Tuesday, May 30, 2023

Q&A with Byron Lane




Byron Lane is the author of the new novel Big Gay Wedding. He also has written the novel A Star is Bored, and he's a playwright, screenwriter, and journalist. He lives in Palm Springs, California.


Q: What inspired you to write Big Gay Wedding, and how did you create your character Barnett Durang?


A: I had a “little gay wedding” with my now husband, author Steven Rowley. It was in the thick of Covid in April of 2021, so we couldn’t really have a big wedding. And we were ready! So, we had a small ceremony with only us and one of our best friends as an officiant in our hometown of Palm Springs.


When it came time to write my second novel, the wedding was on my mind and I wondered “What could have been?” I grew up in a rural part of Louisiana and imagined having a big gay wedding there. And 300 pages later, the book was a real thing!


Q: How would you describe the relationship between Barnett and his mother?


A: Barnett and his mother, Chrissy, love each other very much. Barnett had a beautiful, idyllic childhood—until he came out. And then later, his father died. These events affected both Barnett and Chrissy. They share in the trauma of those events, which acts as both a push and pull—magnets attracting each other and also pushing each other away.


The “gay thing” is at the center. Barnett isn’t brave enough to push it. Chrissy isn’t open-minded enough to understand it. And like many things in life, something happens that forces us to confront the unsaid. In Big Gay Wedding, that’s Barnett’s engagement.


Q: The writer Bobby Finger said of the book, “Reading Byron Lane’s warm and hysterical new novel made me feel like I hit the wedding guest jackpot and got seated at the very best table, surrounded by gloriously weird and funny guests I’ll remember long after the grooms have been waved off.” What do you think of that description?


A: First of all, what an honor and a thrill that Bobby Finger would read my work. I’m a big fan of his.


Having my work called “warm and hysterical” feels right on brand for me. I try to craft stories that are both funny and heartwarming, mixing serious with absurd. Having a sense of humor about life has served me well and helped keep my mental health in check. Life is so much more interesting if we can laugh at our mistakes… and our triumphs.


Q: The novel is set in a small town in Louisiana--how important is setting to you in your writing?


A: The Louisiana angle was helpful because I grew up there. All of the locations and characters are crafted from people I’ve known or met or heard about or saw on the news or had as a server in a restaurant. My hope is that having that perspective helps bring the characters to life in a way that’s interesting and authentic.


I have many happy memories from growing up in Louisiana, but also some hard ones. It was tough being gay in the South. I’m so grateful things have changed, at least a little bit. And I enjoy the rich history of New Orleans whenever I go home to visit.


Q: What are you working on now?


A: I’m kicking around ideas for book number 3! And in the meantime, I’m working on developing Big Gay Wedding into a film. I’m also developing my first novel, A Star Is Bored, for television. Please cross all your fingers and toes for me! 


Q: Anything else we should know?


A: I’m really grateful to share this story! Hope you enjoy!


--Interview with Deborah Kalb


Q&A with Marie Bostwick




Marie Bostwick is the author of the novel Esme Cahill Fails Spectacularly. Her many other books include The Restoration of Celia Fairchild. She lives in Washington state.


Q: In our previous interview, you said, “I can almost never pinpoint one moment or idea that sets me off to write a novel.” Was that the case with this novel as well? How did you create your character Esme?  


A: Yes, it was. 


I wish I was the sort of writer who experiences clear “Ah-ha!” moments, who knows exactly what her book is about and the journey her characters will take even before she types “Chapter One.” There are such writers in the world; I’m friends with quite a few. But, alas, I am not among them.  


For me, every book is a struggle, a long and winding road with lots of dead ends that require me to retrace my steps. I can write outlines until the cows come home but at the end of the day, I’m someone who simply has to write her way into her characters. It’s not efficient, but it’s my process.


This was especially true for Esme Cahill Fails Spectacularly, a book that I ended up completely rewriting more than once. Even though I had an idea of who Esme was—a determined, driven woman with an artistic bent who has experienced a lot of well-deserved success in her life but is now dealing with a season of disorienting failure.


It wasn’t until I got pretty far into the story that I realized Esme needed a companion for the journey, someone who had also had her life plan upended and battled her way back from failure, taking a lot of detours along the way.


That someone was her late grandmother, Adele, whose life story includes a chapter that Esme never knew about, that of a gifted artist who never received her due.  


Once Adele stepped onto the stage, I started connecting the dots between her story and Esme’s, the book got really interesting. Though Esme’s story was a good one, it wasn’t enough on its own. With Adele in the picture, Esme’s journey became wonderfully rich, and took on deeper meaning.


But that’s the way life always is, don’t you think? Our true purpose only becomes clear in the context of our connection to others.


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


A: The book wasn’t the only thing that evolved during the writing process, the title did too.


My original working title was Esme Bishop’s Last Resort, which wasn’t bad.


Not only did it hint that the book was about a woman who is experiencing the kind of desperation that forces people onto unexpected paths, it gave a nice little nod to the fact that the story is set at a lakeside resort, one of those rustic, slightly rundown fishing lodges where families vacationed back in the day (log cabins with torn screen doors and no AC, canteen in the lobby where you can buy candy bars, sodas, and tubs of fishing worms).


But the more I wrote, the more I realized that the core of the book was about coping with failure. One day, the phrase “spectacular failure” popped into my brain. As soon as it did, I knew that had to be the title.  


At some point in life, absolutely everybody feels like a spectacular failure, so I knew this title would have nearly universal appeal. And since it’s also pretty funny, I thought it would let readers know there is a lot of humor in the story, and that Esme is someone they will identify with. 


Q: The author Kristy Woodson Harvey said of the book, “Esme Cahill is a protagonist to root for who will ultimately uncover the true meaning of family, the power of ancestral memory, and how, sometimes, failing spectacularly is the only way to begin again.” What do you think of that description?


A: Well, mostly it makes me think that Kristy Woodson Harvey is a very keen and insightful reader, and that she knows a good story when she reads it. 


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


A: As I always say, my first and most important job as a writer is to entertain. So, more than anything else, I hope that when readers close the cover, they will feel like the time they invested in reading the book was well spent. 


And if readers walk away wishing they had a little more time with Esme, Adele, and the other characters—there are wonderful secondary characters in Esme’s community—so much the better.


Something I have learned over decades of reading and writing is that books have a way of falling to the hands of the people who need them, often at the moment they’re needed most. 


So, if someone who is battling through a season of spectacular failure and sidelined plans reads my book, I hope that Esme’s story will help them understand what Kristy said so succinctly, that sometimes, “failing spectacularly is the only way to begin again,” and that someday they may look back to the crossroad of failure and realize it was the first step to a life that is better than they could ever have imagined. 


Q: What are you working on now?


A: At the moment, I’m working on a first draft of a book that's different than anything I’ve written before. I don’t want to say a whole lot more just yet, except that it’s set in the early 1960s.


Q: Anything else we should know?


A: Yes, there is!


I’m setting out on a 12-state book tour with 30-something events on the docket. It’ll be grueling, but fun. 


Please check out my online calendar to see if I’ll be in your area, come say hello. Here’s the link. https://mariebostwick.com/calendar/


You might also want to check out my lifestyle blog, Fiercely Marie. Every week, I put up a new post with a recipe, craft tutorial, travel guide, book recommendations, fashion roundup, or anything else I think will help my readers “live every minute and love every moment.” That’s my philosophy of life in a nutshell, and I think it’s a pretty good one. 


Thanks for letting me spend time with you and your readers, Deborah. This was fun!


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

Q&A with Jenna Yoon





Jenna Yoon is the author of the new middle grade novel Lia Park and the Heavenly Heirlooms. It's a sequel to her novel Lia Park and the Missing Jewel. She lives in Austin, Texas.


Q: Your new novel is the second in your Lia Park series--did you know from the beginning that you'd be writing a series?


A: I definitely knew when I started writing the first book, that the overarching story lines would work best as a series. There’s so much more of the magical world, character development and their journeys, Korean mythology, and art history to come. I’m so excited to finally share Lia’s second adventure with readers.


