Archive for the ‘Sundays With Writers’ Category

The Best Anthony Doerr Books (Exclusive Author Interview)

Monday, September 18th, 2023

Read my interview with the author on the All The Light We Cannot See book. Discover the Anthony Doerr books in order and details on the new Netflix TV series.

The Best Anthony Doerr Books (Exclusive Author Interview)

This exclusive interview with acclaimed author Anthony Doerr delves into the captivating world of Anthony Doerr’s  Pulitzer Prize-winning All the Light We Cannot See book. 

Join me as Doerr offers unique insights into the creation of this literary masterpiece, revealing the inspirations, challenges, and emotions that brought this unforgettable tale to life.

Anthony Doerr Books

Be sure to scroll down to see the FULL LIST of books from the author, and more details on the All the Light We Cannot See movie.

All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr

All The Light We Cannot See Summary

In this story, Marie-Laure lives with her father in Paris near the Museum of Natural History, where he works as the master of its thousands of locks. 

When she is six, Marie-Laure goes blind, and her father builds a perfect miniature of their neighborhood so she can memorize it by touch and navigate her way home. 

When she is twelve, the Nazis occupy Paris, and father and daughter flee to the walled citadel of Saint-Malo, where Marie-Laure’s reclusive great-uncle lives in a tall house by the sea. 

They carry what might be the museum’s most valuable and dangerous jewel with them.

Meanwhile, in a mining town in Germany, the orphan Werner grows up with his younger sister, enchanted by a crude radio they find. 

Werner becomes an expert at building and fixing these crucial new instruments, a talent that wins him a place at a brutal academy for Hitler Youth, then a special assignment to track the resistance. 

More and more aware of the human cost of his intelligence, Werner travels through the heart of the war and, finally, into Saint-Malo, where his story and Marie-Laure’s converge.

All the Light We Cannot See Quotes

All the Light We Cannot See Themes:

This novel was selected for an Alex Award which is given to ten books written for adults that have special appeal to young adults, ages 12 through 18. 

You will find many powerful themes in this book including:

War and Its Impact: The novel vividly portrays the devastating effects of World War II on individuals, families, and communities. It poses moral dilemmas faced by characters caught amid the conflict.

Resilience and Survival: The story follows the journeys of two young protagonists, Marie-Laure and Werner, as they navigate the challenges of war. Their resilience, courage, and determination to survive against all odds highlight the strength of the human spirit.

Human Connection: Amidst the chaos of war, the novel emphasizes the importance of human connections and empathy. It explores the bonds formed between characters, emphasizing the capacity for kindness and compassion even in the darkest times.

The Power of Knowledge: The novel celebrates the transformative power of knowledge and the way it can provide solace and hope. Marie-Laure’s love for books and Werner’s expertise in radio technology are symbolic examples of the intellectual pursuits that can illuminate even the darkest paths.

Moral Choices: Throughout the story, characters are faced with moral dilemmas and choices that challenge their values and principles. These ethical quandaries reflect the complexities of human nature and the blurred lines between right and wrong during times of war.

All the Light We Cannot See Quotes

 At the time of this interview, Anthony Doerr had already been on the New York Times best-seller list for twenty weeks. He certainly doesn’t need this interview for a promotion. 

Shortly after my interview, they awarded All the Light We Cannot See the 2015 Pulitzer Prize for fiction and the 2015 Andrew Carnegie Medal for Excellence in Fiction.

Anthony Doerr All the Light We Cannot See

The Best Anthony Doerr Books (Exclusive Author Interview)

What was it like spending a decade on this book, and did you ever feel discouraged while writing it?

Oh, I was crazy with doubt almost of the time. 

You invest so many months into a single project—shelves stuffed with WWII books, three separate trips to Europe, dozens of scribbled notes, and the terror that you won’t be able to pull it all together keeps you up at night. 

I worried that if I abandoned the project, I’d let down my wife, kids, editor, and myself. 

And I never dreamed it would take so long—a quarter of my life!

The story beautifully centers around radio communication bringing unlikely individuals together. What inspired your choice to delve into radio, and did researching older radio models and their workings play a significant role in crafting this plotline?

I adored radios as a boy and often stayed up late listening to baseball games under my covers while my parents thought I was sleeping. 

But that passion had waned until ten years ago, when I took a train from Princeton, New Jersey, into New York City. 

I had just completed a novel and was searching for a new idea, and I had a notebook in my lap. 

The man in the seat in front of me was talking to someone on his cell phone about the sequel to The Matrix, I remember that very clearly, and as we approached Manhattan, sixty feet of steel and concrete started flowing above the train, his call dropped.

 And he got angry! 

He started swearing and rapping his phone with his knuckles, and after briefly worrying for my safety, I said to myself: What he’s forgetting, what we’re all forgetting, is that what he was just doing is a miracle. 

He’s using two little radios — a receiver and a transmitter — crammed into something no bigger than a deck of cards to send and receive little packets of light between hundreds of radio towers, one after the next, miles apart, each connecting to the next at the speed of light, and he’s using this magic to have a conversation about Keanu Reeves.

Because we’re habituated to it, we’ve stopped seeing the grandeur of this breathtaking act.

So I decided to write something that would help me and my reader feel that power again, to feel the strangeness and sorcery of hearing the voice of a stranger, or a distant loved one, in our heads.

That very afternoon, ten years ago, I wrote a title into my notebook: All the Light We Cannot See—a reference to all the invisible wavelengths of the electromagnetic spectrum (like radio waves). 

And that night, I started a piece of fiction in which a girl reads a story to a boy over the radio.

I conceived of her as blind and him as trapped in darkness, and the sound of her voice, carried by radio waves – the light we cannot see — through walls, as his salvation.

My heart went out to Werner, especially during his time in the Hitler Youth and the difficult choices he had to make for survival.

The book delves into themes of death, war, sadness, and poverty, despite the underlying hope in the story’s conclusion. Writing about this challenging period in history must have been tough.

Can you share which scene was the most challenging for you to write?

Yes, lots of the research for this novel was excruciating. 

The destruction of human beings during WWII, especially on the Eastern Front, occurred on a scale almost too large for the human brain to comprehend. 

Sometimes, the source material would send me to dark places, and I’d have to take breaks to work on other projects.

As for scenes that were hard to write, a writer faces many kinds of difficulties: technical, emotional, and syntactic. 

In terms of emotions, all the scenes involving Frederick were the most difficult because he reminds me of one of my sons.

Marie-Laure’s father’s intricate puzzles add so much beauty to your story. 

It made me wish I could find a puzzle for my kids to solve. 

How did you come up with this concept?

A friend of our family once gave me a Japanese puzzle box as a present.

 It was a wooden cube that looked like an ornate, solid block of wood. No visible doors, no knobs, no handles, no buttons.

But, as our family friend showed me if you knew what side to push in on, then various panels would start to slide down, and by manipulating all the panels in clever ways, you could eventually slide open the top and discover a hidden compartment inside.

I played with that thing for hours, showing it off to friends, examining its construction, etc., then eventually put it on a shelf and forgot about it. 

A couple of decades later, while working on this novel, the puzzle box came back to me, along with my fascination with it, and I decided to try writing a couple of scenes in which Marie-Laure’s father fashions puzzle boxes.

Which character do you identify the most within your book?

I do my best to identify with all my characters, even the bad actors—I think that’s probably part of the job description for any novelist, isn’t it?

This novel has 187 chapters beautifully segmented and sectioned for the reader in small doses. Why did you decide to structure your story this way?

Obviously, there are infinite ways to write a novel, but for me, “plotting it out” has always sounded scary and programmatic.

 I have to compose, revise, and re-revise scenes to understand what should happen.

So my process involves a lot of trial and error. I write hundreds of paragraphs trying to figure out where the story is going, and I usually cut most of them. 

I knew early on that I wanted the two narratives to feel like two almost parallel lines that gently inclined toward each other.

The structure was a big mess for a long time.

 It probably had 250 or 300 chapters at some points.

All I knew early on — and wanted a reader to intuit – was that Marie’s and Werner’s lives would intersect.

But it took me a long time to figure out exactly how that would happen.

If you could tell anyone to read one book (other than your own), what would that book be?

Oh, gosh, my answer to this question changes all the time, but a novel I’m absolutely in love with right now is Karen Joy Fowler’s We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves

It’s about family, siblinghood, memory, storytelling, and particularly about our society’s treatment of animals.

It’s also structured in this beautiful, organic, perfect way—I hope a few of your readers will look at it!

*Editor’s Note: Read my interview with Karen Joy Fowler about “We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves” here!

Frequently Asked Questions About Anthony Doerr Books:

How do you pronounce Anthony Doerr?

Anthony Doerr’s last name sounds like “door.” For a pronunciation guide, it would look like this: Anthony Dor

What are the best Anthony Doerr books?

My favorite book by the author is All the Light We Cannot See.

This novel also is the highest-rated on GoodReads, followed closely by Cloud Cuckoo Land.

Is All The Light We Cannot See based on a true story?

All The Light We Cannot See is a work of historical fiction. 

While the characters are entirely fictional, the setting of Saint-Malo is a real place.

All the Light We Cannot See movie

When can I watch All The Light We Cannot See movie?

The book will become a Netflix TV series very soon! 

Directed by Shawn Levy, the Netflix adaptation stars Louis Hofmann, Lars Eidinger, Marion Bailey, Hugh Laurie, Aria Mia Loberti, and Mark Ruffalo.

With four hour-long episodes in total, the All the Light We Cannot See limited series will premiere on November 2, 2023, nearly a decade after the novel was published.

You can watch the riveting movie trailer here!

What are Anthony Doerr’s books in order published?

  • The Shell Collector: Stories (2001) 
  • About Grace (2004)
  • Four Seasons in Rome: On Twins, Insomnia, and the Biggest Funeral in the History of the World (2007)
  • Memory Wall: Stories (2010)
  • All The Light We Cannot See (2014)
  • Cloud Cuckoo Land (2021)
Anthony Doerr Books

Anthony Doerr Books

Anthony Doerr is the author of six books. He won the 2015 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction and the 2015 Andrew Carnegie Medal for Excellence in Fiction for his novel All the Light We Cannot See.

His talent extends to the world of short stories and essays, where he has claimed an impressive five O. Henry Prizes.

Anthony's work has been translated into over forty languages.

He has received recognition from the Barnes & Noble Discover Prize, the Rome Prize, the New York Public Library's Young Lions Award, a Guggenheim Fellowship, an NEA Fellowship, and an Alex Award from the American Library Association.

Other esteemed honors include the National Magazine Award for Fiction, four Pushcart Prizes, three Pacific Northwest Book Awards, five Ohioana Book Awards, and the coveted 2010 Story Prize.

Discover more about all six books in this book list today.

As an Amazon Associate and member of other affiliate programs, I earn from qualifying purchases.

