Monday, February 27, 2017

Tracee de Hahn

Tracee de Hahn is the author of the Agnes Lüthi Mysteries published by St. Martin’s Press/Minotaur Books. The first in the series, Swiss Vendetta, was inspired by the 2005 ice storm that ravaged Geneva. De Hahn was born in Cape Girardeau, Missouri and spent most of her youth in Kentucky. After receiving degrees in Architecture and European history from the University of Kentucky she moved to Switzerland with her husband. Currently they and their two Jack Russell terriers live in Virginia.

Recently I asked the author about what she was reading. Her reply:
I’m on tour for Swiss Vendetta right now so I have snatches of time in between events to catch up on reading. Every day is a trip to a different bookstore and during the first week on tour I’ve bought a few. Here’s what I have so far:

Counting by 7s by Holly Goldberg Sloan. I will see my nieces in a few days, and I bought this on the recommendation of a young reader at the Barnes & Noble in Jonesboro, Arkansas. I loved the girl’s enthusiasm for the book and hope to have a chance to read it before I give it away (or maybe I’ll buy another copy to leave behind!). The cover says ‘if you’re lost, you might need to swim against the tide.’ My young advisor said that was a perfect description and I liked the sound of it.

The wonderful manager of the Evansville, Indiana Barnes & Noble suggested I buy The Life and Times of Persimmon Wilson by Nancy Peacock. It is historical fiction, which I love. The tale of a former slave who on the day leading up to his execution wants to set the record straight it really is an epic adventure.

When I reached Little Rock, Arkansas everyone was talking about Rising Tide by John M. Barry. It is the story of the great Mississippi flood of 1927, a truly devastating event. I was intrigued because I had recently met another writer who is researching a book on this subject. The Arkansas crowd was excited because it told the story of places near to them, places I know from summers spent on my grandparents’ plantation in Drew, Mississippi.

During my trip through Ohio, Kentucky, Arkansas and Indiana, the weather has been exceptional, springtime in the midst of winter. Perhaps because of this, my eye was drawn to Stephen Anderton’s Lives of the Great Gardeners. (This may also be the result of eyeing Instagram posts of a gardener friend of mine in Lexington, Kentucky. Joseph Hillenmeyer entices me to dream of a gorgeous back yard for myself, maybe someday!)

I did bring two books with me (and my Kindle loaded to capacity as a backup). Jane Steele: a novel, by Lyndsay Faye is another work of historical fiction. Inspired by Charlotte Brontë’s classic Jane Eyre, this book is a marvelous satirical romance.

The other book I packed for my trip is Lee Child’s A Wanted Man. I never travel without a Reacher story. It can be counted on to distract and hold my attention in any situation!
Visit Tracee de Hahn's website.

Coffee with a Canine: Tracee de Hahn & Alvaro and Laika.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, February 26, 2017

Ethel Rohan

An award-winning short story writer, Ethel Rohan is the author of two collections, Cut Through the Bone and Goodnight Nobody. Her first novel is The Weight of Him.

Recently I asked the author about what she was reading. Rohan's reply:
California by Edan Lepucki.

I first read Lepucki’s post-apocalyptic novel, California, shortly after it published in 2014. I’m re-reading it now because I’ll soon be In Conversation with Edan during the launch party for The Weight of Him, and also because this unforgettable book is—frighteningly—more relevant than ever.

In 2017, the strange, dystopian, hopeless, hopeful world of this novel feels all too possible in the not too distant future. Humanity has lost its way, and its soul, and our world as we know it is all but destroyed. Sound creepingly familiar? The central characters, a memorable couple Frida and Cal, are trying to survive, and thrive. Not only are their lives, and the lives of all humankind at stake, but our very planet.

The paranoia and fear in this unforgettable novel resonates, as does the resistance and perseverance of its everyday heroes. It’s a story as old as time, told with refreshing honesty and oddness, and yet we can’t seem to grasp it and act accordingly: Hate destroys. Love saves.
Visit Ethel Rohan's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, February 25, 2017

Daniel Lowe

Daniel Lowe teaches writing in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and received his MFA in fiction writing from the University of Pittsburgh. His fiction and poetry have appeared in West Branch, The Nebraska Review, The Montana Review, The Wisconsin Review, The Writing Room, The Bridge, The Paterson Literary Review, Ellipsis, Blue Stem, Midway Journal, and The Madison Review.

All That’s Left to Tell is his debut novel.

Recently I asked Lowe about what he was reading. His reply:
Last night (I suppose Ironically), I finished reading Stewart O’Nan’s Last Night at the Lobster. It unfurls like a bolt of cloth—there are few, if any, seams in the novel, and it takes place in a single snowy afternoon and evening at a Red Lobster restaurant in New England. The characters are familiar not because they’re necessarily like people we meet, but because O’Nan infuses them with such credibility that you never question their actions or reactions in the novel. What he does, I think, is incredibly difficult—write a novel about a closing restaurant and mostly working class characters that includes no great crisis or event. And yet, by the final scenes, the subtle gestures of Manny and Jackie as they say goodbye are quietly moving, and the magnitude of Manny's many losses is lit unexpectedly.

