Monday, June 26, 2017

Jonathan Levi

Jonathan Levi's latest novel is Septimania. From his Q&A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: You've said that you first heard about the historical Kingdom of Septimania--which Charlemagne gave the Jews of Southern France--in the late 1970s. Did you think at the time that you'd end up writing a novel about it?

A: In the late 1970s, I was working on bringing out the first issue of Granta. Although I was writing plays, the idea of writing a novel—especially since I was editing extraordinary writers at the time—was far from my mind.

The historical Kingdom of Septimania seemed more a part of the fabric of an England woven at the time by Monty Python, the Bonzo Dog Doo Dah Band, and a House of Lords that debated the existence of the Loch Ness Monster while the country was paralyzed by a transportation strike.

It was only 20 years later that my memory of Septimania joined with my desire to write something about the search for origins, and I thought—hey, there might be a novel here.

Q: The book includes a variety of locations and time periods--did you need to do much research to write this, and did you learn anything that especially surprised you?

A: A large amount of library research, and many conversations with historians and others went into the conception of Septimania. But most of it...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, June 25, 2017

Robert I. Rotberg

Robert I. Rotberg is the author of The Corruption Cure: How Citizens and Leaders Can Combat Graft.

From his Q&A at the Princeton University Press blog:

What explains Nordic and Antipodean exceptionalism?

RR: The Nordics and Australia/New Zealand were all outrageously corrupt before the early years of the twentieth century. But the rise of what we call ethical universalism gradually replaced the particularism of early corruption. A new civic consciousness, educational attainments, and the widespread embrace of new aspirations and the appropriate methods for achieving such goals led to a shunning of corrupt dealings. A special chapter of the book examines how these nations and others discarded corrupt pursuits.

What works best to reduce corruption?

RR: The key shift is to alter the mindset of citizens from accepting the inevitability of corruption to refusing to countenance corrupt dealings. Political leadership is essential. In every modern case where a country has abandoned (or greatly reduced) corruption, a political leader – a president or a prime-minister – has understood the dangers of corruption within the body politic and has punished politicians and bureaucrats who thus stole from the people or abused their trust. Where corruption has been reduced sustainably, a political leader has led the way. Other initiatives include limiting opportunities for discretion, putting all interactions between a citizen and a permit-granting official, or a law maker, online, strengthening the operations of auditors general and ombudsmen, strengthening the ability of judges to refuse bribes, encouraging judges to penalize corrupt persons severely, welcoming and supporting a free media, thus adding to the increased transparency and investigative accountability which is foundational in any successful battles against graft and sleaze, and creating...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, June 24, 2017

Dean Robbins

Dean Robbins is the author of the new children's picture book Margaret and the Moon: How Margaret Hamilton Saved the First Lunar Landing. From his Q&A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: Why did you decide to focus on computer expert Margaret Hamilton in your new book?

A: A couple years ago I noticed a striking photograph that had gone viral on social media. It pictures a typical-looking young woman from the 1960s, with wire-rim glasses, long hair, a stylish dress, and a charming smile. She stands next to a stack of paper that reaches over her head.

This was Margaret Hamilton with the code she wrote for NASA’s Project Apollo as director of software programming. The viewer realizes this is no ordinary young woman, but a genius who helped get astronauts to the moon using early computer technology.

It was revelatory to learn that a woman had played such a significant role in the 1960s space program, given the male faces we’re used to seeing from that era. It occurred to me that this might be a powerful story to tell for children.

Q: How did you research her life, and what did you find out about her that particularly fascinated you?

A: There wasn’t much published information about Margaret Hamilton, so I had to start digging—something I enjoy as a longtime journalist. I tracked down...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, June 23, 2017

C. A. Higgins

C. A. Higgins is the author of Lightless, Supernova, and the newly released Radiate. She was a runner-up in the 2013 Dell Magazines Award for Undergraduate Excellence in Science Fiction and Fantasy Writing and has a B.A. in physics from Cornell University.

From her Q&A with DJ at MyLifeMyBooksMyEscape:

DJ: What is Radiate and then the Lightless trilogy about?

C.A.: In the first book, Lightless, the small crew of a top-secret and highly advanced military spacecraft (the Ananke) discover a stowaway aboard their ship. They quickly learn he has connections to a terrorist (the Mallt-y-Nos) determined to overthrow their dystopian society, but the stowaway—Ivan—isn’t as helpless as he may seem. Meanwhile, the Ananke itself has been acting strangely, almost as if it were trying to communicate.

The second novel, Supernova, is about the Mallt-y-Nos herself; the heroine of Lightless, Althea; and Ananke, now a sentient machine; as they navigate the chaos of the solar system resulting from the end of Lightless. Radiate follows two characters who were missing from the events of Supernova: Ivan and his companion Mattie. In contrast to the heroines of Supernova, who all have a great deal of influence, for better or worse, over the state of the solar system, Ivan and Mattie are almost swallowed up in the chaos of the civil war. They’re desperately trying to survive, to catch up to the Mallt-y-Nos, to maybe right some of the wrongs they’ve caused—and to avoid the Ananke, who’s hunting them across the solar system and drawing ever closer. And, despite the immense loyalty and affection we saw between the two men in Lightless, their relationship has a number of unresolved tensions that the stress of their situation starts to bring out.

DJ: What were some of your influences for the Lightless trilogy?

C.A.: The Battlestar Galactica reboot was a big influence—the existential trauma of the Cylons influenced Ananke, and the idea of “humanity’s children coming home” and visiting doom on their progenitors while humanity runs itself ragged trying desperately to...[read on]
Visit C. A. Higgins's website.

The Page 69 Test: Lightless.

Writers Read: C.A. Higgins.

The Page 69 Test: Radiate.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Courtney Maum

Courtney Maum is the author of the acclaimed novel I Am Having So Much Fun Here Without You, the new novel Touch, and the chapbook Notes from Mexico. Her short fiction, book reviews, and essays on the writing life have been widely published in outlets such as The New York Times, O Magazine, Tin House, Electric Literature, and Buzzfeed, and she has co-written films that have debuted at Sundance and won awards at Cannes. At various points in her life, she has been a trend forecaster, a fashion publicist, and a party promoter for Corona Extra.

From Maum's Q&A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: You mentioned in our previous interview that you usually write from a male point of view, yet in this book your main character is a woman. How did you come up with the idea for your character Sloane?

A: Well, I find it easier to write from a male point of view, that’s for sure! (The further the character is from my own reality, the easier it is for me to make up a fictional life for him/her!)

But with Sloane—the thing is, this character had to be a woman. I used to work in trend forecasting and I never came across a single man in the profession. Certainly we had male clients, and there were male decision makers at the companies we consulted for, but the trend forecasters and trend spotters were always female.

