Sunday, May 31, 2015

Renée Knight

Renée Knight worked for the BBC directing arts documentaries and has had TV and film scripts commissioned by the BBC, Channel Four, and Capital Films. In April 2013, she graduated from the Faber Academy "Writing a Novel" course, whose alumni include S. J. Watson. She lives in London with her husband and two children.

Knight's new psychological thriller is Disclaimer.

Recently I asked the author about what she was reading. Her reply:
A Spool of Blue Thread by Anne Tyler

I'm half way through this and love it. It's a sharp, unflinching look at a family and yet reads soft and beguiling. It's funny and I find myself smiling a lot, but there is a tension running through it with an undercurrent of, not menace exactly, but something uneasy. There is a casual ease to the writing and the structure, as if it just fell into place which of course it did not. A testimony to a brilliant writer. I am sorry every time I have to put this book down.

Through the Window: Seventeen Essays and a Short Story by Julian Barnes

This has been next to my bed since my husband gave it to me a few years ago. The essays are about writers and fiction. There is a wonderful quote on the back: 'novels tell us the most truth about life: what it is, how we live it, what it might be for, how we enjoy and value it, how it goes wrong, and how we lose it....' I love Julian Barnes' novels and his essays have the same calm, precise style. I am in awe. The first essay is 'The Deceptiveness of Penelope Fitzgerald' and, being a rather orderly person, this is where I began. As a fifty something woman about to write her first novel it stiffened my resolve to read that Penelope Fitzgerald had her first one published at the age of fifty-eight. What comes through in these essays is Barnes' generosity and honesty. I like having this book next to my bed and am in no rush to finish it.
Learn more about Disclaimer at the publisher's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, May 29, 2015

Kristy Woodson Harvey

Kristy Woodson Harvey holds a degree in journalism and mass communications from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and a master’s in English from East Carolina University.

Her debut novel is Dear Carolina.

Recently I asked the author about what she was reading. Her reply:
A few days ago, I had the pleasure of doing a joint signing with Natasha Boyd, an internationally beloved writer of escapism that is particularly fabulous! I met Natasha at a writing conference, and we became fast friends. And she is the perfect person to do a book event with because her South African accent is so fabulous that everyone wants to listen to her all night! I flew through her first two books, Eversea and Forever Jack. So, now, I picked up her latest, Deep Blue Eternity, and know it will be as wonderful as her first two! A couple of chapters in, I can already tell that this novel is shrouded in mystery. Natasha has a great way of intertwining romance with keep-you-on-your-toes plots. This one is no different!

I also just started Sonja Yoerg’s House Broken and am captivated already by this story of family dynamics, a topic that is also very prevalent in Dear Carolina. Sonja is in a group with me called the Tall Poppy Writers, and she is such a supportive friend, always full of advice and the first person to share her knowledge. House Broken is Yoerg’s very successful debut novel, and, though I’m not even finished yet, I’m already eagerly anticipating her next, The Middle of Somewhere!
Visit Kristy Woodson Harvey's website.

My Book, The Movie: Dear Carolina.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Susan Pedersen

Susan Pedersen is Professor and James P. Shenton Professor of the Core Curriculum at Columbia University. She specializes in British history, the British Empire, comparative European history, and international history. She is the author of several books, including Eleanor Rathbone and the Politics of Conscience. Her new book is The Guardians: The League of Nations and the Crisis of Empire.

Recently I asked Pedersen about what she was reading. Her reply:
I’ve always got a number of books going at once. I live with a pile in my office, and another pile on the living room table, and another pile next to the bed (those tend to be the novels and biographies). Here’s what’s at the top of the piles right now:

