Archive for the ‘author interview’ Category

Thursday, January 26th, 2012

January Author Interviews

This month’s State of the Thing, LibraryThing’s monthly newsletter of features, author interviews and various forms of bookish delight, should have made its way to your inbox by now. You can also read it online.

We had a whole host of author interviews this month:

I talked to Shalom Auslander about his first novel, Hope: A Tragedy, out this month from Riverhead Books.

Which of these characters came to you first? Which was the most fun to create?

Kugel, the main character, came first; I liked the idea of a character whose tragic flaw was hope, the very thing we’re supposed to never give up or go without. And yet here was a person, it seemed, whose hope was getting him hurt, who might be better off if he gave up and just accepted things as they are, i.e. crappy. Mother, though, was the most fun to create. She is eternally hopeless and finds glory in suffering and pain in joy; I was given birth to by people just like that. Also, she moans about being in the Holocaust, which she never was, and that makes me laugh.

Read the rest of our interview with Shalom Auslander.

I also talked to Theodora Goss about her latest book, The Thorn and the Blossom: A Two-Sided Love Story, published this month by Quirk Books. You may want to watch the book trailer to get a sense of the book’s interesting design.

How did you come up with the idea to have the book designed this way, as a “two-sided love story”? Can you describe the design process bit for us?

I actually didn’t come up with the idea of the two-sided design myself. My wonderful editor, Stephen Segal, came up with it and called me to ask if I could write a story that would fit the format. It was quite a challenge! We didn’t want a story that would simply have two sides to it—that wouldn’t really be using the format. We wanted a story that could only be told in this way, that would use the format as part of the reading experience. And I think when you read the book, you’ll find that it does. You can only understand the story, particularly the conclusion, by reading both sides.

But I was the one who decided that it should be a love story (after all, what other kind of story is so particularly two-sided?), and who came up with the story of Brendan and Evelyn. And after I had come up with it, the basic plot and the characters, then the characters started talking to me, as they do anytime you write a story. They started telling me what they wanted to say and do.

I should also mention the wonderful artist, Scott McKowen, who captured the feel of the story so perfectly. I can’t think of a better way to present this book than the way Scott has presented it, with the gorgeous slipcase and the illustrations inside. I think in the end, the book was a collaborative effort between the three of us. And once it’s read, the readers will become a part of the collaboration as well, because this story isn’t just on the pages. In a sense, it exists between the two sides, and that’s the story the readers will have to put together themselves.

Read the rest of our interview with Theodora Goss.

My third interview this month was with Susan Goodman, the H. Brown Fletcher Chair of Humanities at the University of Delaware, and the author of Republic of Words: The Atlantic Monthly and Its Writers, 1857-1925, recently published by the University Press of New England.

The Atlantic Monthly’s founders laid out quite an ambitious goal for themselves in 1857, “to be the exponent of what its conductors believe to be the American idea.” How did they manage to make a success of their magazine when so many similar ventures did not last?

As the country’s most intellectual and literary city, Boston brought together men and women who from the beginning of the magazine made it a powerful voice in American politics as well as the arts. Its success depended on a loyal group of contributors, informed and curious readers, often intent on self-improvement, and good management. Luck also played a part. The first issue, for example, contained Ralph Waldo Emerson’s poem “Brahma”, which provoked a craze of parodies and made readers eager for the next issue.

Read the rest of our interview with Susan Goodman.

I also chatted with Jay Wexler about his new book The Odd Clauses: Understanding the Constitution Through Ten of Its Most Curious Provisions, published by Beacon Press.

You write in the introduction that you first got the idea for writing a book about the Constitution’s “odd clauses” while you were working in the Office of Legal Counsel for the Clinton administration. Do you recall a particularly odd question the OLC was called upon to advise on while you were there?

There were all sorts of odd questions, but the one I spent most of my time on had to do with whether the President had the authority to create a national monument in the middle of the ocean. President Clinton was interested in creating a giant national monument in Hawaii to protect coral reefs, but it’s not immediately clear that the relevant statute giving the President the authority to create monuments (it’s called the Antiquities Act) gives him the authority to make monuments in the ocean. The question required a good bit of statutory analysis as well as analysis of the proper scope of the so-called “Property Clause” of Article IV of the Constitution. The legal opinion that came out of all that work is here. As it turned out, it was President Bush, not Clinton, who ultimately made the Hawaii monument.

Read the rest of our interview with Jay Wexler.

