Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Sara Lövestam

Sara Lövestam, a writer as well as a huge jazz music fan, lives in Sweden.

Her novel Wonderful Feels Like This is now available in English.

Recently I asked the author about what she was reading. Lövestam's reply:
I'm currently reading a fascinating book about life in the North of Sweden during the 1800s. The author, Lilian Ryd, interviewed old people from Lapland and saved their unique knowledge about "the old ways". There's everything from how to handle hundreds of reindeer with just a lasso and a dog, to the ways of finding, producing and preserving different kinds of food in the coldest and darkest of Sweden's landscapes. I'm reading it as research for a book I'm about to start writing. The title is Urfödan, which would roughly be translated as "primeval foods", and I wish I could tell you it's been translated to English. It probably hasn't.
Visit Sara Lövestam's website.

My Book, The Movie: Wonderful Feels Like This.

The Page 69 Test: Wonderful Feels Like This.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, March 27, 2017

Anne D. LeClaire

Anne LeClaire's novels include Entering Normal, The Lavender Hour, and Leaving Eden, as well as the critically acclaimed memoir, Listening Below the Noise: The Transformative Power of Silence.

Her new novel is The Halo Effect.

Recently I asked LeClaire about what she was reading. Her reply:
Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders. I am a huge fan of Saunders’ short stories. His wit, his keen intelligence, his gift for language and story just shine. So when I read he has published a novel, it moved to the top of my must-read list. Set in a graveyard in the span of one day – the day of Willie Lincoln’s burial – and peopled by those buried there, it is a tour de force. And, for me, unexpectedly moving. As in Edgar Lee Masters’ Spoon River Anthology, the dead reveal not only their lives but the yearnings and fears and contradictions of the heart. I found myself caring deeply about what happened to Willie after his death. Daring in every way a book can be, Saunders performs a high-wire act without a net in this one.

The Inheritance by Charles Finch. I grew up reading the British murder mysteries my mother withdrew from our town library and I’ve never stopped loving them. So I was thrilled to discover the works of Charles Finch and his Charles Lenox mystery series. And joy, of joys, he has written nine of them. Set in London in the late 1800s, it is so spot on in atmosphere and detail that I am always a bit shocked to find myself in the 21st Century when I finally look up from a page. Finch is an elegant writer and master craftsman.

The Little Paris Bookshop by Nina George. “Dedicated to the departed. And to those who go on loving them.” Before I’d read the first sentence of Chapter One, the book’s dedication grabbed me with the promise of what was to come and nothing that followed disappointed. In this charming novel, George takes the reader on a trip down the Seine on a barge converted into a bookstore and its owner, a character who describes himself as a literary pharmacist and who prescribes books to cure his customers’ conditions as he struggles with his own withdrawal from life. It is a celebration of the senses and all that makes life worth celebrating, Here’s another take-away though Perdu, the bookseller, poses. “Imagine if you had to buy beautiful words to use them.” I loved every page.

The Soul Thief by Charles Baxter. This book pierced my heart. You know that question they pose in author’s Q&As? If you were giving a dinner party and could invite three authors, who would you invite? Charles Baxter has a place at the head of my table.

Catherine the Great: Portrait of a Woman by Robert K. Massie. The book was handed to me by a bookseller with a high recommendation. And I’ve learned to pay attention to the books that the staff so passionately recommends that you have the feeling they would give it to you at no cost if you would just take it and go directly home and start reading. Now I feel like that bookseller. It is irresistible with its weaving of politics, passion, betrayals, violence, wars and one woman’s indomitable determination to better the lives of her people.
Visit Anne D. LeClaire's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Christina Kovac

Prior to writing fiction, Christina Kovac worked in television news. Her career began with a college internship at Fox 5’s Ten O’Clock News in Washington, DC that turned into a field-producing job—making minimum wage while chasing news stories, gossiping with press officers, and cultivating sources—while somehow making rent on a closet-sized apartment on Capitol Hill. After a stint as weekend editor at WRC TV and senior editor at the ABC affiliate, she went on to work at the Washington Bureau of NBC Network News, as a desk editor and news producer in such stories as that of missing DC intern, Chandra Levy.

After being late to pick up her kids at daycare one too many times, Kovac left television to start a writing career. Now she writes psychological thrillers set in Washington, DC.

Kovac's debut novel is The Cutaway.

Recently I asked the author about what she was reading. Her reply:
As of this writing, which is less than one week from the pub date of my debut novel, I’m a hot mess. My brain is pinging all over the place. Last minute tasks. All the time worries, including: will there be enough wine and beer at the launch? If not, will anyone show up? Reading is what calms me, yet it’s unfair to try any new authors, because I’m not in the right frame of mind. It’s not fair to the writer. What I need is a Joe Finder book. His writing is like a high-performance luxury car: it moves fast and carries you away before you know it, and it’s smooth, you feel none of the bumps. Joe Finder never lets me down. The book on my bedside table is Guilty Minds, which is more of a guilty pleasure, because it takes place in Washington DC, and I’m a DC-girl, and it’s fun to watch how the big guys write the District.
Visit Christina Kovac's website.

My Book, The Movie: The Cutaway.

The Page 69 Test: The Cutaway.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, March 25, 2017

Bren McClain

Bren McClain was born and raised in Anderson, South Carolina, on a beef cattle and grain farm. She has a degree in English from Furman University; is an experienced media relations, radio, and television news professional; and currently works as a communications confidence coach. She is a two-time winner of the South Carolina Fiction Project and the recipient of the 2005 Fiction Fellowship by the South Carolina Arts Commission. McClain won the 2016 William Faulkner–William Wisdom Novel-in-Progress for “Took” and was a finalist in the 2012 Pirate’s Alley Faulkner Award for Novel-in-Progress for One Good Mama Bone, her first novel.

Recently I asked McClain about what she was reading. Her reply:
Kevin Wilson’s The Family Fang. I had heard a lot of wonderful things about this book, chief of which was the hugely dysfunctional family at its center. Boy, howdy does it, but this book takes dysfunction to a whole new level. I love this book, and I’ll tell you why – I was going along laughing, laughing, laughing – at times uncontrollably -- at the outrageousness of this family’s antics. And then – wham! – I began crying just as uncontrollably, when I realized the pain that was beneath all of the absurd. I heard writer Dorothy Allison say one time that, if you want to break your reader’s heart, make them laugh first. I’ve never had that experience in a book before this one, and I am still reveling at the power of that experience.
Visit Bren McClain's website.

My Book, The Movie: One Good Mama Bone.

The Page 69 Test: One Good Mama Bone.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, March 24, 2017

Alex Bledsoe

Alex Bledsoe grew up in west Tennessee an hour north of Graceland (home of Elvis) and twenty minutes from Nutbush (birthplace of Tina Turner). He has been a reporter, editor, photographer and door-to-door vacuum cleaner salesman. He now lives in a Wisconsin town famous for trolls.

Bledsoe's new novel, the fifth book in his Tufa series, is Gather Her Round.

Recently I asked the author about what he was reading. His reply:
Like most (all?) writers, I have a couple of things going simultaneously. One is, What It Used to be Like: A Portrait of My Marriage to Raymond Carver, by Maryann Burk Carver. Raymond Carver had a life very similar to mine, and his determination to continue writing despite near-Wagnerian setbacks (poverty, alcoholism, having two children by the time he was twenty) is something with which I strongly identify. I’ve read scholarly biographies and reminiscences by other writers, but this is the closest to an autobiography as we’re likely to get (except, of course, for his short stories).

In fiction, I just started Powers of Darkness, a strange alternate version of Stoker’s Dracula. It began as an Icelandic translation authorized by Bram Stoker himself back in 1901; then, over a century later, someone finally noticed that it was considerably different from the Dracula we all know: faster-paced, with extra characters and a vastly different second act.

I’m also almost done with Lara Elena Donnelly’s novel Amberlough, a riff on Cabaret set in a magic-free fantasy world. She creates atmosphere like nobody’s business, and once you orient yourself to it, the politics and sexual mores make perfect sense (and echo in our current world).
Visit Alex Bledsoe's website.

The Page 69 Test: Wisp of a Thing (Tufa #2).

The Page 69 Test: Long Black Curl (Tufa #3).

My Book, The Movie: Gather Her Round (Tufa #5).

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Tessa Arlen

Tessa Arlen, the daughter of a British diplomat, had lived in or visited her parents in Singapore, Cairo, Berlin, the Persian Gulf, Beijing, Delhi and Warsaw by the time she was sixteen. She came to the U.S. in 1980 and worked as an H.R. recruiter for the Los Angeles Olympic Organizing Committee for the 1984 Olympic Games, where she interviewed her future husband for a job. She lives in Bainbridge Island, Washington.

Arlen's new novel is A Death by Any Other Name, the third book in her Lady Montfort mystery series.

