Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Alexis Landau

Alexis Landau studied at Vassar College and received an MFA from Emerson College, and a PhD in English Literature and Creative Writing from the University of Southern California.

Her new novel is The Empire of the Senses.

Recently I asked the author about what she was reading. Landau's reply:
I recently finished Rachel Cusk’s novel Outline and I found it startling original and refreshing in its view of what it means to be an artist and a mother. Her language is piercing, astringent, and truthful; it feels as if one is drinking from a clear limpid stream, gulping down her wisdom and observations of the world. Cusk observes others with such acuity and wit, especially commenting on how people reveal almost anything about themselves if one sits quietly and listens, how narcissistic we all are despite facades of empathy or interest in others, and how the responsibility of being an artist as well as a mother can both drain a woman of her most vital resources while at the same time replenish and inspire her. Cusk’s restrained and exacting novel made a powerful impression in terms of her economy of language as well as the depth of philosophical themes she delves into, a good reminder that restraint and precision hits a reader hard. I also admire how she describes her characters physically and psychologically, resting on a few telling details (the color of someone’s nails or how they retell an event), which paints such a vivid and rich picture for the reader, it’s as if we’re right there with her.
Visit Alexis Landau's website.

The Page 69 Test: The Empire of the Senses.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Douglas Nicholas

Douglas Nicholas is an award-winning poet, whose work has appeared in numerous poetry journals, and the author of several books, including the novel Something Red and Iron Rose, a collection of poems inspired by New York City.

His new dark fantasy novel is Throne of Darkness.

Recently I asked Nicholas about what he was reading. His reply:
Heart-Beast by Tanith Lee. This was one of the most effortlessly beautiful books I've read. A somber werewolf tale that has the dimension and gravity of an ancient legend, written in wonderfully poetic language, it's also gripping, frightening, and moment after moment hinting at vaster realities just behind the text. There is a striking visual image or turn of speech on every page. Read it in sips, because you want to savor it.

The Earl by Cecelia Holland. I’ve recently been re-reading this book. I first read it many years ago in a blackout during a heat wave in New York's Greenwich Village. By candlelight. In an uncomfortably hot room, even a candle can be felt on your face as an extra source of heat, and while it sounds romantic, it's hard to read by low light.

Despite all this, I didn't--couldn't--stop reading. Holland uses a lean prose style to build up a portrait of a complex and intelligent man negotiating treacherous political and military circumstances in the twelfth century.

The Dying Earth by Jack Vance. Another re-read, a classic. Notable for its extraordinary prose style, its imaginative view of how magic might be done, and its coolly amoral universe.

Blood Meridian, or The Evening Redness in the West, by Cormac McCarthy. An extremely violent work written in beautiful, often exalted, prose. Bleak and savage. A masterpiece, but not for the sensitive. Early on, a tent-revival preacher accused, in the midst of a service, of sexual predation points to his accuser and says, “He’s here! It’s the Devil himself!” or words to that effect. Slowly the reader realizes that he was telling the truth.
Visit Douglas Nicholas's website.

The Page 69 Test: Throne of Darkness.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, March 30, 2015

Amy Scheibe

Born in Minnesota and reared in North Dakota, Amy Scheibe currently lives in Manhattan with her husband, Brian Flynn, and their two children.

Her new novel is A Fireproof Home for the Bride.

Recently I asked Scheibe about what she was reading. Her reply:
I try to juggle multiple books, typically one for pleasure, one for parenting, and one for research. Since I am currently digging into history for the next novel, I’m traveling back in time to Mein Kampf by you-know-who. The writing is dull as dirt, but in order for me to better understand what led up to the de-personification of an entire race/religion, I need to crack inside the creepy little mind of Mr. Hitler. I have just finished Erik Larson’s In the Garden of the Beasts, which is required reading about 1933 Nazi Germany, especially if you want to understand what is happening in the center of Iraq today.

