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About Robin A. Rothman

Robin "Don't forget the A." Rothman spent more than a decade as a rock critic before dabbling in TV & Radio journalism and eventually dropping the byline altogether to be an entertainment & features editor. Now turning her full attention to books, she's drawn to quirky fiction, funny Sci-Fi, big fantasy, cult classics, pop culture nonfiction, and anything that will help her survive the zombie apocalypse.

Posts by Robin

Amazon Asks: Bob Saget Gives a PG-13 Glimpse of the Man Behind "Dirty Daddy"

Dirty DaddyYou've likely seen actor/comedian Bob Saget on TV. Question is, which Bob Saget did you see? The family-friendly Saget of "Full House" and "America's Funniest Home Videos" fame is oh-so-different from the potty-mouthed button pusher who cameo-ed as a misogynist neighbor on "Entourage" and a drug-addicted actor on"Huff," appeared in the blue comedy documentary The Aristocrats, and starred in his own HBO stand-up special "That Ain't Right."

Now, as an author, Saget has written a bridge between his two extreme personas with Dirty Daddy: The Chronicles of a Family Man Turned Filthy Comedian, one of our April Best of the Month selections in Humor & Entertainment.

Characteristically tangential, in Dirty Daddy Saget jumps from endearingly genuine to sophomorically silly to jarringly vulgar without warning. Somehow, between the exasperated "Oh, Bob"s, the heartwarming "Awwww"s, the head-nodding "Right on..."s, and the cringe-worthy "Ew, really!??"s, we get to know him from his own tainted perspective. He shares a behind-the-scenes look at "Full House," name-drops comedians who influenced him (Rodney Dangerfield, Richard Pryor) and random celebrities he's encountered (Quentin Tarrantino, Jimmy Stewart), remembers career milestones like his first time on The Tonight Show. He also drags his family into it, discussing relationships with his mother, grandmother, sisters, and kids.

But we wanted to know Bob Saget, Debut Author a bit better. So, we presented him with our favorite questions and begged him to keep the answers "printable." What we got back was (with a couple of exceptions), surprisingly sweet.


What's the elevator pitch for your book?

It doesn't take long to explain, but before I'd go into an elevator to pitch it, I'm basically the kid who'd push the button on every floor to make sure they're a captive audience.

Dirty Daddy is about how the different aspects of my life have intersected. How I became what some people consider a "dirty" comedian, when all I've ever done is try to entertain my way through a life that often has a huge amount of heaviness in it. The book is about loss, survival, the love of comedy, and my testicles.

What's on your nightstand/bedside table/Kindle?

A stack of several books I've yet to read, a few DVDs I've yet to watch, and a tiny cheesy alarm clock that's had the same miniature battery in it for ten years. It's outlived my last three relationships.

Top 3-5 favorite books of all time?

The Grapes of Wrath, Of Mice and Men, Jitterbug Perfume

Important book you never read?

Pride and Prejudice

Book that changed your life?

Charlotte's Web

Book that made you want to become a writer?

Dirty Daddy

What's your most memorable author moment?

Writing for 48 hours straight with no sleep to meet a deadline. Most Adaptation-like moment I'd prefer never to repeat in my life if possible.

Preferred reading format: print? digital?

I will always prefer a hardback book, but I'm drawn to digital because it's so easy to acquire them when I'm having a need-to-read moment.

What talent or superpower would you like to have (not including flight or invisibility)?

I'd be really happy to be able to stretch myself to be as wide or narrow as I felt like being at the moment. Take up the whole doorway, or be able to slide myself under it. You asked.

What are you obsessed with now?

At the moment, the fantasy of being able to stretch myself as wide as a doorway, or be able to slide myself under it.

What are you stressed about now?

The state of the world. How desensitized we have become as people. How much we have to do to help this planet and its population. I am also stressed because once I am flattened out so thin to be able to slide under a doorway, I may never be able to ever be unflattened so I could be regular sized again.

What are you psyched about now?

The future. I have no plan except to take care of the people I love. I have no agenda, nothing to control. I'm psyched about what I can contribute that can be meaningful to myself and to others. I'm also looking forward to one day meeting a person has that same non-agenda. In the creative sense, I'm looking forward to collaborating with people I have mutual respect for to create some really good work. In the immediate sense, I'd like a nice piece of salmon that's not too pink inside and yet isn't too dry or crisp either. Nothing worse than a piece of dried out fish.

What's your most prized/treasured possession?

A pair of leather lace-less high-top All Stars my daughters gave me two birthdays ago. They're always coming apart at the sole, but I will keep repairing them until the end of time because they mean so much to me.

Author crush - who's your current author crush?

Mary Karr, author of The Liar's Club and Lit. I love her unabashed honesty and conviction to everything she believes in.

Pen Envy - Book you wish you'd written?

The World According to Garp. I was influenced by its fascinating and funny characters along with what could be deemed absurd with stream of conscious story lines that somehow made its whole world seem entirely possible.

What's the last dream you remember?

My mom, who we lost a few months back, came to me and the basic info imparted was-- everything was going to be alright; she was so proud of me; that the book was going to be received well by a lot of people. She told me how much she loved me seemed to infer I was going to find some new healthy romance--that she would not be involved with from the other side in any meddling fashion. Finally, some Freudian Relief.

What's your favorite method of procrastination? Temptation? Vice?

My favorite procrastination is to make the choice to have valuable times with human beings that I care about instead of holing myself up alone to get my work done. The conflict is the temptation to get the omnipresent assignment completed. The selfish and usually pointless approach is to try to get both done simultaneously--accomplish your work at hand while begging forgiveness of those close to you while you're basically working in front of them during what could've been specifically 'quality time.' The favorite method of vice is to diss all responsibility be work or social, go off by myself, and enjoy a good steak and a great glass of wine. Oh yeah, and my kids are there too.

What do you collect?

Sweet desk items my daughters buy me. Could be a plastic necklace, or a felt pen with a face dressed in a Christmas hat. Also enjoy a good glass pyramid to store my deepest wishes and dreams in. My favorite collections are gifts from my daughters that come from them knowing me, and knowing what items give me focus and meaning, There's a ceramic tiny ant eater or similar creature sitting my desk named "Pushkin." He's not named after the Russian Poet. If anything he is a mockery of anyone else ever named "Pushkin." I like him very much.

Best piece of fan mail you ever got?

The one (and there were several) from a young girl who thanked me for being part of "Full House" because her childhood was similar to the one depicted in that sitcom I was the father in. She said it was the only show she could watch with her dad, since she'd lost her mom, that they could sit and talk about their feelings after. She credits a show made for exactly her, a teenage girl audience--helping her get through how hard it was to live without her mother in her life.

Favorite line in a book?

Part of Tom Joad's speech from The Grapes of Wrath. It's lengthy but I think of it often:

Tom: "Then it don't matter. I'll be all around in the dark--I'll be everywhere. Wherever you can look – wherever there's a fight, so hungry people can eat, I'll be there. Wherever there's a cop beatin' up a guy, I'll be there. I'll be in the way guys yell when they're mad. I'll be in the way kids laugh when they're hungry and they know supper's ready, and when the people are eatin' the stuff they raise and livin' in the houses they build --I'll be there, too."

What's next for you?

I don't know, but I'll be there.

Amazon Asks: Christopher Priest, author of "The Adjacent"

The AdjacentOne does not simply read a book by Christopher Priest (The Prestige, The Glamour, etc.). It is not a casual, relaxing, kick back and enjoy type of experience. His books are often intentionally confusing, reality-mangling, complex adventures in which the reader must be a vigilant participant, attentive to hidden details and willing to dig deep into the layers. Priest's latest, The Adjacent is no different. The story shifts across time and space, between similar yet different characters. Sometimes it provides real links between them, and sometimes it provides red herrings... and rarely is there solid evidence as to which is which. Oh, and if you expect him to tie it all up in a pretty package by the last page, you've simply come to the wrong author. It's just part of his frustrating charm.

And so, anticipating that any questions we ask about The Adjacent will only result in our having more questions than we did to begin with (not to mention ruining the experience of reading for anyone who hasn't yet), let's focus on Priest himself. We asked him to answer a few of our favorite questions, and, true to form, we received answers that beg further illumination (which, of course, we know we'll never fully get).


What's the elevator pitch for your book?

He was a 21st century photojournalist with a camera that changed reality, she flew a Spitfire in World War 2, they were supposed never to meet.

What's on your nightstand/bedside table/Kindle?

The Third Reich by Roberto Bolano, The Red Line by John Nichol, the latest edition of "Fortean Times".

Top 3-5 favorite books of all time?

Song of the Sky by Guy Murchie, The Magus by John Fowles, The War of the Worlds by H. G. Wells, A Sort of Life by Graham Greene

Important book you never read?

Almost everything else. I never got past the Battle of Borodino in War and Peace.

Book that changed your life?

Song of the Sky by Guy Murchie

Book that made you want to become a writer?

Non-Stop by Brian Aldiss

What's your most memorable author moment?

Finishing a book.

Preferred reading format: print? digital?

Print

What talent or superpower would you like to have (not including flight or invisibility)?

