Friday, December 29, 2017

Book Bites: Craig Pittman, author of Oh, Florida!

Book Bites: Short and Sweet Interviews for Readers on the Go

Today, I bring you an interview with Craig Pittman- Tampa Bay Times reporter, author of Oh, Florida!: How America's Weirdest State Influences the Rest of the Country and our resident guru on all things weird, wild and wonderful about Florida (mostly the weird stuff, though). If you've ever wondered why my hometown state is, well, the way it is, Pittman's Oh, Florida! can help you out. Or, at the very least, confirm your suspicions that we're all a little nutty down here in the Sunshine State...
"Oh, Florida! is hilarious, creepy, and sobering. Craig Pittman makes the compelling argument that all of America is being warped by Florida's off-the-chart weirdness, which we eagerly export. This book should be required reading for anyone who's ever thought about moving down here, with or without a concealed weapons permit."―Carl Hiaasen
What attracted you to the genre you write in?

I write non-fiction because my day job as a reporter means I'm constantly stumbling over great stories that are also true stories. People think of non-fiction as these great massive deadly-dull tomes, but writers have a lot more freedom these days to be quirky and down-to-earth when telling true stories. I structured The Scent of Scandal to read like a mystery, with short sentences, short chapters and a teaser at the end of each chapter. In Oh, Florida! I wove in bits of memoir and bad puns while telling stories about Florida history and culture.

Are there any writers you’re jealous of?

Yes, the ones who have the time and energy to produce two books a year.

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

My original manuscript for Oh, Florida! was 100 pages longer than the one that wound up being published. My editor said she liked the material but the book was just too long, so I had to cut some things. Out went the Skunk Ape. Out went the guy who claimed he had a love affair with a dolphin. Out went a bunch of other stuff that didn't fit exactly with the theme of the chapters. Of course when I go out and talk about the book, there's always one person in the crowd who asks about one of the things I left out.

How do you handle writer’s block?

I think about my mortgage and my kid's college expenses. Clears it right up.

What piece of your own writing are you most proud of?

This year I wrote a story for the Times that I think is the definitive "iguanas pop up in Florida toilets" story. I interviewed a professional iguana trapper who has written a cookbook called Save Florida, Eat An Iguana. I expect to hear from the Pulitzer committee any day now.

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Walk in the Fire

Lightwood on Writer Types List

Many thanks to the folks over at the Writer Types podcast for sharing Lightwood as a one of the "Best Reads of 2017." If you're not already listening to this awesome podcast which features interviews with some of the best authors in the business, you need to get on it right now. Cheers and Happy Reading!

Friday, December 22, 2017

Book Bites: Erica Wright, author of All the Bayou Stories End with Drowned

Book Bites: Short and Sweet Interview for Readers on the Go

Today, I have a interview for you with a crime writer/poet: Erica Wright. I've spoken with Wright previously about her most recent crime novel, The Granite Moth, but today Wright is stopping by to answer a few questions about her most recent poetry collection, the haunting, breathtaking All the Bayou Stories End with Drowned. Cheers!
"Wright's lyricism, the fantastic juxtapositions in her diction and imagery all give us an alternate vision of our national moment. Equal parts surreal, sinister, and sincere, this is a place you definitely want to visit. It might just be the kind of place you need to live in."—Jaswinder Bolina

What drew you to the genre you write in?

When I was evacuated from my building on September 11th, I had a copy of T.S. Eliot’s Four Quartets in my bag. It was the only classwork I thought to bring along because I naively assumed I would be returning to downtown Manhattan later that day. During the weeks I was displaced, there was a lot of waiting involved. Normally fast-paced New York City slowed to a crawl. Trains being stopped for bomb search squads. Long lines at the post office. Simple errands stretched to a whole afternoon. So I read and re-read Eliot and found comfort in lines like “Go, go, go said the bird: human kind / Cannot bear very much reality.”

The book as a whole, I’ll admit, was beyond my comprehension level but I still got so much out of its images and phrases. I became a poetry addict. In the months that followed, I read Anna Akhmatova, W. S. Merwin, Rita Dove. There was no real method to my reading list. Whatever someone recommended, I picked up. Eventually I started imitating my favorites, but it took me a few years before I found my own style, before I felt confident enough to say that I was actually writing poems, not just messing around.

Are there any writers you’re jealous of?

As a writer, I want to promote other writers as much as possible. There’s usually one poetry collection each year I sort of reserve for myself, though. I may post about it on social media, but I probably won’t review it or conduct an interview with the author because I just want to enjoy it, no strings attached. Does that count as jealousy? I sort of jealousy hoard it? I’m picturing myself as Golem here in case you need a visual. With that one book, I enjoy the poems without trying to articulate why. I suppose you could say that I read as a reader as a opposed to a writer. In 2015, it was Ada Limón’s Bright Dead Things. In 2016, Camille Rankine’s Incorrect Merciful Impulses. In 2017, Gabrielle Calvocoressi’s Rocket Fantastic. Next year? I’m not sure. Beth Bachmann has a new collection out in the fall, I believe, and I love her work.

Have you ever given up on a writing project?