Q: What inspired the plot of Lia Park and the Heavenly Heirlooms?


A: I wanted to introduce a Korean mythological monster but one that hasn’t been covered in middle grade books yet. The plot for Lia Park and the Heavenly Heirlooms was inspired by two mythologies.


The story of Jihagukdaejeok, a nine-headed monster, was that he kidnapped a maiden and took her back to the underworld. A general eventually rescues her and defeats the monster. The second is about the foundation mythology of Korea. Dangun, the founder of Korea, ruled with three heavenly heirlooms: a rattle, dagger, and mirror. Elements from both these mythologies was my starting point when crafting the plot for the second book.


Q: The Kirkus Review of the first book in the series, Lia Park and the Missing Jewel, said, in part, “This contemporary tale incorporates Korean history, national landmarks, and mythology in an engaging way. Korean words and phrases are also woven throughout the text, reinforcing Lia’s connection to her culture and its integral role in the story.” What do you think of that description?

A: I absolutely loved the wonderful review and description by Kirkus Review. It so perfectly captures what I hoped to achieve.


Lia Park is a Korean American tween and at the start of Book 1, Lia Park and the Missing Jewel, she isn’t as connected to her Korean culture and sees it as something her parents force her to study. As the story progresses and especially in book 2, Lia Park and the Heavenly Heirlooms, she embraces her culture and it becomes a huge part of her identity.


I was fortunate enough to have lived in both Korea and the United States and was able to experience both cultures, but my daughters were born here and will most likely live here all their lives. I wanted to send a message, to my kids and kids like them, to be proud of their culture, that there is power and so much richness in embracing their identity.


Q: What do you hope kids take away from the books?


A: I hope Korean American and Asian kids would feel seen when reading the books, and they would see themselves as the heroes of their own stories. But also I hope all kids would have a fun adventure with Lia and Joon.


Another reason for blending Korean mythology, art, history, and language was so that it would be easily accessible entry point into Korean culture for all kids, and it would spark their curiosity and imagination.


I received letters from a class after a school visit. And I was completely surprised that a majority of the kids wrote letters to me in Korean. Not romanization Korean, but using actual Korean letters. I can only imagine the time and effort it must have taken to look everything up and try to write using unfamiliar characters. It was amazing and a truly special experience for me to see how the kids chose to engage with Korean culture in this way, through language.


Q: What are you working on now?


A: I’m working on new material which I cannot talk about quite yet. ;)


Q: Anything else we should know?


A: All the landmarks, art historical sites, cities, and neighborhoods in the book actually do exist! I just use them for magical purposes. So feel free to use the Lia Park series as your personal tour guide.


--Interview with Deborah Kalb

May 30




May 30, 1938: Billie Letts born.

Sunday, May 28, 2023

Q&A with Erik J. Brown



Erik J. Brown is the author of the new young adult novel Lose You to Find Me. He also has written the YA novel All That's Left in the World. He is based in Philadelphia.


Q: What inspired you to write Lose You to Find Me, and how did you create your characters Tommy and Gabe?


A: I always wanted to write a book that takes place in a retirement community because it was my after-school job during high school.


It wasn't until 2020 that I realized what the story would be: teens in their last year of high school trying to figure out their future. With the pandemic, everything was up in the air and no one had a clue what our future would look like, so I took that unsure future and turned it into high schoolers figuring out their lives.


Tommy and Gabe are both a combination of me from high school, making silly mistakes and being very slow learners. Thankfully they grow a lot faster than I did!


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


A: The original title was In the Weeds, referencing restaurant slang for a server being in over their heads. But Lose You to Find Me came about because of the Selena Gomez song "Lose You to Love Me."


The book does deal with romance, but it's more about figuring yourself out. And sometimes we do need to lose someone to find out who we truly are. I think that's why so many people connect with the lyrics for that song. 


Q: The writer Jason June said of the book, "Erik J. Brown perfectly captures how heart-warming and cringey falling in love for the first time can be." What do you think of that description?


