Friday, February 28, 2014

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.



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Thursday, February 27, 2014

Jennifer Senior, on Modern Parenting and "All Joy and No Fun"



EJoyight years ago, while writing a story for New York magazine, Jennifer Senior came across a researcher's finding that parenthood didn't improve people's happiness "one iota." In fact, it had a negative impact--a radical idea that stuck with her and then flared anew when she became a mom a few years later. 

In All Joy and No Fun, Senior further explores the impact our kids have on our marriages, our self confidence, our friendships, and our sanity. After interviewing moms, dads, psychiatrists, sociologists, economists, and others she concluded that the idea she'd stumbled across in 2006--that we love our kids, and they make us crazy--"was both right, and totally wrong."

She's applied some of what she learned to raising her own son. For example: "I don't have any problem saying this is not a democracy."

All Joy and No Fun was an Amazon Best Book of the Month for February.

 



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Four Questions with "The Wives of Los Alamos" Author TaraShea Nesbit



Wives of Los AlamosPoised to be a sleeper hit, The Wives of Los Alamos tells -- in the collective "we" -- the story of the women who followed their scientist husbands to New Mexico right after WWII; the men were working on the Atom Bomb project, not that their wives or families (or anybody else, mostly) knew that. An intelligent, probing novel, author TaraShea Nesbit's debut does what historical fiction does best: portrays a time and place and people we've heard of but probably didn’t know much about. Here's what Nesbit has to say about her book.

What drew you to this time and place?

My fascination with the history of the atomic bomb started with learning about a high school in eastern Washington that has an atomic bomber as their mascot; after that, I researched nuclear waste, and I just kept going back and back to the source of the bomb. Though I read about the lead scientists, even more interesting to me was to think of what life was like for their educated, newly married wives who followed their husbands to an unknown location in New Mexico. I wanted to know these women and be their friend and make more space in the world for their voices.

What do you enjoy reading and writing about historical fiction?

In historical fiction, time has stopped, at least for a little while, and I get to see, in slow motion, how co-existing experiences and points of view interact with and affect one another. Another thrill is how much historical fiction actually reveals about the time period with which it is written -- the preoccupations and focuses of revisionist history, for example, shift as our contemporary moment shifts. I love that historical fiction enables a reader to inhabit both the consciousness of a contemporary author and the world of the past.

What are some books that have influenced you as a writer?

Virginia Woolf's Orlando, Patrik Ouředník's Europeana: A Brief History of the Twentieth Century, Studs Turkel's What Work Is, Claudia Rankine's Don't Let Me Be Lonely, Michael Ondaatje's Coming Through Slaughter, Julianna Spahr's The Transformation, Tove Jansson's The Summer Book, Jennifer Denrow's California, and the Mr. Bridge and Mrs. Bridge books by Evan S. Connell.

What do you hope readers take away from The Wives of Los Alamos?

I hope the book adds complexity to readers' understanding of the 1940s and atomic bomb history, while encouraging them to seek out more information. I want readers to enjoy spending time in the environment the book created, and it would be great if readers notice parallels between these women and that time and the present day.



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Wednesday, February 26, 2014

YA Wednesday: Margaret Stohl Interviews Seth Fishman, Author of "The Well's End"



Well's EndAuthor Seth Fishman's new Young Adult novel The Well's End was published yesterday, and it's getting great reviews. Booklist gave The Well's End a starred review, calling it "a fast-paced, thrilling adventure story that begs for a sequel."

International best-selling writer Margaret Stohl, co-author of Beautiful Creatures, caught up with Seth to generally fawn over the book and ask him some questions.

 

Seth Fishman: First of all, my biggest thanks for these really amazingly fun and original interview questions.  I’ve long loved your books, and it’s hard to imagine you reading mine and enjoying. What an honor!

Margaret Stohl: Seth, your brain = a deeply dark place. Comparable to, say, a well. True or False? Discuss.

SF: Truish! I’d like to think that if you shine a light into my brain, you find that it isn’t so scary, or that it’s full of nice things, like water or wishes. That said, I often set the tone for The Well’s End by imagining what it would be like to be stuck down a well.  The cold, the smell, the darkness, the fear. My mind and wells = best friends.

MS: When a little girl falls down a well and years later, finds herself getting in once again over her head—this time in the middle of a conspiracy involving a killer virus, her father, and her school—I get the feeling this story didn’t come from a dream about sparkly vampires, Seth. How did it come to you?

SF: I like all sorts of vampires, but when I set out to write this book, I wanted to ground the story in as much terrifying reality as possible. So I started with the girl who fell down the well, loosely based on ‘Baby Jessica’ McClure, who really did fall down a well in my hometown when I was a kid. Once I had this backstory in place, I wanted to invite the reader to become so confident in the reality of the book’s world that when it tilts, they don’t even notice (or, at least, feel that it’s very naturally part of the ride).

MS: The Well’s End is an adrenaline rush from start to finish. Was that the plan, or do you just like to torment high school students? When you read, are you also an adrenaline junkie?

