Saturday, April 30, 2022

Q&A with Joshua Weiner



Joshua Weiner is the translator of a new edition of Flight and Metamorphosis, poems by Nelly Sachs (1891-1970). His other books include Berlin Notebook. A poet, he teaches at the University of Maryland, College Park, and he lives in Washington, D.C.


Q: Why did you decide to translate these poems by Nelly Sachs?


A: I’ve been working on the book since 2015, when a friend, the poet and translator, Alexander Booth, put Nelly Sachs into my hands with a copy of The Seeker, one of the two collected volumes that Farrar Straus Giroux brought to publication rather quickly after Sachs won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1966. 


We were sitting at a café in Schöneberg, in Berlin, across the street from where Nelly Sachs once lived. I knew about Sachs the poet of the Shoah, but I didn’t know anything about Sachs the poet of the refugee, of exile, diaspora, migration, and homelessness.


I was in Berlin in 2015 to write about the refugee situation there, that exploded with the war in Syria. I could hear how Sachs’ poems from this particular book, Flight and Metamorphosis, originally published in 1959, was speaking to us now. But the translations from that book were old, not good, or stale; and they were incomplete, as well. 


I realized that I had been given a great gift, to be able to try my hand at bringing these amazing poems, of this particular book, into English, in a complete edition for the first time. And that the time was right, that I had to try to do it, that we needed the book now.


There are other reasons, as well, personal reasons, that then aligned with this overall impetus.

Q: In your introduction, you write, “Flight and Metamorphosis marks the culmination of a period in Sachs's development as a poet.” Can you say more about her poetry, and what role this particular collection played in her career?


A: Flight and Metamorphosis marks a dramatic shift in Sachs’ poetry, away from adopting the choral persona of the murdered Jews of the Shoah and towards writing more immediately out of her personal experience as a refugee. 

However, the poems don’t narrate that experience in any conventional way. Sachs was drawing heavily from her study of Jewish Kabbalah, to invent a personal vocabulary that was elemental and earthy at the same time as it was spiritual, celestial. 


In terms of style, language, and form, the poems of this period are radically open, porous, searching, jagged, darting, intuitive, and, in the context of what’s happening now, again, with refugees out of Ukraine fleeing Russian aggression, entirely lucid and powerfully expressive. For me, this is the poetry by Sachs that’s really exciting and good.

Q: How would you describe Sachs's legacy today?


A: Well, Sachs has had the same legacy for the past 70 years, as a poet of the Holocaust. It’s a terrible legacy because it means, basically, that she’s been trapped in a historical context that limits her. And it’s distorting. 


There’s a kind of argument underlying my translation and this new edition of the book that wants to break her free and release her. I wanted to save her from her reputation so she could be the poet that I have come to care about. 

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


A: I hope readers will have a powerful experience reading a book of poems that conveys the experience of flight and transformation in a way that is unique to poetry, and that it instills the kind of intuitive understanding of that experience, of being a refugee, of having lost one’s sense of home, that leads to empathy for others and an awakened wonder to the workings of the cosmos that defies our comprehension.

Q: What are you working on now?


A: I’m working on a new book of poems!

Q: Anything else we should know?


A: Poetry can’t tell you anything you need to know; it can only put you in a frame of mind that makes you receptive to knowing.


--Interview with Deborah Kalb. Here's a previous Q&A with Joshua Weiner.

Q&A with RV Minkler



RV Minkler is the author of the new novel The Redeemed. A retired engineer, he lives in San Diego, California.


Q: What inspired you to write The Redeemed, and how did you create your cast of characters? 


A: What inspired me to write The Redeemed is an amusing story. Thirty-six years ago, I had a vivid dream that became locked in my consciousness. That vision was the seed of the story of The Redeemed, and I even shared it with my children. 


Over the next couple of years, as I thought about the premise, my mind started filling in the gaps that would account for the setting, and I wrote the preliminary story. Since then, I continued revising and expanding the saga until it formed the first two-thirds of the manuscript. Four years ago, I added the novel’s final third as my conception of the antagonist’s role enlarged.


Regarding the cast of characters, five of them were in the initial dream, and those were Veena, her squad of Archangels, and Nate. The vision also had an antagonistic gang, but the primary villains were not yet defined. As the story concept blossomed, so did the addition of characters, most noticeably, the introduction of Pastor Abraham Jones. 


Q: Did you know how the novel would end before you started writing it, or did you make many changes along the way? 


