Donald Lystra, who published his first novel Season of Water and Ice after retiring from a career as an engineer, talks about making the transition from engineering to writing, publishing with a small press, winning a Midwest Book Award, and what people get wrong about the 1950s.
When WTO protestors mobbed downtown Seattle in 1999, breaking windows and burning dumpsters, Keith Scribner was a new father, and it made him wonder how it would feel to have that chaos on his own street. In an interview with J.T. Bushnell, Scribner talks about how those thoughts sparked his newest novel, The Oregon Experiment, what it means to pursue the writing life, and why perfume labels don’t list the ingredients.
In her first novel, Swamplandia! (Knopf, 2011), acclaimed short story writer Karen Russell (St. Lucy’s Home for Girls Raised by Wolves) renders a highly specific shoebox-world of wonder and mystery. Set in the Florida swamps, largely within a fictional alligator theme park, the sun rises and sets with her lush yet economical descriptions and poignant characterizations of the 14-year-old protagonist, Ava, and her rapidly dissolving family.
In Binocular Vision: New & Selected Stories, Edith Pearlman grabs the reader’s attention and never lets it go. In this review, Andrea Nolan looks at some of Pearlman’s first lines and examines how her stories are united through character, theme, and place.
Alexi Zentner’s debut, Touch, began as a short story and grew to a mythical realist novel that delivers monsters, secret family histories and three generations of the Boucher family – all nestled in Sawgamet, a northwoods logging town. Casey Tolfree unpacks the book’s elegant mingling of past and present, reality and myth, and loss that gives the living strength.
A tale of two Londons—present-day and the glitter and doom of the 1920s and 30s—and a shoebox containing a mystery lie at the heart of Kathleen Tessaro’s delectable fourth novel, The Debutante. Lauren Hall calls the book a “fast-paced and enjoyable ride,” equal parts historical mystery and smart, gossipy love story.
Reading Deanna Fei’s debut novel, A Thread of Sky, rescued Kate Levin from a giant post-MFA funk. In this conversation with Levin, Fei discusses the role cultural identity plays in a writer’s persona and work, the value of unknowability, the secret to writing great sex scenes, the reason she watches Jersey Shoreand more.
In this conversation with FWR’s Laura Valeri, Susanna Daniel discusses her debut novel, the fictional memoir Stiltsville, and shares her insights on the process of writing, the power of quiet stories—which she terms eminently readable—and the perseverance and faith that writers must nurture for their own work.
In the tradition of Southern storytelling, Mary Helen Stefaniak’s novel The Cailiffs of Baghdad, Georgia offers a window on the power of myth to transform one small town during the Depression. Leslie Clements explores how that tension between progress and tradition free the inhabitants of Baghdad, Georgia, for radical reinvention.
Carin Clevidence’s debut novel, The House on Salt Hay Road, tells the story of three generations of the Scudder family living on Long Island in the 1930s just before a catastrophic hurricane moves in. This novel’s careful balance of happiness and tragedy, success and failure, leads Dana Staves to consider how the writing achieves this alchemy.