Love this author interview? Stream the Book Gang Podcast wherever you get podcasts. We discuss debuts, backlist, and under-the-radar book gems with your favorite authors.

Book Gang Podcast

TELL ME: What is your favorite Anthony Doerr book?

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The Best Josh Malerman Books (Bird Box Exclusive Interview)

Tuesday, August 8th, 2023

Josh Malerman discusses the rough drafts that proceeded his debut novel, Bird Box. Get the list of his best books and stream the Netflix film and sequel.

The Best Josh Malerman Books (Bird Box Exclusive Interview)

I am so excited to share an interview with Josh Malerman, who penned Bird Box, our first horror novel featured on the site. 

As a novelist, he has won numerous Bram Stoker Awards, but you may not know he is also known for his incredible gift as a singer-songwriter for the band The High Strung too.

This book built so much buzz for many reasons you will discover through this interview, but it also has received incredible reviews from readers.

If you are good friends with me, you know that I love a good scare. Horror flicks (scary, not gory) are my jam! 

I only recently discovered that I get this from my Dad, and now anytime a good one comes out, we go and get the heck scared out of ourselves together.

Horror BOOKS, on the other hand, just haven’t captivated my attention as much until I read this gem of a book.

The more I read about the story behind his success, the more I wanted him to pull up a virtual chair at my kitchen table and share about his book with you.

Scroll down to see the FULL LIST of books from the author!

Bird Box Book Synopsis

Malerman succeeds in writing a perfectly gripping and creepy psychological sci-fi page-turner. 

In a post-apocalyptic world, creatures are lurking. We witness a woman and her two children try to flee to safety blindfolded along a river. 

If they see what is lurking, they die a horrific death inflicting pain upon themselves to stop seeing the horrors of what they have seen. 

Interweaving past (pre-creatures) and present (a post-creature world), you go on a horrific ride as Malorie tries to save herself and her children blindfolded, never knowing what lurks around every turn.

I recommend you dig into this one if you are an Alfred Hitchcock fan like me.

I just know it is a book he would have loved and wanted to create into a film. 

You will also really love it if you love classic Stephen King or if you enjoyed The Girl With All the Gifts as much as I did. 

Now grab your coffee, and let’s chat with Josh about his delightfully creepy book, Bird Box.

The Best Josh Malerman Books (Bird Box Exclusive Interview)

You are our first author joining us who has written in the Horror genre, so I am particularly thrilled to introduce Bird Box to our readers and a completely different genre that I love. 

How did you come up with this terrifying concept of Infinity, and what about it do you think terrifies your readers the most?

Strange germination: Long ago, (back before I had a personality of my own), an elementary school teacher mentioned that “a man might go mad if he were to contemplate infinity.” 

Every word of this admonition worried me, and I have a very strong memory of sitting in the carpeted hall as Mom and Dad got ready to go out… worrying that I might accidentally “contemplate” infinity. 

Many years later, I found myself with an exciting image; a mother and two children are rowing down a river blindfolded… why? What are they fleeing? 

I didn’t think about it long, the teacher’s words returned, and I had myself a book.

Hitchcock's, The Birds

One of my greatest fears is birds. It’s a deep fear because my mother terrified me of diseases if I picked up feathers, and then the fear was solidified after I watched Hitchcock’s, The Birds

I understand you let your pet finches fly around freely around you while writing this book in a pretty unique location. 

Can you tell us about that so I can have more nightmares?

I’d love to give you more nightmares! 

Yes, I had five finches, and I felt very bad about keeping them locked up, so I left the door to their cage open. 

It’s not as messy as you might imagine; you get to know their haunts and lay newspaper below. 

I was renting the third floor of a magnificent home in Detroit’s Boston-Edison (this is where Motown singers once lived; Berry Gordy had a place; Mark Twain built one of the homes for his daughter), so there were all kinds of ballroom space for the birds to fly.

With Bird Box, I woke up at 7 AM daily, got to work by about 8 AM, and wrapped it up by noon. 

The birds were really active in those hours, constant fly-bys, until they eventually landed in the story itself.

You wrote 15 novels before a publishing house picked up Bird Box

Will this novel’s success finally allow some of your other pieces of work to be published? 

Have you pursued publishing these before, or was this your first time trying to get your book out in the world?

I didn’t shop the other books for no reason other than I was completely satisfied with writing one, then moving on to the next.

Part of it was that I didn’t know what to do with a manuscript, and the other part was that I was touring with the band, writing novels in the passenger seat, and just didn’t see the rising stack of novels with desperation in my eyes.

This is not to say it was/is a hobby, it most certainly is not, but for who-knows-why I was content with knowing they existed and nothing more.

Now that Bird Box is out, I plan to release all 24 other books I’ve written—every last word. 

To me, they’re all episodes of the same show; Bird Box just felt like a promising debut after I’d met the people who could bring her to a publishing house.

This book has been compared to some of Stephen King’s classic novels, and I would dare say it feels a little like some of Hitchcock’s creepier works.

 Do you have any authors or filmmakers that have inspired you as a writer, and has this genre always intrigued you?

Oh yeah… I’ve been a horror fan all my life. And because of that, this question is very hard to answer.

 I love so many of them for so many reasons, but since you asked, I’ll tell you that I did go on an absolute Hitchcock tear after I wrote Bird Box, watched twenty or so of his movies, and really started to sink into his world.

 I loved him. I love Stephen King, too. 

Charles Beaumont. Richard Matheson. Dan Simmons. Robert McCammon. Kathe Koja. John Skipp

This list gets big fast with me, as it does with most horror lovers.

 I think we’re all very open-minded and will read just about anything that passes through the genre… because you just don’t know. 

And we’re all looking for that thrill constantly and are willing to read things that fall short of that on the way and can find exciting peaks in books that other people might think are flat.

Are you a horror movie lover, or just a reader of horror fiction? 

Can you share some of your favorite films for us to check out after we read Bird Box?

The first scary movie I saw was Twilight Zone: the Movie

Blew my mind straight up the middle—the Anthony skit, where the boy can do anything with his imagination; so good. 

The Invisible Man, the original, is crazy and features a Heath Ledger-Joker-esque villain in the title role. It’s one of my favorites. 

Hitchcock’s Rope is magic.

I read the exciting news that the film was optioned by Universal for six figures back in 2013 when it was only in the manuscript stage! 

As a writer, can you explain how that happened so early and what your involvement will be in the film?

Universal Studios optioned it, yeah.

And you know, I changed some of that manuscript before publication, but it’s made its way into the script! 

So, that’s pretty wild because the book will be different than the movie, but I may be responsible for some of those differences despite not writing the script myself.


The whole thing is nuts, really, and exciting, but I don’t want to think about it too much. 

You know what I mean? 

I want to keep my mind on the books, and if the movie gains traction, is green-lit, and starts to roll, I’ll have the biggest smile in the room.

The High Strungs

source: paste magazine

I also understand that you have quite the juggle with being a musician (in The High Strung) and a writer.

As a creative, how do you make time for both of these, particularly when on tour? 

How excited were the others in the band about this book being published?

Well, we haven’t done much touring since the book deal, and I understand that’s mostly my fault. 

I haven’t written any new songs! 

And I used to ponder this all the time; take a band like the Beatles. People adored them from the get-go, heralded as geniuses long before they actually imagined their genius works of art: their middle and later albums. 

So what happened there? Was the world right? 

Did the world predict this greatness?

Surely they didn’t suspect Sergeant Peppers after hearing “Love Me Do,” right?

So maybe their achievements have something to do with the encouragement the whole world gave them. 

Do you see? In other words, would they have written the White Album without this zany global support? I’m not sure. 

And I’m experiencing that phenomenon differently, but by the same rules: I’m focusing so much of my attention on the books, and it’s probably because many people are encouraging me to do so whether they mean to or not. 

And the songs have suffered as a result.

 I’m okay with that, but I need to check my soul (in a manner of speaking) and make sure I’m addressing both, and if I’m not addressing both, it better be for good, noble reasons.

Since you are a fast producer of words, how many books have you written since Bird Box, and what are any expectations on what you might publish next?

The next book is coming out in early 2017. 

Sounds like a long time, and it is.

 I’m working hard on fixing that scenario, and I’ll have it righted by then. 

Regarding how many books: the total is something close to 25 books now, and like I said earlier, I see them all as episodes of the same television show, my own Outer Limits, and so the way I see it, I’ve probably written the first two seasons by now.

* Editor’s Note: “Black Mad Wheel: A Novel” and “Goblin: A Novel in Six Novellas” were released in 2017!

Lastly, what is one of your all-time favorite books? 

The Howling Man(TOR 1988) Charles Beaumont. It’s got about 30 of his short stories, and for those who don’t know him… hang on tight; you’re about to feel a tidal wave of wonder wash over you.

Frequently asked questions about Josh Malerman:

What are Josh Malerman’s books in the order published?

  • Bird Box: A Novel (2014)
  • Ghastle and Yule (2014)
  • A House at the Bottom of a Lake (2016)
  • Black Mad Wheel: A Novel (2017)
  • Goblin: A Novel in Six Novellas (2017)
  • Unbury Carol (2018)
  • Inspection (2019)
  • Malorie: A Bird Box Novel (2019)
  • Pearl (2021)
  • Daphne: A Novel (2022)
  • Spin a Black Yarn: Novellas (August 15, 2023)

What are the best Josh Malerman books?

My favorite book by the author is Bird Box

The highest-rated book on GoodReads is that novel and the Bird Box sequel, Malorie

How many Bird Box Books are there? 

There are two books in the Bird Box series.

The books are Bird Box (Bird Box #1) and then the sequel, Malorie (Bird Box #2).

For context, the sequel takes place twelve years after the original story. 

At this time, there is no prequel.

Is it necessary to read Josh Malerman’s books in a specific order?

The Bird Box series should be read in order, but his books can be read as standalone novels. 

Does Josh Malerman have any movies?

The Bird Box movie starring Sandra Bullock, John Malkovich, Sarah Paulson, and Trevante Rhodes is available for streaming on Netflix. 

This movie came out in 2018, adapted from his debut novel. Be sure to read our provided interview to learn about this movie deal. 

Josh Malerman’s mind has also inspired a new film called Bird Box: Barcelona  (July 2023).

The new Netflix film,  Bird Box Barcelona,  is not a sequel but a spin-off based on the same world.

Please note Bird Box Barcelona shares the same timeline as the Bird Box movie filmed in 2018.  

This is not a prequel or sequel to the film. This movie was based on the novel’s world but is not a book adaptation. 

Can you share a Bird Box parent guide for the movie? 

This horror film is rated R. 

Common Sense Media recommends this film for ages 16+. Head to their site to find out what parents need to know

Josh Malerman Books

Josh Malerman Books

Josh Malerman is an American author of novels and short stories. Before publishing his debut novel Bird Box with ECCO/HarperCollins, he wrote fourteen novels, never purusing publishing.

