Friday, July 31, 2009

John C. Fredriksen

John C. Fredriksen is the author of Honey West, a new non-fiction tribute to a short-lived ABC-TV series by the same title which was released on DVD last fall.

Crime fiction maven J. Kingston Pierce asked Fredriksen "about how ABC’s Honey West came into being, distinctions between the TV series and the Ficklings’ novels, why the show disappeared so damn fast, and what has become of both its stars and the car Honey wheeled about in so attractively."

Part of the interview, at The Rap Sheet:

J. Kingston Pierce: What first got you interested in Honey West?

John C. Fredriksen: I was only 12--you know, that impressionable age--when I first saw Honey West and, for reasons then unknown to me, I was simply captivated by Anne Francis. I had never quite beheld as woman like her before, especially in such a forceful, commanding role. I’ve been hooked ever since!

JKP: Tell us how the character first came into being, in print.

JCF: In the mid-1950s Forrest “Skip” Fickling was an aspiring fiction writer and, to be different, he toyed with the idea of a sexy female private investigator, something that had never been done before. When...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Brett Battles

Brett Battles lives in Los Angeles and is the author of three acclaimed novels in the Jonathan Quinn series: The Cleaner, which was nominated for a Barry Award for Best Thriller and a Shamus Award for Best First Novel, The Deceived, and the newly released Shadow of Betrayal.

Timothy Hallinan, author of the acclaimed Poke Rafferty Bangkok thrillers--the third in the series, Breathing Water, is about to be released--queried Battles about his work:

The new book, Shadow of Betrayal, is the third in the Jonathan Quinn series, which I've enjoyed to the point where I'm not sure it should be legal. What I love best about the books is that, despite their breakneck pace, you are always focused on your characters. Do you feel you have a firmer grasp on those characters and their world (including their moral and ethical world) now than you did when you wrote the first, and how did that affect the writing of this book?

Absolutely. When I wrote the first book, The Cleaner, I was just meeting the characters. Sure, I knew a lot going in, but so much more has developed on the books that followed. Quinn ended up having an even stronger moral center than I had first imagined. And Orlando is the true partner: loyal, intuitive, and willing to contradict Quinn when necessary. And Nate? Well, his character has developed as much as the other two. More, if you consider the fact that in the first draft of The Cleaner I turned in, Nate didn’t live beyond the initial 100 pages.

As far as affecting the latest book, I think the development of each of them has informed and guided how they act and react, and in fact is the reason they often get deeper into trouble instead of stepping away.

Do the characters live in your imagination even when you're not writing – and, if so, how might they elbow their way into your nonwriting day?

Definitely. Sometimes they're right there with me, sometimes not. Most often it’s Quinn, though both Orlando and Nate make their appearances. It’s usually in reaction to something I see or am doing. If I walk by an interesting alley, I can feel Quinn assessing for potential points of danger. If I’m driving and see the same car ahead of me for a while, I can hear him talking about the best ways to follow, instructing me how to keep them in sight without being spotted. Or if I’m reading a news story on line about, say, a shooting or a robbery or something like that, I hear them all telling me what I would have done differently.

I know exactly how that feels – my own continuing characters pop up all the time, too. Beyond the main characters, though, one of the side benefits of writing a series is that you gradually accumulate an offscreen cast of characters who appeared in (and survived) earlier books. Were any of them clamoring for attention when you wrote Shadow of Betrayal? Did any of them make it into the book, if you can talk about that without committing a spoiler?

I love that aspect of series writing. I especially like the fact that someone might appear in one book, then not show up for several more down the line. There are characters that have appeared before who I have future plans for. In Shadow, there was a particular character from The Cleaner who kind of forced his way back in. I hadn’t planned on him being involved, but once it was, it opened a whole lot of interesting angles.

Do you feel you've grown as a writer since you finished the first book, and if so, how? Are there things in Shadow of Betrayal that you might not have attempted in either The Cleaner or The Deceived?

I definitely feel like I’ve grown. I hope I will feel that way with each new book I write. I think it is part of our job as writers to continually try to do better, to improve our craft. It’s hard for me to know exactly where the growth has occurred, but I guess I would say one area is when I do my rewrites. I don’t hesitate anymore removing something I think is good but not moving the story forward. Before, I’d be very reluctant.

I think the larger political side of things that appears in Shadow is something I would have been resistant to trying before, just because I’d have been scared I’d screw it up. It’s not that I don’t think I will screw that kind of thing up now. I just have more confidence in myself in being about to fix it before the manuscript is final.

I went through the same thing with my new book, Breathing Water – it's got lots and lots of politics in it, but I decided that the only way to deal with it was through characters' actions. Was your solution something along those lines, or did you approach it differently?

We’re in sync on this one. I think it’s always best to bring out things like politics through the actions of the characters. If you just put it in as exposition you run the very serious risk of losing the reader to boredom.

What aspects of writing a novel come most easily to you? Which are most difficult? Any idea why?

If there were one thing you could do better with a snap of the fingers, what would it be?

I don’t know if I could call anything easy, but I would say the parts I enjoy most are writing dialogue and then rewriting. I enjoy creating those conversations, and often find myself almost eavesdropping on my characters exchanges. What they say sometimes even surprises me.

Difficult parts: everything else, and dialogue, and rewriting. Yeah…the easiest parts are sometimes also the hardest. Writing a 400 plus page manuscript is a huge task no matter what, so you’re always going to have problems, no matter what, on every aspect of the story. The key is to keep moving forward no matter what.

What could I do better? Well, that’s actually an easy one. I wish I was better at plotting out of the gate. It usually takes me a little while to figure things out, which could include writing a good portion of the novel.