A: Ha! The answer to both options of that question is “yes.” Initially, I had a notion of the story’s scope and how it would end. That conclusion was insufficient and unsatisfying. The more I worked on the manuscript and plot, the more it evolved. The storyline’s original concept is still there in the final product, but I have enriched it considerably. 


Q: The novel takes place in the wake of a deadly virus. Were you working on the book during the Covid pandemic? 


A: The short answer is “no.” When I had the dream thirty-six years ago, it was a vision of a post-apocalyptic world. As I mentioned earlier, I developed the story and filled in the gaps.


Short of a global nuclear war, which I believe would poison the earth and make it uninhabitable, a pandemic is the only all-encompassing scenario that would lead to this nightmare of terrible devastation and decimation. A catastrophic pandemic is not a new concept as other works of fiction, such as Stephen King’s The Stand and Michael Crichton’s The Andromeda Strain, describe that potential danger.


It might seem that the release of my novel about a deadly virus during this pandemic of COVID-19 is suspect, but it is genuinely coincidental. Furthermore, COVID-19, as horrible as it is, is comparable to the fatality rate of the imaginary virus in my novel.


That my fictional virus and COVID-19 are both passed almost exclusively by respiratory transmission is also the most common path for spreading viruses. The parallels between the virus in my novel and COVID-19 are simply a matter of recognizing this is the nature of respiratory viruses.


I am deeply grateful that COVID-19 does not have the horrible consequences I describe of the virus in my novel. The ability of medical researchers to develop effective vaccines within nine months is a miracle.


I recognized those thirty-six years ago that my story would need some overwhelming, worldwide catastrophes to set the stage for an inability to fight the virus; thus, the fires that started the collapse of civilization in my tragedy.


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


A: First and foremost, I hope they enjoyed the tale.


I did not initially conceive the story as a spiritual tale. It became a vision of a faith-based journey and growth, and I “hope” that it will seed hope in the readers. The saga describes a band of Christian survivors who serve God and let go of their timeline and expectations. I have created an account of how God works for their good, but not necessarily in alignment with what they desire or expect.


So, even though this book is fiction, I have strived to illustrate how God might care for those He loves even in the worst possible circumstances. I desire that this novel honors God and inspires the reader to that same type of hope of a loving and compassionate God. 


Q: What are you working on now? 


A: I am formulating the concepts and trials that will be the basis of two sequels. The first sequel will be about the growth and journeys of the children into young adulthood and their difficulties and rewards of finding mates.


The first sequel will also introduce the conflicts that arise in the absence of threats by raiding gangs. Since the struggle to survive is more manageable, the unity that the initial group of The Redeemed enjoyed will start to fray as they no longer need to cooperate to protect against common terrors.


The second sequel will explore that fracturing further as jealousies and resentment ferment. That doesn’t sound very encouraging, yet I believe there are examples of sacrifice and heroism to arise in the face of these challenges.  


Q: Anything else we should know?

A: This question probably is more meaningful to professional writers who may have several projects in development. However, I am a retired engineer who is not, by nature, focused on literary composition. What I hope to be is open to God’s leading. So, who knows what more may come from my service to God? 


--Interview with Deborah Kalb

April 30



April 30, 1877: Alice B. Toklas born.

Friday, April 29, 2022

Q&A with Heather Henson


Photo by Kirk Schlea



Heather Henson is the author of the new young adult novel Wrecked. Her other books include Dream of Night. She is the managing director of the Pioneer Playhouse theater, and she lives in Kentucky.


Q: In Wrecked's afterword, you cite Shakespeare's The Tempest as an inspiration for this novel. Can you say more about what inspired you to write Wrecked, and how you created your characters Miri, Fen, and Clay?


A: I grew up in the world of theater, and my father was always quoting Shakespeare, so I just kind of fell in love with the language and the stories from an early age. I really like when a director comes up with a new way to stage a Shakespeare play, and I always gravitate toward books that put a new spin on a classic tale.  


For several years, I knew I wanted to take the iconic story of a father and daughter stranded on a deserted island (the basic plot of The Tempest), and use it as a framework for a contemporary novel, but it took lots of starts and stops to find the voice, or the three voices, of the book.  


My work is very character driven, so once I start hearing a character speak to me, writing gets a whole lot easier. In Shakespeare’s The Tempest, we’re focused more on Prospero and the adults, but I was interested in his 16-year-old daughter, Miranda’s, perspective.