SF: Ha, very kind of you to say! Maybe the torture comes as payback for all the years I was a camp counselor. I’d say that I worked very hard with my editor on the pacing of the book, though I didn’t map out cliffhanger chapter endings or anything like that. Still, considering that the [semi-SPOILER] virus moved pretty quickly, if I wanted to have anyone living by the end of the book, I had to keep the pedal to the floor. The challenge, I suppose, was building legit, fleshed characters while they were constantly running for their lives. As to reading, I love a good thriller or adrenaline push (like Pierce Brown’s Red Rising or Marie Lu’s Legend series) but I’m just as much a fan of the slower literary (David Mitchell or Gabriel Garcia Marquez being favorites). Depends on the mood, on where I’m reading them, and on whether I want to get any sleep!

MS: Bones break. Bullets fly. Parents and students are disposed of. And I’m reading your book on a flight home from Tokyo, having Battle Royale flashbacks. Did you know you were going to have to shed a lot of blood to take Mia on her journey from just being the girl who fell down the well?

SF: I’m not afraid of killing off characters. In fact, I believe one of the reasons Game of Thrones is so compelling and ‘fresh’ is that George R.R. Martin kills off major characters left and right. This raises the stakes in the book and keeps the reader on his/her toes. It also is a real challenge that I love: the author has to be able to create more than just one character and rely on them. Battle Royale still haunts me; I believe having The Well’s End haunt someone would be the height of compliment. 

MS: Your main character, Mia, is a competitive swimmer thrust into the role of survivalist. She talks about forcing herself to “dive in,” as an exercise in conquering her own fears. Yet your book is full of things to be very, very afraid of, right?

SF: I couldn’t help but play with the juxtaposition, really. The idea that Mia was petrified of water and darkness because of some freak childhood accident did nothing to stop me from putting ‘monsters’ in the water and the dark. In this case, her fears were justified.

MS: So can fears really ever be conquered? Or do they just give way to new fears? What’s more frightening – trusting people or diving into the unknown?

SF: I’m really fascinated by the role fear plays in the actions we all take, every day. For Mia, I wanted her fears to both hinder and aid, to be very much part of her identity. At the same time, I don’t think facing fears is easy; you don’t have a fear of heights and go skydiving once and get cured, you’re still scared of height, just more able to deal with the phobia. I wanted fear to push Mia, and I wanted her to not always be rewarded. Sometimes the answer isn’t to dive right in. And if you do, you might not always like what you find. 

That said, I think trust is one of the greatest characteristics of humanity. When we learn to trust someone, they become a part of ourselves. They know our needs and fears and our weaknesses. If you travel in a group, and you trust those people, suddenly everyone becomes smarter faster stronger. 

MS: Diving in seems almost like the best way to describe the narrative structure of your book, Seth. Maybe that’s also an apt way to describe a debut novel, from a successful literary agent no less. What made you dive in as a writer, here and now?

SF: A ‘debut author’ is a deceptive term. Most writers have books and stories in drawers that have never seen the light of a bookstore shelf. I’ve been writing as a hobby since I was fourteen, and The Well’s End was the culmination of years of false starts and craft-building. Debuts are really just a longtime writer’s chance to finally meet an audience. Despite the fact that I represent some amazing authors as a literary agent, and have seen them go through publications of their own books, this still feels entirely new and exciting and, in some ways, terrifying.

MS: I really loved your book: what else should I read? What goes next to The Well’s End on your imaginary shelf? For that matter, what would Mia Kish’s favorite books be?

SF: That’s a great question (and I’m so glad you loved the book)! It’s hard for me not to think of the books that influenced me when I was a teenager when creating Mia, which is, I understand, potentially problematic to a modern audience, so I’d say she’d have a nice mix. Jitterbug Perfume by Tom Robbins, Hardboiled Wonderland and the End of the World by Haruki Murakami, Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card (I know, I know, borrow someone’s copy or go to the library), and aside from the two titles mentioned above, Laini Taylor and Leigh Bardugo and, ahem, a certain Icons series are really wonderful. Finally, I’d think that Mia would be open to having amazing graphic novels like Saga by Brian K. Vaughn or Fables by Bill Willingham. If you want a good thriller, read Lexicon by Max Barry (though I don’t see that on Mia’s shelf, not as much as, say Prep or The Secret History).

MS: When can we get our hands on the next one?

SF: Ha. Ask my editor! She has it in her hands as we speak! Should be out one year after The Well’s End.

 

 



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Friday, February 21, 2014

The Quadruple Threat: B.J. Novak



One More Thing"Imagine if George Saunders weren't a genius."

Writer-Producer-Actor-Comedian B.J. Novak stops by the Amazon.com offices to talk about writing, the influence of The Office on his work, and the authors that made the largest impact on his life. Also, One More Thing: Stories and Other Stories, his debut collection of funny, absurd, and sometimes gloriously strange short stories and vignettes.

Watch to the end of the video to see Novak read Discussion Questions from the book.

 

 



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Thursday, February 20, 2014

Drinks with Kevin Roose, Author of "Young Money"



Young_money

The financial crisis of 2008 not only changed the landscape for banks and investment firms, but also spoiled the reputations they once maintained. And still, places like Goldman Sachs, JP Morgan, and Credit Suisse were able to recruit some of the Ivy League's best and brightest. For three years, New York Magazine writer Kevin Roose followed a handful of young analyst's at Wall Street's top investment firms, detailing the lives of first- and second-year bankers in Young Money: Inside the Hidden World of Wall Street's Post-Crash Recruits (one of our Best of the Month picks for February).