A: It's a billion percent correct, unlike my math skills.


You know those nights when you're having trouble sleeping and all of a sudden a cringey memory from your past pops into your head and you just marinate on it in the dark and can't believe you did that? That's most of the choices the characters in this book make for a good 7/8ths of the book.


They all have main character energy and think things are going to work out for them, so they make the worst decisions thinking they're the best. And that's what falling in love is. You make very dumb out-of-character decisions because you're blinded by your romantic fantasies.  


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


A: Things don't always work out, but that doesn't mean your hopes and dreams are over. My friend, Erika Gabriel, is a psychic medium who says the universe conspires to help all of us, and I actually believe that.


Even when things don't go our way, maybe it means we are still chasing our purpose in life, but we'd fail miserably at it if we got everything right away. Sometimes working for it along the journey is more important to who we are than where we end up. 


Q: What are you working on now?


A: I'm writing the sequel to my debut, All That's Left in the World! It should be out next year... as long as I hit my deadlines. 


Q: Anything else we should know?


A: Yes! Be kind. Also, butter and eggs should be room temperature if you're going to bake with them and flour should be spooned into your measuring cup and leveled off. 


--Interview with Deborah Kalb

Q&A with Chris Campion



Chris Campion is the author and editor of the new book The War Is Here: Newark 1967, which features photographs by photojournalist Bud Lee (1941-2015) of the protests in Newark, New Jersey, in the summer of 1967. 


Q: How did you become involved in writing and editing this book?


A: A few years ago, I was working on another collection of Bud Lee’s photographs, covering his career working for Esquire, Rolling Stone, Life, and other publications in the late ‘60s and early ‘70s, when the publisher suggested starting with the Newark images instead.


Bud Lee’s photography is not widely known. The photos he took for Life magazine of events in Newark in the summer of 1967 offered a more tightly-focused body of work, as well as the possibility of constructing a narrative and a context around the images, which sat with my background as an author and journalist.


Looking at Bud Lee’s photos of Newark in 1967—which depict gun violence, police killings, and a militarised response to civilian protests—the parallels with things that are still happening in America today were clear and unequivocal. 


Q: How would you describe Bud Lee's images, and what do you think they captured about Newark in 1967?


A: Painterly, reflective, still. Even though he was there as a photojournalist, the photos in The War Is Here are not the kind of news pictures you would expect to see of an event like this. The reason being is that Bud Lee was primarily a fine artist, with schooling at the National Academy of Fine Arts and Columbia University in New York, who fell into photography.


Photo by Bud Lee

So when Lee came to Newark in July 1967, on his first major assignment for Life, he had an aesthetic atypical of a documentary photographer and managed to capture scenes of people and places that have qualities we associate more with the painted image.


The portraits, especially, that he took of the people of Newark show Bud Lee as an artist of great empathy and sensitivity. These are images of a city turned into an urban war zone, and a population attempting to maintain and survive in those extraordinary circumstances.


Q: What do you see as the legacy today of the events depicted in the book?


A: The events of July 1967 scarred the city of Newark for decades, but also brought about a tremendous sea change in the city's administration. In 1970, Newark elected the first black mayor, in Kenneth Gibson, for what was then, as now, a black majority city. This has continued through the administrations of Sharpe James, Cory Booker, and the current mayor, Ras J. Baraka. 


Q: What do you hope readers take away from The War Is Here?


A: I would like for people to look at the images in the book and realise they are more than historical record. That they speak also to the issues and news stories of today, and trace a current that runs through American history from then to now.


Q: What are you working on now?


A: I’m currently completing a very different project, a long-in-the-works biography of John Phillips of the Mamas and the Papas, and making a documentary film about the history and pop culture mythology surrounding Joshua Tree and the high desert, which is has been my home for close to a decade.


Q: Anything else we should know?


A: The War is Here is bookended by an introduction written by Mayor Ras J. Baraka, the current mayor of Newark, whose family was intimately connected with the events of July 1967, and a powerful afterword by Ellene Furr, about how she was affected by the shooting death by police of her then-husband of two years, Billy Furr, images of which were captured on film by Bud Lee. Those photos ran in Life magazine in 1967 and still resonate today.