Why thrillers? Why the specific kind of thrillers you write?

I guess thrillers have always been in my blood. They’re the books I loved to read growing up (both straight thrillers, and sci-fi adventures), and the books I continue to enjoy. The reason the Quinn thrillers have appealed to me is that they combine two things that I love, thrillers with an international flavor, and traveling. Though, I should say, that in the future I’m sure I’ll also write some thrillers that fall out of this specific area.

What aspects of you do you think your books reflect? Or, another way to look at it, if a highly skilled psychoanalyst were to read all your books, what do you think he or she would learn about you?

Ha! Great question, but I’m not sure I know the answer. I’m sure I’m reflected in them to some extent or another, but where and what is tough to pinpoint. Perhaps they would at least learn that I know how to write a sentence.

Who's your ideal reader? How do you imagine him/her, or do you? Do you consciously “tell” the story to that reader? When I'm writing, I often imagine someone sitting opposite me, maybe over a campfire, while I tell the story to her. Do you do anything of the kind, and if so, what impact do you think it has on your writing?

I actually don’t think that way. When I’m writing, I approach it like I’m the reader. So it’s as if I’m enjoying (or not) the story on my laptop screen. If I’m not being entertained, I know I’ll need to go back and fix that part. And if I am, I hope that others will be, too.

How much of your story do you already know when you start to write a book? How do you develop the story – through outlining or taking it as it comes, or a combination of the two? What's your working routine, and why is it best for you? What do you do when you get stuck?

I know more about my stories now that I’m under contract than I did before I was published. That’s because my publisher requires a synopsis before I start writing the new book. I try to keep these as generic as possible because I like the story to work out organically. So I usually start with this very loose outline, and anywhere from one to maybe four scenes in mind. I might have an idea where everything is going to end up, and I might not. Even with that idea, I might not end up using it. If a story wants to go in a different direction, I let it. Within reason, of course.

My routine is pretty straightforward. I get my best work done if I start the day writing. And being an early riser, this means I can get a lot done. I’m usually at my computer around 7 a.m. and work until 1 or 2 in the afternoon. Sometimes I’ll even work longer if things are really flowing. I’ll save PR stuff, answering emails, and other things like that for later in the day.

To answer your stuck question, I’ll work at the problem for a little while, then set it aside if I’m not coming up with something and then work on something else. Often, I’ll go for a walk later and think the problem through. But, usually, I’m never stuck that long. Thankfully.

If you could give one piece of advice to aspiring writers, what would it be?

Persistence is your friend. In writing steadily, in a desire to improve your craft, and in your journey to become published. You will always hit obstacles and roadblocks. You just need to go over them or around them, and keep moving forward.
Learn more about the author and his books at Brett Battles' website and blog.

The Page 69 Test: The Cleaner.

The Page 69 Test: The Deceived.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Julie Kramer

Julie Kramer is a freelance television news producer for NBC's Today Show, Nightly News, and Dateline. Prior to that, she was a national award-winning investigative producer for WCCO-TV in Minneapolis. Her novels are Stalking Susan and the newly released Missing Mark.

From her ITW Q & A with C.J. Lyons:

Stalking Susan tells of a serial killer targeting women named Susan. Do you have a vendetta against any particular Susan?

Absolutely not. My apologies to Susans everywhere. My inspiration for the premise came from two cold cases I covered a decade ago. They involved two women, both named Susan, killed exactly two years apart. The murders had similarities, but I was never able to prove a connection. The story aired in hopes of bringing fresh tips. Nothing came in. But the cases always stayed with me (the unresolved ones often do) and when I sat down to write a novel, the Susans came to mind. I added a couple extra victims, changed the city of the murders, the dates, the ages and occupations of the women, their last names, and I considered changing their first names, too. But I really wanted to keep something of them in the story. So Susan stayed. Now I hear the St. Paul Police Cold Case Unit is looking at those homicides. So there's still a chance for justice.

The main character in Stalking Susan is a TV investigative reporter. Part of your career was spent as an award-wining investigative producer in local television. How is her job different in fiction than in real-life?

I believe I've...[read on]
Visit Julie Kramer's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Christopher Steiner

From a Q & A with Christopher Steiner, author of $20 Per Gallon: How the Inevitable Rise in the Price of Gasoline Will Change Our Lives for the Better:

What are some of the surprising ways you think rising gas prices will change our everyday lives?

I don't think people realize how close our airline industry is to an all-out collapse. The book details a massive airline extinction at $8 per gallon, and in fact, serious change could take place even before then. It's certainly not something that should be celebrated, but the collapse of that industry will open the door to new ones, such as widespread high-speed trains in America, a phenomenon that won't take serious root until plane tickets become luxuries rather than conveniences.

Beyond the airlines, I think people might be surprised to realize that their future might not include Wal-Mart, since they depend on trucking and suburban communities. And forget about sushi or kiwis since they will be too costly to transport. But the bright side of this is that we'll have better locally-owned stores and locally-grown organic fruit, vegetables and meat.
Read the complete Q & A.

Visit Christopher Steiner's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, July 27, 2009

Joe Abercrombie

From "10 Questions with Joe Abercrombie" at SF Signal:

9. You have a yellow 1956 Ford Galaxy that is disabled and pulled over to the side of the road in Murfeesboro, Tennessee. You are surrounded by men in hoods, and you strongly suspect one of them is the mayor, judging by his height and comportment. It is dark. He informs you you are to be the extraordinary guest at a special bonfire in your honor, unless you spin him a tale in less than fifty words. Spin it.

"No need, Mister Mayor, I'm more than happy to attend your bonfire event. I love barbecue. I think my hood's in the boot somewhere..."