I’m a chapter or two into Frederick Cooper’s Citizenship between Empire and Nation: Remaking France and French Africa, 1945-1960 (Princeton University Press, 2014). I’m reading this for a lot of reasons. Cooper has been writing African and imperial history for decades, and here he’s tackling a really important moment: the period of decolonization in French colonial Africa. What he wants to do, I think, is to challenge the nationalist teleology that we’ve all somehow accepted. We tend to assume that all colonial territories were striving manfully (usually “manfully”) for independence, and that the nation-state was the inevitable and only valid outcome. But we also now know how hard it is for new nation-states to thrive in a globalized world in which they often have very little economic power or autonomy. Cooper argues that African leaders were well aware of those dangers, and worked hard to imagine an alternative models – federation, for example – that might preserve some tie between the component parts of the French empire while ending racial hierarchy and subjection. After writing The Guardians, I tend to think that no alternative to what I’ve called “normative statehood” was really possible after 1945, but I want to see whether Cooper can convince me otherwise.

The other book I’m reading is very different, and speaks to some personal dilemmas I’m facing – along with millions of other fifty-somethings with aging parents – right now. This is Jane Gross’s A Bittersweet Season: Caring for our Aging Parents – and Ourselves (Knopf, 2011). My father died two years ago, and my mother is in her eighties and living on her own in Western Canada, where she grew up and has friends; all of her children live thousands of miles away. She’s losing her short-term memory, and her four children have been engaged in a fierce email debate (she won’t use email) about what we should do. Entirely typically, two children felt it was imperative she move into an assisted living facility where she’d get some meals and at least a daily check; two (including me) felt we shouldn’t force her if she didn’t want to move. Gross wrote this book after coping with her own mother’s move from Florida to an assisted living facility and then a nursing home in New York, and she’s incredibly illuminating about what she learned in the process. She helped me recognize some of the mistakes we were making: we were absolutely falling into the pattern of heroic early intervention, thinking that we would find some solution that would “solve” the problem of my mother’s isolation and aging and give us our lives back. Gross helped me see that that’s illusory: we’re all in this for the duration; we should slow down and make deliberative decisions, involving my mother and honoring her wishes as much as possible. That’s hard: we all have busy lives with lots else to do; we also are genuinely worried about her living on her own. For now, we have compromised on having a home help come in; we’ll bow to her desire to remain in her own home, but she has to agree to have some help. I really recommend Gross’s book to anyone else dealing with these difficult issues.

Finally, I just finished Hermione Lee’s lovely biography of Penelope Fitzgerald. I gave some rather posh lectures at Oxford in 2014 (The Ford Lectures), and the experience was difficult: I was in Oxford without my family; I had to march into a cavernous lecture hall every Friday and hold forth to whoever happened to show up. But people were kind; I made some new friends; and I took advantage of some empty evenings to read every novel by Penelope Fitzgerald and Jane Gardam. I fell so lastingly in love with Fitzgerald that I had to read Lee’s biography, which I found perfect: revelatory but also respectful. Fitzgerald didn’t have an easy life: she married an attractive but often drunken Guardsman; she found herself the main support for three children; she was a proud woman who insisted on keeping up intellectual standards however bad things got; she only became a successful author late in life. The novels are beautiful and consistently surprising, and Lee honors Fitzgerald’s brilliance and grit. I loved this biography.
Learn more about The Guardians at the Oxford University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

K.J. Larsen

KJ Larsen is the pen name for three guilty sisters who write the Cat DeLuca Mysteries.

Their latest novel is Bye, Bye Love.

Recently I asked the authors about what they were reading. Their reply:
Kari: I’m rereading Paulo Coelho’s charming tale about a shepherd boy. The Alchemist is a parable of discovery, self empowerment, and transformation. I first read this book a decade ago. It still gives me goose-bumps.

Julianne: I’m reading Jo Nesbø’s newest mystery, Blood On Snow. This Nordic crime novel is about a dyslexic hitman named Olav who falls for a woman he’s contracted to kill. It’s a fast read with snappy dialogue and some dark humor.

Kristen: I just finished Being Peace by Thich Nhat Hanh, the Vietnamese poet and Buddhist monk. This collection of teachings has a simple, readable style. The peace activist teaches mindfulness and the healing power of peace. It’s sound advice. Just breathe in and smile!