How does it feel to have a powerful wizard for a father, to be shipwrecked on a deserted island with no other people around? How does it feel to grow up believing you’re one thing, and then to suddenly be told you’re something completely different?


In my book, Miranda became Miri, and Ferdinand (the boy she falls for) became Fen. In the play, Caliban is not a nice guy, but I wanted to see if I could turn someone who makes bad choices, who has bad impulses, relatable and ultimately likeable, so Caliban became Clay. 


Q: The novel is set in rural Kentucky--how important is setting to you in your writing?


A: All my books so far have been set in Kentucky. I’ve lived other places, but my roots are deeply planted in my home state. Parts of Kentucky are very removed from the outside world, and so I felt that placing Wrecked in the Knobs region was a perfect parallel to the deserted island in The Tempest.  


Miri and Poe (Prospero in the play) have land all around them, not water, but in a sense, they are shipwrecked in this place that’s physically challenging to get to, a place that’s cut off, remote. 


Q: The opioid crisis is a major theme in the novel--why did you decide to include that topic?  


A: Again, I was looking for a modern parallel for what happens to Prospero. In the play, he’s developed these magical powers on the island where he and his daughter have been shipwrecked for 13 years. As I was writing and researching this book, I started thinking about what I could substitute for that “magic,” what would be a modern equivalent, and it just hit me: meth.  


At that time, there was always a story in my local paper about a meth house being raided or exploding or kids being taken away from parents who were dealers. Meth was on the rise again because it was a cheap way to get high since opioids were no longer as accessible.


People I knew personally started dying – fentanyl overdose, oxy overdose, heroin overdose. It was everywhere, and I felt compelled to write about this terrible, tragic thing that was happening in my own backyard.


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


A: The Tempest opens with the thunder crash of a raging storm – a storm Prospero created through his magic in order to shipwreck his enemies. Throughout my book, storms are a major motif, and wrecked – both emotionally and physically -- is how a lot of my characters feel, so the title came out of that.


Q: What are you working on now?


A: I’m working on another contemporary YA set – again – in Kentucky. My family actually runs a campground (along with our summer stock theater, Pioneer Playhouse), and I’ve been noticing a huge change over the past few years, especially since Covid-19.  


It’s not just tourists parking in the campground anymore, but long termers, families who are down on their luck because they lost a job, lost a house or an apartment, and now are living kind of like nomads.  


My novel will again follow a few different POVs, teens growing up in a campground, the everyday struggles they face. 


Q: Anything else we should know? 


A: A couple of years ago, my house literally burned to the ground. My husband, my three children and I barely made it out. We lost everything except the pajamas we were wearing.  


I’d already written the explosion and fire scene in Wrecked, but it was interesting to go back to it when I was revising, after I’d been through a similar experience. Luckily, none of my family suffered burns in our fire, but it was absolutely terrifying.  


When you lose everything, you learn pretty quickly what’s important: people, not stuff. My family, and the community that rose up to help us – that’s all that matters. 


--Interview with Deborah Kalb

Q&A with Toni Mirosevich



Toni Mirosevich is the author of the new book Spell Heaven and Other Stories. Her other books include Pink Harvest. She is a professor emerita at San Francisco State University, and she lives in Pacifica, California.


Q: How long did it take you to write the stories in Spell Heaven?


A; This book had a long gestation period. One of the early stories, “Murderer’s Bread,” about a gay couple’s move to a sketchy neighborhood, was inspired by the move my wife and I made to a Northern California town 30 years ago.


A phrase my Croatian grandmother often used may be the best way to describe how long it took. There was a piece of advice she’d always give as a remedy for whatever ailed you. If you were blue or depressed or didn’t know  which way to turn.


She’d say to go out and work in the garden, to dig in the dirt, malo po malo, which in Croatian translates as “little by little.” That phrase could be the silent subtitle of this collection. Malo po malo, little by little, over time the stories accumulated. You could say I dug around in the dirt of the imagination and stories grew and ultimately turned into Spell Heaven.


Q: The writer Aimee Phan said of the book, “I would like to wrap myself inside of Toni Mirosevich's words, so that their warmth, vitality, and haunting insights into our humanity will somehow absorb into my thoughts and skin, and I will become a better person.” What do you think of that description?


A: Aimee Phan is an extraordinary writer. That’s a generous and lovely description which are the same two words I’d use to describe the author of that blurb!


Q: How was the book's title (also the title of one of the stories) chosen, and what does it signify for you?


A: Many of the stories were triggered by real life events.


The title came about this way: One day I was walking along a local pier and looking down at the walkway spied a piece of note paper with writing scribbled on it. So I picked it up.


In what looked like a child’s shaky scrawl the note began Dear God. What followed was a list, an attempt to spell the word heaven. Haven, Heavin, the word was misspelled over and over as the kid tried to find what looked like the correct spelling.


From there an idea for a story emerged of a narrator who starts to think about all the ways people spell heaven, what they think constitutes their version of heaven on earth. A new car, a new lover, traveling to some desert island. But often acquisitions don’t turn out to be the answer. So, we may be misspelling heaven all the time. In the story, we find out there a few different ways to spell hell too.


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


A: That once a search is in progress something will be found. That line is my favorite Oblique Strategy card from Brian Eno/Peter Schmidt’s game where you select at random from a deck of cards and apply that strategy to whatever dilemma you are facing.

I hope readers take away the idea that once you go searching, even if you don’t know what you’re searching there, especially if you don’t know what you’re searching for. Something--or someone--will be found if you keep your eyes open, say, if you search past your assumptions of who that person is who is right now walking your way.


In the book, I meet a man who flies kites from a fishing pole while riding his bike, who may be selling drugs on the side. A woman who dislikes living by the sea with her gay son and his lover and wants to go “where people are people.” A guy on a fishing pier who believes our scars are evidence of our happiness.


When the narrator meets each of these characters she initially has assumptions of who they are and yet, through a search to move past her assumptions she discovers something she is looking for: connection, community, meaning.


Q: What are you working on now?


A: A memoir, a type of search and rescue mission for the family fishing boat. I was raised in a Croatian American fishing family and the family boat was sold after my father’s early death.


For many years we had no idea where it ended up though we would hear of sightings; it was seen up in Alaska’s Bering Sea or in the waters off of Astoria, Oregon. Someone heard the boat sunk off a rocky coast, only to have been raised and then, to sink again somewhere else.


The memoir is not only about seeking to find this vessel but a desire to find what buoys us over time through turbulent seas and calm waters, through good times and bad. And who know what memories may still be locked in the hold of that boat?


Q: Anything else we should know?


A: One of my favorite quotes in the book is from the poet C.D. Wright: You will wake in a dear yet unfamiliar place.


The book is in some way a return to the past, as the narrator recalls what drew her to the sea in the first place. When she and her wife move to a coastal town she wakes up to a dear yet unfamiliar place, a new community of outsiders by the sea who ultimately welcome her to join them.


The past, the future, the present all finally combine and, to use another quote in the book by Jhumpa Lahiri: Then one by one she released the things that fettered her.


I love that quote, how it suggests the possibility of freeing oneself up from what contains or constrains you, the “fetters” that slowly fall away so one can go forward into a new life.


More information at


Reading events for Spell Heaven:


Monday, May 9, 7pm, Odd Mondays Reading Series, SF, CA, virtual, Folio Books, SF, CA


Wednesday, May 25, 7pm, Green Apple Books, SF, CA


Tuesday, June 7, 7pm, Fabulosa Books, SF, CA


Sunday, June 12, 2pm, Browser's Books, Olympia, WA.


Wednesday, June 15, 7pm, Elliot Bay Books, Seattle, WA


Friday, June 17, 7pm, Village Bookstore, Bellingham, WA,


Saturday, June 18, 4pm, Everett Public Library, Everett, WA


--Interview with Deborah Kalb

Q&A with Nicholas Garnett




Nicholas Garnett is the author of the new memoir In the Pink. A freelance editor, he is also the co-producer of the storytelling series Lip Service, and his work has appeared in a variety of publications, including Salon and The Florida Book Review


Q: What inspired you to write this memoir, and over how long a period did you write it?


A: The short answer is that the inspiration for my memoir, In the Pink, came pretty easily. Its publication did not.


The much longer answer is: As the only straight, married guy thoroughly immersed in the gay circuit-party scene of the ‘90s (if there were others, I never met them), it occurred to me that I had a unique story to tell.


By the time my marriage had ended in divorce, and I had relocated from Washington, D.C., to Miami Beach in 2004 to start a new life, I had written a few chapters of what I imagined would be a scandalous, behind-the-scenes view of a decadent lifestyle.