10. Please tell us about Best Served Cold, and please make everyone else want to buy it as badly as I want them to.

A very dangerous woman is betrayed by her ruthless employer and thrown down a mountain. Crippled but by no means dead she sets out to wreak bloody vengeance upon him and his six henchmen, assisted by a gang of outcasts and misfits including a barbarian who wants to do the right thing, the nation's least reliable drunk, the nation's most treacherous poisoner, and a psychopath obsessed with numbers. Meanwhile, in the background, the world around them slides into an ever more destructive civil war. The results are bloody, unpredictable, and occasionally blackly hilarious. And bloody.
Read the first eight Q&As.

Learn more about the author and his work at Joe Abercrombie's website and blog.

Writers Read: Joe Abercrombie.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Helen Benedict

From a Q & A with Helen Benedict, author of The Lonely Soldier: The Private War of Women Serving in Iraq:

What made you interested in the subject of female soldiers?

H.B.: It began with the Iraq War. I went to a meeting of Iraq war veterans and met two young women there. One told me nobody believes she was in the war, even though she was shot at every night for a year. And then she said, "There are only three things the guys let you be if you’re a female in the army: a bitch, a ho, or a dyke." We began to talk, and I quickly saw that women are fighting a double war: against the so-called enemy and against discrimination and sexism from their own male comrades.

How did you find the forty or so soldiers you talked to?

H.B.: Through veterans organizations. Women soldiers are very eager to be heard and understood because they are so often ignored and dismissed, so often not taken seriously. Many approached me because they wanted to tell their stories. They wanted to be heard.

What are the main issues facing women soldiers today?

H.B.: Sexual...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Andrew Blechman

From a Q & A with Andrew Blechman, author of Leisureville—Adventures in America’s Retirement Utopias, now available in paperback:

Q: You seem to have strong feelings about age segregation.

A: "When you segregate people, they forget what they have in common and start worrying about their own needs only. For me the canary in the coal mine was when Sun City (a large Arizona retirement community) defeated 17 school bond measures. The kids were going to school in staggered shifts and using trailers doubling as classrooms.

"What's the message? They're saying: 'We don't care about your kids. In fact, we don't want to have anything to do with them, even though we live across the street.' That worries me, and I think it should worry other people as well.

"This is nothing less than a revolution in our society. Twelve million people in the next decade or so are going to be living like this. And we're talking age 55 and older; we're not talking old people."

Q: Did you encounter people who could no longer afford to live in these communities?...[read on]
Read an excerpt from Leisureville, and learn more about the book and author at Andrew Blechman's website and blog.

The Page 69 Test: Leisureville.

My Book, The Movie: Leisureville.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, July 24, 2009

Greg Robinson

From an interview with Greg Robinson, author of A Tragedy of Democracy: Japanese Confinement in North America:

Q: Is there any need for a new book on Japanese Americans and World War II? Many have already been written, including one by you. Hasn’t everything important already been said about Executive Order 9066 and the camps?

Greg Robinson: Actually, this book contains a great deal of recently discovered material about Japanese Americans. Part of it is that new documents have been released on the wartime events, and books have not studied the period before and after World War II as an integral part of them. It changes your view of official policy toward Japanese Americans, for example, if you consider that the Army and Justice Department were already preparing to hold masses of enemy aliens—and building a set of what they called “concentration camps” for them—months before the United States entered the war. But what is even more new and vital about the book, I think, is that it is the first transnational study of the subject. It covers the removal and confinement of Japanese not just in the United States but in Canada and Mexico as well and also tells the story of the Japanese Latin Americans who were sent to the United States and placed in camps.

Q: Why should we care about the treatment of ethnic Japanese in other countries?

GR: What happened to Japanese Americans is...[read on]
Read more about A Tragedy of Democracy: Japanese Confinement in North America at the publisher's website, and visit Greg Robinson's faculty webpage at l'Université du Québec à Montréal.

Writers Read: Greg Robinson.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Joseph Finder

From Ali Karim's interview with Joseph Finder at The Rap Sheet:

AK: What is it about the dark side of the corporate world that attracts you and that makes it an exciting backdrop for thrillers?

JF: It started with Paranoia. I wanted to do a classic spy novel, à la John le Carré’s The Spy Who Came in from the Cold, but set it in a high-powered but very cool corporation. But I knew nothing about the corporate world. So I started visiting companies like Apple Computer and Hewlett-Packard, interviewing all sorts of executives and secretaries, poking around, getting the sort of real-world texture that anyone who actually works in a corporation stops seeing because it’s so routinized. To me, though, it was all new and fascinating. I felt like an anthropologist doing field work in Fiji: all the natives were strange and different, and their tribal customs were peculiar.

And I realized two things. One was that the corporate world was not at all a bland, colorless, hostile place. This is where most of us work, and most of us basically enjoy our work lives. In fact, we spend more time at work than we do at home. Work has become family in some ways. So I needed to render the appeal of it--what was cool about it--and not just what could be scary about it.

The other thing was that, in the corporate world, the stakes can be immense. When it comes to billions of dollars, people will do some really bad things if they have to. And when you work somewhere and something really bad is going on and no one’s telling you anything--well, that breeds some powerful paranoia. Michael Crichton showed this in Disclosure and Airframe--there’s some fantastic intrigue in the corporate world. Anyone who thinks the corporation is a boring setting doesn’t....[read on]
Visit Joseph Finder's website and blog.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Megan Abbott

Rebecca Godfrey interviewed Megan Abbott at The Barnes & Noble Review about Abbott's new novel, Bury Me Deep, and other subjects. The start of their dialogue:

The Barnes & Noble Review: The heroine of your new novel is based on a woman labeled the Blonde Butcher. Can you talk a bit about her crime and how you learned of it?