Recently I asked the author about what she was reading. Her reply:
I have recently finished writing a historical fiction of Diana Manners early life during the First World War where every single one of her group of male friends was killed. How on earth would one manage to come through that sort of experience in one early twenties? Was the question I asked myself over and over as I researched and wrote this novel. Among the many great books I read about this time, re-reading Robert Graves’ autobiography Goodbye To All That was pure joy if the word joy should be used in connection to the catastrophe of the Great War.

I first read Graves’ memoir of the war many years ago at school and detested it! My only regret this time around was that it is impossible to find a copy of the original book that Graves wrote in 1929 –when he managed to alienate many friends and upset most of England by his candid and unsentimental account of his war. I had to make do with the 1957 edition when Graves returned to the original and re-wrote much of it with what he called the clear-sightedness of hindsight. Graves admitted that it took him ten years to fully recover both mentally and physically from the war and his re-write, like my re-read was tempered by the benefit of more mature years!

Good-Bye to All That is Graves’ farewell not only to England and his English family and friends, but also to a way of life. Tracing his upbringing from his solidly middle-class Victorian childhood through his entry into the war at age twenty-one as a patriotic captain in the Royal Welsh Fusiliers was a fascinating, poignant, often wry autobiography depicting the horrors and disillusionment of the Great War, from life in the trenches and the loss of dear friends, to the stupidity of government bureaucracy and the absurdity of English class stratification.

I have always been a huge Graves fan – I Claudius and Claudius the God are two of my most loved accounts of Roman history as is Graves’s translation of Suetonius’ The Twelve Caesars. Graves’ ability to portray the endearingly human is often laughably honest and all the vanity, excesses, jealousies and self-disillusionment of our mortal frailties is apparent in his memoir of the war.

He was particularly concerned with what he considered to be the problem with truthfulness. In the introduction to the 1957 edition he concluded:
The memoirs of a man who went through some of the worst experiences of trench-warfare are not truthful if they do not contain a high proportion of falsities. High explosive barrages will make a temporary liar or visionary of anyone; the old trench-mind is at work in all overestimation of casualties, “unnecessary” dwelling on horrors, mixing of dates and confusion between trench rumors and scene actually witnessed.
As a fiction writer I am particularly grateful for Graves’s falsities they only serve to give us a greater human perspective as he peels away literary poesy and gets down to what it’s really all about in his clear, conversational voice and his rather confrontational style.
Visit Tessa Arlen's website.

Coffee with a Canine: Tessa Arlen & Daphne.

The Page 69 Test: A Death by Any Other Name.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Kevin Egan

Kevin Egan is the acclaimed author of Midnight, a Kirkus Reviews Best Book of 2013, as well as numerous other novels and short stories. He has spent his entire legal career working in the New York State court system, including lengthy stints as law clerk to two state Supreme Court justices. He graduated with a BA in English from Cornell University and teaches legal writing at Berkeley College in Manhattan.

Egan's latest novel is A Shattered Circle.

Recently I asked the author about what he was reading. His reply:
I recently re-read This Side of Paradise by F. Scott Fitzgerald. I first read the book in college, where a standard litmus test among English majors was whether you preferred Fitzgerald to Hemingway or vice-versa. (I was firmly in the Fitzgerald camp.) Though I read The Great Gatsby in three college English courses and re-read it several more times over the years, I never returned to any of Fitzgerald’s other novels. In fact, as time removed me from my undergraduate youthfulness, I actually switched to the Hemingway camp. (A Farewell to Arms and The Sun Also Rises aged well with me.)

In January, I binge-watched the first season of Z, which is the story of the Fitzgerald marriage told from Zelda’s point of view. The episodes encompassed the publication of This Side of Paradise and the notoriety it brought to Scott. And so, the next day, I downloaded the book and started to read. I was impressed. Not only was the book far better than I recalled, it also displayed intimations of what would become the elements of Fitzgerald’s signature style.

On Amory’s first night at Princeton, he wrote:
The great tapestries of trees had darkened to ghosts back at the edge of twilight. The early moon had drenched the arches with pale blue, and, weaving over the night, in and out of the gossamer rifts of moon, swept a song, a song with more than a hint of sadness, infinitely transient, infinitely regretful.
Could Gatsby be very far behind?
Visit Kevin Egan's website.

