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Author Archive: "Megan"

It’s All about the Bike

If you're not already enchanted by the idea of two-wheeled adventure, you will be by the time you finish It's All about the Bike. Lifelong cycling enthusiast Robert Penn recounts his quest to build the perfect bike in this funny, engaging, and informative book.


Sugar Snaps and Strawberries

Another winner from Timber Press, the authority on making things grow in the Pacific Northwest, this charming guide from the founder of the website Heavy Petal will help any aspiring urban farmer turn the smallest space into a producing garden, with instructions on everything you need to know to get from seed to harvest.


Urban Waite: The Powells.com Interview

Make sure you've got a few hours to kill the moment you pick up The Terror of Living. Urban Waite's debut novel is smart, breathlessly paced, and over-the-top in the best possible way.

Set in the Pacific Northwest, the story follows Phil Hunt, an ex-con who's turned his life around, except for a bit of drug smuggling on the side, meant to supplement his income and pay for his and his wife's small farm. But a routine delivery goes bad, and Hunt finds himself on the run again, from both a sheriff trying to overcome his own past and a hit man named Grady — one of the most brutal, real, and haunting villains you will ever encounter.

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Megan Zabel: We're really excited about your book.

Urban Waite: I'm really excited that you're excited! I'm very happy and very grateful.

Megan: Where did this story come from?

Waite: I was reading a bunch of really interesting books at the time, and I was feeling a little bit desperate in my own life. I ended up getting this fellowship to go to the Vermont ...


The Terror of Living

Make sure you've got a few hours to kill the moment you pick up this book. Urban Waite has produced a breathlessly paced debut that's over-the-top in the best possible way, featuring a villain who's one of the most brutal, real, and haunting characters I've encountered, ever.


Hannah Pittard: The Powells.com Interview

We are seriously smitten with Hannah Pittard.

Her debut novel, The Fates Will Find Their Way, is an eerie, perfectly pitched recounting of adolescence that skillfully captures the blurred line between the tangible and the imagined . The story is told from the collective perspective of a group of neighborhood boys who obsess over their missing 16-year-old classmate, Nora Lindell. Fixated on the mystique of her absence, they reimagine the past and can't help but factor her void into their own lives, willfully allowing it to define the men they grow up to be.

It's one of those books that gets passed around the office, talked about at meetings, and enthusiastically recommended to anyone loitering around the shelf of advance reader copies. It had the makings of a perfect Indiespensable title, and we're thrilled to feature a signed and slipcased edition of the book in Volume 24.

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Megan Zabel: Where did this story come from?

Hannah Pittard: I think it's been a long time brewing. I don't think of myself as old at all — I'm 32 — but certainly the older I get the more I marvel at the things I did when I was young and how they've affected where I am today. The more crotchety I get, I think, "Why didn't someone stop me? Why didn't my mom say, 'No, don't do that, ' or my dad say, 'No, don't do that'?" And, of course, they did say it the whole time. It's just that we can't learn it until we've done it ourselves. Now, I look at my nieces, and I look at these children that I teach, and I think, "You're making such mistakes. Don't do that. Don't do that." I guess that's just what life is.

Often I start writing about something that goes missing, or something that's lost. There's an automatic story there. Something has to change. In my short stories, a father will go missing or die, or a dog will go missing, and thus a story is born. I like to see how characters react when something is taken away from them, and, in this case, it was this girl.

I did go to school with a girl whose older sister had been kidnapped , in middle school, so long ago. I was telling my boyfriend that story about two years ago, and he said, "That's the weirdest thing I've ever heard. I've never known anyone who's known anyone who's been kidnapped." I started thinking about that, and I thought, you know, it's true. We see it on the news all the time, but I don't know anybody else who knew somebody who was kidnapped. It's a strange thing to have grown up with.

I kept thinking about how we treated that girl when we were young — the one whose sister had been kidnapped — and we were wicked to her, like it was something that was catching. That was definitely in the back of my mind.

Megan: How did you arrive at a first-person-plural point of view?

Pittard: When I first started it, I wrote 10 pages that are almost identical to the 10 pages that are the first 10 pages now, the very first chapter.

Megan: It's a great first chapter.

Pittard: Thank you. It was the first thing that I'd written in a long time. I'd taken about a year off after writing a very bad novella that didn't sell. And then I thought, "Well, you know, I'm going to shit or get off the pot here, and I'm going to write something or I'm not going to write something." And I wrote those 10 pages. Originally, I thought of the narrator as a collective of children, of boys and girls. I thought of myself being in that school with that girl whose sister had been kidnapped, and I thought, "Well, I want to be a part of this story that gets told," sort of like an apology or something.

