Thursday, September 20, 2018

Book Bites: Brian Tucker, author of Pokeweed

I'm always trying to spice it up with my Book Bites and today I'm bringing you not only a YA novella (though it's really for adults, too), but a YA illustrated novella. And let's just throw 'historical' in there as well, as Brian Tucker's recently released Pokeweed is set in Hazard, Kentucky, in 1888. Here, Tucker shares his thoughts on True Grit, establishing a fictional place over a span of works, and what you can learn just by heading to the library.

https://www.indiebound.org/search/book?keys=pokeweed&=Search

"Brian L. Tucker is writing about Eastern Kentucky in original and interesting ways, and Pokeweed is a perfect example of that. I'm excited about this newest book and eager for what Tucker does next. You should be, too." - Sheldon Lee Compton


What drew you to the genre you write in?

I wish I could stick to one genre! I’ve written in different mediums with each work I’ve released. My first work, Baptisms & Dogs, was a short story collection written in the fictional town of Seton, KY. I draw largely from my experiences of my hometown of Monticello. The collection was close to me, as it was constructed while working through my MFA program at the Bluegrass Writers Studio (2010-12). This work prompted me to think more about place and setting as a character. It led me to tackle my first novel, Wheelman, taking place in central Mexico (again drawing from a summer residency our MFA program took to San Miguel de Allende (2010)).

Following this, I tackled a second YA novel and went explicitly through a Christian publisher to house the action/adventure work, Swimming the Echo. Again, I based the story in Seton, KY and allowed personal stories from my childhood (growing up in cave country) to allow the reader to travel to Mammoth Cave and witness some of the behemoths situated below ground. Since this second novel, I felt challenged to try something new. After reading Robert Gipe’s illustrated novel, Trampoline, I thought “Hey, it’d be cool to try to illustrate a tale told east of Seton.” I thought long and hard about surrounding towns, and I let research become a part of what would eventually become my newest publication, Pokeweed. It’s an illustrated novella set in Hazard, KY, at a time just after the Civil War. In it, I utilize factual events of a not-so-famous feud known as The French-Eversole Feud to permeate the travails of a teen forced to reckon with the loss of his sister (gunned down by one of the feudists). Due to the shorter length, I sought out an illustrator, and the artist totally nailed the vision I had for eastern Kentucky at that time in American history. It is set for release September 20th, and I can’t wait to share it.

Who was your intended audience for the novella?

Anyone who’s ever picked up a copy of True Grit and thought, “This is fiction!” I wanted to cater to that crowd and tell a story in a new style. I couldn’t get the character, Mattie Ross, out of my head. Portis did such a fantastic job writing a character into existence, and I wanted to mimic that with illustrations and true accounts. While the main character, Z Snopes, is a teen in his own right, his story is one for everyone who’s trying to survive.


Was there something interesting you learned while researching the novella?

So many things happen when you check out a book from the library. For the sake of keeping this [interview] brief, I loved reading about the dwindling size of a town—post-Civil War. (Not for the hardships and pains Hazard, KY people underwent, but the raw realization that just two opposing clans wreaked so much havoc from their sins.) Much like the Hatfields & McCoys, this feud consisted of ever-present hatred. At one point, less than fifty people were stated as living in the city of Hazard. The fear of getting shot caused people to move elsewhere. I couldn’t imagine that type of thing happening, even with all of the recent shootings we’ve seen in the US.


What single book has been the most influential to you as a writer?

This is a tough one. Every book can lend itself to a future idea or project. Wendell Berry’s creation of Port William in all of his great books comes to mind. So does Harriette Arnow’s books, especially Hunter’s Horn and The Dollmaker. I also love anything Thomas Merton wrote.


How important is the setting in your most recent novella?

Setting has gained so much more heft to what I write. Seton, KY started as a word on the page, and it grew from there. I wouldn’t say it’s nearly as fleshed out as Berry’s Port William, but it’s become special to me with each new book. My first thought now is, “Should I bring it back home?” And I weigh the pros and cons of starting in Seton or somewhere else. It’s nice to have that spot in mind. I love my hometown, and I wouldn’t be who I am without the people God placed in that corner of the world [Monticello].

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Walk in the Fire on the Coil

Many thanks to Al Kratz and Alternating Current's The Coil Magazine for this stellar review of Walk in the Fire!


