Author Essays

Good for Book Clubs

What makes a writer tick? How do they form the stories that change a reader’s life? From what they love to read, to their writing process, to ideas for their next book – you’ll get exclusive behind-the-scenes peeks at the literary life.

Author Essays Good for Book Clubs

Two Types of Violence We Encounter As Readers

It is an easy cliché to criticize violence as a part of our collective storytelling—but that is a gross over-simplification.

“I believe that there are two types of violence we encounter as readers, as audience members,” says Cynthia Bond, author of Ruby.

“One exists for the purpose of moving the plot of the story along, to direct the audience to the next highlighted point.

The second type of violence is a kind of documentation. It comes with the belief that some stories cannot be told without walking through a doorway, without witnessing the horror, without breathing in the pain.”

Author Essays Good for Book Clubs

Conversation with Cynthia Bond, Author of Ruby

As a victim of human trafficking as a child, these stories and images filled my chest with horror, rage, and fear until I picked up a pen and placed it upon the blank page. Writing Ruby became my salvation.

“When I taught writing to homeless youth in Hollywood, I found that most of my students had themselves run from abuse,” remembers Cynthia Bond, author of Ruby.

“Somewhere along the way, living with my own abuse, and hearing stories of such pain and torment, I thought, If you can bear to have lived it, I can at least bear to listen. Ephram Jennings says that in some form to Ruby later in the novel. I asked that of myself while working on this book.”

Author Essays Good for Book Clubs

Aislinn Hunter on What It Means to Be a Writer

I was a high school dropout, a failed actress, and, if I’m being honest, I was, as my friends lovingly described it, “a bit dippy.” What I did have going for me was that I was wildly interested in the world.

“Because I’d had a miserable time in high school I’d left at seventeen, packing up and moving to Ireland to wait tables,” recalls Aislinn Hunter, author of The World Before Me.

“There, in Dublin, I shopped in flea markets and used-book stores, went to plays and concerts, and bused out to different parts of the country whenever I had a few days off. I found history everywhere—in the old buildings, the creaking doors of the pubs, in storytelling traditions that went back hundreds of years.”

Author Essays Good for Book Clubs

Gretchen Rubin Shows You How to Master Your Habits in Better Than Before

Habits are a key to change. What we really need to know is: how do we change our habits? Gretchen Rubin’s new book Better Than Before answers that question.

“I was writing and thinking and talking with people about happiness for years,” Gretchen Rubin shared in our recent interview, “and I began to notice a pattern that often when people talk about a ‘happiness challenge,’ they would talk about some habit that they couldn’t make or break.

They knew that they’d be happier if they could go running or get more sleep or work on their novel or give up sugar – they’d figured it out – but for some reason they weren’t able to do it, they weren’t able to follow through. And often that was about a habit that was not forming. So I began to get more and more drawn into thinking about habits.”

Meet the Author Good for Book Clubs

Interview with Peter Buwalda, Author of Bonita Avenue

Dutch writer Peter Buwalda is keenly attuned to the ironies of being a successful novelist. “A successful writer is living a paradox,” Buwalda says from to his home in Amsterdam, where he moved after his gripping literary debut, Bonita Avenue, became a bestseller in Holland in 2010.

“Being successful and writing sort of exclude each other. Before I was a real recluse, and now I am an outgoing person. I have to be,” Buwalda says.

Until he was 34, he worked as an editor and journalist and was “a very fanatical reader.” Then he decided to write fiction and “changed like Gregor Samsa in the story by Kafka into a novelist. For me it was late, so I had to try to write a thick, serious novel at once, without hesitating, diving into the deep.”

Author Essays Good for Book Clubs

Huan Hsu on Being Half-American, Half-Chinese

There are a lot of books on China being published these days, and many of those books are being written by people who aren’t Chinese.

“There’s nothing wrong with this, of course,” says Huan Hsu, author of The Porcelain Thief. “Some of the writers behind the books I most admire aren’t Chinese.

And Hessler and Gifford and Pomfret wrote fantastic books on China; they likely speak better Mandarin and feel more comfortable in China than I do. But they’re not Chinese. And while books about the Chinese-American experience in America are plentiful, the Shanghai bookstore I visited seemed to indicate that the story of Chinese-Americans in China remains unstudied.”

Author Essays Good for Book Clubs

Should You Judge a Book by Its Cover?

Simon Kurt Unsworth, author of The Devil’s Detective, speaks at the Lancashire Writing Hub and answers a question from the audience. His answer may surprise you!

“I think you damn well should judge books by their covers,” says Simon Kurt Unsworth.

“I’ll tell you why in this short ramble. I think the first thing I need to do is to differentiate something. When we say ‘don’t judge a book by it’s cover,’ we often mean don’t judge people by how we see them, the first things that we see about them. I don’t suppose there’s anyone in this room who would disagree that we should not judge people by things like the color of their skin, whether they’re male or female, their age, how they kind of look to us. But I don’t really think that’s what this phrase actually means.”

Author Essays Good for Book Clubs

5 Literary Guests I’d Want at My Dinner Party

I imagine my fantasy dinner as more of a potluck pajama party: lounging on pillows in front of the fireplace, plentiful cups of hot tea rivaling the ample wine, and a smorgasbord of nibbles at our socked feet.

In that setting, I’d love to have these five literary powerhouses together for an open, honest conversation about being childless women in a world where motherhood is the ubiquitous expectation.

I greatly admire each of my dinner party guests for their literary accomplishments and moreover, their exemplary legacy as women pioneers. The idea of having these five together (if even in fantasy) makes me giddy—for the pearls of wisdom being passed from hand to hand. You can bet I’d bring my biggest purse to the feast, gathering gems to take home until the seams split.