Monday, July 28, 2014

Tammy Kaehler

Before trying her hand at fiction, Tammy Kaehler established a career writing marketing materials, feature articles, executive speeches, and technical documentation. A fateful stint in corporate hospitality introduced her to the racing world, which inspired the first Kate Reilly racing mystery. Kaehler works as a technical writer in the Los Angeles area, where she lives with her husband and many cars.

Kaehler's new novel, Avoidable Contact, is the third Kate Reilly racing mystery.

Earlier this month I asked the author about what she was reading. Kaehler's reply:
I tend to read a lot of female authors, because I belong to an organization that puts on a Festival of Women Authors every year, and I’m constantly reading to evaluate potential guests. My current list is no exception….

I’m in the middle of Lian Dolan’s Elizabeth the First Wife in order to recommend the author for our event. It seems that Dolan and I graduated from the same college, only five years apart, and we have a mutual contact who recommended Dolan’s books so highly, I had to pick one up. At the halfway point, I’m glad to report that the advance praise I heard is accurate. Elizabeth is a funny, lighthearted novel about relationships (romantic and otherwise) and self-discovery, set in Pasadena, California, and Ashland, Oregon. I’m really enjoying Dolan’s voice and her wry wit.

The second book I’m working on—one chapter at a time, during my lunch hour at work—is a flash-back to my college days as a linguistics and anthropology major: That’s Not What I Meant! by Deborah Tannen. I manage and mentor a number of people at my day job, and I’ve been trying to help many of them communicate better in recent months. I’ve read Tannen’s book before, and I know it to be one of the best books on communication style out there, but it was time for a review. As I expected, the author is helping me remember all the reasons why it’s so hard for different genders, different cultures, and different personality types to communicate. Beyond the value for my day job, I have a feeling her words will inform some pivotal miscommunication in my next mystery novel.

And the book I just finished (which is still with me) is The Prime Minister’s Secret Agent: A Maggie Hope Mystery by Susan Elia MacNeal (a two-time Edgar nominee). I was eagerly awaiting this book’s release in July because I flat out love the series. Maggie is an American mathematician–turned spy and code breaker for the British during World War II (she starts off as a secretary to Winston Churchill). If you think that makes Maggie sound like a smart, tough cookie, you’d be right. But MacNeal also does an incredible job of giving us an amateur sleuth who’s vulnerable and not always good at everything she’s called on to do—in other words, a woman who’s doing her best in some very (very!) trying situations. I highly recommend the series.
Visit Tammy Kaehler's website and blog.

The Page 69 Test: Dead Man’s Switch.

My Book, The Movie: Dead Man's Switch.

The Page 69 Test: Braking Points.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Kelly Fiore

Kelly Fiore has a BA in English from Salisbury University and an MFA in Poetry from West Virginia University. She received an Individual Artist Award from the Maryland State Arts Council in 2005 and 2009. Fiore’s poetry has appeared in Small Spiral Notebook, Samzidada, Mid Atlantic Review, Connotation Press, and the Grolier Annual Review. Her first young adult novel, Taste Test, was released in August 2013 from Bloomsbury USA. Her new book, also from Bloomsbury, is Just Like the Movies.

Recently I asked Fiore about what she was reading. Her reply:
Lately, most of the books I read are one of two things – books by friends or books highly recommended by friends. My first recent-read is a little bit of both. Dahlia Adler is an amazingly talented author who I also consider a good friend.

Behind the Scenes by Dahila Adler

There are a lot of things I love about Dahlia’s writing style and characterization, but I think the way she builds friendships is what draws me most to her work. I can hear Dahlia in her characters in the very best way. Her humor, her sarcasm, her emotions – all of them feel so genuine. I may have chosen Dahlia’s book because I know her, but I read the book – and raved about the book – because I loved it. It was, in all ways, an embodiment of what I love about contemporary YA literature. I adored everything about this book.

The second book, though, is a little something different for me. It’s a re-read, but I hadn’t read it in several years, so the experience felt new all over again.

The Normal Heart by Larry Kramer

I watched the HBO movie version of this play last week and cried – like ugly cried – for about an hour or so afterward. Then I drove my husband crazy by digging through all of my bookshelves until I found my very old copy of the play itself. As I re-read it, I felt an emotional tug that was all the more potent because of my movie experience. Larry Kramer made me root for characters who I had little in common with personally because, in the end, all that really mattered/matters is the universal human experience.
Visit Kelly Fiore's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Kimberly Elkins

Kimberly Elkins was a finalist for the National Magazine Award and has published fiction and nonfiction in the Atlantic, Best New American Voices, Iowa Review, Chicago Tribune, Glamour, and Village Voice, among others.