And, almost by the second or third page — it was that moment when the boys are thinking about Nora shaving her legs — I realized, no, this is going to be so sexually charged that it has to be the boys. I didn't know how to do a double-gender sexuality. I just knew how to focus on the boys.

But it never even occurred to me, I don't think, to tell it from a single first person. I think I was scared that if I did my voice would come out too much and I wouldn't be able to really be a man or tell this story the way that it needed to be told.


The Fates Will Find Their Way

Told through melodic, purposeful prose from a first-person-plural perspective, Hannah Pittard's stunning debut novel is an eerie, perfectly pitched recounting of adolescence that skillfully captures the blurred line between the tangible and the imagined. Keep an eye on this writer.


Horns

I expected to like this book as a guilty pleasure. I was hungry for a fast-paced read, something that would effortlessly draw me in, but wouldn't require a lot of heavy thinking. I was so wrong: Horns is highly literary, in addition to all the other qualities I was craving. Joe Hill managed to create a world so ugly, terrifying, and heartbreakingly beautiful that I desperately didn't want to leave.


How to Cook the Perfect Day

Equal parts art book and recipe collection, this darling volume is everything you'd expect from the lovely Nikki McClure. Featuring her iconic paper-cut illustrations along with simple recipes, the artist's rendition of her "perfect food day" will inspire readers to find their own.


Molly O’Neill: The Powells.com Interview


Ten years ago, former New York Times food columnist Molly O'Neill hit the road. She drove coast to coast, on dirt roads and asphalt, through big cities and tiny villages, on a mission to peek into kitchens and debunk rumors that Americans were no longer cooking at home. She was right — after logging over 300,000 miles, she has an 800-page cookbook to prove it. One Big Table is a moving and mouthwatering portrait of the United States, told through the dishes that real people are putting on the table and passing down through generations.

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Megan Zabel: Where did the idea for this book come from?

Molly O'Neill: Well, my very first book was called New York Cookbook. When I did it, I walked around all five boroughs collecting people's stories and their recipes, and I knew that I wanted to do that same project for America. But, America is just a little bit bigger than New York City. [Laughter] So, it took a little while to do.

Megan: Ten years?

O'Neill: Yes.

Megan: Did the concept of the book change over time, or is the final project what you had envisioned from the start?

O'Neill: There are a couple changes. I envisioned a black-and-white book, and the publisher really saw a color book. I have to say that he was right. And I expected less art and more recipes, but I really believe in the changes. It made a much better book. Now, there are stories. The American story is told through recipes , and it's told through text, and then the pictures and images tell it in yet another way. I love that it can be told in three different ways.

Megan: I was struck by how many photos of people there are. It seems like cookbooks now just have all these huge, glossy...

O'Neill: The heroic shot of food.

Megan: Yes.

O'Neill: I'm not into that. That's not what I do. [Laughter]


Nikki McClure: The Powells.com Interview

Even if you don't recognize her name, odds are you'll recognize the striking work of Olympia artist Nikki McClure. Using an X-ACTO knife, she cuts detailed pictures from a single sheet of paper, creating bold images depicting simple everyday scenes, with a knack for magnifying poignancy through her lens.

After a decade of having her images appear in journals, note cards, and her beloved yearly calendar, McClure has recently begun illustrating and writing her own books. After teaming up with children's author Cynthia Rylant to illustrate All in a Day, she followed with her own picture book, Mama, Is It Summer Yet?, which was received with rave reviews. Her next book, How to Cook the Perfect Day, showcases the artist branching out in another direction. Featuring simple recipes and her iconic illustrations, McClure’s rendition of her "perfect food day" inspires readers to find their own.

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Megan Zabel: How did you find your medium?

Nikki McClure: I had been working in linoleum and scratch board and wasn't really satisfied with what I was getting. And before that I had been doing more technical illustrations with pen and ink in a very scientific style, but I was finding myself obsessing over details and unable to capture them. I'd spend all week drawing the same fly, or the same leaf, trying to get it perfect, but nothing is as perfect is the object itself, and even then, it's not perfect.

So by trying to do linoleum or scratch board, I had to think about the essence of the object other than its exactness, but I wasn't able to quite get it. And then, when I tried paper cut it just felt so good inside my brain, like it was this very peaceful, meditative feeling. And by cutting, by drawing with a knife, basically, I am able to kind of distill each object down to the thing that makes it distinct, like what makes an apple leaf different from a cherry leaf, but without having to do all the details, focusing on what about that thing that makes it different.

So I really didn't have any exposure to paper cuts before I began. I don't have any art background at all. I very much felt like I was inventing the wheel. My own little wheel. [Laughter]

Now looking and being exposed to it, it's like, "Wow, I'm part of this tradition of craft." But I had no idea when I started.


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