Kelly Parsons is a board-certified urologist with degrees from UPenn, Stanford University and Johns Hopkins, and he takes all that surgeon's knowledge and puts it to better use (in my opinion, but I'm biased) with his debut medical thriller, Doing Harm.
We meet chief resident Steve Mitchell, a rising star with a bright surgical future who our reviewer calls "engagingly flawed." But then a patient dies of mysterious circumstances, and the killer starts toying with Steve, threatening his career, his marriage and even his life. And with an actual surgeon behind it, Doing Harm is the perfect blend of authentic hospital atmosphere and tense life-and-death moments.
To find out more about the high-stakes hospital world, we chatted with Kelly Parsons in a Q&A about patients, medical school and the fascinating character of Steve Mitchell—who we're reluctant to trust, or even like. And Parsons agrees:
"Readers shouldn’t necessarily trust Steve. They certainly don’t have to like him. But what I hope they do, on some level, is relate to his dilemma. I want readers to understand why he makes the choices he makes, however flawed those choices may be. The story is essentially about Steve’s moral journey. With some help along the way, Steve finishes the book a much different individual than when he began it."
Doing Harm is out today! Will you check it out?
Peter Spiegelman's fourth and newest thriller, Thick as Thieves, is one of our Whodunit picks for August, and reviewer Bruce Tierney called it "genre-defining" and "twisty as a corkscrew." No surprise there, as Spiegelman's book is not only the story of a "dream crime," but it is also one of the most exciting thrillers to hit shelves this summer.
Check out our Q&A with Spiegelman for his take on crime thrillers, great books and great writing.
And if you needed any more convincing about Thick as Thieves, here's the trailer:
Spiegelman's newest is already on shelves. Will you make room for it on your TBR list?
Our reviewer practically dares you to read one of this year's Newbery Honor winners: "What’s the title? It’s Heart of a Samurai, by Margi Preus, but seriously, you wouldn’t like it. I mean, why would you want to read about a kid thrust into a situation that would scare the pants off of most people, when you won’t even try peas?"
It's a true story based on the life of Manjiro, a Japanese fishing boy, and we loved talking with Preus at ALA 2011 about why she chose this true story to become her first YA book:
What is your favorite novel based on a true story?
Heart of a Samurai came out a year ago, but it's still one of our favorite middle grade novels. Have you read it? Will you?
For more author interviews from ALA 2011, visit our YouTube channel.
Since I know many of BookPage's readers love to read children's and teen books themselves (or with their kids), I wanted to alert you to a couple recent recommendations on BookPage.com:
Editor Lynn Green interviewed both Andrea Pinkney and Jon Katz for issues of Reading Corner (sign up here).
Pinkney wrote Bird in a Box, a middle grade novel that takes place during the Great Depression. The story centers on a group of kids in Brooklyn who are captivated by boxer Joe Louis. Here's a preview of the interview:
Why was Joe Louis such an important figure for African Americans in the 1930s and ’40s?
When Joe Louis came onto the boxing scene, he symbolized tremendous hope for African Americans. Joe was boxing at a time when black folks in America were still considered second-class citizens, and when segregation was still a sad reality. But in boxing, one’s ability to swing hard in the ring has nothing to do with the color of their skin. Louis’s pounding punches showed the world that a black mother’s son had superior abilities.On the night Barack Obama won the presidential election, there was an overwhelming pride that welled in the hearts of many people. There was cheering in the streets. Tears of joy came to the faces of grown men. A black man had made momentous progress toward social change. This same pride and elation filled the night of June 22, 1937, when Joe Louis, “the Brown Bomber,” became the heavyweight champion of the world.
Is there a specific message you hope young readers will take from this book?
More than anything, I’d like young readers to know that even when it feels like life is giving you a beating, there’s always hope around what may at first look like a very dark corner.
Lynn interviewed Jon Katz about picture book Meet the Dogs at Bedlam Farm. Take a look at these main characters:
The picture book offers Katz's wisdom about dogs and life. Here's a preview of the interview:
Why did you decide to write a book for children at this point in your career?
Children are the purest and most intense animal lovers on the earth. They experience animals in a very particular way, unfettered by the many issues adults bring to their attachments. Animals are the beloved and imaginary comforters and soulmates of many children, as psychologists can attest. Kids talk to animals in very touching ways.
Animals are sometimes scary to them, but more often are very loving and never cruel or wounding. Animal fantasies are a seminal part of childhood development. The Bedlam Farm dogs run the gamut for kids—the troubled dog, the love dog, the serious dog, the healing dog. Until I wrote Meet The Dogs Of Bedlam Farm, I didn't quite realize how broad and familiar an emotional range Lenore, Frieda, Izzy and Rose covered.
We hope you enjoy these books. It's always a pleasure to interview authors, especially when they provide such thoughtful answers as Pinkney and Katz.
What children's books are you recommending lately?
BookPage contributor Alden Mudge has been interviewing authors for more than 20 years. In a guest post, he reflects on his March cover story interview with debut novelist Téa Obreht, author of The Tiger's Wife.
By the time I came to ask it, it was a silly question, an embarrassing question.
But I had read Téa Obreht’s abbreviated bio: She had been born in Belgrade in 1985. Her family left in 1992 as the conflict in the former Yugoslavia heated up. They moved to Cyprus, then Egypt and then finally came to the United States when she was 12. That meant she had been in the country just a little over half her life.