The author has gained international acclaim for his chilling exploration of unseen terrors, making Malerman a prominent figure in modern horror literature. 

With a unique ability to blend suspense and psychological depth, Malerman continues to intrigue readers worldwide with his gripping narratives.

Browse this list of Josh Malerman books to find your next read.

As an Amazon Associate and member of other affiliate programs, I earn from qualifying purchases.

Love this author interview? Stream the Book Gang Podcast wherever you get podcasts. We discuss debuts, backlist, and under-the-radar book gems with your favorite authors.

Book Gang Podcast

TELL ME: What is your favorite Josh Malerman book?

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Read The Best Mary Louise Kelly Books (Interview)

Tuesday, August 8th, 2023

Mary Louise Kelly discusses her thriller in this author interview. Discover all the Mary Louise Kelly books- as she navigates NPR, writing, and motherhood.

Read The Best Mary Louise Kelly Books (Interview)

Looking for your next page-turning thriller? Mary Louise Kelly is best known for her role as an NPR correspondent on All Things Considered, but you might be surprised to discover she’s also a gifted thriller writer.

With her new book released this year, it’s so fun to revisit my favorite thriller from the author.

Let’s chat about The Bullet today!

The Bullet by Mary Louise Kelly
The Bullet by Mary Louise Kelly

The Bullet Book Synopsis

When Caroline Cashion discovers a bullet in her body that she was unaware of, it sends her life spiraling in a direction she never expected. 

The origin of that bullet and the people around her that it has affected caused this cold case to be reopened.

It also reopens the wounds of the family and friends around her.

Despite the gravity of the case and the circumstances surrounding it, the book is laced with great humor and a cast of endearing characters.

I contacted Mary Louise Kelly to see if she might like to share a little about her life as an NPR reporter and a fictional writer.   

Please read through to the end so you can see her publicly challenge her brother in this interview and discover the other books Mary Louise Kelly has written.

Mary Louise Kelly

Read The Best Mary Louise Kelly Books (Interview)

How did you craft the unique premise of your thriller, The Bullet, which revolves around a woman unexpectedly finding a bullet in her body during a routine scan?

It’s a true story! 

I was sitting on the sidelines of my son’s little league baseball game one afternoon when another mom plopped down next to me, heaved a sigh, and said, “Well, I’ve had a heck of a week.”

Long story short, she had just had a routine scan that revealed a bullet in her neck that she never knew about. 

She had no scar or clandestine past and swore she’d never been shot. 

Driving home afterward, I kept thinking, how is that even possible? I’m a reporter by training, so I dug into the medical literature, looking for examples of people who have survived gunshots to the neck or head. 

And then the novelist in me took over:  I imagined all kinds of wild scenarios, from amnesia to witness-protection programs to CIA plots. 

My protagonist discovers the bullet in her neck on page 8. 

What follows are 349 pages of pure fiction, focused on her quest to find out how on earth it got there and what on earth she’s going to do about it.

When crafting a thriller like this, what is your process for developing the storyline? 

Do you typically have the mystery solved beforehand, knowing where you’re headed, or do you build the story and motive organically as you progress through the writing?

I map out the whole thing to make sure it’s a story that can sustain 350 pages. 

But then I end up throwing out the road map as I go. 

My original outline is stuffed with plot twists that fell by the wayside, and it never mentions characters that end up playing significant roles. 

You get to know characters as you write them, and some prove more interesting than others (the nice thing about fiction is that you can kill off the ones who get on your nerves.)

One theme throughout The Bullet is that we should question how well we really know the people we love and even how well we know ourselves and what we are capable of. 

I start the book with a quote from one of my favorite writers, Robert Penn Warren. 

He writes that human beings are complicated contraptions, “not good or bad but… good and bad and the good comes out of the bad and the bad out of the good, and the devil take the hindmost.” 

Isn’t that great? 

I agree with him and tried to conceive all of my characters as complicated contraptions. 

That makes both the protagonist and the forces opposing her more interesting, and they kept surprising me as I wrote.

You have skillfully developed endearing characters with Caroline’s family in this book.

Which character did you find the most endearing?

Thank you. I have a soft spot for Beamer Beasley, the grizzled cop who helps Caroline unravel the secrets of her past. 

Writers shouldn’t admit to imagining which Hollywood star would play our characters. 

Still, Beamer is screaming to be played by Morgan Freeman, and really, wouldn’t we all want him on our side when investigating a gruesome crime? 

I also loved every scene with Madame Aubuchon. 

I could just picture her so clearly, in all her hauteur and brittleness, but also her intelligence and decency. 

As for Caroline’s family, a lot of readers have commented on how close she is to her brothers. They love and support her, even as they drive her nuts. 

I confess this sibling back-and-forth is entirely autobiographical.

My brother C.J. gets me riled up faster than anyone; you do not want to be in the room when the two of us get going on politics or feminism or the relative merits of tofu vs. steak. 

But as I note in the Acknowledgments, C.J. is also hands down the person I would want beside me in a bar brawl.

Mary Louise Kelly
Source: KPLU

How do you think your background as a reporter has helped you as a writer?

My journalism training helps enormously with dialogue because when you write for broadcast, you strive to write conversationally. 

Most of us write in complete, grammatically correct sentences because that’s how our high school teachers and college professors taught us. 

But that’s not how people talk; it takes time to unlearn it.

Writing for radio gave me a head start. 

It also instilled an instinct for storytelling. 

At NPR, we aim for the “driveway moment” – that moment when a listener has made it home, and he’s got the car in park, and he needs to get inside, but he’s listening to something so gripping he can’t turn it off. 

You want to spool out enough detail that the listener gets hooked while holding enough back that he wants to keep listening. 

That’s key to writing a good novel, although I suppose the goal shifts to creating a  “nightstand moment” – when a reader sits up turning pages, well after he knows he should have chucked the novel on his nightstand and turned out the light.

Caroline’s irritation with the reporters made me chuckle since you have worked as an NPR & BBC reporter. 

In one line, she says, “Reporters. Honestly. What an exhausting profession, to be professionally trained to be relentless.” 

Is it exhausting?

Actually, no. 

It’s exhilarating. 

There was a great line in a New Yorker profile of Samantha Power, President Obama’s ambassador to the U.N. 

The writer describes Power, a former journalist, as retaining “a reporter’s instinct for amassing facts and deploying them to extract more.” 

That’s exactly right. 

You find out one interesting thing, and it makes you want to dig and find out more. 

Get a bunch of reporters together, swapping stories about that time on deadline on the Khyber Pass, or banging on voters’ doors in Iowa, or quizzing the President in a White House press conference, and at some point, we all break into grins, and somebody says out loud what everyone is thinking:  I can’t believe we actually get paid to do this.

 Since this is your second book, did you find it easier or harder to write than your first?

This second one took less time. 

Maybe I’m getting faster, but more likely, it’s because the first time around, I was working full-time as NPR’s Pentagon correspondent. 

While writing Anonymous Sources, I kept jetting off on reporting trips to war zones, and when I was home in Washington, I was filing daily news reports from the Pentagon. 

Writing fiction was my third priority, after my day job and after being a wife and mom.

The Bullet took me 16 months, from sitting down to write Chapter One to handing in a full draft of the manuscript. 

Then come months of editing and polishing, and proofreading. 

Right now I’m ramping up again on journalism; I have dearly (insanely?) missed the daily deadlines and being engaged in the national dialogue on everything from race to politics to technology. 

I hope I’ll end up with loads of fresh ideas for my fiction; my agent fears I’ll take a decade to produce another book. But another side effect of being a reporter is that I write fast, so watch this space!

If you could tell anyone to read one book (other than your own) what would that book be?

I would tell my brother to read Birdsong, the 1993 novel by Sebastian Faulks. 

It’s about a British soldier in France during World War I, and it is the most gorgeous epic of love and war, and regrets. 

I’ve been telling my brother to read it for twenty years now, and he keeps refusing, at this point, out of sheer orneriness. 

C.J., consider yourself publicly challenged.

Mary Louise Kelly
Mary Louise Kelly, photographed for NPR, 6 September 2022, in Washington DC. Photo by Mike Morgan for NPR.

New to Mary Louise Kelly? Here are some answers to your most frequently asked questions!

Is Mary Louise Kelly still at NPR?

Mary Louise Kelly is the co-host of NPR’s acclaimed afternoon news magazine All Things Considered.

With non-stop breaking news stories and deadlines at work, she has reported as an NPR correspondent covering various global locations and even war zones. 

Her decision to leave NPR twice was influenced by her youngest son’s medical issues, realizing the importance of being present at home.

What are the best Mary Louise Kelly books?

My favorite book is, The Bullet, but I’m looking forward to reading her new parenting memoir soon.

Her highest-rated novel on GoodReads is her debut, Anonymous Sources.

Is it necessary to read Mary Louise Kelly’s books in a specific order?

No, each book is a standalone story.

What are the Mary books in the order published?

  • Anonymous Sources (2013)
  • The Bullet (2015)
  • It Goes. So. Fast.:  The Year of No Do-Overs (2023)
Read The Best Mary Louise Kelly Books (Interview)

Mary Louise Kelly Books

Mary Louise Kelly is an American broadcaster and author.

Previously, she spent a decade as a national security correspondent for NPR News and kept that focus as an anchor.

In her ongoing role, she has covered news in Russia, North Korea, Iran, Ukraine, and beyond.

Mary Louise was educated at Harvard University and the University of Cambridge in England.

A Georgia native, her first job was as a staff writer at The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

She lives in Washington, D.C., and is the mom of two boys.

Browse this list of all the Mary Louise Kelly books.

As an Amazon Associate and member of other affiliate programs, I earn from qualifying purchases.

Love this author interview? Stream the Book Gang Podcast wherever you get podcasts. We discuss debuts, backlist, and under-the-radar book gems with your favorite authors.

Book Gang Podcast

TELL ME: What is your favorite Mary Louise book?

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The Best Mary Kubica Books (Exclusive Author Interview)

Saturday, July 29th, 2023
The Best Mary Kubica Books (Exclusive Author Interview)

Mary Kubica discusses the thriller writing process in this interview. Discover the Mary Kubica books in order & how the author crafted “The Good Girl.”

If there is one thing I love, it is a summer thriller.

Nothing is better to tuck in a beach bag than a book that you can rapidly flip through and sit in suspenseful moments as the story unfolds. 

Those kinds of books that your eyes can’t read fast enough because you just HAVE to know what will happen. 

If you have been waiting for the next big thing since Gone Girl, I have just the book for you! 

The Good Girl Book

The Good Girl Summary

Editor’s Note: The Good Girl has been published since 2014! 