I began to take writing workshops, and the more I took, the more I wrote: scene after scene—vivid and compelling—according to the feedback I was getting.


In 2006, I spent the summer in Provincetown, Massachusetts, a long-time mecca for artists and writers. The apartment just above mine happened to be rented by a prominent writer who had just published his memoir. One day, I finally got up the nerve to ask him if he would take a look at what I’d written.


I spent much of the next couple of days in anticipatory agony, peering through my venetian blinds as he paced back and forth along the walkway that ran outside our units reading my story, the manuscript in one hand, a cigarette in the other. Finally, he invited me up to his place. He handed me a cocktail, lit up a joint and handed me that, too.


He said, “I’ve got some good news, and some bad news.” He didn’t ask me which I wanted to hear first. “Good news is,” he said, “you can write.” He motioned for me to hand him the joint. I did, and he took a toke, as if to prepare himself for what was coming next. “But you’re not a writer.” Ouch.


He went on to explain that while I obviously had a knack for description and rendering scenes, he felt detached from the story because he didn’t have a sense of who was writing it, or why. “A reporter can get away with just the facts,” he said, “a writer can’t.” I was going to have to figure out a way to insert my myself into the story, he said. And to do that, I would have to figure out what it meant to me.


I hated that advice. Following it would mean doing what didn’t come naturally to me: introspection. And it would also take what I didn’t want to give: time. Time to be able to look back at what happened, to put it in some context. That process took me years and an M.F.A. degree in Creative Writing (the memoir was my thesis) to accomplish.


Gradually, I began to see that, while the decadent behavior and outrageous events depicted in my memoir were unusual, the story was universal: one guy’s search to find his place in the world. Once I figured that out, things began to make sense and the story began to take shape. I cut thousands of words and dozens of scenes—some of them pretty damn good—that were repetitive or irrelevant, or both.


By 2011, I had finished my M.F.A. and produced a story that proved, at least to myself, that I had progressed beyond someone who could write. I had become a writer.


A literary agent agreed with me. She shopped the story to several editors and here’s what happened next. Nothing. Universal theme notwithstanding, no publisher was ready to take on a story about a straight guy’s immersion into gay party culture. As the years and the rejections piled up, I began to give up.


The only shred of hope I clung to was that the digital version of my memoir, which had been posted by the university in an on-line repository along with all sorts of other master and doctoral theses, was kind of a hit.

Each month, I’d receive a report telling me that 15 or 20 (on a good month, 30 or 40) copies of my thesis had been downloaded. I wasn’t told who had requested it or why, but I was told where. And “where” included some places I would never have expected.


Somehow, and for reasons I couldn’t fathom, people living in Mumbai, Moscow, Barcelona, Teheran, Hong Kong, Saigon, Amsterdam, Finland, Singapore, Nairobi, Jakarta, several cities in Germany, Poland, and Romania had managed to find and download my story. Maybe my story was universal.


In December of 2020, the monthly report showed that I had accumulated over 3,000 downloads. After 10 years of trying without success to get the story published, and with no prospects on the horizon, I threw in the towel.


On December 11, 2020, here’s what I posted to Facebook: “Looks like I created a whole new literary category: international non seller. I've decided to go all in. If you're looking to curl up with a good book over the holidays, join readers from all over the world and download mine. What the hell--it's free. And if you like anything about it (I mean anything: the formatting, the font) please let me know. I could use a little encouragement right about now.”


A few days later, a professor in my M.F.A. program who had seen my post asked to take a look at the manuscript. He had someone he wanted to run it by. That “someone” was a publisher. Fifteen years after I started writing it, 10 years after I thought I’d finished it, and a few weeks after I’d given up on it, I received an offer to publish In the Pink.


What’s the message here? I have no idea. The odd chain of events that resulted in the publication of my memoir could have just as easily happened five years ago. Or never. All I can say is that I’m sure it would never have happened at all but for the guidance I got that afternoon in Provincetown back in 2006. Sometimes, the best advice is precisely the kind you don’t want to receive.


Q: The author Les Standiford wrote of the book, “By turns outrageous, hilarious, and truly moving, this unflinching chronicle of a profoundly mismatched straight couple's foray into the gay party and power circuit sets a new standard for the tale of wretched excess, and provides much-needed perspective along the way.” What do you think of that description?