And, last but not least, we have an interview with Susan Cain. Her first book is Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking, published this month by Crown.

You describe in your opening chapters the rise of what you call the Extrovert Ideal. Give us the nutshell version: what is this, and how did it come to be such a powerful force in American culture?

The Extrovert Ideal says that the ideal self is gregarious, alpha, and comfortable in the spotlight. Our schools, workplaces, and religious institutions are designed for extroverts, and many introverts believe that there is something wrong with them and that they should try to “pass” as extroverts. The bias against introversion leads to a colossal waste of talent, energy, and happiness.

In my book, I trace how we shifted from a “Culture of Character” into a “Culture of Personality” at the turn of the 20th century. Big business, the media, the self-help industry, and advertising all went through radical changes that had the effect of glamorizing bold and entertaining personality styles. I also tell the surprising life story of Dale Carnegie, who morphed from shy, awkward farm boy into bestselling author of How to Win Friends and Influence People, and is a fascinating example of this cultural transformation.

And I talk about why the Culture of Personality is not a great model for the 21st century.

Read the rest of our interview with Susan Cain.

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Labels: author interview, authors, state of the thing

Friday, December 2nd, 2011

Author Interview: Anthony Horowitz

We’ve got a special mid-month author interview with Anthony Horowitz, the author of the popular Alex Rider series of books as well as several popular UK television series and mini-series, including “Foyle’s War,” “Midsomer Murders,” and “Poirot.” Anthony’s latest work is The House of Silk, a new Sherlock Holmes adventure published last month by Mulholland Books.

You’ve written that you “paused for at least half a second” before agreeing to write a new Sherlock Holmes novel. What made you hesitate, and how did you
overcome the hesitation?

I had two concerns. The first was that, with so much Sherlock Holmes around—the Robert Downey Jr. films and the very successful TV series on BBC—I might be seen as jumping on a bandwagon. Also, I have my doubts about this rash of prequels, sequels and add-ons that are appearing. Are they just a cynical way to sell books? I agreed only because I love Sherlock Holmes and couldn’t resist the idea of moving into 221b Baker Street for a short while. I knew I could write a good book. I knew I would enjoy writing it. In short, I couldn’t resist it.

What sort of research or preparation did you do before you started writing?

I began by re-reading the entire canon, which didn’t take long. There are only 56 short stories and four novellas. I have to say that it was great to have an excuse to immerse myself once again in Sherlock Holmes. I then read a couple of books about nineteenth century London which helped me decide on some of the locations. The plot for The House of Silk came very quickly. I actually started writing it a week after I signed the contract … the prologue and chapter one, anyway. That was how I found my voice.

Did you find any aspect of writing The House of Silk particularly challenging (or particularly easy)?

The biggest challenge was to stretch the very elegant but fragile structures of the original Doyle novels to the 95,000 words demanded by my editors. I overcame this by effectively writing two short novels‐The Man in the Flat Cap and The House of Silk‐and intertwining them. I never use the word “easy” about writing but I have to say that I loved writing the book and that an awful lot of it seemed to fall into my lap. It took four months‐half the time of an Alex Rider novel.

What do you think it is about Holmes and Watson that makes them such wonderfully lasting characters?

It’s their interdependence. Doyle’s genius was to create a character who is cold, aloof, irritating, an occasional drug addict, a man who never reads fiction and knows nothing about philosophy or politics … and to partner him with a warm, affable, civilized, intelligent and totally loyal doctor. We read the books for the atmosphere and for the mysteries but above all because this is the greatest friendship in literature.

Do you have a favorite Sherlock Holmes story? If so, which, and why?

My favourite story is “The Dying Detective” (which takes place three days before The House of Silk begins). It’s a chamber piece. There’s no detection and no actual crime. But it’s a great duel of wits with a memorable villain and a startling denouement.

Read the full interview.

Labels: author interview, authors

Wednesday, November 23rd, 2011

November Author Interviews!

This month’s State of the Thing, LibraryThing’s monthly newsletter of features, author interviews and various forms of bookish delight, should have made its way to your inbox by now. You can also read it online.

We had a whole host of author interviews this month:

I talked to author Dava Sobel about her latest book, A More Perfect Heaven: How Copernicus Revolutionized the Cosmos, published by Walker & Company.

You’ve done something quite unconventional with this book, putting a two-act play right in the center. How did this idea come about?