Perfect pitch.

What are you obsessed with now?

The forthcoming film of The Glamour.

What are you stressed about now?

The forthcoming film of The Glamour.

What are you psyched about now?

The forthcoming -- no, scrub that. The advent of spring and my cats are bringing in half-dead small animals.

What's your most prized/treasured possession?

Property is theft.

Author crush -- who's your current author crush?

Self-love is a sin.

Pen Envy -- Book you wish you'd written?

2666 by Roberto Bolano, The Time Machine by H. G. Wells, The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas by Gertrude Stein

What's the last dream you remember?

Never can remember them.

What's your favorite method of procrastination? Temptation? Vice?

Questionnaires.

What do you collect?

I never collect anything ... I accumulate stuff. Mostly books and cameras.

Best piece of fan mail you ever got?

"Dear Chris -- I loved your new novel. Brought back all those sexy memories. My lawyer will be in touch."

Favorite line in a book?

"This is the saddest story I have ever heard." (The Good Soldier by Ford Madox Ford.)

What's next for you?

The forthcoming film of The Glamour. The forthcoming stage play of The Prestige. My new novel in progress. A non-fiction work about aviation.

Eve Harris and Deborah Feldman in Conversation

ExodusThe Marrying of Chani Kaufman In the last two months, authors Eve Harris and Deborah Feldman have each published books that focus on Orthodox Jewish communities. Exodus, one of our Best of the Month selections in Biography & Memoir in March, is a follow-up to Feldman's bestselling first memoir, Unorthodox. In it, she attempts to rediscover herself and her roots after taking her son and leaving the strictly religious Hasidic community she grew up in in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. Similarly, Harris' debut novel, The Marrying of Chani Kaufman, is set in an Orthodox community in Hendon, North London. It was longlisted for the 2013 Man Booker Prize, and it is one of our Best of the Month selections in Literature & Fiction this month. We brought these two authors together to discuss the writing process, how their books were received, and what's up next.


Deborah Feldman: What was your reaction when you heard that The Marrying of Chani Kaufman was longlisted for the Booker Prize?

Eve Harris: Of course the Booker was a huge shock – I felt like I'd woken up in a parallel universe! And nothing has been the same since.

DF: Had it been a long process writing the book?

EH: I had actually had a hard time writing the book. Having never written a novel before, the structure was the biggest challenge. I ended up with a lot of colored post-it notes stuck to two flattened cardboard boxes donated by my local corner shop. Each note represented a chapter and each color represented a different character. I moved them around until I felt dizzy! Writing is a grueling, lonely slog, but the days when it just felt right and my characters leapt off the page were the best. And then having the book longlisted was just incredible.

Your first book, Unorthodox, also got a lot of attention, and was clearly quite controversial in some circles. Were you surprised by that reaction, and how has the approach you've taken with Exodus differed from the way you set about writing Unorthodox?

DF: I can't honestly say I was surprised by any of the reaction, actually. But the writing process for the second book was certainly a little different.

I decided to write Unorthodox in the present tense, because I was twenty-two years old at the time, and still felt very much entrenched in the story. As a result, it has a strong coming-of-age feel. I actually like that, because many of the books that inspired me when I was an adolescent were written in a similar tone, like Betty Smith's A Tree Grows in Brooklyn or Anza Yezierska's The Bread Givers. Yet when I started writing Exodus, I immediately reverted to past tense, even though many of the events that take place in the book are relatively recent. Leaving the community allowed me to become a much more reflective person in the past five years.

Otherwise they were both written in a similar time frame, with much of the same processes and rituals, although I've managed to fine-tune my method somewhat through practice, which is nice.

EH: That's so interesting, especially for someone who is just starting to work on their second book. I hope I will be able to fine-tune my method, too. I have an idea for the next book, but right now I am focusing on being a mum to my two-year-old and continuing to promote The Marrying of Chani Kaufman.

What are you working on next?

DF: I'm actually working on two different projects at the moment. One is a collection of narratives that focuses on unique ethnic identities and the role they play in a globalized society, and the other project is an in-depth look at the contrast between several women from very different cultural backgrounds who are exploring their sexuality in a unique and thought-provoking way. Both of these works are very concerned with the intersection between cultural identity and a globalized future, but I don't know which of these books will be completed first at this point, or if they might even end up coming together as one project. I feel like you really can't know what a book is until it's actually done.

EH: That's certainly true. Chani changed a lot throughout the writing process, but the central part of the story was always the same. I had taught at an ultra-Orthodox girls' school, and during that year I also got married by an Orthodox rabbi. So I experienced a lot of what Chani goes through as a bride and afterwards started thinking about how strange the Charedi world is, in a lot of ways. I was in a writing course and actually working on a set of short stories, which my tutor was pretty unimpressed by – not least because everyone else in the class was already working on their novel. But after having my confidence knocked I set to work again, and when I next read to the class, a few weeks later, it was the passage that would become the first chapter of the novel. That's how it all started!

DF:  As I've said, there is an emerging canon of books dealing with the ultra-Orthodox Jewish experience, and I count your book among works by Chaim Potok and Naomi Ragen. I would say that Potok has a strong male perspective, specifically in The Chosen, and Ragen has a powerful female one. What's interesting about The Marrying of Chani Kaufman is that it manages to have a very gender-neutral perspective on the Hasidic community: when you read it you feel that the male and female characters get equal billing in terms of depth and impact. This is one of the reasons I found the book so startling.... I'm so glad you weren't discouraged and went on to write [it].

Page to Screen -- Spring to Summer 2014

With or without warmer weather, summer is on its way. And plenty of book-based stories are about to appear on our TVs and in movie theaters. We've rounded up the trailers for a few of our favorites below and an even bigger list of upcoming book adaptations in our Page to Screen store.


Divergent, the first book in Veronica Roth's Divergent Universe series, is officially an adaptation hit! The movie, starring Shailene Woodley (The Descendents) opened March 21, and two more are already planned to follow Roth's trilogy. Here's a glimpse of what you can now see on the big screen.

While everyone's trying to predict what will happen if George R.R. Martin doesn't finish A Song of Ice and Fire fast enough, "Game of Thrones" returns to HBO for its fourth season on April 6. This season draws from the second half of the third book in the series, A Storm of Swords. HBO has released four trailers for the season, but this one's my fave (maybe because Arya is my favorite character and that cover of Siouxsie and the Banshees "Cities in Dust" is wickedly perfect!)


 

The news recently broke that another of author John Green's books (Paper Towns) will be getting the Hollywood treatment soon, but right now, let's enjoy The Fault in Our Stars, starring... oh look, it's Shailene Woodley again! You'll also see Willem Dafoe and Laura Dern. It opens June 6.


 

Tom Cruise and Emily Blunt are starring in an action movie called The Edge of Tomorrow, opening on June 6. But if you're looking for the book it's based on, check out Hiroshi Skaurazaka's breakthrough sci-fi novel All You Need is Kill.


 

The How to Train Your Dragon movies don't correspond directly with the book series by Cressida Cowell. Guess you'll just have to read them all before seeing How to Train Your Dragon 2, opening June 13.


 

The Giver, Lois Lowry's children's novel about a utopia that's not what it seems, was published way back in 1993, but it's hitting the big screen this summer on August 15. Australian actor Brenton Thwaites takes on the lead role of Jonas, with Alexander Skarsgård as his father. Other faces you'll recognize: Meryl Streep, Katie Holmes, Jeff Bridges, Taylor Swift...


George R.R. Martin Drops By Before Advance Screening

George R.R. MartinAuthor George R.R. Martin is in New York City this week to promote season 4 of Game of Thrones. The festivities began Tuesday with an official premiere at Lincoln Center.

Last night, he dropped by HBO for a private publishers' advance screening where he introduced the first episode of the season, "The Swords," before heading out to Brooklyn, where 7,000 fans were gathered to watch the same episode at Barclays Center.

"Some have paid $5,000 to be there," he noted with some awe. "Think of how many books they could have bought."

Martin, who typically writes once per season, identified the second episode, "The Lion and the Rose," as his. "But you won't be seeing that tonight," he teased.

Season 4, which draws from the second half of A Storm of Swords, the third book in the A Song of Ice and Fire series, begins April 6 on HBO.

People, he said, often ask him, "Did you expect all of this," he told the crowd. "No, I didn't expect it," he answered with mock indignation. "But I like it."

 

Guest Essay: Rene Denfeld on Translating Life into Fiction for "The Enchanted"

The Enchanted"Write about what you know," they say. Author Rene Denfeld, who has several nonfiction books to her name, took that advice to heart when writing her powerful debut novel, The Enchanted. Told from the perspective of a death row inmate, the story, in large part, is about the inmate in the next cell and the work of "the Lady," an investigator who is trying to help him avoid execution. Drawing upon her own experiences investigating death penalty cases, Denfeld brings us inside the prison walls, deep into death row, and beyond.

We asked her to tell us about how her own experience influenced her writing, particularly with "the Lady." Here's what she had to say.


The EnchantedNot long ago, I was interviewing a man on death row.

He appeared angry with me, and I asked why. He turned haunted eyes towards me and said, "You brought the outside in."