Prior to that, I read Lauren Groff’s Fates and Furies, a novel as far removed stylistically from O’Nan’s as you can find on the literary landscape. The complexity and richness of Groff’s language along with its narrative introspection as it moves in varied distances from its primary characters, Lotto and Mathilde, is stunning in its agility. The characters are, at times, difficult to like, and Mathilde especially recognizes that she is difficult to love. Groff comes close to the edge of pretension in the plotting of their lives, and as I read, I found myself occasionally resisting some of the provocative turns Lotto’s and Mathilde’s lives take, but the novel ends brilliantly, and I found it immensely satisfying.

Before Groff, I read my first Haruki Murakami novel, Kafka on the Shore. I’m a sucker for novels that are founded in the recognizable world that are occasionally underpinned by elements of magical realism, and Murakami achieves this beautifully in this book. I like the languidness and sensuality of Kafka as he meets an Oedipal destiny that is less disturbing than it is moving, and Murakami shows admirable restraint with the character of the guileless Nakata, whose destiny and power is shaped by an unresolved mystery rooted in World War II. That he is ultimately paired with the truck driver Hoshino in a kind of buddy road trip that leads to Hoshino encountering the real Colonel Sanders--. Well, any novel where cats can speak without fraying the fabric of verisimilitude has my deep admiration.

I’m looking forward to reading the second installment of Karl Ove Knausgaard’s My Struggle, which I purchased from Alphabet City Bookstore here in Pittsburgh. (And yes, you have to be impressed with any writer who has the courage to work that title.) The book is difficult to describe, and it’s a disservice to call it a blend of autobiography and fiction. It unfolds fairly plotlessly, though its events worked their way into my subconscious. I don’t know that I’ve read a writer who writes so fully and honestly in sometimes mundane detail, and yet whose sentences accumulate and rest with greater weight and depth with each passing page. By the end of Book One, I was asking, “How in the world did you achieve that,” and I love any book where I find myself asking that question.
Learn more about All That’s Left to Tell.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, February 24, 2017

Sheryl Scarborough

Sheryl Scarborough is an award-winning writer for children’s television. She holds an MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults from Vermont College of Fine Arts, lives in Washington state, and has always had an obsession with forensics. When she was twelve, her home was the target of a Peeping Tom. Scarborough diligently photographed his footprints and collected the candy wrappers he left behind. Unfortunately, he was never caught. But the desire to use evidence to solve a great mystery was sparked inside Scarborough all the same.

Scarborough's new book, To Catch a Killer, is her debut novel.

Recently I asked the author about what she was reading. Her reply:
When I’m drafting a book I can’t read a lot. One reason is because of time constraints and exhaustion and the other is because I’m a bit of a mimic and I tend to glom onto a voice I especially like. Once I’m done with a draft, the book-diet is over and I become a glutton for all the books.

I recently finished the sequel to To Catch a Killer and I’m in search of something new to submit to my editor, so I’ve recently read (back-to-back) Seriously Wicked, by Tina Connolly about the challenges of trying to manage high school while being raised by a seriously wicked witch. Flying by Carrie Jones, which is basically Buffy meets Men in Black. And, Anna Dressed in Blood, by Kendare Blake, which is a destiny story with a ghostly twist.

All three of these books were acquired and edited by my editor at Tor Teen and while they are all completely different, I was surprised to find a common thread of identity and belonging in each book. This same thread exists in To Catch a Killer, as well. Reading these books all together has (hopefully) given me some insight into my editor’s taste and will help me refine what to pitch to her next.
Visit Sheryl Scarborough's website.

My Book, The Movie: To Catch a Killer.

The Page 69 Test: To Catch a Killer.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Renée Rosen

Renée Rosen is the bestselling author of White Collar Girl, What The Lady Wants: A Novel of Marshall Field and the Gilded Age and Dollface: A Novel of the Roaring Twenties as well as the young adult novel, Every Crooked Pot.

Her new novel is Windy City Blues.

Recently I asked Rosen about what she was reading. Her reply:
Lately a few books have really knocked my socks off so let me share them with you.

The One Man by Andrew Gross

I devoured this book because it’s simply impossible to put down. Set against the grim backdrop of Auschwitz during WWII, this is a historical thriller told in stunning detail with characters that will have you fully vested in their journey. Writing about the Holocaust would be a monumental challenge for any author and Gross traverses this difficult subject and material with an enormously skillful hand.

I have recommended this book to countless people who have shared in my high praise of this novel. The One Man is a major accomplishment by a major author.

A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles

I adored this author's debut, Rules of Civility and was anxiously awaiting Towles’ second novel. You might not think that 400 plus pages taking place in one seemingly static setting—that being the Metropol Hotel in Moscow—would make for much of a novel. But oh, it does. This is the story of the ever-charming Count Alexander Rostov who is placed under house arrest by the Bolsheviks.