I met Roose at the bar of the Bull and Bear Steakhouse. As the hotel bar of the historic Waldorf Astoria, it is exactly the sort of place one could imagine Wall Street high-rollers. The bar is elegant but dimly lit; we settled into the deep leather lounge chairs and talked about Young Money, how Roose befriended the subjects of his book, and where those bankers might take us drinking.

Why did you pick this bar?

I picked it because it's Wall Street themed, and it's in the hotel I'm staying in. It's got this nice '80s Wall Street vibe. I feel like Gordon Gecko is going to come sit down right next to us. It's thematically appropriate.

So tell me about the book.

I followed eight first and second-year Wall Street bankers at firms like Goldman Sachs and JP Morgan for three years. I was curious and fascinated by these people who entered the financial sector after the crash of 2008. I had so many questions: who are these people, what do they do, and why are they still in this industry after such a cataclysm?

I went out drinking with them, I went to their homes, I spent the better part of three years following them around and learning about their lives. Ultimately, I think I got a pretty good idea of what goes on in the trenches of Wall Street.

Where did you find these people? And actually, what I really want to know, is why were they willing to divulge so much of their life to you?

It's a fascinating question. These people never talk to the media because they're not allowed to. Their firms all train them very carefully to not give quotes to the press. So I had to convince them to take their careers and put them on the line. It was a process. It took many months. I went to networking events, I went to terrible bars in Murray Hill, I went to my network and got friends of friends and eventually found good people that represented a good cross-section of Wall Street.

A lot of them were hesitant at first. They had to warm up to me and realize I was not going to ruin their lives and end their careers. I gave them all anonymity to protect them that way. And eventually, it changed. We became close and they started divulging things that were very deep and personal. In some ways, it was like therapy for them. I was their sounding board.

But in the beginning, I got rejected a lot.

Do you think a lot of the reason they're willing to tell you so much is because they're largely unhappy in their finance jobs?

Some of them were unhappy. But some of them were quite happy — once they got over the initial learning curve they were fine. Part of why they were willing to talk was venting and having a space to be able to do that. Part of it was that they sensed that not only was this an important time in their lives, but an important reflection point for the country and the financial sector. What Wall Street went through in 2008 is something it has never gone through and may never go through again. To be in the trenches, to be the infantry after something like that is an experience they recognized was important. So they wanted to tell those stories.

There's also a little bit of narcissism. Everyone likes being written about even if their real name isn't being used.

Do you think finance will ever attract these same kinds of people? You would think that people would be repelled by finance, especially given its reputation right after 2008, but it seems like these firms still had an easy time getting kids into these jobs.

Yes and no. The numbers have stayed steady — firms are still getting tons of applications. But if you look at the stats at the top schools, the classic Wall Street recruiting schools — Princeton, Penn, and Harvard — the number of graduates going into finance has significantly gone down since the crash. That's not just a product of the firms getting smaller; it's that more people are going into tech or Teach for America or exploring other opportunities. In one sense, these firms still exist: they're still hiring thousands of people a year out of college. But I don't think they have the [same] cache and don't serve as the catch-all for Ivy League seniors that they used to.

Should the finance industry feel threatened by tech, another industry that attracts a lot of people because the money's good, it's sexy, there's some semblance of a work/life balance?

Absolutely. Of the people I followed, a majority of them wanted to work in tech at some point in their banking careers. I think Wall Street should be very worried about tech because it provides all the things that Wall Street used to provide. It's good money, it's culturally sexy, as you said. I think someone said the new status jobs aren't at Goldman Sachs: they're at Google and Apple and Facebook.

To the extent that all these companies are drawing from the same pool of talented credentialed young people, Wall Street's loss is Silicon Valley's gain.

I know all the people are anonymous in the book, but have they reacted to the book itself?

I had lunch with one of them today, actually. In general, this was a very painful time in their lives. These young bankers work incredibly hard. They work past the point at which we would expect people to quit. There's the "banker 9-to-5," when you work from 9 a.m. to 5 a.m. the next morning. These are really intense, high-pressure jobs. These guys don't look back fondly on those years.

For a lot of them, [they suffer] PTSD when they read something like the book. They've all read it. They generally all found it accurate, the characterizations of themselves accurate. But these are tough things to re-live.

One thing that I was surprised about the book is how empathetic you made all these people. They're all young and working very hard. The book spans the leap from when they're starting out to when they're moving into more senior positions. How come when they stick it out, they aren't the culture to make it more pleasant for the new people?

The cultural apparatus on Wall Street is so strong. And the lessons that are being taught to young analysts are largely the same lessons taught to them before the crash. When it comes down for today's young people to teach the next generation of bankers, they might still be teaching the same kinds of things, which is really unfortunate. I hope that's not the case, but I think the change is going to have to come from the people at the top, from the people who are setting the policy and work environment — CEOs, heads of HR.

They're already doing some of this: at some banks they've now said young workers are supposed to take the weekends off to avoid burnout. But when you actually talk to people at the banks and the people that I followed, they said it doesn't change anything. The weekdays just become much more painful to make up for it.

My goal was not necessarily sympathize with young bankers, but it was just to humanize them. To say, These are people, they're not the Wolf of Wall Street, they're just 22-year-olds who graduated a month ago and are thrust into this cultish environment. Following them around for so long helped me understand that not only are they real people [instead of] caricatures, but that they didn't necessarily all think of themselves of bankers, even if their business card said "investment banker analyst."

