Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Holly Schindler

Holly Schindler is a hybrid author of critically acclaimed traditionally published and Amazon bestselling independently published works for readers of all ages. Her previous YAs (A Blue So Dark, Playing Hurt, and Feral) have received starred reviews from Booklist and Publishers Weekly, won silver and gold medals from ForeWord Reviews Book of the Year and the IPPY Awards, respectively, been featured on Booklist’s First Novels for Youth, School Library Journal’s “What’s Hot in YA,” and been selected as a PW Pick. Kirkus praised her latest YA, Spark, for “crisp prose [that] flows easily between the past and present,” and Booklist claimed the novel casts “a shimmering spell.”

Recently I asked Schindler about what she was reading. Her reply:
My reading tastes really do run the gamut. I’m an old lit major; when I was in school, I read everything from Beowulf to Ursula K. Le Guin. I still love my old classics (and often reread my fave Jane Austens). Currently, I’m getting into graphic novels (Daniel Clowes’s Patience and Joe Hill’s Locke & Key).

I’ve also been drawn to writing and reading books that contain older POVs (my novel Miles Left Yet focuses on three characters who reside at the Granite Ridge Retirement Community—and take a road trip together in a vintage Mustang). So I was quick to snap up the book Anderson Cooper and Gloria Vanderbilt co-wrote (The Rainbow Comes and Goes).

In addition, my independently-released work has tended toward the shorter side as of late—I’m releasing one short story a month throughout 2016 in my Forever Finley Short Story Cycle (you can view more on that here. So many of my reads are shorter lately, too: short stories by Alice Munro and Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout.
Visit Holly Schindler's website, blog, Facebook page, and Twitter perch.

Coffee with a Canine: Holly Schindler & Jake.

My Book, The Movie: Feral.

My Book, The Movie: Spark.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, May 29, 2016

Margaret Dilloway

Margaret Dilloway has been a writer ever since she learned how to write. In high school she was a California Arts Scholar in creative writing and she won a National Council of Teachers of English writing award. She practiced writing in a variety of forms, such as being a theater critic and a contributing editor for two weekly newspapers, doing technical writing, and writing plays, before publishing three critically acclaimed books for adults: How to Be an American Housewife, The Care and Handling of Roses with Thorns, and Sisters of Heart and Snow. Her research for Momotaro: Xander and the Lost Island of Monsters included a trip to Japan and a samurai sword-fighting class. Dilloway lives in southern California with her husband, three children, and a goldendoodle named Gatsby.

Recently I asked Dilloway about what she was reading. Her reply:
I'm reading In the Woods by Tana French. I'm not sure how I missed this-- except it came out when I had three little kids, that's probably why. It's a psychological police mystery about two detectives who are trying to locate a girl's killer. It's all tied into a crime that happened against the main character when he was a child, in which his two best friends disappeared and which he cannot remember. It's really good! I like how the main character is unreliable and they're breaking so many rules you kind of know bad things are going to happen as a result.
Visit Margaret Dilloway's website and blog.

Coffee with a Canine: Margaret Dilloway and Gatsby.

The Page 69 Test: Momotaro: Xander and the Lost Island of Monsters.

My Book, The Movie: Momotaro: Xander and the Lost Island of Monsters.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, May 27, 2016

Adam Haslett

Adam Haslett is the author of the short story collection You Are Not a Stranger Here, which was a Pulitzer Prize and National Book Award finalist, and the novel Union Atlantic, winner of the Lambda Literary Award and shortlisted for the Commonwealth Prize. His books have been translated into eighteen languages, and he has received the Berlin Prize from the American Academy in Berlin, the PEN/Malamud Award, and fellowships from the Guggenheim and Rockefeller Foundations.

Haslett's new novel is Imagine Me Gone.

Recently I asked the author about what he was reading. His reply:
As usual I'm in the midst of several books, fiction and non-fiction. I'm about a third of the way through Peter Gay's biography of Freud, which I picked up as a kind of backgrounder to psychoanalytic theory, about which I have only an undergraduate acquaintance. It's a mildly frustrating book because it takes for granted the existence of Freud's various internal entities and diagnoses--the id, hysteria--as though they were fossils he'd discovered on a dig rather than historical and cultural concepts, but it's good on the life itself.