For parenting, I’m reading The Opposite of Spoiled, by Ron Lieber. My poor kids. I’ve gone from dishing out whatever they need to putting them both on an allowance-determined budget. I know it’s good for them, but it’s quite a jolt at ages 9 and 12. The book is empowering, in a way that Sally Koslow’s Slouching Toward Adulthood also is: sharp and funny and a great response to a generation of helicopter parenting fails.

For pleasure I’m sunk deeply into a George Hodgman’s Bettyville, a delicate and piercing memoir of caring for an elderly parent while trying to figure out what came before, and what comes next.
Visit Amy Scheibe's website and Twitter perch.

The Page 69 Test: A Fireproof Home for the Bride.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Hallie Ephron

New York Times best selling author Hallie Ephron grew up in a family of writers and a household filled with books. Her parents were Henry and Phoebe Ephron who wrote screenplays for classic movies like Carousel and Daddy Long Legs. Hallie was the last of their four daughters (she’s #3 of Nora, Delia, Hallie, Amy) to start writing or, as she calls it, succumb to her genes.

A three-time finalist for the Mary Higgins Clark Award, Ephron’s new suspense novel is Night Night, Sleep Tight. Set in Beverly Hills in the 1960s and 1980s, it is inspired by Ephron’s experiences growing up there in a Hollywood family.

Recently I asked the author about what she was reading. Ephron's reply:
I just finished savoring Tara Ison's Reeling Through Life: How I Learned to Live, Love and Die at the Movies.

Ms. Ison is a self proclaimed “child of the movies, a movie freak, a film junkie, a cineaste.” Her book is perfect for the similarly afflicted. I grew up, as she did, in movie-obsessed Southern California, my parents were screenwriters, and I think my "reality" came more from the movies than from real life, too.

Reeling is part literary memoir and part a cavalcade of those movies that moved her and taught her essential life lessons like “How to go Crazy,” “How to be a Drunk,” and “How to Lose Your Virginity.”

My own movie lessons on losing virginity came from two Natalie Woods movies: Splendor in the Grass and Marjorie Morningstar, both cautionary tales from a more innocent (or perhaps just more secretive) era. Coming along ten years later, Ms. Ison’s came from Little Darlings and Fast Times at Ridgemont High. I love that she includes excerpts from the scripts -- and why not, after all she's a recovered screenwriter (co-writer of the cult film Don't Tell Mom the Babysitter's Dead). Her reflections are deeply personal, profound, sad and hilarious.
Visit Hallie Ephron's website and blog.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Kit Alloway

Kit Alloway writes primarily for young adults, having always had an affection for teenagers. In addition to writing, she plays various musical instruments, decorates cakes, mixes essential oils, and studies East European languages. She lives in Louisville, KY with her family and four very tiny dogs.

Alloway's debut novel is Dreamfire.

Recently I asked the author about what she was reading. Her reply:
I finally got around to reading A Great and Terrible Beauty recently, which is a story about four Victorian girls who revive an ancient cult. I really enjoyed the feminist elements of it, the way the girls embraced themselves apart from their relationships to guys.

I’m also reading The Living Gita, which is an annotated edition of the Bhagavad Gita, a sacred text from ancient India. It’s a hard read, but worth digging through. The story is a long conversation between a god and a warrior who doesn’t know if he wants to go to war, and it contains a lot about finding inner peace and letting go of worldly obsessions.

Finally, I’m taking a literary criticism course, so I’m also reading Literary Theory: The Basics, which talks about different ways of approaching literature. It’s really exciting to realize that people have been asking the same questions about stories that I’ve been asking all my life, like what we can learn if we apply psychological theories to our interpretations of literature, and whether or not knowing a lot about an author adds to our understanding of a story.
Visit Kit Alloway's website.

The Page 69 Test: Dreamfire.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, March 27, 2015

Susan Crawford

Susan Crawford grew up in Miami, Florida, where she spent her childhood adoring her older sister, reading mysteries in a hammock strung between two Banyan trees, and collecting lizards, baby skunks and other odd, exotic creatures.

She later moved to New York City and then to Boston before settling in Atlanta to raise three amazing daughters and to teach in various adult education settings. A member of The Atlanta Writers Club and The Village Writers, Crawford works for the Department of Technical and Adult Education and is a member of her local planning commission. She lives in Atlanta with her husband and a trio of rescue cats, where she enjoys reading books, writing books, rainy days, and spending time with the people she loves.

