I usually try to keep my personal tastes out of my #twitterviews decisions. And, for the record, that has led to me finding out that my tastes are broader than I thought. But when I read about Josh Cook's debut novel, An Exaggerated Murder, I must admit, this one is totally in my wheelhouse. A private investigator named Trike Augustine. Sherlock Holmes-like talent meeting absurd clues that defy deduction. A mixture of pure noir, dark comedy, and bizarro mockery. Before even reading it, Josh Cook was quickly becoming a new favorite. Add to that the fact that Cook is an indie book seller at Porter Square Books and his debut is put out by Melville House, and this one was a no-brainer choice. After reading this, please check out http://www.portersquarebooks.com/. If you pre-order your copy using: http://www.portersquarebooks.com/book/9781612194271, Josh will sign it before he sends it out. Just put "signed" in the order message. Be sure to mention #twitterviews. You don't really have to do that. It won't get you anything.
Question 1: Will Boston's snow-pocalypse show up in a writing trend?
Question 2: Which detective fiction conventions do you love/hate?
Question 3: Can you share with us one of your more obscure allusions?
Question 4: Do you think you'll make this a series?
Question 5: What's the most critical success factor for indie books?
An Exaggerated Murder gets its official release on March 3rd. Once again, you can pre-order it now from Porter Square and get a signed copy. All bright and shiny in the mail. You should totally do that.
"...these characters have been so much fun to write ... that I want to spend more time with them."
So do we, Josh. So do we.
Porochista Khakpour's second novel, The Last Illusion, was a Kirkus Best Book of 2014, a Buzzfeed Best Fiction Book of 2014, an NPR Best Book of 2014, an Electric Literature Best Book of 2014, and one of Flavorwire’s 15 “Most Anticipated Books of 2014″. So, you know ... it's not just, like, me telling you to go read it. It's basically every cool online maker of lists telling you to go read it. Khakpour, a native of Tehran by way of Los Angeles, moved from the memoir-like realism of her first novel, Sons and Other Flammable Objects, to the magical realism, bordering on downright wonderfully weird of Illusion. We talked that and more this past week on Twitter.
Question 1: Your book made me want to watch a reality show where David Blaine helps Amanda Bynes reacclimate. What's a fantasy reality show you would watch?
Question 2: Tell me something, anything about your abandoned book idea about Bin Laden's ex-girlfriend.
Question 3: Your writing focuses on the power of story amidst trauma. What is the storyteller's responsibility in this equaion?
Question 4: Did your themes lead you to magical realism, or was it the other way around?
Question 5: Are barriers to lit diversity breaking down?
The Last Illusion is available now. There are obvious hints of Gabriel Garcia Marquez here, but there is also a Toni Morrison/Zora Neale Hurston kind of soulfulness and a sense of wonderment in line with the best Michael Chabon. And with all of those comparisons, the best compliment is to say that, actually, it's like nothing else. Go read it.
"I hear before I see. Language, sound leads. ... This book was animated in my head. No choice but to go fabulist."
Welcome to one of my cooler segments of #twitterviews. There are a lot of things to celebrate about Jason Reynolds. His two novels, When I Was the Greatest and The Boy in the Black Suit, give the YA genre fresh looks at both friendship and grief (in a genre where we thought those might have been all used up). He is also a black writer humanizing urban like in Bed-Stuy, Brooklyn, in a way that strips down stereotypes. But what I like? The guy doesn't write boring books. He has come onto the YA scene like an explosion of new and different.
Question 1: If YA had its version of slam poetry, who's on your team?
Question 2: What elevates a book from boring to bad ass?
Question 3: Have you had a moment in your own life similar to the basement scene with Mr. Ray in The Boy in the Black Suit?
Question 4: How can we increase diversity in classroom literature?
Question 5: As a well-dressed writer, do you have advise for the sad state of fashion witnessed in most of the rest of us?
The latest from Jason Reynolds is The Boy in the Black Suit, a novel about grief and growth and not so much "coming-of-age" as it is about becoming human and coping with life. It's a quick read and definitely worth a look. And Jason Reynolds is one to keep on your radar.
"My whole life is a game of I Declare War... I NEVER intended on being a novelist. NEVER."