Megan Abbott: Yes, the book's loosely based on this famous tabloid case known as the Winnie Ruth Judd Trunk Murders. It happened in Phoenix during the depths of the Great Depression. Winnie Ruth, this naive young women married to a much older man, was left to fend for herself while her husband went to Mexico for work. She became fast friends with two of the town's young women. The tabloids would later call them party girls and refer to "thrill parties" held at their home. Lonely and swept up in it all, Winnie Ruth fell hard for one of these men, this dashing young comer named Jack Halloran. Their affair upset the balance of power among the women and, under circumstances that are still unclear, led to a double murder.

I can't really remember a time when I didn't know about the case. As a reader of true-crime since I was very young, I was always coming upon her name in books about women criminals. Generally, she was portrayed either as a wild-eyed lunatic, or as this gorgeous femme fatale. A few years ago, I picked up Jana Bommersbach's wonderful book about the case, and it was like a revelation. There was so much more to the tale than the "trunk murderess" legend. The real story was actually much more shocking and much more poignant.

BNR: Your earlier books share some of the clipped, tough prose you find in Chandler or Ellroy, with sentences like, "She got me in with the hard boys, the fast money, and I couldn't get enough," but Bury Me Deep has more lyrical, almost incantatory, passages.

MA: Queenpin was my most conscious effort to write a book set not in the real world but in "noir world." So I just...[read on]
Read an excerpt from Bury Me Deep, and learn more about the book and author at Megan Abbott's website.

At The Rap Sheet: The Story Behind the Story: “Bury Me Deep,” by Megan Abbott.

The Page 69 Test: Bury Me Deep.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Marian Ronan

Marian Ronan is the author of Tracing the Sign of the Cross: Sexuality, Mourning, and the Future of American Catholicsm. From an interview which originally appeared in EqualwRites (EwR) and now available on the publisher's website:

EwR: Can we begin by asking the significance of its title, Tracing the Sign of the Cross?

Marian Ronan: The title, Tracing the Sign of the Cross, refers to the centrality of the cross in the Christian faith, but also, in the white ethnic immigrant American Catholicism in which I and many other American Catholics have our roots. The word "tracing" calls to mind "making" the sign of the cross, but also suggests that in our time, that is, during the years since Vatican II, there has become something elusive about the cross, something demanding our attention now.

EwR: And the subtitle elaborates on that "something"?

MR: Yes. The subtitle: "Sexuality, Mourning, and the Future of American Catholicism" expands on this theme. "Mourning" is the word most obviously linked to the cross. But it also signifies the wider approach that I use in my book, a way of understanding human experience. According to this approach,...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, July 20, 2009

Dave Eggers

Dave Eggers' books include A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius, which was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize, You Shall Know Our Velocity!, How We Are Hungry, What Is the What, and Zeitoun.

From his Q & A with Salon's Andrew O'Hehir:

I notice that you've been inviting people to appeal to you for a pep talk on the future of the printed word, which we're all very worried about. So if I were to write to you and say, "Dave, cheer me up about the future of writing," what would you say?

Salon still exists, thank God. I think there's a future where the Web and print coexist and they each do things uniquely and complement each other, and we have what could be the ultimate and best-yet array of journalistic venues. I think right now everyone's assuming it's a zero-sum situation, and I just don't see it that way.

Our students at 826 Valencia still have a newspaper class, where we print an actual newspaper, and we do magazine classes and anthologies where they're all printed on paper. That's the main way we get them motivated, that they know it's going to be in print. It's much harder for us to motivate the students when they think it's only going to be on the Web.

The vast majority of students we work with read newspapers and books, more so than I did at their age. And I don't see that dropping off. If anything the lack of faith comes from people our age, where we just assume that it's dead or dying. I think we've given up a little too soon. We [i.e., McSweeney's] have been working every day on a prototype for a new newspaper, and a lot of what we're doing is resurrecting old things, like things from the last century that newspapers used to do, in terms of really using the full luxury of the broadsheet newspaper, with full color and all that space.

I think newspapers shouldn't try to compete directly with the Web, and should do what they can do better, which may be long-form journalism and using photos and art, and making connections with large-form graphics and really enhancing the tactile experience of paper. You know, including a full-color comic section, for example, which of course was standard in newspapers years ago, when you'd have a full broadsheet Winsor McCay comic. So we'll have a big, full-color comic section, and we're also trying to emphasize what younger readers are looking for, what directly appeals to them. It's hard to find papers these days that really do anything to appeal to anyone under 18, and the paper used to do that all the time. I think there will always be -- if not the same audience and not as wide an audience -- a dedicated audience that can keep print journalism alive.[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Miriam Forman-Brunell

Miriam Forman-Brunell is Professor of History at the University of Missouri, Kansas City. She is the author of Made to Play House and general editor of ABC-CLIO’s Girlhood in America. She is also co-editor of Children and Youth in History & Culture. Her new book is Babysitter: An American History.

From her Q & A with Salon's Katharine Mieszkowski about the new book:

Has there ever been a golden age of baby sitting?

There really never has. Many parents continue to think that way back when, in the postwar years, girls were affable and also plentiful.

But in fact that was not the case. Back in the 1950s, and even before that, during the war and during the Depression, girls complained about the working conditions and the ways in which they felt they were being treated unfairly by their employers.

I was surprised that some girls even formed baby-sitting unions.

In the years right after the war ends, when the baby boom really begins to soar, parents are desperate for baby sitters. These baby sitters really have developed a sense of themselves as being workers. And they have a sense of what is acceptable to expect of a worker and what isn't.

