Friday, March 31, 2023

Q&A with Heinz Insu Fenkl


Heinz Insu Fenkl is the author of the new novel Skull Water. He also has written the novel Memories of My Ghost Brother. Fenkl teaches at the State University of New York, New Paltz. He grew up in Korea, Germany, and the U.S., and he lives in the Hudson Valley of New York.


Q: In a 2016 interview in The New Yorker, you said, “The Insu in the story is myself as a boy,” adding that you were dealing with “the often conflicting layers of my identity as the son of a Korean mother and a German-American father.” Can you say more about that, and about what specifically inspired you to write Skull Water?


A: Skull Water was originally meant to be a memoir, so initially, the reason was to write about important themes and experiences that came from my life: being of mixed-race; being marginalized, bullied, and discriminated against; living between U.S. Army bases and the Korean camp towns; surviving with no parental supervision because our GI fathers were away from home most of the time (sometimes in Vietnam) and our mothers were busy dealing on the black market; how we were exploited; how we formed our own support systems; the culture of Army brats; the daily danger in our lives, which we were oblivious to, but which is quite alarming in retrospect.


I also wanted to capture a time and place that no longer exists because it hasn’t been adequately documented. The life in camp towns in the 1970s in South Korea, under the rule of the military dictator Park Chung-hee, isn’t exactly a popular subject even in Korean literature. A lot of what I wanted to do was document that lost history for Koreans and for Americans who might have served there. The two major American military bases in Korea (ASCOM and Yongsan Garrison) are now mostly shut down.


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


A: Skull water is the fluid that is said to accumulate in the human skull after death. According to a Taoist folk belief, it can cure any human ailment.


In the novel, the main character Insu and his friends set out to rob a grave to get skull water for Insu’s uncle, who is suffering from a mysterious foot injury that never seems to heal. Insu’s uncle, Big Uncle, is dying as the infection in his foot grows more serious, so there is urgency to the grave-robbing quest, which has unexpected consequences.


Skull water also seems to be a reference to cerebrospinal fluid, the medium through which neurochemical processes in the brain occur, which means it’s the medium of human consciousness. Insu learns from a Buddhist monk about a Buddhist master from ancient times, Wonhyo, who became enlightened after drinking water from a skull.

Q: The writer Marie Myung-Ok Lee called the book “A magical, brutal novel that shines light into a little-known world of a modernizing Korea of the 1970s with its vestiges of American occupation, along with the mysteries of ancestors and the hungry ghosts of worlds we cannot see.” What do you think of that description?


A: Marie is a very perceptive reader, and she has known my work for a long time. She also touches on some of those same themes in her own remarkable novel, The Evening Hero, which came out last year with Simon & Schuster. Her description of my novel is amazingly concise, when I think about it, and it accounts for the setting, the plot, and the themes of Skull Water very accurately.


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


A: It’s hard to reduce the themes of the novel to a few main messages, but a lot of the novel is about the conflict between intention and outcome. The world can be a terrible place, and good intentions don’t always produce the intended results, and yet we still have to live with compassion, sympathy, and understanding as we try to do what we believe is right and good. What helps us with this difficult task, even when families are so dysfunctional, is the loyalty and devotion of our friends.


Q: What are you working on now?


A: One of the things I’m working on at the moment is The Monkey Puzzle Tree, a novel about my father’s experience in Vietnam working as a military advisor with the Montagnard tribespeople, the Hmong, in the highlands just before the Tet Offensive.


It will be unlike most novels about the Vietnam War because it shows the daily lives and the culture of the Hmong along with my father’s unique perspective as a German survivor of World War II and its aftermath, including the expulsion of Germans from Czechoslovakia.


There are lots of unexpected parallelisms between his background and the ultimate fate of the Hmong as they were exploited and then largely abandoned by the U.S. government. It’s another lost history of multiple displacements.


Q: Anything else we should know?


A: I used the I Ching, the ancient Chinese book of divination, in writing Skull Water, applying the same method Big Uncle uses in the story. That might give readers some insight into both the structure and the visual layout of the book.