I believe in the practice novel, that you have to write 70,000 words or so that you think will be a book but actually has more in common with training wheels. I have one of those about a whiskey taster whose sister goes missing. The year I lived in Gainesville, I tried to write a play about echolocation inspired by the annual Bat Festival in nearby Lubee. I imagined it as a serious drama, but let’s be real honest about that idea—it was going to be camp at best.

Did All the Bayou Stories End with Drowned have any alternate titles?

This book had the same title from the very beginning, but my first collection of poems—Instructions for Killing the Jackal—went through many incarnations. The only one I can remember is Throwing Matches Around, which I still love. But it’s a phrase from the Patty Griffin song “Icicles,” and I didn’t want to run into any copyright issues. Her lyric is “There's always someone throwing matches around,” and isn’t that true? How does Patty Griffin walk around with all that talent inside her? Shouldn’t it be visible under her skin, a sort of beacon for the rest of us to see?

What piece of your own writing are you most proud of?

Honestly? This book. The poems in All the Bayou Stories End with Drowned are my most honest. I’m embarrassed to say more.

Monday, December 18, 2017

Best of the Best, Books

There are a lot of end of the year book lists going around (I've been honored to be on a few myself), but I've decided to do something a bit different this year. Usually I put out my "spectacular, amazing, add a few more adjectives to just how fantastic it is end of the year book list," but this has been a strange year, to say the least, so it seems fitting to change it up a bit. Perhaps because of all the stress (both in the world and in my own life), nostalgia has been creeping around the fringes of everything I've read this year. From starting the year out by re-reading the entire Harry Potter series, to spending months buried in Victorian and Edwardian literature, 2017 was about so much more than catching up on the next hot debut. Over at my "31 Days of Bookmas" post, I've been calling out fantastic books published in 2017, but on this list I'd like to showcase my "Best of the Best": the books that, regardless of whether they came out this year or five years ago, dug their hooks into me and refused to let go. Enjoy... and Happy Reading.

Best of the Best, Books

Lightwood in Spinetingler Magazine

I'm honored to say that Lightwood made not one, not two, but three of the "Read & Appreciated 2017" lists over at Spinetingler Magazine. Many thanks to Paul J. Garth, Kent Gowran and Gabino Iglesias for including me on their lists and for writing such wonderful reviews of Lightwood. Cheers!

Monday, December 11, 2017

Lightwood on The Coil's Best Books of 2017 List

So many thanks to The Coil (Alternating Current Press) and Leah Angstman for including Lightwood in their "Best Books of 2017" List! Here's a snippet....

"Steph Post is the queen of Southern noir in a category largely dominated by men. She’s one of the standout voices of tough characters, thrilling crime sprees, and badass women in the genre, and Lightwood is no exception."

Lightwood on Bookriot's List

Many thanks to Bookriot (and Liberty Hardy) for including Lightwood in their "30 Books from the Beginning of the Year that Deserve Another Look" list!

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Author Burnout...

Authors- feeling a little burned out by all the book promotion? This week I'm over at LitReactor writing about how to avoid the feeling of exhaustion and how to make promoting your work (sorta' kinda') fun. Enjoy!

Friday, December 1, 2017

31 Days of Bookmas!

31 days in December means 31 days of book recommendations! Each day I'll add a new book to the list- what better way to deal with holiday stress (I mean, joy...) than by celebrating fantastic authors and their books? Hopefully this will help out with some holiday shopping as well.... A win-win for everyone! Many cheers and happy reading!

December 1st: Where the Sun Shines Out by Kevin Catalona

December 2nd: All the Bayou Stories End in Drowned by Erica Wright

December 3rd: Heartless by Leah Rhyne

December 4th: A Negro and an Ofay by Danny Gardner

December 5th: How to Prove a Theory by Nicole Tong

December 6th: Desperation Road by Michael Farris Smith

December 7th: Goodbye Days by Jeff Zentner

December 8th: Caesar's Last Breath by Sam Kean

December 9th: A Promise to Kill by Erik Storey

December 10th: Imagine Wanting Only This by Kristen Radtke

December 11th: Leadfoot by Eric Beetner

December 12th: Love and Other Consolation Prizes by Jamie Ford

December 13th: The Fact of a Body by Alexandria Marzano-Lesnevich

December 14th: What to Do About the Solomons by Bethany Ball

December 15th: Magicians Impossible by Brad Abraham

December 16th: Her Body and Other Parties by Carmen Maria Machado

December 17th: The River of Kings by Taylor Brown

December 18th: A Conspiracy of Ravens by Terrence McCauley

December 19th: She Rides Shotgun by Jordan Harper

December 20th: Cleaning up Finn by Sarah M. Chen

December 21st: Ragged by Christopher Irvin

December 22nd: The World of Lore: Monstrous Creatures by Aaron Mahnke

December 23rd: Crime Song by David Swinson

December 24th: Swimming Lessons by Claire Fuller

December 25th: The Lockpicker by Leonard Chang

December 26th: All the Bridges Burning by Neliza Drew

December 27th: Oh, Florida! by Craig Pittman

December 28th: A Single Throat Opens by Meghan McClure and Michael Schmeltzer

December 29th: Mothers, Tell Your Daughters by Bonnie Jo Campbell

December 30th: Monsters in Appalachia by Sheryl Monks

December 31st: Disappearance at Devil's Rock by Paul Tremblay