You know, memoirs are not usually my thing. But thanks to a reader's suggestion (big thanks, Donna Trump), today's #twitterviews highlights Minnesotan memoirist, Rachel Hanel. Her first book (available from Minnesota Press) is We'll Be the Last Ones to Let You Down: Memoir of a Gravedigger's Daughter. The book is Hanel's account (through a series of semi-connected personal essays) of growing up as the daughter of Digger O'Dell, small town gravedigger. Of course, Digger O'Dell was not his real name. It was a persona he took on. And if the fact that this book focuses on a small town where gravediggers take on personas doesn't make you want to read it, well, then I'm not sure what to tell you.
Question 1: What's your favorite kind of tombstone?
Question 2: How did being a self-described "student of death" influence your writing?
Question 3: Which moments of your memoir were the most cathartic?
Question 4: Do you have a novel in you that we can expect to see?
Question 5: Share with us something about the burial process we don't already know?
Rachel Hanel lives just outside of Mankato, Minnesota, where the winters are cold and the writers are talented. She teaches Mass Media at Minnesota State University, where we can all hope she is steadily building up some material for a second book. We'll Be the Last Ones to Let You Down is available now. Check it out.
"Other people's stories fascinated me."
Today, on #twitterviews, we talk to Tim Johnston, who not only was once a carpenter, but has also accomplished the similarly Jesus-like feats of winning an O. Henry Prize and the favor of David Sedaris. His latest is the Algonquin Books publication, Descent. It is his adult fiction debut detailing a family's undoing by the disappearance of their daughter in the Rocky Mountains, and it has exploded into an Oprah-level of popularity that, quite frankly, it (and he) absolutely deserves. Great book. Great guy. Take it from me ... well, and, you know ... Oprah.
Question 1: You've said you thought of Descent while all alone working on a house in the Rockies. Have you read/seen The Shining?
Question 2: Why did you elect to use multiple perspectives?
Question 3: Did you know the ending before you started?
Question 4: I'm a big fan of Appalachian writers. As an author of a Rocky Mountain novel, what's the difference between the East Side and West Side?
Question 5: Your writing has followed you a bit. You've had an Iowa YA (degree from U. of Iowa) and Rocky Top lit thriller (Shining moment). Is there a Memphis (taught for U. of Memphis MFA) book in you?
Descent is out in stores now. This is my second week in a row when I feel a touch late to the party. I'm pretty sure everyone I know is reading this book. But, if you aren't, then go. Now. Do it.
"I thought I knew ... but couldn't go there. When I understood where I could go, the writing resumed."
on the ending of Descent
With most #twitterviews, I end up begging and pleading with you to read some book you might not have heard of quite yet. In this case, what's the point? It's The Girl on the Train. You're already reading it. Everyone is reading it. It's #1 on Amazon. Number one. On Amazon. I wasn't even sure that really ever happened. All of that almost makes this process a little less exciting for me. I think that makes me an asshole hipster. None of that is true. This is one of the more exciting posts I've made. Paula Freaking Hawkins. I mean, seriously. If you have, in fact, been living in some sort of spider hole in a Middle-Eastern desert, The Girl on the Train is drawing all kinds of praise and generating the kind of pub you get when your first novel (she doesn't even have a Wikipedia page yet ... Internet, get on this, ASAP) gets universally compared to (and may actually be better than) Gone Girl (not linking it ... do #twitterviews, Gillian Flynn, and I'll link your book).
Question 1: What's the craziest thing you've seen on the train?
Question 2: Are there any film influences on the book?
Question 3: Is Rachel's imagination an examination of female identity?
Question 4: Do you spend a ton of time editing for potential spoilers?
Question 5: Why are Brits so good at writing crime novels?
You may now resume reading the book. I know you were already.
"Watching a drunk guy fall onto the tracks in Paris."
No context necessary on that one, Paula. Hope your newfound fame doesn't rob you of precious moments like that in the future.
Sometimes, writers just exude cool. And sometimes, I get to interview them on Twitter. Not only has Benjamin Percy received a fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts, but he has also won a Whiting Writers' Award and two Pushcart Prizes. And none of that even really factors into the fact that he wrote a werewolf epic. Read that last sentence again. He wrote a mother f'ing werewolf epic. And I'm actually quoting that term. From Stephen King, who called Red Moon a "werewolf epic" that he "can't stop thinking about." And if all that isn't cool enough, he has now reimagined the Lewis and Clark exploration during a post-apocalyptic future in his latest, The Dead Lands.
