Saturday, February 22, 2020

Lani Forbes

Lani Forbes is the daughter of a librarian and an ex-drug-smuggling surfer, which explains her passionate love of the ocean and books. A California native whose parents live in Mexico, she now resides in the Pacific Northwest, where she stubbornly wears flip-flops no matter how cold it gets. She teaches middle school math and science and proudly calls herself a nerd and a Gryffindor. She is also an award-winning member of the Romance Writers of America and the Society for Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators.

Forbes's new novel is The Seventh Sun.

Recently I asked the author about what she was reading. Her reply:
I recently started reading The Indigo Girl by Natasha Boyd. I had the opportunity to travel to South Carolina last fall and being a huge history nerd, I delved into some of the local history. One of the historians I spoke to highly recommended this book and I immediately recognized it as one of Blackstone Publishing’s books. I love when historical fiction addresses lesser known stories, and I was really curious to learn more about sixteen-year-old Eliza Lucas and how her actions rippled across history.

My favorite genre both to read and to write historical fantasy. I recently finished Serpent & Dove by Shelby Mahurin and thoroughly enjoyed it. The basic premise is a witch hunter that is forced to marry a witch, but I loved the way Mahurin used such a unique magic system (where magic leaves a literal scent behind) and pulled in elements of religion. Of course, because I am a romantic at heart, I also loved the tense development of the romance between the two main characters.

Next, I am hoping to dive into Fireborne by Rosaria Munda. I have heard so many good things about this book from many different sources. Plus, if anything is ever pitched as “WW2 dogfights but with dragons” then sign me up immediately.
Visit Lani Fobes's website.

The Page 69 Test: The Seventh Sun.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, February 20, 2020

Katya de Becerra

Katya de Becerra is the author of genre-bending YA fiction, What The Woods Keep and Oasis. She was born in Russia, studied in California and now lives in Melbourne. She earned a PhD in Cultural Anthropology from the University of Melbourne and now works as a social scientist. She’s also a co-founder and co-host of #SpecLitChat and a writing mentor with the #1st5Pages Workshop.

Recently I asked de Becerra about what she was reading. Her reply:
Every year I set a new reading goal, which has more to do with quality and diversity of my reading rather than quantity. For example, 2019 was my year of “reading widely”, meaning reading more books outside my go-to genres (YA thriller and contemporary fantasy). Specifically, I wanted to focus on reading books in formats I rarely pick up, such as graphic novels. I can’t recall exactly how I came across Vera Brosgol’s work but I’m so glad I did because two of her graphic novels (Anya’s Ghost and Be Prepared) are easily in my top five favorite reads from last year.

Brosgol is Moscow-born, US-based award-winning cartoonist (she has storyboarded for Coraline among other films), and once I knew she was originally from Russia (like me) and that her graphic novel work dealt with the experiences of immigration I expected to love it and I did.

In Anya’s Ghost, the novel’s eponymous protagonist is an unpopular, somewhat jaded girl who has the misfortune of falling into an abandoned well, where she… meets a ghost, and things only get weirder and darker from there on, but it is the authentic details of Russian-in-the-US immigrant experience that makes the characters leap off the page. Compared to Anya’s Ghost, Be Prepared is more autobiographical as it draws inspiration from the author’s childhood memories of summers spent in Russian heritage camp while growing up in the US. The result is a fascinating, completely immersive read that I devoured over the course of one lazy afternoon. Brosgol’s drawing style is edgy and darkly magical but also realistic, and the way she portrays characters’ emotional nuances is superb. I can’t wait to read her other works and will be eagerly awaiting whatever she’s going to create next.
Visit Katya de Becerra's blog and follow @KatyaDeBecerra on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, February 18, 2020

Kathleen West

Kathleen West is a writer, teacher, reader, and semi-professional minivan driver. A life-long Minnesotan, she holds degrees from Macalester College and the University of Minnesota. She lives in Minneapolis with her hilarious husband, their two sporty sons, and an ill-behaved goldendoodle.

West's debut novel is Minor Dramas & Other Catastrophes.

Recently I asked the author about what she was reading. Her reply:
I recently read and loved Unscripted by Nicole Kronzer. This YA gem arrives from Abrams on April 21st, and adult and teen readers of contemporary fiction will want to pick it up. Here’s what you’re getting into: Improv phenom Zelda Bailey-Cho arrives at her comedy summer camp with her boots laced and ready for action. She knows how the summer will unfold: she’ll make the Varsity improv team, dazzle in the end-of-summer showcase, and start down a certain path to SNL.