My next read is the Ming Tea Murder, by Laura Childs. This is the sixteenth installment of the Teashop Mystery Series. I’m already hooked!
Visit K. J. Larsen's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, May 25, 2015

Will Walton

Will Walton is a book-selling, pop music fanatic who grew up on a farm and now works at the Avid Bookshop in Athens, Georgia.

His new YA novel is Anything Could Happen.

Recently I asked Walton about what he was reading. His reply:
I love this question. Today, I’ll be reading The Transcriptionist, by Amy Rowland—I’m totally smitten with the concept: a lonely transcriptionist in New York who’s starting to lose her grip on reality! I just read a book from the stellar 33&1/3 series: Exile in Guyville, by Gina Arnold. I’m a big fan of Liz Phair’s album, Exile in Guyville (I even got the working title for my second book from one of its tracks!). In her 33&1/3 book, Arnold masterfully dissects the spirit of the culture surrounding Guyville’s release in 1993, as well as some, if not all, of the reasons the album has stood the test of time.

In other recent reading news, my co-workers at Avid Bookshop and I are obsessed with this new novel, A Little Life, by Hanya Yanagihara. It’s devastating and beautiful and complete magic. It’s over 700 pages long, but, in many ways, it feels like a kind of anti-epic. At its core, it is a quiet and intimate portrait of friendship, as well as a close investigation of childhood trauma. Other recent loves: The Argonauts by Maggie Nelson, My Feelings by Nick Flynn, The Alex Crow by Andrew Smith, All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven, Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout.
Visit Will Walton's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, May 23, 2015

E.E. Cooper

E. E. Cooper lives in Vancouver Canada with her husband and one very spoiled dog.

Her new novel is Vanished.

Recently I asked Cooper about what she was reading. Her reply:
I read a wide variety of things and am always collecting suggestions from other people of what I should read next. I tell myself that I’m not going to buy any more books until I read the ones I already have--but I have zero willpower to resist two books that I’m recommending now for totally different reasons are:

So You've Been Publicly Shamed by Jon Ronson: This book is non-fiction and tackles the phenomenon of Internet shaming where someone does something wrong and then what must seem like the entire world piles on social media to make sure they are taken to task for what they said or did. It’s an interesting form of bullying and as someone who is involved in social media, and is interested in psychology, why people do what they do--it’s a really great read. It also makes me make sure to think before posting.

I also recently read the YA Complicit by Stephanie Kuehn. This is a psychological thriller where a boy’s sister has just been released from a mental health institution for a crime she committed. Part of him is hoping to never see her again, but she’s threatening to reveal a secret from their childhood. It has a great twist at the end that I didn’t see coming.
Learn more about Vanished at E.E. Cooper's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, May 22, 2015

Melissa Grey

Melissa Grey is a writer of young adult fiction powered entirely by candlelight and cups of tea. She can also ride a horse and shoot a bow and arrow at the same time.

Grey's debut novel is The Girl at Midnight.

Earlier this month I asked the author about what she was reading. Grey's reply:
I like having several irons in the fire when it comes to reading. If I want to prolong one book or if I hit a spot that isn’t right for whatever mood I’m in, I can pick something else up and not lose my reading momentum. Here’s what I’m reading right now:

Anansi Boys by Neil Gaiman – This is a book I’ve tried to read several times but the timing was never quite right. It’s one of those books where I really needed to be in the right frame of mind for the story’s slowly building atmosphere. Gaiman’s prose is beautiful and I’m really enjoying how he’s slowly building the mythology around Anansi and his sons.

Trigger Warning by Neil Gaiman – I’m on a Gaiman kick right now (let’s be real, my whole life is a Neil Gaiman kick). I love his short fiction – he’s a particular talent for making you believe his stories are the tips of icebergs. You’re getting a snippet of a world that you know in your heart is so much bigger than that one short piece of fiction.

