TKE Takes 5 with Matt Richtel

June 14, 2011

by Paula Longhurst

Matt Richtel’s first novel, Hooked was published in 2007, since then he’s been busy authoring a syndicated comic strip (under the pen-name Theron Heir), winning a Putlizer prize for a New York Times series he wrote on distracted driving and working on his second just-published novel Devil’s Plaything which made KUER’s recent summer must-read list.

Matt took time out from his hectic promotional schedule to give The King’s English (TKE) an interview.

TKE: How long have you been working on Devil’s Plaything and did technology have to catch up to make the story work?

Matt Richtel: Three years. I had a sophomore slump in the sense that Hooked, my first book, poured out of me in five months. A very efficient muse, that one. And, to your point, technology absolutely evolved in the course of writing Devil, to my advantage. My conspiracy floats on the edge of reality and the more technology advanced, the more the conspiracy in this book neared reality. I hope that makes it chilling.

TKE: You’ve said in interviews that Nat’s character shares some of your DNA. How about the feisty character of Lane? Did she come from your imagination or is she based on a real person?

MR: My paternal grandmother, Annie, while not feisty, is a zealous liver of life. She’s also a grammar hound, much like my fictional grandmother Lane. And Annie is a great friend of mine. But Grandma Annie, far from suffering dementia, is entirely in her right mind. At 94! She’ll kick your rear at online scrabble, honest.

TKE: When asked to describe the role technology plays in your life you’ve been quoted as saying ‘balanced, with borderline troubling tendencies.’ Have you scaled back on the multi-tasking as a result of writing Devil’s Plaything?

MR: Yes and no. My writing of Devil’s Plaything dovetailed with lots of research I’ve done into the topic of heavy multi-tasking for the New York Times. It also dovetailed with me having two kids (my wife did most of the work). That research for the Times both informed the book and informed how I live my life vis-à-vis technology. I try to be more focused on a given task and, in particular, on my kids. I TRY to keep the device at arm’s length. But I can’t believe how often I sometimes check it, sneaking a peek while my kids are well within eye-shot, mid-playtime with them. Not good, daddy. Not good.

TKE: Researchers are always quoting that we only use one tenth of our brain’s storage capacity.  Do you think it’s possible that in a few generations time the human brain will have evolved to process multiple streams of information without needing any downtime?

MR: I do not. Evolution happens over many, many generations. Our brains, for sure, ADAPT to various circumstances and we’re certainly adapting now, emphasizing some skills over others. But the basic question you ask is a great one because we’re really demanding that our brains do something they’re not built to do: multi-task. The rubber is hitting the road (no distracted driving word play intended).

TKE: With all the convenience our high-tech gadgets bring, are we in danger of becoming reliant on a push-button world? Bearing in mind that the average user has no idea exactly how their mobile devices work or what information they are collecting about us.

MR: I hear parents talk about how their kids can’t do math but can use calculators like nobody’s business. Witness the McDonald’s clerk, pushing buttons of pictures rather than making change in his/her head. Much of this can be fairly justified by convenience. But I think that knowing underlying skills remains essential. This is a slightly different question than the one you ask about whether our data is being collected. That too is a development journalists and public policy folks and everyday citizens are rightly following closely. On the face of it, it’s scary. But it’s also nuanced. People are sharing lots of information about themselves – whether on Facebook or whatever – and they’re doing it willingly and with enthusiasm. Clearly, this is a problem when this info is used in a way that the discloser didn’t intend or was told it would be used. But that line feels murky today.

TKE: Your Pulitzer-winning New York Times series “Driven to Distraction” got the term ‘distracted driving’ into Webster’s. What do you make of Utah’s drivers?

MR:  I can’t comment on that. I don’t have enough data to be journalistically sound.

TKE: After the events of Hooked, do you still write in coffee shops?

MR:  I’m writing in one now. Hey, a woman’s putting a folded note on my table. GOTTA GO!

