Wednesday, August 31, 2022

Q&A with May-Lee Chai




May-Lee Chai is the author of the new story collection Tomorrow in Shanghai and Other Stories. Her other books include the story collection Useful Phrases for Immigrants, and her work has appeared in a variety of publications, including Entropy and The Rumpus.


Q: Over how long a period did you write the stories in Tomorrow in Shanghai?


A: They were written over a period of 12 years, but the majority were written since 2017, after the results of the horrifying presidential election, which normalized the use of divisive, hateful speech and actions meant to keep the people of our nation at each other’s throats.


Q: The writer Charles Yu said of the book, “In these stories, we find people displaced, people who find themselves, by choice or by accident, navigating foreign lands and strange worlds, looking for the way home...” What do you think of that description?


A: I love how Charles Yu succinctly captured the themes of these stories! In Chinese the word for “home” and the word for “family” are the same. They’re both ““ (which is pronounced “jia” in Mandarin).


The characters in these stories are definitely searching for a place to call home and searching for people who can be considered family, as in a place and community where one feels safe and accepted.

Q: How did you decide on the order in which the stories would appear in the collection?


A: My editor and I discussed the order so that the stories would lead the reader on a journey as well, not so much linearly in time, but in terms of themes.


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


A: For me, the title works as a metaphor for the future. Since the early 20th century, Shanghai has always been China’s most cosmopolitan, sophisticated, and prosperous city. And I love Shanghai!  I’ve probably visited the city nearly 100 times.


Yet it’s not someplace I’ve ever considered home. When I lived in China, Nanjing was the city I considered “home” and Shanghai was the exciting place I’d visit on weekends. It’s always felt somewhat out of reach.


In the first story the title refers to the belief of one of the characters that Shanghai represents for him some happier, safer, sophisticated, and more modern time and place where his life will be better.


I think that metaphor works for the collection as well, in terms of that sense of yearning the characters express for that better, safer, happier future compared to their fraught and perilous present situations.


Q: What are you working on now?


A: I am working on a collection of essays and a novel.


Q: Anything else we should know?


A: This collection reflects my feelings about the rise of hate speech and hate crimes since the Trump administration and the subsequent pandemic. Even though none of the stories is set in this period, I’m using these stories to show how the violence of capitalism and  of hateful rhetoric impacts my Chinese/Chinese American characters at different points of time both in the past and in the future.


Like my characters, I’m still yearning for that future time and place where I will feel safe.


--Interview with Deborah Kalb

Q&A with Meg Elison



Meg Elison is the author of the new novel Number One Fan. Her other books include The Book of the Unnamed Midwife.


Q: What inspired you to write Number One Fan, and how did you create your character Eli Grey?


A: I got into a rideshare one night, very drunk in San Francisco. I blacked out somewhere between the Bay Bridge and my apartment, only waking up when the driver shook me. I stumbled to my door and put the key in and it hit me: I could have woken up anywhere.


I started thinking about what it would be like if someone recognized a famous author well enough to trap them. I thought about what that person might want. The idea began to take shape, and then I put Eli in it.


I wanted someone I could relate to: someone who knows that publishing doesn't make everything perfect and someone who is kind of a loner dirtbag, too. She's relatable, but she's not always the best person. Not a perfect victim. That made for some intricate drama. 


Q: Without giving anything away, did you know how the novel would end before you started writing it, or did you make many changes along the way?


A: I thought it would end much worse! My tendency is for very unhappy endings, and some of my earliest readers told me I should ease up a little. In the end, they were right. 


Q: What do you think the novel says about fandom and creativity?


A: I love fandom and I grew up reading and writing fan fiction. I think creativity occupies a multivarious space in people's lives, and it's no good to judge how someone expresses their interests and artistic joy.


At the same time, the question of who owns a story is a complicated one. I wanted to look at how muddy it can get: plagiarism, fanfic, and the way that an audience is always a source of pressure can really change art. We're seeing that now, and seeing how it plays out for both individuals and for our culture. 