In various parts of the country they begin to organize these informal unions. Girls get together to draw up a code in terms of what's the minimum wage, what can their employers expect of them. Basically identifying the do's and the don'ts.

The unions don't last. And one of the reasons is...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Jennifer Weiner

From January Magazine's Author Snapshot: Jennifer Weiner:

Weiner’s latest book, Best Friends Forever (Simon & Schuster), explores the impact of love, desire and familial loss on a friendship between two young women. “Former mousy types, rejoice!" writes People. “In Weiner’s delicious latest, a popular girl hits trouble long after high school and only the geeky pal she once shunned can help.”

If you can’t get enough Jennifer, you need not despair. The author signed a development deal with ABC Studios last year. She says she’s working with “many fine writers to come up with comedies and dramas that feature my kind of characters and humor (i.e., smart, snarky, soulful, possibly larger than the average leading lady).”

* * *

Tell us about your process.

My process is necessarily dictated by my kids, and the ensuing lack of time. Most of my work happens in the afternoons (when I have a sitter), on a laptop, in a coffee shop, where the kids can't find me. I really need to leave the house in order to get any serious work done, and I try, as best I can, to replicate the atmosphere of a newsroom when I find a workspace -- I like a little hustle and bustle, and music and conversation, not to mention latte and scones.

But really, I'm working all the time -- there’s always a part of my brain that's thinking about the work in progress, whether I’m at the park, pushing my baby in a swing, or in the minivan, waiting to pick up my big girl from school.
Read the complete snapshot.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, July 17, 2009

Reggie Nadelson

Three exchanges from "One Minute With: Reggie Nadelson" in Britain's Independent:

Choose a favourite author, and say why you like her/him

Alice Munro, whom I adore. I'm not normally a short story lover but she gets a whole world into a few pages and is probably the greatest stylist.

* * *

Which fictional character most resembles you?

For me and for ten million girls growing up, it was Jane Eyre . Now, I think it might be Rosalind in Shakespeare's As You Like It or a character from a Woody Allen film.

* * *

Who is your hero/heroine from outside literature?

Right now, it's Barack Obama, the man from Krypton, our saviour: where did they get this guy? After eight years of walking around London, apologising every time for our president, I can now say "we have such a lovely one and you don't!"
Read the complete Q & A.

Visit Reggie Nadelson's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Stephen Phillips

From an interview with Stephen Phillips, author of Yoga, Karma, and Rebirth: A Brief History and Philosophy:

Question: How does traditional yoga philosophy relate to current yoga practice?

Stephen Phillips: Traditional Yoga Shastra is not just a collection of “how-to” books about Downward Dog, Pranayama, meditation, and other practices but also provides a framework for understanding the practices and the experiences to which they lead. Yoga philosophy helps us have confidence in our own capabilities and defends the testimony of our expert teachers. Also, the teachers who have given us the practices—Patanjali, for example—have in many cases explained their importance in philosophic terms and provided psychological ideas to guide advanced practices in particular. All yoga teachers in fact comprehend important theses of Yoga philosophy and psychology, which help them understand the practices holistically and to talk about them in their classes.

Q: What do you have to say about the peculiar psychological concepts found in traditional yoga teachings? Do you think there are such things as “sheaths” or koshas and chakras?

SP: Yoga is a kind a training, of the body, life, and mind, and like being trained in gardening, you need first of all to find a good teacher (who herself had a good teacher and so on) and try to understand, usually by doing. So for example, when your teacher tells you to watch your energy flow in Corpse Pose, shavasana, you don’t...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Bill Crider

Rafe McGregor put a few questions to Bill Crider, author of the Sheriff Dan Rhodes series and other books. A sample from the Q & A:

Rafe: Which authors have had the strongest influence on your writing?

Bill: It’s probably impossible to answer this one. I’ve read too many books and admired too many writers to know who’s been my biggest influence. Certainly Raymond Chandler, Dashiell Hammett, and Ross MacDonald were writers I wanted to emulate, though most of my books are very little like theirs. Even my private-eye novels are different, for the most part. Harry Whittington is a paperback writer I admire for a lot of reasons, but my books aren’t like his, either, but he was certainly an influence. Mickey Spillane’s another one, and, you guessed it, my books are nothing at all like his.

Rafe: What are your five favourite novels that aren’t normally considered crime fiction?

Bill: These change from time to time, but here...[read on]
Read the Page 69 Test entries for Crider's A Mammoth Murder, Murder Among the OWLS, Of All Sad Words, and Murder in Four Parts, as well as an excellent write-up about Dan Rhodes on the big screen at "My Book, The Movie."

Also see Steve Hockensmith's Q & A with Bill Crider.

Visit Bill Crider's website and blog.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Grant Wahl

Sports Illustrated senior writer Grant Wahl is the author of The Beckham Experiment: How the World’s Most Famous Athlete Tried to Conquer America. From his Q & A with Jack Bell at the New York Times soccer blog:

Question: How did you manage to score access to Beckham for the book?

Answer: The way it first came about was because I did two big stories on Beckham for Sports Illustrated, one in 2003 that basically introduced him to America and then in 2007, a cover story when he arrived in M.L.S. For both of those stories, I got extensive one-on-one access to Beckham and the people around him. We did photo shoots in New York and then Spain. I always had a very good relationship and probably interviewed him more than any other American journalist. I think that he and his people appreciated the open-mindedness of my stories. In 2007 they came to us at S.I. about doing a big feature. It got on the cover and they were thrilled.

The idea for the book was originally to follow Beckham and the Galaxy for that year only, but we pushed the book back a year because of Beckham’s injuries in 2007. I went to Beckham’s people in the summer of 2007 to talk about his potential participation in the book. They told me was that in Beckham’s previous book deals for his own books, which were ghost-written, that he had gotten $1 million. The indication was that I would have to pay him significantly to get exclusive interviews for this book.