People accepted and didn't accept the culture that was handed to them in various degrees.

If we were going out drinking with them, would we come to a place like this?

No. This is where the CEOs would go. First of all, we'd be in Murray Hill at a bar like Brother Jimmy's or Joshua Tree — some bar where there are beer pong tables in the back. We would be drinking shots, maybe. There's this thing I learned about through following these guys called the Bear Fight, which is when you drink an Irish Car Bomb and then a Jaeger Bomb right away.

And people live through this?

Yeah, most do. They can put it down.

We might also be doing a Shot Ski. It's when you take an Alpine ski and put five shot glasses in it, line up five people, and tip it over. We might be having a much wilder night. But hey, the night is young.



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Wednesday, February 19, 2014

2014 Newbery Honor Winner: Kevin Henkes on "The Year of Billy Miller"



YrBillyMiller300I'm fascinated by watching illustrators draw, and award-winning author/illustrator Kevin Henkes graciously agreed to have a chat about The Year of Billy Miller AND draw one his most beloved characters, Lilly (Lilly's Purple Plastic Purse, among others) on camera when we met up at Book Expo America.  

When I say that Henkes is an award-winning author, I don't mean it lightly--he's won the Caldecott Medal for Kitten's First Full Moon, a Caldecott Honor for Owen, a Newbery Honor for his middle grade novel, Olive's Ocean, and this year he took home two awards: a Newbery Honor for his latest book, The Year of Billy Miller and a Geisel Honor for Penny and Her Marble, the third book in his new beginning reader series.  Henkes is truly a jewel of the children's book world, and a delightful, down-to-earth guy who was really fun to meet and talk to.  We chatted about how he decides which format to write next, where the story for Billy Miller came from in his own life, and about the fact that he's never had a main character that was a dog.  You can watch him draw in the first video below, and the second is our conversation before and after.

 

 

 



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Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Spotlight Interview: Lisa Moore, Author of "Caught"



MooreLisa Moore, the best Canadian writer you’ve never heard of, lives and writes in Newfoundland, in the rugged northeast corner of North America, closer to Greenland than New York. The quirky characters and history of her remote province have inspired her celebrated short stories and novels, which have been nominated for numerous literary awards, including the Man Booker Prize.

Moore’s latest, Caught, published last year in Canada and shortlisted for the Giller Prize, was recently selected by Amazon’s editors as a Best Book of the Month “Spotlight” pick.

Speaking from her home in downtown St. John, Moore explained how the true story of 1970s Newfoundland pot smugglers inspired Caught, which features a likeable escaped convict named David Slaney, who traverses the continent en route to another drug deal that, he hopes, might redeem him.

Moore grew up hearing the stories about the local drug runners who tried to smuggle bales of pot into Newfoundland, stories full of awe and bravado that elevated the smugglers to folk hero status. In creating David Slaney, Moore also found herself admiring her character’s chutzpah, so at odds with a staid 1970s Newfoundland society built around fishing.

Caught“I kind of fell in love with him,” she said of Slaney. “He’s much more adventurous than I am. I sort of want to be like him.”

In Moore’s hands, Slaney comes across as a decent man with a hunger for a better life, willing to take huge risks to taste freedom. She found herself rooting for her potentially doomed character. “He had a vision,” she said. “A vision that ran counter to the status quo.”

The book’s title refers to the many ways in which her characters--Slaney’s co-conspirator, Hearn, his pursuer, detective Patterson, and the beautiful young Ada—are “caught.”

“Everyone comes to terms with not hitting the mark, not really being free,” she said.

As her characters make compromises and come to terms with the limits on their freedom, the questions she tried to explore were: Is the pursuit of an unfettered life worth the risks? Can it be achieved alone, or can we only be free if we trust others to help us?

“The book is about freedom, but also about trust,” she said.

Moore spent four years on Caught, about the same amount of time each of her five novels has taken. Over the years, while raising two children, she’s learned to write “on the fly”—writing in notebooks in cafes, in the line at the bank, while traveling, early in the morning.

She’s currently working on a collection of short stories.

~

> See all of Lisa Moore's books



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Friday, February 14, 2014

Guy Kawasaki Reviews Barry Eisler’s "Graveyard of Memories"



51OnO463a2LGuy Kawasaki is the author of APE: Author, Publisher, Entrepreneur; What the Plus!; Enchantment; and nine other books. Previously, he was the chief evangelist of Apple. Kawasaki has a BA from Stanford University and an MBA from UCLA as well as an honorary doctorate from Babson College.

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There are some things in life that you don’t want to end. Massages, Thanksgiving dinner, and Steve Jobs product introductions are in this group. If you’re into thrillers, I would add Graveyard of Memories.

Seriously, this book is insanely great—especially if you’re a Japanese-American like me who isn’t offended by a racial stereotype of stone-cold, martial-arts, samurai-assassin Japanese people. Steve Jobs taught me that it’s better to be feared than loved, anyway.

If you want to savor Graveyard for as long as possible, read every article and watch every video that Barry included in the Acknowledgments before you read the book. By doing this, you’ll learn about paraplegic sex, gun versus knife killing range, flying-triangle strangles, and killing people by electrocution according to Dartmouth.

