starting out, or was this simply the book you needed to write?

MS: I'll tell you a secret: you give everything thought when you're writing a novel. It takes a year, and it's on your mind the whole time, which means that you have months and months to not only identify all the stupid mistakes you're making, but also to flagellate yourself raw for them.

I worried about a lot of things, including not writing a series. However, at the end of the day, I didn't see a way to be faithful to the characters I had created and the story I was trying to tell, and yet also make it a series. So I took them through the worst experience of their life, punished them for old mistakes, tried to give them a brighter future, and then said goodbye.

The style works well for me, though. After a year of living with a group of characters, I tend to want a little relief, to move into someone new. So for now, I'm planning to continue writing stand-alones.
* * * * * *

You did some significant research for The Blade Itself; did you do similar work to prepare for writing your next book, At the City's Edge, which deals with a soldier returning from Iraq?

Research is one of the most rewarding parts of writing thrillers. You get to experience a life that is a hundred miles from your everyday, from the daily life of most people. I've ridden with the police numerous times. I've toured the morgue and learned how an autopsy was performed. I've taught myself to pick a lock.

For At the City's Edge, I had two main areas of research: the common soldier's experience, and the life and structure of metropolitan street gangs. Both were fascinating. I interviewed soldiers, spoke to cops in Chicago, LA, and New York, read numerous memoirs, kept up with daily blogs, even borrowed a bulletproof vest and spent a couple of days shadowing Gang Intelligence units. I love doing that stuff; my wife, not so much.
Read the full interview.

At the City's Edge is due out in January 2008.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Porochista Khakpour

Lance Reynald interviewed Porochista Khakpour, author of Sons and Other Flammable Objects, for Reynald's Rap.

One exchange from the interview:

LR: Your book is infused with a strong sense of New World identity and dichotomy and your characters journey through those things in the aftermath of September 2001. On tour, have you found readers aligned with the experiences of your characters?

PK: The book tour was very confusing. Whereas I imagined a lot of men in their late 30s through 60s as my readers, they mostly ended up to be 20-something girls with artsy glasses and nice tattoos who’d give me these big long hugs after the reading. Lovely, you know? Or, in the case of a few places, homeless-seeming 70+ year-olds – there were a lot of them – but I think they might just go to every reading? Not sure. Once in a while, I’d get some normal bright human who’d thank me profusely for writing this book, because of some personal connection they had whether it was knowing an Iranian-American, being one, being in New York during 9/11, growing up in LA, etc. In one case, an LA editor and blogger called my novel the first great Iranian-American novel, with my being sort of the first of the hyphenates for my people (note to self: The Hyphenates, excellent title for a multi-culti thriller.) I felt very fancy for a day or so.

Read the full interview.

The Page 99 Test: Sons and Other Flammable Objects.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

George Pelecanos

Rob Lord interviewed George Pelecanos, author of The Night Gardner and other terrific novels, for the Fall 2007 issue of Spinetingler Magazine.

The opening exchanges of the interview:

Rob: As a student at the University of Maryland you took a class covering hard-boiled detective fiction. Can you tell us about your experience in this class and how it set you on the path to write crime fiction?

George: The class, taught by Mr. Charles Mish, had a very simple format: we read paperback novels and discussed them. Mr. Mish was bearish, very smart, and a regular guy. I could relate to someone like that, a combination of the physical and the intellectual, over the standard professorial type. Because of his manner and enthusiasm, I got jacked up on reading for the first time in my life. He considered crime fiction to be as valid a form of literature as any other type of novel, and from what I heard, he was ostracized for this within the English department. I wrote him a letter before he died, telling him about the impending publication of my first novel, thanking him, in effect. This was a case of one teacher changing someone’s life.

Rob: What drew you to the crime genre?

George: The crime novel spoke to my world. By that I mean, it described the lives and struggles of everyday, working class people. It was written for readers, not academics. It was populist literature. And when it was written with ambition and care, it had the possibility of permanence.
Read the entire interview.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, November 26, 2007

Donald Westlake

Donald E. Westlake, writing as Richard Stark, has written 23 novels featuring the anti-hero Parker. "The Parker novels suddenly stopped after the sixteenth, in 1974, then resumed, with equal lack of explanation, more than 20 years later," writes Marcel Berlins in his interview with Westlake for the London Times. "The missing years have long puzzled fans."

Westlake explains the gap:

“I didn't know the reason then, but I know now. I didn't want to stop writing about him. I tried the next book three different times, but they all ground down. Now I see what happened. When I first came to New York, no one in my family had ever been involved in any of the arts at all. I didn't know anyone in the publishing world, I hadn't been to any of the right schools. I was a barbarian at the gates. The first Parker novel begins with him walking into New York and creating an identity for himself; saying, goddam it, here I am. That was me. That was 1961. But by 1974 I was successful, making a living, I'd sold movie rights for my books, I had a bit of a reputation, and it was very hard to keep that ‘outsider' muscle.”
Read the full interview.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Juliet Marillier

Therese Walsh interviewed Juliet Marillier last year for Writer Unboxed. Here is the introduction and the first exchanges from the interview:

Internationally acclaimed Australian author Juliet Marillier writes epic fantasy novels with true-to-life characters, singular plots, vivid weavings of myth and magic, and buttery prose. Her meticulous research of unique settings – Norse Orkney, ancient Ireland and Pictish Scotland – put her on the cutting edge of historical fiction as well.

Q: Where do the seeds for these epic stories come from? Are they all based on bits of old tales?

JM: The seeds often come from real history – for instance, the story for Wolfskin was inspired by my interest in the history of Orkney and what might have happened when the first Norse settlers (0r invaders) clashed with the indigenous Pictish population. I like unanswered questions: why did the Picts vanish from the north of Britain so quickly, after being such a strong military and political presence? The basis for The Bridei Chronicles is real history. I was fascinated by the story of the young Bridei being groomed for kingship by an influential mage or druid, which has some parallels with Arthur and Merlin. Because I love myth, legend and folklore and have been reading it all my life, many motifs and themes from traditional stories work their way into my books almost despite me. I also gain inspiration from what I see, hear and experience in my daily life. There are elements in the Bridei books that relate strongly to the fact that I was writing in the early days of the Iraq war.

