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Archive for the 'Interviews' Category

Claire Fuller: The Interview

Our Endless Numbered Days tells the story of eight-year-old Peggy and her survivalist father, James, who inexplicably leave behind their London home and start a new life in an isolated cabin in the woods. Both stylistically rendered and deliberately paced, this book is a testament to the strength of the human spirit and the ability we all have to endure. Amy Stewart (author of The Drunken Botanist) raves, "Like the wilderness into which Claire Fuller's characters disappear, Our Endless Numbered Days is rigged with barbs and poisons, tricks and tragedies. It's weird and wild and sometimes terrifying, but it's also beautiful and heartbreaking and breathlessly alive." Claire Fuller's debut novel marks the arrival of a remarkable new literary talent, which is why we're thrilled to have it as our pick for Volume #52 of Indiespensable.

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Shawn Donley: How did the story of Our Endless Numbered Days evolve?

Claire Fuller: It started when I was doing a creative and critical writing MA at the University of Winchester. They asked us to find something that had appeared in the news that we could use as the basis to start writing. I think ...

Erik Larson: The Interview

I've been a fan of Erik Larson's riveting brand of narrative history for years, and his latest book, Dead Wake: The Last Crossing of the Lusitania, is his finest work yet. Suspenseful and expertly researched, Dead Wake transports the reader to the Atlantic theatre of WWI, where the luxury passenger liner Lusitania and a German U-Boat helmed by a ruthless commander race across the ocean for the safe harbors of England. Dead Wake explores the tragic sinking of the Lusitania, as well as the private and public lives of its passengers, its crewmen, its hidden submarine assailants, and the military and governmental figures involved in transatlantic travel and warfare at the turn of the century. In a starred review, Kirkus calls it "an intriguing, entirely engrossing investigation into a legendary disaster," while Shelf Awareness reviewer Julia Jenkins notes, "Dead Wake is both a thoroughly satisfying read, and an unparalleled adventure into world history. Larson's fans will rejoice, and grow in number."

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Rhianna: In the afterword of Dead Wake, you write that you "live for these moments" when "history becomes tactile." I love this expression because it suggests that, for you, writing ...

Jill Maxick of Prometheus Books: The Interview

For decades, Prometheus Books has put out titles we both love and respect. Prometheus is the leading publisher in the United States of books on free thought, humanism, and atheism — as well as many more titles that serve to fire up the human mind. In fact, that almost seems to be the sole reason for their existence: to initiate thought and consideration over weighty issues.

We caught up with Jill Maxick, vice president of marketing for Prometheus Books, and asked her a few questions about the press and about their books, plans, and worldview.

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Chris Faatz: It's a pleasure for me to speak with you about Prometheus. One of the nice things about your press is that I know, even when I don't agree with what you publish, you guys would take that disagreement as seriously (and with as much delight!) as you would all those books that I accept wholeheartedly.

When did Prometheus get started, what did you see as your mission at that point, and what kinds of books overall do you publish today?

Jill Maxick: First, thank you (and Powell's) for being a fan of our press and a ...

Cecilia Ekbäck: The Interview

During these cold, dark days of winter, there's nothing I enjoy more than losing myself in a book that evokes the mood of the season. Set in Swedish Lapland in the early 18th century, Wolf Winter is a wonderfully atmospheric novel that perfectly captures what it's like to live in a remote, unforgiving landscape. Debut novelist Cecilia Ekbäck crafts a story filled with intriguing characters and a powerful sense of place. As the Library Journal says in an Editors' Fall Pick, "Ekbäck writes with deliberate pacing and immerses the reader in the endless snowfall of winter with her hypnotic prose." Rene Denfeld, author of The Enchanted, declares: "Rich in history and authentic detail, Wolf Winter is a deeply satisfying read." We wholeheartedly agree, which is why we chose it for Volume #51 of Indiespensable.

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Shawn Donley: Wolf Winter is set in 1717 yet has a wonderful, timeless quality to it. Why did you choose this specific point in time?