A Covert Affair: An Interview with Jennet Conant

April 8, 2011

By Betsy Burton

Betsy Burton: Although A Covert Affair details the lives of Julia and Paul Child, it is in some ways as much about their fellow OSS compatriot Jane Foster. Jane’s life twines through theirs from the time they join the OSS where Paul is first attracted to her, through their years in Paris. And it is Jane’s past that makes Paul of interest to the FBI during the McCarthy years. Was the idea for this book generated by all three friends or did you begin researching the Childs and discover Jane’s impact on their lives along the way?

Jennet Conant: From the start I was fascinated by what happened to the three friends. From the time they all joined the OSS to the dawning of the Cold War and rise of McCarthyism, the world they inhabited was fissured by divides. I wanted to explore the nature of friendship and loyalty and honor in those fraught times, and to be able to have two such trusted narrators as Julia and Paul made the story all the more compelling. The frenzied Communist witch hunts of the 1950s literally turned their world upside down. Many of their closest friends and colleagues– loyal OSS and State Department officers—suddenly found themselves accused of being Red spies. That two people as good, and decent and altogether unimpeachable as Julia and Paul somehow got entangled in a major spy scandal seems incredible today, but they were both thoroughly investigated and Paul came perilously close to having his career ruined. I wanted to unravel the whole complicated story, beginning with their volunteering for the OSS all the way through their time in Ceylon and China, so readers could judge for themselves what really happened: whether or not Julia and Paul were duped by Jane Foster (had she really crossed over and was leading a clandestinely divided life all along?) or whether they were all victims of a poisonous time in American politics.

BB: Julia sprang from a right-wing California family, as did Jane. War taught them both to question their parents’ politics, to think for themselves, and to view Asia through the lens of their hard-won experience. Yet as the U. S. broke promises and bungled policy, Jane was radicalized in a way that Julia never was. After your research, do you think Julia might have ended up more radicalized herself had she not met Paul and discovered her passion for food? I guess I’m asking if the differences in their responses to history can be explained more by the differences in their characters or their differing experiences?

JC: I would have to say character is destiny in this case. Jane was radicalized well before the war began. Although she and Julia were both bright girls from conservative, well-to-do California families, the similarity really ends there. Julia was very close to both her parents and basically enjoyed her “social butterfly” years before the war in Pasadena.  Jane, by contrast, was a restless malcontent and in full rebellion by her late teens. Raised in convent schools by very controlling parents, Jane went out of her way to provoke them: taking up abstract painting, joining San Francisco’s avant garde art scene, adopting a bohemian lifestyle—lovers, liquor, late nights, etc.– spouting utopian ideals, supporting socialist and Communist causes… She finally rejected her parents’ lifestyle completely by running off to Java with a Dutch diplomat. Jane wanted a life of excitement and high drama and in the end got all that she asked for and more. Julia never felt the need to rebel in the same way. She came into her own during the war, but I would say she emerged a more educated and independent thinker rather than radicalized. Her politics were shaped by her romance with the very liberal Paul and reaction against the right wing extremism and demagoguery of the post-war era. By the late 1950s she was a committed Democrat and would remain one the rest of her days.

BB: Julia, Paul, Jane, and their sidekicks in and out of the OSS are fascinating characters, but it seems as if history itself is the true protagonist in A Covert Affair. As your cast of then-young characters open their eyes and their hearts to the cultures they’re working in, we see the Indonesia of the 40s and watch the machinations of the Allies as the war winds down fueling the nationalist movements throughout Asia. As readers, we marvel at our own bumbling State Department, exasperated and amused—until the creep of suspicion and distrust that marked the 50s begins to take on the un-amusing shape of McCarthyism. The true narrative arc of the book might well be the mistakes we made as a government back then, and its theme the consequences of those long ago decisions. Despite your eye for the fascinating, quirky characters and the details that bring history to life and keep the reader riveted to the page, do you see A Covert Affair as an historical cautionary tale at its heart?