My original idea was to write the play. Well into that process—after I’d written and re-written the play several times—my editor, George Gibson, suggested writing a book around the play. I had already accumulated a cache of background information through my research, and he urged me to put that to use. The process of writing the nonfiction narrative produced many good effects: I stopped worrying about what Copernicus might say to me for putting words in his mouth. Also I was able to re-write the play yet again, with a new-found freedom to let the characters rip.

What was it about the idea of a play that drew you to use a dramatic recreation, rather than some other method, to recreate the collaboration between Copernicus and Rheticus?

Since February 1973, when I first learned of their meeting, I have wanted to write a play that would imagine their conversation—how Rheticus convinced Copernicus to do what he’d avoided doing for a lifetime (i.e. publish his book). Everyone knows their meeting took place, but no one knows what they said to each other. The situation seemed ripe for imagination.

Read the rest of our interview with Dava Sobel.

Our second interview this month was with Ken Jennings about Maphead: Charting the Wide, Weird World of Geography Wonks, published by Scribner.

So what is it about maps, anyway? Why are so many people so fascinated by them?

Maps are an extremely elegant solution to one of the most difficult problems ever to face human beings: finding our way through a big, complicated world that we only see firsthand in tiny bits and pieces.

For a map geek, seeing a map of a territory is an empowering act, and maybe even an armchair adventure, if you can project yourself into the map and imagine yourself exploring its contours. But the same map that empowers one person can totally frustrate and confuse another—it’s a matter of how good our spatial and navigational senses are. The good news is that those are senses that can quickly be improved through practice, researchers now know.

If you could visit one of the weird/out-of-the-way places you highlight in the book, which would it be?

I was fascinated by what I read about Baarle-Hertog, a small town on the border between Belgium and the Netherlands. A series of crazy treaties and land swaps between two 12th-century dukes have led to a bizarrely baroque international border there. Twenty-something tiny little bits of Belgium sit smack in the middle of Dutch territory, and many of those have, in turn, even tinier bits of the Netherlands inside them. (The smallest such parcel is well under an acre—a tiny Dutch cow pasture in the middle of a Belgian housing development.) Many houses straddle the border, so residents choose their citizenship based on which side their front door faces, and have been known to move the front door every time tax laws change. When bars close early on the Dutch side of the border, owners can move their tables over to the Belgian side and keep serving.

Read the rest of our interview with Ken Jennings.

I also interviewed Robert K. Massie about his new biography, Catherine the Great: Portrait of a Woman (Random House), a very popular Early Reviewers pick in September.

Most of your books have dealt with Russian history in some way: how did you first become interested in the subject?

My interest in Russian history evolved from a circumstance in my own family. My first child, my son, Robert Massie Jr., was born with hemophilia. I had a history background from my studies at Yale and Oxford, and I knew a little bit—a very little bit—about the Tsarevich Alexis, the only son and heir to Nicholas II, the last tsar, or emperor, of Russia. Alexis had hemophilia, passed down to him through his mother, a grandaughter of Queen Victoria. This boy’s illness led to the involvement of Rasputin as a healer … and the terrible intertwined sequence of family and political events which led to the fall of the monarchy and the Russian Revolution. Nothing had ever been written about this family and these events from this perspective and I decided to do it. That was forty-seven years ago. My first book, Nicholas and Alexandra, was the result.

Tell us about the research process for this book: how long did it
take? Where did it take you?

Catherine the Great has taken me eight years to write. Over all the years, I have been to Russia twenty times, from the Baltic to the Black Sea to the Urals and Siberia.

Read the rest of our interview with Robert Massie.

Last but not least (and very appropriately for this month, we thought), I talked with Hugh Nissenson about his new novel The Pilgrim, published this month by Sourcebooks Landmark.

Your books are set in an impressive variety of time periods. What drew you to seventeenth-century England/New England?

Aside from a life-long passion for the language of Shakespeare and the King James translation of the Bible, I had no serious prior interest in the period. But some seven years ago, in that state of suspension which precedes the birth of a new novel, I took down from my bookshelf a dog-eared copy of Myths and Legends of New England, by Diana Ross McCain. I re-read a brief essay about the hanging of an Englishman by his fellow settlers at Wessagusset, which was an abortive early settlement near Plymouth in New England. The story stayed with me. I began reading about the Puritans in England and their creation in 1620 of the Plymouth colony. I discovered that the incident at Wessagusset really happened. The starving Englishman who was hanged had stolen some seed corn from local Indians who forced the settlers to execute him for his crime. I became fascinated by historic figures like Miles Standish and Governor Bradford, and fictional characters began accreting in my imagination as well. The novel was taking shape.