Today I am excited to feature author, Mary Kubica, and her first book, The Good Girl

The book opens with the following words:

“I’ve been following her for the past few days. I know where she buys her groceries, where she has her dry cleaning done, where she works. I don’t know the color of her eyes or what they look like when she’s scared. But I will.”

Born to a prominent Chicago judge and his stifled socialite wife, Mia is unlike her parents in every way, content with her life as an inner-city school teacher. 

She meets a guy when she finds herself alone at a bar one night after being stood up by her boyfriend. 

Her plans for a one-night stand turn into her life’s worst mistake.

Mary Kubica Author Photo

The Best Mary Kubica Books (Exclusive Author Interview)

The Good Girl surprised me with its plot twists, which is hard to achieve as an avid reader.

But as the writer of these twists, did you always see them coming, or were they equally surprising to you?

The plot twists are often as surprising to me as they are to the reader. 

In the case of The Good Girl, I had written a significant chunk of the novel before the ending came to me. 

This is one of the most exciting parts of writing for me – when I get that clear picture of how the story will end. 

I don’t typically outline or do much note-taking before starting a new manuscript, so I only have a starting point; the rest of the details remain obscure.

I make it a point not to overthink my plot too much and to have faith that the details, plot twists, etc., will come in due time. 

One of my favorite parts of writing this genre is after the entire story comes together in my mind. 

Then I can go back through the manuscript and insert clues to help the reader along or, in some cases, throw them off course!

I relate to Mia’s mother the most in your story because she constantly questions if she did enough to be a good mother. 

Is this something you resonated with too?


Mia’s mother, Eve Dennett, is the character I relate to the most. 

She’s a woman, but more importantly, a mother.

I could put myself in Eve’s shoes and ask myself how I would respond to the situation as a mother: how would I feel, and what would I do or say if my own child was missing? 

I felt for Eve; even the best mother makes choices they may second guess. 

Not only is Eve longing for her missing child, but she’s also desperate for a chance to rekindle her relationship with Mia and amend the poor decisions she made throughout Mia’s childhood. 

I think that as mothers, no matter how hard we try, there’s always the fear that we’ll fall short and not fulfill everything we can for our children. 

That’s why I believe many mothers out there will relate to Eve on some level. 

Initially, I viewed Colin Thatcher as an antagonist, but as the story progressed, I sympathized with him. 

Did you also sympathize with him?

Without giving anything away, The Good Girl is a novel that makes you rethink much of what you know and teaches the reader not to take things at face value.

What you see is not always what you get, which holds true with many of the characters in the book.

 I sympathize with nearly every character in The Good Girl for various reasons. 

They are imperfect and flawed, as most of us are, something that will hopefully make them relatable to the reader.

Your journey to becoming a debut novelist is truly inspiring, highlighting the importance of never giving up on one’s writing dreams. 

How long did you have to wait before seeing your book on bookshelves? 

And even now, does the experience still feel surreal to you?

Yes, it absolutely feels surreal. 

It was 2006 when I first began working on The Good Girl, and 2014 when it was published. 

That’s eight years of hard work, hopes, dreams, and fears – all of it.

After finishing the novel, I submitted it to many literary agencies, and, as you may know by now, it was rejected by everyone. 

I thought that was it; any hope of a writing career was through. 

Two years later, I received an out-of-the-blue email from one of the agencies that had previously declined to represent my novel.

The Good Girl had stuck with them all that time, and they wanted to represent it – proof that writers, or anyone for that matter, should never give up on their dreams. 

Seeing my name on a book at the bookstore still shocks me. I wonder if this will ever feel real and no longer surreal. 

Probably not.

Your book is being compared to Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn. 

What do you think of the comparison?

Did this comparison help in the selling of your novel?

The comparisons to Gone Girl did nothing but help The Good Girl. 

So many Gillian Flynn fans (including me!) are out there, so I’m thrilled with the comparison. 

That said, trying to live up to such a masterpiece can be a bit unnerving, but early feedback for The Good Girl has been phenomenal. 

I couldn’t be more pleased.

We featured Heather Gudenkauf and her book Little Mercies this past month on the site.

How did you end up partnering with her for your book promotion?

First, let me say that Heather Gudenkauf is one of the loveliest people I’ve ever had the opportunity to work with, and her latest novel Little Mercies, is by far one of my favorites of 2014. 

Heather and I share not only the same publisher – Harlequin MIRA – but the same editor, and seeing as our novels came out just a month apart and we write in the same genre, it’s a perfect match. 

We’ve been able to travel together many times to promote our books and have connected at many conferences throughout the year. 

Heather has been an incredible mentor, and I feel so fortunate for our time together. 

It’s so great to be able to connect with other authors. 

Writing can be an isolated profession, so the more people – authors, readers, etc. – we can connect with, the better!

Can you give us a sneak peek at what you have in store for us next?

*Editor’s Note: Pretty Baby is released!

Yes, I’d love to! I just finished up my second novel Pretty Baby, which will be released by Harlequin MIRA in 2015. 

This is another psychological suspense set in the Midwest, about a Chicago mother who encounters a young homeless girl with a baby. 

She becomes quite taken with the two of them, and as she does, we learn more about these women and what effect this chance encounter will have on both of their lives.

The Things They Carried by Tim O'Brien- Mary Kubica's Favorite Book

If you could recommend one book to anyone, what would it be?

My favorite book of all time is The Things They Carried by Tim O’Brien. 

This is one that I tell everyone to read. 

It’s a Vietnam War memoir, but is much more than that. 

You don’t need to be a history guru to love this book. 

When it comes to my own genre of psychological suspense, though, Before I Go To Sleep is one I often recommend. 

I just loved this S.J. Watson novel.

The Other Mrs. Book Club- MomAdvice Book Club Leader, Amy Allen Clark, poses with Mary Kubica's book.

Frequently Asked Questions about Mary Kubica

Do I need to read Mary Kubica’s books in a particular order?

No, all of Mary Kubica’s books are stand-alone. 

What are Mary Kubica’s best books?

It is so hard for me to choose because Mary Kubica has become a wonderful friend, and I’m so proud of all she does.

My favorites are Local Woman Missing, The Other Mrs., and The Good Girl.

Her seventh book, Local Woman Missing, is her highest-rated novel on GoodReads.

She's Not Sorry by Mary Kubica

What are Mary Kubica’s books in the order published?

  • The Good Girl (2014)
  • Pretty Baby (2015)
  • Don’t You Cry (2016)
  • Every Last Lie (2017)
  • When the Lights Go Out (2018)
  • The Other Mrs. (2020)
  • Local Woman Missing (2021)
  • Just the Nicest Couple (2023)
  • She’s Not Sorry (April 2024)
Mary Kubica Books In Order

Mary Kubica Books

Mary Kubica is the New York Times bestselling author of many suspense novels. Mary’s thrillers have been translated into over thirty languages and have sold over three million copies worldwide. 

Mary is a former high school history teacher with a Bachelor of Arts in History and American Literature from Miami University in Oxford, Ohio. 

She lives outside of Chicago with her husband and two children.

Browse this list of all the Mary Kubica books. We also share where to stream the movie and tv adaptations.

As an Amazon Associate and member of other affiliate programs, I earn from qualifying purchases.

Love this author interview? Stream the Book Gang Podcast wherever you get podcasts. We discuss debuts, backlist, and under-the-radar book gems with your favorite authors.

Book Gang Podcast

TELL ME: What is YOUR favorite Mary Kubica book?

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The Best Jeff Zentner Books (Exclusive Interview)

Friday, July 28th, 2023

Jeff Zentner discusses his debut novel in this author interview. Discover all of the Jeff Zentner books in order & his writing process for, “The Serpent King.”

The Best Jeff Zentner Books (Exclusive Interview)

Jeff Zentner discusses his debut novel in this author interview. Discover all of the Jeff Zentner books in order & his writing process for, “The Serpent King.”

I love discovering debut novelists, and today’s guest author has been my favorite since his first book, The Serpent King.

I promise you, it will be one of your favorite reads! It’s a gripping YA read that had me laughing and crying (sometimes simultaneously), and I was so sad when this book ended.

It’s as epic as The Fault in Our Stars (read my John Green exclusive interview on The Fault in Our Stars movie).

Be sure to scroll down for the complete list of his books and answers to your most asked questions, including what new book projects the author is working on.

The Serpent King

The Serpent King Synopsis

The Serpent King follows three unlikely friends in the rural South, each battling their personal demons.

Dill’s family struggles financially due to his scandalous, snake-charming Pentecostal preacher father. Travis seeks solace in a book series to escape his abusive father. Lydia plans to start a new life in New York as a blogger but grapples with leaving her loved ones behind. 

Together, they form an unexpected, heartwarming bond to confront unforeseen challenges.

This friendship is beautifully woven with humor and heart.

I could not put this book down and read it in a single day. I had to know what would happen with these three, and I couldn’t wait to chat with Jeff about his incredible writing. 

Jeff Zentner

The Best Jeff Zentner Books (Exclusive Interview)

I know many of us feel like we have a book in us, but we also feel like we never have the time to start one. But you managed to write your book on your phone while commuting to work. Can you tell us a little bit about that process?

It was a process born of simple necessity! I had almost two hours of bus commute each day, plus a day job and family, so I had to squeeze the writing in whenever possible.

So, I’d try to write 500 words on my iPhone 5S on the way to the office, 500 at lunch, and 500 on the way home.

Yes, my right thumb would get very tired.

At night, I’d put my son to bed and then try to write another thousand words or two on my laptop. 

What makes writing so wonderful is that I can whip out my phone at various times and get a little work done. Before writing, my creative outlet was music; I couldn’t use the same process as I do with writing. 

Even in Nashville, bringing your guitar on the bus and trying to work out a new song is frowned upon. 

I grew up in a very religious home, so I could relate to Dill’s need not to disappoint God or his parents.

Yet Dill still had a solid connection to his faith, even under challenging circumstances.

Why did you think it was important for Dill not to turn away from God? Did you want your readers to take away that message?

I gleaned insights about what growing up with less supportive and loving religious parents would look like from my own experience in a conservative religious home.

 Throughout my life, I’ve struggled with faith, and I’ve had to come to my own view of God because I don’t always believe everything I’m told about him.

Faith is not a thing that can be abandoned easily, and I think it would have been dishonest of me to depict it as something one can simply walk away from.

It felt more honest to me to have Dill wrestle with faith until he could come to know a God more concerned with his joy than putting him to constant tests that could harm him.

Tavi Gevinson

Lydia was my favorite character because I could relate to her humor and to her job as a blogger.

As a blogger, I know I am very thoughtful of my brand, and I related to Lydia’s struggle with not sharing photos of her friends to stay consistent with her brand’s message.

Do you think it was wrong of her to do that, and how did you come up with this all-too-true blogger struggle?

I don’t believe that it was wrong of her to do that.

It’s her blog, persona, and brand, so I think she is entitled to craft those things as she sees fit. But even though I think she wasn’t wrong to exclude Travis and Dill, she was right to include them once she felt brave enough.

