Professor of English at South Texas College in McAllen, Haske was awarded the 2011 Boulevard Emerging Writers award for short fiction. His work is featured in journals such as Boulevard, Pleiades, The Texas Review, AleCart, and Fiction International. Last month on Late Last Night Books I reviewed his riveting debut novel, North Dixie Highway, and today I’m honored by the chance to interview him.
Q: Why did you choose rural poverty as the environment for your first novel?
1/10/2015—INTERVIEW WITH CLIFFORD GARSTANG, AUTHOR OF IN AN UNCHARTED COUNTRY AND WHAT THE ZHANG BOYS KNOW
I discovered Clifford Garstang through his excellent blog “Perpetual Folly.” I was looking for information for a SheWrites.com blog post I was writing about literary magazines, and Garstang had the information right there when I needed it. So I started reading his blog and realized that his writing is both engaging and provocative. His collection of short stories, In an Uncharted Country, won the Maria Thomas Fiction Award and the IPPY Gold Medal for Best Regional Fiction–Mid-Atlantic 2010. His novel in stories, What the Zhang Boys Know, won the 2013 Library of Virginia Award for Fiction. Most recently, Garstang served as curator and editor of Everywhere Stories: Short Fiction from a Small Planet, published in 2014.
12/4/14 – INTERVIEW WITH SANDY WARD BELL, AUTHOR OF PARKED AT THE MANSFIELDS’
In The Jane Austen Persuasion, I wondered how Jane Austen could be widely idolized by so many readers and yet at the same time dismissed, even despised, by other equally thoughtful, literate people. So I was delighted to have a chance to interview Sandy Ward Bell. As the author of Parked at the Mansfields’, a modern twist on Jane Austen’s Mansfield Park, I figured she could shed considerable light on this question, and I wasn’t disappointed.
11/26/14 Tom Williams has published two novels, The Mimic’s Own Voice and Don’t Start Me Talkin’. His short story collection, Among The Wild Mulattos, will appear in Spring 2015 from Texas Review Press. The Chair of English at Morehead State University, he lives in Kentucky with his wife and children.
Don’t Start Me Talkin’ is a novel about Brother Ben, billed as the Last of the True Delta Bluesmen—but is he? Born in Mississippi, certainly, and purveyor of “authentic” delta blues, far from being the near-illiterate, hard-drinking, womanizing country boy he purports to be, Brother Ben turns out to be a vegetarian, Volvo-driving health fanatic, who listens to jazz for pleasure, is actually an accomplished jazz guitarist, and an extremely savvy and sophisticated manager of his own business—which he manages under his own real name, Wilton Mabry.
10/7/2014 — AN INTERVIEW WITH PEN-L PUBLISHING’S DUKE AND KIMBERLY PENNELL
Change seems to be the only constant in the world of publishing these days. In just the last few years, the big traditional publishers have consolidated, most have entered the digital competition, and some have gone to war with Amazon. We’ve seen exponential growth in ebook sales, and thousands of authors are publishing their own work.
Almost unnoticed in the turmoil has been a huge opportunity for small, independent presses. They appeal to authors who don’t want to self-publish and can’t attract the interest of the big guys.
10/04/14 – INTERVIEW WITH THE ANNAPOLIS BOOKSTORE’S JANICE HOLMES
We so often hear that the age of independent bookstores is over. With the rise of Amazon and other online sellers, we have even seen the fall of the very chains that were supposed to be putting small-town, independent bookstores out of business – putting the future of all physical bookstores, independent or otherwise, into question.
Nina Schuyler is the most exciting fiction writer I have discovered this year. A natural story-teller who creates memorable, sometimes quirky characters, her novels explore the collision of cultures. Her elegant prose is always a joy to read. She is the author of two novels, The Translator (Pegasus, 2014) and The Painting (Algonquin, 2004). The Translator was the winner of the 2014 Next Generation Indie Book Award, was a San Francisco Chronicle Best Book, and was short-listed for the 2014 William Saroyan International Prize for Writing. The Painting was named a Best Book by San Francisco Chronicle and nominated for the Northern California Book Award. Her short stories have been nominated for a Pushcart Prize and Best American New Voices.
