Thursday, August 17, 2017

Jennifer Fenn

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

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

Fenn's new YA novel is Flight Risk.

From her Q&A with Deborah Kalb:

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

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

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

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

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

The Page 69 Test: Flight Risk.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Kristi Belcamino

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Margot Livesey

Margot Livesey's latest novel is Mercury.

From her Q&A with Deborah Kalb:

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Page 69 Test: The Flight of Gemma Hardy.

The Page 69 Test: Mercury.

Writers Read: Margot Livesey (October 2016).

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, August 14, 2017

Eva Dillon

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

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

Tell us about your CIA father…

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

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

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

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

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Wendy Wahman

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

From her Q&A with Deborah Kalb:

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

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

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

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

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, August 12, 2017

Christina Kovac

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

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

Kovac's debut novel is The Cutaway.

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

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

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

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

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

My Book, The Movie: The Cutaway.

The Page 69 Test: The Cutaway.

Writers Read: Christina Kovac.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, August 11, 2017

Devoney Looser

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

From her Q&A with Deborah Kalb:

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

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

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

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

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

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Ariel Levy

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

LEVY: Yeah, like, 10 minutes, yeah.

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Janelle Brown

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

From her Q&A with Deborah Kalb:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Page 69 Test: Watch Me Disappear.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Al Franken

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, August 7, 2017

Kiera Stewart

Kiera Stewart is the author of three novels: Fetching, How to Break a Heart, and The Summer of Bad Ideas.

From her Q&A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: What does the novel's title signify for you?

A: Truthfully, I’m sort of into bad ideas. And I might also have a little obsession with failure. I write a little about this sort of thing in the acknowledgments for SOBI, but here’s what I believe.

If you stay on “safe” grounds, you limit your ability to grow. If you strive only for perfection, you’ll stifle your creativity and resourcefulness. Good ideas sometimes lead to bad outcomes, and bad ideas sometimes lead to good outcomes.

Obviously, I’m not in favor of outright recklessness (up with safety belts and smoking bans!), but if there’s a good intention behind that seemingly bad idea and you embrace whatever happens, chances are even failure will mean success.

Here’s something that Winston Churchill once said: “Success is stumbling from failure to failure with no loss of enthusiasm.” And I...[read on]
Visit Kiera Stewart's website.

Coffee with a Canine: Kiera Stewart & Casper.

Writers Read: Kiera Stewart.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, August 6, 2017

Neal Ascherson

Neal Ascherson is a former foreign correspondent for the Observer. He has just written his first novel, The Death of the Fronsac. From his Q&A with Andrew Anthony for the Guardian:

You grew up in Edinburgh but went to Eton. How did you fit in?

I got a scholarship. In those days it was still the old 70 poor scholars deal, established by Henry VI, so my parents paid about £50 a year. The scholars were segregated in the original college building. We felt we were more intelligent than the thousand lumpen upper-class boys out there, so there was a certain tension. But I certainly learned a lot – a great deal about English entitlement. I’ve always been a wee bit puzzled by the attitude of Eton boys to their teachers, the “beaks” as they were called. They weren’t afraid of them. And it dawned on me only a few months ago: of course, they’re servants! That’s how they regard them.

Earlier this year, you made a confession of killing two mortally wounded insurgents during the Malayan emergency. Was it something you’d been thinking about for a while?

Well, for many years I didn’t think about it at all. I don’t think it was suppression, it was just that when it happened I was very young and quite ferocious, as young men are. And I thought, well, what else was I supposed to do? End of story. So I didn’t bother about it. It’s only when...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, August 5, 2017

Laura Dave

Laura Dave's new novel is Hello, Sunshine.

From her Q&A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: Truthfulness is a major theme in your new novel. Why did you choose to focus on that, and on the impact that social media can have on how people present their lives?

A: There are many people who thrive on social media, though I've always preferred person-to-person connections. I feel there is a cost to ignoring the person sitting across the table from you in order to write a post to friends on the internet.

And, in trying to win over those friends on social media, everyone presents an altered view of themselves. Who isn't guilty of it?

And while a small fabrication or carefully crafted status update in it of itself isn't dangerous, these small removes from the truth seem like they will take you away from yourself a little bit of a time. And this was what I wanted to explore in...[read on]
Visit Laura Dave's website.

Writers Read: Laura Dave (June 2015).

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, August 4, 2017

Gideon Rachman

Gideon Rachman is the Financial Times's chief foreign affairs columnist and author of the book Easternization: Asia's Rise and America's Decline from Obama to Trump and Beyond. From the transcript of his Q&A with Fareed Zakaria:

ZAKARIA: What you do in the book is you describe how already, on the ground, foreign policy is changing; international politics is changing. And in particular, the rise of China has really transformed international politics, which used to be, for the last 20 or 30 years, you know, single-pole -- unipolar -- the United States running everything. China is now increasingly assertive, right?

RACHMAN: Yeah. I think it's -- it's both a phenomenon mainly in Asia, but also it has global ramifications. I mean, in Asia itself, particularly with the coming of Xi Jinping to power in 2012, you definitely get a more assertive China, a China that most obviously has started building these islands in the South China Sea to reinforce its very controversial claims there.