Get In Trouble by Kelly Link – I had first come across Kelly Link when a friend lent me Pretty Monsters, another short story collection, and I was blown away. Naturally, I rushed to pick this one up at the bookshop as soon as it came out. Like Gaiman, Link has an uncanny ability to build worlds of which you , another short story collection, and I was blown away. Naturally, I rushed to pick this one up at the bookshop as soon as it came out. Like Gaiman, Link has an uncanny ability to build worlds of which you see glimpses (and they always leave you feeling satisfied but also wanting more).

The Bread We Eat in Dreams by Catherynne Valente – And yet another short story collection! I’m super into short stories right now. I’m a huge fan of Valente – Deathless is a masterpiece, Palimpsest is like no other book I’ve ever read, and The Melancholy of Mechagirl is the kind of gorgeous writing that I can only aspire to. My favorite story in this collection so far is “A Voice Like a Hole.”
Visit Melissa Grey's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Charlotte DeCroes Jacobs

Charlotte D. Jacobs, M.D. is the Ben and A. Jess Shenson Professor of Medicine (Emerita) at Stanford University. A native of Kingsport, Tennessee, she graduated from the University of Rochester and studied medicine at Washington University in St. Louis. As a professor at Stanford University, she engaged in teaching, cancer research, and patient care. She has served as Senior Associate Dean and as Director of the Clinical Cancer Center. Her academic honors include election to Phi Beta Kappa, Kaiser Foundation Award for Innovative and Outstanding Contributions to Medical Education, Rambar Award for Excellence in Clinical Care, and the Distinguished Alumni Award from Washington University. She has published ninety scientific articles and three books which reflect her cancer and medical education research. She currently cares for veterans with cancer at the Palo Alto Veterans Medical Center.

Jacobs's first biography, Henry Kaplan and the Story of Hodgkin’s Disease, was published in 2010. Her new biography is Jonas Salk: A Life.

Recently I asked Jacobs about what she was reading. Her reply:
I tend to read and study nonfiction books. Two of my favorites are Candice Millard’s River of Doubt and more recently Daniel James Brown’s The Boys in the Boat. Both are master storytellers who have mastered the craft of narrative nonfiction.

As for fiction, I am addicted to Jhumpa Lahiri’s stories and anxiously await her next work.
Visit Charlotte Jacobs's website.

My Book, The Movie: Jonas Salk: A Life.

The Page 99 Test: Jonas Salk: A Life.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Ed Ifkovic

Ed Ifkovic taught literature and creative writing at a community college in Connecticut for more than three decades and now devotes himself to writing fiction.

His new book is Café Europa, his sixth Edna Ferber mystery.

Recently I asked the author about what he was reading. Ifkovic's reply:
One of many delights I have in my occasional lunches with my friend Carole Shmurak, a follow mystery writer, is our discussion of books currently being read. Recently Carole mentioned a book—and, in fact, a writer—I was unfamiliar with. The book was L. A. Requiem, and the author Robert Crais. Somehow this well-regarded novel had gone unnoticed by me—but not for long. Carole’s praise and enthusiasm inspired me to purchase the paperback that very afternoon, and I am now in the middle of reading the novel.

And revelation it is: I know I’ll be devouring all of Crais’ works in short order. It’s a habit formed as a bookish teenager. Whenever I discovered any writer I liked, I’d haunt the public library in town until I’d exhausted every volume on the shelves. Back then, I remember, I’d read George Eliot’s Silas Marner, and proceeded to read everything—including the ponderous book-length poem The Spanish Gypsy—to the point of exhaustion. The librarian even sent home a note to my mother, questioning my insane behavior. I went through Galsworthy, A. J. Cronin, Edna Ferber, and James Michener. And all of Patricia Wentworth’s mysteries! My tackling of the published works of Crais will be a thrill. I can count on that.

L.A. Requiem a fascinating novel, a mystery, true, but more so a complex, intricate novel that explores varying perspectives and plot lines with galvanizing dialogue and terse, breezy prose. Flashbacks in the third person alternate with omniscient points of view. Packed with hard-boiled street jargon in the tradition of, say, James Cain, the novel tackles monumental themes in the guise of being a simple mystery—who murdered troubled partner Joe Pike’s ex-girlfriend, Karen Garcia? Woven into that investigation is a rich, varying tapestry of intrigue, question, and wonder.