Q: The book is described as “a thrilling horror novel.” What do you think of that description?


A: Horror is a strange genre to fit into. Some people think that only supernatural stories are really horror, but the slasher, the cannibal, the serial killer are all real-life horror stories. I think this book will appeal to thriller fans, but it might shock them. I think it will appeal to horror fans, but they won't be able to tell themselves it's just pretend. I'm here to scare everybody. 


Q: What are you working on now?


A: I'm working on another horror novel about the scariest people on earth: dentists. 


Q: Anything else we should know?


A: My Instagram is fire. 


--Interview with Deborah Kalb

Q&A with Faith Shearin




Faith Shearin is the author of the new young adult novel Lost River, 1918.  Her other books include the poetry collection Orpheus, Turning.


Q: What inspired you to write Lost River, 1918, and how did you create the Van Beest family?


A: The idea for Lost River, 1918 came to me during a blizzard when I was living in a cabin on top of North Mountain in West Virginia. It was a howling storm during which the snow drifted, and wind gusts formed ghostly apparitions, and I found myself daydreaming about a forest where the dead could return to the living.


It was several years later, in 2019 — a few months after my husband died suddenly of a heart attack — that I found the notes and a rough opening chapter of Lost River sitting on the desktop of my computer and I re-entered the world I had begun fashioning during that snowstorm. Disappearing into the caves and river and forest of Darkesville seemed to offer me a way to survive my grief.


The Van Beest family appeared to me in fragments. I found their last name on a gloomy Dutch painting that captured my imagination and the Van Beest parents occurred to me first: a midwife and mortician who were very much in love and whose professions regularly ushered them into the liminal spaces between life and death.


In a museum in Washington, D.C., I happened upon a series of portraits of young Victorian women posing with pet squirrels and, after this — in my mind — Speck began flicking his tail and he, in turn, led me to the shoulders of Anne and Frannie.


Q: I’m so sorry for the loss of your husband…


So, for the novel, did you need to do any research to write it, and if so, did you learn anything that especially surprised you?


A: Much of what I knew about 1918 before I wrote the novel came from books about the Spanish Flu. I was also lucky enough to know my great grandparents — Irene and Henry — who were born at the turn of the 20th century. (They both lived to be nearly 100 years old and she liked to say Let’s get dressed up and go somewhere and he would reply We are dressed up and we are somewhere.)


From them I heard stories of early telephones and sanatoriums and Model Ts; they showed me tintypes of distant relations wearing tea-length dresses with large pockets. The thing that surprised me most when I read factual accounts of 1918 was that horses still pulled fire wagons in many rural areas.


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 am new to novel writing — I spent the past 25 years as a poet and occasional short story writer — so I began with a formal plot outline. Many of my friends who are novelists warned me that the characters in novels — once you breathed life into them — have minds of their own and, of course, they were right. I abandoned my outline halfway through and just woke each morning to witness and transcribe the story.

Writing the ending of Lost River, 1918 was one of the most emotional and transformative events of my life. I felt, for a moment, as if the veil between the dead and the living fell away and all my family ghosts leaned close, offering love.


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


A: I hope readers are able to escape their own troubles and disappear into the drama of the Van Beest family; I hope they are able to enjoy a landscape where magic is possible and death is less ominous or final.


I used to ask my creative writing students to list their fears and obsessions and use these as the starter seeds for stories and poems. Death and disease were early childhood obsessions for me and I longed for books like Tuck Everlasting or Frankenstein, which contemplated mortality. I suppose I have written the story I wanted to read when I was 14.


Q: What are you working on now?


A: I’m working on a new book of poems in which it is always night and I have begun dreaming about a new YA novel whose narrator seems to be a noble but feeble roof rat.


Q: Anything else we should know?


A: I can be reached at and I am looking forward to visiting book groups, classrooms, and bookshops, and connecting with readers online.


--Interview with Deborah Kalb

Q&A with Elena Lister and Michael Schwartzman


Elena Lister



Elena Lister and Michael Schwartzman are the authors of the new book Giving Hope: Conversations with Children About Illness, Death, and Loss. Lister is a psychiatrist and grief specialist, and Schwartzman is a psychologist and psychoanalyst.


Q: You bring personal and professional experiences to the topic of speaking with kids about death--what brought the two of you together to write this book?


A: We each have been deeply affected by the illness and loss of people dear to us--as we believe is true for most of us humans. We’ll each talk about the personal part of what drew us to writing about dealing with dying and death and then how we came to work together on it.


Dr. Lister: My younger daughter Liza, died of leukemia when she was 6 years old. Through the two years of her illness and then death, my family and I experienced the connecting and healing power of honest and heartful communication about what was so deeply painful for all of us.


Working with my daughters’ school, I saw that when even young children learn about death and loss with compassion and empathy, it is possible for resilience and hope to develop. It was a major turning point in my career, not just my life.


After years with a therapy practice helping people face all life challenges, I began to devote a significant part of my work to helping parents and children, schools and communities cope with illness and loss--bringing the agony of the death of my daughter, and all that I learned in the process of experiencing it, to some good by helping others not feel emotionally alone facing what feels unbearable. 


I also began to teach at medical centers across the country about how to talk with children and families confronting illness and dying since I saw how important that was in the care of families.

Michael Schwartzman

Dr. Schwartzman: I’ve always been drawn to things that scare me and particularly moved by people who confronted and survived emotional pain.


Through my career I have worked with people facing crushing emotional experiences such as illness and loss and seen how talking through feelings and thoughts, bringing unconscious emotions and forgotten memories to the surface helped people find relief.


I could see that parents who could put their own concerns aside for a moment to attend to their children could be healers for their struggling young ones. I brought that understanding to being the consulting psychologist at two schools weathering all sorts of tragedies and crises large and small.


I had had extensive experience working with one particular school when the mother of a young student there was diagnosed with a terminal disease. I had established a psychologically-attuned and responsive approach to meeting the emotional needs of children that encouraged engagement with parents and talking openly within their families.


To join me in bringing that to facing this imminent loss, the school brought in Dr. Lister because of her immense experience helping families and communities facing illness and death.


We worked side by side to help parents understand their own reactions, to guide them in talking honestly with their children about what was happening and to support teachers coping with their own feelings of loss as well as be prepared to speak with the children about illness and death.


When this parent died, we continued working together with the students and to help the community grieve, creating ways to honor and remember her and providing further gatherings for parents to talk about what they were feeling and how things were with their children.


Through that experience many years ago, we found that we both held a strong conviction about the importance of conversation with children as a path toward deepening connection with parents and other caretakers when facing life’s challenges such as illness and loss. And we became friends as well based on shared values as well as mutual respect and enjoyment. 


Dr. Lister: When I found in my work that caretakers longed for a resource they could read and return to time and again when taking care of children facing loss, I decided to write this book and asked Dr. Schwartzman to do so with me. 


The process of writing the book demonstrated the very concept we so deeply believe in--that through conversation comes growth, understanding, and connection. Our collaboration has been a challenge and a joy--each of us learning from the other as we propel each other forward creatively.


Q: Dr. Lister, I’m so sorry about the loss of your daughter…


To you both, I wondered, how was the book’s title chosen, and what does it signify for you?


A: As we have found in our work, no one wants to talk about death. However, death is an inevitable part of life, so talking about death is an inevitable part of parenting. 


Often people feel they should not talk about death because it will upset children. But children think about and are exposed to death anyway, and it is far worse if they have to sort that out alone. 


We wanted to help caretakers generate conversations with children that support them and open up room for feelings and thoughts that are hard to manage. Faced together, the pain is easier to carry.


We believe that when we confront difficult things together, we build deep connections with each other and out of that comes strength--you know you can do it--and resilience--you know you can endure it. Hope for the future grows within a child as they feel belief in themselves facing any hard things to come since they have faced difficult times before. 