And this slightly confused reaction of the U.S. of how much can they push back told you something. China has got away with something, and everyone had, sort of, noted that.

But also, I found in my travels around the world -- because I've got this, sort of, global politics job, that people are beginning to, sort of, factor the rise of Asia, the rise of China, into their thinking.

So just to give you a couple of examples, in Turkey, which is a country which, for 100 years, has just seen its destiny as Europe, essentially -- they've begun to, sort of, re-think the way they look at the world and say, "Well, maybe Europe's not where it's at; maybe Asia is where it's at."

And even Russia, in their post-Crimea break with the West -- you talk to Russian intellectuals after that, they would say, "You know, maybe it was a mistake to think that we would converge with the West; we're in some ways an Asian nation as well." And they're looking to build a special relationship with a resurgent China.

So it's affecting the whole of global politics.

ZAKARIA: And you point out that even Western countries are much more aware of their Eastern destinies, so that Germany -- the largest trading partner for Germany now is not the United States but China.

RACHMAN: Absolutely. And I think that, you know, Merkel ...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, August 3, 2017

Daniel Riley

Daniel Riley's new novel is Fly Me.

From his Q&A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: How did you come up with the idea for Fly Me, and for your main character, Suzy?

A: I grew up in Manhattan Beach, California, the South Bay of Los Angeles near the airport. That’s what [the book’s location] Sela del Mar is based on. I had family and their friends hanging around who had flown as stewardesses in the ‘50s and early ‘60s.

My grandmother’s cousin worked at LAX and started a museum there, the Flight Path Museum. I was there after I graduated from college, spending time with people who had been stewardesses in the 1970s and looking at diaries of theirs and old uniforms.

I was thinking about the early ‘70s, what happened in the beach towns were the pilots and stewardesses lived. What kind of person is that?

With Suzy, I wanted an outsider…I grew up with women in my life; I triangulated the strange and specific consciousness of this character—growing up tomboyish but working in a feminized industry.

I was figuring out what it was like to be a man versus a woman, what happens when you’re born a...[read on]
Visit Daniel Riley's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

David Abrams

David Abrams's new novel is Brave Deeds.

From his Q&A with Caroline Leavitt:

What was your research like?

My research consisted of going to war in Iraq in 2005. That sounds flippant, but personal experience can be the best kind of research. An immersive experience (like combat, like childbirth, like losing your virginity) can provide the kind of sensory details that dry facts and figures on a piece of paper or a screen could never duplicate.

That being said, I should point out that, unlike Fobbit, the characters in my book have a very different war experience than I did when I deployed with the Army’s Third Infantry Regiment in 2005. My characters are infantry, I was a support soldier; they steal a Humvee, I never even drove a Humvee (at least not in Iraq); they walk through hostile territory, I only left the security and comfort of the Forward Operating Base once (and that was for a 20-minute ceremony near the Green Zone). I was out of my comfort zone writing Brave Deeds and it felt good. I needed to stretch and take risks.

As for the more traditional kind of research, I looked up information about weaponry, studied maps, and stared at lots and lots of pictures that showed daily life in Baghdad. But...[read on]
Learn more about the book and author at David Abrams' website, blog, Facebook page, and Twitter perch.

The Page 69 Test: Fobbit.

Writers Read: David Abrams (March 2013).

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Joshua Green

Joshua Green's new book is Devil’s Bargain: Steve Bannon, Donald Trump, and the Storming of the Presidency. From his Q&A with Slate's Isaac Chotiner:

How deeply do you think race and racial paranoia play into who Bannon is and his ideological makeup?

A lot of media people, I think including you, like to portray him as white nationalist and racist and all that, and I understand why people would do that. I personally think that’s the wrong vector or the wrong strain of bigotry through which to analyze him. I think that it has much more to do with religion. Bannon has this very strange, very odd, but very well-developed intellectual and religious foundation for what it is that he actually believes, and at the heart of that is this apocalyptic clash of civilizations worldview. I thought initially that this was just part of the whole self-generated Bannon mythos, but after having talked to him about it a while back, I think he really believes this stuff.

Bannon went to this right-wing, Catholic, Benedictine military academy in Virginia where they were fed a hardcore Catholic version of Western Civ. That was the curriculum. A classmate told me in the book that they were essentially taught that Christendom is always under assault from outside forces, that true believing Catholics always need to be willing and able to jump into the breach and defend our world—Western civilization. I think that idea burrowed itself into Bannon’s mind and fed into his own natural grandiose sense of himself as someone who was going to be an important actor in history.

OK but—

Wait, wait, wait. To get back to your question. Just in all the interviews over the years, I’ve heard him be sexist, I’ve heard him be anti-Muslim, I’ve heard him be anti-immigrant, and I tried wherever I could to put these quotes on the record in the book. He called Hillary Clinton a “fucking bull dyke” and some of the other stuff. I never heard him say anything that was personally racist. I asked him about this. He pointed out Breitbart has black staffers and this and that. I said, yeah but look at the headlines you guys write about black crime and this and that. He just shrugs it off.

His abiding passion is...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue