Monday, February 20, 2017

Dan Gutman

Dan Gutman is the New York Times bestselling author of the Genius Files series. He is also the author of the Baseball Card Adventure series, which has sold more than 1.5 million copies around the world, and the My Weird School series, which has sold more than 10 million copies.

Thanks to his many fans who voted in their classrooms, Gutman has received nineteen state book awards and ninety-two state book award nominations. He lives in New York City with his wife, Nina.

Gutman's newest book in the My Weird School series is Ms. Joni Is a Phony!.

Recently I asked the author about what he was reading. His reply:
This has nothing to do with my new book Ms. Joni Is a Phony!, but right now I'm reading A People's History of the United States, by Howard Zinn. I didn't take a single history class in college (Psych major), but have become a history buff since then and I've put a lot of history in my books (such as Flashback Four: The Lincoln Project). So I thought it might be a good idea to sit down and actually learn something about American history. I kept hearing about this 700-page definitive history, so I checked it out of the library a few weeks ago. I found it to be so well-written and interesting that I decided to buy a copy. It will take me months to plow through it, but it will be worth it.
Visit Dan Gutman's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Jacqueline Carey

New York Times bestseller Jacqueline Carey is the author of the critically acclaimed Kushiel’s Legacy series of historical fantasy novels, The Sundering epic fantasy duology, postmodern fables Santa Olivia and Saints Astray, and the Agent of Hel contemporary fantasy series.

Carey's new novel is Miranda and Caliban.

Recently I asked the author about what she was reading. Her reply:
Last summer, I traveled to Iceland, one of the countries featured in my current read, Eric Weiner’s The Geography of Bliss: One Grump’s Search for the Happiest Places in the World. Honestly, Iceland wasn’t really on my radar—the trip came about because it was on a friend’s bucket list. But it was fantastic, and it piqued my curiosity as to why this small, chilly island nation that’s largely benighted during the winter months consistently ranks high on the World Database of Happiness.

With a decade of experience as a foreign correspondent for NPR, Weiner is a concise, engaging writer, humorous and wry and keenly observant. He’s a skilled researcher. Despite a healthy dose of skepticism leavening his prose, he appears to have a genuine passion for his subject matter; and it is a fascinating topic.

A character of mine once remarked, “Happiness is the highest form of wisdom.” It’s a philosophy with which I tend to agree. I’ve only just begun my literary sojourn across the globe, accompanying the author in his pursuit of that elusive quality we call happiness, but I can tell that it’s a journey I’m going to enjoy.

For the record, I suspect that the stunning geography of Iceland, and the close spiritual connection many of its people feel with nature, have a lot to do with their level of happiness. But it could be the beer and communal hot tubs, too!
Visit Jacqueline Carey's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Abby Fabiaschi

After graduating from The Taft School in 1998 and Babson College in 2002, Abby Fabiaschi climbed the corporate ladder in high technology. When her children turned three and four in what felt like one season, she resigned to pursue writing.

Fabiaschi's new book is I Liked My Life, her debut upmarket women’s fiction novel.

Recently I asked the author about what she was reading. Her reply:
Today I was at Blue Willow Bookshop in Houston, Texas, and there was a sign that read: Think before you speak; read before you think (Fran Lebowitz). Given all that is happening on our soil right now, this advice seems particularly prudent. I have been dedicating more reading time to The New Yorker and seeking out novels that focus on immigrant stories. I recently finished Behold the Dreamers, by Imbolo Mbue, which was excellent.

In memoir, I had the honor of reading an advanced copy of Lynn Hall’s Caged Eyes: An Air Force Cadet's Story of Rape and Resilience. The truths revealed across all these genres of the written word help inform my opinions. In the days and weeks and years ahead we must all be conscious of what side of history we want to be on, and immersing ourselves in the lives and realities of others should be a part of that decision.
Visit Abby Fabiaschi's website.

The Page 69 Test: I Liked My Life.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, February 17, 2017

Ryan David Jahn

Ryan David Jahn is the author of the novels Acts of Violence, which won the Crime Writers' Association John Creasey Dagger, Low Life, The Dispatcher, which was long-listed for the CWA Ian Fleming Steel Dagger, The Last Tomorrow, and the newly released The Breakout.

