Thursday, October 17, 2019

Q&A with Douglas Waller

Douglas Waller is the author of the new book Lincoln's Spies: Their Secret War to Save a Nation. His other books include Wild Bill Donovan and Disciples. He is a former correspondent for Newsweek and Time, and he lives in Raleigh, North Carolina.

Q: Why did you decide to focus on four Civil War spies—Allan Pinkerton, Lafayette Baker, George Sharpe, and Elizabeth Van Lew--in your new book?

A: I’m not a Civil War historian. I was a correspondent for Newsweek and Time, and I covered the CIA. My last two books were on the head of OSS [the Office of Strategic Services] in World War II, Wild Bill Donovan, Franklin Roosevelt’s spymaster; and on four CIA directors who worked for OSS. For the next book, I decided to switch wars. I’m glad I did; it’s a fascinating subject.

I picked four [spies]. One was a failure. One was a scoundrel. Two were very successful spies.

Allan Pinkerton was a famous detective, but was a failure as a military intelligence officer.

Lafayette Baker was an absolute scoundrel. He was like Lincoln’s J. Edgar Hoover; the difference was that Baker didn’t have much interaction with Lincoln, and Baker was far more corrupt.

George Sharpe is one of the heroes, a George Smiley type. He was highly educated and spoke several foreign languages. He headed up intelligence for General Hooker. He pioneered all-source intelligence, and would produce reports.

Elizabeth Van Lew was the absolutely fearless head of the Richmond Unionist spy ring. She was an heiress; she hated slavery. She organized a spy ring right under the Confederates’ noses.

It was a good character mix.

Q: How did you research the book, and what did you learn that especially surprised you?

A: I started with primary research—reading Civil War, Lincoln, and intelligence books. I had to narrow it down and focus on certain subjects. Books on Civil War intelligence were few and far between. I consulted with authors.

Then I did secondary research—the National Archives, looking at pages of documents of Civil War records. Also, operational records of the Union and Confederate armies—128 bound volumes. There are more than 100,000 Civil War documents. They have a good index.

In the National Archives, I had the help of Civil War archivists who pointed me in the right direction. They are the unsung heroes.

The Library of Congress had a lot of papers for key characters—Allan Pinkerton, George McClellan. And I went all over the country to libraries and repositories that had Civil War material. General Joseph Hooker’s papers are in the Huntington Library in California.

I also toured battlegrounds for a lot of the major battles.

I found some relatives of some of my characters—Lafayette Baker’s distant relatives shared some documents. The great-great-grandson of Elizabeth Van Lew’s brother had information on family stories. It was like a treasure hunt.

One interesting thing for me was you think of the Civil War—the Mathew Brady photographs of Civil War soldiers positing stiffly, or the Ken Burns documentary, or photos of mangled bodies.

But underneath that was a technological revolution in war-making. Railroads could speed troops and supplies to the battlefield. There was the telegraph. There was photography—not only photographs of soldiers but covert photographs of the battlefield. There were hydrogen gas balloons, and aeronauts who would observe every battlefield.

I was in the National Archives, plowing through microfilms, and I stopped on one, about a Philadelphia inventor who proposed using a small camera hoisted with the balloon. I thought, this is an aerial drone! The idea was rejected; they didn’t see how the balloon could keep the camera steady.

This war set the template for a lot of the intelligence methods the CIA uses today.

Q: So as someone who’s written about World War II spies and Civil War spies, how would you compare the espionage methods of the two eras?

A: It became more advanced more quickly during World War II, though for both wars the U.S. was equally unprepared in intelligence. In the Civil War period, there had been no intelligence agency since the Revolutionary War. Americans do not like large standing armies or large intelligence services. Lincoln had nothing to draw on. It had to be built very quickly by amateurs.

From the founding fathers to World War II, there was no CIA. Roosevelt signed a one-page document designating Wild Bill Donovan as the coordinator. Donovan quickly assembled agents and operatives to begin spy operations. In World War II they had a little better technology, but the cloak-and-dagger work remained the same.

Q: What was the relationship between Lincoln and the four spies?

A: Lincoln liked to have spies. The Honest Abe image was created by the campaign. He entered office as one of the least experienced in terms of government experience. When he got in, he was hardly a neophyte with espionage subterfuge. In Illinois he wrote under pseudonyms, and was hired briefly in a spy company.

