Thursday, August 27, 2015

Nicole Galland

Nicole Galland's novels include The Fool's Tale; Revenge of the Rose; Crossed; I, Iago; and Godiva. She is married to actor Billy Meleady and owns Leuco, a dog of splendid qualities.

Galland's new novel is Stepdog.

Recently I asked the author about what she was reading. Her reply:
I’m usually a serial monogamist in my reading – I lose myself completely in something, finish it, and then move on to the next. At the moment, though, there’s a pile on my bedside table, and I despair of getting through them all before the end of summer. It’s a pretty eclectic stack.

I’ll start with Malcolm Gaskill’s Between Two Worlds: How the English Became American. This is research for my next novel (which I’m writing in collaboration with Neal Stephenson). I grew up in eastern Massachusetts, which means I’d been to Plimoth Plantation several times and done all the historical walks around Boston, but there’s 150 years between “Behold! the settlers” and “Behold! the revolutionaries” and that gap generally isn’t covered in the pop-cultural sense of American history – one might almost get the impression the Pilgrims got off the Mayflower and a few years later were throwing tea into Boston harbor. This book fills that gap, and does a masterful job of showing the shifting mentality among the white settlers – toward the native population, toward Mother England, toward themselves as a new society.

Another current research book for that same writing project (which leaps between historical eras) is, weirdly enough, one of my own novels: Crossed: A Tale of the Fourth Crusade. From the research I did while writing this novel (which is about a crusade so appallingly ill-conceived and corrupt that it feels like a Monty Python sketch), I know the material very well, but I needed a quick refresher of certain facts, and the most efficient way to review those facts was, somewhat ironically, to reread a segment of my own fictional application of those facts. So I’m in the middle of that, which is both delightful and unsettling. I’m relieved to report that, reviewing it 8 years later, I'm enjoying it. On the other hand, I don’t think a writer ever stops wanting to rewrite, so it’s a tad excruciating to read material I cannot change.

I just finished Cat Warren’s What The Dog Knows, about the practice of training dogs (her dog in particular) to be “cadaver dogs” - in a larger sense, the book is about the bond between humans and dogs and how dogs use their sense of smell to understand the world. It’s a perfect read for dog-lovers; she and I were on a dog-writer-themed panel together, and I read it so I’d know where she was coming from, but immediately got into the narrative for its own sake. If you’re a dog-lover who is into true crime stories, it might feel like she wrote the book specifically for you.

I’m now in the middle of LaShonda Katrice Barnett’s debut novel Jam On The Vine. LaShonda and I were just on a panel together about developing characters’ voices, so (as with Cat’s book) I initially bought the book out of respect for a fellow panelist (the other panelist was Geraldine Brooks, whose works I already own and love). I find myself sipping it like warm honey-water. Her use of language is so sumptuous and the story is heartachingly timely and timeless – about race and racism in America, set in and around the Red Summer of 1919 when race riots nearly tore America apart even worse than what’s happening right now.

There is also Jennifer Steil’s The Ambassador’s Wife, a novel I’ve been anticipating reading for about a year, since the ARCs came out. (I know Jennifer from A Room Of Her Own, a wonderful organization for women writers that has a biennial writers retreat at Ghost Ranch in New Mexico). It’s a gripping story set in a fictional Middle Eastern country, hinging upon a kidnapping… but there’s more going on than that.

I also just read an unpublished novel manuscript by an unpublished young writer, a piece I absolutely adore but which I cannot contractually discuss. So maybe it’s a tease for me to even mention it, except that it is indicative of the kind of reading I often do: as a sideline, I love working as a developmental editor. I don’t advertise it or do it often (I only take clients when I have time, and who are recommended to me by people I trust), but I enjoy it so much and feel it’s so important to the future of good storytelling, that if I had the time and means to offer my services for free, I would just do it all the time.

And finally, I just bought Hilary Mantel’s universally lauded Wolf Hall, but I haven’t started it yet. That one, from what everyone has said about it, requires reading-monogamy, so it will be my one true love when I have finished all the others. Given it’s historical fiction set in an era and nation I am perennially fascinated with, I don’t even have words to express how excited I am that it’s waiting for me.
Visit Nicole Galland's website.

The Page 69 Test: Stepdog.

My Book, The Movie: Stepdog.

--Marshal Zeringue