Recently I asked Jahn about what he was reading. His reply:
Right now I’ve got two books on my nightstand. The first is James Sallis’s Willnot, which was my favorite book from last year. I like it even more now than I did the first time I read it. It’s quiet and subversive, the normalcy it presents a facade covering something much darker, as in a David Lynch film. The second is Ernest Hemingway’s The Dangerous Summer, a non-fiction book about bullfighting that is really about death. Hemingway is one of maybe half a dozen writers, living or dead, whom I’ll read simply because I want to fall into the rhythm of their prose. On deck, Art Spiegelman’s Maus, as my wife got me the two-volume hardcover for Christmas and, though I read the first volume years ago, I don’t remember much about it.
Visit Ryan David Jahn's website.

The Page 69 Test: The Breakout.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Patricia Harman

Patricia Harman, CNM, got her start as a lay midwife on rural communes and went on to become a nurse-midwife on the faculties of Ohio State University, Case Western Reserve University, and West Virginia University. She is the author of two acclaimed memoirs and the bestselling novel The Midwife of Hope River.

Harman's new novel is The Runaway Midwife.

Last month I asked the author about what she was reading. Her reply:
I’m currently reading three books. Do you think I’d get confused? Not me. Actually, they are all so different.

Hillbilly Elegy by J.D. Vance.

If you’re interested in learning about Appalachia you’ll enjoy this book. Vance writes about his traumatic life in a way that’s very compelling. The book is part memoir and part social/political analysis. Since I live in West Virginia and write about people from this region, I thought it would be a good idea for me to read it. Outstanding.

Where'd You Go, Bernadette: A Novel by Maria Semple.

The reason I chose this book is because several reviewers of my new novel, The Runaway Midwife, mentioned Where’d You Go, Bernadette as being similar. Though Semple’s novel was a NYT bestseller a few years ago, I’d never heard of it. I’ve just started the tale, but so far I like it. The author is witty and very unconventional. Readers tell me, my books make them laugh, but I would like to write funnier. Maybe I’ll learn something!

The Little House on the Prairie by Laura Ingalls Wilder.

O, this is weird; every night when I can’t sleep I read a chapter of the classic juvenile biography, Little House on the Prairie. I have the whole series, about ten books, and always keep one at the bedside. I find them comforting and Laura Ingalls Wilder was an amazing nature writer.

The Runaway Midwife by Patricia Harman

Finally, I’m re-reading my own book, The Runaway Midwife, because it launches January 31. When I finish one book, I start the next one. Most people don’t know that it takes the publisher about a year and a half to get a book ready for print, even after they have the author’s final copy. Now that it’s coming out, I’ll start going to book events, and I need to remember what I wrote!
Visit Patricia Harman's website.

The Page 69 Test: The Runaway Midwife.

My Book, The Movie: The Runaway Midwife.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Sana Krasikov

Sana Krasikov was born in the Ukraine and grew up in the former Soviet Republic of Georgia and in the United States. One More Year, her debut story collection, was named a finalist for the 2009 PEN/Hemingway Award and The New York Public Library’s Young Lions Fiction Award. It received a National Book Foundation’s “5 under 35” Award and won the 2009 Sami Rohr Prize for Jewish Literature. She is the recipient of an O. Henry Award, a Fulbright Scholarship, and a National Magazine Award nomination. Her stories have appeared in The New Yorker, The Atlantic Monthly, The Virginia Quarterly, Epoch, Zoetrope, A Public Space, and elsewhere.

Krasikov's debut novel is The Patriots.

Recently I asked the author about what she was reading. Her reply:
Angle of Repose by Wallace Stegner

Some books pull you in with rhythm and others, like this one, with the tactile particularity of the prose, which exerts a force of traction. The material of the world serves as a kind metaphor for the structure of the work as a whole… Rock, strata, the sediment of generation. Stegner had a big impact on me while I wrote The Patriots. He doesn’t just use time and place as backdrop for the story, he uses the story itself as an investigation in to the texture of a period we know only in romantic outline.