I’d also like to leave readers with a bit of advice—a secret to vivid writing: first, always write by hand if possible. That engages your whole body in the act of writing in a way that typing on a computer does not.


Second, if you have to compose on a computer, do it with low ambient light and the screen off. (You may have to learn how to touch-type.) That way, you’ll be separating the act of writing from reading (which engages your impulse to judge and edit your work even in the middle of a sentence). Images are ephemeral and like dreams—if you don’t capture them quickly and  nonjudgmentally, they will disappear. Trust your intuition.


--Interview with Deborah Kalb

Q&A with Jane Healey




Jane Healey is the author of the new historical novel Good Night from Paris. Her other books include The Secret Stealers. She lives north of Boston.




Q: Why did you decide to focus on the actress Drue Leyton (1903-1997) in your new historical novel?


A: I discovered Drue Leyton while writing my third novel, The Secret Stealers. She was an American actress who left Hollywood behind to marry the love of her life and move to Paris - in 1938. Then of course the war changed the course of her life forever.


She became essentially the first Voice of America in France - broadcasting what was really happening on the continent of Europe to an audience in the U.S. She was so effective in that role that the Germans took notice and announced on German radio she would be executed when they occupied France.


And that is only part of Drue’s extraordinary story - from her time in an internment camp for American and British women, to her role in the underground network getting Allied fliers out of occupied territory - her story was too amazing not to tell.


Q: How did you research her life, and did you learn anything that especially surprised you?


A: I researched her life through newspaper articles and books about life in occupied France, among many other sources. The two primary sources that were most valuable were Drue’s letters home, which are archived at the Holocaust Museum in D.C. and her autobiography, which she wrote about her experiences during the war.


The thing that most surprised me was an event that happened post-Pearl Harbor. The Germans rounded up a couple hundred American women living in and around Paris and imprisoned them in a monkey house in a zoo just outside the city. Their friends and family had to pay five francs to talk to them over the fence. That was such an incredibly bizarre historical event that I never heard of, and I knew I had to include it in the novel.

Q: The author Aimie K. Runyan said of the book, “Goodnight from Paris is a portrait in courage, not of the men who lifted guns to rid their nations of tyranny, but of the women who fought to get the support of the United States for the cause via the airwaves.” What do you think of that description?


A: I love Aimie and I love this description. I think women played so many critical roles during WWII that are finally being recognized and celebrated.


And Drue’s role as a radio broadcaster to the U.S. was important because at the time America was weary of war after WWI and politically there were many who were isolationist, wanting no part in another European war. Americans in Europe, like Drue and the journalist Dorothy Thompson, whom Drue had on her radio show, knew what was happening in Europe firsthand, and also understood that America’s involvement was an inevitability. 


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


A: I always hope readers are entertained first and foremost, but I also hope they are inspired by Drue’s story and learn about an aspect of WWII history that they weren’t aware of before. 


Q: What are you working on now?


A: I am working on a new project, but it’s very early days and I’m a little superstitious about sharing. I will say it’s a departure from WWII, though I still love learning and writing about that era.


Q: Anything else we should know?


A: I love zooming with book clubs all over the country. Readers can sign up for my mailing list at to find out what’s going on with me. And I have a webinar/podcast called Historical Happy Hour, interviewing other historical fiction authors about their latest projects. Past episodes are available on YouTube and wherever you listen to podcasts. 


--Interview with Deborah Kalb. Here's a previous Q&A with Jane Healey.

Q&A with Martin Lemelman



Martin Lemelman is the author and illustrator of the new middle grade graphic novel The Miracle Seed. It focuses on ancient date palms that were rediscovered in recent years. His many other books include Mendel's Daughter. He lives in Florida.


Q: What inspired you to write and illustrate The Miracle Seed


A: I read every day– fiction, nonfiction, comics, the news.


I'm also fascinated by nature; so much so, that I took a course to become a Florida Master Gardener. When I came across an article about two scientists bringing the long-lost Judean Date Palm back from extinction, I was hooked.


With further research, I discovered this true story contains elements of hope, sadness, and rebirth. It's also a story filled with mystery, conflict, and surprise– a true-life Jurassic Park!  