Q: The stakes are always exceedingly high in your stories, whether characters are out to save a race of people, win peace, or in some other way combat evil. How important are high stakes in the fantasy genre and why?

JM: I find it hard to generalize about the fantasy genre because it is now so diverse, spanning everything from gritty urban fantasy to the traditional invented-world epic to outright comedy and covering a wide range of writing approaches from the highly literary to the unabashedly commercial. Many fantasy stories do tap into the archetypal themes of mythology, which involve the highest stakes – defeating evil, saving the world, being happy ever after … It is traditional for a fantasy story to be about the struggle between good and evil, although that can be portrayed in a thousand different ways and need not be a grand epic story. Readers tend to expect a quest of some kind. Again, that need not involve slaying a dragon or saving the whole of Middle Earth, it can be an individual, personal journey to enlightenment.

In my novels, although often there are high stakes involved on a political or family level, I try to balance that with the personal journey of my protagonist. As a reader, I like to be involved in the characters’ struggle to become wiser or better, so that’s what us most important in my stories. That touches me more than a quest to save the world.
Read the entire interview.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Lilith Saintcrow

Kimberly Swan interviewed Lilith Saintcrow at Darque Reviews.

One exchange from the Q & A:

The fourth book in your Dante Valentine series, Saint City Sinners, will be released by Orbit Books in November and the fifth book, To Hell and Back, in January 2008. I’ve read that this will wrap up this series. Do you feel that everything you wanted for Dante has been realized?

LS: It's funny, if one of the main characters in the first book hadn't utterly disregarded my plans for him the series would have been only three books long. But as soon as the demon Japhrimel grew wings and fell in love, I knew what the entire series was going to be. I knew what each book involved and where the story was going, I even knew the ending line of the fifth book. I don't know if everything I wanted for Dante has been realized. Part of being a writer is seeing your work in print and thinking, "my God, I could have done better." If you don't look at something you wrote six months ago and see how it could be made better, you're not growing as a writer. So there's a certain amount of dissatisfaction once a book is finished and past the page proofs. There are certain things I would have done differently, but by and large I feel I did what the series needed. I think it's a good bit of work, and I'm proud of it.
Read the entire interview.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, November 23, 2007

Lydia Davis

Bret Anthony Johnston interviewed 2007 National Book Award Fiction finalist Lydia Davis, author of Varieties of Disturbance: Stories.

Two exchanges from the interview:

BAJ: How long did you work on Varieties of Disturbance?

LD: My previous book, Samuel Johnson Is Indignant, came out nearly six years ago, so during the intervening time I was working on many of the stories in this collection. But I was also working on my translation of Proust's Swann's Way, which took a great deal of time. On the other hand, I did include in this collection, as I had in previous ones, some older stories that had fallen out of print. I like to mix up the old and the new.

BAJ: What drew you to the stories?

LD: A few of the stories, especially the longer ones, were inspired by other texts and incorporate the language of other people, including non-writers (as, for instance, the study of the fourth-graders' get-well letters called "We Miss You"). I find the writing of non-writers, in particular, wonderfully fresh and surprising, and in some of the stories in this book I enjoyed taking it up and combining it with my own writing. More generally, what lies at the source of these stories is some strong emotion, whether that emotion is grief, anger, indignation, love, pity, or even delight in a piece of language.
Read the full interview.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Donna Andrews

G.M. Malliet interviewed Donna Andrews (The Penguin Who Knew Too Much, No Nest For the Wicket) for Inkspot, the Midnight Ink author’s blog.

One exchange from the Q & A:

Q: What made you choose to write a mystery novel, as opposed to a mainstream novel?

A: Partly because I think it's important to read the genre you write, and write in a genre you read. I grew up reading a lot of fantasy and science fiction, but my college roommate introduced me to many of what are now my favorite mystery writers, and I began to find that while I was buying and borrowing both speculative fiction and mysteries, the mysteries were getting read much faster. Looking back, I think that at the time, the mystery genre was going through a wonderful period of expansion and diversification, with the debut of many writers who have become giants of the genre, while the speculative fiction shelves were heavily populated with bad Tolkien clones and worse Star Wars ripoffs.

I'm not saying everything in the science fiction and fantasy field was rotten -- at the same time I began to discover writers who are still among my favorites, such as Barbara Hambly, Lois McMaster Bujold, Steven Brust, Tanya Huff, and Terry Pratchett, to name a few. But back then I found a lot more to love and admire in the mystery field.

And I also think I write mysteries partly because it's the genre that still respects things like a well-constructed, comprehensible plot and engaging characters. I'm not the only mystery writer who sometimes feels baffled when reading books in the mainstream or literary fiction genres -- and they are genres. One writer friend jokingly said that she got halfway through a critically praised mainstream book and felt so frustrated that she wasn't sure she was going to finish it. "It wasn't the fact that I hadn't seen a body yet -- I could live with that," she said. "It was the complete absence of any hint of a plot." I understand what she means.

I also find myself mildly annoyed when someone talks about a book "transcending the genre." Sounds a lot like the written equivalent of "overcoming his unfortunate upbringing." If I read a mystery that really blows me away -- Laura Lippman's Every Secret Thing or To the Power of Three, for example -- I don't feel obliged to say that it transcended the genre. Just that it's a really great book. Period.
Read Part One of the interview.

(h/t to The Rap Sheet)

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Jonathan Hayes

Linda Fairstein interviewed Jonathan Hayes, author of Precious Blood, for Publishers Weekly.

Her lead-in and their first exchange:

During my days as a prosecutor in the Manhattan district attorney's office, I had the privilege of working with a brilliant young forensic pathologist in the city's office of the chief medical examiner. Now, Dr. Jonathan Hayes is joining me on the literary side of the law, with the publication of his first novel, Precious Blood (Reviews, Sept. 10), which introduces New York City forensic pathologist Edward Jenner.

What was your inspiration for Precious Blood, and what led you to put aside the scalpel and pick up a pen?

I'd been writing professionally about food and travel for several years before I felt ready to write a novel. Precious Blood has its origins in my heavily Catholic childhood — I was educated, in part, at a monastery school in southwest England. I actually started the book in Oaxaca in Mexico, after a day spent visiting the city's Gothic churches. Their walls and ceilings have insanely detailed gilt decoration, thousands of hours of painstaking work; I was struck by the fact that religion and obsession are often very closely linked. It wasn't a big step from there to the book's essential plot.