There is just a truth and a power to the female instinct. It’s fascinating, and it can be a heavy thing to bear. I think this is where the notion of the maternal instinct comes from, the idea that women are naturally “better” at being parents—it comes from the fact (and I do believe it’s a fact) that women generally have keener instinct than men.

I happen to not believe that women are “made” to be mothers, or that they’re naturally better parents simply by virtue of their sex, but the instinct thing is indisputable. Women are just biologically more “awake” then men.

Accordingly, I really wanted to...[read on]
Visit Courtney Maum's website.

The Page 69 Test: I Am Having So Much Fun Here Without You.

Writers Read: Courtney Maum.

The Page 69 Test: Touch by Courtney Maum.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Elizabeth Anderson

Elizabeth Anderson's new book is Private Government: How Employers Rule Our Lives (and Why We Don't Talk about It).

From her Q&A at the Princeton University Press blog:

Most contemporary discussions of work focus on wages, benefits, and unemployment. You want to focus on the power of employers over workers. How does that matter for workers today?

EA: Millions of workers in the United States labor under humiliating and abusive conditions. Most poultry workers, for example, aren’t allowed to use the bathroom during their shift, and are told to wear diapers to work. The vast majority of restaurant workers suffer from sexual harassment. Managers scream at warehouse workers when they can’t keep up with the grueling pace, or get injured on the job. They search workers’ bodies and personal property, and listen in on their conversations with co-workers. These conditions aren’t inherent in these types of work. The aren’t like the dangers that firefighters unavoidably face. They are imposed by employers. Employers can do this because they have power over workers and can threaten their livelihoods if they don’t submit. This kind of unaccountable power is objectionable even when workers are paid decently. Many professional and managerial workers who enjoy good pay are pressured by their bosses to contribute to political candidates their bosses prefer, and know that their contributions are being monitored. Workers up and down the organization chart are bullied by their bosses. It’s high time that we drew attention to these problems. Work doesn’t have to be this way.

You claim that current political discussions confuse government with the state. Why is that a point of confusion, and why is it important to distinguish the two?

EA: Politicians are constantly telling people that “the government” is interfering with their freedom. What they mean by “government” is the organs of the state—the Federal government, or agencies of the 50 states. This way of talking misleadingly suggests that if we only got the state out of our hair, we’d be perfectly free to lead our lives as we choose. It masks the fact that other kinds of governments, with unelected leaders, also rule our lives. The workplace is a type of government, and bosses are the rulers of this government. It’s important to...[read on]
Writers Read: Elizabeth Anderson (October 2010).

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Katherine Nichols

Katherine Nichols's new book is Deep Water: From the Swim Team to Drug Smuggling.

From her Q&A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: Why did you decide to write about the Coronado Company [a drug cartel that originated in Coronado, California, in the 1970s], and what did you discover in the course of your work on the book that especially surprised you?

A: Hearing tales of the Company was an inevitable part of growing up in Coronado, which inspired me to use the premise and create a fictionalized account. Based on that manuscript, Simon & Schuster offered me a contract for the nonfiction book. I did not expect to appreciate going beyond the criminal records of these multi-faceted men, and really trying to know them as human beings.

Q: How did you research the book, and were the participants usually willing to speak with you?

A: The research was difficult and elusive, so I tried to approach it in a structured manner by first obtaining archived court records. This required...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, June 19, 2017

V. Sanjay Kumar

V. Sanjay Kumar's latest novel is The Third Squad.

From his interview with Dyuit Basu for the Deccan Chronicle:

You usually set your books in specific city backdrops. How intrinsic is the city backdrop to your plot?

The city is everything. The city is the writer Italo Calvino’s muse as well. In his book Invisible Cities he said, ‘You take delight not in a city’s seven or seventy wonders, but in the answer it gives to a question of yours.’

I have questions, many of them, and they arise when I walk the streets of cities like Mumbai, Chennai, Delhi and Kolkata. I am an inadvertent explorer; I observe people and overhear conversations. These days, I measure my walks in sentences. Each sentence triggers...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Massimo Pigliucci

Massimo Pigliucci's new book is How To Be a Stoic: Using Ancient Philosophy To Live a Modern Life.

From his Q&A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: Why did you decide to write your new book?

A: It took me a number of years to experiment with several philosophies of life (Catholicism, Secular Humanism, Aristotelianism) before finding Stoicism, somewhat by accident -- because of a tweet from the University of Exeter that invited me to "celebrate Stoic Week."

Once I began studying and practicing Stoicism it immediately clicked; I saw that it has the potential -- at least for some people -- to dramatically alter the way you look at things and live your life.

I love writing, so the first thing I did was to compose a column for The New York Times about my ongoing investigation of Stoicism. It went viral, so I decided to begin publishing a blog that would allow me to share my experiences with others. From there the idea of writing a book was...[read on]
The Page 99 Test: Nonsense on Stilts.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, June 17, 2017

Patrick Millikin

Patrick Millikin is the editor of The Highway Kind: Tales of Fast Cars, Desperate Drivers and Dark Roads. From his Q&A with Steph Post:

SP: In the preface for the collection, you write about the American mythology of cars and how it developed in the transition from horse to automobile and owes much to both Westerns and crime fiction. I find this idea fascinating and I was hoping you could elaborate a little more on how America, cars and genre fiction all fit together.

PM: I think it was just a natural progression. When you think of the classic Western hero, it’s typically a loner on horseback, one who has largely abandoned the confines of the civilized world for the freedom of the frontier. The horse provided mobility, and in some ways I suppose it represents man’s domination of the natural world. Of course, there’s a distinctly American wanderlust that plays into this whole mythology. Think of Huck Finn lighting out for the territories, now that’s a classic American archetype. The West, or the idea of it, becomes such a huge part of the transition from the Western novel to early American crime fiction. California, and particularly Los Angeles, was touted by boosters as the Promised Land, where people could escape from their old lives and pursue the “American Dream.” So much of the early crime fiction, set in LA and elsewhere, explores the messy reality underneath this facade. Of course, the advent of cars played an enormous role in this. One thinks of Philip Marlowe cruising the mean streets in his car, or the anonymous road-side diners of James M. Cain. There are...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, June 16, 2017

Hena Khan

Hena Khan's new novel for kids is Amina's Voice. From the author's Q&A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: How did you come up for the idea for Amina’s Voice, and for your main character, Amina?

A: I wanted to write a middle grade novel that featured a Pakistani-American Muslim girl but focused on universal themes like friendship, dealing with change, and finding confidence.

Amina is a shy girl trying to find her voice, both literally and figuratively, and in many ways she represents parts of my own personality when I was that age.

I think there are a lot of stories out there nowadays with female protagonists who are outspoken, confident, go-getters and while I think they are important role models, it’s important for the quieter girls...[read on]
Visit Hena Khan's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Annie Hartnett

Annie Hartnett is a 2013 graduate of the MFA program at the University of Alabama, and was the 2013-2014 Writer-in-Residence for the Associates of the Boston Public Library. She currently teaches classes on the novel and the short story at Grub Street, an independent writing center in Boston.