For decades, he said, he had been trying to forget there was an outside. It was the only way to cope with being locked in a fetid prison cell. Now here I was, smelling of fresh air, with the bloom of winter sun on my cheeks, and he was furious.

I had reminded him of the greatest thing he had lost: hope.

In my job as a death penalty investigator, I spend a lot of time talking to men like this: men in prison cells, waiting for death.

My work is very much like that of the character of the lady in my first novel, The Enchanted. Attorneys hire me to investigate the lives of their clients--men and women facing execution.

Like the lady, I track down long-ago family members, and childhood friends. I find teachers based on pictures in ancient yearbooks. I dig up forgotten records in mildewed file rooms, and often locate witnesses starting with nothing more than a first name.

And most importantly, I spend time with the clients, making a safe place for them to tell me their secrets.

My job is painful and difficult, but I love it, because I get to learn the answers to the most critical question of all --"Why?"

Why are people the way they are? Why do people do such terrible things to each other? Why do some survive bad childhoods, while others succumb to rage and violence?

It fascinates me that for all our focus on crime--the movies, the novels, the television shows--we so seldom dig deep to find out why. We spend a lot of time in our culture telling each other what's wrong with people, but rarely do we stop, and just listen.

Like the lady, I find that most of the people I interview have been waiting a lifetime for someone to listen. Poverty, crime, and abuse have created vast swaths of the population who are silenced. They are our caste of invisibles, unseen and unheard.

Until, sometimes, their actions speak for them--and then it is too late.

For me, listening led to this novel. I listened to the voice of the narrator much as I have learned to listen to the voices of men on death row, their family members, and the families of their victims.

I feel honored to be entrusted with the truths of others, as real and painful and beautiful as they can be. Each secret told is a gift, the chance to truly understand another person.

I have been brought to my knees by the raw courage that can exist in victims and survivors. I've been humbled by the naked humanity of the penitent. Mostly, I've been astounded at the ability to find joy and hope and celebration even in the most despairing of circumstances.

Writing The Enchanted, there were times when I recognized myself in the lady. I also come from a difficult background. Like her, I've used my hardships to make room in my heart for others. But she made it clear that she was her own person, with her own story. She was not me--none of the characters are.

And yet, we share a comon humanity. We all have pain and sorrow. We all share the unquenchable human need to be heard, to be seen, and hopefully, accepted--to find a reason to let the outside in.

Peter Liney Dissects "The Detainee"—a Big Spring Books Selection

The DetaineeThe book I'm most excited about this spring, and therefore my selection for the Big Spring Books Editors' Picks, is The Detainee, the debut novel by British author Peter Liney. From the moment I read the book's description months ago, I was antsy to get my hands on this one. And once I read the first page, I didn't put it down until I'd turned the last --literally. It's the story of a 60-something man named "Big Guy" Clancy. He used to be a tough guy for the mob, but now he's just another aging prisoner on an island where society ships all of its garbage, including the elderly and the infirm. Kept in line by satellites armed to kill at any sign of attempted escape or violence, Clancy and his neighbors are in constant danger whenever the fog rolls in; that's when the satellites malfunction and island's other residents get their violent kicks.

The island felt so vivid to me, and Clancy was such an unusual choice for a hero. I asked Liney to tell us more about where the idea for the island came from, a little more about this old man through whose eyes we see the story unfold, as well as the socio-political concerns that provided the author's own underlying motivation to write this book. Here's what he had to say.


One day, while on a trip to New York City, I ran across a remarkable exhibition at the Public Library on garbage, more precisely, the massive landfill on Staten Island. Most of the people there weren’t terribly interested; they gave it a quick glance and hurried by in search of more exciting things. I stood there with a big smile on my face. I didn't actually shout "Eureka!", but the sentiment was written across my face for all to see.

I saw this huge island of garbage, where all those who society regards as disposable, who can no longer support themselves—the old, the sick, unwanted children, hardened young criminals who have no one willing to pay for their incarceration, etc. -- are shipped out and told they're taking part in the Island Rehabilitation Program, a new chance at life, when in fact they're to be prisoners, enduring the most squalid and terrifying existence, unable to escape because of the constant threat of immediate death.

Now I had my setting and situation; where was my hero? What manner of person could cope with all this and prevail? Clancy was a professional "big guy" with a lifetime of crime behind him. Just for him to be seen walking the streets was enough to enforce the rule of his master. But as I said, no one useful gets sent out to the Island. No matter how much he hates it, the truth is, Clancy is old: his muscles have started to sag and lose their strength, and as years have passed on the Island, he's become a grouchy and reclusive figure that most people wish to avoid.

Some of the ideas I used for The Detainee have been jangling around in my head for years -- like a set of keys in my pocket whose purpose I had long forgotten. Several of these ideas weren't so much ideas as they were concerns. With the advances in healthcare, greater life expectancy, and a falling birth-rate, populations of the developed nations are getting much older. And suddenly, there are more elderly people than young, causing a strain on social services and healthcare for the aging population.

Another thing that was troubling me was why was I living in one of the most monitored societies on Earth? A place where cameras are constantly spying on me. Big Brother, Big Sister, Big Momma—they're all out there the moment I open my front door. Where am I talking about? North Korea? Russia, perhaps? Somewhere under the rule of some crazed dictator? Actually, it's the United Kingdom. You can spend practically your whole day being spied upon by one camera or another. They tell us they're there to safeguard us. Which is food for thought. What if they aren't there to protect us? What if they are really there to protect a certain status quo in the government's power? Exactly how far would they be prepared to go to maintain this status quo? Possibly as far as the hellish world of The Detainee?

It sounds grim -- it is grim, I know -- but if I had to use only one word to describe the theme of The Detainee it would be hope. More than anything, I wanted to write a book about the fact that we humans thrive on hope; that like those seeds that lie in the desert, year after year, with nothing to sustain them, then with just a drop of rainwater they bloom into the most spectacular of flowers. Clancy's the same. He's living in a desert—a pitiless, God-forsaken, garbage-strewn wasteland; yet one day he happens upon someone who inspires him and gives him hope. He's ready to fight back.

How I Wrote It: Alan Paul on the Allman Brothers Band Bio "One Way Out"

One Way OutThe cast of characters in the new Allman Brothers Band biography One Way Out contains 59 names, including core band members, backstage crew, label execs, wives and many affiliated musicians. That can make for a lot of opinions over a couple of decades, and a lot of material to sift through for an author. Alan Paul is a music journalist who has a long history with the band. Drawing upon hundreds of interviews he's conducted, Paul turns chaos into order and provides the framework -- introductions, segues, sidebars, plus a slew of images (many never-before-seen) -- to guide readers through a complex and compelling story, acting as a moderator for the many powerful voices that make up the storied history of this blues-infused southern rock band.

We asked Paul for a "backstage pass" to his own process for some insight into how One Way Out, one of our selections for February's Humor & Entertainment Best of the Month list in February, came to be. Here's what he had to say:

Origins
I actually interviewed the band hundreds of times before I decided there was a book in it, or at least before I actually started writing a book. I may have been thinking about doing so as far back as eighth grade when I chose Duane Allman as the subject of my Great Americans Social Studies essay. I wrote about the band as a journalist for the first time in 1990, a story that first brought me to the Guitar World, where I became Managing Editor.

One Way Out began as a 2009 Guitar World cover story. I went through 20 years of notes and interviews and conducted a new round of interviews and put together an oral history. It was very long for a magazine article, but still only scratched the surface of the band's extensive history.

Audience
I started writing it for myself and other hardcore fans, seeking to clarify some mysteries. As I researched, I broadened my vision and my grasp of what their story means, beginning to more fully understand how their ups and downs--years of struggle, overcoming death, drugs and dysfunction--told a powerful tale, one which can inspire people who may not know much of anything about the Allman Brothers.

Research
Some of the interviews in this book go back to 1990. So in a sense I've been writing it for 25 years. I started doing new interviews to expand the scope into a full-length book and that's when things got really interesting.

I also made three trips to Macon, Georgia and the band archives housed at the Big House Museum. I spent many hours sorting through papers, ledgers, receipts, legal documents, photos, and letters.

Format: Oral History
It's a format I've always enjoyed writing and reading. It can be lazy, but when executed properly, it takes a tremendous amount of time, craft and dedication. I also quickly realized that many events had different versions from different people. Sometimes the differences were subtle and sometimes they were radical. When something was factually incorrect I did not include it; I did the same sort of fact checking and due diligence you would in any narrative. But many other situations exist in a gray area and I liked the idea of letting each person have their say side by side, letting the reader decide. It mimics life, where answers are rarely black and white.

Soundtrack: Allmans and Beyond
I listened to too many Allman Brothers recordings to list, but a few stayed in heavy rotation: At Fillmore East, which remains the gold standard, Eat A Peach, Live at the Atlanta International Pop Festival, a fantastic archival release I had somehow overlooked. I also received some great goodies from dedicated fans, including an entire CD consisting of brilliantly edited versions of "You Don't Love" and another with the most epic hour-long "Mountain Jam." Toward the end of writing I got an advance copy of Play all Night: Live at the Beacon, 1992 and it went into very heavy rotation, because I love it and because it helped me remember just why I fell in love with this band so deeply in that era.