The prose is top notch, clever and lyrical. His characters are alive and endearing. Though this book is very different from his gorgeous debut, the same brilliance is apparent on every page. One can only imagine what he’ll write next!

The Virginity of Famous Men by Christine Sneed

If you appreciate the skill and artistry that goes into writing a short story, this collection will blow you away. Sneed is an award-winning writer and for obvious reasons. She goes deep into the human condition and explores the quirky nature of her characters and the complicated and sometimes outrageous predicaments they find themselves in.

With each new story, this collection builds momentum and has a cumulative effect so that by the time you reach the end, you feel you’ve peered almost indecently into the personal lives of her characters. Some of Sneed’s stories are so dense and heartfelt, they pack more emotion than many novels I’ve read.
Visit Renée Rosen's website, blog, and Facebook page.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

S. A. Bodeen

S.A. Bodeen grew up on a dairy farm in Wisconsin. She graduated from UW-River Falls with a degree in Secondary Ed., then joined the Peace Corps with her husband and went to Tanzania, East Africa. She has lived in eight states, two African countries, and an insular possession. Currently, she lives in the Midwest with her husband and two daughters.

Bodeen's first picture book, Elizabeti's Doll (written as Stephanie Stuve-Bodeen) was published in 1998, followed by six other picture books. Her first YA novel written as S.A. Bodeen, the award-winning The Compound, came out from Feiwel and Friends in 2008. Her latest novel is Found.

Recently I asked Bodeen about what she was reading. Her reply:
I’ve always felt the pull to read books that weren’t meant for me. So when my agent sent me an advanced reader copy of another client’s forthcoming book, I sat right down with it, even though he had sent it for my husband and daughter. Let me explain. My husband manages a national wildlife refuge. My youngest daughter is a fan of the television show Pretty Little Liars. What non-fiction book could possibly combine those two? Odd Birds by Ian Harding. The author, a star of the show, is a lifelong birder. Odd Birds is a collection of his reflections on experiences with birds and nature, midst a backdrop of his insider Hollywood life. I never watched the show, and although I have an affinity for nature, I’m not an official birder. Turns out that neither mattered, because this read was charming and delightful.
Visit S.A. Bodeen's website.

Writers Read: S.A. Bodeen (July 2016).

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Susan Rivers

Susan Rivers holds an MFA in Fiction Writing from Queens University of Charlotte in North Carolina, where she was awarded a Regional Artist Grant from the Arts and Sciences Council for her fiction. As a playwright, she received the Julie Harris Playwriting Award and the New York Drama League Award, worked as an NEA Writer-in-Residence in San Francisco, and was a finalist for the Susan Smith Blackburn Award for British and American Women Playwrights. She is a veteran of both the Playwrights Festival at Sundance Institute for the Arts and the Eugene O’Neill Playwrights Conference and has crossed the country, from Seattle to St. Louis, working on professional productions of her plays.

Rivers and her husband currently live in a small town in rural South Carolina. She teaches English at the University of South Carolina Upstate in Spartanburg.

Her new novel is The Second Mrs. Hockaday.

Recently I asked Rivers about what she was reading. Her reply:
I'm about halfway through Arthur and Barbara Gelb's biography of Eugene O'Neill, By Woman Possessed, which is confirming my unscientific theory that all great geniuses are screwed-up human beings incapable of healthy relationships. I've read other material about O'Neill, but nothing that focused so fully on his flawed marriages and his indifference --even cruelty -- toward his children, all stemming from the pathological bond he shared with his morphine-addicted mother.

Years ago, when I was a playwright, I was invited to the Eugene O'Neill Theater Festival in Connecticut. The festival's connection to the dramatist wasn't stressed to any degree, so it was almost by accident that I stumbled on the O'Neill family's cottage in New London. The one volunteer on site that afternoon let me wander through the house on my own, and for a writer who considers Long Day's Journey Into Night to be the most powerfully affecting American play ever written, it was an unforgettable experience. On the porch I watched the fog creeping upwards from the sound, I sat in the parlor with Jamie and Edmund while they wrangled over their parents' shortcomings and their own troubled lives, and I imagined a sleepless Mary Tyrone pacing overhead in the narrow second story corridor, her footsteps pausing at the spare room where her "medicine" was kept. All of this is coming back to me as I read the Gelbs' book, reminding me that O'Neill was not merely obsessive in his relationships with living women but was truly haunted all his life by his doomed family. Many of us can say the same, but very few of us are capable of transforming that legacy into a sublimely cathartic form of art, as O'Neill was.
Visit Susan Rivers's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, February 20, 2017

Dan Gutman

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

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

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

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

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Jacqueline Carey

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

Carey's new novel is Miranda and Caliban.

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

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

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

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

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Abby Fabiaschi

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

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

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

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

The Page 69 Test: I Liked My Life.

--Marshal Zeringue