author

A Conversation with Author Elizabeth McCracken on Writing Bowlaway

Elizabeth McCracken’s highly anticipated new novel Bowlaway is her first in 18 years. This is a character-driven piece which begins at the turn of the last century, and is focused on the fictional community of Salford, Massachusetts. Grand in scope, the novel covers generations — all affected, some tangentially, by the inexplicable appearance of Bertha Truitt’s unconscious body, along with a bag carrying a bowling candlepin, in a graveyard.

A Conversation with Author Elizabeth McCracken on Writing Bowlaway

Author/Designer Hafsah Faizal on Writing We Hunt the Flame

What if the Hunger Games were set in a fantasy world?

Contemplating that question during a discussion with her sisters sparked the idea behind YA author and popular designer Hafsah Faizal’s debut, We Hunt the Flame, a YA novel that took “four years and many iterations” to complete.

We Hunt the Flame features a huntress masquerading as a boy, as well as the prince sent to assassinate her. Evelyn Skye, New York Times bestselling author of The Crown’s Game series, called the ancient Arabia inspired fantasy “danger, magic, and hope all wrapped into one.”

Author/Designer Hafsah Faizal on Writing We Hunt the Flame

Beginning to End, The Making of Light from Other Stars, Part 2: Lea Beresford

Beginning to End follows a book from acquisition to bookshelf. For this "season," we're honing in on Light from Other Stars, about a young astronaut hopeful and an invention that alters time. The novel is author Erika Swyler's second, following her much-lauded 2015 debut, The Book of Speculation. In our first article, we spoke with Swyler's agent Michelle Brower. Next up: Lea Beresford, senior editor at Bloomsbury Publishing, working with Swyler to ready the book for publication next year.

Beginning to End, The Making of Light from Other Stars, Part 2: Lea Beresford

Sarah Smarsh on the Challenges of Writing Heartland

Each author struggles with her own worst stretch of creation. For some, fanning the spark of an idea into a fully formed concept stands out as most agonizing. Others get caught in the middle stages, struggling to find a way out of narrative tangles and research rabbit holes and multiple storylines. While each phase of her book Heartland had its challenges, writer Sarah Smarsh told Spine that the hardest might have been final edits—letting go of a book she’d worked on for some 16 years.

Sarah Smarsh on the Challenges of Writing Heartland

Christina Dalcher, on Developing her Debut Novel, Vox

With Vox, her debut novel, Christina Dalcher “wanted to create a story about a woman who studied language and yet didn’t speak up as the world changed around her and in the end lost her voice.” In the novel, women are limited to 100 words per day and the country must submit to a value system cruelly enforced by the government. The story of how such a world developed and how it is taken down is bold and riveting. The story of how the novel developed is no less intriguing.

Christina Dalcher, on Developing her Debut Novel, Vox

The Writer's Practice: Mary Kubica, When The Lights Go Out

Novelist Mary Kubica's fifth thriller, When The Lights Go Out, launches this week. The best-selling author told Spine that each of her books starts with the flicker of an idea, which she fans from several angles to see if anything alights. "A book often begins with a small, subconscious spark of inspiration that's then molded in a very conscious way to see if the spark has legs," she said. "For When The Lights Go Out, that first spark was the twist itself, which was exciting because it's never happened for me this way. Usually I have no idea how my books will end, but only a beginning!"

The Writer's Practice: Mary Kubica, When The Lights Go Out

The Writer's Practice: Mike Scardino, Bad Call

Half a century ago, Mike Scardino served as an ambulance attendant for St. John's Queens Hospital. In the late '60s, working an ambulance didn't require training beyond what the Red Cross (or in Scardino's case, the Boy Scouts) offered. The job paid better than anything else a young college student could earn on breaks, but it was brutal, physically and emotionally. 

The Writer's Practice: Mike Scardino, Bad Call

The Writer's Practice: Lara Elena Donnelly

Tropical Porachis, complex and intrigue-addled, is economically powered by a thriving film industry that at once dazzles and distracts from real-world political drama. The imagined country serves as stage for Lara Elena Donnelly's Armistice, the second book in her Amberlough Dossier series. On her publisher's website, she describes Porachis as "Golden Age of Hollywood-does-Bollywood, with a side order of In the Loop."

But how do you get to Porachis? Donnelly arrived via character.