Hartnett's debut novel is Rabbit Cake.

From her Q&A with Rachel Kaplan at Tin House:

RK: Animals are clearly very important to you. Did you have any formative experiences that shaped your relationship to them? Or, what’s a favorite memory of a childhood pet?

AH: Growing up, we had a dog and a rabbit. I loved the dog, but the rabbit was mine, not a family pet. His name was Rockafella Quintin Bunnybun, and he hated my older brother. Rocky would run at my brother with his mouth open, ready to bite, but Rocky let me hold him like a baby. And my brother always used to joke that Rocky ran a drug cartel out of my bedroom. We were weird kids.

RK: If you weren’t already married, which literary figure would you trade vows with?

AH: Oh god, I’d never marry a writer. But I’m trying to think of a juicy answer… I think it would have to be a woman… Amy Hempel? We could collect dogs and she is very...[read on]
Visit Annie Hartnett's website.

The Page 69 Test: Rabbit Cake.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Sarah Scoles

Sarah Scoles's new book is Making Contact: Jill Tarter and the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence. From her Q&A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: Why did you decide to write this book about astronomer Jill Tarter?

A: If I’m being totally honest, I set out to write a novel, and found I wasn’t great with plot, so I decided to think about a nonfiction topic I could bring storytelling to, without having to come up with the events myself.

I had watched [the movie] Contact when I was a young teenager, and was fascinated by the topic. I worked at a telescope in West Virginia and in Puerto Rico, and was mulling it over, doing research on SETI and Jill. She was the basis for the main character in Contact.

She had done a lot of interviews, but the books written about the search for extraterrestrial intelligence were 20 years old, and no one had told the full story of Jill’s life.

Q: So what happened when you approached her?

A: It took her a few months to return my email. She asked me to send an outline. We met in person at a conference, and I...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Marc Fisher

Marc Fisher is a senior editor at the Washington Post and the author, with Michael Kranish, of Trump Revealed: The Definitive Biography of the 45th President. From his Q&A with Isaac Chotiner for Slate:

OK, then let’s talk about the present. Is Trump self-aware about the fact that his presidency is not going well, and if so, what do you think he makes of that?

I think he has a remarkable capacity for denial, and I think there have been very few occasions over the course of his life where he has been slapped in the face with his failure, whether it was his bankruptcies, the failures of any number of his businesses, the failures of two marriages. In each case, he has an almost admirable ability to move through life as if those losses and failures hadn’t happened, and to portray them not in a crass political spin sort of way but in a really gut-level, deeply felt way as things that didn’t bother him and things that he didn’t even acknowledge.

By living in the moment rather than dwelling on the past or even acknowledging the past, he has the ability to keep going. People who were with him when his casinos were going down, when he was suffering through these bankruptcies, and being in this humiliating position of groveling before bankers, thought, “He’s going to come in the next day utterly crushed and not willing to face people, and humiliated,” and it never happened. He came in just as bright and bullish as he’d been the day before. That capacity serves him well I think in some ways, but it also divorces him from reality in some ways. That, I think, is what people around him have come to find...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, June 12, 2017

Sadeqa Johnson

Sadeqa Johnson's new book is And Then There Was Me: A Novel of Friendship, Secrets and Lies.

From her Q&A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: For much of the book your main character, Bea, is pregnant, serving as a surrogate for her husband's cousin. Why did you decide to include surrogacy as a theme in the book?

A: I decided to include surrogacy because it's not a topic that comes up a lot even though it happens more than we know. When I started researching the topic I was fascinated with the information that I found and wanted to really share that experience with readers. Bea carrying Lonnie's cousin's baby also gave her another level of sainthood that I liked. Again, putting everyone's needs before her own.

Q: Another theme is bulimia. Why did you choose to incorporate that in the novel?

A: It wasn't a conscious effort to include bulimia. I was writing the first draft of the story and Bea threw up on my page. I stopped for a second and I could feel the hairs raise up on my forearms. I wrote down, Bea are you bulimic? And Bea said...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Julian Zelizer

Julian Zelizer is a professor of history and public affairs at Princeton University, and the author, most recently, of The Fierce Urgency of Now: Lyndon Johnson, Congress, and the Battle for the Great Society. From his Q&A with Morton Keller for The Atlantic:

Keller:...[I] continue to take exception to your tendency to see our politics today as a confrontation between a generally reasonable Democratic-left and an out-of-control Republican right. To criticize the tone of the over-the-top “resistance” to Trump is not to ignore his manifest defects. Those defects do not justify the increasingly obscene, out-of-control quality of that criticism, however complicit he was in injecting those strains into our political discourse.

The closest comparison in my historian's recollection was the ugly, obscene innuendo that the unreconstructed right applied to FDR in the 1930s. Before some of our more excitable knee-jerk readers accuse me of equating FDR and Trump, I assure them that I have no such intent in mind.

My point is this: I foresee no upgrading of our current degraded political dialogue until both sides pull back, which I don't expect to happen until one or the other of them concludes that it costs them more than it gains. The reaction to the Kathy Griffin photograph is encouraging; the success of the more scurrilous late-night talk show hosts, and Trump's continuing unpresidential blogging, is not.

Aside from that, we seem to be in general accord on this matter.


Zelizer: I still think that the alliance between the right and the mainstream of the GOP has become much closer than the left and the Democratic leadership. It's fair to distinguish. Everything is not equivalent. It is difficult to imagine Democrats nominating anyone as far out as Trump. But in the context of the Tea Party generation—Trump made sense.

The opposition to Trump, who ran a campaign that revolved around xenophobia, nativism, Islamophobia, sexism and a real hostility to so many segments of the nation is very different than the opposition to FDR. The current opposition is driven by serious and legitimate concerns about the possibility of wrongdoing in the election and obstruction of justice that are not simply partisan or ideological. Trump is...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, June 10, 2017

Penrose Halson

Penrose Halson is the author of The Marriage Bureau: The True Story of How Two Matchmakers Arranged Love in Wartime London.

From her Q&A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: Of all the stories you tell in the book, is there one that's a particular favorite?

A: This is almost impossible to answer - I found them all totally engrossing (and there are many others, equally riveting, which could have been included only in a book twice as long!).

I still laugh when I re-read the funny ones, such as Miss Bud and her bust bodices (Chapter 11, Sex, Tragedy, Success and Bust Bodices) and feel a pang for Martha, who was raped (also Chapter 11). But if I have to choose one, it is the poignant story from Chapter 17, Loneliness and Heartbreak.

Archibald Bullin-Archer, from an upper-class family to whose standards of success he does not conform, is introduced by Dorothy Harbottle, a middle-aged, tender-hearted interviewer at the marriage bureau, to Ivy Bailey.