Read the full interview.

The Page 69 Test: Precious Blood.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Mort Gerberg

For the Playboy Blog, Jennifer Thiele interviewed Mort Gerberg, New Yorker cartoonist and editor of the recently-released Last Laughs: Cartoons About Aging, Retirement ... and the Great Beyond.

The opening of the interview:

Playboy: What were you thinking when you came up with the idea for this book?

Gerberg: The inspiration came after a ski trip in Salt Lake City. I saw an older man who announced that he had just skied for free because it was his eightieth birthday. I’m cheap and I want to ski for free, so I thought that was a great goal. People are continuing to be very active well into their older years. I play tennis with people in their 70s. People are living longer, but instead of being in denial about aging and death we should embrace and laugh about it.

Playboy: You were born in Brooklyn and live in Manhattan. Has being a born-and-bred New Yorker affected your humor?

Gerberg: My humor usually arises from being annoyed at something. You don’t do cartoons about something easy, fun or pleasant and there are many more things to be annoyed at living in New York City like noise, dirt, slow people and traffic. There’s always something to get pissed off at here. How can you make fun of things while lying on the beach in the sun, staring at an azure sky?
Read the full interview.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, November 19, 2007

Craig Davidson

Craig Davidson's stories have been published in The Fiddlehead, Event, Prairie Fire, and SubTerrain. His debut collection of stories, Rust and Bone, was called "remarkable ... challenging and upsetting, but never boring" by Chuck Palahniuk and "the best I've read in a long time from a young writer" by Bret Easton Ellis. He also writes horror fiction under a pseudonym.

His novel The Fighter was published by Penguin in Canada and Soho Press in the U.S.

From a Q & A about the book:

What motivated you to write a book about boxing and illegal fighting?

Good question. Perhaps, in the long run, I should’ve written a book about teenage angst in a small Mennonite community. There might be more of a market for that sort of story.

Anyway, I wrote what I wrote. As for my motivation — I’ve come to understand that I’m not totally sure about myself, my motivations. I mean, I THINK I know why I’m doing what I’m doing, why I set myself down this or that path, but in the end, I end up mystifying myself as much as I end up mystifying my readers, potentially. As I wrote in the book: The brain is a subtle organ, and it goes wrong in subtle ways. Not to say there’s anything wrong with my brain (at least, I’d like to hope not), but more to say that some of the stuff that came to me while writing this book ... well, I’m not entirely sure where it came from. But I chose to write it down, so the responsibility is mine.

But, to concretely answer your question: I’ve been fascinated with boxing, with fighting, for a long time. It’s a love/hate thing. I love the discipline of it, the training and the monk-like life of a dedicated boxer, and I love how sometimes, in the ring, two men (or women) can bring something out of each other that neither really thought s/he had in him. But most "real" boxing stories — discounting the "Rocky"-style Hollywood movies — are tragic. Boxers are abused by their managers, treated like cattle, and most often hang on too long and get hurt in ways they can’t recover from. They do it because they don’t really understand a life that doesn’t involve boxing; they’re incapable of existing without the sport.

But more crucially, boxing/illegal fighting allowed me the frame upon which to drape some of the main issues of the novel: the changing role of manhood in today’s society, and the fears and insecurities and regrets of that changing role; fathers and sons; a life of privilege versus a life of modest means. Anyway, it’s my sense a lot of writers do this: the main thrust or theme of a book is something that, yes, fascinates that writer — but the fascination lies as much in the offshoots or the repercussions of that theme than it does in the theme itself. If that makes any sense, which conceivably it does not.

Read the entire Q & A.

The Page 99 Test: The Fighter.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Rick Mofina

Sandra Ruttan interviewed Rick Mofina for the Fall 2007 issue of Spinetingler Magazine.

Here is one exchange from their rich and wide-ranging interview:

Sandra: I’m just wondering, because you’re writing what mainly gets classified as thrillers, do you think the reporter has a certain advantage over the cop in the sense that with the reporter there always is a constant deadline for the next issue to produce something, whereas with a cop if you get something at twelve or if you get something at one it doesn’t matter quite as much.

Rick: They’re definitely different worlds and I’ll tell you what cops told me when I was on the beat. They said, “You have a great freedom.” I said, “What do you mean?”. “If I’m a city police officer or I’m a federal police officer and I’m pursuing my case and I decide I need this or this in another jurisdiction, the further away it is the more complicated it gets for me to pursue my information, where you as a reporter can say, “Hey, I think this guy in Bagdad knows something, I’ll pick up the phone and call him,” and you can do that, you’re expected to do that. You don’t have to answer to anybody for doing that.”

There is a freedom that way, and there’s also, detectives would tell me, “You run something and you truly believe it’s true and your organization believes it’s true and the next day you find out it’s not, you run a correction, oops. Yeah, you may face a lawsuit, depending on what the error is. When we’re building our case, we’ve got to make sure it’s right all the way along because it could be pulled out on us in court and it could affect the prosecution side of things, so we have to build a very very solid house.”

We were more like gypsies, and to them, from their view, journalists didn’t have as much accountability. I would turn it on them and say, “Look, okay, I can call up people from around the world at any time and they can curse at me and hang up. But you can get a subpoena and you can get a court order and you can flash your badge and people are kinda, in a way, more inclined to have to talk to you, and you say, “I want to get that unlisted phone number” and you can get it.”

So we would joust that way, in terms of pursuit of information.
Read the full interview.

Visit Rick Mofina's website.

My Book, The Movie: A Perfect Grave.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Liam Durcan

Liam Durcan is currently a staff neurologist at the Montreal Neurological Hospital and an assistant Professor in the Department of Neurology and Neurosurgery at McGill University. He has published short fiction since 2000 in a variety of Canadian and American Journals. His short fiction has won the 2004 Quebec Writers Federation/CBC prize and he work has been shortlisted 3 times for the CBC National Literary Awards. His novel Garcia's Heart was published in Canada by McClelland & Stewart and in the U.S. by Thomas Dunne Books.

From a Q & A with the publisher:

McClelland & Stewart: García’s Heart is your debut novel. It follows a short story collection that was named a top book of the year by the Globe and Mail. When you are not writing fiction, you are a neurologist at the Montreal Neurological Hospital and an assistant professor at McGill University. Can you tell us how your work informs your fiction? What lead you to explore, in this novel in particular, the moral and medical issues around neurology in a fictional way?