Other music includes jazz greats Sonny Rollins, John Coltrane, Wynton Kelly, Kenny Burrell, Grant Green, Cleanhead Vinson, Cannonball Adderely and Miles Davis; blues giants Son Seals, Albert King, Lightnin' Hopkins, Bobby Bland, B.B. King, Albert Collins and Katie Webster. And African musicans Fela, Tinariwen, and Ali Farka Toure.

Words: Reading Between Writing
I return over and over to my favorite crime fiction writers like George Pelecanos, Elmore Leonard, and Walter Moseley. They all write with such great momentum and economy of words and create such vibrant characters. I felt like the real life cast of Allman Brothers characters could stand up in any of their books and I needed to honor them by making that clear.

Three friends inspired me with very different books that were filled with humanity and clear-headed thinking: Will Schwalbe's The End of Your Life Book Club, Anand Giridharadas' upcoming The True American: Murder and Mercy in Texas and Brad Tolinski's Light and Shade: Conversations with Jimmy Page, which showed me that this could be done. Stanley Booth's The True Adventures of the Rolling Stones and Robert Palmer's Deep Blues are my gold standards of music writing, to which I often return.

Inspiration
My greatest distractions are also my greatest inspiration: my three kids. Being their father pulls me away from my work plenty but also gives me perspective on life and fulfills me deeply. I got into Cross Fit training early in the writing of this book and it helped me stay sane. So does my little dog MeiMei and my wife Rebecca, who was a tremendous help.

Surprises?
Oh God, yes. The first versions of this story reflected what I knew and had reported. I thought I knew where the holes were and that filling them would be a tidy process. I thought I knew most of what there was to know about the Allman Brothers Band, but that was pure hubris. No piece of writing can have real depth until the writer knows far more than he or she can put down on the paper. Getting there was a long, invigorating, exhausting process.

I had to let go of my preconceptions and see where the interviews took me. Every time I thought I was nearing the end, a new door would open and every time I walked through it, I saw another set of doors. Sometimes I thought I needed one interview to finish a section but that one raised all kinds of new areas of inquiry. It became a much more involved process than I envisioned -- and it made for a much better book.

Sophie Hannah and the Horror of Noisy Neighbors

The Orphan ChoirWhen I have the pleasure of meeting British novelist Sophie Hannah in person, some of the first things I will tell her "about me" are these: Catty-corner to the rear of my apartment lives a man known to blare Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd, and other "un-ignorable" classic rock as late as 3 a.m. on a weeknight with his windows wide open. On the opposite diagonal corner lives an extended family that spends almost every summer weekend in their back yard blasting salsa music and playing basketball until at least midnight. Downstairs resides a magnificent burlesque dancer who sometimes has to listen to a single song many, many times while she creates new routines; she married a (ridiculously talented) jazz trumpet player whose casual music listening results in the steady thump thump thump of an upright bass carrying through the ceiling to my wooden floor and straight into my brain.

I'll tell her these things because she'll understand that, at times, my haven from the heartless world can feel like a torture chamber from which there is no escape.

Reading her latest novel, The Orphan Choir, almost hit too close to home for me. It's the story of a woman who reaches her emotional and psychological limit as an inconsiderate next-door neighbor ignores her noise complaints. The psychological toll -- feelings of abandonment and self-doubt -- is palpable as her story reaches and then surpasses the boundaries of reason and reality.

In the guest article that follows, Ms. Hannah explores just how bad a fictional neighbor can be.


My new supernatural thriller, The Orphan Choir, starts with a nightmare scenario that is so common that people rarely discuss just how awful it is: the problem of noisy neighbors. Because it's so ordinary and has happened to us, or to somebody we know, it does not seem horrific -- until you have suffered it day after day, that is. The noisy neighbor in The Orphan Choir is called Mr. Fahrenheit (because he plays "Don't Stop Me Now" by Queen in the middle of the night!), but, despite his nuisance noise-making, he is probably not the character in fiction that I would least like to live next door to. Here is a list of fictional characters I would hate to have as neighbors:

Jane Eyre Character: Mr. Rochester
Novel: Jane Eyre
Author: Charlotte Brontë
Rationale: Especially not if my bedroom were in the converted attic. Screaming Bertha in the adjoining attic would not be fun to listen to at night.
Wuthering Heights Character: Heathcliff
Novel: Wuthering Heights
Author: Emily Brontë
Rationale: Cathy's ghost knocking at the window at all hours would wake me up, especially if the knocking at the window was accompanied by her rendition of Kate Bush's Wuthering Heights song (and, let's face it, if it wasn't that would really be a missed opportunity).
Heart of Darkness Character: Colonel Kurtz
Novel: Heart of Darkness
Author: Joseph Conrad
Rationale: Hearing him moan, 'The horror, the horror' every time his alarm clock went off at 6 am would be a bit of a downer.
Bartleby the Scrivener Character: Bartleby
Novel: Bartleby the Scrivener
Author: Herman Melville
Rationale: I could be doing him an injustice, but I would imagine he would prefer not to turn down the volume when listening to music.

If I could pick my ideal fictional-character neighbor, I would pick Miss Havisham from Great Expectations. She doesn't look as if she'd listen to loud stadium rock all night long, and we could get together and compare notes about our exes, bitchily. That might be fun. Luckily, I'm pretty scruffy, so I wouldn't even mind getting covered in cobwebs!

She and We: Behind "On Such a Full Sea" with Author Chang-rae Lee

On Such a Full SeaChang-rae Lee is intrigued by his audience lately. The award-winning author of five novels has attended countless readings and book signings; he's familiar with who his readers are, and vice versa. Or so he thought. On the road promoting his latest book, On Such a Full Sea, he's seen a shift in who's showing up to the bookstores. His fans are skewing much younger than normal, and half of them, he says, are new to his work.

Promotion could be a reason, he proffers -- a review in a newspaper, a spot on NPR, or even a bookseller's recommendation. But of the many theories he has for the shift, he thinks it could simply be that the nature of the book -- a dark, yet hope-filled story about a young girl venturing forth alone into a dystopian America -- is appealing to young readers. In fact, though he is clear that he didn't write On Such a Full Sea specifically for his two teenage daughters (clarifying emphatically that it is "not YA"), he did intentionally try to keep it within their realm of possibility.

"My other books are very psychologically excruciating," he says with an easy-going laugh. "I mean they're really detailed, they go very deep into the consciousness of the characters. My daughters are teens, and I wanted them to be able to read the book, to engage with the character in quite a different way, identify with the character rather than have to 'understand the character.'"

A petite 16-year-old, skilled in her work and seemingly content in her life, Fan is motivated to leave her labor settlement, B-Mor, after her boyfriend suddenly disappears. The decision is unheard of; the wilds of the counties are daunting. And so we hear of her journey beyond the safety of the gates, coming to know her as compelling and complex, mature beyond her years yet innocent to the dangers of the world, an inspiration and a cautionary tale, an example from which to better understand ourselves.

Nevertheless, as orchestrated by the author, trying to actually understand Fan is not the point.

"I don't really go into all of Fan's thoughts, I'm not interested in that. What I am interested in is her as a kind of almost pre-modern elemental hero. You know, with modernism we get all of this psychology, right? I mean, that's what we understood after Flaubert and Joyce," Lee says, the Princeton professor in him shining through. "But I wanted to have a hero who was more, at least in the minds of the people viewing her, an iconic hero who would be and act more than say and lead."

This focus on a single (and singular) character wasn't the book Lee initially planned to write. For him, it was a story about the lives of factory workers in China's Pearl River Delta -- "their lives, their work, the geopolitical and socio-economic forces around them." But he soon realized that a key element was missing, though the reporting appealed to him.

"I think to write a novel you have to feel not just that you know the material, which I did, but also that there's still a mystery about it," he says. "And that can be a character, that can be a formal consideration, that can be a lot of things, but I just didn't quite have whatever it was."

Continue reading "She and We: Behind "On Such a Full Sea" with Author Chang-rae Lee" »

Amazon Asks: Daniel Suarez, Author of "Influx"

InfluxNot to be too cinematically cliché about it, but imagine a world... one in which your wish list of futuresque inventions actually existed. Imagine now that an organization has suppressed the items on your list, hidden them away so that nobody knows they're really possible. Worse yet, imagine you're the one who invented something world-changing.

That's the sort of position into which author Daniel Suarez puts his genius scientist Jon Grady. Told that "Some technologies are too dangerous to be allowed to spread on their own," Grady is suddenly privy to the fact that advances in fusion, gravity, genetics -- countless examples of scientific progress -- have been made and kept secret. Given the choice to join or be jailed, our hero declines the invitation. Perfectly balancing science, fiction, and thriller, Influx is an intense and engaging sum of its parts.

If you're familiar with Suarez’s bio, you know it's an understatement to call his technological background impressive. We wanted to find out more about him beyond his expertise. Here he tells us about the book report a former lit teacher has reason to be angry about, one way Kurt Vonnegut was ahead of his time, which future inventions he’s most looking forward to, and more.