I told them that we don’t pay for interviews. I have always been very straight up in how I do things. I think Beckham’s people are used to having a lot of control, something they didn’t have with the S.I. stories. However, he did interviews before and after every game, probably more than he had ever done in Europe. I was asking tons of questions during those periods. Beckham’s voice is all over this book as a result. I just wasn’t going to do things....[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, July 13, 2009

Chuck Palahniuk

From Chuck Palahniuk's Q & A with Anna Metcalfe of the Financial Times:

What book changed your life?

At the Gates of the Animal Kingdom by Amy Hempel showed me the lean quality of prose.

* * *

Which literary character most resembles you?

Nick Carraway in The Great Gatsby. He’s the person on the outside looking in, which is what I’m like as a writer.
Read the complete Q & A.

Pygmy, Palahniuk's latest novel, is being identified as "The Manchurian Candidate meets South Park—Chuck Palahniuk’s finest novel since the generation-defining Fight Club."

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Tom Standage

Tom Standage is the business editor at the Economist and the author of A History of the World in 6 Glasses, The Victorian Internet, The Turk, and The Neptune File. He has written for Wired, the New York Times, and numerous magazines and newspapers. His new book is An Edible History of Humanity.

From his Q & A at the Los Angeles Times:

How does "An Edible History" fit in with "A History of the World in 6 Glasses"?

I was on tour for the drinks book, and my wife said, "You're gonna do food next, right?"

The history of food is actually a much more serious story. The drinks book is quite frivolous: It says each era has a dominant drink, and each drink didn't do much more than reflect what is already going on. I'm not really saying that drinks changed the world.

There's a contrarian streak to this book: You argue that crops are less natural than we think, and you see contradictions in the locavore movement.

What I'm trying to do is take a level-headed view of our food culture, and some of that ends up not agreeing with the food fads of the moment.

They're rather like fundamentalist religions....[read on]
Visit Tom Standage's website.

Writers Read: Tom Standage.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Joshua Blu Buhs

The Los Angeles Times "Jacket Copy" blog interviewed Joshua Blu Buhs, author of Bigfoot: The Life and Times of a Legend. The exchange opens:

Jacket Copy: Straight from the start, you tell us that Bigfoot doesn’t exist. Even though you say there is no Bigfoot, why did you choose to pursue this mythical creature in your writing?

Buhs: Initially it was the fact that I didn’t think Bigfoot existed, which was interesting to me. It was also about American ideas of what the natural world is. Sort of like: Here’s a screen on which people can project their ideas about nature. Though it turned out not to be as much about nature as I originally thought it would be.

JC: Did you ever believe in Bigfoot as a kid?

Buhs: I think, looking back, it is possible. As I grew up, I became more interested in standard and mainstream science.

JC: Why are Americans obsessed with this legend? Where did the myth come from?

Buhs: The myth of Bigfoot really...[read on]
Read more about Bigfoot: The Life and Times of a Legend.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, July 10, 2009

Scott Lasser

Scott Lasser's new novel The Year That Follows begins with Cat Miller traveling to New York on September 10th of 2001. She goes out to dinner with her brother Kyle, who tells her he thinks he’s fathered a child, as his ex-girlfriend just got back from 3 months maternity leave, and they broke up a year ago. The next day he goes off to work and is never heard from again. Cat goes in search of the lost child, knowing only the mother’s first name and having a picture of the woman.

From a Q & A with Lasser at the Knopf website:

Where did the idea for THE YEAR THAT FOLLOWS come from?

It grew out of my last novel, All I Could Get. [My editor] Jordan called me during the summer of 2001, about seven months before publication, and suggested that it might be a good idea to make a pass through the Knopf offices, where I’d never been. The idea was to meet the marketing people, make myself known. I said sure, when? She suggested that anytime after Labor Day was fine. My daughter's birthday is September 9, a Sunday that year, so I said, “How about if I fly out on Monday, the 10th, and come in the morning of the 11th.” Which is how I happened to be in Manhattan on September 11. Now, if you were in Manhattan that day it might well have occurred to you to write about it, even if you had never written more than a grocery list. Writing about it certainly occurred to me, but I had to throw away reams of material before I got to this rather compact book.

You worked in finance in Manhattan for a while—Kyle, whose death sets THE YEAR THAT FOLLOWS in motion, does the same. Did you draw much on your previous life when writing Kyle and putting some of the elements of the book together?

A little. I...[read on]
Read an excerpt from The Year That Follows, and learn more about the author and his work at Scott Lasser's website and blog.

The Page 69 Test: The Year That Follows.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Joel Shepherd

Joel Shepherd's first trilogy--Crossover, Breakaway and Killswitch--features Cassandra Kresnov, "an android, but unlike anything Hollywood’s ever seen. She was created from technology that copies human beings in synthetic form, with appropriate improvements. So she’s basically human, only made of different stuff. The "improvements" are that she’s death on legs, the ultimate killing machine. The catch is that the same added intelligence that makes her the most deadly of her kind, also makes her more emotional, more vulnerable, and sends her in search of a life free from violence (that bit doesn’t work out so well for her though)."

From Shepherd's Q & A with Robert Thompson at Fantasy Book Critic:

Q: Since your Cassandra Kresnov novels have been completed for a few years now, let’s reflect. What was the most challenging part about writing the series, the easiest, and if you could go back and change anything, what would it be and why?

