Archive for the ‘Interviews’ Category

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Interview at Literary Mama

June 16, 2013

Thanks so much to the good folks at Literary Mama (and to Colleen Kearney Rich, specifically) for including me as a “Literary Papa” this month with a Father’s Day-themed interview—looking not just at my recent and upcoming stories but also at how fatherhood has affected my work. Check out the full interview here!

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Upcoming Event: K.E. Semmel, translator of The Caller and The Absent One at One More Page

August 20, 2012

On Thursday, August 23, writer and translator K.E. Semmel — who’s had the U.S. editions of two of his translations debut over this last week — will be speaking about Scandinavian crime fiction and the art of translation at One More Page Books in Arlington, VA. And each of those books has already earned high praise from the critics. This weekend, the New York Times review of Karin Fossum‘s The Caller called the novel “one of the darkest, most disturbing crime stories you’re likely to read this year” and praised Semmel in particular for rendering the suppleness of Fossum’s style. And Publisher’s Weekly put Semmel’s translation of Jussi Adler-Olsen‘s The Absent One at the top of its “PW Picks” list of the best books of the week. Semmel will read a sample from his translations, and then I’m pleased to be moderating a quick q&a about his work. Hope to see some friendly faces in the crowd! — Art Taylor

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New Books on James Ellroy and Robert B. Parker

May 21, 2012

A couple of books to cross my desk recently will surely be of interest to crime fiction fans.

First up is Conversations with James Ellroy, edited by Steven Powell and just published by the University Press of Mississippi. The collection surveys interviews with the Demon Dog of American Crime Fiction from 1984 through 2010 — and what’s particularly interesting about the first of these, from The Armchair Detective, is that the supposed author of the article denies having written the piece or ever having interviewed Ellroy for the magazine! Other interviews span highlights of Ellroy’s distinguished career and are drawn from Publisher’s WeeklyNew York Magazine, The Paris Review, and The Guardian, as well as from several other book-length collections; I’m pleased to have one of my own interviews with Ellroy included, an interview I conducted with him in 2009, just before the publication of Blood’s a Rover.

In Pursuit of Spencer: Mystery Writers on Robert B. Parker and the Creation of an American Hero, edited by Otto Penzler and recently released by Smart Pop Books, rounds up a variety of distinguished contributors to remember one of the true greats of the genre. Ace Atkins, who was chosen to continue the Spenser series after Parker’s death, kicks off the collection with the essay “Songs Spenser Taught Me,” and other remembrances and reflections — some personal, some more studious — are offered by Lawrence Block, Reed Farrel coleman, Max Allen Collins, Brendan DuBois, Lyndsay Faye, Ed Gorman, Parnell Hall, Jeremiah Healy, Dennis Lehane, Gary Phillips, and S.J. Rozan — covering topics ranging from supporting characters Susan Silverman and Hawk to the TV series Spenser: For Hire to both Spenser’s code of honor and his culinary skills. Parker’s own essay, “Spenser: A Profile,” originally published by The Mysterious Bookshop, closes the collection. — Art Taylor

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Interview: Laura Ellen Scott, author of Death Wishing

October 31, 2011

Very pleased to be hosting another interview between two fine writers. Tara Laskowski, who interviewed Steve Almond here recently, chats this time with Laura Ellen Scott, currently on tour with her first novel, Death Wishing. Thanks to both authors for taking the time to set this up. — Art Taylor

Set in post-Katrina New Orleans, Laura Ellen Scott’s debut novel, Death Wishing, is also set in a delightful alternate reality in which the dying wishes of some of the populace are magically fulfilled—though often with unexpected results. The book follows Victor Swaim, a cape and corset maker trying to recover from a divorce in carefree New Orleans. After a series of those deathbed wishes come true—including the curing of cancer, the elimination of cats, the return of Elvis (1967 vintage), the clouds turning orange, mothers growing third eyes, and cups of coffee becoming bottomless—the hysteria that grows around “Death Wishing” forces Victor into action. He is forced to consider: What would he wish for the world without him in it?

Scott teaches fiction writing at George Mason University. Her work has been selected for The Wigleaf Top Fifty of 2009 and Barrelhouse magazine’s “Futures” issue. She has twice been nominated for Dzanc’s Best of the Web 2010 anthology. She will be reading from Death Wishing at various locations in November; find out just where on her website here. Additionally, you can also email her through her Wish Tank website and tell her what your own dying wish would be. Even if she can’t make it come true, your wish might be chosen for publication on the web.

In the meantime, Scott helped our wishes to come true by answering a few questions about the new book.

Tara Laskowski: Where did the idea for this novel come from?

Laura Ellen Scott: This Army PR guy died and left a statement that there were aliens at Roswell in 1947, so my husband and I were joking around with the old saying: “wishing doesn’t make it so.” I was already writing in the narrator’s voice, having him struggle with weight loss in New Orleans when I thought, why not introduce an element of the fantastic, see what happens? I’d written some ghost stories before, but nothing with this sort of altered reality. I guess my fantasy-obsessed students finally got to me. But basically, I had all the different ideas cooking in small pots before I realized how well they all went together (sidesteps gumbo reference).

Were there any death wishes that you had happen in earlier drafts of this book that never made it in the final cut? Or are there any that you wish you’d put in?

All the wishes made it in, but some were modified along the way. At one point I thought Elvis was too obvious, so I tried to write about Conway Twitty instead. That idea never made it out of a single paragraph.