She has a B.A. from Duke University, an M.A. in Creative Writing from Florida State, and an MFA in Fiction from Boston University. Elkins grew up in the Appalachian Mountains of Virginia, and currently lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

What Is Visible is her first novel.

Recently I asked Elkins about what she was reading. Her reply:
At this stage in my life, I always seem to be skipping back and forth between books, double- or triple-dipping, paying attention to whichever direction my emotional, intellectual, or even spiritual compass guides that day or that hour.

An esteemed writer friend recommended David Samuel Levinson’s recent debut novel, Antonia Lively Breaks the Silence, and I immediately saw why: the prose is brilliant--lush but precise--and the breathtaking plot the kind usually reserved for genre works, but here elevated to Nabokovian literary heights. You know you really love a book when you ardently wish you’d written it.

In the quieter moments, I’ve lately turned to Chloe Honum’s elegant and haunting poetry collection, A Tulip Flame. Poetry does not necessarily come easily to me, but it is impossible not to feel kindled by Honum’s work.

And for just plain fun, I’m re-reading Mary McCarthy’s page-turning The Group, as a treat, the vodka gimlet kind of treat.
Visit Kimberly Elkins's website.

My Book, The Movie: What Is Visible.

The Page 69 Test: What Is Visible.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Tom Young

Novelist Tom Young is a veteran of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, and a former writer and editor with the broadcast division of the Associated Press. His latest novel is Sand and Fire.

Not so long ago I asked the author what he was reading. Young's reply:
A lot of my reading lately has come in an effort to fill gaps in my knowledge of history, especially recent history. With that goal in mind, I’ve begun reading The Gulag Archipelago, Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn’s three-volume nonfiction work about the Soviet prison camp system and his own years as a political prisoner.

As Anne Applebaum’s foreword points out, The Gulag Archipelago is itself a part of history, having first been circulated in the author’s home country in unbound, hand-typed form. Solzhenitsyn describes how a nighttime knock on the door could catapult practically any Soviet citizen from the embrace of family to the torments of the gulag. The victims often had no idea why. A petty rivalry or an incautious word could ruin a life. And, as the author puts it, arrests could race through a town like an epidemic.

To judge from Solzhenitsyn’s case, Stalin’s government feared its own citizens more than it feared the Nazis. While the author served as a young artillery captain, Soviet counterintelligence officers plucked him from the battlefield and sent him to prison for criticizing the government in his private correspondence.

He became an eloquent and unstoppable witness to the excesses of a paranoid regime, relating his thoughts and experiences in both fiction and nonfiction. When he received the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1970, he chose not to go to Stockholm to accept the award in person for fear that Soviet authorities would not let him back into his home country.

As a writer, I read The Gulag Archipelago with a great sigh of relief that I live where I can express myself freely. My novels deal with real-world conflicts involving the military; under a different system of government, my books might draw the wrong kind of attention. I can’t help but wonder whether I’d have Solzhenitsyn’s courage if the circumstances required it.
Visit Thomas W. Young's website and blog.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

M.D. Waters

M.D. Waters lives with her family in Maryland. She is the author of Archetype and its newly released sequel, Prototype.

Recently I asked Waters about what she was reading. Her reply:
I’m currently in the middle of Amped by Daniel H. Wilson, which takes a very likely future and sets us in the worst possible outcome. What if we could use technology to, not only make us smarter, but control seizures and other such medical issues? What if the human race got scared because the technology worked? What if the government listened to our fears and decided to take action? There’s a paragraph inside this book that I thought really summed up the answer:
The teenagers don’t run away like I half expect them to. Instead, they surround me quickly, naturally. Gathered around me, they take on a new form. Each of these kids might be okay on his own, but together they’re a hydra: one monster, three heads.
With a government (one monster) supported by a multitude of terrified voices (three heads) the outcome is never good. Cut off one head, three more grow in its place.