Liam Durcan: None of the stories in my first book had anything to do with medicine, which was a conscious decision when I stared writing short fiction, I suspect to prove to myself that medicine wouldn’t be a subject by necessity. But I can’t deny that medicine, or perhaps more specifically, the habits acquired in medical training — systematic observation, a consideration of various possibilities to explain a situation — have informed everything I’ve written. If there is any one source that led me to explore deeper issues in García’s Heart, it was The Nazi Doctors by Robert Jay Lifton, a book that examines the process through which individuals become able to commit atrocious acts. I found myself thinking about the doctors that Lifton described, people who were sophisticated and educated and yet could rationalize their acts on a daily basis for years before returning to live seemingly normal lives. One of the descriptions I found most troubling was that of a doctor who, despite his obvious acceptance of genocidal policies of the Nazis and the workings of the death camps, was highly thought of by many of the prisoners. I hadn’t understood that a relationship under those circumstances could be anything other than outright hatred. Understanding how complicated those sorts of relationships can be led me to start writing the book.
Read the entire interview.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, November 16, 2007

Linda Gregerson

Linda Gregerson's latest collection of poems Magnetic North, was a National Book Award finalist this year. In the spring David Baker interviewed the poet for Kenyon Review, which has published some of her work. Here are Baker's introductory remarks and the first two exchanges from the interview:

Linda Gregerson is one of the most original and vibrant of contemporary American poets. Born in 1950 and raised in Cary, Illinois, she received her B.A. from Oberlin College, M.A. from Northwestern University, M.F.A. from the University of Iowa Writers Workshop, and her Ph.D. from Stanford University. Currently she holds the Frederick G. L. Huetwell Professorship at the University of Michigan and teaches in the M.F.A. program for writers at Warren Wilson College. She also teaches frequently at the Kenyon Review Writers Workshop, in Gambier, as well as at the Bread Loaf Writers Conference.

Gregerson's poetry collections include Fire in the Conservatory (Dragon's Gate, 1982), The Woman Who Died in Her Sleep (Houghton Mifflin, 1996), Waterborne (Houghton Mifflin, 2002), and Magnetic North (Houghton Mifflin, 2007). For her poetry she has been awarded fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation and the National Endowment for the Arts, an Academy Award in Literature from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, and she has received the prestigious Kingsley Tufts Poetry Prize, the Levinson Prize from Poetry magazine, and many other distinctions.

In addition to the contributions of her poetry, she is an influential literary scholar. Her The Reformation of the Subject: Spenser, Milton and the English Protestant Epic, appeared in 1995 from the Cambridge Studies in Renaissance Literature and Culture, and Negative Capability: Contemporary American Poetry, was published in 2001 as part of the Poets on Poetry series from the University of Michigan Press.

David Baker: Linda, thanks so much for the chance to talk about your two poems in the new Kenyon Review. They are splendid poems, both of them, and we are very glad for the opportunity to print them. I'd also like to use this occasion to talk about your forthcoming book of poems, Magnetic North, and to range further into other interests of yours, like teaching, Renaissance poetry and scholarship, the theater, more.

But let's start with "Over Easy." This is one of my favorite new poems of yours. I have a few specific questions about this poem, but I wonder if there's anything you wish to say about it first-about its origin or impetus or whatever you might wish to say to begin.

Linda Gregerson: Well, in the first place, you are very kind to overlook the speaker's comments on the Ohio landscape, not to hold them against me, I mean. And I should also say I regard that landscape - northern Ohio, northern Illinois, southern Wisconsin, southern Michigan, not the lushness and lovely elevations of points further south and north, but the sectioned-off flatness of farmlands and shopping malls-as my unerasable imaginative home. But yes, the origins: a car trip, and perhaps the purest sensuous incitement I've ever tried to get down on paper. At which I flatly failed, by the way. It was that radiant sliver of limpid tangerine: I could taste it in the back of my throat, and it brought such pure enchantment. Midwestern Proust. I spent ages trying to identify the sense-memory, which was multiple and mildly mortifying: a dress I had in high school, a pair of fishnet stockings, a lipstick (it was the sixties, remember; we all looked ghastly!), and a sort of sherbet-on-a-stick we used to call a "Push-Up." Quite a farrago, and of course I had to ditch it all. But I tried to keep the impetus, that primitive thing that comes before speech and way before aesthetic judgment.

DB: There are things in "Over Easy" that resonate with your larger body of work-the family narrative, the voice concurrently tender and intellectual, the persisting turn toward conscience or toward something like social connection or civic adhesion. But rarely in your poems is the speaker, simply, moving. Have you noticed? Here she's in her car with her daughters, blasting the stereo, as they range across those "scabrous fields" of Ohio. Your poems are nearly always underscored by a tension between velocity and impediment, to be sure; but the velocity is usually intellectual. In "Over Easy" it's also literal, physical. She is on the move.

LG: Ah, you don't overlook the comment on the landscape! But you're right about the movement, and I'm afraid it doesn't speak well of me that I'm so rarely able to imagine a speaker in physical motion. I suffer from the can' t-chew-gum-and-walk syndrome: it takes something remarkable to make me notice the world if I'm trying to move through it. The beginning of the poem is meant to be more than a little at my own expense.

Read the entire interview.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Billie Livingston

Billie Livingston is a fiction writer, poet, and sometime essayist. Born in Hamilton, Ontario, she grew up in Toronto and Vancouver, and has since lived in Tokyo, Hamburg, Munich and London, England. Her first employment was filling the dairy coolers in a Macs Milk. She went on to work varying lengths of time as a file clerk, receptionist, cocktail waitress, model, actor, chocolate sampler, and booth host at a plumber's convention. She lives in Vancouver.

Livingston is the author of two novels and a book of poetry. She has been shortlisted for the Journey Prize for fiction and the Pat Lowther Award for best book of poetry by a Canadian woman.

From a Q & A about her latest novel, Cease to Blush:

Can you tell us how you became a writer?

I didn’t call myself one until I was close to thirty. I had published quite a bit of poetry in magazines and about that time I met another writer, Rhea Tregebov, who insisted that I had to call myself a writer if I was going to be one. But in truth I’ve been scribbling down whatever flitted through my head since I was a child. There was never a time that I didn’t write.