9/20/14 INTERVIEW WITH MICHAEL J. TUKCER, AUTHOR OF AQUARIUS FALLING AND CAPRICORN’S COLLAPSE.
On August 20, I reviewed Aquarius Falling on Late Last Night Books, and on October 13 Mike will join us here as a monthly columnist..
Q: Most of us have many all-time favorite books. What are a few of yours and why are they among your favorites?
A: It starts with The Talented Mr. Ripley and includes the entire Ripley series by Patricia Highsmith. Her main character, Tom Ripley, is a psychopath, but Ms. Highsmith tells her stories in such a way that you are cheering him on, you want to see him survive and avoid capture. She was an amazingly talented author.
7/4/14 – INTERVIEW WITH JUDITH FRANK, AUTHOR OF ALL I LOVE AND KNOW
Ever since she sat beside me in 11th grade English class, I suspected that Judith Frank had something to tell the world – and the writing chops to tell it. Over the years Judy confirmed my suspicions repeatedly, winning prizes for her poignant poetry even back in high school and going on to become an author of both scholarly works and prize-winning fiction. If I had any lingering doubt, her new novel All I Love and Know, has shattered it.
6/7/14 — TEEN AUTHOR MELANIE BATCHELOR’S DEBUT NOVEL
There’s something special about discovering a young author who’s really good. You can savor that first book while looking forward to the next, knowing that chances are, each succeeding work will be even better than the last. So imagine the kick of discovering an impressive author who’s only sixteen. Remember Me, a young adult coming of age novel written in verse, was published last month by Bold Stroke Books. The author, Melanie Batchelor, is a high school junior, who actually penned the novel when she was fourteen.
Q: After an Amazon bestseller in urban fantasy, you’re changing directions with your fiction, right? Tell me as much as you want to share about THE FAMILY WARR, the novel you’re working on now.
A:My favorite kinds of books encapsulate the twists and turns of human experience. Whether they accomplish that through an urban fantasy with paranormal elements or the tale of a damaged family, such as the one portrayed in THE FAMILY WARR, is almost irrelevant.
5/10/2014—INTERVIEW WITH BETHANNE PATRICK,WASHINGTONIAN BOOKS EDITOR AND SO MUCH MORE
Bethanne Patrick’s Twitter ID, @TheBookMaven, couldn’t be more appropriate. I don’t know anyone in recent times who’s done more to promote literary culture. Bethanne is the Books Editor at Washingtonian magazine, and her reviews have appeared in The Washington Post, O the Oprah Magazine, People, The Minneapolis Star-Tribune, and many other places. She’s blogged about books for venues including AOL, Publishers Weekly, and BN.com, and helped to launch Shelf Awareness for Readers and Book Riot.
5/7/14 — KERRY PERESTA’S THE HUNTING: HOW A GUY LEARNED TO LOVE CHICK LIT
When Pen-L Publishing offered a contract for my first novel, I went into high research mode, ordering a bunch of their books to see what they were like. I needed to know whether the books were well edited, well designed, and professionally produced. I also wanted to find out whether Pen-L’s stable of authors was any good; after all, I had a little of that natural insecurity, wondering how good could the company be if they wanted me.
4/23/14 WHAT CONNECTS DOLLS, LADY UNDERTAKERS AND NANCY DREW?
The titles of Christine Trent’s five books of historical fiction will give you some clues about the answer to the Nancy Drew question. The Queen’s Dollmaker, A Royal Likeness, By the King’s Design, Lady of Ashes, and the forthcoming Stolen Remains.
The International Network of Golf named Sweetspot its2013 Outstanding Achiever, and the New England Golf Monthly said, “If you’re crazy about golf or you’re a golf widow, then you have to put the book Sweetspot, Confessions of a Golfaholic by John O’Hern on your must-read list.” Or if you just plain like to laugh, I say.
On My Own: Decoding the Conspiracy of Silence, by Erika Schulhof Rybeck and published last year by Summit Crossroads Press, is just one of the increasing number of Holocaust memoirs from survivors who want to tell their stories.
Rybeck escaped the Holocaust by traveling via the Kinder Transport train to Scotland in 1938. She grew up there in a Catholic boarding school, protected from the horrors of the war and the fate of her parents by a “conspiracy of silence.” As an adult, she spent years seeking the truth of the Holocaust and how it claimed her family.