When he got to Washington, he told General Winfield Scott to send a daily intelligence report. He would spend time grilling reporters and officers who’d been down South. He was not averse to using propaganda to achieve war aims, and could be ruthless: suspending habeas corpus. He sent officers off the books down South on covert actions. He was a president who knew how to keep a secret.

This shouldn’t be a surprise—all presidents realize they need information-gathering.

Q: What are you working on now?

A: I haven’t decided on my next book. It might be nice to try a different war, though it would involve a lot of catching up and reading.

Q: Is there anything else we should know about the book?

A: It’s interesting to know where the four spies ended up after the war.

Allan Pinkerton went back to Chicago to run a detective agency. The Pinkerton agency exists today.

With Lafayette Baker, there was suspicion he took a lot of money from bribes and invested in a hotel venture that was a failure. He became a recluse and died of complications from yellow fever.

George Sharpe lived a comfortable life. Ulysses Grant appointed him to a prestigious position.

Elizabeth Van Lew sadly remained a pariah in her city after the war. She was an advocate for civil rights. She pursued it, and died broke. She was buried without money for a headstone. It happens a lot with spies—they’re ostracized by their own country after the war.

One of the things that happened after the war was that people claimed they had been spies, but were con men or women. They wrote books about it. A lot of them were trying to get [recognition] from the Union government.

--Interview with Deborah Kalb

Q&A with Sergio Troncoso

Sergio Troncoso is the author of the new story collection A Peculiar Kind of Immigrant's Son. His other books include The Nature of Truth and Crossing Borders, and his work has appeared in a variety of publications, including CNN Opinion and Yale Review. He has taught for many years at the Yale Writers' Workshop in New Haven, Connecticut.

Q: Over how long a period did you write the stories in your new collection?

A: I wrote A Peculiar Kind of Immigrant's Son over a period of roughly four or five years.

I am always working on multiple projects at the same time, so it's difficult to pinpoint the exact time it took me for a single project, because the time for that project is invariably mixed with the time I was also spending on other projects.

That's how I avoid writer's block: when I'm stuck working out a character or another issue of craft on a particular project, I go to something else where I have a better sense of what I want to do.

What happens to me is that I also find these Aha! moments when I leave something alone. I think my subconscious mind keeps working on what perplexed me, even though I'm not working on a particular project or literary problem at a given moment.

Q: How was the book's title chosen, and what does it signify for you?

A: The title is taken from a middle part in the first story, "Rosary on the Border." These words come at a moment when David Calderon, the first-person protagonist, is reflecting on his uneasy relationship with his recently deceased father.

The title signifies for me David's separation and exile, which is not just physical but also intellectual and maybe even moral. David never quite fit in Ysleta on the United States-Mexico border, although he grew up there. But when he leaves for Massachusetts and Connecticut, he still does not quite fit in those places as well.

This “existential unease,” if you want to call it that, leads him to think, reflect, and try to make sense of his life on the fly, as someone who returns to the border, and even when he carries the border with him to a home on the East Coast. The struggle to find your home is at the heart of the title.

Q: Given the current focus on immigration in this country, what do you hope readers take away from the collection?

A: I hope readers will take away a complex view of characters from the border, men and women, who have traveled beyond the border, who have returned to the border, and who are remaking America as they try to fit in, adapt, and change this country.

I want readers to go beyond the stereotypes, often dangerous and racist, which too easily are promoted by cable and social media. When you decide Mexican immigrants and their Mexican-American children are “invaders” or “vermin,” then it is only too easy to drive hundreds of miles from the suburbs of Dallas to kill dozens of innocent people at a Wal-Mart in El Paso.

The recent August massacre began with stereotypes and prejudices of who the people in El Paso were. These stereotypes missed the real El Paso, the values of hard work and dedication to family, and the peaceful humility of the largely working-class, immigrant community of El Paso.

But to break these stereotypes people--especially the white population that has never been to the border--must read about and engage with El Paso (and other immigrant communities) and experience for themselves the pride El Pasoans feel about being hard-working Americans.

Will this white population, whether in Dallas or Des Moines, actively seek to break out of their media cocoons to understand the border and the complexities of immigration? Or will they keep getting their misinformation from media and political hucksters who always wash their hands of any blood they may be responsible for?

I always hope readers will gain a greater empathy and understanding of the complexity of the immigrant experience from A Peculiar Kind of Immigrant's Son.

Q: The Kirkus Review of the book says, "Troncoso’s New York is a place of splendid possibilities and sad endings, a place where the reviled Other, far from home, searches for a safe place to land..." What do you think of that assessment?

