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