Though as an author, I lost all power to dictate how people felt about her behavior once I published the book with her in all of her flaws.

So if anyone else thinks she was wrong to exclude Dill and Travis, who am I to say otherwise?

I came up with this struggle sort of by intuition. Lydia was loosely based on Tavi Gevinson and her fashion blog, Style Rookie.

It looked like she associated exclusively with people with equally amazing style.

I thought it unlikely she only knew and loved people with exceptional fashion sense. So there seemed to be some image control going on there.

Also, I’ve maintained Internet presences for years for various musical projects, so I knew that part of crafting an image and persona was selectivity in what you reveal about yourself.

*Editor’s Note: Style Rookie is no longer active, and Tavi Gevinson’s current website is


Dill grows up in a Pentecostal church that believes in snake-handling. What type of research did you do to create your church scenes?

I’ve long been fascinated with the practice of snake-handling, so I’ve done a fair amount of reading on it. The definitive work is a beautiful book called Salvation on Sand Mountain, which I highly recommend. I also interviewed friends who have attended worship services at snake-handling churches.

The nice thing is that there’s no central authority for snake-handling sects. There’s no pope of snake-handling. So I invented the church in the book; no one can say I got it wrong!

One line in your book is, “And if you’re going to live, you might as well do painful, brave, and beautiful things.”

I really loved it because it is so true.

I imagine putting your book out into the world took a lot of bravery.

Do you feel like this is one of the bravest things you’ve done? Have you always dreamed of writing, or was this something you discovered you enjoyed later in life?

I do think it’s one of the bravest things I’ve personally done, but that doesn’t mean it’s one of the bravest things that can be done.

But I think what Dill does in the book takes more courage– he endures harsh circumstances, including bullying, unloving parents, and poverty, without letting those circumstances define him. 

For much of my life, the idea of becoming a writer wasn’t even a dream I entertained. It seemed too impossible and daunting, as if books could only descend from ivory towers and be carried by doves.

 However, my perspective has shifted in recent years, thanks to getting to know several published authors personally. This made writing seem like a possibility for me as well. 

Moreover, having a day job that demanded extensive and disciplined writing every day provided the last push of courage I needed to give it a try.

Jeff Zentner at Penguin Random House

You signed a two-book deal with Crown/Random House & Tundra/Random House Canada, which is fantastic and, for me as a writer, a little terrifying too.

Did you have to immediately get to work on the second book after this book was published? Has your writing process changed with this book, or are you still writing on a bus?

It was terrifying for me too! I had no idea what my second book would be, and yet I needed to deliver my editor something she loved as much as The Serpent King, a story I’d thought about for years.

I ran several ideas past them until, finally, something clicked on idea ten or eleven.

It’s not a companion or a sequel to The Serpent King, but it does feature a cameo from one of The Serpent King’s gang.

*Editors Note: This book, Goodbye Days, has since been published!

My process for this book was different than The Serpent King. I gave my full attention to writing The Serpent King– no outside reading, no TV, no movies, nothing.

With book two, I made sure to leave plenty of time to consume the books and shows I loved while writing. 

Since I had now reserved my evenings for reading and shows, I wrote book two on the bus even more than I had with The Serpent King. 

I don’t want to spoil the ending for anyone, but it seemed like it was left wide open for The Serpent King sequel.

Do you see this story continuing, or do you feel you’ve closed the chapters on these friends?

I can’t envision writing a sequel.

I’m happy with where things end, and I think I gave my readers enough for them to write their own lovely sequels in their heads. 

There used to be an epilogue, but I cut it out because I was unsatisfied with how neatly it tied everything together. I wanted to leave room for imagination.

I’ve had the unique opportunity to interview a few musicians turned novelists over the years. I understand you are a musician (as well as an attorney & youth camp volunteer!).

Are you still writing music too?

Do you find these processes to be similar?

Sadly, I find that the music-writing muse has left me.

But hopefully, only for a time. I’m starting to make friends with my guitar again.

I went a long time without even playing it.

I’m just trying to renegotiate my relationship with music now. It feels like we broke up, and we’re just learning how to be friends again.

If you could tell anyone to read one book (other than your own), what would that book be?

I’m going to cheat and do two.

On the adult side, my all-time favorite book is The Road by Cormac McCarthy.

It’s so brutal and unsparing yet beautiful and filled with ferocious love. I feel like I can survive anything with that story in my mind.

On the young-adult side, my favorite book is The First Time She Drowned by Kerry Kletter.

It’s so incredibly lyrical and gorgeous and filled with wisdom. It inspires me as a writer to work harder.

Jeff Zentner Testimonial for the MomAdvice Book Club

New to Jeff Zentner? Here are some answers to your most frequently asked questions!

What are the best Jeff Zentner books?

My favorite books are The Serpent King and In the Wild Light.

In fact, I selected Jeff’s book for the 2022 MomAdvice Book Club and it was voted as the Best Book of the Year by our readers.

His fourth book, In the Wild Light, is also his highest-rated novel on GoodReads.

In the Wild Light with 2022 MomAdvice Book Club Books.

What are Jeff Zentner’s books in the order published?

  • The Serpent King (2016)
  • Goodbye Days (2017)
  • Rayne & Delilah’s Midnite Matinee (2019)
  • In the Wild Light (2021)
  • Colton Gentry’s Third Act (April 2024)
  • Sunrise Nights  (July 2024)

What new projects is Jeff Zentner working on?

Jeff’s adult debut romance, Colton Gentry’s Third Act hit store shelves in April. You can hear the author discuss this novel on the Book Gang podcast.

Sunrise Nights

Jeff Zentner and Brittany Cavallaro’s upcoming novel is his next new book. It’s a poetic tale of two individuals who form a profound bond during Sunrise Night at an arts camp that will hit store shelves on July 9th, 2024.

Jeff Zentner Books

Jeff Zentner Books

Before becoming a writer, Jeff was a musician who recorded with Iggy Pop, Nick Cave, and Debbie Harry.

He is now the author of New York Times Notable Books. He has won the ALA’s William C. Morris Award, the Amelia Elizabeth Walden Award twice, the Muriel Becker Award, and the International Literacy Association Award.

He has also been longlisted twice for the Carnegie Medal.

He lives in Nashville, and is frequently a speaker at schools offering advice to aspiring writers.

Browse this list of all the Jeff Zentner books and don't miss our frequently asked questions that share big news about two new projects the author is working on.

As an Amazon Associate and member of other affiliate programs, I earn from qualifying purchases.

Love this author interview? Stream the Book Gang Podcast wherever you get podcasts. We discuss debuts, backlist, and under-the-radar book gems with your favorite authors.

Book Gang Podcast

TELL ME: What is YOUR favorite Jeff Zentner book?

Colton Gentry's Third Act by Jeff Zentner
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Maggie Shipstead Exclusive Interview On Astonish Me

Thursday, July 27th, 2023
Maggie Shipstead Exclusive Interview On Astonish Me

Maggie Shipstead discusses her novel, “Astonish Me.” Discover all the Maggie Shipstead books, including the shortlisted Booker Prize novel “Great Circle.”

I’m so excited to discuss one of my favorite literary fiction novel’s, Astonish Me.   

Shipstead’s ability to write character-driven pieces makes this author’s writing such a treat.  

When you are done with her books, it is as though you know her characters inside and out. 

With a backdrop of ballet and what life is like to be a ballerina, the novel immediately pulled me in until the final pages.

Astonish Me Book

Astonish Me Book Synopsis

In this book, a young American dancer named Joan decides to help a Soviet ballet star, the great Arslan Rusakov, defect in 1975. 

Although they had a passionate love affair, Arslan soon moved on to other things, and Joan realized that she was destined to remain in the background onstage and off.

After her relationship with Arslan ends,  Joan decides to take her life in a different direction and marry the man that had always been in love with her, raises their son, and leaves the ballet for a quiet suburban life. 

However, Joan soon realizes that their son, Harry,  is a prodigy in more ways than one.

Through this discovery, Joan is pulled back into the world of ballet and Arslan’s life again.

Be sure to scroll down for a list of all the Maggie Shipstead books in order.

Maggie Shipstead Exclusive Interview On Astonish Me

Maggie Shipstead Author Photo

This novel is so different from your first novel, Seating Arrangements. Still, the one element I found similar was your ability to write well-developed character-driven plots. 

Have your stories always been very character-driven, and how do you shape them so well?

Well, thank you! I’m glad you think so. 

My relationships with characters vary from project to project. 

Seating Arrangements exists pretty much only because I had what I’d describe as strong chemistry with the protagonist, Winn Van Meter, who is the 59-year-old father of a pregnant bride. 

He’s nothing like me as a person–I’m female, 30, from California, and no one would accuse me of being emotionally withholding–but I thought the idea of him was interesting and also like I understood him. 

The book started as a short story, but I felt I had lots more to say about Winn and also like I knew what he would do or say in almost any situation. 

As I expanded the story into a novel, I incorporated more characters’ perspectives, too.

Astonish Me was a little different in that I didn’t conceive of Joan as a fully-formed person in the same way as Winn, but I started out wanting to write about someone who’s very talented (enough to be in a major ballet company) but who will never be the star she wants to be. 

So in a way, Joan evolved out of the circumstances of her life–the incredible discipline needed to be a dancer, the frustration of encountering her own limitations, the stubbornness she has about her doomed love affair with a Soviet superstar dancer. 

Sometimes when I’m having trouble writing, the problem is that I’m not connecting with my characters, and I’ll take some time to just stop and close my eyes and try to actually engage with these imaginary people. 

Being a novelist is kind of a weird job in that way.

As a kid, I took ballet, so I was captivated by this story.

Did you also do ballet? How did you do your research for this setting for your book?

I did ballet very, very briefly–for a year when I was five. 

But my mother and I both love to watch ballet, and she took me to about four performances a year from kindergarten until I left for college. 

She danced more than I did and knew a ton about ballet, so I learned a lot from her over the years. 

I wrote Astonish Me mostly over five months while I was traveling abroad, and I dragged a hardback ballet reference book around with me but also relied heavily on the internet. 

I have to say that YouTube is an incredible resource for dance.

I watched multiple versions of every variation I wrote about, and some companies, especially New York City Ballet and The Royal Ballet, post lots of backstage videos of rehearsal and class online, which I found incredibly helpful. 

I watched full-length documentaries as well and read interviews with dancers and things like that. 

In the end, though, it was all a bit of a leap of imagination because I’m never ever going to know what it’s like to exist in a dancer’s body.

It can be very difficult, definitely. 

Many technical decisions go into figuring out the chronology of any narrative and a boggling, infinite number of places and times you can take the story at any moment. 

So that can be overwhelming. 

The structure of Astonish Me, though, for some reason, evolved organically from the beginning.