But almost immediately, things seem not-quite-as-she-imagined. First, there are only five girls of the 175 campers at Rocky Mountain Theater Arts, and their counselor is MIA. Ben, the handsome Varsity coach is definitely interested in Zelda, but perhaps for insidious reasons. And none of the improv rules Zelda’s memorized—she keeps her bible, The Scene Must Win by comedy legend and camp founder, Jane Lloyd, always on hand—seem to help her in the trickiest of the summer’s situations.

Lucky for Zelda, she’s got allies: the girls of the Gilda Radner cabin, her brother, a Junior Varsity camper, who loves through the distraction of his own budding romance, and the All-American boy scouts at the camp across the road.

Readers get both all the big themes: confidence, competition, misogyny and inequity and all the feels: friendship, self-reliance, and first love. I loved this!
Visit Kathleen West's website.

The Page 69 Test: Minor Dramas & Other Catastrophes.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, February 16, 2020

Robert Dugoni

Robert Dugoni is the critically acclaimed New York Times, #1 Wall Street Journal and #1 Amazon bestselling author of the Tracy Crosswhite series, the Charles Jenkins Series and the David Sloane series. Since 2013, Dugoni has sold more than 5,000,000 books, and My Sister’s Grave and The Eighth Sister have been optioned for television series development. He is also the author of the best-selling standalone novel, The Extraordinary Life of Sam Hell and The 7th Canon, a 2017 finalist for the Mystery Writers of America Edgar Award for best novel. His expose, The Cyanide Canary, became a Washington Post Best Book of the Year. He is the recipient of the Nancy Pearl Award for Fiction, and the Friends of Mystery, Spotted Owl Award for the best novel in the Pacific Northwest. He is a two time finalist for the International Thriller Writers award and the Mystery Writers of America Award for best novel. His David Sloane novels have twice been nominated for the Harper Lee Award for legal fiction.

Dugoni's new Tracy Crosswhite novel is A Cold Trail.

Recently I asked the author about what he was reading. His reply:
I just finished reading The Rescue by Steven Konkoly and I loved the way he wove in multiple story lines and his fresh take on a man wrongly convicted who gets out of prison and has to prove himself innocent against tremendous obstacles. Steven wove into the story the Russian Mafia, The FBI and US Senators, and he keeps you guessing as to who is the ultimate villain. In today’s news market, it is incredibly timely.
Visit Robert Dugoni's website and Facebook page.

My Book, The Movie: A Cold Trail.

The Page 69 Test: A Cold Trail.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, February 14, 2020

Constance Sayers

Constance Sayers is a media executive who has twice been named one of the “Top 100 Media People in America” by Folio. Her short stories have appeared in Souvenir and Alternating Current as well as the anthologies Amazing Graces and The Sky is a Free Country. Her short fiction has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize and Best of the Net.

Sayers received her M.A. in English from George Mason University and is the co-founder of the Thoughtful Dog literary magazine.

She lives outside of Washington DC. A Witch in Time is her debut novel.

Recently I asked Sayers about what she was reading. Her reply:
Back in 2017, Philipp Meyer was featured in a "By the Book" interview in the New York Times. He is one of my favorite writers—American Rust and The Son were magnificent. What struck me so much about this interview was how he structured his reading based on what he needed to do that day for writing. If he needed character development, he’d start with Virginia Woolf or if it was dialogue, Richard Pace. Quite brilliantly, Meyer likened reading for a writer to the way athletes condition their bodies. I have kept that interview with me since and follow it pretty faithfully. My reading list is prescriptive in that I often tend to read what I think I’m lacking in my own writing.

So, right now, I’m trying to think quite a bit about nostalgia for my next book and I happened upon The Great Concert of the Night by Jonathan Buckley. It follows a man whose love, an actress, has died. Through her performances and every little thing that reminds him of her (from the way she would read to the way she smelled), he commits a year of his diary entries to fully exploring their relationship, its shortcomings and his grief at losing her. Lush and heartbreaking, the book is a full study of melancholia. I am so in awe of this book that I can only read a few pages of it a day to absorb what Buckley has done. It’s so thick with beautiful language, raw reflection and just a palpable ache that comes through in the pages.

Rarely do I read just one thing. My mind likes to wander so I’m also reading The Third Rainbow Girl: The Long Life of a Double Murder in Appalachia by Emma Copley Eisenberg about the 1980 death of two women in Pocahontas County, West Virginia who were attending the 15,000-person Rainbow Festival. One of my favorite books was Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil by John Berendt and I think that Eisenberg has pulled off a similar thing with this book in that West Virginia becomes a rather vivid character in the search for answers about the killing of these two women.