JC: I do see it as a cautionary tale. Exploiting the public’s fear –either of war, enemy infiltration or terrorist attack–is a dangerous business. Episodes of demagoguery—along with the accompanying domestic repression and censorship and detainment—have occurred periodically throughout history. Just think of the discreditable acts committed in this country in the summer of 1798, when the Federalists passed the notorious Alien and Sedition Acts and condoned waves of searches and arrests of anyone critical of the government. The Federalists were absolutely paranoid about the inroads being made by Jefferson’s Republican Party and more or less suspended the First Amendment in their efforts to defeat the opposition.  I am always interested in that kind of official hypocrisy—the gap between this country’s professed ideals and rhetoric and actual behavior. I think any student of human affairs can detect the parallels between the McCarthy era and some disturbing political trends we see today. The same motifs repeat—smug ideologues, unswerving fanatics, accusations of disloyalty and guilt by association. And it’s important to remember that the abuse of power is not particular to the Right or Left, both sides have pursued such tactics when it suited them.

BB: Your tales of derring-do and of the ever-changing relationships among your characters are so vivid that sometimes it seems as if you were there. I know Paul’s often revealing letters to his brother provided a good deal of insight into their lives, but there were obviously other first-hand sources. Can you talk about them?

JC: I wanted the book to have a very intimate tone so that readers could experience the characters’ growing anxiety about their situation, and understand what it was really like to live in fear that even the slightest rumor about Communist sympathies could stop their chances of getting a promotion or a new passport, let alone trigger an investigation that could end in disgrace and ruin. What made it possible to maintain that tone was the huge number of first-hand sources.  Paul Child’s diaries and Julia’s letters provided me with their intimate commentary on events from the beginning of the war all the way through to the end of the 1950s. I was able to weave in Jane’s thoughts and reactions throughout, based on her memoir, letters and personal papers, as well as interviews with her family. Above all, I had a built-in narrator in the person of on Elizabeth McIntosh. She was an invaluable source: not only did I have her wartime memoir as a contemporaneous chronicle of day-to-day events, but I had her at the other end of a phone every time I had a question or needed help with a scene. I would call her to ask about the weather—I’m not kidding. Elizabeth was close to Julia, Paul and Jane, entered the OSS at the same time and was with them every step of the way, so she was my touchstone. I dedicated the book to her out of gratitude for the many hours she gave to this project, and the wealth of insight and emotional truth she provided.

BB: Your portrayal of the relationship between Paul and Julia themselves is moving—its tentative nature at first, the growing attachment, the eventual bonding that seemed to grow stronger and stronger. What struck you, as you were doing your research, as the true cement that held them together? The most moving and perhaps romantic thing about them?

JC: What struck me most forcefully was that these were two very different people who were both profoundly lonely. Their romance was built, very hesitantly and over many months, on the foundation of their friendship– on their basic need for human warmth and companionship. Paul did not believe they had much in common and worried endlessly about their disparate family backgrounds, but in the end he missed Julia’s company so much he allowed his heart to overrule his head. I thought it was very touching that as the years went by they never forgot how miserable they were when they were single, and never stopped being grateful that they had found love. What made them seem like such a romantic pair was that they were always celebrating their relationship, and toasting their togetherness.

BB: If, indeed what you have written is a cautionary tale, can you talk about the lessons from history we ought to have learned and whether or not we’ve learned them? If we haven’t, can you talk about consequences in today’s world? Or is that another book?

JC: Surely the answer to those questions could fill another book! There are so many worrying trends, not the least of which is our old habit of promising democracy to people in distant corners of the globe and then failing to deliver it.  To me it seems a naïve, dangerous and delusional style of leadership. But enough said. The point I’d like to emphasize is that the reason for writing history is that there is always a chance we will learn from our past mistakes. I have enormous faith in our resilience as a country, in the strength of our Constitution, and in the ability of future generations to chart a better course.