Then, when you read the book, you’ll have a much better appreciation of what’s going on. It’s like the difference between drinking regular coffee and artisanal coffee—which is another thing you’ll learn about. Rain makes all this action Child’s play. After I read Graveyard, I wanted to go on a tour of Tokyo to visit all the spots that John Rain hung out—up for Raincaching, anyone?

And be sure to pay attention to a character called Gai Kawasaki because he isn’t killed off. Like the Terminator, maybe he’ll be back. Come to think of it, What are the odds that Barry would name a character Gai Kawasaki? I am just so happy that he didn’t name the medical student in the morgue Gai Kawasaki…you’ll see why.



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Wednesday, February 12, 2014

10 Immortal Gifts Between Writers and Their Beloveds



Writers-CoversTo celebrate this amorous season, Shannon McKenna Schmidt and Joni Rendon, authors of Writers Between the Covers: The Scandalous Romantic Lives of Legendary Literary Casanovas, Coquettes, and Cads, present the 10 most memorable gestures of affection between writers and their lovers (including one that was mistakenly--and scandalously--delivered to the wrong woman).

 

1. Gustave Flaubert

Flaubert gave a whole new meaning to the idea of re-gifting in his novel Madame Bovary.

A heartfelt token he had received from his longtime mistress Louise Colet—a cigar holder engraved with the words “Amor nel cor” (Love in the heart)—inspired Emma Bovary to bestow a seal with the same motto on her rakish lover. The fictional rogue later breaks off their relationship in a letter he cruelly marks with the romantic insignia.

 

2. John Keats

The Romantic poet fell in love with the girl next door, Fanny Brawne, only to be parted from her by illness. Keats hoped a short stay in Italy would bolster his health, never imagining the parting gifts the couple exchanged would be their last.

He gave Fanny his cherished Shakespeare folio with personalized notes written in the margins, while she lined his traveling cap with silk and presented him with a lock of her hair.

 

Author-Shakespeare

3. William Shakespeare

When the Bard passed away, he ignited a four-hundred-year controversy by leaving his “second-best” bed to his wife, Anne. The perceived snub led many to speculate that his marriage had been unhappy.

But contrary to appearances, the bequest was probably a romantic gesture rather than a slight. Tudor custom dictated the best bed be reserved for guests, while the second-best bed would have been the one on which Anne conceived their children.

 

Author-Margaret-Mitchell Margaret-Mitchell-Typewrite4. Margaret Mitchell

The aspiring writer received more than tea and sympathy from her husband while she was housebound recovering from a car accident.

He presented her with a secondhand typewriter and a sheaf of paper, saying: “Madam, I greet you on the beginning of a great new career.”

By then Mitchell had read most of the books at the library, and her husband insisted she try writing one of her own. Taking up his challenge, she set to work on her masterpiece, Gone with the Wind.

 

Invisible-woman5. Charles Dickens

The Victorian novelist should have chosen his jeweler more carefully. When he ordered a bracelet inscribed to his mistress, Nelly Ternan, it was accidentally delivered to his wife instead.

The misdirected gift was the last straw in a string of indignities. Catherine Dickens finally left her philandering husband, engulfing him in a sea of scandal.

 

Author-Henry6. O. Henry

When the struggling scribe saved up money for his wife to attend the Chicago World’s Fair, she took the cash but never boarded the train. Instead she used the gift to spruce up their sparse cottage with muslin curtains and wicker chairs.

Later, while her husband was on the lam avoiding embezzlement charges, she made a lace handkerchief and auctioned it for twenty-five dollars in order to send him a Christmas care package. Her generous acts inspired his tale “The Gift of the Magi.”

 

7. Jack Kerouac

Edie Parker’s wedding gift to Jack Kerouac was bail money. She tapped into her inheritance to spring him from the slammer, with the stipulation that they tie the knot. The pair swapped vows while he was handcuffed to a police detective, after being arrested as a material witness in a murder investigation. Not surprisingly, the hasty nuptials ended in divorce six months later.

 

Hemingway The-farm-19228. Ernest Hemingway

Struggling writer Hemingway hit up friends for cash to buy his wife, Hadley, an impressive gift: Joan Miró’s oil painting The Farm.

A roll of the dice between Hemingway and an acquaintance decided who had dibs on buying the coveted canvas, which the novelist victoriously toted home to Hadley in a taxi.

Today The Farm is on display at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C.

 

9. George Sand

The stormy two-year liaison between French novelist George Sand and dissolute poet Alfred de Musset was rife with quarrels, breakups, and tearful reunions. When their relationship finally fell apart for good, Sand said farewell with a dramatic parting gesture. Like the heroine in her novel Indiana, she cut off her dark, waist-length hair and sent it to Musset in a skull.

10. Robert and Elizabeth Barrett Browning

The honeymoon phase was still going strong three years after Elizabeth Barrett Browning defied her tyrannical father to marry Robert and elope to Italy. On their third anniversary, she presented her beloved with forty-four sonnets she had secretly penned during their clandestine courtship. Among the intimate love poems is number 43, which begins with the now-famous lines “How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.”

-- Shannon McKenna Schmidt and Joni Rendon are the authors of Writers Between the Covers and Novel Destinations: Literary Landmarks from Jane Austen’s Bath to Ernest Hemingway’s Key West. Joni lives in London; Shannon is a full-time traveler. They can be found at www.NovelDestinations.com.