Hence our title: we believe that through open honest compassionate conversations, caretakers give children the gift of hope. Much as we might wish to, we cannot change the reality of death and loss but connection and hope do change and ease how we face them.


Q: Can you say more about the impact parents and other adults can have in helping children process loss?


A: Parental and adult help is crucial for children who must cope with loss. Since the first steps in processing any loss involve allowing oneself to realize that this is what you are up against and learning how to carry yourself while in emotional pain, it is important for parents to model this for their children. 


Children need to learn how to identify and name their feelings, to accept and express what it feels like to live in this space. They learn to do this by observing their parents and through the direct teaching and learning that occurs in conversations no one really wants to have. By modeling and teaching, parents can ease their child's experience within the comfort of togetherness.


Conversations, between each other and, then, also within oneself can make hard feelings more bearable. The inevitable changes that come with illness, death, and loss can bring transformations that yield a renewed sense of being, rather than only a sense of diminishment.


Q: What are some of the most important things you hope readers take away from the book?


A: We envision this book to be a companion to anyone deeply absorbed in the difficult experience of helping a child through a significant loss. Caretakers in this situation can feel very distressed and uncomfortable themselves.


Although this may seem inevitable, we have found through our clinical work and through the difficult conversations we ourselves have experienced that one does not have to be wary or afraid. We have found that making conversations about difficult experiences is key to processing those experiences in a healthy way.


By understanding your own experiences of loss, you can better separate your experience from your child’s, while at the same time using your understanding and experience to guide your child in identifying and managing their own upset.


Grounding yourself first by addressing your own emotions enables you to focus in on your child's intense feelings, apart from your own, and support their expression of emotions and their efforts at settling themselves.


We know that on their own, children pick up on what is happening around them. They also tend to be very tuned in to their parent's emotions. So, if you have settled yourself, they will sense this, too, and it can be very reassuring to them. 


It is important that a child feels that there is support for them. Their resilience develops, not from avoiding hard feelings, but from experiencing them, naming them, and communicating them. Your child’s strength comes from going through all of this in partnership with you, entwining the pain suffered with the togetherness shared.


Q: What are you working on now?


A: When we began our project, it was well before the Covid pandemic began. The last few years with that and more--such as war, gun violence, and climate catastrophes all part of a constant 24-hour news cycle--have brought a deep awareness of illness and death into the lives of our children. They are growing up in a soup of mortality. 


We turn our focus now to helping people face more specifically these ever-evolving crises in our world and within their lives. We respond to how these impact people and want to continue to be a resource for caretakers and children as they face each new thing yet to come.


Q: Anything else we should know?


A: Every day, we are moved by the privilege of listening to the stories of how people live their lives. Again and again, we have found how important it is to face up to life's inevitable hardships, but also how equally important it is to balance this with finding joy in the here and now.


Many people have told us they do not know how we do this work. The answer is that we are energized by the resilience and hope that springs from the hard work we share with parents and their children.


--Interview with Deborah Kalb

Aug. 31



Aug. 31, 1916: Daniel Schorr born.

Tuesday, August 30, 2022

Q&A with Ellen Meister



Ellen Meister is the author of the new novel Take My Husband. Her other novels include The Rooftop Party. Her work has appeared in a variety of publications, including The New York Times.


Q: What inspired you to write Take My Husband, and how did you create your character Laurel?


A: I was working on another book—and truly in a zone, dedicated to finishing it—when the muse flew into my home and landed in my lap, delivering the idea to write a book about a happily married woman who wants to kill her husband. It is, of course, pure coincidence that the muse paid a visit at the exact moment my dear husband interrupted my writing session!


As far as fleshing out the character, I knew Laurel would need to be someone who clung to very traditional ideas of marriage—a woman utterly committed to subjugating her own needs for her husband’s.


