These days many of us are glued to the news as conflicts near and far are reported with up to the minute details. Can you imagine then how it must have felt to residents of Dubno in Soviet occupied Poland in June 1941 to hear rumors that Germany was about to invade? Jewish families in particular had few if any choices to assure their survival. In one family a young man decided to ride his bicycle to a near-by town to learn what he could. For Wolf Kogul that was the beginning of years struggling to survive war, tragic loss and future guilt.
Each story of that time adds
concrete knowledge of those terrible years, bringing the truth of specificity
that history books can only generalize about.
Nancy Burke is a writer, musician, and psychoanalyst who recently published her first novel, Undergrowth. In my mind, though, she remains a young girl who I saw annually at a mutual friend’s childhood birthday parties–so clearly I have a lot of catching up to do. In this interview, I had a chance to get the process started, at least it terms of Nancy’s writing life
That writing life has been prolific and diverse. In the years since those birthday parties, Nancy has received numerous writing awards and grants, and, as a psychoanalyst, has published non-fiction articles and edited the nonfiction book Gender and Envy. Also a songwriter, she has recorded two albums of her original songs: American Goodbye and a second scheduled for release later this year.
Bill Woods, author of the new novel Orient Beach, has been a published writer 57 years–sort of. He first published a story at age 15 in the Sunday Edition of The Memphis Commercial Appeal after winning a short story contest.
But then life got in the way.
“I had a little business meeting with myself when I finished high school,” Bill recalls. “On the one hand, I really, really wanted to be a writer. However, I grew up poor. Becoming a starving artist did not seem romantic to me. So now, a retired engineer, I’m back where I started. I still want to be the writer I wanted to be at 15. “
A lifetime later, Woods has become that writer.
In my review of The Bookshop of Yesterdays in January, I talked about the novel’s complex interweaving of different types of stories, including a mystery, an adventure story, a love story, and a tribute to literature. This month I’m pleased to have Bookshop’s author, Amy Meyerson, tell us some of how she created this bestselling novel, which will be translated into nine languages. Amy teaches in the writing department at the University of Southern California, where she completed her graduate work in creative writing. She’s been published in numerous literary magazines and currently lives in Los Angeles.
SW. I really enjoyed the clues in the story’s scavenger hunts. How did you approach writing the ones that weren’t direct quotes?
AM. There are three different scavenger hunts in the novel, two from Miranda’s childhood and the one her uncle sends her on in the present day of the book.
Part 2 – Should you take a creative writing degree? And if so, how to choose one
Morris: Any general advice for writers who are wondering
whether to take such a course? Who should take them? Who shouldn’t?
The Rushes looks into the world of film making. Its two protagonists struggle to put career ahead of romance, but the penis has a way of rising. Best friends since childhood, they get college degrees in film making and begin Hollywood careers. Their long-range goal is to make their own films together, after they get the credentials necessary from working for others, the others tending toward the tyrannical. Everyone works long hours. Sex and romance get squeezed in.
As I read, I wondered how the author knew so much about the film industry. I learned he wrote and directed The Green Plaid Shirt, a 1996 romance/drama about life during the initial onslaught of AIDS.
Question: Carson’s big break into Hollywood comes when he’s hired by Zach, a producer who later berates him with a gay slur.
I met Anna Marsh at a Yale alumni event where her name tag told me she had received a PhD in psychology there in 1985. I expected to hear stories of a career in academia, musings on current psychological research, and perhaps tales of her illustrious classmates (one of whom currently serves as Yale’s president). We did, in fact, do some reminiscing. But our conversation took an unexpected turn when Anna mentioned being a fiction writer.
I soon learned that Anna had completed a master’s in writing at Johns Hopkins after leaving her career in government. I wanted to know more, especially about the value of formal writing education in a person with a wealth of learning and life experience.
In Brothers published by Bold Strokes Books, protagonist Jamus back-burners his gay life to raise his infant brother after their parents die in a car wreck. Intrigued by the concept and by the book as I read it, I wanted to ask author Ralph Josiah Bardsley more about the lives of the very real characters he created.
Question: Main protagonist Jamus puts his limited gay romantic life in the closet to raise his toddler brother after their parents are killed. I might say he made a good decision, a responsible one, regarding raising his brother, but a wasteful one when he put being gay in the closet to do it. To what extent is he responding to his church-going South Boston Irish Catholicism?