 



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Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Fitness Guru Tony Horton on "The Big Picture"



Tony3When I moved to Seattle in 2008, I was a self-employed writer, struggling to finish my next book. I had no friends, I worked long hours in a basement prone to flooding, and I quickly learned that Seattle summers are beautiful but short, that running in the rain gets old fast. So I made a new friend, Tony Horton, whose infomercials for his P90X workout DVDs were late-night TV staples. Those DVDs--some weightlifting, some yoga, some goofy banter--became my constant companions, the most "human" interaction I'd have all week. (My kids: "Where's dad?" My wife: "Downstairs with Tony.") With Tony's help, I beat the dreary Seattle winter blues. I learned the power of the pushup and the pullup, and how a good workout and a good night's sleep could help me finish a book.

Now, Tony's got a book of his own (that's him on the left, not me), which I was thrilled to find inside recent mailing from Harper Collins. It's the first time he's written about the broader philosophy behind his popular fitness workouts. And it's one of our Best Books of the Month in business & leadership. Now 55, and looking as buff as ever, he spoke to us via email about The Big Picture.

In a nutshell, describe your goal for writing this book... Who did you write this for? Who’s your target audience?

TonyI wrote this book for that massive demographic of people who are doing nothing and wasting their time with things that don't work. I'm providing simple rules that inspire you to stay accountable. At the same time, I wrote it for the people who might already be well on their way in some ways, but need a little fine-tuning in others. This demographic includes a lot the folks who’ve discovered fitness using my programs, like P90X, P90X2, P90X3, and TMT. Are the physical aspects of your life working? Great! Let’s work on the mental and emotional—and while we’re at it, let’s put some thought into your bigger role on this spinning blue marble called Earth. So, to paraphrase John Fogerty, I wrote a book for everyone--except maybe the Dalai Lama, Malala Yousafzai and a few other enlightened souls. They don’t really need my help.

I think it’ll be reassuring for readers to learn that you’ve had your share of challenges and setbacks. Was this difficult to share, or are you comfortable discussing your personal journey?

Absolutely! This is the book I've wanted to write for ten years. Anybody and everybody these days can write a diet book or an exercise book. If those books comprehensively changed lives then I wouldn't have had to write this one. The problem is, they just provide one, maybe two keys for a door with many, many locks. I wanted to write something that bridged the gap between fitness and self-help. If I had to dig deep and use my own story to illustrate that, so be it. Lead by example, I say!

Your success seems to be a perfect example of perseverance. Have you always had confidence that you’d find your way? Or, like most folks, did you have your periods of wallowing? Sadness?

Sure. Like any life, there was some sadness. I wouldn't say I was wallowing in it but I had my ups and downs well into my early 40s. But the formula came together about that time I began to follow my own rules. When that happened, everything got better. In a way, this goes back to your previous question. I’m not afraid to share the darker aspects of my past with other people who are sad. Hopefully, it’ll help them cut back on the wallowing. The Big Picture is a wallow-free zone!

Was there an “aha” moment when you learned that having a plan could make all the difference?

Probably around the time my first big workout program Power90 hit, but it wasn’t an “aha” moment as much as a slow lifting of the fog. Things came into focus, the bits and pieces of the plan were solidified, the struggle diminished, and the confidence and success were realized. It was as though the plan had been there all along, but it went from an intuitive thing to a tangible set of rules.

This is your first non-workout book – can you describe the difference between being a fitness coach to, sort of, a life coach?

Being a fitness coach comes relatively easy to me. It always has. But with the increased responsibility of becoming a life coach there's a lot more pressure to get it right! That said, I’ve discovered that a lot of what I teach people about fitness can apply across the board, so that’s a big help. For example, finding balance (law 9) is crucial for fitness. I’m talking muscle balance, aerobic/anaerobic balance, core balance, the usual deal. But how’s the balance in the rest of your life? Are you balancing relationships with personal time? Work with play? Pushing your self with taking it easy? You need to find balance in every aspect of your life.

Tony2You strongly believe that eating well and exercising are the keys to a happy life. Can you briefly sum up your personal philosophy on the link between health and happiness?

It's very rare that people who don't move and eat garbage are as happy as they pretend to be. Yet, a vast majority of people who exercise, have a sense of adventure, use their body in interesting ways, and consume the right foods to feed the organs and the brain, they're living authentic, interesting, productive, altruistic lives.

Do you think habits and healthy routines are keys to achieving success with your 11 laws? Why do you think many Americans seem more addicted to bad habits than good ones?

For part one, the answer is yes, absolutely, but it’s hard to achieve for a vast majority of people. As for part two, bad habits are easy and discipline is hard—and “easy” is where people gravitate. A good work ethic requires a painstaking daily effort. Easy typically leads to a life long list of problems but the discipline of having a plan leads to an extraordinary rewarding life. In the long run, the easy way makes life harder and the harder way makes life easier.

How many times a day would you estimate you say (out loud or in your head) “do your best, forget the rest”?

That’s my number one rule! I would say it depends on the day. If I'm with a large group of people who've done one of my programs, I’d say 20 times, at least. But typically, if I'm not shooting a workout or speaking to a large group, once or twice a day.

 



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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.



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Monday, February 10, 2014

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.