I would write along chronologically, and then, when I got to a point in the story where I felt like a piece of information was missing, I would jump back in time to fill in the gap. 

The book is written in the present tense, and it’s meant to feel immediate and episodic, sort of like a ballet.

In the book, Joan gives up on her dream of being a ballerina because she believes she isn’t good enough to be a prima ballerina.

Did you ever give up on anything because you didn’t think you could be the best?

When I was in high school and for some years afterward, I was a really serious horseback rider. 

I trained most days and had two horses I was obsessed with and missed a lot of school to compete, but I wasn’t particularly talented. 

I really, really, really wanted to qualify for certain events that took place at the National Horse Show in Madison Square Garden or at another big show in D.C., but I never did.

I have to say, as frustrating as that experience was, I think it was ultimately good for me to understand that the process was worthwhile, even if I had absolutely no chance of ever being the best.

I liked spending time with horses, and I liked the pursuit of a physical skill and the excitement of competing, especially when I won, which did happen occasionally. 

And, generally, the idea of being the best is tricky, right? 

I hope I mostly try to do the best I can.

Americanah: Book Recommendation from Maggie Shipstead

If you could tell anyone to read one book (other than your own), what would that book be?

I just finished reading Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, which I loved. 

That’s the book I’m talking up to everyone right now.

What do you have in store for us with your next writing project?

I’m working on a third novel–about a female pilot after World War II–and I have a bunch of short stories I’d like to finish.

Editor’s Note: She finished that project and it was shortlisted for the Booker Prize. Learn more about Great Circle in our book list below.

Browse the Women’s Prize for Fiction 2022 Longlist

New to Maggie Shipstead? Here are some answers to your most frequently asked questions!

What are the best Maggie Shipstead books?

Astonish Me was my favorite book by the author, but I still need to read Great Circle. It is on my reading bucket list this year. 

Her highest-rated novel on GoodReads is, by far, Great Circle.

What Maggie Shipstead Movies Are Coming Out?

Former Lionsgate executive Erik Feig’s production company, Picturestart, is developing a series adaptation of Maggie Shipstead’s novel Great Circle

Picturestart won the rights to the book in a competitive bidding war and plans to have Shipstead serve as an executive producer while seeking a writer to adapt the novel into a series.

Is it necessary to read the books in a specific order?

No, each book is a standalone story.

What are the Maggie Shipstead books in the order published?

Seating Arrangements (2012)

Astonish Me (2014)

Great Circle (2021)

You Have a Friend in 10A: Stories (2022)

Maggie Shipstead Books

Maggie Shipstead Books

Maggie Shipstead is the New York Times-bestselling author of three novels and a short story collection. 

She is a graduate of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, the recipient of a fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts, and the winner of the Dylan Thomas Prize and the L.A. Times Book Prize for First Fiction.

She lives in Los Angeles.

Browse this list of all Shipstead's books. We also share where to stream the movie and tv adaptations.

As an Amazon Associate and member of other affiliate programs, I earn from qualifying purchases.

Love this author interview? Stream the
Book Gang Podcast wherever you get podcasts. We discuss debuts, backlist, and under-the-radar book gems with your favorite authors.

Book Gang Podcast

TELL ME: What is your favorite Maggie Shipstead book?

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Guide to the Celeste Ng Books and Exclusive Author Interview

Wednesday, July 26th, 2023

Celeste Ng discusses her debut novel in this author interview. Discover the Celeste Ng books in order & her writing process for “Everything I Never Told You.”

Let’s dive into the behind-the-scenes story of Everything I Never Told You with an exclusive interview with the author. 

Everything I Never Told You Book

Everything I Never Told You Book Synopsis

Everything I Never Told You is a beautiful character-driven debut novel set in 1970s Ohio.

When a family’s daughter goes missing, the lives of her family members begin unravel through Ng’s beautiful storytelling. 

From the inception of the parents’ relationship to the intricate dynamics of every family member, including the missing Lydia, this novel presents a profound exploration of untold stories.

Within its pages lie the unspoken narratives of each character – the parents’ feelings of disappointment, the challenges of belonging due to racial differences, and the burdens of fulfilling expected roles within the family, regardless of their desires.

This novel is an excellent choice for book club discussions, as it delves into significant themes like parental roles and expectations, the heartache of youth, and the struggles of fitting in.

However, it’s essential to clarify that this work leans more towards being character-driven story rather than a conventional mystery or thriller.

It is such an honor to have Celeste Ng join me today. in this special interview 

Guide to the Celeste Ng Books and Exclusive Author Interview

Celeste Ng Author Photo

You open with the death of Lydia in the very opening sentences of the book and then build the story from there. Why did you decide to start with her tragic death and then work your way out in the story?

In earlier drafts, the book began quite differently: “At first, they don’t know where Lydia has gone.” 

And neither did the reader until about thirty or forty pages in. 

What I realized, eventually, was that this pointed the reader in the wrong direction. It prompted the reader to focus on whether Lydia was alive or dead rather than on what happened within the family to lead to her death.

So in the last draft of the novel, I changed the opening and put Lydia’s fate right up front. Once you know that Lydia is dead, that information colors everything you read afterward.

Race plays a big part in this novel. I was embarrassingly unaware of racial discrimination among Asians in the 70s, particularly in the disapproval of the relationship between the white mother (Marilyn) & the Asian father (James) in the Lee family.

Was this something that you had heard about, researched, or have you experienced this discrimination firsthand?

Unfortunately, discrimination among Asians isn’t just limited to the 1970s. 

It still happens today, both overtly and in what we might now call microaggressions: small actions, often not intended as malicious, that remind people of their otherness. 

With one exception, every moment of racism or racial tension in the novel is something that I or someone I know personally has experienced firsthand. 

And these moments aren’t rare: every person of color I’ve spoken with has experienced something similar, no matter where they live.

How did you react when you learned that your debut novel was chosen as the Book of the Year on Amazon in 2014? 

And now, do you face greater expectations to produce a follow-up that matches the same level of greatness in your next book?

Here’s how I found out about the Amazon pick: I was sitting in my living room drinking tea and playing with my son when someone tweeted “Congratulations!” at me. 

I actually had to tweet back, “On what?!” So the whole experience has been surreal, and I’m very grateful to Amazon’s editorial team for championing the book.

I do feel some pressure to deliver another book that will live up to the response for this first one—how could I not?

But honestly, the expectations have an upside as well. 

Writing is such an uncertain job; you work for years on a single project and hope that when it’s done, someone will read it. 

Having so many people read and respond to the book makes me more optimistic that people will want to read the next one, too.

The title of your book, Everything I Never Told You, is the anthem of every character in this book, as they all have their own secrets and struggles that they can’t seem to share with others. 

Was there anything you have never shared with someone that you wished you would have, and what message do you hope your readers will walk away with from reading this book?

My father passed away unexpectedly over a decade ago, and I didn’t have a chance to say goodbye properly. 

(None of us did.) 

I think about that a lot, about what I’d have said if we’d had another chance to talk. 

And even now, I often think of things that I’d like to share with him—not important things necessarily, just jokes he’d have enjoyed or observations he’d have gotten a kick out of. 

 More than the Big Important Topics, those kinds of small things are the glue that holds a relationship together. 

I guess I hope that readers will close the book thinking about how life is short—and precious—and will make a conscious choice to never take the time they have with loved ones for granted.

As a mom, I really struggled with Marilyn leaving her family behind in this book because she felt she did not get to pursue her own dreams.

I admit, I was pretty angry with her as this family hobbled along in her absence. I think being a mom does mean sometimes we have to put our dreams on hold in order to make our family lives work. 

Did you sympathize with Marilyn? Have you ever had to put anything on hold in your own life because of your family?

It’s totally okay to be angry with Marilyn! (She makes some questionable choices, as do all the other characters.) 

But you’re right, being a mom, you’re in a constant juggling act trying to balance the needs of your family and your own needs. 

This is true for any parent, of course, but in today’s world, it’s especially true for mothers.

As a working mom myself, I end up putting my family before my own wants a lot of the time—as do most parents, I think. 

Sometimes these are small things: maybe I’d rather have chicken one night, but I cook spaghetti because that is what my kid will eat. 

Sometimes they’re larger: for example, I’d love to go on a writing retreat, like the ones at McDowell (where someone brings you your lunch every day while you work!). 

But that would be a huge strain on my family, so it’s off the table, at least for a while.

And in fact, I’d miss them too much if I were away for so long.  

That’s the thing that makes it hardest: you’re not just choosing between something you want and something they want; you’re choosing between something you want and something they want that you want too. 

Your desires get all mixed up with your family’s and it becomes hard to even tell what you yourself want.  So yes, I have a lot of sympathy for Marilyn.

What can we expect from you in your next book?

The next book is still very much in draft form, so I won’t say too much about it yet—I’m still working out the details! 

But it takes place in my hometown of Shaker Heights, Ohio. It focuses on a family living there and a mother-daughter pair (with some secrets in their past) who move in from out of town and the ways those two families get entangled and stir up trouble for one another.

Editor’s Update: Can you guess what book this is? It’s Little Fires Everywhere! 

If you could tell anyone to read one book right now (other than your own) what would that book be? (read all the recommendations from authors HERE)

Just one? 

That’s a very hard choice to make. 

I’d go with The Bluest Eye, because Toni Morrison is one of my all-time favorite authors and that book says so much about race and culture, identity and love, and it’s beautifully written.

New to Celeste Ng? Here are some answers to your most frequently asked questions!

How To Pronounce Celeste Ng

If you don’t know how to pronounce her name- check out her X handle

What are the best Celeste Ng books?

My favorite books by Celeste Ng are Everything I Never Told You and Little Fires Everywhere.

Her highest-rated novel on GoodReads is her second book, Little Fires Everywhere.

What Celeste Ng Movies Are Coming Out?

Two of Celeste Ng’s books have been optioned for the tv screen, but no films yet. 

Little Fires Everywhere became a Hulu series and Everything I Never Told You series is currently in development. 

We have provided more information in the book list below. 

Is it necessary to read Celeste Ng’s books in a specific order?

No, each book is a standalone story.

What are the Celeste books in the order published?

Everything I Never Told You (2014)

Little Fires Everywhere (2017)

Six Shorts 2017 (2017)

Our Missing Hearts (2022)

Fourteen Days: An Unauthorized Gathering (2024)

Celeste Ng Books

Celeste Ng Books

Celeste Ng is an Asian American author known for her critically-acclaimed novels.

She pursued higher education at Harvard University and honed her writing craft through an MFA from the renowned Helen Zell Writers' Program at the University of Michigan. 

Her writing extends beyond novels, with fiction and essays showcased in esteemed publications such as the New York Times and The Guardian

Notably, she has received several honors, including the Pushcart Prize, a National Endowment for the Arts fellowship, and a Guggenheim Fellowship, all celebrating her exceptional contributions to literature.