Moo by Jane Smiley

I laugh out loud every time I reread this book. Smiley is one of the great masters who writes about systems as much as about people. In Moo, each character’s point of view comes alive with an incredibly specific weltanschauung — economic, religious, zoological — and it's a joy to move around the kaleidoscope of these different sensibilities.

Veronica by Mary Gaitskill

I’m just in awe of Gaitskill, who can write with such depth about surfaces. She understands that style and affect constitutes its own vocabulary that she then decodes. There’s an aristocratic poignancy to the demolished lives in her books, lived like they’re being written in water.

The Hundred Secret Senses by Amy Tan

In high school I had a friend with exquisite indie musical taste who was a closeted Sheryl Crow fan. Another friend confronted him and he had to come clean. Amy Tan is kind of my Sheryl Crow. Her accessibility might blind some highbrow readers to the great wit and wisdom in her writing. And I love how she moves narratively between the physical and spiritual worlds as if the line between the two is irrelevant.
Learn more about Krasikov's The Patriots.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Martine Murray

Martine Murray studied law at Melbourne University, then pursued painting and joined a circus before starting a dance company called Bird on a Wire. After an injury, she began writing and illustrating books for children and young adults. Her novels, including The Slightly True Story of Cedar B. Hartley, have won several awards in Australia. Her books have been translated into seventeen languages. She lives in Castlemaine, Australia, with her daughter and dog.

Murray's latest novel is Molly & Pim and the Millions of Stars.

Recently I asked the author about what she was reading. Her reply:
I have a pile of books by my bed, which I jump between as often I lose one or I’m not in the mood for it. The one I read last night is Hope in the Dark, by Rebecca Solnit, an inspiring guide on how and why to hold on to hope in the dark times of unfettered capitalism and all its devastating byproducts. It’s a little book with a big message, which works. It keeps me hopeful at least.

I’m also reading Anne Sexton, The Complete Poems, because I read one of her poems by mistake ("Admonishments to a Special Person") while looking for something else and I loved it and particularly this line in it:
… to love another is something
like prayer and can’t be
planned, you just fall
into its arms because your
belief undoes your disbelief
I also found this line by her, “I am a collection of dismantled almosts” and so recognised myself in this that I wished I had known Anne Sexton and I knew I would like her poems.

Another book I am reading is called Private Myths by Anthony Stevens. A friend sent it to me anonymously as a present because I was ranting at him about a film I am making which is in some part about dreams, or what dreams might access. It was as if this book on dreams then just found me, by mystical and mysterious intent, via the post. The working title for the film is Project Bird, because it does involve a bird mask, which I have commissioned a friend to make. It is also about uncertainty and animals and in it there will be dancing.

As far as fiction goes, I have just read a wonderful novel by my friend Libby Angel called The Trapeze Act, which is full of beautifully crafted prose with exactly the sort of poetic detail that turns my mind in a way I like to turn it. There are also flamboyant characters doing extravagant things and all this underpinned by a constant wry humour, which meant I was smiling the whole time I read it.

Before that and probably one of the books that has most sung to me over the last year was Pond, by Claire Louise Bennett. It’s very interior and delightfully mad and inventive and again I felt strangely reassured by the realization that other people have interior lives that are beset with all sorts of ideas and inventions, that sometimes lead one to feel very at odds with life or also very enraptured by it too.
Visit Martine Murray's website.

The Page 69 Test: Molly & Pim and the Millions of Stars.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Ingrid Thoft

Ingrid Thoft was born in Boston and is a graduate of Wellesley College. Her interest in the PI life and her desire to create a believable PI character led her to the certificate program in private investigation at the University of Washington. She lives in Seattle with her husband.

Thoft's new novel is Duplicity.

Recently I asked the author about what she was reading. Her reply:
One of my recent favorites is Stalling for Time by Gary Noesner. It’s a non-fiction account of Noesner’s time as an FBI negotiator during which he was involved in the negotiations to end the hijacking of the Achille Lauro cruise ship, the Branch Davidian siege in Waco, Texas, and the standoff with the Republic of Texas militia. A natural born storyteller, Noesner kept me on the edge of my seat throughout the book while describing the critical balance between force and negotiation in crisis situations. I was most fascinated by the role that psychology plays in reaching peaceful resolutions when the stakes are life and death. This book was so compelling, I finished it in two days!