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"The Southern Reach Trilogy: Annihilation" by Jeff VanderMeer



51iOjUPf6tLJeff VanderMeer has been a longtime contributor to Omnivoracious.com, so when we heard he had a new book coming out, we were excited to read it. Of course, there's always that concern of "what if it's not that good?" But in this case, those concerns quickly flew out the window. It's even a Best of the Month selection for February.

Below is a photo-essay from Jeff. Enjoy.

------------------------------------

This year, FSG is publishing my Southern Reach trilogy, starting with Annihilation this month, then Authority in May and Acceptance in September. The trilogy chronicles the attempts of a secret government agency, the Southern Reach, to decipher the meaning of a place called Area X. For thirty years, Area X has remained mysterious, remote, and concealed by the government—to all appearances pristine wilderness. For thirty years, too, the Southern Reach has sent expeditions into Area X to try to discover the truth. Some expeditions have suffered terrible consequences. Others have reported nothing out of the ordinary.

The first novel, Annihilation tells the story of the twelfth expedition—through the eyes of a nameless biologist. Their mission is to chart the wilderness, take samples, and expand the Southern Reach’s understanding of Area X. But they soon find out that the information given to them about Area X is incomplete or inaccurate, and that they are being manipulated by forces both strange and all too familiar. An old abandoned lighthouse and a tunnel plunging into the ground hold secrets none of them are prepared to face. A moaning in the distance at dusk seems to have no natural cause.

The second novel, Authority, examines the problem of Area X from within the Southern Reach, through the eyes of John Rodriguez, aka “Control,” who takes over as director of the agency and begins to investigate the fate of the twelfth expedition. Acceptance, the third novel, chronicles the Southern Reach’s increasingly desperate efforts to find answers while bringing the reader back into Area X, albeit under much-changed circumstances.

The exact location of Area X is left vague, but it’s based in part on my hiking in North Florida’s Panhandle region, much of which contains a rich ecosystem of swamp, marsh, pine forest, lakes, and coastal habitats. It’s a place you can get lost in, which is rare these days, and it’s unbelievably beautiful as well. There actually is a lighthouse out at the St. Marks’ Wildlife Refuge, too.

So when Omni asked if I’d give readers some teasing glimpses into the Southern Reach and Area X, I thought it made sense to pair a brief abridged excerpt from each novel with images from the region—all of which are by Tallahassee photographer Riko Carrion.

Omni-VanderMeer--1-a
From Annihilation: The biologist, setting off for the lighthouse after the disappearance of two expedition members…

“Now a strange mood took hold of me, as I walked silent and alone through the last of the pines and the cypress knees…It was as if I traveled through the landscape with the sound of an expressive and intense aria playing in my ears. Everything was imbued with emotion, awash in it, and I was no longer a biologist but somehow the crest of a wave building and building but never crashing to shore. I saw with such new eyes the transition to the marsh, the salt flats. As the trail became a raised berm, dull, algae-choked lakes spread out to the right and a canal flanked it on the left. Rough channels  of water meandered out in a maze through a forest of reeds…islands, oases of wind-contorted trees, appeared in the distance like sudden revelations...The quality of light upon this habitat, the stillness of it all, the sense of waiting, brought me halfway to a kind of ecstasy.”

 

Omni-VanderMeer-2-a
From Authority: The director of the Southern Reach, watching the video from a failed expedition into Area X…

The wreckage of the old walls formed deeper shadows against the sky, and he could just see the wide line that was the stone path running through. In the foreground, a woman, the expedition leader, was shouting, “Get her to stop!” Her face was made a mask by the light from the recorder and the way it formed such severe shadows around her eyes and mouth. Opposite, across a kind of crude fire-burned picnic table a woman, the expedition leader, shouted “Get her to stop!” “Please stop!” “Please stop!” A lurch and spin of the camera and then it steadied. The person holding the camera began to hyperventilate, and Control recognized the sound he had heard before was a kind of whispered breathing with a shallow rattle threading through it. Not the wind at all. The woman on the left of the screen then stopped shouting and stared into the camera. The woman on the right also stopped shouting, stared into the camera. An identical fear and pleading and confusion radiated from the masks of their faces toward him, from so far away, from so many years away. He could not distinguish between the two manifestations, not in that murky light.

Then, sitting bolt upright, even knowing what was to come, Control realized it was not dusk that had robbed the setting behind them of any hint of color. It was more as if something had interceded on the landscape, something so incredibly large that its edges were well beyond the camera’s lens. In the last second of the videotape, the two women still frozen and staring, the backdrop seemed to shift and keep shifting…

 

Omni-Vandermeer--3-a
From Acceptance, an expedition passing by the lighthouse once more…

The lighthouse rose from fog and reflections like a mirror of itself, the beach gray and cold, the sand rasping against the hull of the boat as they abandoned it in the shallows. The waves came in small and half-curling like the froth of malformed questions. The lighthouse did not resemble her memory of it, for its sides had been scoured by fire, discoloration extending all the way to the top, where the lens, the light within, lay extinguished. The fire had erupted from the landing windows as well, and in combination with the bits of broken glass, and all of the other talismans human beings had rendered up to it over the years, gave the lighthouse the appearance of something shamanistic. Even the haphazard wall put up by long-dead defenders contributed to the impression that it was hiding, in a useless attempt to fit in with its surroundings. Reduced now to a daymark for their boat, the simplest of its functions, the one task that, unperformed, made a lighthouse no longer of use to anyone. “Burned by the border commander,” they had been told. “Burned because they didn’t understand it—and the journals with it.”