From there, I pushed into her background, her psychology, to figure out how she landed exactly where she did. Along the way, it opened  a window on her childhood, and the character of her mother—a doll-collecting agoraphobic—became a key part of the story.


Q: Without giving anything away, did you know how the novel would end before you started writing it, or did you make many changes along the way?


A: I basically knew how it would end. In fact, that’s how I always plan my books—I figure out the arc I want for my main character, and then form the story around it. That said, there’s more redemption in this book than I expected there to be. I guess I wound up liking Laurel more than I thought I would!

Q: How would you describe the relationship between Laurel and her husband, Doug?


A: It certainly follows a traditional model of marriage, with the wife in service to her husband. But of course it’s more layered and nuanced than it seems. Laurel was someone who needed a lot of love, and Doug provided that. He was sweet, funny, and utterly adoring. And yes, he was needy. But that evolved over time, and Laurel has to grapple with the role she played in that trajectory.


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


A: First, I hope they’re engaged and entertained. Second, I hope they see at least some part of themselves in these characters. And lastly, I hope the reader will recognize the message that a good relationship cannot be based on the subjugation of one person’s needs for another’s. 


Q: What are you working on now?


A: I’m going back-and-forth between two books right now. One is a collaboration I can’t really talk about. But the other is a story about a young woman with almost heartbreaking earnestness, and it centers on her relationship with her irascible father. I can’t give away too much yet, but it takes place in Brooklyn, and I’m having so much fun with it.


Q: Anything else we should know?


A: A few different reviewers have mentioned that Take My Husband would make a great dark comedy television series. That tickled me, because I teamed up with the creative folks at Can Do Entertainment to write a pilot, and we’re trying to interest some studios. Stay tuned!  


--Interview with Deborah Kalb. Here's a previous Q&A with Ellen Meister.

Q&A with Ellen Marie Wiseman




Ellen Marie Wiseman is the author of the new novel The Lost Girls of Willowbrook. It focuses on the Willowbrook State School in New York, and the horrifying and inhumane conditions that existed in the institution before its closure in the 1980s. Wiseman's other novels include The Orphan Collector. She lives on the shores of Lake Ontario.


Q: You’ve said, “I was first drawn to Willowbrook by the rumors and urban legends surrounding it, some of which turned out to be true and made it into the story in ways that even surprised me.” How did you create your character Sage?


A: I created Sage, who is mistakenly locked up in Willowbrook when she goes there to search for her missing twin, because I wanted to tell the story from the point of view of someone who didn’t belong in the institution. I believe it’s a more intimate perspective than from someone on the outside looking in.


Q: How did you research the novel, and what surprised you most in the course of your research?


A: The research for this novel was utterly heartbreaking, but the more I learned about the institution itself, the more I realized that “life” inside was far more complex than I imagined. And the more my sympathy for those who lived and worked there grew.

Out of public sight and completely closed off, it provided the ideal breeding ground for human abuse and became an underground city with its own hierarchy and society, where employees could buy and sell everything from drugs to jewelry to meat.


I think the most surprising thing was that it also became a hideout for researchers to carry out controversial medical experiments; all of which were funded by the Defense Department.


Q: What did you see as the right blend between history and fiction as you worked on the book?


A: Oh, that’s a hard one! Let me just say that while I certainly wanted to shine a light on the tragedy of Willowbrook, I also hoped to entertain readers and keep them turning the pages. To try to accomplish that, I mainly used historical facts to help move the story along instead of writing huge information dumps.


Q: What do you see as the legacy of the Willowbrook tragedy? 


A: What happened there should serve as a reminder to us all that we need to be more protective of the most vulnerable among us, and that every human being has the right to learn and grow, and above all, to be treated with kindness, respect, and empathy.


Q: What are you working on now?


A: Right now I’m working on a novel centered on eugenics in America, which had a more profound effect on our lives than most people realize.


Q: Anything else we should know?


A: Yes, I’m grateful to you for having me! And I hope The Lost Girls of Willowbrook inspires readers with Sage’s ability to turn heartbreak into a force for good and entertains them with her determination in the face of danger.