The Page 69 Test: A Shattered Circle.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Jacob Stone

Jacob Stone is the byline chosen by award-winning author Dave Zeltserman for his new Morris Brick series of serial-killer thrillers. His crime, mystery and horror fiction has won top praise and has been translated into six languages. His novels Small Crimes and Pariah were both named by the Washington Post as best books of the year. Small Crimes topped National Public Radio's list of best crime and mystery novels of 2008 and is being made into a feature film.

Stone/Zeltserman's latest novel is Deranged, the first Morris Black thriller.

Recently I asked the author about what he was reading. Zeltserman's reply:
I’ve been reading John Lutz’s Frank Quinn crime thriller series, but I’ve been doing so out of order, and the last book I read (finishing it last week) was the first in the series, Darker Than Night. I really love this series, and the quickness, wit, and humor in Lutz’s writing. When reading Lutz you’re reading a true master in the genre. BTW: I felt this way before Mr. Lutz so generously provided a blurb for Deranged.

Since finishing Darker Than Night, I’ve been reading somewhat simultaneously my author’s copy of the March/April issue of Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine (which has my latest Julius Katz story) and Loren Estleman’s Burning Midnight. Like John Lutz, Estleman is a terrific crime writer, both his Amos Walker stories and novels, and his Nero Wolfe pastiche stories featuring Claudius Lyon and Arnie Woodbine. The last story I read in the Ellery Queen issue was Tim L. Williams’ noirish "Renters." I always look for Tim’s stories in Ellery Queen, and he never disappoints. Next up after these will be Jim Shepard's latest short story collection, The World to Come.
Visit Dave Zeltserman's website.

My Book, The Movie: Deranged.

The Page 69 Test: Deranged.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Elana K. Arnold

Elana K. Arnold writes books for and about children and teens. She holds a master’s degree in Creative Writing/Fiction from the University of California, Davis where she has taught Creative Writing and Adolescent Literature.

Arnold's new book is A Boy Called Bat.

Recently I asked the author about what she was reading. Her reply:
Today, I just handed in copy edits for Bat 2, Bat and the Waiting Game. So, I have been reading and rereading those pages for the last couple of weeks, which has been really thrilling. I love seeing a manuscript at this stage: so close you can taste it, but still a secret between a small circle of people.

I just finished reading Gabi, a Girl in Pieces by Isabel Quintero and the forthcoming Pointe, Claw by Amber Keyser, both of which struck me as timely and important.

Additionally, I have been revisiting Agatha Christie. My wonderful Nana died recently, and she and I shared a love for Christie’s books (except for the Tommy and Tuppence mysteries… neither of us liked those).

Books I am excited to read but haven’t yet dived into include Laurel Snyder’s forthcoming Orphan Island and the third book in Elena Ferrante’s Neopolitan Quartet. I adored the first two.
Learn more about the book and author at Elana K. Arnold's website.

The Page 69 Test: A Boy Called Bat.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Colleen Oakley

Colleen Oakley is an Atlanta-based writer and author of the novel Before I Go. Her articles, essays, and interviews have been featured in The New York Times, Ladies’ Home Journal, Marie Claire, Women’s Health, Redbook, Parade, and Martha Stewart Weddings. Before she was a freelance writer, Oakley was editor in chief of Women’s Health & Fitness and senior editor at Marie Claire. Close Enough to Touch is her second novel.

Recently I asked the author about what she was reading. Oakley's reply:
Forever is the Worst Long Time, by Camille Noe Pagán. I love a good love triangle, and this one starts out with that basic premise and then spans the next 20 years of the protagonist’s life, taking you in such an unexpected— and poignant— direction. It’s a nook that grabbed me by surprise and then had me sobbing into the pillow at 3 in the morning. This was one of those books.

The Marriage Lie by Kimberly Belle. This was another all-nighter for me. A perfectly paced and taut suspense/thriller, I just had to know who-done-it.

The Inconvenient Indian by Thomas King. Because my history education (and I think most Americans’ history education) was woefully inadequate, I enjoy books that fill in the gaps as well as turn what I think I know on its head. King gives true accounts of Native North Americans and the atrocities committed against them— and somehow does it with a humorous touch.

The Mind at Night by Andrea Rock. A non-fiction treatise on the science of dreams— research for my next novel.

A Man in Full by Tom Wolfe. One of my favorites, I’m currently reading it for the third time. I still roll my eyes and simultaneously read in awe the unnecessarily lengthy passages on every other page, and laugh out loud at the caricatures of the Atlanta monied. It’s classic.
Visit Colleen Oakley's website.

--Marshal Zeringue