On the fiction side, I recently finished Elizabeth Strout's latest novel, My Name is Lucy Barton, which I thought was quite fine, about a once-poor woman being visited in the hospital by her still poor mother. It's a hard book--not in the formal sense, but in its view of family--in a way a lot of fiction hesitates to be, and I appreciated that.

I'm a few pages from the end of Paul Beatty's coruscating satire, The Sellout, which is just brilliant and ravaging in its send-up of our racial pieties. The black narrator reinstates slavery and segregation in a South Central-like neighborhood of LA to devastating comic effect. I haven't read any of this earlier stuff, but I will now. I highly recommend this one.

And the other novel that's open on my desk right now is Richard Price's The Whites, which I'm enjoying as a New Yorker, seeing my city captured in ways I don't often or ever experience it. I don't read much crime fiction because the formula seems too close to the surface, but in The Whites, the plot seems as much an excuse to spend time with Price's people as an end in itself. I'm glad to have a lot of fiction in the mix right now, which is easier when I'm not in the middle of writing a book myself, and have some plane flights to read at long stretches, so I'm looking forward to more of that in the months ahead.
Visit Adam Haslett's website.

The Page 69 Test: Union Atlantic.

The Page 69 Test: Imagine Me Gone.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Andy Mozina

Andy Mozina is a professor of English at Kalamazoo College and the author of the short story collections The Women Were Leaving the Men, which won the Great Lakes Colleges Association New Writers Award, and Quality Snacks, which was a finalist for the Flannery O’Connor Prize.

Mozina's new book, Contrary Motion, is his debut novel.

Recently I asked the author about what he was reading. His reply:
I just finished the short story collection The Heaven of Animals by David James Poissant. He inhabits the worlds of all of his characters so thoroughly that by the end of each story, I have a sense that I’ve heard someone out, heard them express their core values, seen them at their best and at their worst. He makes you care about real people, flaws and all, and he writes about characters you might easily sympathize with (parents who’ve lost a child, a boy who is bullied at a party), as well as some people you may not like (two cousins have a decades-long affair, a bigoted man who throws his gay son out a window). This is a writer with a great deal of courage and empathy. Plus his stories are funny and inventive, with a mix of realist and magical realist pieces.

Now I’m re-reading Once Upon a River by Bonnie Jo Campbell because I’m going to teach it to my advanced fiction workshop. The novel has a fabulous main character, sixteen-year-old Margo Crane, who finds herself living on her own on a river in rural Michigan when her mother runs off and her father is shot by her cousin. It also has a narrative drive as powerful as a river at flood stage. Margo’s youth, gender and class make her vulnerable; her resilience, skills and gumption make her unstoppable. I love to teach this book to beginning writers because it has everything: a quick and clear dramatic hook, a wonderful sense of place, great moment-to-moment detailing of setting and character, and a complex and satisfying character arc.

I’m also reading Lauren Groff’s Fates and Furies, a novel that looks at both sides of a contemporary marriage. So far I’ve just seen things from Lotto’s (the husband’s) point of view. I expect some of what I think I know about Lotto will be complicated and/or reversed when we get things from Mathilde’s (the wife’s) point of view. Don’t tell me how it turns out! In the meantime, I’m enjoying the brilliant sentences and the depths of the characterizations.
Visit Andy Mozina's website.

The Page 69 Test: Contrary Motion.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Hannah Dennison

Hannah Dennison is the author of The Vicky Hill Mysteries (Little, Brown) and the Honeychurch Hall Mysteries (Minotaur), both set in the wilds of the Devonshire countryside. Dennison originally moved to Los Angeles to pursue screenwriting. She has been an obituary reporter, antique dealer, private jet flight attendant and Hollywood story analyst. Now living in Portland, Oregon, she still continues to teach mystery writing workshops at the UCLA Extension Writers’ Program in Los Angeles, California. Dennison has served on numerous judging committees for Mystery Writers of America and is serving on the MWA board for 2016-2018.