"Steph Post is on a roll with 2018’s Walk in the Fire, a sequel to last year’s Lightwood, and her third novel so far. It’s no longer sufficient to suggest Post’s work is like gritty, noir, crime writers such as Daniel Woodrell. It’s time to say the work is classic Steph Post. The catalog stands tall now."

https://medium.com/the-coil/book-review-steph-post-walk-in-the-fire-al-kratz-50ca01df5d3e

Saturday, September 15, 2018

Miraculum ARCs are here!

...And they're gorgeous. Just sayin'. :)

https://www.amazon.com/Miraculum-Steph-Post/dp/1947993410/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1537026575&sr=8-1&keywords=miraculum
 
 
 
Want to know what's inside? Check out Entertainment Weekly's feature on Miraculum for a sneak-peak at Chapter One... Oh, and pre-orders are up as well! 
 

(If you are a reviewer interested in an advanced copy of Miraculum, please contact me or Jason Pinter at Polis Books. Miraculum will be up on Netgalley soon. Many thanks!)

Book Bites: Danny Gardner, author of A Negro and an Ofay

Today, author Danny Gardner stops by to chat about his debut novel, A Negro and an Ofay (recently nominated for a Shamus Award!), now available from Down & Out Books. Here's Gardner on genre, success and taking a pause instead of giving up. Happy Reading!

https://www.amazon.com/Negro-Ofay-Tales-Elliot-Caprice/dp/1943402671/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1537017362&sr=1-1&keywords=danny+gardner

“Fans of Walter Mosley and George Pelecanos are going to devour Danny Gardner’s brilliant new book. A Negro and an Ofay breathes exciting new life into noir fiction.” —Jonathan Maberry
 
What drew you to the genre you write in?
 
It’s heyday is the 50s, a period I most identify, for many reasons.
 Are there any writers you’re jealous of?
 
No.
Were they any parts of your novel that were edited out, but which you miss terribly?
 
No, fortunately. My debut set the standard for author control in my career, God help everyone else.
Have you ever given up on a writing project?
 
Never, although several are on pause until I’ve evolved into who I must be to continue them in truth.
In your eyes, what does it mean to be a “successful” writer?
 
To have saved someone’s life and world with my work.


Friday, August 31, 2018

Book Bites: Leah Umansky, author of The Barbarous Century

I'm always excited to showcase poets, and today you're in for a real treat. Leah Umansky, author of this year's standout The Barbarous Century is here to talk about breaking down barriers with poetry, how television can be inspiring and keeping the strange in writing. Enjoy!


https://www.indiebound.org/book/9781912477050
 
"And in this book Umansky has made something wondrous indeed—something fierce, formally inventive, and unapologetic."
-Maggie Smith
 


What drew you to the genre you write in?

I’ve always loved poetry, but what draws me into poetry is the freedom. There are no rules. You can do what you want with poetry, unless you’re writing in form, but even when I write in form (which is rare) I always shake it up a bit and strange it out. The poems I love are the ones that make you feel, the ones that make you think about them, days, months later, and the ones that make you cry or laugh. What draws me into poetry is how tangible the emotions are on the page. I love that a poem can be about anything. I also love that a poem can be short or long. I also love that a poem written hundreds of years ago can still strike a chord today with readers. That’s something I really enjoy seeing, in my role as a teacher, too.


Are there any writers you’re jealous of?

Oh, there are so many writers I’m jealous of. I think it’s good to be jealous of other writers – to some degree that is – because it keeps you motivated, it keeps you engaged with your craft and of course it keeps you curious. I’m always jealous of writers that can recite their poems by heart at readings, or can recite other famous poems by memory. I’ll never be that person, though I wish I could be. I’ve only ever memorized a poem twice in my life and it was just torture. I’m also jealous of writers that write freehand. I have such a hard time with that. I need to type my poems, my fingers just type faster than my brain sometime.


Were they any parts of your collection that were edited out, but which you miss terribly?

I’m going to answer this question a bit differently. I wouldn’t say anything was edited out, but I will say that originally, the book was not in three titled sections with the middle section focusing on story and pop-culture. I think these sections shape the book nicely, and maybe that's why the book got rejected years before, because it needed that structure.
Also, there’s a long poem in the middle, “Holding,” which is a real emotional poem for me, and I almost cut that one out. It was a really hard decision. I’m glad I trusted my gut and kept it in. I’m glad I didn’t make those cuts.


In your eyes, what does it mean to be a “successful” writer?