--Interview with Deborah Kalb

May 28



May 28, 1908: Ian Fleming born.

Saturday, May 27, 2023

Q&A with Caroline Hagood




Caroline Hagood is the author of the new novel Filthy Creation. Her other books include Weird Girls: Writing the Art Monster. She is an assistant professor of literature, writing, and publishing at St. Francis College in Brooklyn.


Q: What inspired you to write Filthy Creation, and how did you create your character Dylan?


A: This book has a rather odd origin story because I have this weird habit of needing to work on two books at the same time. I think part of it is a defense mechanism, or a strange hope that maybe one of them will survive.


It also relates to a rebellious tendency in me to want to work on what I’m not supposed to be working on, so then I rebel against the writing of one by turning to the other. But it also has to do with my love of experimenting/playing with genres.


So, basically, I was working on what would become my book-length essay exploration of the concept of the art monster, Weird Girls: Writing the Art Monster, while I was writing the fictional version that explored some of the same concepts, Filthy Creation.


At first my protagonist was the mother figure, but then I started to see that the character I really found central was the daughter. Dylan is in high school, and she’s trying to find out what it means to be a fiercely dedicated artist at such a young age.


To create Dylan, I thought a lot about how I was at that age (and still am now), but also how I wasn’t. What I mean is that Dylan is and isn’t me. The aspect that we definitely have in common, though, is the drive to be part of something wildly creative.


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


A: It’s a quote from Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. Victor Frankenstein refers to the place where he makes his creature in this way: “In a solitary chamber, or rather cell, at the top of the house, and separated from all the other apartments by a gallery and staircase, I kept my workshop of filthy creation.”

I loved this idea of a space of a sort of dirty creativity that needs to be separated from the rest of the apartments. I have always wanted a workshop of filthy creation for myself. In this novel, I wanted to reflect on these sorts of spaces and the extremes people go to in the name of creativity.


Frankenstein is also Dylan’s favorite book, she’s reading it in class in the novel, and its themes figure deeply in the book.


Q: The writer James Tate Hill said of the book, “It's a shame Mary Shelley isn't around to offer a blurb for this tender, luminous portrait of the art monster as a modern teen.” What do you think of that description, and can you say more about how you see Filthy Creation connecting to Weird Girls?


A: James Tate Hill’s blurb is the kind writers dream of. It gets to the heart of what I was at least attempting to do.


Filthy Creation is sort of the fictional sister of Weird Girls. I wrote them at the same time. Then, after years of rejection, both books were accepted by different presses within a day of each other. I don’t even know how to explain it.


A recent review of Filthy Creation suggests reading the two books together. I don’t know who has that sort of patience, but I’d certainly be interested to hear what this patient, ideal reader gets out of that experience.


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 didn’t know how it would end. I do remember the moment I realized how it had to end, though. Few parts of the novel fell into place easily, but that is one part that just felt like it could be no other way.


I would say it wasn’t until the second total overhaul of the novel, after radical outlining (where the first version had little, and it showed) that I really visualized this ending.


Q: What are you working on now?


A: I’m really not sure where this project is headed, but for now it seems to be a work of autofiction. I’ve written poetry, fiction, and creative nonfiction but I haven’t done a book yet that really plays with the boundaries between nonfiction and fiction in the way I’d like to. Here’s hoping this mess coalesces one day.


Q: Anything else we should know?


A: I’m excited about the cover of Filthy Creation. This, too, has a little story. After the wonderful photographer, Alice Teeple, took my headshots, I was looking through her portfolio, and I saw a photo that just felt like it had to be the cover of Filthy Creation, as though she’d created it for this purpose, although of course she hadn’t.


The photo also happened to be of my friend, the very talented writer Patricia Grisafi, so that’s the fun plotline behind my cover.


--Interview with Deborah Kalb. Here's a previous Q&A with Caroline Hagood.

Q&A with Hannah Dolby




Hannah Dolby is the author of the new historical mystery novel No Life for a Lady. She works in the public relations field, and she lives in London.