The minute I finish reading it I will have to begin reading it again. It’s a primer for any student who picks up a pen to write a novel.
Visit Ed Ifkovic's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, May 18, 2015

Linda Grimes

Linda Grimes is a former English teacher and ex-actress now channeling her love of words and drama into writing. She grew up in Texas and currently resides in northern Virginia with her husband. Grimes is the author of In a Fix, Quick Fix, and the newly released The Big Fix.

Earlier this month I asked the author about what she was reading. Her reply:
Reading? Hahahaha! I remember reading. It was fun. I miss it.

Okay, I'm in the middle of the craziness surrounding the release of book three (The Big Fix) of my series, so I haven't had as much time to devote to reading for pleasure as I'd like, but a recent read that I absolutely adored is Bright Before Sunrise, by Tiffany Schmidt. It's a young adult novel that takes place over the course of twenty-four hours. The story is told from the alternating points of view of Jonah, the new guy in school who has no desire to even try to fit in, and Brighton, the painfully perfect girl who makes time to help everyone except herself. Their awkward—and sometimes downright awful—night together ultimately left me with a warm spot in my heart. Though I am fervently grateful I am no longer a teenager, it was great to revisit the adolescent arena via this thoughtful and well-written book.
Visit Linda Grimes's website.

My Book, The Movie: In a Fix.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Nancy Thayer

Nancy Thayer's many novels include Summer House, The Hot Flash Club, Beachcombers, Heat Wave, Summer Breeze, Island Girls, and the newly released The Guest Cottage.

Recently I asked the author about what she was reading. Thayer's reply:
Only last week did I discover that my sister Martha, who lives half the continent away, has what she calls “Just Before Bed” reading—and I had thought I was the only one.

We both have problems with insomnia, and both of us are mystery fiends. But it’s hard to fall asleep wondering who just eviscerated /poisoned/strangled a victim, so we buy another book and save it to read just before turning off the light.

I’m currently reading A Cold Dish by Craig Johnson. It’s not terribly gory, but it’s a good mystery with compelling characters and the plot does have me guessing, so I also have Jan Karon’s At Home in Mitford on my bedside table. One of her charming, humorous chapters is perfect for reminding me that the world is really a wonderful place. My favorite “Just Before Bed” reading is any of Spencer Quinn’s mysteries written from the point of view of a very funny dog named Chet. They combines mystery with laugh-out-loud humor. A good loud laugh before bed is just what the psychiatrist ordered!
Visit Nancy Thayer's website.

The Page 69 Test: Summer House.

The Page 69 Test: Beachcombers.

My Book, The Movie: Beachcombers.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, May 15, 2015

Dan Pope

Dan Pope is the author of Housebreaking (Simon & Schuster, 2015) and In the Cherry Tree (Picador USA, 2003).

His short stories have appeared in many journals, including Crazyhorse, Harvard Review, Iowa Review, McSweeney's (No. 4), Shenandoah, Gettysburg Review, and others.

He is a 2002 graduate of the Iowa Writer's Workshop, where he attended on a Truman Capote Fellowship. He is a winner of the Glenn Schaeffer Award from the International Institute of Modern Letters, and grants in fiction from the Connecticut Commission on the Arts.

Recently I asked Pope about what he was reading. His reply:
At present I'm reading Telex from Cuba by Rachel Kushner. I picked it up because I kept hearing fantastic things about the author from my writer friends. I can see why now. I'm about halfway through the novel, and she does so many things so effortlessly -- she dips in and out of the heads of a large cast of characters, renders a foreign place (Cuba in the 1950s) with startling sensuousness, and jumps across multiple time frames without losing a beat. There's not so much a plot as an evocation of a lost world.