Miss Harbottle knows they are right for each other, although Ivy is only a shop assistant, of a lower class. Archie and Ivy, both modest, shy, sensitive, inexperienced, and crushingly lonely, do indeed rejoice in one another, and decide to marry. They...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, June 9, 2017

Gail Godwin

Gail Godwin's new novel is Grief Cottage.

From her Q&A with Caroline Leavitt:

Do you remember the moment the novel was conceived?

I remember the exact moment. I was walking on the beach at Isle of Palms. Early morning. I saw some little shell creatures burrowing into the wet sand to keep from being eaten by the birds. I thought: "Everything seems to be sending me a message. Some good, some not." I heard it as the boy Marcus's thought. He had lived in my mind for some years. First as a boy who has lost his family and goes to live with a guardian at the beach. He keeps sane from grief by discovering two old people sitting on the porch of a dilapidated beach house. They are interested in him and knows no. He visits them every day. Only much later does he realize they were ghosts.

Then when I was writing Flora (2013), Helen and her guardian Flora are listening to a spooky radio program in 1945. I made up a boy going to live with a crusty aunt who makes beach art to support herself. He goes for long walks and discovers an old ghost couple living in the ruins of a burned down cottage.

It wasn't until Grief Cottage that I began to understand Marcus's unusual history with his late mother, and appreciate his complexities. And the inhabitant of the ruined cottage was now the ghost of a...[read on]
Visit Gail Godwin's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, June 8, 2017

Stephanie Powell Watts

Stephanie Powell Watts's new novel is No One Is Coming to Save Us. From her Q&A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: No One Is Coming to Save Us is billed as a retelling of The Great Gatsby. How do you see the relationship between the two, and how did you come up with the idea for your novel?

A: Deborah, thanks so much for spending the time with me. I love The Great Gatsby and I always have. In no way is my book a retelling of that story. The characters are all different and the stories are vastly different. I have joked that except for the characters, setting, race, time period and language, my book is identical to Gatsby!

Where I think my book is calling on Gatsby or in conversation with Gatsby is in the shared themes. My book is about Americans in a difficult economic landscape trying to find their place in terms of class and community position and family.

My characters are just one generation from being very poor. The memory of that poverty lingers in their thinking. Most of the characters are just a generation from segregation in the south. The vestiges of that difficult past are everywhere.

My characters like Jay Gatsby and like Nick are strivers and believers, but for some significant reason feel like they don’t belong even in the world they were born into. I am...[read on]
Visit Stephanie Powell Watts's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

David Joy

David Joy is the author of the Edgar nominated novel Where All Light Tends To Go (Putnam, 2015), as well as the novels The Weight Of This World (Putnam, 2017) and The Line That Held Us (Putnam, TBD). He is also the author of the memoir Growing Gills: A Fly Fisherman's Journey (Bright Mountain Books, 2011), which was a finalist for the Reed Environmental Writing Award and the Ragan Old North State Award.

From Joy's Q&A with Barbara DeMarco-Barrett:

Are you imagining a reader, or readers, for your work as you write?

In the old days, I would’ve said, No, I never imagine the reader. Toni Morrison has that famous line that, “If there’s a book that you want to read, but it hasn’t been written yet, then you must write it.” That was how both of my first novels came about. With the first, I was obsessed with Daniel Woodrell. I was especially obsessed with his novels Tomato Red and The Death of Sweet Mister. I remember reading Tomato Red over and over, probably a dozen or more times over the course of a month, trying to figure out what he was doing, how he made the story move that fast. When I sat down to write Where All Light Tends To Go it was because I wanted another Daniel Woodrell novel and one didn’t exist. I wrote the kind of story I was yearning to read. With the second novel, it was that same sort of thing. I think I was obsessed with Donald Ray Pollock and Cormac McCarthy and Larry Brown at the time. I think The Weight Of This World came out of that. It came out of that same necessity of having nothing left to read and having to write the story I wanted to read. With both of those books, I didn’t care whether anyone else liked it or not. I wrote those books for myself. I’m glad other people enjoy them, but if they didn’t, it wouldn’t have mattered. I’d have still written them.

Now for why I set this answer up this way, when it came time to write the third novel, I had one book out in the world from a major publishing house and the second was coming down the pipe. At that point I was sitting on the biggest stage in the world as far as writing goes and it was impossible for me not to notice the readers. It’s impossible not to care what people think when they’re talking about it in the New York Times. It was impossible not to wonder why some books take off and others don’t. The business changed that for me. So I wrote a novel where...[read on]
Visit David Joy's website.

The Page 69 Test: Where All Light Tends to Go.

My Book, The Movie: Where All Light Tends to Go.

The Page 69 Test: The Weight of This World.

Writers Read: David Joy.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Ellen Emerson White

Ellen Emerson White's new YA novel is A Season of Daring Greatly. From her Q&A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: How did you come up with the idea for A Season of Daring Greatly and for your character Jill?

A: I'm a lifelong baseball fan, and do a lot of sports photography, professionally and otherwise. I also coach a 15U (male) baseball team in East Harlem. So, I'm around the game a lot--and am almost invariably the only woman around. So, I guess it was inevitable that I would end up writing about all of that at some point.

Jill fits the profile of the kind of woman I think could actually break the professional barrier--a tall, left-handed pitcher, who works off a plus-change and curve, seems like the most plausible fit to me.

Also, frankly, I found Jill amusing, and liked it that she doesn't take herself too seriously. No female player is going to be able to play professionally, without having a sense of humor.

The title of the book comes directly from the famous "in the arena" speech, which was given by Teddy...[read on]
Visit Ellen Emerson White's website.

Coffee with a Canine: Ellen Emerson White & Patrick.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, June 5, 2017

Al Franken

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

From the transcript of Franken's interview with NPR's Terry Gross:

GROSS: This is FRESH AIR. And if you're just joining us, my guest is Senator Al Franken. He has a new memoir that's called "Al Franken, Giant Of The Senate." So you write that one of the things that shocked you the most was after President Obama was elected, Mitch McConnell said the single most important thing we want to achieve is for President Obama to be a one-term president.

FRANKEN: Right.

GROSS: Do you feel like that changed the tone in the Senate in any way?

FRANKEN: Well, yeah. I mean, I wasn't shocked that he thought it. I was shocked that he said it. And I write about the - I call it the curdling of Washington. Which was that Mitch chose basically to filibuster pretty much everything and to slow things down. That was about slowing things down so that we could not - he'd filibuster somebody. And we'd get 60 votes for cloture. And then we'd have to wait 30 hours of debate till we could vote. These are the rules. And then we'd have a vote on a judge. And the judge would get voted 99 to 1.

So they were filibustering things that they were not against. To overcome a filibuster, you have to take a lot of time. And so this really soured, made it hard to get things done. But McConnell wanted to defeat, to deprive Obama of achievements. That's how he did it. And it really did sour things very badly. And we still live with...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, June 4, 2017

Augusta Scattergood

Augusta Scattergood is a former librarian turned book reviewer turned middle-grade author. Her books include Glory Be and The Way to Stay in Destiny.

