Author

Melanie Benjamin on Writing Mistress of the Ritz

In Mistress of the Ritz, Melanie Benjamin’s most recent novel (May, Delacorte Press), Benjamin takes one of the most popular and captivating eras for historians, both professional and amateur, World War II, and shines a light on two individuals who remained in the shadows: Blanche and Claude Auzello. As caretakers of the Hôtel Ritz in Paris, hub of elegance and glamour, they had the awesome responsibility of keeping face for the Nazis while plotting subterfuge.

Melanie Benjamin on Writing Mistress of the Ritz

Jeanne McWilliams Blasberg Discusses Her Novel, The Nine

Inspired by the biblical story of Hannah, who finally has a son, Samuel, after years spent longing for a child, author Jeanne McWilliams Blasberg set out to write a story about the relationship between a mother and son. Set within the walls of fictional elite boarding school Dunning Academy, Blasberg’s The Nine (She Writes Press) reflects on the relationship of Hannah Webber and her only child, a son named Sam. Hannah has kept a close eye on Sam, being involved in his life and school as much as possible. Although she struggles with the desire to keep her son at home, Hannah believes that in order to give Sam the best education, he must become a student at Dunning  

 Jeanne McWilliams Blasberg Discusses Her Novel, The Nine

Dr. Aysha Akhtar on Developing Her Book, Our Symphony with Animals

Dr. Aysha Akhtar made her first foray into non-academic writing with Our Symphony with Animals: On Health, Empathy, and Our Shared Destinies (Pegasus Books, May 2019). Throughout her book, Dr. Akhtar weaves stories of interactions between humans and animals with science, human experience, and social history to draw assertions about the connection between humans and animals: how we interact, develop empathy from, and benefit from relationships with animals. 

Dr. Aysha Akhtar on Developing Her Book, Our Symphony with Animals

Blood, Sweat, and Fears: Meg Elison on Writing The Book of Flora

Released in April, Meg Elison's The Book of Flora (47North) wraps up her The Road to Nowhere trilogy. The post-plague society depicted in the book disrupts stereotypes of gender and sexual intimacy, and introduces new concepts of "normal" and hope for the future. Rife with gender fluidity, queer acknowledgement, and political undertones, The Book of Flora is, as Elison told Spine, “a call to action.” 

Blood, Sweat, and Fears: Meg Elison on Writing The Book of Flora

Beginning To End: The Making of Hard Mouth, Part 1: Amanda Goldblatt

Beginning to End is a series from Spine following a book from writing through acquisition, design and on to publication and publicity. For our second "season," we're looking at Hard Mouth, Amanda Goldblatt's debut adventure novel about a woman facing—and sometimes fleeing from—her father's drawn-out battle with cancer. Counterpoint Press publishes the book this month. We begin the series by talking with Goldblatt.

Beginning To End: The Making of Hard Mouth, Part 1: Amanda Goldblatt

Mamta Chaudhry on Creating & Editing her Novel, Haunting Paris

While walking along Quai d’Anjou in the Parisian neighborhood of Île Saint-Louis with her husband, Mamta Chaudhry glanced—as she had developed a habit of doing—at the lighted windows of the homes they passed. From one of those windows drifted softly played music, and Chaudhry began to envision what kind of life the people who lived there led.

With that piece of music echoing in her ears, she imagined the voice of Julien, a ghost who watched over his still-mourning lover Sylvie from the banks of the Seine below her window. Julien spoke the words that would later become the first page of Chaudhry’s debut novel.

Mamta Chaudhry on Creating & Editing her Novel, Haunting Paris

Dea Poirier, on Perfecting her Craft with Next Girl to Die

It may have only taken Dea Poirier six weeks to write, but when Next Girl to Die came out last month, it was the culmination of years of hard work. Perfecting her craft and following her passion for connecting with people led to this debut novel, in which Detective Claire Calderwood must battle emotions from her past while trying to hunt down a ritualistic serial killer.

Dea Poirier, on Perfecting her Craft with Next Girl to Die

Author Roselle Lim on her Debut Novel, Natalie Tan’s Book of Luck & Fortune

“A horned lark perched on the concrete balcony outside my window, framed against the colorful paifang of Montreal’s Chinatown.” So begins Filipino-Chinese author Roselle Lim’s debut novel, Natalie Tan’s Book of Luck and Fortune, out in June.

The average reader may be swept away by the language and beautiful imagery of the first page of Lim’s novel, without a thought as to how much time, effort, and care went into crafting that first sentence. “The first line, to me, is extremely important. It needs to convey the voice, the tone, and the footing of the new book,” Lim said. “It took me until about the third round of revisions to get the line just right for Natalie Tan.” Lim considers the first line of a novel the entry point for a journey, one that sets the reader’s expectations for the entire novel moving forward. 