I think what makes a writer “successful” is subjective. For some people it could be, publishing in a certain journal, or reading for a certain organization, or teaching at a certain college. For others, it could be being in a workshop, having a book or chapbook published, or knowing other writers. For me, being a “successful” writer is being proud of the writing I do and identifying as a writer. That took a long time for me. Sure, you can look at your achievements as milestones, but I don’t think that’s really very helpful or important. I think setting goals is important and I think being inspired is important. I feel the most successful when I am happy and inspired by an idea or concept. I feel the most successful when I meet people at readings and events who have enjoyed my work, or my reading, who are not a part of the literary community. That’s when I feel proud – when a poem reaches someone who didn’t think they would enjoy poetry – whether it’s someone at a reading or even a student in one of my 8th or 10th grade classes. When a kid enjoys a poem for the first time, it is really an amazing accomplishment. It’s like when a student realizes they LIKE Shakespeare! (He isn’t so bad, right? )
I guess the short answer here, is I think a poet is successful when we break the stigma we are always fighting against.


If you weren’t writing, what would you be doing with all of your free time?

As I said earlier, I’m a teacher, so I’m always grading or planning or trying to think of new ways to teach something. If I wasn’t writing, if I wasn’t teaching, or grading, I’d probably be checking out a lot more live music. I love concerts. I’d probably going to even more readings, watching more television, traveling more, and going to more museums because those are the things that inspire me. I try to carve out free time for myself to just enjoy all that the city has to offer but sometimes, I set too many goals for myself. Sometimes, I need to sit down and binge TV because inspiration strikes when you least expect it. I say this all the time, but it’s true: never did I ever think television would inspire me to write poetry and now, I just never know when something will get me to pause and take some notes.


To learn more about Leah Umansky, visit her website and be sure to check her out on Twitter: @lady_bronte

Sunday, August 26, 2018

Bouchercon 2018! See you there...

So, Bouchercon is only 2 WEEKS AWAY.....

Here's the scoop and where you can find me:

Bouchercon 2018
September 6-9th
St. Pete, Vinoy Renaissance

https://www.bouchercon2018.com/

Thursday:
Noir at the Bar
8:30 pm
Vinoy Bar

Friday:
Panel: The Life and Crime of Florida Man (and Woman
11am
Vinoy, Royal 1AB

Panel: Blue Collar: Writing the Working Class
1pm
Vinoy, Avery Chancellor

Saturday:
Panel: Southern Crime
3pm
Vinoy, Avery Chancellor

Book Bites: Gabino Iglesias, author of Zero Saints

If you're active at all in the indie or crime lit communities then you'll probably recognize the name of Gabino Iglesias. Novelist, columnist, editor, prolific book reviewer and champion of other writers, Iglesias can be found everywhere from Shotgun Honey to The Rumpus to The New York Times. Today, he's stopped to talk about his novel, Zero Saints, his obsession with frozen corpses on Mt. Everest, and what it means to find success. Cheers and happy reading!

https://www.amazon.com/Zero-Saints-Gabino-Iglesias/dp/1940885337


If you weren’t writing, what would you be doing with all of your free time?
Reading. All the time. Just reading.


In your eyes, what does it mean to be a “successful” writer?


I define success as being able to do what you love and find readers that enjoy and support your work. I also think contributing to any important discussion with your writing is crucial, and the more you can do that, the more successful you are. For a long time I thought that writers who find so many readers that writing becomes their full-time gig were as successful as you can be. Now I think other things matter more than money. I still want money for my work and I’m a huge advocate of authors getting paid, but finding your voice, sharing your passion with others, enjoying the friendships of writers you admire, and doing readings, to name a few things, also make me feel accomplished. 


Is there anything in the novel that you wish more readers noticed?

Yes! I tend to develop lingering obsessions with random things. For example, I’m obsessed with corpses left on Everest, strange things caught on trail cameras, and the psychological effects of solitary confinement. One of those things I obsessed about for a while is the Dyatlov Pass incident. In a nutshell, the incident happened in 1959 when the frozen bodies of a nine-member ski-hiking expedition that had gone missing weeks before in the northern Urals of the Soviet Union were found. Some of them were in their underwear and barefoot. A few of the bodies showed signs of traumatic pressure or crush injuries and one them had no tongue because it’d been ripped out. Oh, and the bodies showed small traces of radiation. Well, I took some of their names and included them in the novel. I’m still waiting for someone to point that out.


Did the novel have any alternate titles?

I worked on it and thought it’d be titled Santa Muerte. Then it struck me as too obvious and clich├ęd. Plus, it was in Spanish, and that could confuse folks even more. Then I thought Holy Death, but that’s… kinda weak and I’ve seen it before.


Are there any symbols running throughout your novel? Do readers recognize them?

There are many. I’m huge on syncretism. Many readers pick up on that. I’m really happy they do.