Her latest book is Making Friends with Billy Wong.

From Scattergood's Q&A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: How did you come up with the idea for your most recent book, Making Friends with Billy Wong?

A: The town I grew up in had a large number of grocery stores run by Chinese Americans. That didn’t seem at all unusual to me!

Then I read an essay by one of my high school friends about what it felt like to grow up there as a young Chinese American during the Civil Rights era. It was powerful. When I read it, I felt there was a story and a history to share with middle-grade readers.

Q: You tell the story from the perspectives of two characters, Azalea and Billy. Why did you decide to tell Billy's story in verse?

A: Billy’s chapters are more poetic than poetry! They are letters, lists, notes. I worked so hard on those pieces and I hope they give a sense of what Billy’s world was like.

I relied heavily on my friends for advice, for their own words. But it was hard to capture the southern voice of a Chinese boy in straight narrative. Then one day I sat with a legal pad under a tree and started doodling, and Billy’s...[read on]
Learn more about the book and author at Augusta Scattergood's website and blog.

The Page 69 Test: The Way to Stay in Destiny.

The Page 69 Test: Making Friends with Billy Wong.

Writers Read: Augusta Scattergood (September 2016).

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, June 3, 2017

Richard Dawkins

Richard Dawkins, one of nonfiction's bad boys, is the author of The Magic of Reality: How We Know What's Really True and other books. From the transcript of his May 2017 interview with NPR's Scott Simon:

SIMON: I want to - look, I respect atheists and atheism. But I want to pick up a nice argument we used to have every couple of years with Christopher Hitchens, your friend. And that's - you can respect atheism. I've covered a lot of wars, famines and tragedies. And it seems to me, truly, every theater of suffering I've ever been to, there is a dauntless nun, priest, clergy or religious person who was working very selflessly and bravely there for the good of human beings. And I don't run into organized groups of atheists who do this.

DAWKINS: Well, there aren't enough of them perhaps. I mean, of course, I don't deny that there are a lot of religious people who do good things, including in the ashes of war. There are a lot of good people in the world. Some of them are religious. Some of them are not.

The Center for Inquiry, which I'm now associated with - my foundation is now associated with, does an enormous amount where it can. For example, we have a program called Secular Rescue, where we go in there and, literally, rescue people in danger of their lives because they are threatened because they're apostates or blasphemous and are threatened.

You know, there are many countries in the world where apostasy and blasphemy are punishable by death. I think it would be very unfair to suggest that there's any imbalance between the number - the amount of good that's done by religious people and the amount of good that is done by non-religious people.

SIMON: I wouldn't want to suggest that. But I do wonder, am I just not seeing the world correctly to see large numbers of well-motivated atheist lending their lives to trying to better the world? Or they're - if I might put it this way, are they more concerned about just being right intellectually?

DAWKINS: Oh, I don't think so at all. Now, I think maybe, if I may say so, you haven't looked hard....[read on]
Richard Dawkins is Lee Child's hero (outside of literature).

Learn about Richard Dawkins's five favorite books.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, June 2, 2017

Leah Kaminsky

Leah Kaminsky, a physician and award-winning writer, is Poetry & Fiction Editor at the Medical Journal of Australia. Her debut novel, The Waiting Room, is followed by We’re all Going to Die. She conceived and edited Writer MD, a collection of prominent physician-writers, which starred on Booklist. She is co-author of Cracking the Code, with the Damiani family. She holds an MFA in Creative Writing from Vermont College of Fine Arts.

From Kaminsky's Q&A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: How did you come up with the idea for The Waiting Room, and for your main character, Dina?

A: The book has been with me for many years. In my 20s I wanted to write a book about my mother’s war experiences as a teenager in the Lodz ghetto, Auschwitz and finally, Bergen Belsen. She was the sole survivor of her entire family.

After she died I only remembered a handful of the stories she had told me and, sadly, there was no one left to ask.

It took me a long time to build on those snippets of my mother’s narrative via fiction. I wanted to create a character who, like me, had been a reluctant listener in her youth. She is named after Dina’s cat in Alice in Wonderland, who...[read on]
Visit Leah Kaminsky's website.

My Book, The Movie: The Waiting Room.

Writers Read: Leah Kaminsky (November 2016).

The Page 69 Test: The Waiting Room.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, June 1, 2017

Ben H. Winters

Ben H. Winters's latest novel is Underground Airlines.

From his Q&A with a group of high school students in Katy, Texas:

How would you respond to criticisms that say that this is not your story to tell, as a white person?

I absolutely understand and respect those readers who view a work like this with skepticism, given A) a long and ugly history of white artists representing black characters in gross ways, and B) a long and ugly history of people of color not being afforded the opportunities to tell their own stories. I only hope that if people do actually read this book, they discover that A) I approached my characters and my story with as much knowledge and research and respect as I was able, in order to NOT be one of those gross voices; and B) this book is not me as a white person trying to “pretend to be black”, or claim authority on black history, but rather me as a white person trying to be honest about American history—to do what all white Americans should do more of, which is to reckon with and take responsibility for a long history of systematic racism against nonwhites.

I do take deep exception to the idea that I, as a white person, could never possibly credibly write a black character—to suggest that whites and blacks are so different that the act of fictional empathy could never bridge the gap is...[read on]
Learn more about the book and author at the official Ben H. Winters website.

My Book, The Movie: The Last Policeman.

The Page 69 Test: The Last Policeman.

The Page 69 Test: Countdown City.

Writers Read: Ben Winters (September 2014).

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Benjamin Reiss

Benjamin Reiss's new book is Wild Nights: How Taming Sleep Created Our Restless World. From his Q&A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: How did you become interested in the topic of sleep, and why did you decide to write this book?

A: I’m attracted to curiosities, and there’s really nothing more curious than sleep. I’ve written previous books about freak shows and insane asylums, and in a certain light sleep is a universal experience freakishness and madness.

I was also interested in the challenge of writing history from the point of view of unconsciousness: what does the world look like when we adopt the point of view of the sleeper, or the nervous wreck who can’t sleep?

Q: You write that “whether or not our society is suffering a significant decline in the quantity of sleep, we seem to be experiencing an erosion in the quality of sleep.” Why is that?

A: It’s arguable whether our society sleeps less now than in previous eras. We have all sorts of advantages that were previously unavailable: fireproof homes, comfortable mattresses, pest control systems, police forces, alarm systems, and even modern dentistry. (Ever tried to sleep with a toothache?)

But it’s indisputable that we...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Jeffrey Gettleman

Jeffrey Gettleman's new book is Love, Africa: A Memoir of Romance, War, and Survival.

From the transcript of his interview with Fareed Zakaria:

ZAKARIA: So when people think of Africa, they think -- the images, I think, are mostly still poverty and conflict. What do you think of when you think of Africa?