Although she spends most of her time in Oregon with her husband and two insane Vizsla dogs, Dennison’s heart remains in England. She is a passionate supporter of the Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings, the Historic Houses Association, and the National Trust. She enjoys all country pursuits, movies, theater and seriously good chocolate.

Dennison's new novel is A Killer Ball at Honeychurch Hall.

Recently I asked the author about what she was reading. Her reply:
Like many readers, I have a stack of books on my nightstand. With the recent publication of A Killer Ball at Honeychurch Hall, I’ve been doing a lot of traveling—and that means reading more than usual.

In the past two weeks I’ve read Allison Leotta’s Law of Attraction featuring federal prosecutor Anna Curtis. Anna is a smart, savvy lawyer who fights to protect women from domestic violence. What particularly impressed me was how Leotta skillfully weaves humor and romance into what can be a particularly tough subject. I’ve already ordered the rest of that series.

Next was The River of Darkness, the first in the John Madden mysteries by Rennie Airth. My grandfather fought in the trenches on the Western Front and suffered from shellshock—or PTSD. Airth’s detective is haunted by his own experiences during the First World War making this particular series of murders he is investigating all the more chilling. I read it in from cover to cover on the plane in one go!

I’ve just finished Con Lehane’s new book Murder at the 42nd Street Library. Set in the iconic, beaux-arts flagship of the New York Library we meet Raymond Ambler, curator of the Crime Fiction Collection. The plot revolves around a mystery writer who recently donated his private papers to the collection. What struck me most was Lehane’s intimate knowledge of New York and the inner workings of the actual library—although he is quick to point out that there is no real Crime Fiction Collection.

And finally, for light relief, I love Allie Brosh’s collection of crazy cartoons in Hyperbole and a Half. No, they are not mysteries but they are clever and simply hilarious!
Visit Hannah Dennison's website and Facebook page.

The Page 69 Test: Murder at Honeychurch Hall.

My Book, The Movie: Murder at Honeychurch Hall.

My Book, The Movie: Deadly Desires at Honeychurch Hall.

The Page 69 Test: Deadly Desires at Honeychurch Hall.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, May 23, 2016

Sarah Strohmeyer

Sarah Strohmeyer is a bestselling and award-winning novelist whose books include The Secrets of Lily Graves, How Zoe Made Her Dreams (Mostly) Come True, Smart Girls Get What They Want, The Cinderella Pact (which became the Lifetime Original Movie Lying to Be Perfect), The Sleeping Beauty Proposal, The Secret Lives of Fortunate Wives, Sweet Love, and the Bubbles mystery series.

Strohmeyer's new novel is This Is My Brain on Boys.

Recently I asked the author about what she was reading. Her reply:
I recently discovered Judith Merkel Riley who wrote humorous, historical, feminist novels with a supernatural touch. I am riveted by the tale of Margaret of Ashbury in A Vision of Light who is wed against her will at age 14 in the 13th century to a vile, evil merchant. She looks for someone to write her biography - since, of course, she is illiterate - and finds a barely tolerant priest. There are three books in the series and they are impossible to put down. The Audible version is awesome, too. I think they would work for anyone 13+.
Visit Sarah Strohmeyer's website.

The Page 69 Test: This Is My Brain on Boys.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, May 21, 2016

Larry Sweazy

Larry D. Sweazy's novels include A Thousand Falling Crows, Escape from Hangtown, See Also Murder: A Marjorie Trumaine Mystery, Vengeance at Sundown, The Gila Wars, The Coyote Tracker, The Devil's Bones, The Cougar's Prey, The Badger's Revenge, The Scorpion Trail, and The Rattlesnake Season. He won the WWA (Western Writers of America) Spur award for Best Short Fiction in 2005 and for Best Paperback Original in 2013. He also won the 2011 and 2012 Will Rogers Medallion Award for Western Fiction for books the Josiah Wolfe series. He was nominated for a Derringer award in 2007 (for the short story "See Also Murder"), and was a finalist in the Best Books of Indiana literary competition in 2010. Sweazy was awarded the Best Books in Indiana in 2011 for The Scorpion Trail. And in 2013, he received the inaugural Elmer Kelton Fiction Book of the Year for The Coyote Tracker, presented by the AWA (Academy of Western Artists). Sweazy has published over sixty nonfiction articles and short stories, which have appeared in Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine; The Adventure of the Missing Detective: And 25 of the Year's Finest Crime and Mystery Stories!; Boys' Life; Hardboiled; Amazon Shorts, and several other publications and anthologies.