Celeste Ng grew up in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and Shaker Heights, Ohio. 

Browse this list of all the Celeste Ng books. We also share where to stream the movie and tv adaptations.

As an Amazon Associate and member of other affiliate programs, I earn from qualifying purchases.

Love this author interview? Stream the Book Gang Podcast wherever you get podcasts. We discuss debuts, backlist, and under-the-radar book gems with your favorite authors.

Book Gang Podcast

TELL ME: What is your favorite Celeste Ng book?

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The Exclusive Ruth Ware Interview You Need to Read

Tuesday, July 25th, 2023
The Exclusive Ruth Ware Interview You Need to Read

Ruth Ware discusses her debut thriller in this author interview. Get the Ruth Ware books list and discover the books in order, including “In a Dark, Dark Wood.”

Thrillers are my jam in the summer, and today I am sharing a very special interview with my favorite thriller writer, Ruth Ware. 

Be sure to scroll down for the complete list of Ruth Ware books and answers to your most asked questions.

We also share where to stream the movie adaptations of her upcoming films.

In a Dark, Dark Wood Book Cover

In a Dark Dark Wood is Ruth Ware’s intriguing debut novel.

Leonora, a reclusive writer, receives a surprise invitation from an old friend inviting her to a weekend away as one last hurrah before she gets married. 

Set in a glass house in the woods, the four acquaintances share revelations and begin to realize their party is not alone.

 Forty-eight hours later, Leonora (Nora) awakes in a hospital bed, knowing that someone is dead. 

Nora desperately tries to piece together what happened, forcing her to revisit times in her past that she would instead leave buried.

I’m pretty picky about thrillers, and this one delivers beautifully.  

The pacing is perfect and reads like a great Agatha Christie whodunit mystery. 

Enjoy the ride, and then get ready to see this one brought to life on the big screen by Reese Witherspoon’s production team.

The Exclusive Ruth Ware Interview You Need to Read

Ruth Ware author headshot

I understand that the idea for this novel came to you when a friend said, “I’ve never read a thriller set on a hen night.” 

As an American, I had no idea this was what these were called! 

Did your wheels immediately start turning when you heard this story idea? 

Yes, it was like a little light bulb went on in my head! 

I immediately started thinking of characters and settings, and I knew this story was begging to be written.

One of the fun things about writing the book has been finding out all the different bachelorette traditions around the world and how they vary.

Rights have been sold everywhere from Sweden to Indonesia and as you can imagine, the local hen party traditions are very different – sometimes it’s small stuff like I had no idea that Americans don’t use L-plates as part of their bachelorette celebrations, whereas in the UK, they are an essential part of the bride-to-be’s outfit.

In case you didn’t know, L-plates are the signs that learner drivers put on their cars to show they are not experienced road users.

I have NO idea what they have to do with weddings!  

Sometimes there are very wild and weird traditions – in Sweden, brides are often “kidnapped” for their hen party, sometimes in a worryingly realistic fashion! 

However, differences aside, I think it’s a surprisingly universal celebration – most countries have some kind of pre-marriage send-off.

You created a hen night in the middle of nowhere, in the woods, in a glass house, with no phone reception. Hello, nightmares!

Why did you put these poor people in a glass house and did any books or movies help inspire your scary premise for the story?

Actually, initially, the glass house was very different; when I wrote the first few chapters, the setting was a tumbledown cottage, much closer to the croft that Flo’s aunt demolished to make way for her modernist house. 

But then, a few chapters in, I started to realise that one of the themes of the book is about having your public persona stripped away and people seeing the real you, and the idea of not having anywhere to hide from scrutiny. 

So I thought how much more interesting to make the house an extension of that?

I was definitely inspired by watching too many scary movies as a kid – there’s something so vulnerable about a house with a lot of windows where the inhabitants are being watched without knowing it!

How challenging was it for you to switch between your two plots? Did you write each separately from start to finish, or did you switch back and forth?

I wrote it almost exactly as you read it – swapping back and forth as I wrote it.

I think many people are surprised at that, but it’s the only way I know how to write – I find it too hard to keep up with what the reader knows if I write out of sequence. 

I need to keep pace with their experience as I write, or I get the tension and the moments of revelation wrong.

Ruth Ware Posing With In a Dark, Dark Wood Billboard

Your debut novel succeeded tremendously, becoming a New York Times bestseller and a Sunday Times bestseller.

Notably, it also caught the attention of Reese Witherspoon’s production team, who secured the film rights for the book. 

What has this experience been like, and what has surprised you the most about the success of this novel?

Oh – I mean, just insane. I honestly have no words for how much this has gob-smacked me, and I’m not a person who’s usually lost for words. 

I would have been delighted if a few hundred people in the UK bought my book – the fact that it’s sold in America, let alone places like Thailand and Estonia… I find it very hard to remember when I’m walking the kids to school or loading the dishwasher!

The thing that feels most surreal is probably the film stuff. 

I used to work in publishing, so it’s a world I feel pretty comfortable in.

Whereas I know absolutely nothing about the movie business – that really does feel like something that happens to other people, not my little book!

You were one of the first three books to be published under Scout Press, which I can only imagine was a huge honor.

Did this help in the promotion and success of your book?

Scout have been indescribably amazing to work with. 

I actually didn’t know the whole deal about the new imprint when I signed up with Simon & Schuster, and I remember when I found out I had this butterflies-in-the-pit-of-my-stomach moment where I suddenly realised they were putting so much trust in my book, making it one of their launch list.

Publishing a book is a sort of weird experience because although writers often compare their books to babies, the truth is, you create this thing, but you’re not really responsible for sending it out into the world – that’s down to the publisher. 

They decide the look, how it’s marketed, and often even the title. 

And I’ve worked in this business long enough to know how painful it can be when a writer has radically different ideas about what their book is, compared to their publisher.

But from the moment I saw that incredible cover that Scout produced, I just knew I was in safe hands, and I couldn’t have been more right. 

They’ve been amazing to work with.

There is so much bravery in putting your work out there since writing is very personal. Did you struggle with this, and what would you say to another writer struggling with unleashing their work into the world?

I did struggle with this – I wrote a lot of books growing up and in my early twenties, and they all went under the bed because I was basically too chicken to show them to anyone. 

But in the end, I just got to a place where I realised that however bad I might feel if I failed, I’d feel worse if I didn’t even try in the first place.

I don’t know what I would say to another writer because I didn’t have the magic confidence pill back then, and I still don’t. Ultimately I think I wrote a book that I couldn’t bear to shelve.

But maybe… maybe my advice would be baby steps. 

Share your book with a trusted friend – someone who knows you well enough to be honest as well as supportive, the kind of person who you’d take clothes shopping and trust to say “you know what, that dress isn’t flattering on you.”

Or, if that’s too scary, find a writing group online.

And above all, try not to take it personally. Writing is personal, it has to be, but rejection rarely is.

I understand you are terrified of reading scary books.

What is the scariest book you have ever read?

Do you feel more in control of things, writing your own scary book, or did you end up terrifying yourself?

Yes, I’m a terrible coward! I’m getting sent a lot of books to blurb now, and I’m realising that there’s a whole swathe of crime that’s just waaaay out of my comfort zone in terms of horrible things happening to people.

It’s mainly prolonged violence and torture I find I can’t read – I skipped over all the Theon chapters in Game of Thrones, for example.

For plain scariness… maybe Black House by Peter Straub and Stephen King, which I read while on holiday in a very remote Dorset village, and it scared the daylights out of me. 

We were staying in a converted church, a fairly spooky location in itself, which probably didn’t help.

Two of my favourite scary books are The Haunting of Hill House and The Woman in Black, which are my kind of scary – nail-biting but nobody gets locked in a basement and tortured.

But yes, it’s very different writing my own books – so much of the scariness is suspense, not knowing when the curtain will get ripped back, so I think it’s very difficult to scare yourself to the same extent. 

The element of surprise isn’t there.

Editor’s Note: Ruth Ware also shares her FAVORITE BOOKS with our readers. You’ll love discovering her favorite Agatha Christie book.

We never give away spoilers, but how hard was it to craft In the Dark, Dark Wood ending of your book?

Did you try different endings out, or did it all come together quickly?

This is really hard to write without spoiling, but I had the ending in mind right from the beginning, but it slightly changed in the way it played out. 

And certain characters who were going to die, didn’t, and vice versa.

What can we expect from you next? Any involvement in the film writing?

Are you working on your next book or taking time to savor the success of this first one?

No one’s asked me to write the film, but that’s probably a good thing since I know precisely zip about screenwriting! 

However, I am not good at sitting on my hands, and I find the only cure for pre-publication nerves is writing another book, so I am currently working on book three. 

My second thriller, The Woman in Cabin 10 is already written.

Editor’s Note: Ruth Ware has NINE books now!

New to Ruth Ware? Here are some answers to your most frequently asked questions!

What are the best Ruth Ware books?

I loved In a Dark, Dark Wood, The Woman in Cabin 10, and The Turn of the Key. Ruth’s highest-rated book on GoodReads, however, is The It Girl

You can’t go wrong with an author who has been heralded as the Agatha Christie of our lifetime.

What Ruth Ware Movies Are Coming Out?

Several of Ruth Ware’s books have been optioned for the screen. 

In a Dark, Dark Wood had film rights acquired by New Line Cinema. Reese Witherspoon’s Pacific Standard is attached to produce.

 The Woman in Cabin 10 movie rights were acquired by CBS, who are set to produce the film with Gotham Group.  

Is it necessary to read Ruth Ware’s books in a specific order?

At this time, each of her books can be enjoyed as a standalone story. 

What are the Ruth Ware books in the order published?

We have listed all of the descriptions of each book below!

Ruth Ware has nine books, currently.

In a Dark, Dark Wood (2015)

The Woman in Cabin 10 (2016)

The Lying Game (2017)

The Death of Mrs. Westway (2018)

The Turn of the Key (2019)

One by One (2020)

Snowflakes (2020)

The It Girl (2022)

Zero Days (2023)

Authors Like Ruth Ware to Check Out

If you like Ruth Ware, try Clare Mackintosh, Lisa Jewell, Alice Feeney, or Gilly McMillan for some other great thriller writer options.

Ruth Ware Books (in order)

Ruth Ware Books

Ruth Ware is an international number-one bestselling author. Her books have been optioned for film and TV and published in over 40 languages. A graduate of Manchester University, Ruth lives near Brighton with her family.

Browse this list of all the Ruth Ware books. We also share where to stream the movie adaptations.

Love this author interview? Stream the Book Gang Podcast wherever you get podcasts. We discuss debuts, backlist, and under-the-radar book gems with your favorite authors.

Book Gang Podcast

TELL ME: What is your favorite Ruth Ware book?

