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

Friday, February 17, 2017

Ryan David Jahn

Ryan David Jahn is the author of the novels Acts of Violence, which won the Crime Writers' Association John Creasey Dagger, Low Life, The Dispatcher, which was long-listed for the CWA Ian Fleming Steel Dagger, The Last Tomorrow, and the newly released The Breakout.

Recently I asked Jahn about what he was reading. His reply:
Right now I’ve got two books on my nightstand. The first is James Sallis’s Willnot, which was my favorite book from last year. I like it even more now than I did the first time I read it. It’s quiet and subversive, the normalcy it presents a facade covering something much darker, as in a David Lynch film. The second is Ernest Hemingway’s The Dangerous Summer, a non-fiction book about bullfighting that is really about death. Hemingway is one of maybe half a dozen writers, living or dead, whom I’ll read simply because I want to fall into the rhythm of their prose. On deck, Art Spiegelman’s Maus, as my wife got me the two-volume hardcover for Christmas and, though I read the first volume years ago, I don’t remember much about it.
Visit Ryan David Jahn's website.

The Page 69 Test: The Breakout.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Patricia Harman

Patricia Harman, CNM, got her start as a lay midwife on rural communes and went on to become a nurse-midwife on the faculties of Ohio State University, Case Western Reserve University, and West Virginia University. She is the author of two acclaimed memoirs and the bestselling novel The Midwife of Hope River.

Harman's new novel is The Runaway Midwife.

Last month I asked the author about what she was reading. Her reply:
I’m currently reading three books. Do you think I’d get confused? Not me. Actually, they are all so different.

Hillbilly Elegy by J.D. Vance.

If you’re interested in learning about Appalachia you’ll enjoy this book. Vance writes about his traumatic life in a way that’s very compelling. The book is part memoir and part social/political analysis. Since I live in West Virginia and write about people from this region, I thought it would be a good idea for me to read it. Outstanding.

Where'd You Go, Bernadette: A Novel by Maria Semple.

The reason I chose this book is because several reviewers of my new novel, The Runaway Midwife, mentioned Where’d You Go, Bernadette as being similar. Though Semple’s novel was a NYT bestseller a few years ago, I’d never heard of it. I’ve just started the tale, but so far I like it. The author is witty and very unconventional. Readers tell me, my books make them laugh, but I would like to write funnier. Maybe I’ll learn something!

The Little House on the Prairie by Laura Ingalls Wilder.

O, this is weird; every night when I can’t sleep I read a chapter of the classic juvenile biography, Little House on the Prairie. I have the whole series, about ten books, and always keep one at the bedside. I find them comforting and Laura Ingalls Wilder was an amazing nature writer.

The Runaway Midwife by Patricia Harman

Finally, I’m re-reading my own book, The Runaway Midwife, because it launches January 31. When I finish one book, I start the next one. Most people don’t know that it takes the publisher about a year and a half to get a book ready for print, even after they have the author’s final copy. Now that it’s coming out, I’ll start going to book events, and I need to remember what I wrote!
Visit Patricia Harman's website.

The Page 69 Test: The Runaway Midwife.

My Book, The Movie: The Runaway Midwife.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Sana Krasikov

Sana Krasikov was born in the Ukraine and grew up in the former Soviet Republic of Georgia and in the United States. One More Year, her debut story collection, was named a finalist for the 2009 PEN/Hemingway Award and The New York Public Library’s Young Lions Fiction Award. It received a National Book Foundation’s “5 under 35” Award and won the 2009 Sami Rohr Prize for Jewish Literature. She is the recipient of an O. Henry Award, a Fulbright Scholarship, and a National Magazine Award nomination. Her stories have appeared in The New Yorker, The Atlantic Monthly, The Virginia Quarterly, Epoch, Zoetrope, A Public Space, and elsewhere.

Krasikov's debut novel is The Patriots.