What inspired you to write Cease to Blush? Is there a story about the writing of this novel that begs to be told?

The year Lili St. Cyr died my editor gave me the obit page from The Globe and Mail and said that she thought St. Cyr’s life would make a great biography. I started to read about this woman who not only ran with other strippers but also in a kind of rarified crowd of politicians and celebrities. Later I came across a few stories in which a former strip-teaser transformed herself and then lived in terror that her children might one day find out. I thought, what if a burlesque queen had been performing more in the sixties when there was such an obvious interconnectedness between showbiz, politics and organized crime? What if she found herself treated like just another disposable commodity and got scared that she might end up dead, as so many insiders did in that decade? She might disappear, only to re-emerge “radicalized,” as they called it in the seventies — a time when some feminists (having come out of the soul-sucking fifties and sixties) believed that sleeping with men was sleeping with the enemy. What sort of daughter might she end up with? The old “Prude is Father to the Pervert” adage is a strong aspect in Cease to Blush.
Read the full interview.

My Book, The Movie: Cease to Blush.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Tracy Kidder

Both Jason Fagone and Barbara Fister (coincidentally) tagged Tracy Kidder's Mountains Beyond Mountains at Writers Read in October.

From Kidder's interview about the book at BookBrowse:

How did you meet Paul Farmer, and what made you want to write about him?

I met him in Haiti in 1994. I was doing a story on American soldiers sent there to reinstate the country’s democratically elected government. Farmer showed up one night at the barracks and got into an argument with the commander. I wasn’t very interested in him then, but a few weeks later I ran into him on the plane to Miami and I began to learn some of the outlines of his life, which I found very interesting. Farmer was the second of six children, and spent most of his childhood in Florida, the whole family living on a bus and a houseboat that was moored in a bayou on the Gulf Coast. He went to Duke on a full scholarship, and then, while he was earning his M.D. and Ph.D at Harvard, he conceived and helped to build an amazing health care system in one of the poorest corners of Haiti. Around the time when I met him, he and his small band of colleagues were about to go to war against the dominant ideologies in international health — eventually they’d actually win some significant battles.

And I was drawn to the man himself. He worked extraordinary hours. In fact, I don’t think he sleeps more than an hour or two most nights. Here was a person who seemed to be practicing more than he preached, who seemed to be living, as nearly as any human being can, without hypocrisy. A challenging person, the kind of person whose example can irritate you by making you feel you’ve never done anything as important, and yet, in his presence, those kinds of feelings tended to vanish. In the past, when I’d imagined a person with credentials like his, I’d imagined someone dour and self-righteous, but he was very friendly and irreverent, and quite funny. He seemed like someone I’d like to know, and I thought that if I did my job well, a reader would feel that way, too.

My favorite teacher once used to talk about how writers often have their best stories bestowed upon them, seemingly by accident. I felt as though, in meeting Farmer, I’d been offered a rare opportunity.
Read the entire interview.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Mischa Berlinski

Bret Anthony Johnston interviewed 2007 National Book Award Fiction finalist Mischa Berlinski, author of Fieldwork.

One exchange from the interview:

BAJ: If there is a common thread among this year’s fiction finalists, it might be that all of the books employ interesting narrative structures and scopes. In Fieldwork, you’ve used something akin to a pulp writer’s sense of plot — the book is, in the best possible ways, a hardboiled page turner — and you’ve also, in something of a postmodern twist, given the narrator your own name. Did you conceive of such narrative acrobatics before beginning to write the book, or did the symbiotic relationship between the subject and structure emerge more intuitively?

MB: As I mentioned above, before there was novel, there was a journalistic project — I had in mind a book about the conversion of the Lisu. I even wrote a proposal and a sample chapter which my agent sent out to a dozen or so publishers. None of them were interested. I noticed that my friends and family had this particular look in their eyes whenever I mentioned the Lisu, like I was discussing changes in the home amortization deduction of the tax code. I was convinced that the Lisu and their conversion were interesting, but everyone else thought they were so boring. I put the Lisu and the missionaries aside.

A few years later — I remember it very clearly — on a warm afternoon in Paris in springtime, I was reading the short stories of Somerset Maugham, which are so rich in plot and drama and sheer story, and I dozed off. When I woke up, I realized that’s what my Lisu story needed: a plot. And I had a great plot in mind.

thus began as a thought experiment: I tried to imagine what would have happened if, in that year I spent in northern Thailand, I had come across a great story — in the journalistic sense of the word ‘story’ as much as the literary. I wanted the reader to go the same places I went that year and meet many of the same people, but have the forward momentum that only murder can give a novel. I was determined to write a novel that compelled the reader to take an interest in the conversion of the northern Thai hill tribes and the lives of missionaries and the history of anthropology. I wanted to write a fictional work of literary non-fiction, as it were. In the end, the fiction overwhelmed the non-fiction, but that’s how things started.

If the decision to write a plotted novel was very intentional, the choice of the narrator’s name was rather haphazard. Given that I was creating a narrator so similar to myself, it was only natural to lend him my own name, just to get things started. This was not some very deep decision. It just kind-of happened. Over time, the narrator’s story diverged from my own quite significantly, just as the Dyalo became very different from the Lisu. Nevertheless, I kept the name, for a reason all novelists will understand: it was the character’s name, and to call him anything else would have felt strange.

Read the full interview.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, November 12, 2007

Junot Díaz

Meghan O'Rourke, Slate's literary editor and the author of Halflife, a collection of poetry, interviewed Junot Díaz, author of the recently released novel The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao.

O'Rourke's preface and the opening exchange from the interview:

Junot Díaz's fiction is propelled by its attention to the energetic hybridity of American life. His debut, Drown, a collection of stories, dealt with questions of identity and belonging in the lives of his narrators, many of whom were young Dominicans living in New York or New Jersey. At first glance, The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, his long-awaited first novel, appears to be a classic bildungsroman: the story of a charming Dominican-American boy who grows up to be an overweight, lonely nerd more intimate with The Lord of the Rings than with the social rings in his high school. But early on, the reader realizes that The Brief Wondrous Life is equally a story about the depredations of dictatorship and a powerful examination of the nature of authority. The novel is strangely fragmented. What initially appears to be a linear story shatters into accounts of Oscar's family's history, as it was shaped over time by the reign of Rafael Leonidas Trujillo, a dictatorial leader of the Dominican Republic for more than three decades. We come to understand that the form of the book itself resists the singularity of perspective that is often used to establish authority. Last week, Díaz and I corresponded by e-mail about The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao and about writing fiction.