A: Well, this Kirkus Review, in its totality, was an excellent review, but I would say it was somewhat pessimistic about reading particularly the dystopian elements (and stories) toward the end of A Peculiar Kind of Immigrant's Son.

We are indeed living in dark times for immigrants in the United States, particularly Mexican immigrants. And this tone comes directly from Washington, D.C., and media outlets that have made it their mission not to tell a balanced, complex story about immigrants, but to stoke fears, to reinforce stereotypes, to always pick the worse examples and indicate with a wink and a nod that these are the “invaders” coming into our country.

And my stories, especially "Library Island," have that dark undercurrent of what will happen if we keep going down this dark path, but I think I also try to portray the hopeful struggle (even if it fails) of immigrants trying to find their place in America.

The hard work, the love of family, the grit to succeed, the struggle to keep some values from that “first world,” while adopting other values in their “new world.” That immigrant heart, that's also in my stories.

Q: What are you working on now?

A: I am working on a novel, tentatively entitled Nobody's Pilgrims, for Cinco Puntos Press. The protagonist in the novel is a Mexican-American teenager who wants to escape the border. Turi falls into serious trouble with evil people who want to find and capture Turi and his companions as they drive across the country toward the East Coast. It's an adventure novel about immigration, friendship, and love.

I am also editor of a new anthology of Mexican-American literature on families, tentatively entitled Nepantla Familias: A Mexican-American Anthology of Literature on Families in between Worlds.

At the heart of the fiction, nonfiction, and poetry in this anthology is this question: What family values from Mexican-American heritage have helped the writer (or the protagonist or narrator) become who she is, and what family values did she discard or adapt or change to become who she wanted to be? This anthology will be published by Texas A&M Press.

Q: Anything else we should know?

A: A Peculiar Kind of Immigrant’s Son is a collection of linked stories, so as much as they are focused on immigration and Mexican-American diaspora, they are also focused on perspectivism and time. I start with quotes from Friedrich Nietzsche and Virginia Woolf at the beginning.

The table of contents groups stories in twos and threes for a reason. Within these groups, characters appear as protagonists in one story, and then appear as minor characters, or characters from a different point of view, in another story. The reader I hope will be challenged to consider these shifting perspectives and what it reveals about his or her prejudices when reading a character through a certain lens.

In the penultimate grouping, I hope readers will appreciate how much they are part of this process of perspectivism as they bring my stories to life on the page.

--Interview with Deborah Kalb

Q&A with Peter Adamson

Peter Adamson is the author of the new novel The Kennedy Moment. He has also written the novels Facing Out to Sea and The Tuscan Master. He is the founder of New Internationalist magazine, and served as senior advisor to the executive director of UNICEF. He lives in Oxfordshire, England.

Q: You dedicated The Kennedy Moment to the memory of James P. Grant, the late executive director of UNICEF. How did he inspire this novel?

A: Jim Grant is the hero of the real story behind The Kennedy Moment. As executive director of UNICEF, he created and pushed through the impossible dream of immunizing all the world’s children in the 1980s and 1990s, saving many millions of lives.

From 1980 to 1996 I worked closely with Jim - an experience and a privilege for which I will always be grateful. Bill Gates summed it all up when he said, “Jim Grant’s achievement is the greatest miracle of saving children’s lives ever.”

Q: What did you see as the right mixture of fact and fiction as you wrote the book?

A: The plot of The Kennedy Moment is pure fiction. Although there are serious themes and much fact-based material, my overriding aim was to write an all-out page-turner with characters people would believe in and care about and a plot that would grip the reader to the last page.

The challenge I set myself was to create a group of characters who, although from different countries and cultures, were all conventional, successful, middle-class, middle-aged, mid-career professionals and then to have them embark on a great conspiracy that is at the same time completely outrageous and completely plausible. So the answer is – plenty of real world fact – but above all a story.

Q: How did your own background at UNICEF affect the writing of the novel? Did you need to do any additional research?

A: I drew heavily on my years working with UNICEF. But I also did a great deal of additional research, particularly on the possibilities and the dangers of a return of smallpox - the biggest killer disease in history and still today the most dangerous bio-terrorism threat that could possibly be imagined. 

Several senior colleagues in the medical world warned me to be careful researching into this topic because security services around the world would be monitoring on-line research on the smallpox threat as a possible indication of bio-terrorist activity. So far so good. No drones have appeared and I don’t think I’m being followed.