Recently I asked the author about what she was reading. Her reply:
Angle of Repose by Wallace Stegner

Some books pull you in with rhythm and others, like this one, with the tactile particularity of the prose, which exerts a force of traction. The material of the world serves as a kind metaphor for the structure of the work as a whole… Rock, strata, the sediment of generation. Stegner had a big impact on me while I wrote The Patriots. He doesn’t just use time and place as backdrop for the story, he uses the story itself as an investigation in to the texture of a period we know only in romantic outline.

Moo by Jane Smiley

I laugh out loud every time I reread this book. Smiley is one of the great masters who writes about systems as much as about people. In Moo, each character’s point of view comes alive with an incredibly specific weltanschauung — economic, religious, zoological — and it's a joy to move around the kaleidoscope of these different sensibilities.

Veronica by Mary Gaitskill

I’m just in awe of Gaitskill, who can write with such depth about surfaces. She understands that style and affect constitutes its own vocabulary that she then decodes. There’s an aristocratic poignancy to the demolished lives in her books, lived like they’re being written in water.

The Hundred Secret Senses by Amy Tan

In high school I had a friend with exquisite indie musical taste who was a closeted Sheryl Crow fan. Another friend confronted him and he had to come clean. Amy Tan is kind of my Sheryl Crow. Her accessibility might blind some highbrow readers to the great wit and wisdom in her writing. And I love how she moves narratively between the physical and spiritual worlds as if the line between the two is irrelevant.
Learn more about Krasikov's The Patriots.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Martine Murray

Martine Murray studied law at Melbourne University, then pursued painting and joined a circus before starting a dance company called Bird on a Wire. After an injury, she began writing and illustrating books for children and young adults. Her novels, including The Slightly True Story of Cedar B. Hartley, have won several awards in Australia. Her books have been translated into seventeen languages. She lives in Castlemaine, Australia, with her daughter and dog.

Murray's latest novel is Molly & Pim and the Millions of Stars.

Recently I asked the author about what she was reading. Her reply:
I have a pile of books by my bed, which I jump between as often I lose one or I’m not in the mood for it. The one I read last night is Hope in the Dark, by Rebecca Solnit, an inspiring guide on how and why to hold on to hope in the dark times of unfettered capitalism and all its devastating byproducts. It’s a little book with a big message, which works. It keeps me hopeful at least.

I’m also reading Anne Sexton, The Complete Poems, because I read one of her poems by mistake ("Admonishments to a Special Person") while looking for something else and I loved it and particularly this line in it:
… to love another is something
like prayer and can’t be
planned, you just fall
into its arms because your
belief undoes your disbelief
I also found this line by her, “I am a collection of dismantled almosts” and so recognised myself in this that I wished I had known Anne Sexton and I knew I would like her poems.

Another book I am reading is called Private Myths by Anthony Stevens. A friend sent it to me anonymously as a present because I was ranting at him about a film I am making which is in some part about dreams, or what dreams might access. It was as if this book on dreams then just found me, by mystical and mysterious intent, via the post. The working title for the film is Project Bird, because it does involve a bird mask, which I have commissioned a friend to make. It is also about uncertainty and animals and in it there will be dancing.

As far as fiction goes, I have just read a wonderful novel by my friend Libby Angel called The Trapeze Act, which is full of beautifully crafted prose with exactly the sort of poetic detail that turns my mind in a way I like to turn it. There are also flamboyant characters doing extravagant things and all this underpinned by a constant wry humour, which meant I was smiling the whole time I read it.

Before that and probably one of the books that has most sung to me over the last year was Pond, by Claire Louise Bennett. It’s very interior and delightfully mad and inventive and again I felt strangely reassured by the realization that other people have interior lives that are beset with all sorts of ideas and inventions, that sometimes lead one to feel very at odds with life or also very enraptured by it too.
Visit Martine Murray's website.

The Page 69 Test: Molly & Pim and the Millions of Stars.

--Marshal Zeringue