Sweazy's new Marjorie Trumaine Mystery is See Also Deception.

Recently I asked the author about what he was reading. His reply:
I’m currently reading Red Bones by Ann Cleeves. This is a Shetland Island Mystery featuring DI Jimmy Perez. It is set in the remote Scottish Shetland Islands. I discovered the book by watching the TV show Shetland, which is based on this brilliant series. I had just finished watching Hinterland, a moody police procedural set in Wales when I stumbled onto Shetland. It was a good fit. I love stories set in remote, out-of-the-way places where the land influences the depth of character. The islands have a small town feel about them. Everyone knows everyone. There’s history, grudges, and secrets hidden everywhere. All of my favorite things to write and read about. The struggle to thrive or survive appeals to me, and Ann Cleeves is a master storyteller with a clear handle on this dark milieu. After devouring the TV show, I sought out the books, and I’m glad I did. They add depth and richness to all of the characters that the TV show couldn’t. I’m looking forward to reading more books by Ann Cleeves.
Visit Larry D. Sweazy's website and blog.

Coffee with a Canine: Larry D. Sweazy & Brodi and Sunny (April 2013).

The Page 69 Test: See Also Deception.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, May 20, 2016

Brooks Benjamin

Brooks Benjamin lives in Tennessee with his wife and their incredibly spoiled dog.

Benjamin's new novel is My Seventh-Grade Life in Tights.

Recently I asked the author about what he was reading. His reply:
I've been on a serious Middle Grade kick lately, barreling through some books that have definitely rocketed to the top of my favorites list. Some of the recents are Swing Sideways by Nanci Steveson, The Distance to Home by Jenn Bishop, and Howard Wallace, P.I. by Casey Lyall. All three of these have something in common that I crave every time I open a book: incredible characters. Nanci's book features two girls who form an unlikely friendship that, for me, rivals the ups and downs of MG relationships found in Bridge to Terabithia. Bishop's story is told through the eyes of a strong-willed young girl baseball player with chapters that alternate between current day and a year ago. And Lyall's main character, the titular middle-school detective, is about as hardboiled and hilarious as it gets. I can't wait for these characters to find their ways into the hands of kids, teens, and adults. And I also can't wait to see what's next from these outstanding authors.
Visit Brooks Benjamin's website.

The Page 69 Test: My Seventh-Grade Life in Tights.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Samantha Mabry

Samantha Mabry was born four days before the death of John Lennon. She grew up in Dallas, playing bass guitar along to vinyl records in her bedroom after school, writing fan letters to rock stars, doodling song lyrics into notebooks, and reading big, big books.

Mabry's debut novel is A Fierce and Subtle Poison.

Recently I asked the author about what she was reading. Her reply:
For a few weeks now, I’ve had In the American Grain by William Carlos Williams on my nightstand. I go back and forth to it because it’s dense and difficult and…strange. In the American Grain is officially referred to as a collection of essays written in (I believe) 1922, but, to me, they read like Modernist prose poems/alternate histories of major events in the formation of the Americas (according to Williams), from the explorations of the Vikings to the deaths of Edgar Allan Poe and Abraham Lincoln.

The opening lines of one of the essays entitled “The Fountain of Eternal Youth” goes like this: “History, history! We fools, what do we know or care? History for us begins with enslavement, not with discovery.” I love this so much: the exploration of who controls history and how it can be viewed by different angles. And the way that Williams writes about history –with exclamation points and dashes and odd, impressionistic phrasing –makes it all so angry and beautiful and alive.
Visit Samantha Mabry's website.

