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anthony marra

Hearing the Echoes the Book Had Created: A Conversation with Anthony Marra

Anthony Marra’s devastating debut novel, A Constellation of Vital Phenomena, was recently longlisted for the National Book Award. The novel takes place over the course of five days in 2004 in a Chechen hospital and centers around six characters: Akhmed, a mediocre physician from a small Chechen village; Havaa, his eight-year-old neighbor whose father has just been kidnapped by the Russian Federal Secret Service (FSB); Ramzan, Akhmed’s best friend who has turned informer for the FSB; Khassan, Ramzan’s elderly father who has spent his life writing a massive tome dedicated to Chechen history; Sonja, the sole remaining surgeon at a nearby hospital; and Natasha, Sonja’s beautiful sister whose whereabouts are unknown when the novel begins. Deeply humane and profoundly moving, A Constellation of Vital Phenomena is a novel that resounds with the reader long after finishing it. Anthony Marra spoke with Brendan Dowling via telephone on November 6, 2013.

Edwidge Danticat

Maneuvering Myself Around a Scene: A Conversation with Edwidge Danticat

Edwidge Danticat’s extraordinary new novel, Claire of the Sea Light, introduces the reader to the fictional Haitian town of Ville Rose. Centered around the resilient Claire, the novel takes place over the course of her seventh birthday, when her widower father must decide whether to allow a local businesswoman to adopt Claire in the hopes of her having a more financially secure life. From that wrenching decision, the novel spins out to the other members of the community, from the local principal and his visiting son, to the host of a popular radio show, to the gang members on the outskirts of town. Danticat’s career has been incredibly prolific, ranging from her National Book Award nominated novel Krik! Krak! to her National Book Critic’s Circle award-winning memoir, Brother, I’m Dying. Danticat spoke to Brendan Dowling via email on October 14, 2013.

Meg Wolitzer Author Photo

Illicit and Thrilling and Magical: A Conversation with Meg Wolitzer

Meg Wolitzer’s acutely observed novels such as The Ten Year Nap, The Position, and The Uncoupling have earned her a loyal following during her thirty-year career. With the publication of The Interestings, however, Wolitzer enjoyed her best reviews to date. The New York Times Book Review said The Interestings‘  “inclusive vision and generous sweep place […]

Cover of The Dragonslayer's Sword

Face Down on Dry Land: An Interview with Resa Nelson

I recently had the pleasure of speaking with Resa Nelson about her writing, how she became a writer, and what is coming up in her immediate future in terms of books. For those of you not familiar with her, you can read more about her here. The following is an excerpt from the interview, you can read the full interview here on my website.

Ivy Pochoda

I Love the Unexplained: A Conversation with Ivy Pochoda

Entertainment Weekly hailed Ivy Pochoda’s Visitation Street as “gravely tense and beautiful” and Barnes and Noble named Pochoda as one of their Fall 2013 Discover Great New Writers Selections. Visitation Street takes place in the Red Hook neighborhood of Brooklyn. One night, two bored high school girls, Val and June, try to escape the summer heat by rafting in the nearby bay. The next morning, only Val returns, unconscious in the weeds with no memory of what happened the night before.

cover of Elven Blood book

Andre Norton: Librarian, Writer, and Fantasy Grande Dame

Andre Norton (born Alice Mary Norton) is something of a legend in the Science Fiction and Fantasy genres. The first woman to be named Gandalf Grand Master of Fantasy; the first woman to be named to the SFWA (Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America) as Grand Master; and the first woman inducted by the Science Fiction and Fantasy Hall of Fame among the likes of amazing writers like Isaac Asimov, Ray Bradbury, Ursula K. Le Guin, and Anne McCaffrey; Norton is the author of over 300 published titles. Many modern fantasy and science fiction authors can trace their influence back to Norton, such as Mercedes Lackey, Charles de Lint, Tanya Huff, and even C.J. Cherryh. Not only was Norton a prolific writer, an inspiration and mentor, she was also a librarian.

The Mystery of Every Shelf: A Conversation with Lindsay Hunter

Lindsay Hunter’s short stories from her first collection, Daddy’s, were widely lauded, with St. Louis Magazine dubbing them “tiny gothic gems.” Her sophomore collection, Don’t Kiss Me, introduced her to a wider audience and more critical praise. The Chicago Tribune said her new stories “make you feel like your heart could kick the windows out” and New York Magazine placed the book on its summer reading list. Her evocative prose and unnerving characters has made her a favorite of readers who seek boundary-pushing fiction. Hunter spoke to Brendan Dowling via telephone July 31, 2013.