Q: How did you research the book, and what did you find that surprised you most?


A: I do lots of research when I‘m writing a true story like The Miracle Seed. I read articles, books, scientific abstracts, and watched interviews. I even grew medjool date seeds to study how date seeds form into plants.


However, my research doesn't end when I begin writing and drawing a book. In the course of writing this book, I emailed Dr. Elaine Solowey many times with questions about her methods of reviving the ancient seed. For me, research is exciting and a chance to learn something new. I don't think of it as tedious or boring.


I taught illustration and graphic design at Kutztown University for over 30 years. Mostly, I tried to instill in my students a sense of creativity and problem-solving. When it came to The Miracle Seed, I was a bit surprised when I learned about how creative these scientists needed to be. Creativity truly exists in all fields! It pushes us forward.


Q: The Kirkus review of the book said, in part, that it “Restores hope in the idea that all things are possible; especially empowering for young women interested in STEM subjects.” What do you think of that description, and what do you hope readers take away from the book?

A: I think the review is spot on. I hope young readers will be inspired to find the next miracle! I hope they will use their study of history and science to make our world a better place.


The Miracle Seed tells the true and miraculous story of two women scientists who did the impossible. I hope young women will be encouraged to ask, “What can we do next?” It's my intention to instill a sense of wonder and excitement about the world around us.


Q: How are the date palms faring today?


A: I just wrote to Dr. Solowey and she kindly responded that they’re flowering and in good health. She’s pollinating the female palms but so far only Hannah seems to be fertile and producing dates.


Q: What are you working on now?


A: I'm currently working on a graphic novel for young readers that’s very dear to me. It's called Goldie’s Forest. It tells the true story of my mother’s life before World War II and how she survived the Holocaust with her sister and two of her brothers. 


My son asks me every day, "How many pages did you finish today?" I tell him it's not a race. These books take time. And I just love the process. Hopefully, one day someone will read it, but for now it's just for me.

Q: Anything else we should know?


A: Coincidently, my 7-year-old granddaughter Hannah shares the same name as the palm that produced the first dates. She’s very proud of that! Also note, her younger sister Abby likes my book, but she absolutely LOVES dates!  Both girls are sweet as dates!


--Interview with Deborah Kalb

Q&A with Eileen Joyce Donovan




Eileen Joyce Donovan is the author of the new historical novel The Campbell Sisters. Her other books include A Lady Newspaperman's Dilemma. She lives in Manhattan.


Q: What inspired you to write The Campbell Sisters, and how did you create your characters Helen, Carolyn, and Peggy?


A: I was originally inspired by a story my grandmother told me about her eloping with my grandfather, since her parents emigrated from England and his from Ireland. They knew their parents would never approve of the marriage so they eloped.


I also didn’t want this book to just be about Helen, not my grandmother’s name, so I invented a family for her with three sisters who could play a role in her story and have their own stories as well.


Q: How would you describe the dynamic among the three sisters?


A: I think they are very close, but as three independent women with very different personalities, they often clash. Although they always come back together at some point.

Q: Did you need to do much research to write the novel, and if so, did you learn anything that especially surprised you?


A: I did have to do some research to learn about women in medicine in the 1950s and, of course, names of restaurants, nightclubs, Stillman’s Gym, the history of The Players Club, and Gramercy Park/Edwin Booth. Growing up in New York City I already had a feel for places in the city and knew something about almost all of them, so that made things easier for me.


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


A: I guess I’d like readers to admire and respect the struggles women faced, even in the 1950s, in the country’s largest most cosmopolitan city. Not all women lived a Father Knows Best life. And if they didn’t want that, they had to be very strong to pursue their dream.


Q: What are you working on now?


A: Something very different for me. I’m writing/editing (my first draft is finished) a contemporary romance. It started out as a short story, to keep up my writing routine, while I continued research for my next historical novel. But I was having fun writing it and before I knew it, it had morphed into a novel.


Q: Anything else we should know?


A: In February, my essay, “A Cat Named Cat,” was published in the Chicken Soup for the Soul, Lessons Learned from My Cat edition. And my short story, “A Stranger in My Own City,” was included in Silent Spark Press’s Exemplary Short Stories, Volume 13, recently released.