GETTLEMAN: I think of some of that, too. Unfortunately, the states in Africa are among the weakest, poorest states in the world, and that breeds all sorts of problems that we don't see anywhere else, like famines, for instance. Where else in the world do we have a problem of famine in the 21st century? In Africa, unfortunately, that's happening right now.

One of the bigger stories I covered was the Somali pirates. Everybody loved the pirates. They, kind of, represented modern-day outlaws. Where else do you have modern-day pirates to that extent like in Africa?

But there's -- there's so much more. And you, kind of, laid it out in your introduction. It is one of the most physically blessed parts of the world I've ever seen. There are so many places that look like nowhere else on earth, the pristine environment, the thick jungle, clear lakes and rivers, untouched...[read on]
Visit Jeffrey Gettleman's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, May 29, 2017

Benjamin Ludwig

Benjamin Ludwig's new novel is Ginny Moon. From the author's Q&A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: You've said Ginny Moon was based on your own experiences as an adoptive parent. How did you come up with the character of Ginny, and was it difficult to capture her voice?

A: Ginny’s voice came to me fully formed one night after my daughter’s Special Olympics basketball practice. It wasn’t my daughter’s voice at all, but something much more intense and fast, and very, very honest in a way that was sometimes funny, sometimes tragic.

Once I heard the voice, I sat down to write what Ginny was saying – and at that point I could barely keep up with her! Aside from her voice, Ginny’s background is inspired by the many foster and adopted kids I’ve met over the years, mostly as a public-school teacher.

In my experience, every child who isn’t living with his parent wants to somehow get back to his mom and dad. Our parents are our origin, and if our origin is a mystery, then we need to...[read on]
Visit Benjamin Ludwig's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, May 28, 2017

Benjamin Whitmer

Benjamin Whitmer was born and raised on back-to-the-land communes and counterculture enclaves ranging from Southern Ohio to Upstate New York. One of his earliest and happiest memories is of standing by the side of a country road with his mother, hitchhiking to parts unknown. Since then, he’s been a factory grunt, a vacuum salesman, a convalescent, a high-school dropout, a graduate student, a semi-truck loader, an activist, a kitchen-table gunsmith, a squatter, a college professor, a dishwasher, a technical writer and a petty thief.

His first novel, Pike, was published in America in 2010 by PM Press, and in France in 2012 by Éditions Gallmeister. Satan is Real: The Ballad of the Louvin Brothers, a memoir co-written with Charlie Louvin, was released by Igniter Books in 2012.

Whitmer's second novel is Cry Father.

From the author's Q&A with Danyelle C. Overbo at Fiction Unbound:

DCO: Your books are considered neo noir or "hard-boiled" fiction. How does this genre encourage the sort of "anti-hero" characters that are sometimes considered unlikeable?

BW: My first two novels get called noir and I agree with that, for the most part. The definition of noir is pretty simple to my mind. It’s Dennis Lehane’s definition: Noir is “working class tragedy.” And in tragedy, the characters have to be tremendously flawed. That’s built into what tragedy is. You can’t find me the blandly likable protagonist in Macbeth or Oedipus Rex. They’re not there because that’s not what the genre does, and those aren’t the questions it addresses. It’s a genre that does a different kind of work.

I’m not sure there’s really any place for it in the American crime fiction genre. Most of what’s sold in the US as crime fiction is really superhero fiction. It’s just these superheroes are detectives or cops and get the occasional bourbon hangover or whatever. And that’s nothing I have any interest in doing. I like reading some of it, and think there’s some great writing in the genre, but it’s not my bag.

DCO: What do you like about writing characters who are flawed in this way?

BW: It’s not really something I like or dislike. I mean, I’m...[read on]
The Page 69 Test: Cry Father.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, May 27, 2017

Elizabeth Wein

Elizabeth Wein was born in New York City, grew up abroad, and currently lives in Scotland with her husband and two children. She is an avid flyer of small planes. She also holds a PhD in Folklore from the University of Pennsylvania. Her books include the acclaimed Code Name Verity, Rose Under Fire, and Black Dove, White Raven.

Wein's new novel is The Pearl Thief.

From the author's Q&A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: Why did you decide to write this prequel to your novel Code Name Verity?

A: So many reasons!

I’ve always wanted to write a mystery. When Code Name Verity won the Edgar Award, I was thrilled to become a member of the Mystery Writers of America.

I am so proud of that Edgar, and for some time now I’ve felt that I sort of owe it to the MWA to produce a classic mystery novel – I mean, one that isn’t in disguise as a thriller (Code Name Verity) or historical fantasy (my third novel, The Sunbird, was also nominated for an Edgar, though it didn’t make the short list).

I really love 1930s mysteries, and Dorothy L. Sayers in particular is one of my favorite authors. I thought first about setting a story in the 1930s… and then thought it would be fun to set it in Scotland… do you see where this is going?

Then I thought, hmmm, Julie (one of Code Name Verity’s two narrators) would have been in her teens in Scotland in the 1930s… wouldn’t it be fun to make this her story?

Another reason I decided to make this a prequel to Code Name Verity is because...[read on]
Visit Elizabeth Wein's website.

The Page 69 Test: Black Dove, White Raven.

The Page 69 Test: The Pearl Thief.

Writers Read: Elizabeth Wein.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, May 26, 2017

Melodie Winawer

Melodie Winawer's new novel is The Scribe of Siena.

From her Q&A at the Columbia University Medical Center website:

Q: You are a full-time researcher and a practicing neurologist. How did you find time to write a novel?

A: Oh my God, I absolutely have no idea. In addition to being a neurologist and a neuroscientist, I run two—about to be three—courses in the medical school, and I have three children. They were 2, 2, and 5 when I started writing this book, and now they’re 9, 9, and 12.

The short answer is I wrote on the subway a lot. I have a three-hour total commute. I live very far into Brooklyn and I figured out how to travel at a time when I could get a seat. I have occasionally crouched, when I’m desperate, in a corner with my laptop on my knees. I’ve done a lot of my writing—grants, papers, and fiction—on trains. I find that I’m sort of divorced from time and I don’t know what’s going on around me—that can be a good thing. I disappear into whatever I’m writing and then look up and I’m at 168th Street. Or, sometimes, I’ll miss my stop entirely.

Q: Does medicine make an appearance in the book?

A: The protagonist is a neurosurgeon. She has an unusual degree of empathy, which used to help her in her work. She literally feels what her patients feel, and it made her a superb doctor. But that empathy begins to take over in a way that...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Hala Alyan

Hala Alyan's new novel is Salt Houses. From her Q&A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: You've said that your novel started as a short story. At what point did you decide you would write a novel about your characters, the Yacoub family?

A: I don’t know that I ever actually made the active decision to write a novel. The very term terrified me and whenever I described what I was writing, I used the phrase “longer project.”