Her first novel is The Pocket Wife.

Recently I asked Crawford about what she was reading. Her reply:
I’m currently reading Lori Lansens’ The Wife’s Tale, and I picked it up because it sounded so Chaucer. I liked the premise – Mary’s husband leaves her on the eve of their twenty-fifth wedding anniversary, and she must step outside her comfort zone to find out why. Ironically, it is most likely Mary’s refusal to explore the world beyond her rigid and extremely limiting boundaries that has brought about her husband's departure – to think, he tells her in a letter. The main character is obese, but it could really be anything that limits her. It is Mary’s love for her husband – something she’s kept buried for years – that propels her to leave not only her comfort zone, but her country, in this odyssey, but it is Mary herself – an expertly-drawn character, charming, innocent, and humorous – that propelled me to read the book. The pace is leisurely and the details enable me to really understand Mary and to be invested in what happens to her.

I just finished Paula Hawkins’ The Girl on the Train, and I found it to be a compelling read. I hated putting it down, and I read it in a couple of sittings. I loved the concept of a woman obsessing on the marriage of a couple she has only seen from a train window. When the wife disappears, the woman on the train feels personally involved and impacted. Her attempts to clarify what happened to the missing wife are inhibited by her alcoholism and subsequent blackouts, which added to the tension and kept me turning pages well into the night.
Visit Susan Crawford's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Michelle Falkoff

Michelle Falkoff's fiction and reviews have been published in ZYZZYVA, DoubleTake, and the Harvard Review, among other places. She is a graduate of the Iowa Writers' Workshop and currently serves as Director of Communication and Legal Reasoning at Northwestern University School of Law.

Playlist for the Dead is her first novel.

Recently I asked the author about what she was reading. Falkoff's reply:
These days, I’m alternating between “adult” fiction (is that really a thing?) and Young Adult fiction written by members of my debut group, the Fearless Fifteeners. I read pretty broadly across genres, so I’ll highlights some recent favorites in a few categories.

Literary:

Celeste Ng’s Everything I Never Told You tells the story of a marriage between a white woman and a Chinese-American man, alternating between the 1950s, when they met, and the 1970s, when one of their children has gone missing. The discussion of race is complicated and sophisticated and so very welcome, and Ng moves between voices in a way that looks effortless but that takes a tremendous amount of work and talent.

Mystery:

I don’t need to work too hard to convince people to read Tana French these days—I’ve loved her stuff since her first book came out. Her latest, The Secret Place , concerns a murder at a boarding school and alternates perspective between one of the detectives on the case and the girls at the school. In that way, it was a perfect hybrid read for me, one that should appeal to both adults and teenagers.

YA:

I don’t want to say too much about Amanda Panitch’s Damage Done, forthcoming in July 2015, because part of what makes it so engaging is figuring out what’s really going on. I’ll just say that it concerns one of my favorite topics, and if you read it, you’ll be able to tell what that is.
Visit Michelle Falkoff's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

N. K. Traver

As a freshman at the University of Colorado, N. K. Traver decided to pursue Information Technology because classmates said "no one could make a living" with an English degree. It wasn't too many years later Traver realized it didn't matter what the job paid--nothing would ever be as fulfilling as writing. Programmer by day, writer by night, it was only a matter of time before the two overlapped.

Duplicity is Traver's first novel.

Recently I asked the author about what she was reading. Her reply:
I’m currently reading A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab, a book I’ve been dying to get my hands on since Schwab announced its publication date last year. Schwab is a master of characterization and little creative details that make a world feel alive. So far there’s a coat with an infinite number of sides, a girl who sets ships on fire, and magic that rules you if you don’t rule it. It’s just so excellent in so many ways. Though I’m not yet finished, I have a feeling this is a book I’ll be pushing into the hands of random strangers.