It’s a frightening future Wilson is showing us in this book, and probable because most humans at their core are afraid of change. We lose perspective of the other side very easily, and in the case of this book, the other side holds human beings reacting with human emotion, and the instinct to survive.
Visit M. D. Waters's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, July 21, 2014

Susan Spann

Susan Spann is a transactional attorney focusing on publishing law and a former law school professor. She has a deep interest in Asian culture and has studied Mandarin and Japanese. Her hobbies include Asian cooking, fencing, knife and shuriken throwing, traditional archery, martial arts, rock climbing, and horseback riding.

Spann's newest novel is Blade of the Samurai.

Recently I asked the author about what she was reading. Spann's reply:
I read a lot, and widely, so there’s always a nice selection on my desk.

One of my favorite, and fastest, recent reads was Kerry Schafer’s Dream Wars series, a trilogy of novellas that starts with The Dream Runner. Kerry’s a friend of mine, and I loved her novels, Between and Wakeworld, so when I saw she had a new release I jumped at the chance to read it. The Dream Runner tells the story of a young woman “drafted” into the service of a mysterious merchant who can sell a person any dream that his or her heart desires. Of course, the customers quickly learn that getting what you wished for isn’t always a good thing…

As a huge fan of The Twilight Zone, I’d recommend The Dream Runner (and the others in the Dream Wars series) to any fans of speculative fiction with a sci-fi twist.

Tonight, I’m starting Natalia Sylvester’s debut novel Chasing the Sun, about a man whose estranged wife is kidnapped in Lima, Peru, and the lengths he must go to in order to get her back. I met Natalia through The Debutante Ball blog, where I blogged as a member of the “class of 2013” and Natalia is just finishing her tenure with the 2014 “debs.” I’m looking forward to seeing her take on mystery, especially since the story was partly inspired by real events.

Meanwhile, on the nonfiction side of the aisle, I’m reading Eric Rath’s The Ethos of Noh: Actors and Their Art, about the development and history of Noh drama in Japan. It’s one of several research books I’m reading to fill in the fine details on the fourth Shinobi Mystery, Blood of the Outcast, which I’m working on this summer!
Visit Susan Spann's website.

My Book, The Movie: Blade of the Samurai.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Rufi Thorpe

Rufi Thorpe received her MFA from the University of Virginia in 2009. A native of California, she currently lives in Washington D.C. with her husband and son.

Thorpe's new novel is The Girls From Corona del Mar.

Earlier this month I asked the author about what she was reading. Her reply:
Because I have a two-year-old and all my adult-time hours are spent writing, I tend to mostly listen to audiobooks. And so I do dishes, fold laundry, and walk the dog with my head half in this world, half in an invented one, and for this I prefer the biggest, thickest, goopiest novels available. Maybe you will not know what I mean by goopy-- I want them to be viscous and clotted with people and places, an overabundance of character and detail, things I haven't seen or thought about, parts of the world I'd like to explore. I just listened to The Signature of All Things by Elizabeth Gilbert, about an early female pioneer of botany. I just adored it. There are many delightfully erotic passages about female masturbation, a subject very seldom explored, as well as really nuanced and elegant examinations of those few abiding philosophical questions: time, mortality, the meaning of life. It is hard to make those things fresh and authentic, and Gilbert does. Other goopy novels I adore: The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt, anything by Philip Roth, and Ann Patchett, particularly State of Wonder. Oh, and the audio version of Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout is simply magnificent. It’s a must listen.

At night, I do read on paper after my son falls asleep, but I tend to choose slenderer novels where I want to focus solely on the prose. I just finished Maggie Shipstead's Astonish Me, and I was very impressed by it. She allows her ballet dancers to be true athletes and leaves all the known tropes about aspiring dancers behind, instead giving us a world where people have pushed their bodies to the edge of what is humanly possible in a way that also deforms their lives and their hearts. In its best moments, it reminded me of Willa Cather's Song of the Lark.
Visit Rufi Thorpe's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Alecia Whitaker

Alecia Whitaker is the author of The Queen of Kentucky and Wildflower.

Earlier this month I asked the writer about what she was reading. Whitaker's reply:
I just finished The Book Thief and boy has that one stayed with me. It's so hard to imagine being without the things we take for granted in our first world country, like a good meal and the freedom to speak our mind about our government. Speaking of, it's also absolutely bonkers to me to think that the propaganda machine that was Hitler's Germany was able to convince and coerce its citizens to participate in such crimes of hate. I feel so thankful, especially on this Fourth of July weekend, to live in a democratic nation.

Besides that, I am reading Since Last Summer by Joanna Philbin and I'm loving getting back into the lives of Rory and Isabel. Since I just finished writing the sequel to my new release, Wildflower, it was great talking to Joanna recently about her experience writing a sequel.