Cecilia Ekbäck: I wanted a time when things were changing because I like to explore the impact of place, in the larger sense of the word, on people, on characters.

In 1717, Sweden ...

Miriam Toews: The Interview

Some people are compelled by a restlessness from within; others are shaped by the unwieldy forces around them. In Miriam Toews's poignant new novel following two sisters raised in a small Canadian Mennonite community, siblinghood is a bond strengthened by this dynamic. Elf is now a world-famous concert pianist with a happy marriage, while her sister, Yoli, is a scattered, stalled writer in the middle of her second divorce. Yet it is Yoli who serves as protector for her fragile and impulsive older sister, a woman so crippled by depression that she repeatedly tries to take her own life. Says The Guardian's Stevie Davies, "I can think of no precedent for the darkly fizzing tragicomic jeu d'esprit that is Miriam Toews's sixth novel." Daring, propulsive, and deeply affecting, All My Puny Sorrows is indeed in a class of its own. We're honored to have chosen it as the featured title for our 50th volume of Indiespensable.

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Jill Owens: You're known for drawing from your own life in your earlier work, and All My Puny Sorrows sounds like it's very autobiographical as well. Can you talk a bit about how this book ...

David Mitchell: The Interview

David Mitchell's newest mind-bending, time-skipping novel may be his most accomplished work yet. Written in six sections, one per decade, The Bone Clocks focuses on Holly Sykes, who begins the book in 1984 as a British teenager and ends it as a grandmother in 2043. Holly's otherwise ordinary life is interrupted by voices, whom she initially calls the "radio people," and psychic experiences, which ultimately pull her into a sort of supernatural, immortal war. Joe Hill raves, "There's no real argument: he's the best novelist of his generation — and the most fun. The Bone Clocks is a stunning work of invention, incident, and character. The levels of awesome in this book are off the charts." Gorgeously written, bracingly intelligent, poignant, and occasionally very funny, The Bone Clocks is one of our favorite novels this year and our pick for Volume 49 of Indiespensable.

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Jill Owens: What was the genesis of The Bone Clocks?

David Mitchell: There were a couple of geneses. One was my middle age — it's my midlife crisis novel. I've reached that age where mortality is no longer a distant abstract in the future ("it will ...

Josh Weil: The Interview

Dima and Yarik are twin brothers in a Russia set in a slightly alternate universe, in the city of Petroplavilsk. The city is in perpetual daylight, thanks to the Oranzheria — a "sea of glass" greenhouse built over farmlands lit by mirrors in space. Though inseparable in childhood, Dima and Yarik begin to take radically different paths as they navigate adulthood, family, responsibility, and ideology. The Great Glass Sea, the first novel by "5 Under 35" winner Josh Weil, is steeped in Russian folklore and fable, and is a moving and ingenious tale of familial love. Library Journal calls it "resplendent and incandescent," and Lauren Groff exclaims, "The Great Glass Sea is our world made uncanny: the Russian countryside of folktale and literature turned darkly luminous, menacing, and brittle. I was intoxicated by this novel's brains and I fell hopelessly in love with its heart. Josh Weil is a spectacular talent." We were so impressed with it, we chose it for our Indiespensable Volume 48.

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Jill Owens: In your first book, The New Valley, you write very movingly about rural Virginia; it plays a huge part in those novellas. ...

Lorrie Moore: The Interview

More than most writers, Lorrie Moore has devoted readers who fervently await each of her new publications with something approaching reverence. With the release of her last novel, A Gate at the Stairs, Jonathan Lethem declared himself one of those fans: "Moore may be the most irresistible contemporary American writer....On finishing A Gate at the Stairs, I turned to the reader nearest to me and made her swear to read it immediately." Bark, Moore's latest work and first book of short stories in 15 years, showcases her razor-edged humor, her dazzling skill with language, and her incredible psychological precision. Reading Bark, I realized that as much as I love her novels, I'd been missing the irresistible pull of her stories terribly without knowing it. Kirkus agreed in a starred review: "One of the best short story writers in America resumes her remarkable balancing act, with a collection that is both hilarious and heartbreaking, sometimes in the same paragraph....In stories both dark and wry, Moore wields a scalpel with surgical precision."