The Writer's Practice: Lara Elena Donnelly

The Writer's Practice: Justina Ireland

Hey. How do you feel about zombies?

Two years back, writer Justina Ireland launched this question at Balzer + Bray Executive Editor Jordan Brown. Ireland wasn't a publishing novice — Simon & Schuster had released several of her young adult titles — but she was coming out of a self-imposed hiatus, and a recent split with her agent. "I went back to the well and said, 'What do I love about this process?' I took a moment." And then she wrote another book, a post-Civil War American young adult novel. With zombies. 

The Writer's Practice: Justina Ireland

Katharine & Elizabeth Corr on Finishing the The Witch’s Kiss Trilogy with The Witch’s Blood

In March, sisters Kate and Elizabeth Corr finished their popular The Witch’s Kiss trilogy with its final installment The Witch’s Blood and faced some conflicting feelings. 

“On one hand, we’re really proud of what we’ve written, and kind of amazed that we’ve had three books published in less than two years,” said Kate of the fast-paced and character-driven Sleeping Beauty retelling.

“On the other hand, we’ve spent so much time with Merry and Leo and the rest of our characters— so much time in their world— that saying goodbye to them was really sad,” said Liz. “It’s sad thinking that we’ll probably never write about them again.” 

Katharine & Elizabeth Corr on Finishing the The Witch’s Kiss Trilogy with The Witch’s Blood

The Writer's Practice: Steve Kistulentz, Panorama

Twenty-first century America visually consumes cataclysmic events. A shooting, a plane crash, a terrorist attack — these tragedies we process through videos captured by strangers' cameras, presented to us by newscasters or posted by unknown users online. Watching, we may feel pain or horror or shock, but also we experience a disconnect, pulling these moments into our minds via screens. 

The Writer's Practice: Steve Kistulentz, Panorama

The Writer's Practice: Nafkote Tamirat, The Parking Lot Attendant

An enigmatic, charismatic, possibly dangerous parking lot attendant rules an empire of Ethiopian parking lot workers, inextricably tangled up with the Ethiopian community of greater Boston as well as a mysterious, decaying utopian commune on a tropical island. The narrator, an intelligent and emotionally isolated young woman, pushes her singular self forward through each community, at once insider and outsider, welcomed and expelled.

The Writer's Practice: Nafkote Tamirat, The Parking Lot Attendant

Will Mackin, Collecting his Experience as a Soldier in Bring Out the Dog

"We were walking across the desert. It's like walking across the bottom of the ocean, rolling dunes of sand." Former Naval officer and writer Will Mackin, author of the new short story collection Bring Out the Dog, is telling Spine what it felt like, what it looked like to serve in Iraq. What it was like to serve in Iraq during that one minute, on that one day, that one moment that was so surreal, so ugly and so beautiful and so "fucking weird," he took out his grease pen and wrote notes across his arm. So he wouldn't forget. So he could carry the moment forward.

Will Mackin, Collecting his Experience as a Soldier in Bring Out the Dog

The Writer's Practice: Nadia Hashimi

Nadia Hashimi's middle-grade novel The Sky at Our Feet is full of memorable characters. As the reader progresses through the book, three rise to prominence. Intelligent, impulsive Max struggles to balance the medical requirements of her seizure disorder with her desire to be independent. Jason D, thoughtful and tenacious, races to find his aunt, hoping together they can save his Afghan mother from deportation. As Jason and Max scramble around New York, the city takes on a spirit of its own, becoming as integral to the narrative as the two children.

The Writer's Practice: Nadia Hashimi

The Writer's Practice: Jen Campbell

With words, Jen Campbell has constructed a life. For 10 years, the UK-based writer and vlogger worked as a bookseller. She creates original book-centric content for her YouTube channel and its nearly 40,000 subscribers. She teaches writing workshops and has published six books, including her first two works of fiction, out last fall. 

The Writer's Practice: Jen Campbell

The Poet's Practice: Dorothea Lasky

First, a thought. Or a dream, a happening, an itch, a longing, an aversion, a quickening, a word. Then a poem, and after more time and more poems, maybe one adheres to another, and that to another still, and eventually an idea of poems together. A book.

This is how it happens, a book of poetry. Can happen. Might.