TKE Takes 5 with Noah Boyd

February 5, 2011

by Paula Longhurst

Noah Boyd’s debut novel The Bricklayer had reviewers salivating, they called it “taut, rapid fire and relentless,” “a blistering debut” and his character Steve Vail “a new hero on the bookshelf.” Now Boyd brings us more Steve Vail in Agent X.

Boyd is more than qualified to pen Vail’s adventures. He’s a former FBI agent, and before he joined the bureau he was a Marine in Vietnam. In his 20-year career he solved several high-profile murder cases but despite a stellar track record Boyd clashed with his superiors after publishing a book unflattering to the FBI.  He retired from the bureau in 1993 and has been writing full time under the pseudonym Noah Boyd ever since.

The King’s English (TKE) got the chance to grab a brief interview with Noah.

TKE: Your bio says you work on cold cases in your spare time. Are you a member of the Vidocq Society, the group of law enforcement professionals who dedicate themselves to solving stone-cold cases?

Noah Boyd (NB): No, I’m not a member of the Vidocq Society.  For the past 13 years I have worked with a local police department on a 29-year-old serial murder case. I am fortunate because I have access to people I worked with in the FBI who are also retired and can give me expert help with things like DNA and profiling.

TKE: Where did you see the first copy of The Bricklayer on sale and what went through your head when you saw people buying it?

NB: I think the first copy of The Bricklayer I saw being sold was in the airport.  I thought about what a great marketing staff they have at William Morrow.

TKE: Do you read other authors while you’re writing a draft and if so who are your favorites?

NB: I do read while I’m writing.  I really like the big guns–Patricia Cornwell, Lee Child, James Patterson.

TKE: Both Bricklayer and Agent X give an unvarnished view of the red tape clogging up the inner workings of the FBI. Given your stellar solve rate and the clashes you had with your bosses at the bureau do you think anyone can cut through the red tape and modernize the organization?

NB: The FBI has not had any leadership for 40 years. It has become just another federal agency. As long as politicians choose the director of the FBI, it will never get better.

TKE: Your books have action movie written all over them.  If you could cast anyone as Steve Vail who would it be?

NB: My son and I both, two years apart and completely independent of one another, thought Gerard Butler would make a good Steve Vail.  Ironically, he has recently made an offer for the book. But it is Hollywood and those things don’t always work out. But we’ll keep our fingers crossed.

Novelist Jess Walter at TKE on January 26th

January 24, 2011

Jess Walter will be joining us on Wednesday, January 26.  He is the author of multiple novels, was a finalist for the National Book Award in 2006, and has tough journalist roots. The Financial Lives of the Poets was just released in paperback. We spoke to Mr. Walter recently about how things are going these days.

Can you tell us about your experience of writing The Financial Lives of the Poets? Did it feel different than your other books did?

Photo by Dan PelleSure, I’d say writing The Financial Lives of the Poets was different than the others, but  then, each one is  different from the last. I always think it will get easier, but each book is like writing your first one. With FLoP, I got Matt’s voice stuck in my head and just kept going. It was probably the shortest time I’ve ever worked on a novel, maybe seven months, once I got the voice and the general story down. It wasn’t easy–I don’t know that writing a novel could ever be easy–but it was  more enjoyable, probably, because I kept making myself laugh.

Your name is interesting, by the way. Is Jess your given name? I can’t think of what it would be short for.

No, Jess isn’t short for anything. (“Jess me” as the old knock knock joke ends.) I’m named after my grandfather, who was named after his, so it’s an old family name that goes back a few generations of dirt farmers.

Do you know that you’re a great writer? As in, you’ll be remembered and you occasionally strut when thinking about this? Given all of the glowing reviews and general warmth out there? Or do you try to stay in some state of humility that keeps you a bit existentially uncomfortable and unsure?