Rather, I think that I just became very curious about the other family members and was excited to try to give them each a chance to tell their story. I kept chasing that desire until, eventually, I had accidentally written a novel!

Q: You write from the viewpoints of many different members of the family. Were there particular characters you particularly enjoyed writing about?

A: I loved writing Linah’s chapter, because the perspective of a child is such a challenging thing to replicate. I also always enjoyed writing about Alia and Souad: their decades-long bickering was always enjoyable to...[read on]
Visit Hala Alyan's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Chris Kraus

Chris Kraus, a writer who began her career in experimental film, is the author of I Love Dick, a novel based on her own life. From her Q&A with Rachel Cooke at the Guardian:

Dick Hebdige is said to be “appalled” by the way you used him in the book. Do you ever feel bad about that?

I never identified him, revealed his surname or the name of his books. So I don’t feel that I’ve done anything wrong. He identified himself in his zeal to denounce the book. I’m not sure why he was so appalled. Really, the whole thing was pretty benign and I would have been pleased to acknowledge him as a collaborator, if he’d wanted it.

Younger women have acclaimed you as a feminist writer. Is this how you see yourself?

I didn’t see myself as a feminist, capital “F”, when I was writing I Love Dick. I thought of myself as a gendered person – a woman – who was writing a book. Those issues of cultural presence, who gets to speak, are important to me. But class is as significant as gender in I Love Dick. Class is...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Colleen Oakley

Colleen Oakley is an Atlanta-based writer and author of the novel Before I Go. Her articles, essays, and interviews have been featured in The New York Times, Ladies’ Home Journal, Marie Claire, Women’s Health, Redbook, Parade, and Martha Stewart Weddings. Before she was a freelance writer, Oakley was editor in chief of Women’s Health & Fitness and senior editor at Marie Claire. Close Enough to Touch is her second novel.

From Oakley's Q&A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: How did you come up with the idea for Close Enough to Touch?

A: As a health journalist, I wrote a few articles about the astronomic rise in allergies the past 20 years— and I was fascinated by the fact that experts and researchers, while they have their theories, really have no idea what’s caused it.

As a novelist, I knew there was a lot there to explore, but I, of course, wanted to take it one step further— what if you were allergic to other people? How would that affect someone, emotionally, to not ever be able to be hugged by their mother as a child, or to hold hands with their first love? Could you even fall in love?

Q: You write the book from the alternating viewpoints of your characters Jubilee and Eric. Did you always plan to do that, or did you originally think of telling it from only one perspective?

When I started I was only planning to write it from...[read on]
Visit Colleen Oakley's website.

Writers Read: Colleen Oakley (March 2017).

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, May 22, 2017

Katherine Heiny

Katherine Heiny's new novel is Standard Deviation.

From the transcript of her Q&A with NPR's Scott Simon:

SCOTT SIMON, HOST: Audra is an artist who's charming, endearing, spontaneous and effusive. Her husband, Graham, is a buttoned-down businessman and a man of routine. What he cherishes about his second wife is also exactly what sometimes exhausts him. Then, his first wife, Elspeth, re-enters their lives. She is composed, deliberate and organized. Her arrival causes both Audra and Graham to reflect on the spark that grew into their love and if it ever flickers a little in the winds of real life. "Standard Deviation" is the first novel from Katherine Heiny, an acclaimed short-story writer, and she joins us in our studios. Thanks so much for being with us.

KATHERINE HEINY: Thank you. It's my pleasure.

SIMON: When the novel opens, the couple, Audra and Graham, are shopping an upscale supermarket in New York. They have a happy life, don't they?

HEINY: I think they have a very good life. The novel is kind of about how much they value what they have.

SIMON: Yeah, and each other, for that matter, when all is said and done.

HEINY: Absolutely.

SIMON: They have a son named Matthew who is utterly devoted to origami. And Matthew, their son, melts my heart. But a son like this can be...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Ed Tarkington

Ed Tarkington is the author of Only Love Can Break Your Heart. From his Q&A with Steph Post:

Steph Post: I'd like to go ahead and start with the coming-of-age theme running through Only Love Can Break Your Heart. At its core, the novel is about Paul, and then his younger half-brother Rocky, coming of age, exploring their identities and learning their places in the world. In this day and age, most novels dealing with these themes are considered YA, but I definitely felt that Only Love Can Break Your Heart was written for adults. Who was your intended audience with the novel and why?

Ed Tarkington: I try not to think too much about audience when I’m writing. I begin with a character and an emotion or conflict and just go from there. Only Love Can Break Your Heart came from a deep-rooted desire to resolve or make sense of some difficult and disillusioning events from my own childhood, so it just seemed natural to tell a story that began in the narrator’s early years and encompassed the ensuing process of growth and reckoning. I think most writers are in search of insight or epiphany regarding the people and events or circumstances that gnaw at them. I still have a fairly romantic view of where writing comes from. The first audience is me. If the text feels true on the page, I figure maybe the people who read the same books I read and love will be moved by the story I’m telling.

Regarding the YA thing: I have to admit, the concept was not something I’d thought about at all until I started traveling to promote Only Love Can Break Your Heart and have met some YA writers and seen them in action at trade shows and festivals and so forth. The YA writers I’ve met are amazing people, and amazingly talented. I know a few novelists who are intentionally writing in that genre and producing incredible work for younger readers. But I know others who, like me and probably you too, just wrote the best book they could about the things they cared deeply about, and then an agent or editor said “we could do well if we pitched this as YA.”

If “Coming of Age” is a YA theme, then The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn is a YA novel. So is...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, May 20, 2017

Chevy Stevens

Chevy Stevens's novels include Still Missing, Never Knowing, That Night, and Never Let You Go.

From her Q&A with Heather Gudenkauf:

Heather Gudenkauf: Your sixth novel, NEVER LET YOU GO, was recently released to rave reviews. It’s the story of a woman and her child who escape an abusive relationship and eleven years later the threat returns. I was immediately drawn into the story of Lindsey and Sophie Nash – you have such a gift for developing real, relatable characters. It’s the age old chicken and the egg story – do the characters come to you first or does the plot?

Chevy Stevens: It’s been different for each book. With STILL MISSING, the premise came to me when I was a real estate agent, working all alone at an open house. I imagined all the terrible thingsthat could happen, and somehow it began to evolve into a book idea. For months I thought about it in the back of my mind. One day I “heard” the character talking in a sarcastic, tough voice. She was telling the story to someone and quickly I realized she was talking to a therapist. Annie wasn’t a big stretch of the imagination because she was a lot like me at that time in my life–dark, unhappy, and trying to find her way through her pain. My third book ALWAYS WATCHING was inspired by Nadine, the therapist from my first two books. I thought she deserved her own story and I wanted to know more about her. NEVER LET YOU GO was an unusual situation for me. I had been working on a different book for nine months and it wasn’t coming together. After talking it over with my editor, I decided to set it to the side and start something new, but I was nervous about finding something fresh, something I could connect to. My editor and I discussed my strengths and the kind of characters I write the best, which so far seem to be blue-collar, hard-working women, who end up in terrible situations and have to use their inner strength, courage, and intelligence to survive. We discussed some jobs that are difficult and not always appreciated, like cleaning houses, and what would be really creepy to find if you were working alone. Then I started thinking about...[read on]
Visit the official Chevy Stevens website.