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Jill Owens: How did this new collection, Bark, come together? Had you been working on some of the stories while writing other things?

Lorrie Moore: Bark is a collection of stories written over 10 years, from the period of 2003 to 2013. They are arranged more or less in chronological order. During that time I was also working on a novel, A Gate at the Stairs, which was published in 2009. Though there has been some commentary that this is a slim collection, it is my second longest. I think the bound galley made it look smaller than it was. There are eight stories, as there were in my second collection, Like Life. Do I sound sufficiently defensive?

Jill: Did you know that the longer stories — "Wings" and "Debarked" — would remain stories rather than become novels?

Moore: Actually I imagined "Debarking" would be shorter and that "Wings" would be longer, perhaps a novella. But they were never destined to become novels.

Jill: What do you like about working in those different forms (short stories and novels)?

Anthony Doerr: The Interview

For months before I read it, coworkers would rave during meetings, send me glowing emails, or stop me in the hall to tell me how much they loved All the Light We Cannot See. We couldn't keep advance reader copies in the office for more than a few hours. I had long been a fan of Anthony Doerr, for his extraordinary short stories in The Shell Collector and Memory Wall and his previous novel, About Grace. His newest novel, set during World War II, tells the parallel stories of Marie-Laure, a 16-year-old blind girl living in occupied France, and Werner, an 18-year-old German soldier who was conscripted from an orphanage due to his extraordinary mechanical abilities. A missing, possibly cursed jewel known as the Sea of Flames; scale-models of neighborhoods in Paris and Saint-Malo made by Marie's father to teach her how to navigate; a secret ocean cove with snails and mussels — Doerr's remarkable story is filled with gorgeous, almost magical imagery you might not expect in a war novel.

Jess Walter gushes, "All the Light We Cannot See is a dazzling, epic work of fiction. Anthony Doerr writes beautifully about the ...

Gabrielle Zevin: The Interview

The American Booksellers Association collects nominations from bookstores all over the country for favorite forthcoming titles. The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry not only received the most votes for April's Indie Next list, it received the most votes ever in the history of the program. You don't, however, need to work in a bookstore to fall in love with this book. The story is an affirmation of the important role books play in our lives and the ability they have to transform us all.

In a starred review, Library Journal commends The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry: "Funny, tender, and moving, it reminds us all exactly why we read and why we love." Garth Stein, author of The Art of Racing in the Rain, raves, "Gabrielle Zevin has written a wonderful, moving, endearing story of redemption and transformation that will sing in your heart for a very, very long time."

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Shawn Donley: The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry is a bit of a departure from your previous books. What inspired you to write about a small independent bookstore?

Gabrielle Zevin: You can't avoid it these days. Ten years ago when I published my first book, it was like publishing in a completely different universe. There was no Twitter, no Facebook. In a way, publishing in 2005 was similar to publishing in 1950. Nobody kept blogs; that was still optional. I didn't even have a website then.

This is my eighth book in about a decade. I've published during a time of enormous change in the industry. I wanted to write a book that reflected a bit on issues of why we should shop locally versus online, the rise of ebooks versus print. But even more than that, I think the book is about the pleasures of a reading life.

Shawn: As a longtime bookseller, let me say that you did a wonderful job of capturing all the joys and challenges of working at a bookstore. What type of research did you do while writing this book?

Zevin: I'm like a unicorn; I'm a midlist writer who hasn't done anything else but write. But because I wasn't amazingly famous, I didn't become Stephanie Meyer, or even a huge literary name like a Jonathan Franzen or a Joshua Ferris.

I'm very privy to the way bookstores work, and I think a lot about the ecosystem that my books have been published in. I think it's great to be aware of how publishing works.

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