The Poet's Practice: Dorothea Lasky

Emily Midorikawa & Emma Claire Sweeney on Writing A Secret Sisterhood

A Secret Sisterhood explores four literary friendships: between Jane Austen and her brother's playwriting employee Anne Sharp; between Charlotte Brontë and her strong-minded schoolmate, feminist writer Mary Taylor; between George Eliot and Harriet Beecher Stowe, American author of Uncle Tom's Cabin; and between Virginia Woolf and Katherine Mansfield, whose complicated friendship other biographers have reduced to rivalry.

Emily Midorikawa & Emma Claire Sweeney on Writing A Secret Sisterhood

The Writer's Practice: Linda Sue Park

Raffa, the short-statured, brave-hearted hero of Linda Sue Park's Wing & Claw trilogy, possesses the encyclopedic knowledge of flora required of a young apothecary. He easily recalls each plant's physical and medicinal properties, and comprehends how best to combine and manipulate to achieve the desired affects in human subjects. But Raffa holds something more inside him than most "pothers." Witness: 

"[Raffa] pounded the stem and leaves of the scarlet vine to a pulp, then added some to the poultice. As he stirred, the paste began to take on a gentle vermilion glow, and in his mind he heard something that sounded like a faraway cowbell … ."

The Writer's Practice: Linda Sue Park

Rachel Khong on Writing Goodbye, Vitamin

Ruth Young arrived first. The 30-year-old sonographer showed up before her ex-boyfriend and before her younger brother. She even arrived before her parents: her mother, recently obsessed with vitamins; her recovering alcoholic, philandering, history professor father, battling Alzheimer's disease. All these characters play central roles in Rachel Khong's first novel, Goodbye Vitamin, but first, said Khong, came Ruth.

Rachel Khong on Writing Goodbye, Vitamin

The Writer's Practice: Carrie DiRisio

What makes a successful young adult hero? In the case of Broody McHottiepants, a few book rejections, a couple glasses of wine, a quick wit, and a Twitter account.

Coming off a brutal round of querying in early 2015, Carrie DiRisio was mourning, just a little bit. Agents had yet to bite on her young adult novel, a book she'd written over the past while working full time and attending graduate school at the University of Pittsburgh. What did these people want? A brooding hunk? A handsome hero, fond of glaring and silence, but also prone to occasional bursts of wit and chivalry? Well, she'd give him to them.

The Writer's Practice: Carrie DiRisio

The Writer's Practice: Carmen Maria Machado

During graduate school at the Iowa Writers' Workshop, Carmen Maria Machado heard other students discussing their short story collections, talking about how they wrote around a central concept. "They seemed to be focusing on a very specific theme or set of topics, and the stories are turning them over in various ways," she told Spine

Machado found it ridiculous, this concept of limiting oneself to a defined thematic space. But then she looked at her work — about "bodies and sex and sexual violence and the physicality of bodies" — and realized she was writing this way, too.

The Writer's Practice: Carmen Maria Machado

The Writer's Practice: Erika Robuck

Writer Erika Robuck works from her home office in Annapolis, Maryland. Three boys delivered to school, van parked in the driveway, she pours a mug of coffee, lights a candle, turns on classical music, and writes. 

"My desk is an altar to all my muses," she told Spine. "I have pine cones from Concord, flowers from Key West." After spending a few hours on the creative part of the authoring process, Robuck turns to research, social media, and administrative tasks.

The Writer's Practice: Erika Robuck

Carolyn Murnick Blends True Crime and Memoir in The Hot One

True crime writers chase ghosts. In attempting to solve mysteries, they piece together bits of lives that have ended, examine events long over, and untangle relationships they never knew. They must then transform these details into engaging narrative, while remaining true to the facts of the case.

In her book "The Hot One," writer Carolyn Murnick tackled the genre from a different angle, blending true crime with memoir, telling a story of female friendship while also chasing the ghost of her childhood friend Ashley Ellerin, who was brutally murdered in 2001 at the age of 22.

Carolyn Murnick Blends True Crime and Memoir in The Hot One

The Writer's Practice: Steve Rushin

During his 30-year career with Sports Illustrated, Steve Rushin has written in press boxes and hotel rooms, on airplanes and shuttle buses, and aboard a ship crossing the Drake Passage to Antarctica. But at home in Connecticut, where he composed most of his recent memoir Sting-Ray Afternoons, Rushin sits (or reclines) in a small home office surrounded by books, papers, folders, and not a few tchotchkes…

The Writer's Practice: Steve Rushin