Q: What inspired you to write No Life for a Lady, and how did you create your character Violet?


A: I knew I always wanted to write a novel set in the Victorian era (such a rich backdrop for stories!) but Violet was originally having quite a miserable, serious time - it was only when I realised I wanted her to have fun and overcome some of the restrictions placed on women in that time that she really came to life. 


Q: How did you research the novel, and did you learn anything that especially surprised you?


A: I love original books and magazines from the Victorian era, so I hunted down ones on everything from marriage advice to health cures. I read a lot about the history of Hastings & St Leonards and spent several weekends there walking the streets, checking old maps and soaking up the seaside atmosphere - once even staying in a Victorian-themed guest house!


I was surprised to discover that many of the ideas I came up with turned out to be true when I researched them, from the scandal of naked men bathing in the sea to the terrible advice women were given on their wedding nights.  


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


A: I worked with my publisher's to pin down the title and I absolutely love it - it symbolises how much my main character, Violet, is living life in her own way, navigating the challenges that women faced at the time with her own brand of verve and cheekiness. And as readers will find out, she definitely finds her own life, even if it's not one for a lady! 


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 knew roughly where the story should go but it definitely evolved into something much better along the way. I love that process of adding layers and complexity. But it was only a year from getting my book deal to publication, so it's been a bit of a whirlwind!


Q: What are you working on now?


A: I am... drum roll... working on the sequel! So this isn't the end of Violet's story, and I'm currently wrestling with a whole new roller-coaster of adventures for her. It's fun to take her story further and bring back some of the characters that people loved in the first book.


Q: Anything else we should know?


A: If you haven't been, Hastings and St Leonards is well worth a visit - only an hour and a half from London and it overflows with history and life at every turn. As well as a three-mile seafront promenade, you have grand Victorian buildings designed by the same architect who built London Zoo, a Norman castle that dates back to 1067, narrow, winding streets crammed with Tudor houses... the possibilities are endless.


--Interview with Deborah Kalb

May 27




May 27, 1894: Dashiell Hammett born.

Friday, May 26, 2023

Q&A with Beth Ann Mathews


Photo by Star Dewar



Beth Ann Mathews is the author of the new book Deep Waters: A Memoir of Loss, Alaska Adventure, and Love Rekindled. She taught at the University of Alaska Southeast for 20 years, and she lives on an island in Puget Sound, Washington.


Q: Why did you decide to write this memoir about your family's experiences following your husband's stroke, and how long did it take to write the book?


A: I didn’t set out to write a book, but a blog site called CaringBridge, designed to help families communicate during a health crisis, catalyzed that journey. I’m a marine biologist and I’d published scientific papers, but before a simple household chore triggered a rare type of stroke in my healthy, fit husband, I’d never shared personal writing beyond our families.


After being medivacked from Juneau, Alaska, to a medical center in Seattle, Washington, I needed to notify our families—and my boss and colleagues at the university where I was expected to show up for work that day—about what had happened. 


Sharing that first emotional description of that alarming day so broadly at first made me feel too vulnerable. But I didn’t have time to write a second, less personal version and so I pressed the SEND button.


Supportive responses to my writing poured in and shored me up—as much as my husband, Jim. Finding the CaringBridge website was a communication godsend. Feedback inspired me to keep writing.


Later, in critique groups, I discovered classmates were engaged by my stories of how Jim’s determination to walk, swallow without choking, and ride a bike—bolstered and strained by our family’s sailing expeditions in Alaska—pushed me to eventually choose a more adventurous, connected path over a safer, more secure life.


After I had a full draft, I realized Deep Waters was not simply a stroke recovery story, but a tale of relationship resilience. Exploring Alaska’s Inside Passage, sailing and fishing with our son, facing my issues with workaholism, and navigating threatening situations at sea, are all part of the book. The hurdles we overcame had the potential to help other couples and families navigate a health or other relationship crisis.


Writing Deep Waters took nine years, depending on when I start the clock. I consider that moment the day I joined my first critique group in La Paz, Mexico.


