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.
4/20/16 INTERVIEW WITH LOU ARONICA, AUTHOR OF THE FOREVER YEAR
In The Forever Year, Jesse, a young man, is the last child in his family, born when his father was late middle-aged. Growing up, Jesse felt that his father and older siblings lived in a world apart from him and that he didn’t know his dad as his siblings did. When his father is no longer able to live alone, Jesse surprises his siblings by arranging for Dad to live with him. During the time the two men spend together, Jesse hopes they’ll connect. What he doesn’t expect is to learn that the love of his father’s life was not Jesse’s and his siblings’ mother. Yet their mother was the only woman their dad married, a marriage that lasted most of his lifetime and lasted until their mother’s death—not an unhappy marriage.
Hillary Clinton wrote to thank Barbara Morrison for writing Innocent: Confessions of a Welfare Mother. The letter said: “I am grateful to you for sharing your personal story and demonstrating the positive impact that social assistance programs make upon families, communities, and our country. Yours is a vital story to tell.” I found Innocent a compelling page-turner as well.
E. A. Aymar, author of the Dead Trilogy, Talks Noir and Sympathy
E. A. Aymar is a noir kind of guy. He hosts D.C.’s “Noir at the Bar” and just finished up hosting the expanded version, “Noir on the Air”, on 11 January, in which nine noted thriller writers read their work on the Global Radio Network. His short story “The Line” appeared this month in Out of the Gutter, a lit mag known for its dark, edgy content. He’s also the Managing Editor of The Thrill Begins, the online resource for beginning and debut thriller writers from the International Thriller Writers Organization. Aymar is best known as the author of the Dead Trilogy, the first two entries of which are I’ll Sleep When You’re Dead and You’re as Good as Dead.
In her novels, novellas, and numerous short stories, Jen Michalski writes about topics as varied as the colors of the rain. She’s tackled murder, incest, romance, loneliness, and other subjects, coming at them all from different angles and with different perspectives. In her debut novel, The Tide King, which I reviewed here last month, and her forthcoming novel, The Summer She Was Underwater, Michalski explores her subject matter with magical realism, only one of the many tools she wields so well. She was voted one of the best authors in Maryland by CBS News, one of “50 Women to Watch” by The Baltimore Sun, and “Best Writer” by Baltimore Magazine (Best of Baltimore issue, 2013). In the interview below, she talks about writing with magical realism, labeling of authors, understanding loneliness, and more.
I love traveling by train, ensconced with strangers boarding and debarking according to some mysterious and personal trajectory. So right from the start I was intrigued by Eric Goodman’s Tracks, a novel in short stories about travelers on a train headed from Baltimore for Chicago.
Called a “fresh voice in Latin American literature” by the New York Times for her debut novel TheTree of Red Stars, Tessa Bridal is about to enter new territory with a second novel, River of Painted Birds. Slated for release in mid-October in both English and Spanish language versions, this new novel follows the adventures of an 18th century Irish woman who marries an abusive husband at fifteen and boards a ship westward-bound ship after accidentally killing him six years later. Rather than landing in Boston as expected, she ends up in the country known today as Uruguay where she joins forces with a wealthy half-Indian smuggler and a renegade priest determined to save the native people from slavery.