But most importantly, I hope they’re troubled by the cruel reality of Willowbrook and institutions of its sort. I hope readers will be stirred by how people lived, worked, suffered, and eventually triumphed with the closure of Willowbrook.


If anyone would like to share their thoughts on my work, they can find me here:

--Interview with Deborah Kalb. Here's a previous Q&A with Ellen Marie Wiseman.

Q&A with Martin Edwards




Martin Edwards is the author of the new book The Life of Crime: Detecting the History of Mysteries and Their Creators. His other books include the Lake District mystery series. He lives in Lymm, UK.


Q: What inspired you to write The Life of Crime?


A: Crime fiction has fascinated me since I discovered Agatha Christie at the age of 8, at which point not only did I become a fan, I conceived an ambition to become a crime writer myself. I became intrigued by the lives of crime writers and this only increased after my first novel was published.


By then, I’d also become deeply interested in the history and heritage of this wonderful genre, and keen to explore its full range – not just contemporary stories, but those of the past – many of them long-forgotten – and those from across the world.


For many years I toyed with the idea of writing an up-to-date history of crime writing and finally I hit upon the idea of telling the story through the lives of a wide variety of writers over the years, from a diverse range of backgrounds.


The result was The Life of Crime, which is I believe the most wide-ranging history of crime fiction ever attempted by a single author. It’s a book that tells a story, about the evolution of the genre, through many different individual stories about the personal triumphs and disasters of crime writers across the world.


Q: In an article for, you said, “I aimed to explore the notion of the ‘life of crime’, in one sense by writing a sort of biography of this type of writing, in another by glancing at the rollercoaster lives of some of the most interesting crime writers.” How did you balance both of these goals as you were working on the book?


A: I decided that each chapter would start with a section presenting a sort of vignette of an individual writer’s life, which helps to cast light on their fiction. In most chapters (apart from a few devoted to giants of the genre, like Poe, Conan Doyle, Christie, and Highsmith) I move on to explore related work – so there tends to be a theme or unifying factor in each chapter.


The chapter endnotes are very important, because they contain a vast amount of information which I find truly fascinating and instructive, yet which doesn’t fit so easily into the main text. The idea is that readers can approach the book in a number of different ways, according to the tastes.


Because this is such a big book (quarter of a million words!) I felt it was important to cater for those who want to “dip in” to selected areas as well as those who prefer to read from start to finish, and those – and I hope there will be many of them – who want to keep the book handy and come back to it from time to time to explore different subjects in more depth.


Q: Of the various crime writers you discuss in the book, are there some you found especially compelling?


A: Each of the authors who is the “lead subject” of a chapter interests me, and so do many of the less renowned figures.


A few highly selective examples: Mary Roberts Rinehart, Patrick and Bruce Hamilton, Cornell Woolrich, Ross Macdonald, P.D. James. Of the less renowned authors, William Lindsey Gresham, author of Nightmare Alley, fascinates me, as does Jim Thompson.


Q: What do you see looking ahead when it comes to crime fiction?


A: Part of the joy of crime fiction’s development is that it is highly unpredictable. Ten years ago, nobody would have predicted the amazing success of the British Library Crime Classics – it came as a shock to me, and I’m the series consultant!


But I’m confident that writers will continue to explore fresh ways of using the hook of a crime to explore character and society, while the rediscovery of previously neglected works of the past will continue to unearth many undeservedly forgotten gems.


Q: What are you working on now?


A: I’m currently writing Sepulchre Street, the fourth in my series of novels set in the 1930s and featuring Rachel Savernake. The third, Blackstone Fell, is to be published in the UK in September and in the US next year (as The Puzzle of Blackstone Lodge).


Q: Anything else we should know?


A: My Lake District Mysteries are a contemporary series of cold case whodunits set in the glorious Lake country of north England. The latest title is The Girl They All Forgot (this is the US title of The Crooked Shore).