My Book, The Movie: Still Missing.

The Page 69 Test: That Night.

My Book, The Movie: That Night.

The Page 69 Test: Never Let You Go.

Writers Read: Chevy Stevens.

My Book, The Movie: Never Let You Go.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, May 19, 2017

Daniel Ziblatt

Daniel Ziblatt is the author of Conservative Parties and the Birth of Democracy. From his Q&A with Matt O'Brien at the Washington Post:

What about the rise of cable news—especially the influence Fox News seems to exert on the Republican Party? There were a lot of uncomfortable parallels for me between that and the story you tell about Germany's big media mogul of the 1920s, Alfred Hugenberg, taking their Conservative Party over and pushing it far to the right.

Absolutely. We tend to think that the media technological revolutions we're living through now are the first ones ever, but similar kinds of revolutions took place in the past. And the guys who were at the forefront of those could deploy them for political purposes. So in Weimar Germany, the equivalent kind of media revolution was the emergence of the news wire. That let Hugenberg create a common message across a bunch of newspapers throughout the country, and integrate this right-wing radical message into one. He owned these, and then also took over the party.

The Republican media-industrial complex is a similar thing. I think it's an indicator of the degree to which the party is weak, that you have these outside forces shaping the message of the party and putting real pressure on it. And, again, I can imagine people saying, “Oh, that's so elitist to say that the party should have control over the message,” and I think in some sense that maybe it is. But I'm just trying to point out that there's a cost to this fragmentation.

What about the other big piece of this puzzle: campaign finance?

Well, as the party has lost its monopoly over money, this means that ...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Sandeep Jauhar

Sandeep Jauhar was a Ph.D. student in physics at Berkeley when a girlfriend’s incurable illness made him yearn for a profession where he could affect people’s lives directly. Once situated at a New York teaching hospital, Jauhar wrestled with his decision to go into medicine and discovered a gradual but deepening disillusionment with his induction into the profession. Jauhar’s conception of doctoring and medicine changed during those first eighteen months as he asked all the hard questions about medicine today that laypeople are asking—and reached satisfying and often surprising conclusions about the human side of modern medicine. Today he is a thriving cardiologist and the director of the Heart Failure Program at Long Island Jewish Medical Center. He writes regularly for the New York Times. He lives with his wife and their son and daughter on Long Island.

Jauhar's 2014 book is Doctored: The Disillusionment of an American Physician.

From the transcript of his 2014 interview with Fresh Air's Terry Gross:

GROSS: So because early in your career as a cardiologist you were have trouble making ends meet, you basically tried moonlighting. And you worked for a private practice. And the financial and work arrangement that you had with the head of the practice opened up your eyes to what some of the problems are that doctors in private practice face. So tell us a little bit about the work and financial arrangement that you had there.

JAUHAR: Well, a lot of academic physicians actually do moonlight to supplement their salaries. And I was introduced to a cardiologist who was mainly working in Queens and started working for him both in the hospital by seeing some of his patients in the emergency room for which I was paid a fixed supplement to my salary. And I also worked in his private office as well as satellite offices.

And so I would go on the weekends, see patients, and if the patient's needed cardiac testing, those patients would be referred back to his main office to get stress tests or echocardiograms. And what was made very clear from the beginning is that seeing patients was not financially that rewarding for the practice because seeing a patient, spending 20, 30 minutes with a patient might be reimbursed $80, $90. But sending a patient for a nuclear stress test was much more profitable. A nuclear stress test at the time when I started working was reimbursed roughly $800 to $900 and an electrocardiogram was reimbursed $350 to $400. So the whole point of the practice was to see patients - as many as possible - and order as many tests.

Now I wasn't ordering any of those tests, but I was - I mean, unless the patient really needed it. But I was supervising the stress tests that had been ordered by this physician who I was working with as well as some of his physician assistants. So even though I wasn't ordering the tests, I was in the office while these tests were being performed. And I felt very dirty about it.

GROSS: You felt that a lot of these tests were really unnecessary?

JAUHAR: Well, they were unnecessary. There's no question....[read on]
Learn more about the author and his work at Sandeep Jauhar's website.

The Page 69 Test: Intern: A Doctor’s Initiation.

The Page 99 Test: Doctored.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Renée Rosen

Renée Rosen's latest novel is Windy City Blues.

From her Q&A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: Why did you decide to write about the Chess brothers and the Chicago blues in your new novel?

A: This was definitely a group decision made by my editor, my agent and myself. We all knew that we wanted to do one more Chicago historical novel and we needed a compelling anchor or backdrop.

It was my editor who first said, “What about the blues?” I honestly didn’t know that much about Chicago Blues at the time so I did some preliminary research and it quickly became apparent that any story about the blues had to include the Chess brothers.

I couldn’t have dreamed up better characters than Leonard and Phil Chess. I think what’s so remarkable about their story is that here you have two white Jewish guys, with zero musical abilities of their own, who go on to launch the careers of such icons as Muddy Waters, Howlin’ Wolf, Etta James, Chuck Berry and...[read on]
Visit Renée Rosen's website, blog, and Facebook page.

My Book, The Movie: Windy City Blues.

The Page 69 Test: Windy City Blues.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Ellen Meeropol

Ellen Meeropol's latest novel is Kinship of Clover. From her Q&A with Caroline Leavitt:

I always wonder where the idea for a book comes from? What was haunting you?

Actually, a character from my first novel was haunting me. Pestering me, really. Jeremy was nine years old in House Arrest, and at the end of that book he was left in a vulnerable place. The cult he grew up in had fallen apart and his father went to prison. “Don’t you want to know what happened to me?” he kept whispering. I did want to know. That interest sparked the new novel.

All I knew of Jeremy when I started writing was his nine-year-old self. He had a twin brother and they lived with their mom. Jeremy was the sensitive twin, who had loved to hang out in the family greenhouse and draw plants. Eleven years later, in the new novel, his interest has become an obsession with disappearing plant species.

Like Jeremy, I am haunted by the rapid destruction of our planet and the apparent lack of will on the part of the human species to make the change necessary to turn things around. To write this novel, I re-imagined this character as a college Botany major. As I wrote, Jeremy’s beloved endangered and disappeared plants...[read on]
Visit Ellen Meeropol's website.

See Meeropol's list of five political novels to change the world.

The Page 69 Test: Kinship of Clover.

Writers Read: Ellen Meeropol.

--Marshal Zeringue