What's the elevator pitch for your book?

Daniel Suarez A brilliant young scientist develops a technology that can reflect gravity. It's a breakthrough that could transform society as we know it. But instead of receiving widespread acclaim, he's taken prisoner by a secretive organization that covers up his work. It turns out the human race is more technologically advanced than commonly believed. Disruptive innovations like fusion and artificial intelligence are being concealed to 'prevent social and economic upheaval.' But keeping a 21st century Einstein imprisoned is harder than it sounds...

What's on your nightstand/bedside table/Kindle?

Alain de Botton's The Pleasures and Sorrows of Work -- it's beautiful, insightful, and fascinating all at once.

Top 3-5 favorite books of all time?

This is almost impossible to answer because there are so many, but at this moment:

(and a thousand more...)

Important book you never read?

Wuthering Heights (what's the statute of limitations on falsely submitting a book report?)

Book that changed your life or book that made you want to become a writer?

Player Piano by Kurt Vonnegut. I read this while still in grammar school, and then reread it several times throughout high school and college. The premise: that technology would advance to the point where most humans no longer needed to work--and that this would rob life of its meaning. That was counter-intuitive to me at the time, and I was endlessly fascinated by such a thought-provoking fiction. Up until then I'd read plenty of science fiction but those stories were usually far into the future. This one stayed with me, and still does to this day. Incidentally, we're seeing shades of Player Piano becoming reality as robotics and automation expands in society. I'd say Vonnegut was on to something way back then...

What's your most memorable author moment?

The first time I saw a stranger reading one of my books in a public place.

Preferred reading format: print? digital?

I prefer print because books on shelves often spark conversations and their spines tell a story about who I am. However, I'll still buy digital versions if I'm traveling. Nothing beats the portability of digital.

What talent or superpower would you like to have (not including flight or invisibility)?

I would like to possess profound mastery of a musical instrument such as the piano or guitar. Music has so often transported me and inspired my writing. I can only wonder what it would be like to have the talent to create and play music for others. Alas, I don't seem to have the patience or the knack, and I suppose knowing this has spared others much suffering -- particularly my cats.

What are you obsessed with now?

I'm really digging "True Detective" on HBO. The writing is sharp and the cinematography evocative, the performances powerful. Did HBO make a deal with the devil somewhere along the way? They're just about the only reason I still have cable.

What are you stressed about now?

I'm stressed about this question... :)

What are you psyched about now?

Clearly I'm psyched about my new book, Influx. The launch of a new book is always exciting, and I often ponder the new people I'll meet as a result of my book entering the world. Books are like that; they go places that are hard to anticipate, and then some time in the future someone will contact me and say, 'Hey, I read your book, X, and I just wanted to reach out to you...' I have met innumerable fascinating people because of my writing -- and that, in turn, leads to ideas for new books.

What's your most prized/treasured possession?

My memories of loved ones. That might sound glib, but as the years go by, there are less and less physical possessions I treasure, and more people whose company I miss. I'm by no means old, but both time and distance work against us here.

What 3 pieces of technology can you not live without? 

  • The Wheel
  • Mastery of Fire
  • Wet Wipes

What 3 future inventions are you most looking forward to? 

  • Fusion
  • Warp drive
  • Perfect interpersonal communication (mind-meld).

That third invention will be necessary to keep humanity from wiping itself out with the other two inventions.

Author crush - who's your current author crush?

Recency is a big factor here, since I'm most enamored of things I've liked most recently. That would mean Alain de Botton (currently on my nightstand).

Pen Envy - Book you wish you'd written?

George Orwell's 1984. The relevance of this book to our times is astounding, and unfortunately, I think it's only going to become more prescient.

What's the last dream you remember?

It involved an ambulatory butter squash being chased by a wood chipper...

What's favorite method of procrastination? Temptation? Vice?

The Internet. What makes it so insidious is that it's also the perfect research tool for authors. So I'll start a book project by doing focused research, and the next time I look up, it's February...

What do you collect?

I seldom throw away tech gadgets -- phones and laptops in particular. I've got a mini museum of every device I've ever used, and it's interesting to see their evolution. For instance, going through the layers of laptops, one can see that for the longest time I was striving to obtain the largest screen -- so the machines kept getting wider and deeper. Then at some point I valued portability more, and they started getting smaller. Also, somewhere along the way phones got as fragile as Tiffany glass--quite a few broken. But I've got an old Mitsubishi phone the size and shape of a brick that you could drive nails with. If I could find the charger, I bet it would still work.

Best piece of fan mail you ever got?

A reader once wrote me to say that my books had gotten him through the darkest period of his life, when he didn't have a friend, and couldn't see any reason for continuing. And eventually he worked through his problems and just wanted to thank me for being there for him. I keep a print out of his email on my office wall. Strangely, whenever I feel my writing is pointless, he now gives *me* encouragement.

Favorite line in a book?

"Every time a book changes hands, every time someone runs their eyes down its pages, its spirit grows and strengthens." -- The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafón

What's next for you?

Of course, another book. I'm always writing or doing research because there is nothing like the feeling of finishing a book--and then soon enough you want to start all over again.

Geeking Out: News Bits and Utopian Books in an Imperfect World

PotterHarry Potter and the Love That Never Was? Recently J.K. Rowling admitted that she regrets having Hermione end up with Ron. As the author told Emma Watson, guest editor for the upcoming edition of the quarterly British lifestyle magazine "Wonderland," "It was a choice I made for very personal reasons, not for reasons of credibility." Team Ron vs. Team Harry. Phooey! What I want to know is this: Is she Prime Minister yet -- making all of England (at least) safe for and from magic?

In other (ahem) "news" from across the geeky pond, the adaptation of Neil Gaiman's American Gods is back on track. Hurray! Unfortunately HBO is out of the picture. Gaiman expressed nothing but positivity on his blog when he made the announcement that FremantleMedia (the folks behind...um... "The X Factor") would be developing the series. Goodness knows I'll tune in wherever it ends up. Still, the dream of a Sunday evening of "Game of Thrones" into "American Gods" is shattered.American Gods

In my perfect world, such things would simply go my way. And Douglas Adams, Kurt Vonnegut, Frank Herbert, and J.R.R. Tolkien would have been immortal and still bursting with new ideas for new books. And vying for tickets to San Diego Comic-Con wouldn't feel like my soul was being swallowed in a Lovecraftian nightmare.

But alas, this is not my perfect world, or even a perfect world. Even in sci-fi stories that explore societal ideals, we read a lot about the dark underbelly of what turns out to be a false utopia, or the somber, dangerous world after the seemingly inevitable fall of a utopian society. Just take a look at the Utopian Science Fiction list Kindle put together.

Sometimes, I like to look at the bright side, though. So on that note, here are a few stories that take a stab at imagining successful utopias.

A Modern Utopia
A Modern Utopia
by H.G. Wells
Print | Kindle
True, there's a bit of darkness inherent in this vice-free society (located on a replica of Earth) which simply banishes its lower class. Still, it's an interesting approach to imagining a simpler/better world.
Ecotopia
Ecotopia
by Ernest Callenbach
Print | Kindle
The story of the first outsider admitted into "Ecotopia," the green-friendly dream world that was created when the northern west coast seceded from the US decades ago.
Utopia
Utopia
by Thomas More
Print | Kindle
If you can forgive that he thought to emphasize freedom of religion, but wasn't forward-thinking enough to abolish slavery, More's vision of an island that rejects the harsh realities of European sociopolitical landscape in 1516 sounds like a swell place.

Patience Bloom's 10 Favorite Romances

Romance is My Day JobOne of our selections in the True Love category of our Valentine's feature 150 Love Stories, Romance is My Day Job is the sweet story of a romance book fan who lands a dream job as an editor of romance novels, only to stumble upon a reality that lives up to the fiction she's surrounded herself with--ten years later, that is. Harlequin editor Patience Bloom's memoir begins in 1984 with all the drama of a Sadie Hawkins dance and ends with a wedding picture from her ultimate happily-ever-after.

She shared her thoughts about True Love with us, as well as a few of her own favorite romance novels.


My 10 Favorite Romances by Patience Bloom

Patience BloomWhether you love it or wear black in protest, Valentine's Day is almost here. If you're a die-hard romantic, it can be the best or the worst day of the year. Maybe it just depends on how much chocolate you have?

As a long-time editor of romance novels, I experience most days as a sort of Valentine's Day. When I'm at work, all I need is a good story, juicy characters and a mind open to love. But believe it or not, until a few years ago, I would have said real-life true love was just a fantasy, that it only existed in the romance novels I edited. Then one day my Prince Charming appeared out of nowhere, wooing me with laughter, talking into the wee hours, and offering the promise of a future --a future that came true in a story that ended with my own fairy-tale wedding.

It seemed so crazy--me, married--that I had to write our story.

I hope your Valentine's Day is extra special this year and filled with hearts, admirers, and chocolate. And if you're looking to add a romantic book to the mix, here are some of my favorite novels about love.