More specifically, how did you decide to make the Wessagusset settlement the centerpiece of your narrator’s experience in Massachusetts?

I saw the Wessagusset hanging as a commentary on one of our nation’s foundation myths. Moreover, it was emblematic of the conflict between the Puritans’ passion to create the Kingdom of Heaven on earth in the wilderness of the New World and their inevitable complicity with evil. I soon realized that the novel had to be narrated by its protagonist who struggles throughout the book with the ramifications of this conflict.

Read the rest of our interview with Hugh Nissenson.

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Labels: author interview, state of the thing

Friday, October 28th, 2011

October Interviews: Susan Orlean and Richard Brookhiser

This month’s State of the Thing, LibraryThing’s monthly newsletter of features, author interviews and various forms of bookish delight, should have made its way to your inbox by now. You can also read it online.

Our author interviews this month:

I talked to author Susan Orlean about her new book, Rin Tin Tin: The Life and the Legend. Find out how she got interested in Rin Tin Tin, which of her animals would make the best movie star, and about how Twitter has affected her work and her interactions with readers.

Read the full interview with Susan Orlean.

I also chatted with Richard Brookhiser; his newest biography, James Madison was published recently by Basic Books.

Asked what surprised him most about Madison, Brookhiser wrote “Everyone knows he is smart. I was interested to discover he was tough. Madison never quit. When he lost a fight, which happened often enough, he always thought: what next? what now? how do I go on from here? This is why he generally prevailed in the end. The history of the early republic is littered with the broken careers of people who got in his way.”

Read the full interview with Richard Brookhiser.

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Labels: author interview, state of the thing

Wednesday, September 21st, 2011

September Author Interviews

This month’s State of the Thing, LibraryThing’s monthly newsletter of features, author interviews and various forms of bookish delight, should have made its way to your inbox by now. You can also read it online.

Our author interviews this month:

I talked to acclaimed historical fiction author Sharon Kay Penman about her latest novel, Lionheart, a rich tale of Richard I and the Third Crusade. Find how about her research process, favorite historical sources, and how she feels about George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire series.

Asked which of the characters from Lionheart she’d most like to spend a day with, Sharon replied “I’d like to hang around with Richard’s nephew, Henri of Champagne. I’d also like to spend a few hours with Richard’s sister, Joanna, and his queen, Berengaria, and if there was still time to spare, I’d be happy to visit with Saladin’s brother, al-Malik al-Adil, whom I found even more interesting than his more famous sibling. Oh, and Richard, of course, provided that he was in camp at the time and not out fighting Saracens; I’d want to see if my fictional Richard and the real Richard were compatible.”

Read the full interview with Sharon Kay Penman.

I also chatted with Charles Frazier, whose third novel, Nightwoods is out next week from Random House (and is already garnering favorable reviews on LT, including one from me; I had a difficult time putting it down).

I asked Charles “Are there any lines or scenes in the book of which you are especially fond?,” and very much liked his response. He wrote “I kind of like the way the first three sentences set up the main characters and suggest something about the tone and style of the book: ‘Luce’s new stranger children were small and beautiful and violent. She learned early that it wasn’t smart to leave them unattended in the yard with the chickens. Later she’d find feathers, a scaled yellow foot with its toes clinched.'”

Read the full interview with Charles Frazier.

And we have a fun third interview for September: Lisa Carey talked to author/illustrator Chris Van Dusen about his work and his latest work King Hugo’s Huge Ego. Lisa introduced the interview this way: “Chris is one of our favorite local children’s authors. Liam, our five year old, loved The Circus Ship so much that he memorized it and set it to a song, then sang the whole thing for Chris at the Maine Festival of the Book. After the event, Liam told me he wanted to be just like Chris Van Dusen when he grew up. I said that sounded like a great idea. Living on the coast of Maine, drawing every day, writing books, sounds like paradise. I hope he lets us live with him!”

Read Lisa’s full interview with Chris Van Dusen.

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Labels: author interview, authors, state of the thing

Monday, April 25th, 2011

April State of the Thing

This month’s State of the Thing, LibraryThing’s monthly newsletter of features, author interviews and various forms of bookish delight, should have made its way to your inbox by now. You can also read it online.

For our author interviews this month, I talked to former prosecutor Marcia Clark about her debut novel Guilt by Association, recently published by Muholland Books. Read the full interview.