--Interview with Deborah Kalb

Q&A with Marc J. Seifer




Marc J. Seifer is the author of the new book Tesla: Wizard at War: The Genius, the Particle Beam Weapon, and the Pursuit of Power. His other books include Wizard: The Life and Times of Nikola Tesla. He is also a handwriting expert.


Q: What initially fascinated you about Nikola Tesla, and over how long a period did you work on this book?


A: I was amazed that at the time, which was 1976, that I had never heard of the person who invented the induction motor, our hydroelectric power system, wireless communication and what was to become cell phone technology, that is, the ability to create an unlimited number of wireless channels, fluorescent and neon lights, remote control, robotics and vertical takeoff and landing aircraft (such as the Osprey helicopter/airplane).


At first I didn’t think one person could do all this, so I made Tesla the subject of my doctoral dissertation to go into the heart and soul of each of these inventions. To my astonishment, Tesla did indeed lay at the basis of each of these creations.


The dissertation took about six years and then I put in another eight years of daily work to create Wizard: The Life and Times of Nikola Tesla: Biography of a Genius.


Ultimately, it took 20 years from 1976 until the book came out in 1996 and I was gratified to see that Wizard was called “serious scholarship” by Scientific American and is “Highly Recommended” by the American Association for the Advancement of Science.


My new book, Tesla: Wizard at War: The Genius, the Particle Beam Weapon, and the Pursuit of Power, began about eight years ago. During that time, I helped develop, write and star in the five-part limited TV series The Tesla Files for the History Channel, now on Amazon.


I was already in the midst of writing the book but because of the show, which went out to 40 countries, people from all over the world wrote and sent me amazing new never-before-revealed information on Tesla, including recently declassified documents from the Soviet Union and letters between Tesla and the British War Office as WWII was beginning.


Where Wizard covers Tesla’s entire life, year by year, Wizard at War focuses mainly on Tesla’s link to three wars: the Spanish-American War of 1898; WWI, where Tesla worked for Telefunken in wireless; and WWII, where Tesla negotiated with the sale of his particle beam weapon to the Soviet Union and Great Britain and also gave freely the details to the US War Department.


Q: What would you say are some of the most common perceptions and misconceptions about Tesla?


A: The most common perception is that Tesla was a genius. Although he virtually disappeared from the history books and from the American psyche from about the 1950s through the early 1990s, a few years later, Tesla rose to become the Greatest Geek Who Ever Lived, beating out 50 other great scientists such as Newton, Einstein, Edison, Turing, Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, Marconi, DaVinci, and Elon Musk.


One of the greatest misconceptions about Tesla is that after his heyday in the 1890s, his work became less and less important. He is often depicted in old age as a has-been.


In fact, quite the opposite is true. In Tesla: Wizard at War, I show that a half-dozen Nobel Prize winners sent Tesla happy birthday congratulations when he turned 75 and he made the cover of Time magazine in 1931.


And that as WWII was brewing, Tesla was negotiating with the very highest echelons of power in the Soviet Union, Canada, Yugoslavia, Great Britain, and the United States in his attempts to sell them his particle beam weapon.


Tesla felt that if all the nations in the world had such a weapon, war would become obsolete because it would make no sense to go to war because the defense of a country’s borders would be impregnable.


My new book shows that the leaders of these countries, including Joseph Stalin, General McNaughton--who was the head of secret weapons development for Canada and thus for the British Empire--and FDR himself, were very interested in meeting with Tesla to learn more about his so-called death ray. This is a very new look at Tesla.


Q: How would you describe the dynamic between Tesla and inventor Guglielmo Marconi?


A: Tesla offered his wireless equipment to Marconi in the late 1890s and Marconi passed and then simply pirated it, so Tesla was very unhappy about Marconi! The big difference between them with regards to who invented the radio has to do with the difference in their working equipment at the turn of the century.