The Page 69 Test: A Fierce and Subtle Poison.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Kathleen Tessaro

Born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Kathleen Tessaro attended the University of Pittsburgh before entering the drama program of Carnegie Mellon University. In the middle of her sophomore year, she went to study in London for three months and stayed for the next twenty-three years. She began writing at the suggestion of a friend and was an early member of the Wimpole Street Writer’s Workshop. Her debut novel, Elegance, became a bestseller in hardback and paperback. All of Tessaro's novels (Innocence, The Flirt, The Debutante, The Perfume Collector, and most recently, Rare Objects) have been translated into many languages and sold all over the world. She returned to Pittsburgh in 2009, where she now lives with her husband and son.

Recently I asked Tessaro about what she was reading. Her reply:
I'm reading a couple of books at the moment, mostly as research and inspiration for my next novel but my favorite is The World of Yesterday by Stefan Zweig. I'm trying to get my head round Vienna at the turn of the century, the collapse of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and the place the Jews held in that society before World War II. As an Austrian Jewish novelist and playwright, Zweig paints an unnerving portrait of a secure, well-regulated, highly sophisticated world seemingly impervious to change and utterly unaware of its own fragility. It's also a love letter to a vanished era, a golden age in which Vienna flourished, artistically and intellectually before succumbing to the most barbaric atrocities just decades later. The juxtaposition is haunting and terrifying.
Visit Kathleen Tessaro's website.

My Book, The Movie: The Perfume Collector.

The Page 69 Test: Rare Objects.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Laura McNeal

Laura Rhoton McNeal holds an MA in fiction writing from Syracuse University and has worked as a freelance journalist, a crime writer, and a high school English teacher. She is the author of Dark Water, a finalist for the National Book Award. She and her husband, Tom, are the authors of Crooked, Zipped, Crushed, and The Decoding of Lana Morris.

McNeal's new novel is The Incident on the Bridge.

Recently I asked the author about what she was reading. Her reply:
I’m reading three things right now: Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout, David Copperfield by (of course) Dickens, and At the Existentialist Cafe by Sarah Bakewell. Olive Kitteridge is a book I always meant to read, but I have a self-defeating aversion to bestselling books, and I wrongly thought that the book could not possibly be as good as everyone said it was. It’s every bit as good, though, and maybe better. I find it devastating, yet somehow inspiring; lyrical and yet unpretentious. It makes me want to write and it makes me despair of ever writing that well, which is how I like to feel when I’m reading fiction.

As for Dickens, my husband is currently re-reading him for a novel he’s writing in which there’s a section (which I haven’t been allowed to read yet) with the working title of “The Year of Reading Dickens.” In order to speed his progress, Tom not only reads the books but listens to them in the car, and whenever I’m in the car, I listen, too. I fell in love again with the beginning of David Copperfield and decided I should read it on my own as an example of something I’m trying to do myself, which is to narrate, in convincing detail, scenes that the character could not possibly have witnessed.

My reading of the Sarah Bakewell book is similarly motivated by work. I’m writing (or trying to write) about a boy who turns to existentialism and Buddhism after a violent murder happens in his family, and I thought the Bakewell book might give me more conversational ways to describe arcane ideas. It does do that, and it also turns out to be a really interesting history of the philosophers themselves, so I’m enjoying it a lot.
Visit Laura McNeal's website.

The Page 69 Test: The Incident on the Bridge.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, May 16, 2016

Suzanne Myers

Suzanne Myers was born in Philadelphia and grew up in Toronto, Canada. She is a graduate of Princeton University and USC Film School. Her feature film Alchemy won Best Feature at the SXSW Film Festival. She lives in Brooklyn with her husband, two sons, and dogs. She also rides and shows horses.

Myers's latest novel is I'm From Nowhere.

Recently I asked the author about what she was reading. Her reply:
I read constantly. Possibly too much. I often think I should slow down and take longer breaks between books, but I can’t seem to stop myself. I read a lot of YA, both contemporary and classic, and a lot of literary fiction, also contemporary and classic. I’m a terrible non-fiction reader. And I have to be basically obsessed with someone to read his or her biography. Right now, the Joan Didion biography, The Last Love Song, is on my nightstand, and she definitely qualifies.

The most recent YA novel I read was Libba Bray’s The Diviners, which I loved. She paints a fantastic world: New York in the roaring twenties, with a heavy dose of dark magic. I was particularly impressed with the way she wove the stories of such a diverse group of characters together and was adept at keeping so many balls in the air. The book is inventive, well researched and a lot of fun to read.