And the winner is… Abandoned Homes: Vietnam Revenge Murders by Frank E. Hopkins was recently named best book of the year in the mystery/thriller genre by the Maryland Writers’ Association. It’s a tale of murder discovered thirty-five years after the crime, and the novel allows Hopkins to reach back to the Vietnam War era to explore the anger and division that tore America apart. Frank, who is also the author of two other novels—Unplanned Choices and The Opportunity—was kind enough to talk with us about his work.
Frank, I’d like to start with a question I sometimes ask myself. You and I both started writing seriously – or at least started publishing – after we retired. Do you have any regrets that you didn’t begin much earlier?
Published by Black Rose Writing on 2/8/18 The Long Road follows a young man, sometimes in mental turmoil, as he doggedly prepares for his dream career in aerospace engineering. I’m pleased to have first read this work in manuscript form and now to see it available for the world to read.
Question: What are a few of your all-time favorite novels, and what makes them so? Is there a type of fiction that you read most often?
Answer: My all-time favorite is Great Expectations by Charles Dickens. I gravitate toward stories that are realistic and that include characters who take a long time to overcome their problems but are victorious in the end.(Dickens wrote two separate endings, one of which has Pip “victorious.”) I admire these characters more than those in thrillers.
A. L. Kaplan’s debut novel, Star Touched, is about Tatiana, a young woman seeking to survive in a world devastated by a meteor eight years before. As a “star-touched” person with special powers, she flees the persecution of those like her and seeks refuge in a small town she once visited. It had been a haven before, but it is now oppressed by powerful thugs that rule and exploit the townspeople.
Kaplan’s stories and poems have been included in several anthologies and magazines, and her novel, Star Touched, was published last October. She is a board member of the Maryland Writers’ Association and its Howard County Chapter. She holds an MFA in sculpture from the Maryland Institute College of Art, and works as props manager for a local theater.
I recently interviewed English writer Roz Morris about her new book, Not Quite Lost: Travels Without a Sense of Direction (Spark Furnace, 2017), a delightful collection of essays that mixes travel and memoir. This interview is in the current (winter) edition of Rain Taxi Review of Books.
Liana Vrajitoru Andreasen is a scholar, professor, and writer from Romania who has been living and working in the United States for over twenty years. Her work has appeared in journals such as: Rampike, Alecart, Texas Review, Quarterly Review of Film and Video, The Romanian Journal for Artistic Creativity, Southwestern American Literature, The CEA Critic, American Book Review, Lumina, Fiction International, Calliope, The Raven Chronicles, The Willow Review, Mobius, a Journal of Social Change, Scintilla, and Weave Magazine. I recently enjoyed the opportunity to speak with her about her forthcoming critical book, The Fall of Literary Theory.
Joseph Daniel Haske: Tell us about your new book, The Fall of Literary Theory. How long have you been working on it and what was the motivation/philosophy behind it?
I first met Xu Xi, who was on faculty, when I was a student earning my MFA at the Vermont College of Fine Arts low residency program. She was my mentor for my final semester there in 2005, and since then has become a lifelong mentor to me, in writing and in life. Always busy with writing, traveling and other projects, Xu Xi was still gracious to answer some questions about her work and writing life.
Xu Xi is the author of twelve books, including five novels, five collections of short fiction & essays and most recently a memoir DEAR HONG KONG: AN ELEGY TO A CITY, released July 1, 2017 by Penguin as part of its Hong Kong series for the 20th anniversary of Hong Kong’s handover to China.
When M.O. Walsh released his debut novel My Sunshine Away, reviewers named him the newest member of the Southern gothic literary tradition. The novel, which I reviewed on Late Last Night Books here, offers the rich atmosphere and haunting darkness associated with the Southern gothic school, but it also offers many-faceted characters caught in some of life’s profound dilemmas. In recognition of its excellence, My Sunshine Away won the Pat Conroy Southern Book Award for General Fiction. I was delighted when Walsh agreed to answer questions about his inspirations, writing techniques, and more.
S.W. What is appealing about the U.S. South in general as a setting? Would you ever consider writing a novel set somewhere other than the South?
João Cerqueira has a PhD in History of Art from the University of Oporto. He is the author of eight books, among them the novels The Tragedy of Fidel Castro (Line by Lion Books, 2012), and Jesus and Magdalene (River Grove Books, 2016). In early July, 2017, I met him in his home town of Viana do Castelo, Portugal.
The Tragedy of Fidel Castro won the USA Best Book Awards 2013, the Beverly Hills Book Awards 2014, the Global E-book Awards 2014, was finalist for the Montaigne Medal 2014 and for The Wishing Shelf Independent Book Awards 2014 and was considered by ForewordReviews the third best translation published in 2012 in the United States. Besides the US, it is published in Italy, in the UK, Argentina and in Spain.