A: Masterful! Besides, who am I to take issue with Les Standiford? I mean, he’s the founding director of the MFA program at Florida International University and has published something like 25 books. A version of In the Pink was my MFA thesis and he was my thesis advisor, so—with the possible exception of me—he knows this story better than anyone.


And more than anybody else—with the possible exception of me—he was surprised and disappointed that the story wasn’t published earlier.  For years, he kept paving the way, connecting me with various agents and editors. As the rejections kept piling up, I started to lose hope, but he never did. I can’t properly express my gratitude to him. Or maybe I just did.  


Q: How would you describe your marriage to Rachael?


A: I spent a whole book trying to do just that! In the memoir, I describe how I felt the morning after Rachael and I first hooked up: “I’d figured last night for a drunken, coked-out one-night stand between a couple of bored, lonely people looking for something they didn’t know they never had. I was wrong about the one-night stand.”


Like all relationships, even the failed ones, there were positive elements: I walked her back and she pressed me forward. We were married for 10 years, and I’d say the first five were good. But the lifestyle depicted in In the Pink wasn’t sustainable. We had to move on. The problem was we couldn’t answer the question move on to what? When we couldn’t see ahead, we turned on each other.


The thing I wish I could go back and change is the way I parted ways with Rachael. Not the fact that I did it—but how. Instead of facing up to her, I did the one thing I knew she couldn’t forgive: betray her. That was a cowardly act, one I will always regret. 


We’re not in touch and haven’t been for many years. My time with her feels like a lifetime ago, and I suppose it was. I’m happily remarried and feel so lucky to have the life I have now. The things I was looking for, I found. I hope Rachael did, too.  


Q: What are you working on now?


A: Not another memoir! I think I’ve said everything I have to say about myself. After I had all but given up on In the Pink ever being published, I moved on and wrote a literary thriller set in Miami Beach.


I was in the process of shopping that story around to agents and editors when, unexpectedly, In the Pink was accepted for publication. I had to drop everything and devote all my free time and attention to promoting it.


I’m hoping that In the Pink will help me find a home for that novel. One way or the other, I’ll go back to anther I story I had started that could lead to another book-length project.  


Q: Anything else we should know?


A: Yes. Wait—you mean about me? Nah. But if you think of something, just ask. I’m an open book.


--Interview with Deborah Kalb

April 29



April 29, 1954: Jerry Seinfeld born.

Thursday, April 28, 2022

Q&A with Camille Pagán



Camille Pagán is the author of the new novel Everything Must Go. Her other books include This Won't End Well, and her work has appeared in a variety of publications, including The New York Times and Real Simple. She lives in Ann Arbor, Michigan.


Q: You note that Everything Must Go was inspired by your own family’s experience with dementia and caregiving. How did you create your characters Laine and Sally?


A: I almost always begin a story with the character in mind—who is she, what she struggles with, and what situation would most push her to grow? I knew I wanted to write about a people pleaser who’s trying to learn to live for herself for a change. As one of three sisters, I also knew I wanted to write a sister story of sorts. 


Even so, I didn’t start out thinking that the character (Laine) would be dealing with a family member with memory loss. As I began to write her mother, Sally, however, it quickly became apparent to me that it was the right story to tell.


A lively woman in her 70s with plenty of life left to live, Sally’s memory loss isn’t readily apparent, and that can be difficult for a family to navigate. Having watched a family member struggle with dementia, this novel is definitely near and dear to my heart. Alzheimer’s a heartbreaking and often hidden condition, and I wanted to shed some light on it in this story. 


Q: You tell the story from both women's perspectives--what was it like to write from Sally’s point of view?


A: It was incredibly natural to share Sally’s perspective. When I began writing from Laine’s point of view, I almost immediately recognized that the story would feel more well-rounded if I also shared what Sally was experiencing—as her perspective was clearly so different than Laine’s.


And her voice came to me in an instant, which seemed like another sign it was the right choice. It’s the first time I’ve written multiple POVs, and I would definitely do it again.  


Q: How would you describe the dynamic between Laine and her mother and sisters?


A: Their relationships are all loving but challenging. It’s always fascinating to me the way that we really emerge from the womb as the people we are. And in the case of siblings, even when we’re raised by the same parents at the same time, we can be so very different from each other (as well as our mothers and/or fathers, for that matter). 


And yet as Laine discovers, there’s a real strength in. At one point she notes, “Being raised by the same parents at the same time was like being the last few to speak a dying language.” That’s how I’ve always felt when my sisters and I have had to deal with stressful family situations. No matter what life throws at us, everything is easier—and yes, better—when we don’t go it alone.