Joel: The most challenging part was simply coming up with an interesting, comprehensible plot. My plots tend to be a little complex, so making them all work logically wasn’t as easy for me back then (it’s easier for me now, everything improves with experience). The easiest bit was the characters; they’re strong enough that they tended to write themselves. If I could change anything...possibly I could do a few things differently with plotting, but not much. I haven’t thought about it much.

Q: In other interviews you mentioned how you wanted to play around with certain stereotypes in the Kresnov books, such as the ‘android cliché’, making your leads female, and I also liked how the futuristic setting was utopian rather than the much more common dystopian backdrop and how you made Cassandra accountable for her actions. Were there any other tropes that you were trying to break down in the series?

Joel: Not really. Though I’m not sure I’d describe the series as utopian, more just as not dystopian. I think the trend of human progress has been generally to the positive, with some nasty hiccups, and I don’t expect that to change. I also think some of the attraction of dystopian worlds is that a lot of writers either aren’t interested in politics, or can’t see a way to use it excitingly in their plots. Dystopian worlds usually preclude politics as we understand it’s a bit of a cop out.

Q: Politics, religion and ethnic diversity all play an important role in the series. How much of this comes from your own life and what do these elements bring to your books?

Joel: [read on]
My Book, The Movie: Crossover.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Hyatt Bass

From a Q & A with Hyatt Bass about her debut novel, The Embers:

What sparked the idea for THE EMBERS?

The Embers actually started as a screenplay. I was editing my first feature film, Seventy-Five Degrees in July, and in a restaurant one day, I saw a precocious looking New York adolescent girl wearing an oversized men’s blazer and carrying a stuffed animal backpack. I’ve always been fascinated by adolescent girls, and thought she would make an interesting subject for my next film. So I immediately started forming this character (now split in the book between Ingrid and young Emily). At the same time, I was completely blown away by the performance of one of the actors in my film—Harris Yulin—and I thought that whatever movie I made next had to feature him fairly prominently. I began working on a story about an unlikely friendship between a teenage girl on the cusp of adulthood waking up to all kinds of things—romance and independence and fantasies of where her life will take her—and an elderly man nearing the end of his life, looking back with nostalgia and yearning, but also thinking about what he might have done differently. I liked the contrast between them, and the idea that, different as they are, they might strangely find comfort in one another.[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Robert Dugoni

Robert Dugoni is the New York Times bestselling author of The Jury Master and Damage Control. From a Q & A about his latest novel, Wrongful Death:

What sparked the idea for Wrongful Death?

Answer: Like most of my novels, it was just a small thing. In this case, I read a newspaper article that mentioned the Feres Doctrine in reference to a soldier injured in Iraq. I thought it interesting, looked more deeply into the doctrine, and found that it had really been bastardized from the initial legal case, to the point of absurdity. I have tremendous respect for the men and women who leave their families behind to go and fight for the principles this country was founded upon. In Iraq, with the use of National Guardsman, more than ever we have men and women with families and careers putting everything on hold. I thought it would make an interesting premise to write a book that discussed the doctrine and what it means to be injured incident to your service.  But I didn't want it to be a book about the Iraq war. I wanted to write what I always try to write, a book about justice and injustice, a legal/political thriller. Hopefully I succeeded.

What is the Feres Doctrine?

Answer:The Feres Doctrine developed out of three cases that were consolidated and heard by the United States Supreme Court in 1949. Essentially, soldiers had died or been injured during their military service and the families were suing the government and military for negligence. For instance, Feres was housed in a barrack that had a faulty heater that caught fire and burned the barrack to the ground. Justice Jackson, writing for the majority, was faced with a true dilemma. Hundreds of thousands of soldiers were returning from World War II and a decision that made the government and military subject to lawsuits for injuries or deaths could have resulted in hundreds of millions of dollars. So Jackson came up with what is now called the Feres Doctrine, which says that a soldier injured or killed 'incident to his service' cannot sue the government or military for damages even if the government acted negligently or intentionally to injure him or her. In theory...[read on]
Read an excerpt from Wrongful Death, and learn more about the book and author at Robert Dugoni's website and blog.

The Page 69 Test: Wrongful Death.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, July 6, 2009

Jay Wexler

Jay Wexler, author of Holy Hullabaloos: A Road Trip to the Battlegrounds of the Church/State Wars, teaches at the Boston University School of Law.

From his Q & A at Religion Dispatches:

What inspired you to write Holy Hullabaloos? What sparked your interest?

I’d always wanted to write a kind of fun, non-academic book about church/state issues, and once I got tenure it seemed like the right time. The road trip aspect of the book, however, was not part of the original plan. That idea came to me while I was reading Sarah Vowell’s amazing Assassination Vacation, where she talks about her various trips to places connected to the assassinations of different presidents. I had just finished reading some other funny road-trip books like Steve Almond’s Candyfreak, and all of a sudden it occurred to me that maybe I should get out of my stuffy office and hit the road, see what I could learn by visiting the places where these church/state cases I’d been teaching about for so long actually happened.

What’s the most important take-home message for readers?

I think the overall biggest take-home message for readers is that it is both possible and desirable to...[read on]
Read more about Holy Hullabaloos at the publisher's website, and learn more about the author at Jay Wexler's faculty webpage.

Wexler studied religion at the University of Chicago Divinity School and law at Stanford, and worked as a clerk to U.S. Supreme Court justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

The Page 99 Test: Holy Hullabaloos.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Giff Beaton

From a Q & A with Giff Beaton, author of Dragonflies and Damselflies of Georgia and the Southeast:

Q: Can you tell us how and when you became interested in seriously watching and identifying dragonflies and damselflies? Is odonate watching becoming more and more common with birders?