Maile Meloy Author Photo

The Library as a Hideout: A Conversation with Maile Meloy

Maile Meloy established herself as a formidable talent with her books Liars and Saints, Both Ways is the Only Way I Want It, and A Family Daughter. Yet in 2011, she embraced the YA scene with the beguiling The Apothecary. Set in England during the 1950s, The Apothecary follows fourteen-year-old Janie Scott, the daughter of two blacklisted screenwriters, and her new classmate Benjamin Burrows. Benjamin’s father is the local apothecary, and his seemingly mundane occupation proves to be much more when he is kidnapped by Russian spies who hope to get their hands on the Pharmacopoeia, an ancient book of spells and potions. Janie and Benjamin, along with their new friend Pip, are thrust into a whirlwind adventure involving magical transformations, teenage crushes, and preventing the deployment of an atomic bomb. This past June, Meloy released the book’s sequel, The Apprentices, to similar acclaim. Meloy spoke to Brendan Dowling via e-mail on August 29, 2013.

We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves Book Cover

The Far Edges of Imagination: A Conversation with Karen Joy Fowler

Of Karen Joy Fowler, Michael Chabon remarked, “No contemporary writer creates characters more appealing, or examines them with greater acuity and forgiveness, than she does.” Her books have been critical and commercial successes, with The Jane Austen Book Club, The Sweetheart Season, and Sarah Canary all being listed as New York Times Notable Books. Her latest novel, We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves, seems poised for even more acclaim. Praised by Barbara Kingsolver in The New York Times Book Review as “readably juicy and surreptitiously smart,” the book details the lives of Rosemary Cooke, a kindergarten teacher in her late 30s, her sister Fern, and brother Lowell. All the reader knows in the beginning is that, as a child, Rosemary didn’t see her siblings for over ten years. Rosemary then unfolds the family saga and slowly the reader discovers the painful events that caused the siblings to be separated at such young ages. Karen Joy Fowler spoke to Brendan Dowling via e-mail on August 17, 2013.

Author Photo of Lauren Beukes

Promiscuous in My Reading: A Conversation with Lauren Beukes

South African writer Lauren Beukes’ first two novels, Moxyland and Zootopia, were hailed as innovative takes on the sci-fi genre. With her new book, The Shining Girls, Beukes tackles the serial killer genre and comes up with a novel that is equal parts gripping and horrifying. The Shining Girls details the exploits of Harper Curtis, an unhinged grifter in Depression-Era Chicago who discovers a house that enables him to travel through time. From there, he hops through sixty years of history, visiting his victims in their youth to give them an anachronistic keepsake, and then killing them years later. When one of his intended victims, Kirby Mazrachi, survives his attack, she investigates her assault and begins the nearly impossible task of tracking Curtis down. Suspenseful and unsettling, The Shining Girls has already been longlisted for The CWA Gold Dagger Award and has appeared on numerous must-read lists of the summer. Beukes discussed The Shining Girls with Brendan Dowling via e-mail on August 14th, 2013.

A Thank You Note to Librarians: A Conversation with Chris Grabenstein

Chris Grabenstein has had a prodigious output in the last several years, writing over ten books and winning two Anthony and three Agatha Awards. His latest book, Escape From Mr. Lemoncello’s Library, finds its young protagonists drawn into a complex game where they must decipher clues to discover the secret exit from their town’s brand new library, which just happens to have been designed by an eccentric board game inventor. Mr. Lemoncello has drawn praise for its witty tone and fast pace, and has already drawn comparisons to such Young Adult stalwarts as The Westing Game and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. Mr. Grabenstein spoke with Brendan Dowling via e-mail on August 11, 2013.

Ann Patchett

A Partnership Between These Two Entities: A Conversation with Ann Patchett

While Ann Patchett is probably best known for her novels or even her ownership of Nashville’s Parnassus Books, she supported herself for many years at the beginning of her career as a nonfiction writer. With her new book, This is The Story of a Happy Marriage, she has collected many of these essays (previously published in Atlantic Monthly and Harper’s, among others) and assembled them, often rewriting them to more accurately reflect her experience. The cumulative effect is engrossing, leaving the reader with a panoramic view of Patchett’s life, where each piece shines a unique perspective on the events and people in Patchett’s world. Brendan Dowling interviewed Patchett on June 30, 2013, right before she keynoted the PLA President’s Program and Awards Presentation at the ALA Annual Conference.

Bee Ridgway Author Photo

As I Like It: A Conversation with Bee Ridgway

Bee Ridgway’s debut novel, The River of No Return, might be the most fun novel you’ll read this summer. A rollicking adventure that deftly weaves several genres, River tells the story of Lord Nicholas Falcott, who discovers his ability to time-travel when he jumps forward two hundred years during a battle in the Napoleonic Wars. […]

image of Seanan McGuire

Thirteen Questions with Seanan McGuire

Seanan McGuire, Bestselling author of the Newsflesh Trilogy (as Mira Grant) and the October Daye series as well as the first person to be nominated five times for a Hugo award in a single year, recently discussed with me some of her views on public libraries, electronic books and writing

Every Moment Seems Like the End of the World: A Conversation with David Iserson

David Iserson’s sparkling debut novel, Firecracker, introduces YA readers to Astrid Krieger, the granddaughter of a a  U.S. Senator and scourge of the finest private schools in the world. When her latest exploits (running a complex cheating ring) get kicked out of the prestigious Bristol Academy, she’s dismayed when her parents decide to send her […]