I’m continuing to write and once my current manuscript is ready to submit, and hopefully find an agent, I’ll have to decide which of the many stories buzzing around in my head will finally make it to paper.


And anyone who would like a free copy of my novella, The Crossing, can sign up for my newsletter at


Thanks for the interview, Deborah. A pleasure as always.


--Interview with Deborah Kalb. Here's a previous Q&A with Eileen Joyce Donovan.

Q&A with Richard Fulco




Richard Fulco is the author of the new novel We Are All Together. He also has written the novel There Is No End to This Slope. He is also a playwright and a high school English and creative writing teacher in New Jersey.


Q: What inspired you to write We Are All Together, and how did you create your character Stephen? 


A: Several centuries ago, I was a musician. The gigs. The rehearsals. The studio. The songs I wrote. The musicians I played with. The people I met. The places I traveled. When I embarked on We Are All Together it was my intention to revisit (and in a sense relive) those memories from such a transformative period of my life. 


I occasionally lean toward nostalgia, though the memories from that particular time in my life weren't entirely joyful and glorious. There was a ton of heartache, failure and rejection. The irony is that although my intention was to recall my previous life as a musician, only one legitimate story made it into the novel.


Overall, I wanted to capture the desperation of an artist. With desperation comes temptation, self-doubt, fear, anxiety, and a host of other things. I tried my best to depict a struggling musician (Stephen Cane) who is so desperate to be a rock star that he is willing to do whatever it takes, even if that means betraying his best friend and collaborator, Dylan John.


When I started this particular project, Stephen was loosely based on Syd Barrett, one of the founding members of Pink Floyd. In later drafts, Syd became more of an influence on Dylan John. I was deeply captivated by the premise of a famous rock star who quits his band and retires from music at the height of his artistic powers. 


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


A: We Are All Together is a rock and roll novel that takes place during the summer of 1967, so while I was writing I was also listening to music of the late ‘60s. Come to think of it, I'm typically listening to the music of the late ‘60s, which was a musical renaissance of its own. 


There’s a profound John Lennon lyric in the psychedelic song “I Am the Walrus”: “I am he as you are he as you are me / And we are all together.” Previous working titles included “Crazy Diamond,” a reference to Syd Barrett and Pink Floyd, as well as “World on a String,” the Frank Sinatra and Ella Fitzgerald song, which somehow made its way into the novel. 


Once I latched onto Lennon's lyrics, however, there was no turning back. The Beatles are featured quite prominently in the book; therefore, it made sense to borrow a lyric from a Beatles song and employ it as the title of my book. Moreover, inhabiting such a polarized society, I was drawn to the inherent irony in the lyrics.


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


A: I don't usually have difficulty with the beginning of a novel, although I must write the first chapter over and over again before I can really advance the narrative. For me, the middle and end are the most challenging. 


When I first started working on We Are All Together, I thought I was writing a tragedy. About midway into the first draft, I decided that I wanted to write a more uplifting story. When I figured out the book’s ending, I just plugged in the events in the novel’s rising action and revised the beginning. Over and over again. 


Q: A review in The Prairies Book Review said of the book, “Like Stephen’s shifting priorities in the story, this novel is so much more than the sum of its parts—an appealingly soul-searching literary tale that beautifully renders its characters’ search for identity.” What do you think of that description?


A: Every character in the novel is searching for an identity. For instance, the character Tony Campbell is a chameleon who changes personalities nearly as frequently as he changes his clothes. One day he's an author and the next day he's a yoga guru.


The characters in this novel are young and naive, but open to opportunity, exploration and experimentation. Such experimentation nearly proves to be fatal for Stephen. Everyone in the novel, with the exception of Clementine and I think Stephen's mother, is trying to figure out who they are, where they are going, and what they truly want out of life.


Q: What are you working on now?


A: I'm working on a coming-of-age story, a bildungsroman that is one part literary fiction and one part young adult. The novel contains quite a bit of magical realism too. I've been working on the first draft, so I'm excited to see where the narrative will lead me.