I like to go back and reread books I haven’t looked at for a while, or find lesser-known works by authors I like that I’ve overlooked. Recently I’ve been on a big Daphne du Maurier and Josephine Tey kick. Both wrote in the middle of the 20th century and I don’t think either was taken as seriously as she should have been at the time. Du Maurier was considered a romance novelist and Tey a mystery writer, but really they both specialized in the creepy and unexpected. The books I just read were du Maurier’s The Scapegoat and Tey’s Brat Farrar. Both novels are about doubles and imposters, my absolute favorite kind of story. Du Maurier also wrote wonderful shorts stories, and many great movies have been adapted from her work: Rebecca, The Birds and Don't Look Now are standouts.

Much of my reading actually takes the form of listening. When an audiobook is cast well, the performance adds tremendously. One actor I love to hear is Jane Entwistle, who reads all of Alan Bradley’s Flavia de Luce novels. The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie is the first in the series. Flavia is a madcap eleven-year-old who lives in a decaying, ancient English manor and delights in chemistry and murder. I can’t think of her without hearing Jane Entwistle’s beguiling voice.
Visit Suzanne Myers's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, May 14, 2016

T.R. Ragan

T.R. Ragan (Theresa Ragan) is a New York Times and USA Today bestselling author. Her exciting Lizzy Gardner series (Abducted, Dead Weight, A Dark Mind, Obsessed, Almost Dead, and Evil Never Dies) has received tremendous praise. In August 2015 Evil Never Dies hit #7 on the Wall Street Journal bestselling list. Since publishing in 2011, she has sold two million books and has been mentioned in the Wall Street Journal, the L.A. Times, PC Magazine, Huffington Post, and Publishers Weekly.

Ragan grew up in a family of five girls in Lafayette, California. An avid traveler, her wanderings have carried her to Germany, Ireland, the Netherlands, China, Thailand, and Nepal, where she narrowly survived being chased by a killer elephant. Before devoting herself to writing fiction, she worked as a legal secretary for a large corporation. Ragan and her husband Joe have four children and live in Sacramento, California.

Her new novel, Furious, is the first book in her Faith McMann series, to be followed by Outrage and Wrath.

Recently I asked Ragan about what she was reading. Her reply:
The Cuckoo’s Calling, by Robert Galbraith.

Although I have yet to read the Harry Potter books by J.K. Rowling, I recently read The Cuckoo’s Calling published under Rowling’s pseudonym Robert Galbraith. Detective Cormoran Strike and his smart new assistant set out to investigate an apparent suicide. I was quickly drawn into the story. This isn’t just another murder investigation. There were just enough details and twists and turns to keep me guessing. And the ending caught me by surprise. The characters are as interesting as they are colorful, and the writing is fresh. I found myself eager to meet my word count for the day so I could get back to reading!
Visit T.R. Ragan's website.

The Page 69 Test: Furious.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, May 13, 2016

Jeff Wheeler

Jeff Wheeler's best-known fiction includes the Legends of Muirwood & Covenant of Muirwood trilogies, The Whispers from Mirrowen trilogy, and a graphic novel, The Lost Abbey.

Wheeler's new novel is The Queen's Poisoner, book one in The Kingfountain Series.

Recently I asked the author about what he was reading. His reply:
Caretaker, by Josi Russell

I haven’t read a straight science fiction novel in years and a fan of mine recommended I give this one a try because she thought I’d like it and she was right. The premise of the story gripped me right away. In the distant future, during a world-colonization program from planet Earth, space ships full of hibernating people spend the fifty-plus years of space travel unconscious, but there is one person, who fulfills a role called the Caretaker, who spends the voyage awake to make sure all the systems remain operational. It’s a lonely life and a sacrifice for the person chosen for this role. The self-sacrifice element alone would have impressed me, but here’s the twist. The Caretaker dies as the last passenger is about to go into the stasis pod. And so a man with a pregnant wife who was planning on hibernating fifty years to help colonize a new world with his wife and child is chosen by the ship’s computer to take the Caretaker’s place. He’s had none of the training or experience to fulfill his role while the ship continues to hurtle through space. The book begins five years into his assignment when another passenger is mysteriously awakened early. Together they discover the ship is not even going towards its intended destination. I love the tension, the human drama, and the mystery around whether the Caretaker died…or if he was killed.