A: As I became more and more interested in photography and watching birds, I started noticing other animals, like insects. As happened with birds, I started realizing how many different kinds there were. Then it became a great adventure to try to learn more about them and to try to find and photograph the different species. When I started getting interested in odonates, there were very few books to help with field identification, and of course no internet yet, so I had to dig up what few books there were. I was also fortunate to meet several very experienced dragonfly biologists and specialists, and they were crucial to learning more about this wonderful group of insects. My first photos of odonates were back in 1991, and I started trying to learn more about them around 1993, actively seeking out different habitats at different times of the year. I do think odonate watching is becoming more and more popular among birdwatchers and backyard nature enthusiasts.

Q: Are there other insects or animals that are commonly viewed by birders?

A: I think many birders are becoming more interested in many other “watchable” groups, like butterflies or moths and their caterpillars, odonates, and other showy or obvious groups of insects. Of course, wildflowers are another very popular part of nature for birders.

Q: What are some of the most common misconceptions about odonates that you've encountered?

A: Probably the biggest one is...[read on]
Visit Giff Beaton's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Travis Thrasher

Cory Clubb interviewed Travis Thrasher for Part of their dialogue:

Cory: Upon visiting your website you seem to have a lot of different genre of novels, why is that?

Travis: Multiple personalities. No, seriously, I love all types of stories. I never knew the first published book of mine would be a simple little love story. I feel the stories I’m writing now are more of the type of thing I enjoy reading, yet I still have many story ideas in mind that fit into different genres.

If could go back and change that would you?

No. I feel that each book paved the way for the one following it. It’s sort of similar to growing up in all these different states and countries. Would I have planned that for myself from the beginning? Definitely not. But I wouldn’t change it—living in all those places defined me. I’d say the same about my books. But I always tell people that this is definitely NOT the way to...[read on]
Visit Travis Thrasher's website and blog.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, July 3, 2009

Peter James

Ali Karim put a few questions to Peter James, whose latest novel in the award winning Detective Superintendent Roy Grace crime series – Dead Tomorrow – is just out in the UK. Part of the Q & A:

Were you bookish in your youth?

Yes, I was an avid reader – also an avid letter-writer to authors. I once wrote to Enid Blyton saying that I had just read Five Go To Treasure Island and I was very worried that the five of them had spent seven days on an island and not one of them had gone to the toilet in all that time. She wrote a nice letter back telling me not to worry, they had all gone several times but she didn’t think little boys and girls were interested, which was why she hadn’t put it in her book!

What books had you read in that period that perhaps led you to become a fiction writer yourself?

I really wanted to be a crime novelist when I began reading Sherlock Holmes at about twelve years old. Then one day in my mid-teens I read Graham Greene’s Brighton Rock and I was totally blown away by it – probably even more so because it was set in my home town. I promised myself that one day I would try to write a crime novel set in Brighton that was just half as good as this one.

What I love most about this timeless novel is that it...[read on]
Learn more about the author and his work at the official Peter James website and blog.

Peter James has worked as a screenwriter and a producer of numerous films, including the The Merchant Of Venice, starring Al Pacino, Jeremy Irons and Joseph Fiennes.

Dead Tomorrow is the latest of five novels in the the award winning Detective Superintendent Roy Grace crime series, which Judith Cutler calls "predictably deeply researched, elegantly written, fiendishly plotted and impossible to put down." The other titles are Dead Simple, Looking Good Dead, Not Dead Enough, and Dead Man's Footsteps.

The Page 69 Test: Looking Good Dead (the 2d in the DS Roy Grace series).

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Chris Grabenstein

Karyne Corum interviewed Chris Grabenstein at The Raven Croaks. The start of their dialogue:

Why do you write mysteries? What in specific draws you to it?

Chris: Well, I think I like the puzzle solving aspect of mysteries. As a writer, you are forced to tell a story with a beginning, middle, and an end. Also, mysteries are what I loved to read on the train ride from Metuchen to NYC. It's the one genre where the reader can be an active participant. I think mysteries have the same appeal that Crossword Puzzles do.

When did you begin the process of writing your first book? What did you find the most challenging?

Chris: I started writing my first book about a year after I left advertising. I had assumed I would write screenplays, since the commercials I had been doing for 17 years were mini-movies. But, I was WAY too old -- you have to be 24 to be a screenwriter. And, I lived on the wrong side of the country. Then I read Stephen King's little book ON WRITING and it convinced me that I may be able to write a...gasp...novel. All those words! Remember, a thirty second commercial has a maximum of 70 words. Books have thousands. Usually around 80 thousand, in my case. The most challenging part was....[read on]
Chris Grabenstein's latest book is Mind Scrambler, the 5th John Ceepak mystery.

Grabenstein won the Anthony Award for "Best First Mystery" (given at Bouchercon 2006) for his debut novel Tilt A Whirl—the first in a series of John Ceepak stories to be set "Down The Shore" in a New Jersey tourist town called Sea Haven. It was followed by Mad Mouse, Whack A Mole, and Hell Hole.

The Page 99 Test: Mind Scrambler.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Giles Foden

Giles Foden's books include The Last King of Scotland (1998), his second and most famous novel, which is set in Uganda during Idi Amin’s rule and was turned into a film in 2006.

From his Q & A with Anna Metcalfe in the Financial Times:

What book changed your life?

Paul Muldoon’s book of poems Meeting the British (1987). I was lucky to be taught by him at university. He showed me how to mix aesthetic, political and personal concerns in the same artwork.

* * *
Which literary character most resembles you?

Lucky Jim [in Kingsley Amis’ book of the same name], for all his hapless incompetence.

* * *
What book do you wish you’d written?

Graham Greene’s A Burnt-Out Case. It’s a brilliant evocation of Africa and of the artistic personality.
Read the complete Q & A.

--Marshal Zeringue