I also had to do a lot more research than I expected on the New York of the 1980s and ‘90s. I spent a lot of time in the city during those years, but my memory still needed quite a lot of help from Google Earth and Street view. New York was a very different place then, seedier and with more drugs and crime, but also varied and textured than it is today.

Q: What are some of your favorite books?

A: I love the nonfiction writings of Alain de Botton (especially The Joys and Sorrows of Work), Steven Pinker (especially The Blank Slate), John Carey (especially The Intellectuals and the Masses and What Good Are the Arts), Robert Frank (especially Falling Behind) as well as philosophers like Michael Sandel and old-fashioned narrative historians like Daniel Boorstin. 

My favourite novelists are mostly American and are a mixed bunch, including Elizabeth Stroud, Richard Russo, Donna Tartt, and Richard Ford. I enjoyed enormously The Nix by Nathan Hill. 

I’m also a big fan of audio books and frequently search by narrator as well as by writer (I think I could enjoy anything narrated by Timothy West). By the way, I think Adam Simms did a great job narrating the audiobook version of The Kennedy Moment for

Q: What are you working on now?

A: After years of writing and broadcasting from many different countries, the book I am working on now focuses on the few square miles around my home in rural Oxfordshire. 

Each chapter tells a story - historical, cultural, environmental or scientific – drawn from what can be seen from two small hills near my home. One chapter, for example, tells the story of a local vicar’s son who became governor of Massachusetts and whose arrogance managed to turn a colonial protest into the American Revolution.

Q: Anything else we should know?

A: At a time when so many of my American friends and former colleagues seem to be in despair about their country and its place in the world, I hope The Kennedy Moment and its postscript will be a small reminder of one of the many things that American leadership can give and has given for the greater good of the world we live in.

--Interview with Deborah Kalb

Oct. 17

Oct. 17, 1915: Arthur Miller born.

Wednesday, October 16, 2019

Q&A with Gail Jarrow

Gail Jarrow is the author of The Poison Eaters: Fighting Danger and Fraud in Our Food and Drugs, a new book for older kids. Her other books include Bubonic Panic, Fatal Fever, and Red Madness. She lives in Ithaca, New York.

Q: Why did you decide to focus on the history of food safety in your new book?

A: While working on my Deadly Diseases trilogy (Bubonic Panic, Fatal Fever, and Red Madness), I read about the lack of food and drug safety in the late 1800s/early 1900s.

As American cities grew, fewer people ate food they raised themselves. Instead, they were getting much of it from cans sold by manufacturers hundreds of miles away. At the same time, the use of patent medicines exploded.

Foods and drugs weren’t regulated. People had no idea what they were actually swallowing or giving to their children. I was curious about how we progressed from that dangerous state to where we are today.

Q: What do you see as the legacy today of Harvey Wiley, who focused on food safety more than a century ago?

A: Wiley, who was a chemist and physician, saw the risks when most Americans didn’t. He introduced a scientific approach to determining safety and effectiveness of food and drugs.  

Starting in the early 1880s, he and about a dozen Department of Agriculture staff tested these products. Their small group, the Bureau of Chemistry, was the predecessor of our current Food and Drug Administration (FDA), an organization employing more than 17,000 people.

Today, the FDA influences many parts of our lives— food, medical and dental treatment, cosmetics and personal care products, cell phones and microwave ovens, tobacco products, and even our pets’ food and medical care.  

Although we can now have more confidence that our food and drugs and medical devices are safe, the situation isn’t perfect. Every day I see on my FDA Google Alert at least one safety issue that the agency is investigating.

With more chemicals available than during Wiley’s time, with more medical devices than he could have imagined, and with more foods and medicines coming from outside the U.S., maintaining safety is a never-ending struggle. I’m often alarmed by what I read, and I have changed my purchasing habits.

Q: How did you research this book, and what did you learn that especially surprised you?

A: I plunged into historical scientific and medical materials to learn what the experts knew before and during Wiley’s work.  

Using newspapers from the mid-1860s to early 1900s, I read about public awareness of the pure food and drug movement  and discovered how attitudes changed as Wiley’s work progressed.

Because he was such an important part of the story, I searched for as much as possible about (and by) Wiley. That took me to the Library of Congress Manuscript Reading Room, where I found fascinating tidbits such as his Civil War diary and letters to his opponents. 

The Poison Eaters also covers what happened after the 1906 Food and Drugs Act became law, and I researched the FDA and its challenges up to the present.