Ibn Saud, by Michael Darlow

I got this as a Kindle Daily Deal and picked it up. I love reading biographies because not only do I learn from them, they also inspire me when developing characters for my books. This biography is about the man who founded the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. Some might be put off by history, but being a history major in college, I’ve learned a great deal about the geo-politics of the Middle East and how the European powers and the culture of the region have sowed seeds which continue to grow in strange ways. Not only has it helped me better understand the conflicts in that region today and how they started, but it has also introduced me to historical characters, Ibn Saud not the only one, that could very well find their way into my novels someday.
Visit Jeff Wheeler's website.

The Page 69 Test: The Queen's Poisoner.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Lauren Belfer

Lauren Belfer's debut novel, City of Light, was a New York Times bestseller, as well as a number one Book Sense pick, a Barnes & Noble Discover Award nominee, a New York Times Notable Book, a Library Journal Best Book, and a Main Selection of the Book-of-the-Month Club. City of Light was a bestseller in Great Britain and has been translated into six languages. Her second novel, A Fierce Radiance, was named a Washington Post Best Novel of 2010 and an NPR Best Mystery of 2010.

Belfer's new novel is And After the Fire.

Recently I asked the author about what she was reading. Her reply:
When I’m writing fiction, reading fiction is almost impossible for me. My mind seems to rebel against entering other fictional worlds. Instead, I find myself rereading the same nonfiction books over and over, discovering in them some mysterious combination of reassurance and guidance.

As I’ve worked on And After the Fire, two nonfiction books have been on my desk for several years now: The Hare with Amber Eyes, by Edmund de Waal, and The Lost, A Search for Six of Six Million, by Daniel Mendelsohn. I was rereading these books again this morning. My copies are stained from spilled tea. They’ve become swollen with humidity and with dog-eared-pages. Virtually every page of The Lost is now turned down, to bring my attention back to some vital point that sparked my imagination. The Lost haunted me as I wrote And After the Fire, even though, superficially at least, my novel and this family memoir have little in common.

The Hare with Amber Eyes has fewer pages turned down, but only because it’s stuffed with yellow post-it notes to mark the passages that seared into me. Sometimes I feel like ripping out all the notes and starting over, but I stop myself, because I don’t want to lose the kernel of a thought or feeling that once captured my attention. I felt myself living in this book often as I wrote And After the Fire. The story of the netsuke (small Japanese figurines) collected by de Waal’s family, and their journey through history, parallels, for me, the journey of the fictional Bach cantata in And After the Fire.

On my night table are two nonfiction books that have no relationship to my own work, books I’m reading simply for pleasure. The first is Skyfaring: A Journey with a Pilot, by Mark Vanhoenhacker. I used to be a nervous flyer, but Vanhoenhacker’s evocative lyricism, as well as his clear-eyed explanations of the technical aspects of flying – of what keeps a plane from falling out of the air – have cured my anxieties. Cured my anxieties about flying, that is. My other anxieties are still flourishing.

And finally, I’m reading Weatherland: Writers and Artists Under English Skies, by Alexandra Harris. This extraordinary book examines how English weather has influenced English writers, artists, and architects. I was astonished by Harris’s description of the use of glass in Elizabethan architecture, of country homes with wide windows designed to glitter in the sunlight. “Buildings wore their lights like diamonds,” Harris says. How I wish I could write like that!
Visit Lauren Belfer's website.

The Page 69 Test: A Fierce Radiance.

My Book, The Movie: A Fierce Radiance.

The Page 69 Test: And After the Fire.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Sarah Alexander

Sarah Alexander lives in London with her husband, two chickens and an imaginary cat called H.

The Art of Not Breathing is her first novel.