What You Break, is the second installment in Reed Farrel Coleman’s critically acclaimed Gus Murphy series. The first, Where It Hurts was just nominated for an Edgar Award for best mystery novel of the year. A retired cop turned hotel shuttle driver, Gus feels obligated to investigate when one of his co-workers gets into deep trouble. He also agrees to look into the death of a young woman, which rips off the tentative scab that Gus had grown in the aftermath of his son’s unexpected death. Gus’ humanity and Coleman’s taut prose create the picture of a man struggling to do his best in a difficult world. And readers who think they know Long Island (the Hamptons, Montauk, and other wealthy communities,) will have their eyes opened to the other less affluent Long Island so perfectly drawn by Coleman.

I recently revisited New Grub Street, a Victorian era novel written by George Gissing. I first read this book in a Victorian literature class in college and was quite taken by this tale of the publishing world in 1880s London. In the rereading, I’ve been struck by the similarities between publishing then and now and the challenges that have existed in the industry for more than 100 years. The struggle to make a living as a writer while staying true to one’s art is a constant source of angst for main characters Jasper Milvain and Edwin Reardon and would not be unfamiliar to writers in this day and age. In addition to the subject matter, the relationships and social mores of the late 1880s are endlessly entertaining. I highly recommend this book to readers looking for a change of pace from contemporary fare.
Visit Ingrid Thoft's website.

The Page 69 Test: Brutality.

The Page 69 Test: Duplicity.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, February 10, 2017

Mur Lafferty

Mur Lafferty is a writer, podcast producer, gamer, runner, and geek. She is the host of the podcast I Should Be Writing and the co-host of Ditch Diggers. She is the winner of the 2013 John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer.

Lafferty's new novel is Six Wakes.

Recently I asked the author about what she was reading. Her reply:
I usually juggle several books, since I'm reading one via audiobook in the car and something on my tablet and probably a physical book on my nightstand. Right now I'm reading two.

I'm listening to Hardcore Zen, which is supposedly a look into Zen Buddhism by Brad Warner, a monk who's also a punk rocker. I had high hopes, but the audio quality is terrible (he recorded it himself for a variety of reasons, he explains at the beginning). The first chapter is essentially "Here are the thousands of things Zen Buddhism is not." It's a little frustrating. But I'm going to keep going. Apparently frustration is a thing many people feel when starting to study Buddhism...

I'm also reading the electronic ARC of Sarah Gailey's novella, River of Teeth, which is a weird wild west story with hippos. And from what I've seen online, and from what I've read so far, once you say "hippos" everyone perks up and says, "Take my money now." I've read Sarah's short stories that show of her fearless style, and I know she could pull off a hippo story with ease. I totally plan on being not jealous of her weird fearlessness at all as I continue reading.
Visit Mur Lafferty's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Thomas J. Hrach

Thomas J. Hrach is associate professor of journalism at the University of Memphis.

His new book is The Riot Report and the News: How the Kerner Commission Changed Media Coverage of Black America.

Recently I asked Hrach about what he was reading. His reply:
I am in my 50s, an age when a person realizes that there is more in the rear view mirror than in the front windshield. I recognize that history is not something that happened a long time ago, but rather it was made just in the span of my lifetime. I was born in 1963 so I am reading about a time period that changed the world, and it changed me too.

On my reading table right now is Eric Schlosser’s Command and Control, a book about nuclear weapons safety. The book highlights an accident near Damascus, Arkansas, where a Titan 2 missile exploded with a nuclear warhead on top. That happened in 1980, a long time ago, but still well within my lifetime. I am now at an age when history is being written about times and places still within my memory. I think that puts into perspective the study of any history book.

As author of The Riot Report and the News I recognize that too was still within my lifetime, but just barely because the book deals with the 1968 Kerner Commission. It will not be long before that event is out of the lifetime of all but a few.
Learn more about The Riot Report and the News at the University of Massachusetts Press website.

The Page 99 Test: The Riot Report and the News.

My Book, The Movie: The Riot Report and the News.

--Marshal Zeringue