My biggest surprise was learning just how many products were deceptive or unsafe before the early 1900s. People were regularly ingesting hazardous chemicals, contaminated food, and worthless medicines.  

I was shocked that it took more than 25 years for Wiley and his allies (including women’s groups and muckraking journalists) to convince Congress to pass the 1906 Food and Drugs Act. But even after the law went into effect, it wasn’t strong enough to protect the public from new threats.

During the next 60 years, the FDA responded to several catastrophes: radium poisoning from tonics advertised to bring good health; child deaths from a medicine the drug company never bothered testing; and babies deformed by an anti-nausea medication taken by their mother (thalidomide). The law has had multiple upgrades.

Q: What do you hope readers take away from the book?

A: I hope they realize how far we’ve come thanks to the efforts of scientists and doctors, women’s groups, and  journalists. But I also want readers to be cautious about what they put into their bodies.

Although the FDA pre-approval testing for safety and effectiveness is much more stringent than in earlier times, there are limitations. For example, sometimes a drug’s dangerous side effects aren't obvious until millions of people begin using it.  

Fraud and deception go on today, and I give some current examples in the book. We are bombarded with advertising for products that are just as ineffective and unsafe as patent medicines a century ago. The FDA does not approve these products, although people assume they do.  Takeaway lesson: Buyer beware.

Q: What are you working on now?

A: My next book, due out Fall 2020, is Blood and Germs: The Civil War Battle Against Wounds and Disease. This will be the first in my new Medical Fiascos trilogy. 

The Civil War was gory, but twice as many men died from disease as from battle wounds. Still, the disaster led to medical progress. By the end of the war, doctors had improved their skills and knowledge in treating patients. Nursing had become a respectable profession for women. Hospitals were seen as places to heal, not die. 

Q: Anything else we should know?

A: I have an educational background in biology and a passion for history. This combination leads me to little-known stories about people who have influenced our health and well-being today.

My goal is to show why it all matters while providing readers with a window into the past. By doing in-depth research, I try to make it a bay window, not a peephole. 

--Interview with Deborah Kalb. Here's a previous Q&A with Gail Jarrow.

Q&A with Katherine Reay

Katherine Reay is the author of the new novel The Printed Letter Bookshop. Her other novels include Dear Mr. Knightley and Lizzy & Jane. She lives outside Chicago. 

Q: How did you come up with the idea for The Printed Letter Bookshop, and for your three main characters?

A: The C.S. Lewis quote, For the present is the point at which time touches eternity, started the whole story. I wanted to put three very different women together, at very different times in their lives, and let them work out their best presents. 

Q: You tell the story from the perspectives of Madeline, Janet, and Claire. Did you focus more on one character's story at a time and then turn to the others, or did you write the chapters in the order in which they appear?

A: I wrote the chapters in the order in which they appear. It was very important to me to have them not only weave together well, but play off each other without repetition. I could only get their collective experience by keeping them together.

Also, please note their points-of-view. Each woman tells her story from the verb tense and point-of-view from which she views her own life. I had so much fun with that aspect of the novel. 

Q: The novel takes place in the Chicago area. How important is setting to you in your writing?

A: Setting is always a character for me. It is vital. Chicago provided the perfect home for this story with its tight local communities and its wonderful downtown. I also like the Midwest perspective and thought it fit each my characters well. 

Q: What do you think the story says about the role of independent bookstores today?

A: The story asserts that independent bookstores are vital to our communities. We want both diversity in our shopping venues and in our book choices. They bring us together and we need to support them. All that said, they can and will disappear if we don’t let our dollars follow our intentions. 

Q: What are you working on now?  

A: I have just handed in the line edits for my next novel, Of Literatures and Lattes. I have never returned to characters or to a town before, but I am this time and I’m so excited. The story takes place in Winsome once again and Alyssa, Janet’s daughter, comes home. 

Q: Anything else we should know?

A: Simply thank you! It’s been a delight to visit with you today. And please reach out on social media. 

--Interview with Deborah Kalb

Q&A with Elizabeth Earley

Elizabeth Earley is the author of the new novel Like Wings, Your Hands. She also has written the novel A Map of Everything. She is the publisher of Jaded Ibis Press, a feminist press.

Q: How did you come up with the idea for Like Wings, Your Hands, and for your characters Kalina and Marko?

A: I've always been fascinated with the body, both its genius design and its inherent limitations.