Recently I asked Alexander about what she was reading. Her reply:
I’ve just finished reading Beautiful Broken Things by Sara Barnard (which is coming to the US next year with a new title, Fragile Like Us). It’s a beautifully written story about friendship, family, abuse and mental health. Barnard perfectly captures the agonising and anxiety-inducing elements of female friendship, as well as the positive ones. I was particularly impressed by the way the author shows how unlikely it is that we have the full picture when making judgments about others. There are three main characters in the story – all very different – and I could relate to every single one. And if that wasn’t enough, the writing is exquisite.

As part of research for my next book, I’m reading a non-fiction book, The Science of Fear by Daniel Gardner. It’s a fascinating look at the culture of fear we have created for ourselves. The perspective is very much a western one, so far – and I’m not half way through yet, but I’m particularly interested in the part that media plays in this culture, and how our Fight or Flight response simply wasn’t made for the modern world we live in.

Finally, I’m about to embark on The Ship by Antonia Honeywell, a dystopian coming-of-age novel set in a burnt out London sometime ‘at the end of the world’ and a struggle for survival. I love dystopian fiction but I don’t read enough it, and I especially don’t read enough books with a connection to my home city of London. I think I’m about to be in for a tense and emotional journey.
Visit Sarah Alexander's website.

The Page 69 Test: The Art of Not Breathing.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, May 9, 2016

Camille Griep

Camille Griep lives just north of Seattle with her partner, Adam, and their dog Dutch(ess). Born in Billings, Montana, she moved to Southern California to attend Claremont McKenna College, graduating with a dual degree in Biology and Literature.

She has since sold short fiction and creative nonfiction to dozens of online and print magazines. She is the editor of Easy Street and is a senior editor at The Lascaux Review. Letters to Zell is her first novel.

Griep's new novel is New Charity Blues.

Recently I asked the author about what she was reading. Her reply:
After I turn a book in, I always reward myself with a big stack of reading. Luckily, this spring has also been filled with a period of enforced rest, aka cold and flu season, so I’ve been catching up. Of late, I’ve been feeling particularly starved for great, narrative nonfiction, so here are four of my most recent reads:

The Worst Hard Time – Timothy Egan’s exploration of the Dust Bowl is a long and worthy read. He gently guides the reader through the scientific causes – agricultural and farming policy, supply, and wartime demand – integral to the land’s dishevelment. The narrative is interspersed with the stories of people who grew up in the Great Plains, watching the land change around them. Some of those people stayed, watching families and fortunes die. Some escaped, having nothing to stay for except land turned upon land. Visual, arresting, and timely, it’s a chapter of Americana that isn’t talked about enough.

On the Burning Edge – For those of us in the West, fire is often threatening something we care about. The Yarnell Hill Fire in Arizona ended up deadly, but not for the area burned, rather for the people sent in to manage the blaze. As much as we’ve learned about fire management, weather behavior predictions, and the like, nature still holds an upper hand, particularly when dealing with fire. Kyle Dickman takes an unbiased look at the mistakes leading to the deaths of 19 hotshots, firefighters who make fire breaks in wildland fires, the disasters they should have learned from and the improvements that will be carried forward since their deaths.

When Breath Becomes Air – This memoir, written mostly by Paul Kalanithi and finished by his wife, received a lot of attention earlier in the year. The power of the book is not so much in the story. Though it’s a heartrending journey of a young, talented doctor just starting his career being diagnosed with cancer, the real star here is Kalanithi’s prose. He looks at his life in a careful, well-constructed way and does so with a voice influenced by a true and lasting love of the written word.

A Thousand Naked Strangers – Mostly memoir with a smidge of expose, Kevin Hazzard’s recounting of his life as an EMT is not for the faint of heart. At times bawdy and irreverent, Hazzard does a great job of introducing the reader to a level of empathy few have toward this difficult and seldom rewarding profession. Full of “gallows” humor and self-examination, the writer concludes by explaining that he had become so numb to the work he had to have a career change. It’s a great tale of deliverance, one where you hold the final product in your hands.
Visit Camille Griep's website.

Coffee with a Canine: Camille Griep and Dutchess Marie Siefker-Griep.

The Page 69 Test: Letters to Zell.

The Page 69 Test: New Charity Blues.

--Marshal Zeringue