Ha! First, thanks. I’m not sure how to answer a question like that. I guess I live in a perpetual state of easy, comfortable self-doubt. I’ve always believed that I could write but assumed that I haven’t done anything  yet, and this keeps me waking up early and striving to write something great. Sometimes I’ll  glance over and see the books on the shelf and think, Oh, right …

How do you write? Are you always a typist? Do you sometimes revert to longhand? I’ve become more interested in this aspect of writers as time goes on because I find that most people seem to type almost exclusively now–but I myself tend to produce completely different sentences when I write in longhand. It’s as though a different set of neurons is firing.

I do both. I think I’m always writing, because my mind is almost always engaged in the business of thinking about characters and sentences and stories. Like you, I like to write in longhand, but these are mostly notes, bits of dialogue, things that occur to me. I write in a journal most days and jot things on cocktail napkins and coffee shop receipts. But most of the real work is done at a keyboard, probably because of my journalism training. I can type faster than I can write longhand, and that’s the most important part, keeping up with the firing synapses.

How do your children change your writing–the way you think?

Children change everything, I’d guess. I’ve been a dad since I was 19, much longer than I wasn’t a father. My kids might disagree, but I’d argue it’s the one thing I was naturally good at. Having children changes everything about you. It’s like going from seeing in two dimensions to three. As a person, and a writer, having children allows you to see what it’s like to be truly selfless, so that your own desires seem secondary, or even petty. That can only be good for fiction-writing, which is a very empathetic pursuit.

Are you a reviser? Or a ruthless cutter? Or something else?

Yes, yes and yes. I revise every sentence I write, as I write it. (I just rewrote that sentence–which started as “Every sentence I write gets rewritten.”) Thankfully, I live in the age of computers or I’d have to have my own forest for all the paper I’d crumple. People talk about first drafts or second drafts, but I’m constantly revising, cutting, editing. Thankfully, I have to turn the things in every couple of years or I might just go on revising them forever.

I looked you up on IMDb, and your entry is quite funny–a documentary with William Shatner, and Spokane Basketball Player #3 in a movie called “The Basket.” You’re also writing the screenplay for The Zero–do you see more movie activities/crossovers in your future? And does some small part of you want to act?

I have worked on scripts from time to time. IMDb only lists those things that have been made, so there’s a little (awful) acting, a little writing. But I don’t love screenwriting the way I love writing fiction. I’d like to see a great movie come from Citizen Vince or The Zero or Financial Lives, but I can’t ever see working full time on screenwriting. As for acting, it’s probably telling that I’ve only got the one credit.

I’ve seen several pieces in which you review your peers’ works in various publications, and they make me think of something Ray Bradbury said, which was, “I’ve always believed that you should do very little reading in your own field once you’re into it. But at the start it’s good to know what everyone’s doing.” Do you think he has a point? Or do you like to try and read everything, even now? And what do you think that ultimately does to you, if anything?

I think it would be insane to not keep up on the writing going on around you. It’s how a writer develops his voice and aesthetic sense, by reading other authors. I read the way I breathe. I don’t really wonder what it’s doing for me, or how it might translate to my own writing. I read because if there is a great book out there, by God, I want to have devoured it. As far as reviewing, I think it’s kind of the responsibility of a writer to stay engaged in a conversation over what’s being done with your art.

Do you have a literary hero? Or, alternately, a muse?

My first literary hero was Kurt Vonnegut. After that, Joan Didion for a while, and Don DeLillo. And more recently, Jonathan Lethem and David Mitchell and Zadie Smith and…  Writers tend to be a bit promiscuous with their affections–literary tramps.

What is your greatest fear? [This is kind of a James Lipton-y question.]

Power outage? Sanitation strike? Coffee shortage?

Is it terrifying to know that your JOB is full-time writer, or only wonderful?