Slate: What drew you to the character of Oscar, a fat, nerdy kid from New Jersey?

Díaz: It's hard to remember precisely. Been 11 years since I started the book. I know I wanted to challenge the type of protagonist that many of the young male Latino writers I knew were writing. But I also wanted to screw with traditional Dominican masculinity, write about one of its weirder out-riders. And then there was just the fact of Oscar, this kid who I could not get out of my head, whom I felt strongly attached to because he was such a devoted reader and because he had this imagination that no one had any use for, but which gave him so much enjoyment and sense of purpose.

Oscar was the end point (for me) of a larger, almost invisible historical movement — he's the child of a dictatorship and of the apocalypse that is the New World. I was also trying to show how Oscar is utterly unaware of this history and yet also dominated by it.

Read the entire interview.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Jamie Malanowski

Duane Swierczynski, author of The Blonde as well as "other books about crime and vice and exploding heads" and the editor-in-chief of the Philadelphia City Paper, interviewed Jamie Malanowski, author of The Coup.

The opening exchange from the interview:

Secret Dead Blog: You are the master of the vice-presidential political satire. How did you fall into this particular sub-genre? What about the No. 2 guy fascinates you?

Jamie Malanowski: Master of the Vice Presidential Political Satire? I like it! It is a small patch, but it is my own.

There are a couple of reasons why I gravitate towards these stories. One, the VP is an inherently absurd position. It is usual held by ambitious alpha males who have all the drive and ego of those who end up in the top slot, but who are then kind of neutered. (Cheney is a different breed of cat, of course; I'll have to dream up something just for him -- the infallible power behind the throne who leads the president into disaster.)

The other reason that I'm attracted is that the rules of the line of succession make the dramatic stakes and the maneuvering very clear. When Tom DeLay and the Republicans impeached Clinton in 1998, a lot of people said they were attempting a coup, but what kind of coup would it have been if Al Gore succeeded Clinton? In my novel, when Godwin Pope launches his manueverings, he will be the beneficiary.

By the way, I do write other kinds of stories. Just not as well.
Read the entire interview.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Norman Partridge

Tom Piccirilli interviewed Norman Partridge about his latest book, Dark Harvest.

One exchange from their dialogue:

PIC: So much of your fiction deals with western and crime motifs -- desert dusty towns, ex-cons and bad boys drifting into deeper troubles with .45s blazing. How was it switching gears and writing a Middle American cornfield setting full of traditional Halloween elements in Dark Harvest?

PART: Well, I kept the .45s and bad boys, pard. As far as the town goes, I wanted it to reflect my memories of the sixties, what it was like to grow up in a town with a little bit of the varnish rubbed off. Maybe a tougher place, but still a place that had holidays like everywhere else, where once a year you picked out a pumpkin and carved a face on that sucker that'd scare the neighbor's cat. But the setting also came from fiction. If you're a writer who loves this kind of stuff, you've put a lot of Halloween through your creative filter. And, for me, that's a particular reality that works just fine when it comes to getting a story down on the page. I was watching a lot of first and second season Twilight Zone while I wrote Dark Harvest. Many of those episodes are about perfect little towns with a secret. I even managed to give Rod Serling a cameo along the way. That turned out to be one of my favorite scenes in the book.
Read the full interview.

The Page 99 Test: Dark Harvest.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, November 9, 2007

Judith Freeman

Allen Barra interviewed Judith Freeman, author of The Long Embrace: Raymond Chandler and the Woman He Loved, for

The opening exchanges:

Raymond Chandler has been imitated, parodied, and practically plagiarized for so long that his style of detective story has practically become a cliché. Yet somehow the work not only survives but stays fresh. Just about all his books have been in print continuously since they were published. What do you think it is about Chandler that endures?

The short answer is his brilliance, which is a multi-faceted thing. There’s his humor for starters. As Christopher Isherwood observed, There’s fun in Chandler. He’s an immensely amusing writer, and readers connect with that wit. And yet he says some profound things about American society and the corruption in its institutions, how we’re a big, rough, rich, appetent society, and crime is the price we pay for our gluttony. His books contain that quality he most valued in writing, namely vitality, and it is a hard thing to fake if you don’t have it, which is why so many imitators fail. But in the end I think it’s Marlowe that gives the books their real staying power. Philip Marlowe is an enigma. He says so himself at one point. He’s vulnerable, like us, and we feel his sad good-naturedness. He’s an iconic America male, just as Marilyn Monroe was an iconic American female. And this is interesting because Chandler once said that only he and Marilyn Monroe had managed to reach all the brows — high-brow, middle-brow, and low-brow. This is another reason why Chandler endures. He reaches across the intellectual spectrum with stories that still seem fresh in their telling.

When I was at the Los Angeles Times Book Festival two years ago the writer whose name was evoked most often when taking about L.A. was Raymond Chandler. This is odd because Chandler certainly had mixed feelings about Southern California in general and Los Angeles in particular. I think one of his most famous putdowns was that L.A. had “all the personality of a paper cup.” Yet he had many opportunities to move and never did. How would you sum up his strange on-again, off-again affair with the City of Angels?

He had a definite love-hate relationship with L.A. I think he loved it when he first arrived, in 1913, and it must have been a pretty idyllic place then, very different from London, the city where he’d spent much of his childhood. He really took to driving and loved automobiles. But L.A. was a place that got despoiled quite rapidly, and the banality and lack of taste in a population composed increasingly of transplanted Midwesterners — the so called hog-and-hominy crowd — began to disgust him. On the one hand, you had religious nuts of every stripe, and on the other, you had bunko artists bilking the ignorant rubes, as well as gangsters, bad cops, and corrupt politicians. Smog arrived, and stupid fads, and objects with built-in obsolescence. After a while L.A became Paradise Despoiled for him, a grotesque and impossible place to live. California, he said, was the department store state — everything in the catalogue you could get better somewhere else. He lost it as a place to set his fiction, because he had to either love a city or hate it to write about it, or maybe both, he said, “like a woman.” Eventually L.A. bored him. It became “just a tired old whore” to him. Still, he put it on the literary map. His relationship with L.A. was very symbiotic. The city gave him his material, and in return he gave it a lasting identity. No one wrote better about L.A. or captured more of its unique essence.