I'm also nearing the end of The Adults by Alison Espach. I was attracted to this book by its cover, I must admit, in the hardcover version. Plus I must confess a fondness for novels about suburban malaise and misdeeds in Connecticut. And Espach throws in a highschool teacher-student romance, to boot. She's snappy, alert, and hilarious as a writer, and then she sneaks up on you with the heartbreak of her characters. I can't wait to see how it turns out. (At the moment, the main character is walking around Prague with a dead dog in a suitcase. That might sound absurd, but the book is anything but.)
Visit Dan Pope's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Elyssa Friedland

Elyssa Friedland graduated from Columbia University School of Law in 2007 and subsequently worked as an associate at a major firm.

Her debut novel is Love and Miss Communication.

Recently I asked the author about what she was reading. Friedland's reply:
I just finished the astounding Room by Emma Donoghue. This is not an easy read. The book is written from the perspective of five-year-old Jack who is trapped along with his mother in the tiny room (hence the title) where he was born and is being held captive. As a mother of young children, the subject matter was grueling, but Donoghue’s immense story-telling and writing talent made the book impossible to put down. How she managed to capture the thoughts of a small child so accurately and in a way that adults could still find compelling is an inspiration to me as a writer. I had one major problem with the plot which I won’t give away for fear of spoiling the novel, but other than that, I have nothing but praise for the book and awe of the writer.

Before that I read Big, Little Lies by Liane Moriarty. This book was a lot of fun and really spoke to me as a mother of pre-school age children. The nursery school environment can be catty at times, but behind the light-hearted gossip there are some families going through real struggles. Moriarty nails this perfectly and her book is a perfect blend of humor and substance. That is something I tried to achieve in my novel so I will definitely be reading Moriarty’s other books (The Husband’s Secret and What Alice Forgot among others).
Visit Elyssa Friedland's website.

The Page 69 Test: Love and Miss Communication.

My Book, The Movie: Love and Miss Communication.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Esther Friesner

Nebula Award winner Esther Friesner is the author of more than 30 novels and over 150 short stories, including the story “Thunderbolt” in Random House’s Young Warriors anthology, which lead to the creation of Nobody’s Princess and Nobody’s Prize. She is also the editor of seven popular anthologies. Her works have been published around the world. Educated at Vassar College and Yale University, where she taught for a number of years, Friesner is also a poet, a playwright, and once wrote an advice column, “Ask Auntie Esther.”

Her latest novel is Deception's Pawn.

Recently I asked the author about what she was reading. Friesner's reply:
I admit it: I read comic books. It doesn't matter if they are living under assumed names like "graphic novel" or "mana," I read them. A lot. And I am always happy when I come across one that I have not met up with before that turns out to be a real winner. That proved to be the case of The Shadow Hero.

I'm familiar with the work of one of the creators, Gene Yuen Lang (though not that of the other, Sonny Liew, until now). I really enjoyed his American Born Chinese and the duology Boxers and Saints.

The Shadow Hero is the backstory created for an obscure comic book hero, the Green Turtle, who well may have been the first Chinese superhero, though the Powers That Were did all they could to downplay that. The samples of original Green Turtle issues at the back of The Shadow Hero are as racist as any of the old Bugs Bunny cartoons where he's fighting the Japanese during World War II because that's what the Green Turtle's doing, too.

There's a lot to love in The Shadow Hero but from my extremely subjective point of view two of the best things about it are the use of humor and the wonderful characterization. My favorite character is the hero's mother, hands down. She is every mother who ever believed that nothing was beyond her child's ability to achieve. She's a force of nature powered by love. Do not stand in her way! (Probably good advice when dealing with all mothers.)

Will there be a sequel? Pleeeeeease?
Learn more about the book and author at the Princesses of Myth website and blog.

My Book, The Movie: Spirit's Princess.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Gwendolyn Womack

Originally from Houston, Texas, Gwendolyn Womack began writing plays in college while freezing in the tundra at the University of Alaska Fairbanks. She received an MFA from CalArts in Directing for theater and film and was a semi-finalist in the Academy’s Nicholl Fellowship. She currently she resides in California and can be found at her keyboard.

The newly released The Memory Painter is Womack's first novel.