My husband, son, and I were living and traveling on our sailboat when a fellow boater invited me to join the Sea of Cortez Writing Group, hosted by George and Roz Potvin. Roz had been a reporter for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation and The Vancouver Sun. George was also a writer, and the couple generously hosted six or seven writers in their historic home.


During my first session, insecurities about reading in front of skilled writers built. Fortunately, I overcame self-doubt and read that day, and every week until we left to continue our expedition. Seated at the Potvins’ dining room table was when the idea of writing a book gathered steam, but for years I kept that aspiration to myself.


Q: The writer Lynn Schooler said of the book, “Mathews has penned a deeply personal love story with the careful rigor of the scientist she is, free of any giddy prose or rainbows. Instead, Deep Waters comes at the reader with the gloves off and goes a full twelve rounds, documenting in granular detail the fears and conflicts attending a life-altering event that can drive even a strong relationship onto the ropes, and the endurance, commitment, and deep love that can save it.” What do you think of that description, and what impact did your experience as a scientist have on your writing of this book?


A: When I received Lynn Schooler’s endorsement of Deep Waters, the power of it almost knocked me off my chair. He’s an accomplished author of critically acclaimed books, including The Blue Bear and Walking Home. His words made me feel as if he had lived that year with us—a profound sensation.

What he wrote captured so much—that even strong relationships have highs and lows, and people who love each other don’t always see eye to eye, and that working through disagreements is hard but if the underlying connections prevail, the debate can create a new, fulfilling path forward. Schooler’s review might lead prospective readers to assume that my husband and I had physical clashes which is not the case, but I think it’s clear he’s using the fighters’ ring as a metaphor.


Being a scientist influences my creative writing in many ways. Mostly positive, I think, but I’ll mention two, one positive and the other a limitation I had to overcome.


While doing field research and when I go boating with my family, I keep journals. As a field biologist, recording unusual events is in my blood. Soon after my husband’s stroke, the compulsion to document what was happening, as well as my emotional turmoil, began and those entries provided rich material for my writing.


But it’s not simply the words that rekindle memories so vivid they burn. Seeing my hand writing and sketches, or a spaghetti-sauce stain on a page, can open a trapdoor to what I was feeling, smelling, and experiencing in that moment. Was I in awe of a killer whale that zipped in close to our boat, turned on its side, and stared at me looking back at him?  Or, was I heart-pounding fearful during a night storm when our sailboat home was about to go aground?


As a scientist, I came to the essay-writing table with a reasonable understanding of grammar and sentence structure. During a memoir-writing class, after I read an early chapter, the instructor, Steve Boga, nodded, cleared his throat, and said, “Well. Now we know you can write,” which was his standard response to most new students.


He went on to say, however, that I needed to learn to incorporate more dialogue into my writing. That recommendation helped me enliven my creative nonfiction more than any other.


Q: What impact did it have on you to write the book, and what do your family members think of it?


A: Learning how to write a book that strangers might want to read has been challenging but also fulfilling. I’ve taken classes, read books on writing, participated in critique groups, attended workshops and conferences, and worked with gifted editors. Telling the story of how our lives were jolted and redirected by my husband’s medical situation has given me insights to who I am and helped me make sense of some of my reactions to our circumstances.


My husband has been remarkably supportive of my writing a book that shares our close, vulnerable moments, and moments in which we each, at times, are not at our best. Even though he has encouraged me, reading certain chapters of Deep Waters triggers him to re-live that difficult year.


If he did, however, read those chapters without an emotional response, I would question the quality of my writing. His support stems from his belief that our experiences and what we struggled with and learned can inspire readers to live more full and engaged lives.


Our son has been a steady champion of my writing endeavors, and he’s provided helpful feedback on a handful of scenes. Still, while he was young, I did not ask him to review chapters about harrowing events the three of us experienced. Now, in his 20s, he’s let me know he’s proud of how I’ve persevered and of my creativity, and that he’s excited to read my book.


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


A: I hope Deep Waters inspires readers to invest more in worthwhile, but neglected, relationships. 