I also have a pretty long commute to work each day, so I do listen to audiobooks as well. My sister recommended Barbara Pym’s 1952 book, Excellent Women, which examines the life of spinster, Mildred Lathbury, in post-war London. I’m so invested in every little thing Mildred does—from her life in the church, to the dinner she makes and the tiny slights she perceives that I’d follow her anywhere. The book is so funny and the audiobook really transitions me from work to home and vice versa.
Visit Constance Sayers's website.

My Book, The Movie: A Witch in Time.

The Page 69 Test: A Witch in Time.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, February 12, 2020

Joanna Schaffhausen

Joanna Schaffhausen wields a mean scalpel, sharp skills she developed in her years studying neuroscience. She has a doctorate in psychology, which reflects her long-standing interest in the brain―how it develops and the many ways it can go wrong. Previously, she worked as a scientific editor in the field of drug development. Prior to that, she was an editorial producer for ABC News, writing for programs such as World News Tonight, Good Morning America, and 20/20. She lives in the Boston area with her husband and daughter.

Schaffhausen's new novel is All the Best Lies.

Recently I asked the author about what she was reading. Her reply:
One book I read recently was The 7 and ½ Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle, by Stuart Turton. This was a breakout book and a debut, a rare feat, so it’s interesting to read with an eye to how Turton fashioned a bestseller. First off, the title is so intriguing, right? What’s half a death? Who dies more than once? Second, the plot is fun and easy to describe: it’s “Quantum Leap” meets Agatha Christie as our narrator jumps from one body to another, doomed to repeat a single day until he can solve the murder of Evelyn Hardcastle. Finally, the puzzle aspect of the story is brilliant, rewarding readers for sticking with a tale that can be difficult to track at times, what with all the body-jumping. I can see why this became a runaway hit.

I’m partway through Heaven, My Home, by Attica Locke. It’s the sequel to her Edgar-winning book Bluebird, Bluebird, which introduced us to Texas Ranger Darren Matthews. I thoroughly enjoyed the first book and the second affirms Locke as a great storyteller with a knack for creating characters that leap off the page. The setting for this one is tough—it’s small-town Texas in the aftermath of Trump’s election, and there are rising incidents of homegrown terrorists, racial violence, intimidation, etc. Among this, Matthews has to contend with a missing nine-year-old boy, the son of a local white supremacist. It’s harrowing, compelling and completely thrilling.

I’m also reading Can you Ever Forgive Me? by Lee Israel. It’s a memoir that focuses on her role as a literary forger. Israel faked letters by literary greats such as Dorothy Parker and Noël Coward and sold them as collectibles to support herself until she was eventually busted by the FBI. It’s short, wry, and an intriguing peek into the mind of a frustrated writer who turned to the dark side. I’m partly reading this as research into that sort of mindset—pretending to be something or someone you’re not.
Visit Joanna Schaffhausen's website.

The Page 69 Test: All the Best Lies.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, February 11, 2020

Tiffany Tsao

Tiffany Tsao is a writer and literary translator. She is the author of the novel The Majesties (originally published in Australia as Under Your Wings) and the Oddfits fantasy series.

Her translations from Indonesian to English include Norman Erikson Pasaribu’s poetry collection Sergius Seeks Bacchus, Dee Lestari’s novel Paper Boats, and Laksmi Pamuntjak’s The Birdwoman’s Palate. Her translations of Norman’s poetry have won the English PEN Presents and English PEN Translates awards.

Born in the United States and of Chinese-Indonesian descent, her family returned to Southeast Asia when she was 3 years old. She spent her formative years in Singapore (8 years) and Indonesia (6 years) before moving to the US for university. She has a B.A. in English literature from Wellesley College and a Ph.D. in English literature from UC-Berkeley. She now lives in Sydney, Australia with her spouse and two children.

Recently I asked Tsao about what she was reading. Her reply:
I read Sangeeta Bandyopadhyay’s novel Abandon over Christmas. It was one of the most tragic and disturbing stories I’ve read in a long time. The book defies so many of the clichés and expectations about how we think mothers should act and behave. And it exposes the unrealistic burdens that are imposed on mothers even when they are deprived of any genuine compassion or aid. What the protagonist’s son, Roo, suffers as a result is especially heartbreaking and unsettling to the core. As a literary translator, I was incredibly impressed by Arunava Sinha’s rendering of the prose and lines of poetry from the original Bengali. I would highly recommend reading this if you want something off the beaten anglophone path.
Visit Tiffany Tsao's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, February 9, 2020

Jennifer Longo

Jennifer Longo was a ballerina from ages eight to eighteen, until she eventually (reluctantly) admitted her talent for writing exceeded her talent for dance. The author of Up to This Pointe and Six Feet Over It, she holds an MFA in Writing for Theater from Humboldt State University, where her obsessive love of Antarctica produced her thesis play about Antarctica’s Age of Exploration.