That is just one story. On my desk are two recent memoirs from Gihon River Press,
3/20/14 INTERVIEW WITH WILLIAM HASTINGS, FARLEY’S BOOKSHOP, NEW HOPE, PA
Last Thanksgiving I was in New Hope, PA and happened by Farley’s Bookshop, on Main Street, full of after-dinner shoppers. I was struck by the store, by its bustling prosperity and by the fact that I found one of my recent favorite books, Ron Cooper’sPurple Jesus, displayed there. I also saw displays arranged by small presses.
Q: Tell me about three or four of your favorite current novels from small presses. What percentage of your novel sales do small presses represent? Do you find small press novels any more or less reliable in quality than novels from mainstream presses? Do you find them any more or less to your taste?
3/10/14 INTERVIEW WITH PEGGY PAYNE, AUTHOR OF COBALT BLUE
Throughout her career as a novelist, Peggy Payne has explored aspects of spiritual and supernatural phenomena. Her first novel, Revelation, deals with a Christian minister who hears God speak to him out loud. Her second, Sister India, a New York Times Notable Book of the Year, follows an American woman as she seeks sanctuary in Varanasi (Benares), India, destination of the holiest Hindu pilgrimage. Payne’s latest novel, Cobalt Blue, as I said in my review last month, describes the turbulent experience of kundalini rising. Cobalt Blue earned the rare distinction of having been the book of the month on a Playboy Radio Network program and in the top 100 spiritual books for Kindle.
2/20/14 STONING THE DEVIL, GARRY CRAIG POWELL, BOOK REVIEW AND INTERVIEW
Time and fortune happen to everyone. Before my other half, Todd, read Garry Craig Powell’s Stoning the Devil, I told Todd that when he finished I would want him to tell me if he could see any difference between Stoning the Devil and the novels on the New York Times notable books lists over the years. Because I can’t see any difference, in quality of writing or in the relevance and significance of topic.
Q: I’ve read and enjoyed two of your cozy mysteries, Lovers, Grapes and Crimes and the forthcoming Murder at the Wine Cask Inn. Plots and characters are madcap, like a ’30s movie—I think of Hepburn in Bringing Up Baby. Where do the ideas for your books and the people in them come from?
1/4/14 – BECOMING A POET IN MID-LIFE: PETER M. GORDON, POET
For anyone who views a writing career as an impossible dream, poet Peter M. Gordon is an inspiration. After a 30-year career in creative work that has included theatre directing, writing, teaching, and television programming, Peter reinvented himself as a poet after the age of 50 – and very successfully so.
what a fascinating character Thea Atwell is. She’s also a controversial character. The New York Times called her “an impetuous, headstrong heroine, who often seems like a 1930s version of Scarlett O’Hara.” NPR Books said she’s a “budding feminist,” and The Boston Globe suggested she’s “impossible to like.”
Given the complexity of this character, I couldn’t wait to interview Anton DiSclafani, the author who created her.
11-23-13 INTERVIEW WITH JUSTIN KRAMON, AUTHOR OF THE PRESERVATIONIST
Last month, I reviewed Justin Kramon’s new thriller The Preservationist. This time, I interview the author. When I first met Justin Kramon in 2010, he spoke to the Annapolis Chapter of Maryland Writers Association about his well-received first novel Finny. His vivid characters and confident writing style were impressive for an author still in his twenties. I interviewed him then for MWA’s Pen in Hand. He continues to be a thoughtful and engaging interviewee.
Would you like to go where they really know your name? Better yet, if you read mysteries, they know what you want to read?
Try your local independent mystery bookstore. I drove across the Chesapeake Bay Bridge last week to the quiet shores of Oxford, Maryland, to drop in on Kathy Harig and the Mystery Loves Company Bookstore. An energetic woman with short white hair wearing a blue turtleneck and corduroy slacks, Harig greeted me with a smile as she waved good-bye to a woman bemoaning the fate of two handsome oak trees in town. The store is on the main street in a building dating from 1900—it’s on the Historic Register–and used as a bank and then a post office for 30 years each.