Q: What are you working on now?


A: I’ve completed the manuscript for my second book, which I’ve set aside to work with my publicist to get the word out about Deep Waters. I had my first radio interview, which was with Suzanne M. Lang on KRCB/NPR’s  “A Novel Idea.” My book tour began a week ago in California and I’m now in Juneau, Alaska, where we lived for 20 years. My next author events are in Washington, Indiana, and Ohio and I’d love to meet readers at one of these events https://www.elizabethannmathews.com/news-events.


Q: Anything else we should know?


A: To learn more about Deep Waters: A Memoir of Loss, Alaska Adventure, and Love Rekindled, I invite readers to visit my website elizabethannmathews.com/books and Facebook author site https://www.facebook.com/BethAnnMathewsAuthor/. To schedule a virtual Book Club Reading, Q&A, or Discussion of Deep Waters send me an email.  info@bethannmathews.com


Thank you, Deborah!


--Interview with Deborah Kalb

Q&A with Jeffrey Weiss



Jeffrey Weiss is the author, with his brother Craig Weiss, of the book Fighting Back: Stan Andrews and the Birth of the Israeli Air Force. They also wrote the book I Am My Brother's Keeper.



Q: What inspired you and your brother to write this book about Stan Andrews, a Jewish American who flew for the Israeli Air Force in its early years?

A: It was a combination of things. He was such a fascinating figure - artist, writer, bomber pilot, fighter pilot, and even a diplomat. He was seemingly alienated from his Jewish identity yet engaged in the most Zionist act imaginable - risking his life to fight for the creation of a Jewish state as one of the first fighter pilots in Israel's history.


We wanted to find out who he actually was, what drove him, and to share that story with people who are passionate about Israel and its history.

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

A: We started by locating family (including a 93-year-old sister and an 86 year-old sister-in-law) and then located friends from high school, college, World War II, and Israel.


 From them we were able to track down not just great memories about Stan but also his high school essays, college essays, and letters from World War II and Israel's War of Independence. We built on that with archival research in Hebrew and English - primarily in Israel's military archive, which required a great deal of declassifying of documents.


Our biggest surprise was that he had so purposefully set out to write a book about his experiences in the war - and we have hoped that through Fighting Back, we have in some way helped him to achieve, posthumously, that literary ambition.

Q: How would you describe Stan's relationship with Judaism?

A: It was a conflicted one. He was never Bar Mitzvahed, apparently never set foot in a synagogue in his life, and once refused to admit that he was Jewish to a World War II tentmate who was himself a Jew. Yet 1940s-style antisemitism drove him to claim his Jewish identity and, by flying for Israel, strike back against the enemies of the Jewish people.

Q: What do you see as his legacy today?

A: I think his legacy is a proud, independent State of Israel with an air force that, pilot for pilot, is perhaps the very best in the world. And, very appropriately, one of that air force's fighter squadron's still flies into battle with planes that carry the logo that Stan crafted some 75 years ago.

Q: What are you working on now?

A: A book about Eliezer Ben Yehuda, the person most responsible for the revival of Hebrew as a spoken language and its status as the official language of the State of Israel.


The bringing back to life of Hebrew was something that even Theodor Herzl, perhaps the greatest visionary of modern Jewish history, thought impossible. (As he famously wrote in The Jewish State: "We cannot converse with one another in Hebrew. Who amongst us has a sufficient acquaintance with Hebrew to ask for a railway ticket in that language?")


Ben Yehuda's vision and heroic sacrifices - at one point he was imprisoned by the Ottoman Turks, then the rulers over what was then known as Palestine - are part of the modern-day miracle that is the restoration of Jewish sovereignty in the Land of Israel after 2,000 years of exile and only three years after the extermination of one out of every three Jews then alive in the world during the Holocaust.

Q: Anything else we should know?

A: Anyone interested in learning more about the story of American Jewish volunteers in the Israeli Air Force in 1948 would enjoy watching Nancy Spielberg's award-winning 2014 documentary Above and Beyond, available on Amazon Prime.


--Interview with Deborah Kalb