Longo's new novel is What I Carry.

Recently I asked the author about what she was reading. Her reply:
I am reading (for the third time) the most intricate, gorgeous and dense (that’s why the third pass, the footnotes and character descriptions are ridiculous and amazing) examination of the Salem Witch trials. The Witches by Stacy Schiff. She is a Pulitzer-prize winning biographer who has also written about Cleopatra and Vera Nabokov (among others) It’s a delicious and heartbreaking story told with prose that feels dark, and cold and mysterious and terrifying. The suffocating months surrounding the short-lived trials are given rich political, religious, and social context. The cast of characters is unnerving, and her use of language makes me so envious. This remarkable passage is one of my favorites: “As their skirts were bound around their ankles, as hoods were lowered over their eyes, all five women insisted on their innocence… the moment she blindly climbed the ladder, Noyes reminded Sarah Good that she had engaged in great wickedness. She was a witch; it was high time she admitted it. Under the gallows from which she was to hang, she shot back, “You are a liar. I am no more witch that you are a wizard and if you take away my life, God will give you blood to drink.” Then the footnote tells us that Nathaniel Hawthorne (relative of a trial judge) later took that line, stole it from this woman wrongly hanged for witchcraft, a woman whose five-year-old daughter was also accused, this woman who lost the baby she was nursing on a dark, cold prison floor for months and who still had the bravery to tell Noyes off the moment she was murdered before an audience of her neighbors – Hawthorn took Sarah Good’s words and gave them to a man in his House of the Seven Gables. I mean, Stacy Schiff – she tells it like it is, and does it with fire. The narrative is so well-crafted my hands get all tingly and sweaty and I read some passages again and again just for their beauty. I love this book So. Much.
Visit Jennifer Longo's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, February 7, 2020

Chana Porter

Chana Porter is a playwright, teacher, MacDowell Colony fellow, and co-founder of The Octavia Project, a STEM and fiction-writing program for girls and gender non-conforming youth from underserved communities. She lives in Brooklyn, New York.

Porter's debut novel is The Seep.

Recently I asked the author about what she was reading. Her reply:
My Love Letter to Indie Book Sellers

I’m very lucky to be traveling around the country right now on my book tour for The Seep, getting to read at truly awesome indie bookstores. Here’s just a
few highlights from the tour so far, in terms of books that have been coming home with me:

I started my tour at the historic Women & Children First in Chicago. I got to chatting with one of the badass booksellers and she recommended that I buy Black Light, a collection of short stories by Kimberly King Parsons. This has been on my to-read list for a while.

Then I went to my home base of Brooklyn, where I had an event at the gorgeous new bar/cafe space at Powerhouse Arena. Y’all—this book store is looking sexy! They had mood lighting and everything. You should go there for tinder dates. I didn’t get my act together to buy a book before closing cause of all my cute friends had me sign their copies of The Seep (such a fun, surreal experience) but I’ll hit them up next time I’m in Dumbo. I did, however, sign some books at the wonderful Unnameable Books in Prospect Heights, where I nabbed Abigail by Magda Szabó. I’ve been on a tear since discovered Szabo— she’s so compassionate and thorny.

At Solid State Books, a gorgeous new bookstore and cafe in D.C., I nabbed the paperback edition of The Parisian by Isabella Hammad. I already have my own copy— this was a gift for my parents. I’m reading it very slowly, it’s a gorgeous world to sink into!

I didn’t buy this yet because suitcase problems but I saw a complete collection of Octavia Butler at the awesome worker owned bookstore Red Emma’s in Baltimore. K.M. Szpara gifted me a copy of his forthcoming novel Docile and I started reading it on the plane to the west coast. Then I felt weird about getting aroused in a crowded, public space, so I’ll return to it later!

Also in Baltimore I hung with the fine folks from Erewhon Press, where I received a copy of The Fortress by S.A. Jones and The Scapegracers by Hannah Abigail Clarke, out from them later this year. I devoured The Fortress in one sitting, and I can’t stop thinking about it. Certainly not everyone’s cup of tea, but I’m glad it exists. So many feelings.