Something Blue

Something Blue by Emily Giffin

There are mean girls you might consider unredeemable, but Darcy Rhone will win you over (even though she steals boyfriends and mooches). I'd campaign for Darcy in a heartbeat and, by the end of this book, I felt desperate for her to find love.
The Fall of Shane MacKade

The Fall of Shane MacKade by Nora Roberts

A playboy hero falls for a bookish heroine--and has no clue how it happens. It's an absolutely adorable premise with Roberts's trademark humor. Shane is unforgettable.
The Sheikh's Arranged Marriage

The Sheikh's Arranged Marriage by Susan Mallery

I tend to enjoy reading about unbelievable situations and this was my first Susan Mallery romance. The heroine, Heidi, is a joy: curious, scholarly, and noble. To honor her adoptive family, she marries a son, who of course, winds up being her dream come true. I sobbed at the end, and I don't cry easily when reading….
When She Was Bad

Something Blue by Cindy Kirk

It's hard to keep me away from a good-girl-who-finally-lets-loose romp. Here, the heroine decides to live a different life with new name and skimpy wardrobe, and boy, does she ever enjoy herself. It's sexy, fun, and emotional—all in one page-turning read.
How Stella Got Her Groove Back

How Stella Got Her Groove Back by Terry McMillan

The romance in this amazing story shows how age doesn't have to matter. Plus, who doesn't want to see how a woman “finds” herself again? We all need help. I read this in my twenties and adored Stella, how she learns to enjoy life/love again.
Bombshell

Bombshell by Terry McMillan

Don't hate me, but I enjoy reading about the trials of beautiful women. In Bombshell, Grace is a too-gorgeous heroine who's been through all kinds of man-torture. She wants a baby and winds up with her own unforeseen happily ever after. Curnyn's stories are great fun.
Bring Me Back

Bring Me Back by Karen Booth

My first attraction to this story was that the author loved Duran Duran, just like me. But this romance grabbed me to the point where I was angry that it had to end. The rock star romance is quite tantalizing and I think many of us have dreamed this story. Am I right?
A Husband of Her Own

A Husband of Her Own by Brenda Novak

A captivating enemies-become-lovers story. Even though I read this story ten years ago, the romance is so vivid in my mind. Novak builds a heartwarming community and makes you want to live in Dundee, Idaho.
Bridget Jones's Diary

Bridget Jones's Diary by Helen Fielding

"Bridge" is instant validation for those of us with healthy—and sometimes unhealthy neuroses. Bridget is so good-hearted, nuts (in the best way) and loveable. Of course, Mark Darcy would love her. And of course, I started tracking my weight and daily vices thanks to her.
Confessions of a Shopaholic

Confessions of a Shopaholic by Sophie Kinsella

I fell in love with Becky Bloomwood instantly. She can't control herself, gets in over her head, then has to learn harsh lessons to get back on a saner path. And she does this is such an enjoyable way. This book compelled me to start shopping.

Amazon Asks: Pierce Brown, Author of "Red Rising"

Red RisingI first heard about Red Rising at an after-party during Comic-Con last July. I'll admit I was a little preoccupied at the time: E.L. James was on one side of the room being lovely and effusive. George R.R. Martin was on the other side of the room being surrounded and elusive. "You've really got to read this book," I was being told. And so I filed the info away, as I couldn't very well sit down then and there. I had three places to be at one time, I hadn't even really slept in two days, and it was dark.

But now, it's time. And this knuckle-whitening dystopian page-turner has not only earned my undivided attention, it's garnered an incredible pre-release buzz amongst our team, on Goodreads, and beyond. In fact it's not only one of our Science Fiction and Fantasy picks for February, it's among our February Best of the Month, as well.

Set on Mars, the story follows Darrow -- a member of the lowest classes in a deeply entrenched social hierarchy (Reds) -- from his daily drudgery to his, yes, "rise" beyond the life he's always known. But as the last page is turned, the story has only barely begun. This first installment of a trilogy left me impatient to begin the next. And the fact that this is a debut novel left me curious about the man behind it all.

Author Pierce Brown tells us what he's reading, why he'd put restrictions on time travel, and how the seventh time can be the charm.


What's the elevator pitch for your book?

Red Rising is the first installment of a trilogy that follows a young man's quest to overthrow a government that stole his freedom and the woman he loved.

In the far future, humanity has spread itself across the Solar System, changing the faces of planets and moons to sustain human life. But humanity is divided. Not by race or creed, but by Color. Golds, paragons of beauty and genius, rule with an iron fist over the rest of the Colors -- Blues, Greens, Whites, Grays, and the lowest caste, Reds. This is the story of one Red rising against injustice by infiltrating the halls of the Golds, intent on destroying their cruel reign.

What's on your nightstand/bedside table/Kindle?

Oh man. The piles grow like weeds. There's one pile by my reading chair, another by my bed, another on my bed, another by my desk, another in my car...you get the point. But for simplicity's sake: The Ocean at the End of the Lane (Gaiman), Children of Dune (Herbert), Aesop's Fables, Red Seas under Red Skies (Lynch), Ulysses (Joyce), Macbeth, and T.S. Eliot Collected Poems.

Top 3-5 favorite books of all time?

Count of Monte Cristo, Lord of the Flies, Storm of Swords, LOTR, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire.

The most important work to me is The Iliad. I can't count it as a book, though. My classics professor from Pepperdine would throw a fit.

Important book you never read?

Ulysses by James Joyce It's been at my bedside for six years. While I've been assured it is wonderful, I'm fifty pages in and have discovered it wonderful only for curing insomnia.

Book that changed your life?

Everyone Poops. At two, I worried it might have just been me.

What's your most memorable author moment?

I am now encouraged to talk in libraries. It's like a super power.

Preferred reading format: print? digital?

Print. I'm analog at heart.

What talent or superpower would you like to have (not including flight or invisibility)?

Time travel. But not the kind of time travel that everyone thinks about when you say, "time travel." I would want the power to travel just one minute back in time.

Who needs the power to jump back 300 years? That would be terrible. I'd be the guy who scared a cat that ran into the street where a man was riding his horse, which avoids the cat and instead barrels into a young Colonial chap named George Washington, thereby precipitously ending his potentially important life. Because of me, we'd all still be drinking tea. I can't have that on my conscience.

But jumping back one minute at a time? Harmless. That, and dates would also go much smoother.

What are you obsessed with now?

Now? Severely, limited time travel!

What are you stressed about now?

See above.

What are you psyched about now?

Increased government accountability due to increased access to information by all social classes. Seriously. This makes me giddy. To information, all tyrants fall.

What's your most prized/treasured possession?

My dog, Oswald. Though I think he thinks I belong to him. He's six pounds of twisted steel and sex appeal. He also wears fuzzy sweaters, which is a bit of an indictment against his masculinity. Or maybe mine...

Author crush - who's your current author crush?

Gene Wolfe. He's just that damn brilliant.

Pen Envy - Book you wish you'd written?

A Song of Ice and Fire. George R. R. Martin astounds me. The scope is incomparable, as are the voices of the characters.

Anything by Hemingway. The clarity and depth of his writing continues to startle and affect me. Every time I re-read a book of his, I find new meaning and new emotions.

What's the last dream you remember?

I keep a dream journal. Let me reference it. Let's see here...

December 15th, "Leaves in the desert. Motorcycle with a lance and my dad is watching myself (sic) fly at a dragon who is a frien (sic) from middle school, but is really Mitch McConnell."

I should note that I'm not fully awake when I write these notes down…

What's favorite method of procrastination? Temptation? Vice?

Food. And lists. My New Year's resolution is actually to stop reading lists online. 10 Most Quotable Movie Lines? 25 Epic Cat Fails? I will click every time.

What do you collect?

When I lived in North Carolina, I collected musket balls. The woods in our backyard ran up against the battlefield of the Battle of Guilford Courthouse, fought during the American Revolution. I'd spend whole days digging there. When I was five or six I found half a dozen musket balls. I ran home to show them to my dad, who insisted I take them to the park ranger, because that was the moral thing to do. The ranger made a show of inspecting them, verified their authenticity then gave me two more, saying something like "honesty always rewards in the end." It was one of the best moments of my childhood. And I still collect artifacts. Recently I found a Roman coin in the ruins of an old outpost above Ephesus in Turkey.

I also collect scotch and old books.

Best piece of fan mail you ever got?

I haven't really gotten much fan mail as of yet. So instead, I'll say the 120 letters from literary agents rejecting my request for representation.

I wrote six novels before Red Rising. None were quite up to snuff, so I don't fault the agents for passing on the material. In fact, had any accepted me as a client, Red Rising would never exist. I count myself lucky.

No one really likes rejection, but for me it's always served as an effective motivator, much more so than compliments. That said, please don't send me hate mail.

Favorite line in a book?

"Not all who wander are lost." -- J.R.R. Tolkien

Book that made you want to become a writer?

Harry Potter. Before reading Rowling's work, I didn't know an author could very literally shape my dreams.

With a Grain of Salt: P.J. O'Rourke and Dave Barry in Conversation

Baby BoomBaby Boom

In the first paragraph of the prologue to his new book, The Baby Boom: How It Got That Way... And It Wasn't My Fault... And I'll Never Do It Again, political humor writer P.J. O'Rourke declares in no uncertain terms that he is "full of crap." Similarly, in the introduction to his upcoming book You Can Date Boys When You're Forty, humor columnist Dave Barry explains that his book, despite its subtitle "Parenting and Other Topics He Knows Very Little About," is not about parenting.