I don’t think about it, I guess. I’ve been supporting myself since 1995, but I’ve had to do the same thing anyone does–much of what  I write or do  has been on assignment or in some other way not of my choosing. I write seven days a week and when my family goes on vacation, I get up at 6 a.m. and write. It’s not so much my job as my identity and when I had another full-time  job, I still wrote fiction at night or in the morning.

Are you as funny in person as you are on the page?

Ha! Another impossible question to answer. But I  CAN tell you that I am definitely taller in real life than I am on the page.

I often find myself talking to people who say, “I don’t read fiction,” and it surprises me less now than it used to, but it still breaks my heart. I do my best to explain how fiction has altered and improved my life, sometimes dramatically, but it often feels as though I’m one political leaning and they’re another, and there we stand. Even if we’re respectful about it, it feels as though we’re ultimately unwilling to travel over to the other side, and on both of our parts, these seem to be the kinds of biases that are planted early and deep — just as political biases often are. What do you say to people who tell you they don’t read fiction?

I know plenty of people who don’t read fiction. For some people, they can’t see the point–so much going on around them. I think it’s always been that way. The great thing about reading a novel is the way the reader’s involvement is so deep and personal. It’s like playing someone’s music–the reader has to play each of those notes in his or her own head. Some people just won’t hear that music. What can you do but celebrate the fact that you do, you hear it.

This may be kind of a chicken and egg question (that is, the answer is always and never), but how much do you think about yourself when you’re writing? Or your audience? Or is it all story thought? Does your writing help you figure out who you are, or do you already know?

Everything goes through my mind, all the time–anxieties, delusions, random facts, old girlfriend’s phone numbers. When I’m writing, though, I tend to be pretty focused on the words and the sound of the sentences and story that I’m trying to tell. Someone asked a bunch of writers once “Who do you write for?” and the answers were all over the place. Some people wrote for themselves, some for “the perfect reader,” some for their wife or their editor, but Don DeLillo gave the only proper answer… “I write for the page.” I think this is true. Everything you need is right there in front of you.

Jess Walter will be appearing at The King’s English Bookshop on Wednesday, January 26th, 7 p.m.

Honey at Home: an Interview with Marina Marchese

August 30, 2009

What better way to celebrate National Honey Month and Utah as the Beehive State than to get the low-down on honey! Author and beekeeper Marina Marchese was kind enough to talk with us about her new book, Honeybee: From Hive to Home, Lessons from an Accidental Beekeeper. Honeybee is a fascinating look at both the history and the current state of beekeeping, as well as an in-depth look at honey and other bee products in all their forms and uses.

JN: Honeybee is incredibly comprehensive–you document everything from your own experiences becoming a beekeeper, to the history of bees in culture, to recipes for food and remedies, and beyond. It’s also clearly a labor of love. How long did it take you to put it all together?

MM: Honeybee was written in a one-year period but the actual experiences and knowledge was compiled in my ten years of keeping and living with honeybees. During those years I attended beekeeping meetings around the country in between my work in China and travels to Italy. I had the opportunity to meet beekeepers, taste their amazing honeys while being exposed to the countless wisdom the honeybee had to offer. The wealth of material that I uncovered and diversity of the honeybee was overwhelming, much of it ancient. In my book, I wanted to expose as many of these facets to illustrate how the honeybee touches everyone in a unique way and I hope my writings inspire people to dig deeper and embrace the honeybee and her value to our planet.

JN: You note in the book that there is a honey revival going on in the US. What do you think started it?

MM: Across the country we’ve seen an increase in the number of farmers markets and interest in eating local foods. More and more people are raising honeybees, chickens in an effort to control the quality of their food, to know where it is coming from and to give back to the earth. It all began with the Slow Food movement in Italy and France where the quality of the food is respected and geographical regions are protected. In Europe when they harvest their wine and olive oil they also harvest their honey. Honey is highly respected as a food and medicine in other countries often found in pharmacies and even wine stores. Unfortunately, this is an unknown concept for most Americans and as the blight of Colony Collapse Disorder continues to affect our honeybees and our source of fresh foods we are forced to pay attention.