Recently I asked the author about what she was reading. Womack's reply:
I tend to read a lot of nonfiction for story research but I try to break for some purely leisure reading when I can. Recently, I finished Publishing by Gail Godwin, which was a fascinating look at her experiences through the years in the publishing industry.

And currently I’m reading two books at the same time, something I actually never do but somehow it’s happened and I love them both. The first is All The Light We Cannot See, which everyone has already read but me. Anthony Doerr’s writing is transcendent, illuminating and filled with such beauty and precision that sometimes passages have me holding my breath. I’m also reading Alexis Landau’s debut novel Empire of the Senses, which is set right about the same time period. She is an exquisite painter with words and the characters are captivating.

Next on my list to read is The Witch of Painted Sorrows by MJ Rose, a story about a witch in belle époque Paris that sounds fantastic and The Girl On A Train by Paula Hawkins because I love thrillers and gobble them up whenever I can.
Visit Gwendolyn Womack's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, May 11, 2015

Heidi Pitlor

Heidi Pitlor grew up in Concord, Massachusetts. She got her B.A. from McGill University in Montreal and moved out to Colorado, where in Denver and Boulder she worked as a nanny, receptionist, freelance writer, bus girl, rape crisis counselor and counselor to homeless and runaway teenagers. She moved back to Massachusetts to earn her M.F.A. in Creative Writing from Emerson College and worked as a temp at Houghton Mifflin Company. Soon after, she was hired as an editorial assistant in the company's trade division. She eventually became an editor and later a senior editor at Houghton Mifflin (now Houghton Mifflin Harcourt). She wrote fiction early in the mornings before work and published her first novel, The Birthdays, in 2006. She has been the series editor of The Best American Short Stories since 2007. Her writing has appeared in such publications as Ploughshares, The Huffington Post, and Labor Day: True Birth Stories by Today's Best Women Writers.

Pitlor's new novel is The Daylight Marriage.

Recently I asked the author about what she was reading. Her reply:
The Wonder Garden, by Lauren Acampora

I'm not sure where this story writer has been all my life, but I tore through her first book, a collection. Here are deceptively simple, masterful stories of lives in a tony New York suburb. I know, I know, we're all sick of reading about suburbia, but we shouldn't be, because still, some of our best fiction comes from those quiet, well-behaved towns just far enough from urban centers. Acampora's writing is crisp and dark and bright at the same time. She is a writer to watch.
Visit Heidi Pitlor's website.

The Page 69 Test: The Daylight Marriage.

My Book, the Movie: The Daylight Marriage.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, May 9, 2015

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 the newly released Black Dove, White Raven.

Recently I asked Wein about what she was reading. Her reply:
I am always in the middle of at least five books. I don’t know how this happens. They lie all over the house. Some of them are eventually abandoned; some are long term projects (I am struggling through the French version of my own book, Code Name Verity, in small segments).

Here are four that I’m very likely to finish because I’m enjoying them so much. I’m also in the middle of a new Michael Grant book which I won’t name because it’s still in manuscript form, but it’s very good and I look forward to seeing it in print.

In no particular order, then:

I came across The Murdstone Trilogy by Mal Peet because it was mentioned in an article some friends were discussing in the Telegraph, “How to write a dystopian YA novel in 10 easy steps.” Saddened by Mal Peet’s recent death, intrigued at the idea of his having written an adult novel, and hugely entertained by the send-up of dystopian fiction in the Telegraph feature, I ordered the book. The Murdstone Trilogy is about the fall, rise and fall of a Young Adult novelist who may or may not share characteristics with the late author. It’s snarky, mean, irreverent, sad and hilarious, and especially poignant to someone who knows the field from the inside. I am broken-hearted I’ll never get to talk to Mal Peet about it in person.