It's easy to imagine that when these two bestselling authors and longtime pals get together, commiserative silliness ensues. But in this case, no imagination is necessary. We popped in on an email exchange between these two masters of existential trolling. Here's what happened:

Dave Barry: P.J. — I loved The Baby Boom which manages to be both hilarious and insightful. What I want to know is: How did you remember all that stuff? Especially about the '60s. Didn't you take drugs? Of course not! Neither did I! Drugs are bad! But my memories of that era are very purple-hazy, whereas you seem to remember every detail of everything that happened. How did you do that?

P.J. O'Rourke: I made it up. I'm a professional reporter. I'm PAID to make things up. Actually, I do remember a lot about the '60s. Probably because I still know a lot of the same people. And they're still yelling at me about things I did back then. Keeps memories fresh. Sort of like a wife. Just kidding, dear. Sort of like a first wife. And I loved You Can Date Boys When You're Forty. You admit you went to a Justin Bieber concert. Kind of pushing the envelope even for a confessional memoir. You're brave, dude, brave.

DB: I did indeed go to a Justin Bieber concert, because my daughter really really really wanted to go because she LOVED Justin Bieber. It was terrifying. I was in Coral Gables, Florida, in 1992 when Hurricane Andrew passed over and nearly took off the roof of the home in which I was cowering. I understood then why the noise of a hurricane is always compared to a freight train. What it SHOULD be compared to is a Justin Bieber concert. Given the choice, I'd rather sit through Andrew again.

PJO: When I pick my daughters up from school they, for some reason I can't imagine, don't want to listen to Rush Limbaugh, and so they tune the radio to what sounds to me like somebody donated 200 drum sets and an Auto-Tune to a juvenile delinquent corrections facility. But does this mean today's music sucks? Yes.

DB: So true. Our music had feeling, but it also had MEANING. I refer specifically to the song that I view as the Anthem of the '60s; a song I played at countless fraternity parties when I was a student at Haverford College and belonged to a band called the Federal Duck. I refer, of course, to "Land of 1,000 Dances," and the lyrics that spoke to our generation: "I said na, na na na na, na na na na, na na na, na na na na, na na na na." These kids today have NOTHING LIKE THAT.

PJO: Justin Bieber could learn a lot from Cannibal and the Headhunters, if you ask me. For one thing, he could learn to disappear without a trace. Although I understand he has retired. Which makes a 66-year-old person with three kids to put though college feel GREAT. On the other hand, looks like he’ll be spending his golden years in jail instead of a nursing home. Thought you captured the fear-inducing nature of having teen daughters in the house perfectly. I use a subtle technique when boys are around. I shout to my wife, "Hey, Honey, did you pick up the new ten-round magazine for my Glock at the gun store?"

DB: I don't have a Glock, because I live in Miami, where weapons that small are viewed as party favors. I agree, though, that it is very important, with daughters, to teach them about boys, and by "teach them about" I mean "keep them a minimum of three regulation football fields away from." Which brings us to sex. You talk about it in your book, and I talk about it in my book, and I think that anybody reading our books would have to conclude that we have no idea what we're talking about, because we are men. I don't really have a question here. I'm just pointing out that our books contain SEX TALK.

PJO: They sure do!!! LOTS AND LOTS OF SEX TALK. Because that's what sells books. And, speaking of books, I was impressed by the depth of understanding and the sheer intellectual brilliance in your essay about Fifty Shades of Grey. Haven't read it myself, but I gather any sane adult male would tie the young lady protagonist to the bed -- and leave her there and go to a sports bar.

DB: I did indeed courageously and without the aid of pharmaceuticals read Fifty Shades of Grey, and I have to say that, although a lot of people said the writing is terrible, those people were 100 percent correct. The book does, however, explain What Women Want. They don't want a guy who's really handsome and has a great body. No! Women are not that shallow! They want a guy who's really handsome and has a great body and is also a billionaire. (Which explains why I never got anywhere.) But the point is, our books contain SEX TALK and also a technique for losing up to 700 pounds in a week without dieting. My question to you is: Can you think of any reason why anybody would NOT buy our books? Aside from the fact that we are lying?

PJO: No, Dave, I can't. And you're leaving out the psychological self-help that you and I are justly famed for providing in our published work. My book, for instance, helps readers overcome OCD by simply buying 1,000 copies and sending one to each person on their Christmas Letter email list in alphabetical order with the envelopes addressed in tiny precise handwriting. And all our DIY tips too! For example, I learned that self-help technique by reading your "How to Become a Professional Author" chapter. I was especially wowed by your children's book "Merle Moth Does a Big Thing," which I assume you have sold to the movies. Do people who write books for small children spend an hour a year working? Or does it sometimes take them two hours?

DB: It is a fact that The Very Hungry Caterpillar -- which has sold more copies than you and I and Stephen King combined -- was written on a bet in 27 seconds underwater. But the point that I think we are both trying without success to make here is that both your book and my book are for sale in exchange for money, which I for one could use because my daughter no longer loves Justin Bieber, which means I have to buy tickets to a concert by something called "One Direction." In conclusion, I want to thank everybody who took the time to read this frank exchange of views between two veteran authors with a lot on their minds. If you were in any way offended by any of the comments you read here, I want to say, in all sincerity, on behalf of both P.J. and me, that those comments were his.


The Baby Boom by P.J. O'Rourke is out now.
You Can Date Boys When You're Forty by Dave Barry will be out March 4, and is available for pre-order now.

Yesterday & Today: 50 Years of the Beatles by the Books

Ed SullivanIt's rare that we can say with any degree of certainty that we know what most Americans were doing at a specific moment in time. But we do know that at 8 p.m. on Feb. 9, 1964 a majority of us were sitting in front of a television set. It's been 50 years since the Beatles' debut appearance on the Ed Sullivan Show. And while 50 years is often a measure of time exploited to elicit exclamations of "Wow, has it really been that long? It seems like only yesterday...," in this case, it truly demonstrates the longevity of the Beatles' impact on American culture.

At the Grammys on Jan. 26, the Beatles will receive a lifetime achievement award, punctuated with a reunion performance by Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr. Then, on Feb. 9, CBS will air "The Night that Changed America: A Grammy Salute to the Beatles."

To do our part in celebrating this legendary band, we've put together a just a few books -- old, new, and upcoming -- that explore the cultural history of the Beatles, the timelessness of the Beatles' music, the intense fandom, the bandmembers as authors, and those folks who were behind or just before the phenomenon and are known as the "Fifth Beatle." 

Beatles History

From their roots as Liverpool lads to their many appearances on BBC radio and TV; from their  U.S. invasion to the effect they had around the world.

Six Days
The Beatles:
Six Days that
Changed the World
February 1964

by Bill Eppridge
Feb. 4, 2014
Changed the World
How the Beatles
Changed the World

by Martin W. Sandler
Feb. 4, 2014
Tune In
Tune In: The Beatles:
All These Years

by Mark Lewisohn
Oct. 29, 2013
Beatle Invasion!
The Beatle Invasion!:
The inside story of
the two-week tour
that rocked America

by Bob Spitz
Jan. 7, 2014

When They Were Boys
When They Were Boys:
The True Story
of the Beatles'
Rise to the Top

by Larry Kane
July 30, 2013

BBC Archives
The Beatles:
The BBC Archives:
1962-1970

by Kevin Howlett
Oct. 29, 2013

Beatles Music

At the root of it all... the music. The songs they created together, the songs that inspired them, the songs they wrote on their own.

All The Songs
All The Songs:
The Story Behind
Every Beatles Release

by Philippe Margotin
and Jean-Michel Guesdon
Oct. 22, 2013
Hard Day's Write
A Hard Day's Write:
The Stories Behind
Every Beatles Song

by Steve Turner
Oct. 18, 2005
Still the Greatest
Still the Greatest:
The Essential Songs of
The Beatles' Solo Careers

by Andrew Grant Jackson
May 9, 2014
From Me to You
From Me to You:
Songs the Beatles
Covered and Covers
of the Fab Four's Songs

by Brian Southall
Feb. 11, 2014
Revolution in the Head
Revolution in the Head:
The Beatles' Records
and the Sixties

by Ian MacDonald
Sept. 1, 2007
Abbey Road Years
The Complete Beatles Recording
Sessions: The Official Story of
the Abbey Road Years 1962-1970

by Mark Lewisohn
Introduction by Paul McCartney
Oct. 1, 2013

For and About Beatles Fans

Images from within the inner circle, a two-part epic collection of facts, a look at the Beatles as a marketing franchise, and memories from the everyday and famous fans the band attracted.