With that insight comes nature’s oldest and most ecologically friendly sweetener, esteemed honey.

JN: As a honey neophyte, I was particularly surprised to see the links between bee products and medicine. What’s the most surprising use of honey/bee products as a remedy that you’ve found?

MM: It was at a beekeeping conference that I first learned about Apitherapy: healing with the honeybee and the products of the bee hive (honey, bee pollen, propolis, royal jelly and bee venom). Hippocrates, known as the father of medicine was one of the first humans to use honey as a remedy for health and healing as the ancient Egyptians and Romans. I found all of this absolutely intriguing and as I spoke with other beekeepers around the world it became clear that using honey and other bee products were accepted as customary. When I decided to make honeybee products available through my company Red Bee, they were literally unknown to the general public and launching them required tremendous amounts of education for our customers. Generally, I am most surprised how little the honeybee and the wonderful gifts she gives us from her beehive have been celebrated here in the US when it is second nature around the world.

JN: You talk a bit in the book about making the (often difficult) transition from working for a company to being a small business owner. Has being a local, sustainable business helped make that transition easier and attracted customers? What’s been the biggest challenge?

MM: I knew early on as a young person I would be independent and follow my dreams I had no idea it would be the honeybee that would take me there. My vision for Red Bee was based upon concepts that I feel strongly about and ideas I unraveled abroad. My mission was to take honey and the other products of the hive and create one complete line that encompassed them all, something that had never really been done here in the US. Using my creative talents and design sensibilities, I was able to take bee products and package them to be user friendly and extremely appealing in a boutique style. There is a tremendous amount of education that goes into selling and marketing products and my job is more difficult because bee products are not mainstream. The first few years of selling were challenging at the markets as customers would ask what do you do with honeycomb or what is so special about the bees wax in your skin care. It was important for me to answer each and every question thoroughly until the customers were excited enough to try our products. Once they tried them, they were hooked and returned with their friends.

Motherhood, Mishaps, and Miracles: an Interview with Mary Pols

August 4, 2009

Accidentally On Purpose: The True Tale of a Happy Single Mother recounts movie critic Mary Pols’ journey to (and through) motherhood: accidentally becoming pregnant,  having the baby, becoming a single mother (and freelance writer), and working out a successful co-parenting relationship with her child’s father. This memoir is touching, funny, and a great read for professional women who are also mothers. Accidentally On Purpose has been made into a CBS sitcom starring Jenna Elfman, airing this fall — here’s a chance to “meet” the real Mary before seeing her on-screen version.

JENN NORTHINGTON: You talk about your struggle with the idea that, despite your desire to have a family, you had put your career first for too long, and you mention Hewlett’s Creating a Life as particularly nettling. Do you feel like, in the years since then, these choices have gotten any easier for women? What would you say to women dealing with this dilemma today?

Read the rest of this entry »

Driving Andre Dubus III

June 17, 2009

What could possibly be better than hosting author Andre Dubus III in your bookstore? Getting to drive him around all day!

Let me just tell you, people, that if you weren’t there at his reading last night for Garden of Last Days, you wish you were. Not only is he one of the most articulate and well-read authors I’ve encountered, but he’s an absolute riot — funny, down to earth, and incredibly genuine. This is a man who said to everyone who brought a book to be signed, “Tell me your life story,” and meant it! He’s also the kind of person that makes you want to tell them things that are probably better off untold.

I should know — I spent pretty much the whole day with him, from the airport up to Park City, back to Salt Lake to the reading and then to his hotel afterwards — and let’s just say that some of the stuff we talked about? Yeah, you will never hear those stories. Unless he puts them in writing, in which case those aren’t about me.

You can get a little taste of what he’s like by listening to his interview with Doug Fabrizio on KUER’s Radio West or reading my interview with him. If you were at the event, share your favorite moments/thoughts in the comments!