I also chatted with Jessica Speart about her new book Winged Obsession: The Pursuit of the World’s Most Notorious Butterfly Smuggler (published by W.W. Norton and up for requests in this month’s Early Reviewers batch). Speart talks about the lengthy research process the book required, and about how the smuggler tried to make her his “front man” in a butterfly transaction. Read the full interview.

And we have a great third interview this month: Lisa Carey talked to Susan Conley (pictured at left) about her new memoir The Foremost Good Fortune, published by Knopf in February. Conley discusses her writing style, offers some sound advice for memoirists, and gives us a sneak peek inside her forthcoming novel.

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Labels: author interview, state of the thing

Friday, May 28th, 2010

May-ish State of the Thing


We’re just started sending out the May/June State of the Thing, LibraryThing’s monthly newsletter of features, author interviews and other drolleries.

Check your inbox or read it online.

This month’s edition includes four author interviews, with:

http://www.librarything.com/wiki/index.php/State_of_the_Thing

Labels: author chat, author interview, state of the thing

Tuesday, December 22nd, 2009

December State of the Thing

Last night I sent out November’s State of the Thing, our monthly newsletter. Sign up to get it, or you can read a copy online.

This month’s State of the Thing features a ton of new features, the SantaThing recap and free books.

We also have two exclusive author interviews:

Julie Powell first wrote Julie and Julia: 365 Days, 524 Recipes, 1 Tiny Apartment Kitchen as a blog, which turned into a highly successful book, and a movie. Her new memoir, Cleaving: A Story of Marriage, Meat, and Obsession, picks up with Julie heading upstate to learn the fine art of butchering, while shuttling back to New York to confront her marriage and the end of an affair.

Masha Hamilton is the author of four novels, including The Camel Bookmobile. Her new novel, 31 Hours, starts in New York City, where a mother with the age-old intuition that something is wrong chooses possible overreaction over inaction. The story then follows several connected paths to reveal one character’s motives behind his desire to help carry out an act of terrorism in the very city he grew up.

Next month, we’ll be interviewing Colum McCann and Josh Ferris. Have a question for them? Post it here and we might use it in the upcoming interview.

Labels: author chat, author interview, santathing, state of the thing

Tuesday, November 24th, 2009

November State of the Thing

On Monday I sent out November’s State of the Thing, our monthly newsletter. Sign up to get it, or you can read a copy online.

This month’s State of the Thing features a synopsis of our newest features, opening SantaThing, free books and the announcement that Abby is moving over to head LibraryThing for Libraries, and I’m taking over Early Reviewers and Member Giveaways, author chats, site questions and State of the Thing.

We also have three exclusive author interviews:

Gregory Maguire, is the author of the popular Wicked and many other novels for both children and adults. Maguire published The Next Queen of Heaven with the Concord Free Press, a revolutionary “generosity-based” publisher.

Charles Cumming’s new novel, Typhoon, is getting a lot of attention (he’s touted as a successor of John le Carré). Cumming’s intelligent thriller starts with the 1997 British handover of Hong Kong to the Chinese, and moves through to the lead-up to the Beijing Olympic Games.

Eugenia Kim is the author of The Calligrapher’s Daughter, a story that encompasses a enthralling personal story, the roles of gender and class, and Korea’s fight for independence and struggle with modernity.

Eugenia is also participating in an author chat (as well as giving away a signed copy of her book) with LibraryThing members from now until December 6th.

Next month, we’ll be interviewing Julie Powell and Masha Hamilton. Have a question for them? Post it here and we might use it in the upcoming interview.

Labels: author chat, author interview, state of the thing

Monday, October 26th, 2009

October State of the Thing

I just sent out October’s State of the Thing, our monthly newsletter. Sign up to get it, or you can read a copy online.

This month’s State of the Thing features 2 exclusive author interviews:

Allison Hoover Bartlett, is the author of The Man Who Loved Books Too Much: The True Story of a Thief, a Detective, and a World of Literary Obsession. Bartlett digs into the true-crime story of John Gilkey, the obsessed rare book thief and Ken Sanders, the self-appointed “bibliodick” driven to catch him.

Hope Edelman‘s newest book is The Possibility of Everything, a memoir about a week in 2000 when she traveled to Belize with her husband and three-year-old daughter to visit a shaman.

Both Hope and Allison are also participating in chats with LibraryThing members right now—stop by and ask them questions here.

Next month, one of the interviewees we have lined up is Gregory Maguire. Got a question for him? Post it here and we might use it in the upcoming interview.

Labels: author chat, author interview, state of the thing