Q: Did you know how the novel would end before you started writing it, or did you make many changes along the way? 


A: This was one of those novels that began as a good, clear idea, yet surprised me once I started writing. That said, by about the fourth chapter—after I started writing from Sally’s perspective—I knew exactly how the book had to end. That’s why, although I made many small changes, there were few major structural reshuffles. Which is great—that’s my favorite way to write. 


Q: What are you working on now? 


A: I just finished a novel that I am just absolutely in love with—which is a true feat, as usually by the time I’m done editing a book, I never want to look at it again.


In my ninth novel, an uber-capable editor suffers a meltdown she can’t remember and decamps to the beach house her brother left her when he died—only to discover his slacker best friend inherited it, too, and won’t leave. It’s a life-affirming love story, and those are truly my favorite tales to tell. 


Q: Anything else we should know? 


A: You can learn more about my novels and my other projects at Thanks so much, Deborah! 


--Interview with Deborah Kalb. Here's a previous Q&A with Camille Pagán.

Q&A with Phoebe Morgan



Phoebe Morgan is the author of the new novel The Wild Girls. Her other books include The Doll House. She is an editorial director at HarperCollins UK, and she lives in London.



Q: Why did you decide to set The Wild Girls on a safari in Botswana?


A: I wrote The Wild Girls in the depths of lockdown 1, which was from March to the summer of 2020, and at the time, I was desperate to escape from the four walls of my apartment.


I had already decided I wanted to go a little out of my comfort zone and write a novel set in a far-flung destination, and thanks to the internet I was able to do some research and pull up photos and videos of the safari lodges that the Deception Valley Lodge complex in the book is based on.


I loved the idea of a locked-room mystery and the intrigue and suspense that a safari location would create – I wanted the women to be dealing with tension not only from within their friendship group but from their surroundings, too.


My hope was that readers could escape from the horror of the pandemic by losing themselves in the heat of Botswana.


Q: How did you create your four characters, and how would you describe the dynamic among them?


A: The four women in the novel--Felicity, Grace, Hannah, and Alice--were all very important to me. Originally, I wrote them all in first person, but my editor suggested I change some of them to third person, thereby making Grace more of a central main character, the one the reader feels the most invested in.


The dynamic between the women is a tense one – at one point in their lives, they were very close, but then everything changed on one fateful night. Each of them is still struggling with the repercussions of that evening, but there’s also something in them that wants to rekindle their previous closeness.


I really enjoyed creating the four distinct “wild girls” and their backstories. I always think it’s so important for characters to have clear backstories, even if they only exist in the writer’s mind rather than on the page.

Q: Did you know how the novel would end before you started writing it, or did you make many changes along the way?


A: I’m not a huge planner but I do usually know the rough endings of my novels when I begin – it’s more the middle that I don’t always have completely figured out. This book had some editing but not as much as some of my previous books – the story really just flowed and had quite a smooth feel to it from the very start.


Some extra twists came to me later in the day, of course, and I took on board some very helpful comments from my agent and editor in the UK. I always like playing with my readers’ emotions and adding in final twists right at the end to leave them guessing…


Q: Can you say more about what you hope readers take away from the story?


A: I hope readers will understand the intricacies of each of the characters and the worries they have as young women – the book deals with infertility, abusive relationships, parental issues and more – and I hope these come across in a sensitive way.


I also hope readers get a strong sense of Botswana and the luxury of the safari lodges in particular, that the writing alerts their senses and gives them a form of escapism – especially as international travel is harder now than it used to be pre-pandemic.


Q: What are you working on now?


A: I’ve just finished the draft of my fifth book, currently called The Trip which should be out in 2023. This one is about two couples who go on holiday to Thailand, and end up being arrested for manslaughter.


Again, it’s an escapist destination with a strong group dynamic – I’m always very interested in ensemble situations and the way power shifts between people, and I hope my readers are going to enjoy it.


Q: Anything else we should know?


A: As well as writing, I also work in publishing as a fiction editor and there is lots of information about writing and publishing on my author website:


I love to hear from readers, so if you enjoyed The Wild Girls, please do tag me, or get in touch on @Phoebe_A_Morgan on Twitter, @phoebeannmorgan on Instagram, or @PhoebeMorganAuthor on Facebook.


--Interview with Deborah Kalb