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Andy Weir Exclusive Interview on The Martian

Thursday, July 20th, 2023

Andy Weir discusses his science-fiction debut novel, The Martian. Get the list of all the Andy Weir books and learn how The Egg brought him internet fame.

Andy Weir Exclusive Interview on the Martian

Andy Weir, a now widely acclaimed author, became a household name because of his remarkable science fiction debut, The Martian.

Did you know that this novel was initially self-published in 2011 but only gained widespread recognition after its rerelease in 2014?

Weir’s exceptional talent also earned him the John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer at the Hugo Awards! 

Now a New York Times bestselling author, this mission to Mars is just the start of his career. It also was adapted into an Academy Award-nominated film starring Matt Damon in the lead role. 

The Martian Book

In this suspenseful and thrilling story, astronaut Mark Watney becomes one of the first to set foot on Mars. 

Little does he know that he’ll face the daunting possibility of being the first person to die on the red planet.

After a devastating dust storm nearly claimed his life, Mark finds himself stranded and utterly alone on Mars. 

With no means of communication with Earth and limited supplies, he must battle against the harshest environment to survive.

But Mark refuses to surrender to fate. 

Armed with his ingenuity and engineering skills, he tenaciously confronts each seemingly insurmountable obstacle. Will his resourcefulness be enough to bring him home?

Readers have loved his ingenious ideas for survival that enthralled the science geek in all of us.

The novel also has lots of unexpected humor, making Mark a character you can’t help but cheer for.

Andy Weir Exclusive Interview On The Martian

Having hit the front page of Reddit with your short story, The Egg you shared feeling sad that this debut novel wasn’t receiving as much attention. 

Now that The Martian is finally gaining the recognition it deserves, is the project proving more rewarding?

Oh definitely. That was before The Martian really took off.
Since then, it’s become more well-known than The Egg. It’s been a very exciting ride.

Some of my favorite scenes in your book are when Watney discovers what fills his crewmates USB drives. 

I love that they brought disco music and fabulous shows like Three’s Company. What would you put on your USB drive to take with you to Mars?

Probably a bunch of 1980’s music. And I’d bring the entire archive of Doctor Who. You may not have noticed, but I’m a nerd.

 Any thoughts on commercial space flight? Any plans to purchase a ticket?

It feels like it’s just around the corner. The trick is getting the price down. 

Most people can’t pay $200,000 for a trip to space. 

But if that were brought down to $10,000 it would probably have millions of customers. 

As for myself, I’m afraid to fly in ordinary planes; I certainly wouldn’t be able to go to space.

Do you see us putting a man on Mars in your lifetime?

That’s a tough one to predict. With our modern technology, we can make extremely effective rovers. 

It makes people ask why we should risk human life. 

There are many solid reasons to send people instead of robots, but that fundamental concern, and the tremendous cost increases associated with manned spaceflight, will always be a factor. 

Considering we haven’t returned to the moon yet, I’m honestly not sure if we’ll see anyone on Mars soon.

Which do you think is harder- the first time we put a man on the moon or when we put a man on Mars?

Putting a man on Mars is definitely the larger challenge. 

Even when you account for the technology level of the Apollo era compared to now. 

The Moon is just so much closer and easier to work with.

Do you have other great book suggestions for readers just jumping into the science fiction genre?

Yes, I recommend Ready Player One by Ernest Cline. 

It’s my favorite book of the decade so far, and it has excellent crossover appeal. 

You don’t have to be a “sci-fi person” to enjoy it.

Do you think you would survive if you were stranded on Mars?

I doubt it. It would require great bravery and fortitude and exceptional strength of character. 

I’m just a normal guy.

John Young

Who would you invite to dinner if you could dine with one astronaut, living or dead?

John Young. He’s the consummate astronaut. 

He was on numerous spaceflights, including Apollo 16, when he walked on the Moon. 

Fun fact: Apollo astronauts wore bio-monitoring equipment, so their heart rate was recorded throughout their missions. 

As you can imagine, during the launch, their heart rates tended to spike, usually to around 140 or 150 beats per minute. 

John Young’s heart rate never got above 70 during the Apollo 16 launch. 

Nerves of steel.

I understand that you started your computer programming career at 15. What came first, your love of computers or your passion for space?

Definitely my love of space. 

I grew up with it. I can’t remember any time when I wasn’t interested in space travel.

I am building a passion for science in my children. Do you have any suggestions for fostering that passion in them?

First, find their passion. 

Whatever it is. 

Art? Music? Fast Cars? 

Doesn’t matter. 

Then show them how science makes those things possible. 

Because in the modern era, everything is a science. 

If they like art, show them the science of computer modeling. 

If they like Music, show them how musical instruments are made with modern machinery and precision. 

If they like cars, well you get the idea.

If you could tell anyone to read one book (other than your own), what would that book be?

I, Robot” by Isaac Asimov. In my opinion, it’s one of the greatest sci-fi books of all time.

New to Andy Weir? Here are some answers to your most frequently asked questions!

The Martian Movie Poster

Where can I Watch The Martian movie?

You can stream the movie on Prime Video or wherever you rent your films for purchase.

Director Ridley Scott and stars Matt Damon, Jessica Chastain, Kristen Wiig, and Jeff Daniels made this book a fan favorite. 

Below we have also included important Andy Weir movie updates, including the Project Hail Mary movie information. 

Is it necessary to read Andy Weir’s books in a specific order?

Each of his books can be enjoyed as a standalone story except the books in The Martian series.

Diary of An AssCan is considered The Martian #0.5 prequel.

What are the Andy Weir books in order published?

  • The Egg (short story), 2009
  • The Martian, 2011
  • Diary of an AssCan, 2015 (The Martian #0.5)
  • Artemis, 2017
  • Cheshire Crossing, 2019
  • Randomize, 2019
  • Project Hail Mary, 2021
Andy Weir Books

Andy Weir Books

Andy Weir, a former software engineer, turned his dream of writing into a reality.

A lifelong space nerd, he now resides in California, captivating readers with his compelling stories and passion for space exploration.

Browse this list of all the Andy Weir books, including his self-published works. We also share where to stream the movie adaptations.

Love this author interview? Stream the Book Gang Podcast wherever you get podcasts. We discuss debuts, backlist, and under-the-radar book gems with your favorite authors.

Book Gang Podcast

TELL ME: What is your favorite Andy Weir book?

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John Green Exclusive Interview: The Fault In Our Stars Movie

Wednesday, July 19th, 2023

John Green joins us to discuss The Fault in Our Stars movie adaptation. Get the entire young adult book list of the John Green books in this interview post.

John Green Exclusive Interview: The Fault In Our Stars Movie

Have you ever wondered about the adaptation process for an author? John Green is the first author we have featured whose book is adapted into a movie.

We discuss the process of book adaptation, casting, and what it would be like as a writer to watch your book evolve into this format.

Make sure to scroll down for books by John Green (FULL LIST)!

The Fault In Our Stars Book

The Fault in Our Stars Book

The Fault in Our Stars is the story of an unlikely group of friends that meet through their Cancer Kid Support Group. 

Hazel has experienced a medical miracle, and her tumor has been shrinking, buying her a few more years, but she finds that she is depressed despite the good news. Her doctors encouraged her to participate in a support group that permanently alters Hazel’s path. 

When she meets Augustus, they quickly form a deep bond that neither could have ever anticipated.

John Green Author Interview

John Green Exclusive Interview: The Fault In Our Stars Movie

John Green Author Interview

In our interview, John opened up about his initial apprehensions regarding selling the film rights of this novel, emphasizing his fear of “sentimentalizing his story.” 

Green candidly shared, “I was worried that the characters would be defined by their disability. I didn’t want it to be the defining feature of their lives.”

He also expressed a deep appreciation for the magic of books remaining untouched by the filmmaking process, acknowledging the powerful connection readers form with the characters and their stories.

Green laughed and shared, “For the rest of my life, when I close my eyes and think about Harry Potter, I will see Daniel Radcliffe just because the image is powerful and overwhelms the text.”

However, the genuine commitment and passion displayed by producers Wyck Godfrey and Isaac Klausner ultimately convinced him.

He commended their efforts to incorporate fan-favorite lines and passages, contributing to the movie adaptation’s authenticity and emotional depth. 

The Fault in Our Stars Movie Poster

The Fault in Our Stars Cast

When asked who he envisioned for the cast, Green described his detachment from imagining this casting. 

He said, “I’m really bad at looking at faces and understanding faces. So, I don’t see faces that clearly when I’m writing.”

The casting process proved serendipitous when Shailene Woodley auditioned and effortlessly personified the character of Hazel Grace Lancaster. 

The role of Augustus Waters, portrayed by Ansel Elgort, initially posed a hurdle but became an embodiment of the character once he shared the screen with Shailene.

John Green’s involvement allowed him to witness firsthand the passion and dedication of the production team and the cast. 

Although he had no official role, his presence on set was part of his daily routine. Seeing the profound impact of bringing his cherished story to life on the big screen was so rewarding.

Green ended our interview with this statement, “I felt like I was being given such a tremendous gift just to be able to be there and watch them make this movie, to make it so carefully and thoughtfully.”

John Green Movie and TV Shows (Full List)

Where can I Watch The Fault In Our Stars movie?

Currently, The Fault in Our Stars movie is available for streaming on HBO Max. 

For those interested, renting or purchasing options are also accessible via Amazon Instant Video, Vudu, Google Play, and iTunes.

Below we have also included where to stream ALL the John Green movies and tv shows.

New to John Green? Here are some answers to the most asked questions! 

Is it necessary to read John Green’s books in a specific order?

John Green has eight stand-alone books with their own set of characters and storylines. 

However, some readers choose to follow the publication order.

What are the John Green books in order?

  • Looking for Alaska
  • An Abundance of Katherines
  • Paper Towns
  • Let It Snow
  • Will Grayson, Will Grayson
  • The Fault In Our Stars
  • Turtles All the Way Down
  • The Anthropocene Reviewed
John Green Books

John Green Books

John Green is a  New York Times bestselling author. Green's book has received many literary achievements, including a Printz medal in 2006 and winning an Edgar Award in 2009, with two nominations for the Los Angeles Times Book Prize.

His books have achieved global recognition, having been translated into more than 55 languages and selling over 24 million copies worldwide. 

With his brother Hank, John created the vlogbrothers YouTube channel, which fostered a community of "nerdfighters," advocating for positive changes worldwide. They also launched Crash Course, an educational YouTube channel, where they teach humanities and science courses to millions of subscribers.

John Green currently resides in Indianapolis, Indiana.

Browse this list of all the John Green books with recommended ages for reading from the publisher. We have also included where to stream the movie and tv series adapations for each book.

Love this author interview? Stream the Book Gang Podcast wherever you get podcasts. We discuss debuts, backlist, and under-the-radar book gems with your favorite authors.

Book Gang Podcast

TELL ME: What is your favorite John Green book?

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