The limitations that attend the human condition, as I see it, are crippling, even for the healthiest of bodies. Our senses mislead us. There’s the visible spectrum.

The average seeing human eyes are sensitive to a very narrow band of frequencies within the enormous range of frequencies of the electromagnetic spectrum. But there are also other types of limitations to our vision — photoreceptivity, angular resolution, field of view.

There’s hearing range. The average hearing human ear can detect a limited range of sound frequency. We measure that in units we call Hertz, which is something some guy once came up with. Then there’s hearing threshold limitations, which refers to the pressure of sound and is measured in decibels.

Then there are the closely related senses of taste and smell, arguably the weakest of the human senses. Physicists have been challenged to objectively gauge the intensity of flavor and odor perception, and with that lack of an absolute unit of measurement, thresholds are difficult to determine.

The sense of touch is the most complex and different parts of the human body have different levels of sensitivity to everything from contact to temperature to itchiness to pressure. We know it has something to do with what we call “sensory neurons.” Nevertheless, its mechanisms are poorly understood. 

Even the way we organize our environment with names and categories and units of measurement is conducted from within our limitations. The point is there's a lot going on way outside the human range of perception and understanding.

The idea for these characters and their story came from myriad places, but the fundamental question that aroused the idea was one of freedom versus limitation. Is freedom in the mind or in the body?

While Marko's body is far more limited than that of his grandfather's, for example, his grandfather is the one imprisoned by his mind. And while Marko's body may seem to objectively keep him strictly within the boundaries of its many limitations, he has a mind that sets him free. 

Q: The story is told from both characters' perspectives. Did you focus more on one character first, or did you write the novel in the order in which it appears?

A: There were several incarnations of this novel and an early draft didn't include Marko's POV at all, only that of Kalina. When I revised the novel the last time and wrote in Marko's point of view, it felt like the major thing that had been missing all along. 

Q: How was the book's title chosen, and what does it signify for you?

A: The original title was An Unbearable Weight, which I liked because of its multiple meanings: the play on the Kundera novel title, which is itself a character in the book; the actual weight Marko is not able to bear on his legs; and the metaphysical weight of the generational angst he carries.

But then a friend told me she would never want to read a book titled this way because it made her depressed just at the outset. It was my publicist who sent me a list of alternatives, and I picked Like Wings, Your Hands. I love it for its poetry and sentiment.

Q: Did you know how the novel would end before you started writing it?

A: No, I had many different endings along the way. Altogether, I spent about seven years writing and rewriting this novel.

The ending it ended up with is my favorite, as its subtlety and implication for the future matches the tone of real life. Marko comes full circle when he arrives to the place where his belly button was buried. He will come full circle again, as the superstition predicts.

And this round path through space and time mirrors Marko's experience of time as a spiral staircase. He arrives there, at the junction point of beginning/end/new beginning, as a new, wiser version of himself. The mood is one of lightness and hope. 

Q: What are you working on now?

A: I recently finished a draft of a hybrid memoir entitled The Eternal Round. It defies linear narrative storytelling, instead, unfolding a fragmented recounting of my own spiritual, interpersonal, and physical journey to healing in the wake of a near-fatal motorcycle accident, alongside a telling of my grandfather’s life—the rich, beautiful, and traumatic experience of a deaf, luminous man.

Engaging with the divine, intergenerational trauma and addiction, and love—both of the self and of a beloved community—the narrative pushes towards a more tender and truthful lens of the world.

Broaching both the mystical and the bodily, The Eternal Round’s vatic frame immerses its readers into a sensually rich world, from which they will leave, like myself and my kin, having been changed profoundly.  

Since finishing a draft of that, I'm moving on to something as yet unformed, but I think it's going to be a collection of essays inspired by the body as a biological system. I will research each, separate, intricate and integrated system within the system and use it as a metaphor for something occurring in the external world.

Q: Anything else we should know?

A: I would love for people to know about a press I help to run called Jaded Ibis Press. It's a feminist, nonprofit press publishing socially engaged literature with an emphasis on the voices of people of color, people with disabilities, and other historically marginalized voices.

We recently released a beautiful, epic new novel by Sion Dayson called As a River, which has been quite celebrated in its first month on the market. Next year, we will put out two very important books engaging issues of race, identity, and survival, among others. Seconds and Inches is a memoir by Carly Israel, and a vivid short story collection by Donna Miscolta, title TBD.

--Interview with Deborah Kalb