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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 […]

Robin Sloan

A Vision of Where You Want to Be: A Conversation With Robin Sloan

Robin Sloan’s debut novel, Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore, received rave reviews when it was published last fall and quickly became a bookclub favorite. When out-of-work web designer Clay Jannon finds employment in an usually-shaped bookstore, he soon finds himself thrust into a world of  secret societies, forbidden books, and cardboard scanners. The book is a […]

The Chance to be Surprised: An Interview with Susan Orlean

As a staff writer for the New Yorker, Susan Orlean’s witty and thoughtful essays have given readers a glimpse into lifestyles they might otherwise not have come across. Her books have tackled similarly offbeat topics: The Orchid Thief (which was later made into the movie “Adaptation”) delved into the world of orchid poaching and Saturday Night studied how people throughout the country spend Saturday night. Her recent book, Rin Tin Tin: The Life and the Legend,” follows the story of Rin Tin Tin from his birth on a French World War I battlefield through his ascendency to become the biggest star in Hollywood. Along the way, it studies the humans who were in Rinty’s life while also examining the evolving role that dogs have played in North American culture in the twentieth century. Ms. Orlean spoke to “Public Libraries” via telephone on October 19, 2011.

Chest Deep in Southern Literature: A Conversation with Daniel Woodrell

Acclaimed author Daniel Woodrell has enjoyed a critical resurgence of late. Esquire magazine dubbed him the “most overlooked great novelist in America” and the success of the film adaptation of his novel Winter’s Bone introduced him to a larger audience. Woodrell has written eight novels, won the PEN USA Award for Fiction, and been nominated for an Edgar Award. His latest book, an anthology of short stories titled The Outlaw Album, will be published in mid-October. He spoke to Public Libraries via telephone on September 12th, 2011.

I Graduated from the Library: An Interview with Ray Bradbury

This interview originally appeared in the Nov/Dec 2002 issue of Public Libraries. Brendan Dowling interviewed Ray Bradbury via telephone in May 2002. Novelist, essayist, playwright, and poet Ray Bradbury is the author of more than five hundred published works. His best-known novels— including Fahrenheit 451, The Martian Chronicles, Something Wicked This Way Comes, and Dandelion Wine—are all still widely read today. A lifelong fan of movies, Bradbury wrote the screenplays for John Huston’s adaptation of Moby Dick as well as It Came from Outer Space and The Beast from Twenty Thousand Fathoms. Bradbury continues his prodigious output, with four new books scheduled to be published this year alone

picture of gillian flynn

Getting to What’s Working: A Conversation with Gillian Flynn

Gillian Flynn’s debut novel, the psychological thriller Sharp Objects, was hailed as “an admirably nasty piece of work, elevated by sharp writing and sharper insights” by no less a critic than Stephen King. Her follow-up novel, Dark Places, details the efforts of a troubled woman to uncover the truth about the murder of her mother and sisters, a task made more challenging considering her testimony put the alleged killer, her brother, behind bars. A former writer for Entertainment Weekly, Gillian Flynn lives in Chicago where she is currently at work on her next novel, Gone Girl, due next year. She talked with Public Libraries on February 9, 2011.