Although Marconi was using a Tesla coil, he was using a spark gap transmitter to transmit Morse Code and could only operate his system on one line. Tesla was using his oscillators to create continuous waves so he could transmit voice, pictures, and even power by wireless on multiple frequencies.


Marconi mostly sent the electromagnetic energy through the air, whereas Tesla sent it not only through the airwaves, but also by conduction through the Earth. Tesla’s system was more efficient and is the basis of modern-day radio, cell phone technology, wireless communication, and when TV goes through the airwaves. 


Q: What about Tesla and Thomas Edison?


A: During the War of the Currents, Tesla along with Westinghouse were using alternating current (AC) whereas Edison was using direct current or DC. The difference was that with the Edison system, electricity could only be sent about a mile power dropping off over distance and then only for lighting.


The Tesla AC system put in at Niagara Falls by Westinghouse, on the other hand, enabled electricity to be transported hundreds of miles with no loss of power and AC was used not only to light homes but also to run electrical equipment such as refrigerators, toasters, the vacuum cleaner, and also power factories as well. Tesla invented the modern-day electrical grid.


Before Tesla, all the factories were set up along rivers because they had to be close to the power source. After Tesla, factories could be placed anywhere. The Tesla hydroelectric power system ran on waterfalls, and was thus renewable and was clean energy. The Edison system was coal-operated for lighting villages and thus was adding greatly to air pollution.


So, Tesla and Edison were business enemies during the War of the Currents, but afterwards, they became friends and when Tesla’s laboratory burned to the ground, Edison provided Tesla a work space until he could build another factor. I get into their friendship in Wizard at War.


Q: Anything else we should know?


A: I am also the author of the Rudy Styne Quadrilogy. Each book is different, but the middle two are a two-book saga covering WWI and WWII as a back story. All four are modern-day murder mysteries starring ace reporter Rudy Styne.


Rasputin’s Nephew is a psi-spy thriller involving the creation of cybernetic soldiers with paranormal abilities created by an enemy nation in Eurasia. Although total fiction, this book is based to some extent on my 15 years as a teacher of parapsychology at Providence College Night School and my work with such superpsychics as Ingo Swann and Uri Geller.


My ace reporter, Rudy Styne, begins to investigate the unusual deaths of American parapsychologists and tries to report on this, only to get resistance from his boss at Modern Times, my fictitious magazine that he works for. As he gets deeper into the mystery, the cybernetic soldiers are now sent to kill him.


Doppelganger and Crystal Night are a two-book saga. The modern story involves ace reporter Rudy Styne on the trail of a major computer hacker. While en route to interview the Steve Jobs of Germany, Rudy runs into his doppelganger, and that will tie him to the back story which begins in 1906 with the birth of Abe Maxwell.


Abe’s father is Elias Maxwell, who, along with his brother Simon, starts a motorworks which evolves into an airline. Since the back story takes place in the beginning of the 20th century, Simon will end up flying for the Kaiser during World War I and this will tie him to the Red Baron and Herman Goering, who were both ace pilots during the Great War.


As we move to the second novel, with Rudy still on the trail of the computer hacker, he now wants to learn more about his link to his look-alike, who obviously is German. After finding out that he is not biologically related to his mother, this becomes a search for his birth parents, who are more deeply tied to the back story. These two books are a great two-book saga in the tradition of Exodus, The Winds of War, and Captain Corelli’s Mandolin


I happen to also be a handwriting expert, having testified over 100 times in state, federal, civil and criminal court. Through the years, I have had a number of amazing cases, so I fictionalized a few of them and created a murder mystery again starring ace reporter Rudy Styne, trying to figure out who is murdering handwriting experts and why in Fate Line


All four novels are completely original. They are not formula novels. Each deals with real events as well, so the reader not only has the pleasure of reading a murder mystery, but also interesting information about parapsychology, World War I, World War II, computer hacking and forgery detection are also gleaned. Please check them out on Amazon.


--Interview with Deborah Kalb

Aug. 30



Aug. 30, 1925: Laurent de Brunhoff born.