I’m re-reading Memories by Lucy Boston, which is actually two books, Perverse and Foolish and Memory in a House, packed up in a single edition. They’re both autobiographical. Lucy Boston is the beloved Carnegie-winning children’s author of the Green Knowe books, favorites of my younger brother when he was a ten-year-old growing up in Pennsylvania, discovered by me at 20 or so. I have four times visited the house in question, the Norman Manor House in Hemingford Grey near Huntingdon in England. I am rather envious of the author’s 50-year-strong relationship with this building which is now approaching the venerable age of 900. Yes, nine hundred. Years. It’s the oldest inhabited house in the UK. I love Lucy Boston’s forthright, forward-thinking, outdoor-loving youthful self, and her continued engagement with the world and with creativity into her 90s. She is an author I so wish I’d been able to meet.

I’m reading Carpow in Context: A Late Bronze Age Logboat from the Tay by David Strachan as background research for a current project. It is ridiculous how much I’m enjoying it. I suppose I am a thwarted archaeologist. I actually enjoy the detailed technical descriptions – some of it goes over my head, but there is much of interest to be found here. I am particularly charmed by the realization that this logboat, which we went to admire when it was briefly on triumphant display in the Perth Museum, is essentially a glorified Bronze Age punt, complete with clever footrests for the punter to stand on. Punting is one of my obsessions and quite possibly my favorite sport. This beautiful and important archaeological discovery was made about five miles from my house – I bought the book directly from the author, who works in a building down the road from me. I kind of envy him his job.

I can’t remember where I came across the recommendation for Vango: Between Sky and Earth by Timothée de Fombelle, but I ordered it on an impulse just because I was so enraptured by the cover art. In fact I’m reading this in French, the original title being Vango: Entre Ciel et Terre. I do a fair amount of reading in French because, though not fluent, it’s my only language other than English and I like to practice. I’ve also found that books suffer a lot in translation and this one sounded good enough that it was worth attempting in the original. It is a fabulous adventure with a mysterious, likeable teen hero, and the settings across 1930s Europe are lush and incredibly detailed. I wish I was capable of reading faster – both in French and in English!
Visit Elizabeth Wein's website and blog.

The Page 69 Test: Black Dove, White Raven.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, May 8, 2015

Laura Bickle

Laura Bickle grew up in rural Ohio, reading entirely too many comic books out loud to her favorite Wonder Woman doll. She dreams up stories about the monsters under the stairs, also writing contemporary fantasy novels under the name Alayna Williams. Her work has been included in the ALA’s Amelia Bloomer Project 2013 reading list and the State Library of Ohio’s Choose to Read Ohio reading list for 2015-2016.

Bickle's new novel is Dark Alchemy.

Recently I asked the author about what she was reading. Her reply:
I’m reading Sara Wiseman’s Writing with the Muse: Opening to Conscious Creativity. I do believe that any kind of creation – whether it’s writing, gardening, doll-making, painting, or sculpting – requires an openness to the world around them. Artists of all kinds have a give and take with the world, a way of communicating with ideas. Each one evolves their own technique of receiving input and producing a finished work that represents the artist’s experience in the world. I’ve enjoyed Wiseman’s previous work, and I like her approach to opening to inspiration, wandering with ideas, and transmuting the knowledge gained into art.

I’ve also picked up Xorin Balbes’ SoulSpace. I’ve been in the process of revamping my indoor office and my outdoor working space to better support my work. Balbes walks the reader through a process of creating space that allows for greater creativity, leisure, and openness. As I work through the book, I’m amazed by how much clutter I’ve gathered and how ineffective some of my current work spaces are.

Romeo and Juliet: The War by Stan Lee, Terry Douglas, Max Work, and Skan Srisuwan is also in my reading stack. It’s a very visually-appealing retelling of the classic story. I’m enjoying the sci-fi perspective, seeing how a classic story can be updated for a different audience. The art is lovely – much interplay with light and shadow. I was curious to see if I could become emotionally involved in a story for which I already know the ending…and I’m pleasantly surprised to see that I can.
Visit Laura Bickle's website, blog, Facebook page, and Twitter perch.

The Page 69 Test: The Outside.

The Page 69 Test: Dark Alchemy.

--Marshal Zeringue