An Interview with David Stever, Mystery Author
Author David Stever’s detective novel, Auburn Ride, won the Maryland Writers’ Association 2017 Book Award for Suspense/Mystery fiction. Stever delivers a fast-paced detective story in the tradition of Raymond Chandler and Robert B. Parker. His detective, Johnny Delarosa, also delivers–the cash for his client and a satisfying conclusion to the case.
I enjoyed Auburn Ride, and since David Stever lives in my neighborhood, I asked for an interview. A Google search turned up the fact that he has also been a film producer. The film, Coffin, is a horror flick with a surprise ending.
I wouldn’t associate David Stever with the horror genre. He grew up in a small town in Pennsylvania, has a business degree and in real life works
I spoke with Saikat Majumdar last April about his recent novel, The Firebird, in an interview for the Los Angeles Review of Books and Scroll.in. With the 2017 release of the American version of the novel, I had the pleasure of catching up with the novelist and critic again for LLNB.
Joseph Daniel Haske: What have you been up to lately? It seems like you’ve been traveling quite a bit recently. What effect does this have on your writing, if any?
Saikat Majumdar: Yes, there has been quite a bit of travel and scene-shifting in my life lately. Currently I’m in Delhi where I direct the new Creative Writing Program of a liberal arts university here, Ashoka, and teach literature, critical theory, and fiction workshops.
I’m not a horse fancier but after reading Alyson Hagy’s Boleto I look curiously when I glimpse a horse. The novel’s young cowboy protagonist drew me to it (I am a fancier of young cowboys). The filly he’s training for polo is the reader’s window into Will Testerman’s soul. I fell in love with the book and its Everyman protagonist, and I’m delighted Alyson Hagy let me ask a few questions about it.
QUESTION: Did you intend for protagonist Will Testerman, the twenty-three year old Wyoming horse trainer, to be an exemplary human being or did he only turn out that way?
Lily Iona MacKenzie is a multi-talented author who follows her muse through short stories, novels, nonfiction, and poetry. In her novel Fling!, which I reviewed here last month, she explores the profound influences (good and bad) of family relationships, even after family members die, but she does it with humor and joy. Using magical realism, MacKenzie celebrates life and spiritual ties in many forms. Her own life experiences include working as a long distance telephone operator, a secretary, a longshoreman, manager of a homeless shelter, and writing teacher at the University of San Francisco. Her next novel, Curva Peligrosa, will be released by Regal House Publishing later this year.
Interview with Alexander Weinstein, author of Children of the New World
My interview with Alexander Weinstein, recently published in Rain Taxi Review of Books (link at the end of post). This collection of speculative dystopian fiction has been compared to the Black Mirror TV series. It’s quite excellent.
Garry Craig Powell: In a recent interview with 0 + 1 reads, you cite the influence of filmmaker Charlie Kaufman and mention that in spite of his metaphysical concerns, he grounds his stories in a gritty world. It struck me, reading Children of the New World, that you do that too. Unlike some cerebral writers, including some that you acknowledge as influences, you create complex, well-rounded characters with whom we can empathize. In the title story, “Children of the New World”, for example, a couple has to ‘delete’ their virtual son when his program is plagued by a virus—and incredibly, we feel sorry for them.
If people join book clubs – or don’t – it’s mainly about the books. Or at least that’s what people claim.
One of Patricia Schultheis’s greatest strengths as a writer is her ability to examine relationships between people. She’s also very good at exploring relationships people have with expectations, rules, traditions, and other conventions of life. In her short story collection St. Bart’s Way, which I reviewed here last month, she offers a host of individuals, all trying to understand life and their role in it, particularly as it relates to others. In the interview below, Schultheis talks about how she creates these characters and how they come to inhabit her stories.
Schultheis’s other publications include her pictorial history Baltimore’s Lexington Market and numerous short stories and essays in national and international literary journals.
5/10/2016. INTERVIEW WITH JAMES SCOTT, AUTHOR OF THE KEPT
Only a brave author would create his debut novel with characters who are different from him in almost every way. James Scott, author of The Kept, took on that challenge and compounded it with a harsh setting and even harsher themes. But as I said in my review of The Kept last month, Scott gives his characters multi-dimensional personalities that shine against the turmoil of the story. I was eager to ask him how he combined those elements so well. He shares some of his thoughts on process and inspiration below.
Scott’s previous work has been short listed for the Pushcart Prize and nominated for the Best New American Voices.