Another book I’ve recently finished is Charm & Strange by Stephanie Kuehn, which has messed me up in the best way. Kuehn has this way of revealing super important details that’s both subtle and shocking at the same time, and I love her style of writing – it’s a study in voice and unreliable narration. I’m not usually drawn to books that deal with darker issues, but I will always read Kuehn’s work.
Visit N. K. Traver's website.

The Page 69 Test: Duplicity.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Jamie Kornegay

Jamie Kornegay lives in the Mississippi Delta, where he moved in 2006 to establish an independent bookstore, TurnRow Book Co. Before that he was a bookseller, events coordinator, and radio show producer at the famous Square Books in Oxford, Mississippi. He studied creative fiction under Barry Hannah at the University of Mississippi.

Kornegay's new novel is Soil.

Recently I asked the author about what he was reading. His reply:
As a full-time bookseller, in addition to part-time writer, I find myself reading mostly current fiction and non-fiction. My recent favorites include M.O. Walsh’s insanely readable My Sunshine Away and Colin Barrett’s rich story collection Young Skins. Just had a rare snow day here in Mississippi and finished Lesser Beasts: A Snout-to-Tail History of the Humble Pig by Mark Essig. I thoroughly enjoyed this history of the pig, how it has developed and endured alongside humans, even when culture has despised it. The biggest surprise was David Vann’s new novel Aquarium. A real gut-punch of a book, confrontational yet balanced with beauty and redemption.

I just started Whisper Hollow, an impressive debut novel by Chris Cander, and am nearly finished already. It defies you to put it down and keeps calling – one more chapter, one more chapter.

Also dead-middle into Moby-Dick. Okay, I faked reading it in college. I’ve always felt guilty about it, so now I’m reading a chapter every day. (So much better than the Cliffs Notes!) Just today I read Ishmael’s tangential and detailed critique on the many shoddy attempts by artists to paint whales. Lends credence to the idea that Moby-Dick is the first metafiction.

I’m heading out for book tour tomorrow. I enjoy packing books for a road trip, trying to predict what I’ll be in the mood to read. I don’t want them all stored lightly on a machine because I relish the encumbrance. Some selections from my go-box: The Other Joseph by Skip Horack, who is thus far two-for-two with a great story collection, The Southern Cross, and a remarkable novel, The Eden Hunter; The Teeth of the Souls by Steve Yates, a friend who works for the University Press of Mississippi and is a fine writer with a knack for surprising historical detail; Where All Light Tends to Go, a slim, severe work of Southern grit-lit by David Joy; A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara, which everyone is raving about; and The Jezebel Remedy by Martin Clark, a clever and funny writer coming to my store, Turnrow Books, in June.
Follow Jamie Kornegay on Twitter.

The Page 69 Test: Soil.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, March 23, 2015

Stacey Lee

Stacey Lee is a fourth-generation Chinese American. A Southern California native, she graduated from UCLA and got her law degree at UC Davis King Hall. Now she plays classical piano, wrangles children, and writes young adult fiction.

Under a Painted Sky is her first novel.

Recently I asked Lee about what she was reading. Her reply:
I am reading two books, which is uncommon for me, as I usually only have the attention span for one book at a time. Making San Francisco American: Cultural Frontiers in the Urban West, 1846-1906, by Barbara Berglund (University Press of Kansas, 2007) is helping me research the social landscape in San Francisco at the turn of the 20th century for the book I'm currently writing, Unsinkable Mercy Wong (G.P. Putnam's Sons, 2016, in which Mercy Wong pretends to be an heiress from China to get entry into an all-white boarding school, but everything is shaken up when the 1906 San Francisco earthquake hits).

The second book is Everything Everything, by Nicola Yoon (Random House) which debuts in September, and is about a house-bound girl who is allergic to everything, but all changes when she falls in love with the boy next door. Nicola is a friend, and this book is special because it's written through a series of letters, diaries entries, and illustrations (which are done by Nicola's husband!). Also, it's a timely subject, as allergies seem more prevalent now than they were when I was a kid. It's a different world out there now, though teenagers falling in love? Timeless.
Visit Stacey Lee's website.

--Marshal Zeringue