This Friday, January 31st I’ll be at Skylight Books in LA, where I’m planning to buy Riot Baby by Tochi Onyebuchi and The Missing American by Kwei Quartey. I always spend way too much money at Skylight so I’ll certainly be leaving with more than two books. If you get a membership at Skylight, which costs $25 for the year, they’ll ship you books for free. And you get discounted prices. I’m a proud member— you know I love a bargain!

Hey internet, what should I read next?
Visit Chana Porter's website.

My Book, The Movie: The Seep.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, February 5, 2020

Christopher Bollen

Christopher Bollen is the author of The Destroyers, Orient, which was an NPR Best Book of the Year, and the critically acclaimed Lightning People. He is the editor at large of Interview magazine. His work has appeared in GQ, the New York Times, New York magazine, and Artforum, among other publications. He lives in New York City.

Bollen's new novel is A Beautiful Crime.

Recently I asked the author about what he was reading. Bollen's reply:
Something horrible has happened: I’ve run out of Graham Greenes. I knew this day would come and I’ve been spacing the last, esoteric, hard-to-find ones out, one every few months, just to keep the addiction alive. But I’m afraid I’ve reached the finish line. While I’m considering going back and re-reading them all again, I’ve been free to roam in my reading lately. I have been making my way through Peter Hessler’s fantastic exploration of modern-day Cairo in The Buried: An Archeology of The Egyptian Revolution. I can tell that Hessler falls for cities the way I do, hunting out their lives, underlives, and secrets, in this rich and wonderfully written biography of a time and place.

I also just finished Teddy Wayne’s new novel, out next month, called Apartment. Wayne has the ability to do all of the things that I can’t do in a novel: he writes so many effective characters and moods and tense atmosphere in such lean prose, I’m always amazed by his control and economy. And he can turn up the stakes without the plot having to lead to a murder (I always seem to be ending up with blood on character’s hands). Apartment is a terrific and true portrait of New York City in the mid 1990s (I can vouch for that as someone who was there), and of the relationship between two men that walks the line between love and hate.
Visit Christopher Bollen's website.

The Page 69 Test: A Beautiful Crime.

My Book, The Movie: A Beautiful Crime.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, February 3, 2020

Kevin Wignall

Kevin Wignall was born in Brussels, the son of a military family, and lived in various parts of Europe throughout his childhood. He studied Politics & International Relations at Lancaster University. He's currently based in the west of England, though he travels a lot. His novels and short stories have inspired film-makers, musicians and other artists, topped bestseller lists and been shortlisted for numerous awards.

Wignall's new novel is The Names of the Dead.

Recently I asked the author about what he was reading. Wignall's reply:
I'm a slow reader anyway, but when I'm writing I struggle to read at all. So when I hand in a manuscript, which I've just done, I make up for it. I get sent a lot of ARCs and I've just read two by British writers, We Begin at the End by Chris Whitaker, and Beast by Matt Wesolowski. I know both authors, and that always makes me a little nervous - what if I hate the book? Fortunately, I loved both of these, the first set in California, the second in post-industrial northern England, but both dealing with communities torn apart by past crimes.

Next up is a book recommended by Ali Karim, Wanderers by Chuck Wendig. It's a mountain of a book at over 700 pages, and a new author to me, but Ali rhapsodized about it, the premise hooked, the opening pages were great, so I'm looking forward to it.

I've never bought a book by an author who invited me to like their page but I buy a good number that are recommended by other readers on Facebook, and have discovered some real gems as a result. Given how slowly I read, by the time I finish the Wendig book, I'll probably need to start reading for the panel I'm moderating at Crimefest in June, which can feel like an obligation sometimes, but which I know will be a pleasure this year - I'm not allowed to say yet who's appearing on it, but they're all authors I know and like, including one of my favourite American writers, so I know I'm guaranteed some fine reading.
Visit Kevin Wignall's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, February 1, 2020

Debbie Herbert

Debbie Herbert is an Amazon Charts, Washington Post, USA Today, and Publishers Weekly bestselling author who’s always been fascinated by magic, romance, and Gothic stories.

Married and living in Alabama, she roots for the Crimson Tide football team.

Herbert's new novel is Scorched Grounds.

Recently I asked the author about what she was reading. Her reply:
No Exit by Taylor Adams.

I'm only a couple of chapters into this one and am totally hooked. The premise: a young woman is stuck in a snowstorm and forced to take shelter at a rest area with four strangers. One of them is a dangerous criminal and she must find a way to escape. The writing has a sense of immediacy and the tension is palpable.
Visit Debbie Herbert's website.

The Page 69 Test: Scorched Grounds.

--Marshal Zeringue