Author Roselle Lim on her Debut Novel, Natalie Tan’s Book of Luck & Fortune

Lindsey Drager on Writing The Archive of Alternate Endings

In The Archive of Alternate Endings, author Lindsey Drager has penned a historical fiction which follows the 75 to 79-year passes of Halley’s Comet and answers the questions: What things change? What stay the same?  

Expertly crafted, The Archive of Alternate Endings weaves stories of our past with fantastical peeks into the future, at a rapid pace. Blending fact with fiction is challenging. Writing it so that the reader believes it as all true is an art. “Historical fiction is speculative … in the vast majority of cases it is our own brains that fill in gaps," Drager told Spine. “If you are going to speculate history, it should be for a good reason.” She did just that, by touching upon important moments in history and reminding us that the more things change, the more they stay the same.

Lindsey Drager on Writing The Archive of Alternate Endings

Melissa Rivero, Developing her Debut Novel, The Affairs of the Falcóns

Melissa Rivero's debut novel The Affairs of the Falcóns, published April 2 by Ecco, centers on Ana, an undocumented Peruvian immigrant, as she navigates work and motherhood and marriage, intrafamilial classism and colorism, and 1990s New York City, all while managing a growing debt load and avoiding deportation.

Moving along a chronological path interspersed with flashbacks, the novel is written in close third-person. Readers follow Ana as she progresses through her life, just as Rivero followed Ana as she progressed through her writing.

Melissa Rivero, Developing her Debut Novel, The Affairs of the Falcóns

Spine Podcast, Bonus Episode, Author Kris Waldherr

With this episode we’re starting something new. Occasionally we’ll be offering you a bonus episode in which host Hiba Tahir has a conversation with an author about their upcoming book, their writing process, or anything else under the sun they’d like to discuss.

In this episode Hiba talks to Kris Waldherr, author of THE LOST HISTORY OF DREAMS, releasing April 9th by Atria Books. Waldherr details a bit about her process for writing the novel, how she came to be a novelist, and a few other related topics. For more information on Kris Waldherr's new release, visit www.kriswaldherrbooks.com

Spine Podcast, Bonus Episode, Author Kris Waldherr

Jane Healey on Research for The Beantown Girls and Women’s Stories in History

With her second work of historical fiction, Jane Healey knew that she wanted to highlight a story of lesser-known women. So when she came across the story of the Red Cross Clubmobile girls, American women who volunteered to bring a piece of home to soldiers in World War II, she was instantly drawn to them. The Red Cross Clubmobile girls became the subject of her new novel, The Beantown Girls, out last February from Lake Union.

Jane Healey on Research for The Beantown Girls and Women’s Stories in History

Wendy Meddour on Writing Children's Picture Book, Lubna and Pebble

Taking on a scary, big-world topic and writing it in a way that small readers can both relate to and find hope in is no easy task. That is exactly what Wendy Meddour set out to do in her latest picture book, Lubna and Pebble. While adults will immediately recognize the setting as a refugee camp, children will be captured by the triumphant creativity, resilience, and caring shown by one small child. 

Wendy Meddour on Writing Children's Picture Book, Lubna and Pebble

Mira Jacob, The Creation of Good Talk: A Memoir in Conversations

Back in 2014, writer Mira Jacob's six-year-old son Z became obsessed with Michael Jackson. He wanted to dance like Michael, he wanted to look like Michael, and what began as Z's questions about his pop-star obsession spread into deeper questions about skin and color and race and family. Jacob is East Indian and her husband is Jewish, and Z wanted to understand who he was.

When Z learned about the killing of Michael Brown, a black man shot to death by a white police officer in Ferguson, Missouri, the questions grew more complex, and carried fear.

Mira Jacob, The Creation of Good Talk: A Memoir in Conversations

Positively Un-Precious: The Writing Practice of Alison Stine

When The Kenyon Review published Alison Stine’s essay “On Poverty” on Leap Day of 2016, the Appalachian author’s commentary on classism in the writing world-- a piece full of bite but avoiding vitriol--went viral. Like, really viral. Stine’s work has appeared in publications typically associated with the literary elite (read: writers who got a head start): The Paris Review, The Atlantic, The Nation, Tin House, and others. Two years after “On Poverty” made its debut, SPINE caught up with Stine, whose novel The Grower will appear from Mira in fall 2020. 

Positively Un-Precious: The Writing Practice of Alison Stine

Lynne Kelly on the inspiration & writing of Song for a Whale

Lynne Kelly’s middle-grade novel, Song for a Whale, grew organically. The main character, Iris, is a 12-year-old Deaf girl who feels isolated from her school and family. Since Kelly is a sign-language interpreter you might assume her goal was to capture the experience of a Deaf character, but you would be wrong. Much like her award-winning first novel, Chained, it began with an animal; in this case a whale.  