Read the full interview.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Laura Pappano

Laura Pappano, co-author with Eileen McDonagh of Playing With the Boys: Why Separate is Not Equal in Sports, is an award-winning journalist whose work has appeared in The New York Times, The Boston Globe Magazine, Good Housekeeping, and The Washington Post. Pappano and McDonagh’s book is about how women have been unfairly excluded from participating in sports on an equal footing with men. The book calls for sex-sensible policies in sports as a crucial step towards achieving equality for men and women in our society.

From a Q & A at the OUP Blog:

OUPblog: What first inspired you to write this book?

Laura Pappano: Eileen and I first began discussing the connection between the “rules” around how sports are organized and how this related to power structures in politics when we were both visiting scholars at The Murray Center at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study at Harvard. As a kid playing on a boy’s newspaper carrier league baseball team I’d felt firsthand that sense of not being considered equal (even though I played as well as any of my teammates) just because of my gender. I stole a base once and the other team was so upset they wanted me to go back - and then my own teammates (who didn’t like having a girl on “their” team) told me to go back, too. I refused. Every game and practice was an opportunity for me to be reminded by my teammates that I was intruding on their territory. I can’t tell you how many car rides home (one of the boy’s moms was the manager who drove us) I spent staring down at my shorts and sitting in silence as they teased. In good ways (I played field hockey at Yale) and bad I have seen the power of sports to influence who we are and what opportunities and status we have available to us. Sports matter too much to be allowed to stand unchallenged in their role as enforcers of gender inequality.

OUP: What do you see as the biggest challenge facing females in sports?

Pappano: The biggest challenge is that women are often afraid to challenge the status quo for fear of losing what “progress” has been made. The problem is that we have codified a system of organized sports which places male athletes at the center and female athletes at the periphery.

Read the entire Q & A.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Mike Carey

Alex Dueben interviewed Mike Carey for the California Literary Review.

The introduction and their first exchange:

Mike Carey’s third novel is out in the U.K., but his first has just been released in hardcover in the U.S. The Devil You Know is the story of Felix Castor, a freelance exorcist who happens to be an atheist in a London where the dead have started to rise.

This may be his first novel, but is far from his first published work. Carey is one of the finest writers in comics in addition to being one of the most prolific. This year alone he’s released Crossing Midnight, God Save the Queen, Re-gifters, Faker, Confessions of a Blabbermouth and Voodoo Child, among others. He’s also developing a joint project for Virgin Entertainment and the Sci-Fi Channel.

Mike Carey’s career in comics has been an odd one. His writing career has rested on two series, Lucifer and Hellblazer, both complex, adult works that straddle multiple genres. We sat down to talk about his novel’s American release.

Where did novel come from?

I honestly don’t know. It comes from a lot of things that are kicking around in your head at any given time. I’d been thinking about this idea of explaining–you know the idea of the grand unified theory, the theory of everything which sort of explains the relationship between all the fundamental physical forces–I was thinking of a grand unified theory of the afterlife, something that would explain ghosts and demons and werewolves and zombies and vampires and so on, by means of a single mechanism. That was definitely one of the triggers.

The other one was just Castor himself. I was thinking about, what if an exorcist was like a private dick, a shamus, rather than a priest. So the idea of a noir-ish, Raymond Chandler-ish Exorcist was the other thing and then putting those two together became the basis for the pitch. It happened over quite an extended period of time and was just floating in the back of my mind.
Read the full interview.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Alan Lightman

Alan Lightman is the author of five novels, two collections of essays, and several books on science. His work has appeared in The Atlantic Monthly, Granta, The New Yorker, The New York Review of Books, and Nature, among many other publications. A theoretical physicist as well as a novelist, he has served on the faculties of Harvard and MIT, and was the first person to receive a dual faculty appointment at MIT in science and in the humanities.

His new novel is Ghost.

From a Q & A at the publisher's website:

Q: The main character in your newest novel Ghost works in a funeral home. David K is a rational man who, as the book opens, cannot deny to himself that one day, at work, he saw something irrational, not of this world — an image, or spirit, something he can not explain as a trick of the eye. What are you hoping to establish by opening the novel this way?

A: I think that the opening of any novel should forcefully draw the reader into the world that the writer has created. Much of the action of Ghost takes place in the interior mental world of the main character, David K, as he agonizes over his unexplainable metaphysical experience. I wanted to throw the reader immediately into that tortured state of mind. The first chapter differs from the rest of the novel in that it is a first person narrative, while the rest of the book is third person. I intended here for the first person voice to be immediate and gripping and disturbing. David's metaphysical experience really launches the action of the book. All the foundations of his life — his understanding of the way the world works and his relationships with people — are thrown into chaos after that defining metaphysical experience. Rather than give a slow lead up to that moment, I decided to begin a few days after it has occurred, describe David's extreme disorientation without describing the apparition itself, and then backtrack in time. In this way, I hoped to create suspense at the very beginning of the book and a strong forward motion.
Read the entire Q & A.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, November 5, 2007

Elmore Leonard

Prompted by the publication of Elmore Leonard's 10 Rules of Writing, J. Kingston Pierce of The Rap Sheet put some questions to the master, including:

JKP: As one your “rules,” you say writers should avoid giving detailed descriptions of characters and places. But there can be great satisfaction in composing a thoughtful, semi-poetic word picture of a locale or player in fiction. Shouldn’t there be a balance struck between what the reader wants and what the writer needs in order to feel satisfied with the quality of the completed work?

EL: I say in the opening paragraph [of Elmore Leonard’s 10 Rules of Writing], “If you have a facility for language and imagery and the sound of your voice pleases you ...” go ahead, skip the rules.

JKP: Are you really arguing against the length or concentration of descriptions, rather than their punchiness? If one can describe a character over the course of a book through a series of telling details, is it then wrong to have more fully described that person?

EL: The length, the style, have nothing to do with it. Descriptions by writers trying to write can be tedious. The reader can already have a picture of the character and the writer’s description ruins it.
Read the entire interview.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, November 4, 2007

Walter Russell Mead

Walter Russell Mead is the author, most recently, of God and Gold: Britain, America, and the Making of the Modern World.