I'm fortunate to know (I think) how this book is going to end, but writing the middle of a novel, to me, is the most challenging, though it can also be the most rewarding.


--Interview with Deborah Kalb

March 31




March 31, 1936: Marge Piercy born.

Thursday, March 30, 2023

Q&A with Sophfronia Scott




Sophfronia Scott is the author of the new historical novel Wild, Beautiful, and Free, a retelling of Charlotte Brontë's classic novel Jane Eyre. Scott's other books include Unforgivable Love. She is the founding director of Alma College's MFA in Creative Writing, and she lives in Sandy Hook, Connecticut.


Q: What inspired you to write this retelling of Jane Eyre set before and during the American Civil War?

A: Jane Eyre deeply influenced me when I first read it. I was around 13 at the time. Jane taught me how to think, how to move through the world with agency and figure out how to have the life I want. I’ve wondered for years what it would be like to have this powerful character be a woman of color and how, as such, she might reach so many more women.

When I was thinking of setting, I wanted my character to have similar, if not more, limitations imposed on her by society. I saw a mixed-race woman, who was neither wholly black nor wholly white, who could be offered only a lonely existence because of the way she is viewed by the world. The setting that most demonstrated that, to me anyway, was Civil War-era America.


Q: How did you create your character Jeannette, and what did you see as the right balance between your character and Brontë's Jane?

A: Jane is a fiery, passionate character so I knew my Jeannette would be the same.


The big difference, though, is that I place Jeannette in dangerous situations that Jane would never have encountered. So Jeannette has an action hero aspect where she’s required to step up to protect those she loves and herself. She puts herself in harm’s way and even carries a gun at one point. I wanted Jeannette to be a hero with a capital H.


This story is not just about a girl being sold into slavery, this is about a person who demands her humanity—who knows who she is and who fights to not only have the life that that she feels she wants but to live the emotions that she feels quite deeply.


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

A: My brilliant editor at Lake Union, Danielle Marshall, came up with the title. She plucked the words right from my manuscript. “Wild, beautiful, and free” is how Jeannette describes the eyes of the white man she falls in love with, Christian Robichaud Colchester. Sometimes we behold what we wish to be.


Jeannette connects with Christian over their mutual love of Louisiana, an area of the United States that had—and kind of still does have—this untamed, other-worldly aspect. She sees his eyes as wild, beautiful, and free because his eyes inspire that sense of herself.


Q: How did you research the 1850s and '60s, and what did you learn that especially surprised you?

A: With lots of books and a visit to the Whitney Plantation in Louisiana. I learned that way more slaves escaped in a variety of ways, and that there were way more slave rebellions than is generally known or taught in schools.


For example, I learned about this enslaved couple, William and Ellen Craft, who, in 1848, devised a daring escape. Ellen, fair-skinned enough to pass for white, disguised herself as a man debilitated by illness. William pretended to be this character’s slave, and together they traveled openly, making it to freedom in Pennsylvania and later a life in Canada and then England.


There’s a new book about them, Master Slave Husband Wife, written by Ilyon Woo, that came out in February 2023 and is now a bestseller. But I learned of the Crafts from a book, Runaway Slaves, that I found while shopping at a used book sale sponsored by my local library and used in my research for Wild, Beautiful, and Free.


Their story electrified me. It felt hopeful and empowering, both elements I wanted to use to elevate the tale of my character Jeannette’s perilous experiences.


Q: What are you working on now?

A: I'm once again diving into issues of race and empathy. It’s a kind of triangle novel involving the story of a white fighter pilot during World War II, his girlfriend back home in Louisiana, and a Black woman serving in the Army in the 6888th troop. She’s one of the Black women who were the only troop that served overseas in during World War II.


The narrative is going to bring them together in a terrible and destructive way. Who will survive it, and how will their lives change? I love working on it.


Q: Anything else we should know?


A: Seven years after I wrote my first novel, All I Need to Get By, I entered a Master of Fine Arts (MFA) in creative writing program that helped my writing so much that it changed my life.