The next book on my list to read is Open Road Summer by Emery Lord. It's a story that sounds very similar to Wildflower and after speaking to Emery on the phone today, we are both so excited to learn that our books really are the perfect companion novels. This is especially exciting since we are having an author appearance event together at Joseph-Beth Books in Crestview Hills, Kentucky. Our fans should cross-over beautifully!
Visit Alecia Whitaker's website.

Writers Read: Alecia Whitaker (February 2014).

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

D. A. Mishani

D. A. Mishani is a literary scholar specializing in the history of detective literature. His first novel, The Missing File, was the first book in his literary crime series introducing the police inspector Avraham Avraham. His new novel featuring the inspector is A Possibility of Violence.

Recently I asked the author about what he was reading. Mishani's reply:
There are books that while reading them you already know that will appear in any "Best books I've ever read" lists that you'd do in the future. There are books that while reading them you know that will change the way you read and even write. And I'm so happy to say that I've just finished reading one of those books. It's called Job: The Story of a Simple Man. It was written by Austrian-Jewish writer Joseph Roth and translated to English by the wonderful Michael Hofmann. I came by it quite accidently, after a long dry period of not finding the right book, a period that ended immediately with the first lines of the charged, direct and poetic prose of Joseph Roth.

Job tells the story of a Jewish family from Eastern Europe in the beginning of the twentieth century. The father, Mendel Singer, is a poor teacher of Hebrew. He's married to Deborah, who gives birth to three normal children, and then to Menuchim.

Menuchim is a disfigured, mute, baby. He seems hopeless but when his mother visits the local Rabbi he promises that the disfigured son would recover someday. The Singers wait years and years for his recovery (even when they leave him in Russia and immigrate to New York) and their hopeful waiting gradually becomes a metaphor, or even a few: a metaphor to the Jewish people's long hope for salvation, a metaphor to our individual expectation that one of these days our defects will disappear and our lives will be redeemed, even a metaphor to the reading process and the reader's wish for a happy ending.

I truly envy those of you who'll start reading this novel, which I can only re-read but not experience again for the first time…
Learn more about the book and author at D. A. Mishani's website and Facebook page.

My Book, The Movie: The Missing File.

The Page 69 Test: The Missing File.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Lisa See

Lisa See is the New York Times bestselling author of Peony in Love, Snow Flower and the Secret Fan, Flower Net (an Edgar Award nominee), The Interior, and Dragon Bones, as well as the critically acclaimed memoir On Gold Mountain. The Organization of Chinese American Women named her the 2001 National Woman of the Year.

See's new novel is China Dolls.

Earlier this month I asked the author about what she was reading. See's reply:
I’m reading three books right now. All three of these seemingly unrelated books are actually connected to research I’m doing for my next book. Mmmm…what could it possibly be about?

I’ve been reading Strange Tales from a Chinese Studio by Pu Songling for about a year. Pu Songling was a failed imperial scholar, who, in the 17th-century, traveled around China, collecting hundreds of stories of fox spirits, ghosts, demons, vampires, enchanted objects, and other eerie creatures and happenings. Pu referred to himself as the Historian of the Strange, and all the stories are presented as being “true.” Some of them are very short – a paragraph or two, while others are as long as twenty pages. They make very good bedtime reading, except when they’re too scary.

I’ve always loved books on science that I can actually understand. I guess you’d call the genre popular science. I recently returned from a research trip to Yunnan province, considered the birthplace of tea. Yunnan is a global biodiversity hotspot. There are more animal and plant species in that single province than altogether in the rest of China. It also has more ethnic minorities than the rest of the provinces in China combined. This made me turn to The Selfish Gene by Richard Dawkins. He isn’t writing about China by any means, but he is attempting to answer the questions I’ve been asking myself about the unique qualities of Yunnan. Why and how did this become a biodiversity hotspot? What is it about the particular plants, animals, and humans that has allowed them to survive and thrive? That’s where his concept of the selfish gene comes in.

In preparation for my trip to Yunnan, I read The Classic of Tea written in the 8th century by Lu Yu. Today, even as it was in Lu Yu’s time, tea was the second most popular drink in the world. He set out to find the universal through the particular of tea. I find it amazing—thrilling even—that so much of what he wrote still resonates today.
Visit Lisa See's website.

--Marshal Zeringue