Question 1: You and Stephen King (admirer of Percy's work) go exploring, Lewis and Clark style. Where do you go?
Question 2: Why make Clark a woman?
Question 3: What is the draw of the American West for you?
Question 4: What comic influences inspired you to turn a short story collection into Refresh, Refresh - the Graphic Novel?
Question 5: Why the mutton chops?
The Dead Lands hits shelves in April. You should do yourself a favor and pre-order it. And, while in the process you can check out some other Benjamin Percy brilliance.
"If I shaved my sideburns, I would lose my writerly powers."
After a brief holiday hiatus, #twitterviews are back: 5 questions, 5 answers, all in under 1400 characters. Today, we hear from Mette Ivie Harrison: mother of five, PhD holder in Germanic Languages, nationally-ranked triathlete, and author of the recently released mystery, The Bishop's Wife. The novel follows Linda Wallheim, Mormon mother of five and wife of a Mormon Bishop (hence the ... well, you get it) as she delves into the disappearance of a young mother. Published by the Soho Press imprint, Soho Crime, the novel has already garnered praise as an IndieNext Selection, a library Reads Selection, a Publishers Weekly Most Anticipated Book, and a New York Times Notable Book. So yesterday, I sat down (figuratively) and chatted (tweeted) with the woman whose bio is so good it sounds made up.
Question 1: Could any writer beat you in an Iron Man competition?
Question 2: How much is the main character like you?
Question 3: How has the Mormon community reacted to the book?
Question 4: Is this a planned series?
Question 5: Which of your amazing accomplishments was the hardest?
The Bishop's Wife is out now. Please, do yourself a favor and check it out. Brilliant mystery, but an even more brilliant examination of motherhood, feminism, and Mormonism. Harrison has definitely started something;, and, judging from her hobbies, I have a feeling she'll see it through.
And now for one of my more favorite #twitterviews quotes:
"Book 2 is ... about the murder of a transgender Mormon."
--Mette Ivie Harrison
You had me at transgender Mormon. I'm in.
On Tuesdays, I conduct interviews with writers on Twitter (5 Q, 5 A, 1400 characters). Today's #twitterviews subject is Justin Sirois, author of So Say the Waiters. Sirois took a sharp left turn away from previous pursuits in poetry, the promotion of experimental literature, and the very serious topic of Fallujah (his debut novel, Falcons on the Floor) to write and self-publish one of the funnest books out there at the moment. Don't let the self-published label fool you; this is well-packaged, well-written, and optioned for television. So Say the Waiters tells the story (over the course of three books and 12 "episodes") of Henry and Dani, whose lives are changed by a new app called kidnApp, which does exactly what it sounds like it does. Click the link, you'll understand.
Question 1: Let's play waiter or taker ...
Question 2: What was the inspiration for kidnApp?
Question 3: Any influence of comics in So Say the Waiters?
Question 4: How do you approach writing suspense and/or violence?
Question 5: What is the news on a possible TV adaptation?
This is a series you should definitely check out. Brilliant concept. Well executed. Never takes itself too seriously. And the best news? Books 1 and 2 are currently free on Amazon.
"Me? Taker. All day."
On Tuesdays, I conduct interviews with writers on Twitter (5 Q, 5 A, 1400 characters). This time #twitterviews is with Ron Currie, Jr., author of God Is Dead, Everything Matters!, and Flimsy Little Plastic Miracles. Currie has received the Young Lions Fiction Award from the New York Public Library, the Metcalf Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, and the Alex Award from the American Library Association. His books have been named notable books by the San Francisco Chronicle, the Los Angeles Times, NPR, and Amazon. And somehow, despite all that, he is still a pretty decent guy. With the best Facebook profile photo I've ever seen [left].
Question 1: What would Lyle (your dog) write books about?
Question 2: Is it possible to get too darkly funny?
Question 3: Any thought about an essay collection to gather brilliance like this?
Question 4: How do you keep from believing your own hype too much?
Question 5: How much value do you think online writing communities have?
Currie is currently working a "satire about Whole Foods and gun nuts and everything in between." In the meantime, you should read his other books. All of them. Immediately. This guy is not only writing great books; he's writing books that matter. Like, real stuff. Things that will still be read decades to come.
"... epic poems about the pleasures of coprophagia."
-- Ron Currie, Jr.