Before, it was like I knew how to build an airplane in my garage, but after the MFA it was like, “OK, now I can build a rocket ship.” Learning about craft allowed me to wield my creativity with more intention to the point where it took my work to another level.


And now here I am, amazed and grateful to find myself directing an MFA program at Alma College. I know how important an MFA was for me so now this is like a grand “give back” that I get to do to, creating and running a program to help other writers to reach their highest level too. It’s exciting.


--Interview with Deborah Kalb. Here's a previous Q&A with Sophfronia Scott.

Q&A with Claire Jimenez




Claire Jimenez is the author of the new novel What Happened to Ruthy Ramirez. She also has written the story collection Staten Island Stories. She is an assistant professor of English and African American Studies at the University of South Carolina.


Q: What inspired you to write What Happened to Ruthy Ramirez?


A: So many things! This novel took me many years to write. I was thinking about reality TV, colonialism, the 2008 Great Recession, intergenerational violence, and the epidemic of missing Black, Indigenous, and Brown girls and women. I was concerned about how these cases get less attention in the media.


Q: How would you describe the relationships among the women of the Ramirez family?


A: Fierce. The women in the Ramirez family love each other and are trying to find ways to survive this incredible loss.


Q: The writer Crystal Hana Kim described the book as “Equal measures hilarious and haunting...” What did you see as the right balance between humor and seriousness as you were writing the book?


A: I think people are often surprised about the amount of humor in the novel. But for many marginalized communities humor is a way to navigate difficult moments in life; it’s a way to survive. So incorporating humor was the only way I knew how to tell this story.


Throughout the book I also asked myself when is this humor insufficient? When and where does it collapse? When is it used to avoid talking about difficult topics?


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


A: I knew plotwise how it would end, but I didn’t know how to render the ending. That took many, many drafts and the eyes of my mentors and my agent, especially, my professor Dr. Kwame Dawes. His feedback helped me figure out how to finish the book.


Q: What are you working on now?


A: I’m working on a novel, but I’m superstitious, so I don’t want to jinx it by talking about it! But I will say that I’m excited to get writing again.


Q: Anything else we should know?


A: Yes, there are two other Puerto Rican authors coming out with debut fiction that folks should read: Melissa Cos Aquino and Jennifer Maritza McCauley. Their books are so good!


--Interview with Deborah Kalb

Q&A with Kami Ahrens




Kami Ahrens is the editor of the new book The Foxfire Book of Appalachian Women. She is curator and director of education at the Foxfire Museum in Rabun County, Georgia.


Q: What was the inspiration for this book?


A: The idea for this book came after spending time reading the Foxfire books and magazines and researching in the organization's archive. There were so many powerful stories from women that carried similar themes but were scattered across publications and archival materials.


This book weaves together a small selection of oral histories in a way that presents an in-depth look at women’s experiences in the Southern Appalachian Mountains. 


Q: Sandra L. Ballard of Appalachian State University said of the book, "These complex, powerful narratives expand our perspectives on this region and the women who live there, particularly offering counternarratives to those who romanticize Appalachia or otherwise misrepresent mountain residents." What do you think of that description?


A: Sandra's description captures one of the goals for this book. To this day, Appalachia continues to be mischaracterized by pervasive stereotypes that overlook the richness of experiences in the mountains. The stories presented in this volume seek to dispel monolithic ideas of women in Appalachia and introduce the reader to the diversity of the region.

Q: What do you hope readers take away from this collection of voices?


A: I hope readers step away with a better understanding of the richness of Appalachian culture, but also hope they find comfort and inspiration in these stories of resiliency.


Most of all, I hope this book encourages readers to start their own conversations or oral histories. Sharing stories strengthens our relationships and brings us to common ground, building stronger and more resilient selves and communities.


Q: What are you working on now?


A: I am currently working on developing a crowdsourced oral history project to supplement the voices of the book. This will launch at the end of February and offer any person in or from the Southern Appalachian region to share a memory or story of themselves or a woman they know in the mountains.


The book is intended to be a foundation for inspiring community and family conversations, and to bring awareness to the diversity of our experiences in this area. I invite all interested readers to visit for more information.


Q: Anything else we should know?