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Interview: Steve Almond, author of God Bless America

October 16, 2011

I’m pleased to welcome two great short story writers this week: the inimitable Steve Almond in conversation with Tara Laskowski. Almond is just on the eve of a new book publication, the short story collection God Bless America, and a short tour with some key stops worth mentioning. On Wednesday, October 26, Barrelhouse will host Almond at The Black Squirrel in Washington, DC. On Saturday, November 12, he’ll keynote the Baltimore Writers’ Conference. And in the midst of a several appearances in North Carolina—beginning with Flyleaf Books in Chapel Hill and ending at Raleigh’s Quail Ridge Books—Almond will also keynote this year’s Writer’s Week at UNC-Wilmington, where he’s currently serving as a visiting writer this fall; that talk, on Wednesday, November 16, also serves as the official launch party hosted by the publisher, Lookout Books. The book itself is available for pre-order at Lookout.org for 30 percent off the retail price until October 24, and will be released on October 25. In the meantime, I hope you enjoy the chat below. — Art Taylor

After six years, fans of Steve Almond are pleased to hear that he has a new collection of short stories out. God Bless America, Almond’s third story collection after The Evil B.B. Chow and My Life in Heavy Metal, offers up 13 new glimpses into the lives, hopes and dreams of Americans.

Packed with humor, tragedy, sadness and hope, the collection is written, as the New York Times Book Review says, by a “gifted storyteller” who delivers “always enjoyable, often hysterical stories.”

Almond is an opinionated guy, and his stories don’t shy away from politics either—the effects of war, terrorism, the economy, big business, religion. As Karen Russell, author of Swamplandia!, says, “Almond’s characters are sons and fathers, inveterate gamblers, thwarted dreamers, the mothers of children gone astray, and God Bless America teach us how to love every one of them.”

I had an opportunity to ask Almond a few questions about the collection, current and future projects, and his thoughts on the state of the country he so carefully paints a vivid portrait of.

Tara Laskowski: You capture here some very distinct portraits of Americans. How did this collection come about? Did you sit down to write about America, or did you find later as you were writing these pieces that this was the common thread throughout?

Steve Almond

Steve Almond: This is going to be disappointing. I basically just chose what I took to be my strongest stories and put together a manuscript. I wanted to be in the world of short fiction again. I didn’t consciously set out to write about America. But like every other sane person in this country, I’ve watched in a kind of horror as our country has descended further and further into moral ruin. So obviously, that concern crops up in the work. But I’m mostly interested in particular Americans, and the way in which people seek to cope with their loneliness and regrets.

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Interview: NC Author Sarah Shaber in Mystery Scene

October 5, 2011

The Fall 2011 Mystery Scene has just arrived, and I’m pleased that the new issue includes my interview with North Carolina novelist Sarah Shaber, talking about the first book in her new series, Louise’s War. (Readers of this blog have already had a glimpse at my chat with Shaber here.) The new Mystery Scene also includes a wide range of other articles, including a cover story on Val McDermid (interviewed by the always-delightful Oline H. Cogdill), features on James Sallis, on supernatural mysteries, and on the new Spider-Man, and a tribute to the magazine’s former publisher, the late Martin H. Greenberg. Get your copy now! — Art Taylor

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Interview: Manuel Muñoz, author of What You See in the Dark

September 5, 2011

Manuel Muñoz’s What You See in the Dark, released earlier this year by Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill, boasts what Booklist called “a killer premise: the making of Psycho set against [a] real-life murder.”

The victim of that killing is Teresa Garza, a young shoe store salesgirl who has caught the attention of Bakersfield, California’s townspeople in a number of ways: the day laborers who whistle at her, including the shy Cheno, who slowly begins to court her; Dan, the handsome bartender who offers her a real start on her dreams of a singing career and wins her heart in the process; and the audiences at her initial performances, including an unnamed co-worker at the shoe store, burning slowly with jealousy over Teresa’s accomplishments and affairs.

That co-worker and rival is the first of three women whose perspectives dominate this story. The second is Arlene, a waitress at the local diner, owner of a small motel, and mother to Dan, simmering with her own worries and frustrations. The third is the Actress, come to town for a small scene in her upcoming feature, pondering her role, her career, her future.

The film that shadows this book is never mentioned by name and neither are the primary players in that filmmaking, referred to instead as the Director and the Actress. But several of Psycho’s more famous and more provocative scenes get plenty of attention, and elements of the film are mirrored frequently in the parallel story: the mother who owns a motel, the son she wants to protect, the potentially shameful series of relationships, that murder itself.

While What You See in the Dark is Muñoz’s debut novel, he is also the author of two short story collections, Zigzagger and The Faith Healer of Olive Avenue. He’ll be appearing at this year’s Fall for the Book Festival at George Mason University, in Fairfax, Virginia, on Friday afternoon, September 23. In advance of that visit, he indulged a few questions here about his new book.

Where did the idea originate for What You See in the Dark — for placing these two stories together?

Novelist Manuel Muñoz (Photo by Stuart Bernstein)

Because I write exclusively about California’s Central Valley, I feel the pressure to make my fiction relevant to the American literary landscape. The pressure I feel has its root in being labeled a “regionalist.” I kept thinking of ways in which the “outside” world visits people in the place I come from and the answer was simple: movies. Movies (and television) are the way that many people get stories into their lives—it’s easier than the kind of attention required for books to work the same power.

I could have picked any film moment that demonstrated some sort of social shift, like Sidney Poitier slapping the town’s head honcho in In the Heat of the Night. I chose Psycho because careful viewers will pick up the visual clues about the film’s geography: it’s set in the Central Valley, but the film refuses to name it. And that’s the aim and mission of my writing life: to show that place does matter and that stories do happen in places like that. I was just lucky that the film has such a storied history in American cinema.

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