Lynne Kelly on the inspiration & writing of Song for a Whale

Karen Thompson Walker Discusses Process for Writing The Dreamers

Author Karen Thompson Walker's new novel The Dreamers, out last month, is set in the fictional college town of Santa Lora, California, where a mysterious virus has arrived in a college dorm, placing its victims in a perpetual dream state. Soon, the disease extends outside the dorm walls. The book wraps readers in a tranquil dream while keeping them turning the pages to uncover the cure.

Karen Thompson Walker Discusses Process for Writing The Dreamers

Chaya Bhuvaneswar on Crafting White Dancing Elephants

Reading forward through a short-story collection, a reader hopes to be moved uniquely by each piece, but also to arrive at book's end having undergone a singular experience. Writer Chaya Bhuvaneswar's White Dancing Elephants, described by author Jimin Han (A Small Revolution) as a "daring mix of ancient, contemporary, and dystopic stories," provides such a cumulative read.

Chaya Bhuvaneswar on Crafting White Dancing Elephants

Julia Dixon Evans, Channeling Points of View for How To Set Yourself On Fire

In Julia Dixon Evans' debut novel How to Set Yourself on Fire, 30-something Sheila and her 12-year-old neighbor grow increasingly obsessed with letters to Rosamond, Sheila's recently deceased grandmother, from Harold, a lovestruck neighbor. While Sheila's voice provides the book's primary viewpoint, Harold's voice adds a second narrative rhythm.

Later in the book, Sheila, whose own life tends towards chaos, attempts to impose order by hanging the letters on laundry lines strung around her apartment. Evans's own creative process involved a similar moment of organizational imposition.

Julia Dixon Evans, Channeling Points of View for How To Set Yourself On Fire

The Writer's Practice: K.M. Jackson, As Good as the First Time

K.M. Jackson has ideas, for books and books, for series upon series. "I have more ideas than I have time," said the author, whose romance As Good as the First Time launches this month. "The ideas come way too fast." Her new bulletin board is covered with ideas. "They come from the weirdest spots." Her Pinterest board is full of ideas. "The spark could come from anywhere."

The Writer's Practice: K.M. Jackson, As Good as the First Time

The Writer's Practice: Paul Matthew Maisano, Bindi

A writer uses tools and techniques, creates outlines and charts that impose order on characters and places, chronologies and narrative flow. These things matter to the writer. These things are real and useful, and can be employed to manage multiple perspectives and geographies. These things, Paul Matthew Maisano relied on when he was writing his first novel Bindi.

The Writer's Practice: Paul Matthew Maisano, Bindi

Kelleigh Greenberg-Jephcott on Writing Swan Song

Author Kelleigh Greenberg-Jephcott’s start in screenwriting and directing fostered an early interest in adaptation.

“I was always interested in the art of adapting works of literature for the screen,” Greenberg-Jephcott said. She related a life-changing incident from 2006. 

“I was in a villa in Provence having received a fellowship for a Tolstoy adaptation I’d written, and was inspired by authors present to try my hand at prose fiction,” Greenberg-Jephcott recalled. “I had a childhood passion for Capote and was intrigued by the women he called his Swans, who kept cropping up in the Clarke and Plimpton biographies, as well as in Truman’s work. I knew what I had in mind for their collective and individual narratives was too expansive a tale for a feature film—even a series risked not fully capturing their unique voices.  I began what would become a ten year process of research and gestation.”

Kelleigh Greenberg-Jephcott on Writing Swan Song

The Writer's Practice: Polis Loizou, Disbanded Kingdom

How does the co-founder of a theatre company create a novel that captures the tumult of coming-of-age in modern London? For Polis Loizou, Disbanded Kingdom developed like a collage.  

It began with Loizou’s journals written when he was 24 years-old. Like Oscar, Disbanded Kingdom’s main character, Loizou describes himself at that time as “bumbling and directionless.” The journals captured the emotional journey of discovering how he fit in the world after university, but turning that into a novel was a challenge.  

The Writer's Practice: Polis Loizou, Disbanded Kingdom

Q & A with Sea Witch Author, Sarah Henning

“I never could quite escape the fact that I wanted to write books,” said former journalist-turned-novelist Sarah Henning. “I think it’s impossible for us to run away from who we really want to be…  Dreams don’t die even when we’re adults and have a mortgage and kids. Some people stuff those dreams down and let them rot in their guts and some of us go for it, even if it seems selfish or silly, though dreams never are. Anyone who tells you that you’re either of those things for going after what you want most likely has a big dream-shaped ulcer in their gut.”

Q & A with Sea Witch Author, Sarah Henning