Fifty Years
Fifty Years with The Beatles
by Tim Hill
May 28, 2014
Beatles Collected
The Beatles Collected
by Pete Nash, David Roberts
and Brian Southall
May 27,2014
Beatles Are Here
The Beatles Are Here!:
50 Years after
the Band Arrived in
America, Writers, Musicians & Other
Fans Remember

by Penelope Rowlands
Feb. 4, 2014
Beatles Encyclopedia
The Beatles Encyclopedia:
Everything Fab Four

by Kenneth Womack
June 30, 2014

Books by the Lads

Going straight to the source: the oft-dubbed "ultimate authority" anthology, intimate correspondance from John, memoirs from George, and an illustrated/multimedia interpratation of a classic Ringo tune. 

Beatles Anthology
The Beatles Anthology
by The Beatles
Oct. 5, 2000
Lennon Letters
The John Lennon Letters
by John Lennon
Oct. 9, 2012
I, Me, Mine
I, Me, Mine
by George Harrison
March 8, 2007
Octopus's Garden
Octopus's Garden
by Ringo Starr and Ben Cort
Feb. 4, 2014

Fifth Beatles

Manager, producer, short-time bandmates -- get to know those who have garnered the moniker "Fifth Beatle."

All You Need Is Ears
All You Need Is Ears:
The inside personal
story of the genius
who created
The Beatles

by George Martin
Oct. 15, 1994
Pete Best
Beatle!: The Pete Best Story
by Pete Best
and Patrick Doncaster
Dec. 1994
Fifth Beatle
The Fifth Beatle:
The Brian Epstein Story

by Vivek TiwaryNov. 19, 2013
Baby's in Black
Baby's in Black:
Astrid Kirchherr,
Stuart Sutcliffe,
and the Beatles

by Arne Bellstorf
February 4, 2014

Game of Thrones Season 4 Trailer Released

It's a new year. And with a new year comes... a new season of Game of Thrones. The fourth season of the award-winning television show -- which will cover material from the latter half of A Storm of Swords, the third book in George R.R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire series -- returns to HBO April 6. Spoiler speculators, what are you most looking forward to seeing brought to life this season? Comment below.

Here's the newly released season trailer.

2013 Philip K. Dick Award Nominees Announced

The nominees for the 2013 Philip K. Dick Award -- presented annually for distinguished science fiction published in paperback original format -- were announced this morning. The 2013 judge panel -- led by chair Elizabeth Bear and including Siobhan Carroll, Michael Kandel, Jamil Nasir, and Timothy Sullivan -- selected the following works for the final ballot:

The winner will be announced April 19 during Norwescon in Seattle, Wa.


Geeking Out: Sci-Fi, Fantasy, and Horror in 2014

RothmanThe Future. This is a concept that rarely fazes the sci-fi/fantasy fan -- reading adventurers who consider each everywhere and all of always in the space-time continuum their home. We were reading about rocket ships and touch screen technology before they were a gleam in scientists' microscope-ringed eyes. We've defeated mystical armies, we've befriended wizards, and we've seen legendary people perform anachronistic feats that would blow an historian's date-riddled mind.

So, yeah... in that context, what's the big deal about the next few measly months? Well, books, of course! We may have to accept that jet packs could hit shelves before we turn the last page in A Song of Ice and Fire. (No pressure, Mr. Martin. We know the time's being put to excellent use.) However, while I'm thoroughly enjoying my current reading (Red Rising by Pierce Brown and The Emperor's Blades by Brian Staveley), there are tons of amazing science fiction, fantasy, and horror books on the horizon. Here are six that make me wish I had a Tardis of my own.

Annihilation

Annihilation by Jeff VanderMeer (FSG, February 2014)

An anthropologist, a biologist, a pychologist, and a surveyor walk into a mysterious place called Area X. No jokes to be made here. This short (less than 200 pages) tale begins a trilogy with potent description and edge-of-your-seat suspense. I hate to make lazy TV/film analogies, but it won't be the last time you see this book compared to "Lost" and possibly even Alien. I'll admit I've started reading this one already and I'm grateful that my wait won't be long to keep going. Subsequent volumes Authority and Acceptance publish in June and September respectively.

The Barrow

The Barrow by Mark Smylie (Pyr, March 2014)

In this debut novel, Mark Smylie gives the world he created in his "Artesia" comic books, a new life. We start with a band of dangerously endearing rogues, a magical map, and a dangerous search for a wizard's sword. My sense of adventure is at the ready. Bring on the emotional manipulation and unabashed violence. I'm ready for an epic quest!

The Detainee

The Detainee by Peter Liney (Jo Fletcher Books, March 2014)

Admittedly, I've developed a bad attitude toward dystopian stories lately. So it's quite meaningful that one of the books I'm most looking forward to this year will find me begging for "punishment satellites" to protect me on a shanty-laden island where mainland residents ship their garbage. And since a massive economic collapse, "garbage" includes the weakest members of society -- like "Big Guy" Clancy, former muscle for a crime boss.

Afterparty

Afterparty by Daryl Gregory (TOR, April 2014)

Before the first chapter even begins, there's religion, drugs, and suicide -- all presented in a crisp, engaging writing style that itself threatens to be addictive. Set in the near-future in a world in which smart drug recipes are opensourced, one church uses dependency on their sacrament, a mind-altering narcotic called "Numinous," to keep followers in line. One of the drug's creators tries to undo the damage. I'm so hooked!

My Real Children

My Real Children by Jo Walton (TOR, May 2014)

This isn't the kind of story I typical gravitate toward, but there's something subtly compelling to me about the setup here. One woman with dementia, two possible realities creating a fork in her life's path just after college. The overlap and divergence intrigue me: in one she's married to a man and they have four children; in the other she's married to a woman with three children. Which, if either, is real?

The Girl With All the Gifts

The Girl With All the Gifts by M.R. Carey (Orbit, June 2014)

Ten-year-old Melanie is surrounded by mysteries, and I know just enough to know that explaining too much will result in spoilers. So, though I tread lightly, let it be known that I am chomping at the bit to truly dig into this story. Here's what I'll share: Melanie sleeps in a cell. She is under strict military protection, just like the rest of the kids in her class. Her favorite teacher seems to know something her students don't know about themselves, and she's emotionally attached to Melanie in a way that could be extremely dangerous for them both.

See Sara's All I Want for New Year's is...
See Seira's YA Books I Can't Wait to Read in 2014

What Makes a Woman Dangerous?

Dangerous Women We asked a few of the authors who contributed to the wonderful, genre-jumping short story collection Dangerous Women -- one of our Science Fiction & Fantasy Best of the Year picks -- what they think makes a woman dangerous. Here's what they had to say...


Sanderson

Brandon Sanderson
"Shadows for Silence in the Forests of Hell"

What makes a woman dangerous? Well, what makes a person dangerous?

To me, the best kind of danger--which is, in a way, also the worst kind--is unexpected. It's that twisted kind of dangerous that takes something familiar and safe and reveals it as something deadly. Wolves are frightening. A loyal pet going mad and killing a child is ten times more terrifying to me.

For the anthology, I wanted to find a way to express this unexpected sort of dangerous. I didn't want a lean, professional assassin or a warrior in her prime, dangerous though those may be. I wanted something closer to home, a blend of the expected and unexpected. That is where I found Silence Montane.

The first name is one I ran across while reading puritan names. It was the second piece of the puzzle, as it raised questions. Who names their daughter Silence, and what does it imply? What is it like to grow up with this name? The answers built into the concept of a stout pioneer woman who ran an inn on the frontier, drawing the seediest criminals the land had to offer. She'd then track them after they left her inn, and murder them for their bounties.

Familiar, yet unexpected. Kindly, yet deadly. The story turned out better than I could have hoped, and I'm thrilled to have had the chance--and the prompting--to write it.

 

Kress

Nancy Kress
"Second Arabesque, Very Slowly"

What makes a woman dangerous? The same thing that makes a man dangerous: wanting something too much. "Wanting something" is, of course, what drives characters in fiction, as well as in real life. Wanting to win a football game, an argument, the presidency, a certain mate. Wanting to gain money, power, glory, a buff body, a hole-in-one, the most ambitious Christmas lights in town. This is all normal (well, maybe not the Christmas lights). It becomes dangerous when people will do anything at all to obtain what they want. Then you get bloody coups, bank robbery, dangerous steroid use, assassination, and the 1919 World Series. 

It's a balancing act, satisfying the sometimes competing requirements of desire, morality, and other people's outrage. The temptations are many, the rewards great, and the strictures of varying intensity. How badly do I want this? What am I willing to do to get it? At what price? All the characters in Dangerous Women want something, or they would not be dangerous. Usually they want it pretty badly. These are stories about how they go about getting it.

 

Spector

Caroline Spector
"Lies My Mother Told Me

There are so many ways a woman can be dangerous it's difficult to narrow the field. But these four characters in the following films are dangerous because they are all ruthless in getting what they desire. They're beautiful, dangerous monsters.

 

  • Ingrid Magnussen: White Oleander
  • Cora Smith: The Postman Always Rings Twice (1946)
  • Phyllis Dietrichson: Double Indemnity
  • Matty Walker: Body Heat

 

Lindholm

Megan Lindholm
"Neighbors"

Malala Yousafzai threatens the Taliban in a way that no amount of military might could achieve. While still a teenager, she is one dangerous woman, in the best sense of that phrase!

Omnivoracious™ Contributors

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