I had also read Obreht’s remarkable first novel, The Tiger’s Wife. It is set in an unnamed country in the Balkans after a prolonged civil war. Of the many things that impressed me about the book one of the most prominent was its powerful evocation of place. Not simply in a travelogue sort of way—though the landscape is vividly rendered—but in a deeper, more elusive, more heartfelt way, as though Obreht had captured the very essence or spirit of the place.
So I wondered as I finished the book, did Obreht see herself as an American writer or as a writer in exile?
Then there was our conversation. I learned that the family had moved to Palo Alto, that she went as an undergraduate to the University of Southern California. And there was that lilt of a California 20-something in her voice. Her humor, her intonation—as American as apple pie. So I hesitated.
“Oh, go ahead,” she said.
So I asked Obreht if she felt she was an American writer.
Her response was immediate: “Yes. Definitely.”
And what did that mean?
“Oh gosh, that’s a question,” she said. And after a pause she continued. “The fact that I am able to call myself a writer at all, the fact that I am able to be a writer at all makes me an American writer. To be in an environment where one can without hesitation—without constriction or fear—write about anything—one’s past, one’s projected future, whatever you want—is the luxury of American writers. And in that regard, I am an American writer. And very happy about it.”
What’s that they say about no silly questions?
Author photo by Beowulf Sheehan.
BookPage contributor Alden Mudge has been interviewing authors for more than 20 years. In a guest post, he reflects on a common thread among his three most recent interviews: Starbucks.
As a standard-issue Berkeley resident, I am a fierce loyalist of Peet’s Coffee. French Roast, to be exact. So of course I look with snifty disdain on the thin brew served at a-Starbucks-on-every-corner.
But credit where credit’s due. In the past three months, every novelist I’ve interviewed has mentioned writing some chunk of her novel at a local Starbucks.
Téa Obreht, whose remarkably assured first novel will be featured in next month’s issue of BookPage, usually writes on a desk she’s carted around from house to house over the last five years. But, she says, a portion of The Tiger’s Wife, was composed at a corner table in the local Starbucks in Ithaca, New York.
Lisa Genova, who was interviewed about her second novel, Left Neglected, last month, has a “beautiful writing room. It’s the sunroom of the house. It’s all windows and we overlook a saltwater creek that leads out to the ocean.” But as a mother of young children, she says she can’t write there. “There are too many distractions. I think, I’m home, I should throw in a load of laundry. I should call the repair guy. Household duties loom heavy over me when I’m here.” So what does she do? She goes to the local Starbucks in Chatham on Cape Cod. “There’s nothing else to do there but write the book.”
And then there is the very funny Karen Russell—author of Swamplandia!, and, like Téa Obreht, one of the exceptionally talented young writers named to the New Yorker’s 20 best writers under 40 list. Russell says she has to leave her apartment to write because it’s so teeny, tiny. So a lot of her debut novel was composed at a Starbucks on 181st Street in Manhattan.
A year ago she won a Cullman Fellowship at the New York Public Library, where they gave her “this beautiful office space to write in. It was like getting this amazing promotion. I think I embarrassed everyone. I was like, ‘look at this! The drawers open soundlessly!’ They looked at me like they were wondering if I’d been homeless or something.” Now she’s back writing at her Starbucks again. “I was away for a year writing in my fantastic library office and now I’m back. We never exchange words but I just feel like the vibe is ‘Oh, look who has come crawling back. Guess it didn’t work out so well, so you’re drinking your vente in the corner again.’ ”
So credit to Starbucks. But a query: Whatever happened to that old, ideal image of the writer in his garret or a room of her own? What could it mean that so many writers now prefer to work out there in public, in front of everyone?
Today we got word from Abrams Books that a Diary of a Wimpy Kid balloon will debut in this year's Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. More than 50 million people will watch the parade on TV, in addition to 3.5 million in person—and one lucky reader will win the opportunity to be part of that crowd. A sweepstakes launched today by Abrams will give one winner and three guests a Thanksgiving trip to New York City and VIP grandstand tickets to view the parade.
There are 37 million copies of the Wimpy Kid books in print in the United States alone, and I know many readers are getting very excited for the Nov. 9 release of Jeff Kinney's fifth book in the series, Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Ugly Truth.
BookPage will mark the occasion with an interview in our November print edition. Contributor Alice Cary recently talked to Kinney at his home in Massachusetts, and though you can't read her full report just yet, she gave us a preview of her visit and shared a few BookPage-exclusive photos.
I headed to southern Massachusetts a few days ago to visit Diary of a Wimpy Kid author/illustrator Jeff Kinney. Five million copies of his new book, The Ugly Truth, will hit stores in November, prompting much excitement among fans—and great secrecy from Kinney’s publisher, Abrams, about the contents of the book.
Despite all of this fame and buildup, Jeff Kinney seems to be the nicest, most relaxed guy you'll ever meet. CNN was expected later in the day to film him, but Jeff appeared to have all the time in the world to visit with me. He admits that, at times, all the hoopla around his books doesn't feel real, and he certainly had some interesting stories to share.
All photos (c) copyright 2010 Alice Cary.
Jeff Kinney draws on the tablet in his hands, and Greg H. appears on his computer screen.
Kinney at his office desk, where he works. The walls are purposely bare so he won't be distracted.
Kinney in his office. The closet contains a lot of drawing pads!
(That's what those stacks are near his hand.)
Kinney signing books in his office. This is the spot where he sits for hours to think up ideas for the books.
Also in BookPage: Check out our illustrated Q&A with Jeff Kinney.