A: Foxfire at its heart is a community-based project led by students. We are committed to engaging people of all ages in intergenerational learning through the sharing of stories and experiences. All book sales support our work in and around Rabun County, Georgia.


--Interview with Deborah Kalb

Q&A with Rishikesh Upadhyay




Rishikesh Upadhyay is the editor of the book The Life of Plants in a Changing Environment. An educator, he lives in Haflong, Assam, India.


Q: What inspired you to work on The Life of Plants in a Changing Environment?


A: Well, that is largely a mystery. Simply, I just love to write, learn, and teach.


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


A: By day, I work at a local government college, and by night I pour my imagination out onto a page. I believe in and write about plants and their environment. It was in research and teaching for students in science that I stumbled across a desire to write articles and books.


Plants, though immobile, also have senses and could survive in different environment through different internal adaptive mechanisms, like humans.

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


A: I hope they will recognize and learn about the importance of plants when they read my writings, because it’s a message that everyone deserves to be seen and understood.


Q: What are you working on now?


A: I am currently working on my next new nonfiction book. I would like to say that it is connected with plants, nature, and the environment in just about every way.


Q: Anything else we should know?


A: Yes! I love teaching, learning, doing research work in the laboratory and writing research articles and books. Readers can reach me via Google Scholar, Twitter, and LinkedIn https://Top of Form


And I really appreciate you, Deborah Kalb, for giving me this opportunity. Just a big “Thank You” for this opportunity to share my story with esteemed readers.

--Interview with Deborah Kalb

March 30




March 30, 1882: Melanie Klein born.

Wednesday, March 29, 2023

Q&A with Elizabeth Cobbs




Elizabeth Cobbs is the author of the new book Fearless Women: Feminist Patriots from Abigail Adams to Beyoncé. Her other books include The Hello Girls. She holds the Melbern Glasscock Chair in American History at Texas A&M University.


Q: What inspired you to write Fearless Women, and how did you choose the women to include?


A: One might say that Fearless Women was born of a perfect storm, beginning with the 2016 presidential nomination of Donald Trump. I think that that campaign raised questions for many people about the definition, durability, and reach of feminism in America.


I was particularly sad to see how many were unaware of the tools that previous generations had forged for them. They had been told that only "other people," unattractive people, were feminists, and that if they defended women's rights, they must be bitter ideologues.


Roger Ailes of Fox News, for example, propagated the notion that only "radicals" would object to sexual harassment or stereotyping. Nothing could be further from the historical record. I wanted to give Americans across the political spectrum their history back.


Q: How would you define feminism, and how do you think it relates to patriotism?


A: I define feminism as an offshoot of democracy, meaning the commitment (always imperfectly realized) to guaranteeing everyone the same basic rights, regardless of gender. This sounds simple, but history shows that the fight has been bloody, difficult, and protracted -- and that it has been driven by a patriotic belief in what America could, and should, be.


Literally, feminists from Abigail Adams to Beyoncé spoke in terms of the American dream, and what it should mean for the female half of the population. They loved their country and wanted to improve it as they would their homes. That does not mean they agreed on which improvements were necessary, or how they could be achieved. Democracy always elicits disagreement and debate.


Q: The Publishers Weekly review of the book says, in part, “Feminists will savor the depth and intimacy of this optimistic survey.” What do you think of that description, and do you see your book as optimistic?


A: I object! I hope that all readers will savor the book's "intimacy and depth," and that many will recognize themselves in it, not just those who walk in with "feminist" pinned to their shirts.


As to the book's optimism, with that I can certainly agree. Indeed, I think many Americans have lost the thread on how much progress the nation has made. Doing so is dangerous because it leads us to take gains for granted, and thereby neglect to appreciate or defend them.


Fearless Women shows how each generation went to the mat for some new, additional right--beginning with the right to an education, which is still denied girls in some countries.


Q: Of the various women you write about, are there one or two that especially stand out for you?


A: I never knew that I would fall so hard for Susan B. Anthony. I was not even going to include her as too obvious, safe, and boring. I could not have been more wrong! Now I hope that others will rediscover her as I did. Black suffragist Mary Church Terrell captured my heart, too, and I would give anything to ride horseback behind Ann Marie Riebe, holding on for dear life.