From a Q & A at the publisher's website:

In God and Gold you say that the conventional view of modern history is all wrong — that it is like a production of Hamlet with no Prince of Denmark. What does this mean?

The conventional wisdom says that the big story in world politics for the last 300 years has been the rise and fall of Europe. I think that’s wrong. The real story of world history has been something else: the birth, development and continuing rise of an international system of finance, politics, power and trade resting first on the power of Britain and now on the power of the United States. Despite America’s troubles under the Bush administration, that global system is more powerful today than ever.

God and Gold says that “the history of the modern world can be summed up in ten letters.” What letters?

This global system, which I call the ‘maritime system’ because it is based on global trade and sea power, was actually invented by the Dutch almost 400 years ago. Think of this system as the software that runs the global economy. The Dutch introduced version 1.0 in about 1600. The British introduced version 2.0 in 1700 and the United States introduced version 3.0 during World War II. Ever since 1600 the country that sets up the operating system has been the world’s most important power, and that is how I get to the ten letters. The official name for the Netherlands is actually the United Provinces of the Netherlands and Britain is formally known as the United Kingdom.

Using these initials gets you a summary of world leadership for 400 years: U.P. to U.K. to U.S.
Read the entire Q & A.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, November 3, 2007

Ben Cheever

Ben Cheever's latest book is Strides: Running Through History with an Unlikely Athlete.

Jamie Malanowski interviewed him for

Their first two exchanges:

You charmingly convey the sense of pride you felt in your development as a runner. At this point in your life, you've run in approximately 50 marathons. You make it seem very easy. Here's your chance to come clean -- can anybody do what you've done?

I've run dozens of marathons, but the race still scares me. That's a long way to go. The wall is not a figment of the imagination. A first marathon -- like that first mile -- can be a life-changing experience. Someday one of these races is going to get me. And I'll be heartbroken until I run the next one. Jim Fixx said that anyone who can walk can run. I'm not certain he's right there, but most of us can run. And most of us don't. Which is fine. Whatever gets you through the night. Without running, though, I don't think I'd make it until morning.

You discuss the findings of some evolutionists who believe we developed as a species because of our aptitude for long distance running. Where do you come out on that?

The chimp doesn't have our arch or Achilles tendon. There's some feeling now that we evolved to be runners shortly after we evolved to stand. Dr. Dennis Bramble of the University of Utah and Dr. Daniel Lieberman of Harvard see distance running as a significant step in the development of man. The piece they ran in Nature Magazine in 2004 got an enormous amount of attention. Mostly from runners. Bramble and Lieberman are both runners.
Read the full interview.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, November 2, 2007

Kate Christensen

Maud Newton interviewed Kate Christensen, author, most recently, of The Great Man.

Their opening exchange:

Oscar Feldman, the acclaimed painter, notorious womanizer, and “Great Man” of your latest novel, is a less talented painter than his sister Maxine. As you said a couple months ago, her work is deeper, more resistant to pigeonholing, but his is “flashy and bold” — and male artists are “just taken more seriously, even today.” So it’s Oscar’s life the biographers are stampeding to write, at least until they’re forced in the final pages to confront the truth about Maxine’s talents.

I hate to put you on the spot, but I wonder if the story was at all inspired by the reception accorded your first two novels. Despite the richness of your prose and the originality of your insights — not to mention your sense of humor — too many reviewers treated In the Drink and Jeremy Thrane as disposable fluff, something the Sex and the City crowd might pass the time with while awaiting the next Bridget Jones book. As you said then, “I think I have more in common with Lucky Jim than I do with Bridget, Eve or Jane, but because we’re all standing next to each other and we’re all girls, people think we’re together.” What was that like?

I felt a bit like an underdog/loser with a thwarted ego and an axe to grind in one of my own novels, and in that sense it was ironic, fitting, and really, the best thing that could have happened to me. Sure, it pissed me off at first, because few things are more infuriating than being underestimated, but it also lit a fire under my ass, so to speak, and taught me a few valuable Zennish lessons about writing: Let It Go (you can’t control what people make of your work); Keep Moving Forward Like a Shark (all you can do is write more books); and Ride the Ocean Tides and Stay Your Course (your internal compass, not a glowing or scathing review, is the one authority to be heeded and obeyed). If by some stroke of bizarre and undeserved fortune my first novel had been hailed as genius and won prizes and I’d floated off in a filmy golden bubble of critical blowjobs and huge advances, that would not have been in any way as good for me as a writer as being written off as disposable fluff. Honestly.

That said, and to answer your question more directly, it does seem to me that male writers are taken more seriously just because they’re men, and conversely, female writers have to work much harder to be taken seriously just because we’re women; I don’t have any hard statistics to back this up, but almost every time I open the NYTBR, I become convinced anew. Anyway, it’s a little dispiriting, but there’s nothing I can do about it but keep writing.
Read the entire interview.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Richard Lange

Richard Lange is the author of Dead Boys, his debut collection of short stories was published recently by Little, Brown.

T.C. Boyle, George Pelecanos, Alice Sebold, Scott Wolven, Scott Smith, Michael Connelly, Chris Offutt, Anthony Doerr, and Daniel Woodrell number among those with early, enthusiastic endorsements for Dead Boys.

John Kenyon interviewed Lange at Things I’d Rather Be Doing.

One exchange from the Q & A:

You're championed by some heavy hitters in the crime fiction world, though all of these stories were published in pretty traditional short story journals. Is genre a consideration for you? Do you identify with crime writers or mystery writers?

I didn’t think about genre when writing these stories. That the book is considered by some to be a work of crime fiction is fine by me, but I wouldn’t call it that. I do admit, however, to co-opting the language of crime fiction, particularly the hard-boiled stuff, and injecting it into stories that might have been fairly quiet “relationship” pieces without it in order to heighten the tension and describe the violence being done to the characters’ psyches.

I don’t read a ton of crime fiction – a lot of detective books have too many scenes of people talking in offices for my taste, or they’re tough-talking iterations of Chandler or Ross MacDonald. I love Elmore Leonard, though, Charles Willeford, Jim Thompson, and Clockers was great.

Read the full interview.

Writers Read: Richard Lange.

--Marshal Zeringue