Did the journals remain regardless, reconstituted, were they now to enter, walk up into the light room, undo the trap door, stare down as had the biologist? Would the reflected light from those frozen accounts irradiate their thoughts, contaminate their dreams, forever trapped by that vision? Or would they find just a mountain of ashes? She did not want to find out.

 



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Author Michael Connelly on Bringing Harry Bosch to the Screen



Black-echoIn 1992, a seasoned crime reporter named Michael Connelly published his first novel, the story of a body in a drainpipe, a bank robbery, and police corruption, based partly on a true crime that had occurred in LA. Featuring Hieronymous "Harry" Bosch, a Vietnam vet turned LAPD detective, The Black Echo won the Edgar Award for Best First Novel, established Connelly as a new voice in the mystery/thriller world and Bosch as one of the more complex characters in modern crime fiction.

Now, more than a dozen novels later, Bosch is coming to the little screen. Amazon Studios has produced the first episode in a hoped-for series entitled Bosch, co-written by Connelly and with Titus Welliver (who has also appeared in Argo and The Good Wife) as Connelly's maverick detective. In the pilot, Bosch investigates the murder of a 13-year-old boy while facing accusations that he, too, is a murderer.

The pilot episode is available for free to Amazon Prime members. (More Amazon Studios pilots are available for viewing at AmazonOriginals.com; Amazon solicits votes from viewers to determine which pilots will become a series.) Bosch is already finding an audience: the pilot has received more than 3,000 five-star ratings.

Recently, we spoke with Connelly by email to find out how it feels to see Bosch brought to life.

~

ConnellyYou’ve been down this road before, with The Lincoln Lawyer. But Bosch is your man, your best-known character. Any parental concerns about setting him loose onto the screen?

There were many concerns initially. My process in the past was to do due diligence on the producers interested in my stuff and then hand it off to the people I thought most likely to be loyal to it. That worked very well with The Lincoln Lawyer. But with Bosch I had a twenty-year investment of creativity and he is really the character I am all about as an author. So when it came to making a deal my terms were pretty simple and unalterable: If you want Bosch you have to take me, too, and I am going in to safeguard how this character will be presented and I am going to have a say in every decision I want to have a say in. I got lucky and found a partner who said that’s a deal, we want you to have a say.

Describe your role in the process. As executive producer, did you sit on set and drink coffee, or were you actively involved in the development (in addition to the writing)?

I was very involved in most dimensions of the project. It began with the writing but went into casting, production, locations. I was the one who suggested Titus Welliver as an actor to play Bosch. I found every location in the opening sequence, right down to the house the suspect Harry is following comes out of. So it was really great because I was not demanding to do these things. I was invited. The showrunner, Eric Overmyer, and our fellow executive producer, Henrik Bastin, wanted this level of involvement from me. We want readers of the books to look at this and feel it is right in line with the books.

There are risks to bringing a well-known character to TV or film. (See Tom Cruise as Jack Reacher). What was your biggest fear about the page-to-screen translation?

You know what’s weird is that I had so much involvement in all aspects of this that it left me without an out. If people don’t like it or the critics trash it, I can’t point the finger and say Hollywood ruined my book. I have to point the finger at myself because what we did here is what I want. I regret nothing about this pilot or the choices we made. I think it’s a loyal and pretty wonderful adaptation of Harry Bosch and his Los Angeles. So to me the risk is what if I am wrong. But it’s still a risk I am willing and happy to take.

Bosch2I’m sure there’s never a perfect match between an author’s image of his hero, and the actor’s portrayal. But is there anything about Bosch that you thought Titus Welliver particularly captured?

The biggest challenge of this whole thing was making the jump from a very internal character on the page to an actor on screen that can communicate those internal goings on. Harry doesn’t say a lot in the books, but he feels a lot and he observes and thinks a lot. How do we get that on the screen without Harry talking and describing his every thought? It was hard but I think we found the answer in Titus. I knew it from the first day I met him. From the first hour. He has an internal intensity that comes out in subtle ways but it does come out. His look doesn’t necessarily match the Harry of the books. His eyes are not piercingly dark but those eyes are metaphor in the books. Here we have the real thing, a flesh and blood character whose eyes certainly convey that inner darkness and pain and resolve. There is a lot going on there and that’s what I wanted. I think in just this one episode he has taken on an ownership of Bosch and I am really looking forward to seeing where he goes with it. In fact, I can’t wait.

BoschFinally, do you have any favorite book-to-screen detectives or other characters?

I think number one on my list is the controversial portrayal of Philip Marlowe by Elliott Gould. I loved The Long Goodbye (1973) and watch it every year. Another one I watch is Steve McQueen as Bullitt (1968) which many people don’t realize was based on a book. I also love the 1980 adaptation of Joseph Wambaugh’s The Black Marble in which Robert Foxworth played the ne’er do well Sgt. Valnikov. I thought that was great and he was perfect. There’s Paul Newman as Harper (nee Archer in the Ross MacDonald books). More recently I thought Russell Crowe’s embodiment of Bud White in L.A. Confidential was a fantastic realization of the character in James Ellroy’s novel. I could go on and on. I love it when a character from a crime novel really comes to life on film. Last one: William Petersen as Will Graham in Manhunter (1986), based on the Thomas Harris novel Red Dragon.



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