Q: What are you working on now?


A: Normally, I alternate between writing fiction and nonfiction, so I'm due for another novel (my fourth), but I'm playing around with a memoir at the moment. It would elucidate the comment at the end of Fearless Women, to the effect that "feminism literally saved my life." However, that does not mean I am actually brave or foolhardy enough to publish it.


Q: Anything else we should know?


A: Fearless Women devotes half of each chapter to revealing the conditions under which women labored in different time periods. It is eye-opening! Did you know that husbands could previously imprison wives in insane asylums for disagreeing with them? Or that mothers had no legal right to their children? What Americans considered once "normal" is truly remarkable--and frightening. 


--Interview with Deborah Kalb

Q&A with Robert Dugoni




Robert Dugoni is the author of the new novel Her Deadly Game. His many other books include The Extraordinary Life of Sam Hell.


Q: What inspired you to write Her Deadly Game, and how did you create your character Keera Duggan?


A: Each novel I write usually starts with a simple idea. I was speaking to a friend who told me about Darren Berg, a Seattle con artist who bilked many sophisticated and wealthy investors out of millions of dollars just like Bernie Madoff, then walked out of a low security prison and was never seen again. From there I started to piece together a story.


Many of the best trial attorneys I have known and practiced with are also very good chess players. So I wanted Keera Duggan, my protagonist, to have that strength, but I also wanted her to have her skeletons, as we all do –  a personal relationship at work that goes sour and puts her career unjustifiably in danger, a dysfunctional family due to alcoholism, a tattered relationship with her father.


I didn’t want to write a straight legal thriller, but one that was layered with family and personal issues and police procedural details. The last thing I thought of was the crime. For that I called a former police officer and he put me in touch with a friend of his and together the three of us put together the pieces of the crime that propels the story forward.


Q: You describe the relationship between Keera and her father as “tattered”—can you say more about that?


A: She very much loves her father but she is angry at him for ruining something she loved - her connection with him through chess. She is having a hard time forgiving him, and understanding that his alcoholism does not discriminate in who it harms and isn’t intentional. It’s an illness, for which he needs help.  


Q: In your acknowledgments, you describe yourself as “a recovering lawyer.” How did your own experiences factor into the creation of this novel?

A: The law is a difficult profession, physically and emotionally. To do it well, you are constantly working, and dealing with a lot of stress. At the same time, you’re trying to have a life outside of work, which isn’t always easy.


I practiced law full-time for 13 years and part-time another 10. I’ve tried cases and assisted others in trials. I’ve dealt with the stress. I’ve struggled to maintain a strong family life, to be both a good husband and a good, present father.


I also know about alcoholism through my Irish grandfather, and a bit about the impact that had on his family. I pulled from all of these things to create Her Deadly Game.


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


A: I never write a story with a moral or a lesson in mind. Each reader comes to a story with their own personal background and takes from the story that which is meaningful to them. My only hope is that the story touches readers on an emotional level such that they can become a part of, and immerse themselves in the story.


Q: What are you working on now? Will Keera return in another novel?


A: I always have a lot of irons in the fire. Tracy Crosswhite #10, One Last Kill, my police procedural series, will be released Oct. 3, 2023, and I have an idea for Tracy #11 kicking around.


Keera Duggan will be back in what I hope is an equally long running series.


In the interim, I’m working on a stand-alone novel based on a true story, a trial that took place in 1933 for which I have three full scrapbooks kept by my wife’s grandfather who was a prominent Seattle attorney. That will be out in August 2024.


I’m also working on a World War II story with two incredible researchers. The story is based on real events that have never, to my knowledge, been told in any detail. Lake Union Publishing, a division of Amazon Publishing that specializes in literary novels, will be publishing the novel in 2024. I’m excited about that project as well. 


Q: Anything else we should know?


A: Just that I’m always so very grateful to my loyal readers and I’m hoping they will love these new projects as much as I loved writing them.


--Interview with Deborah Kalb. Here's a previous Q&A with Robert Dugoni.