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

Start Reading Act of God by Jill Ciment

The twins suspected it was alive, but they weren’t exactly sure if it was plant or animal.

Dive into this weird, provocative, funny read with an excerpt of Act of God by Jill Ciment. It’s the summer of 2015, Brooklyn. The city is sweltering from another record-breaking heat wave, this one accompanied by biblical rains:

“Edith, white-haired and older by seventeen minutes, went to find a flashlight while Kat, blond with white roots, knelt to take a closer look. A small phosphorescent organism, about as bright and arresting as a firefly’s glow, bloomed in the seam of the hall closet. It almost looked as if someone had chewed a piece of iridescence and stuck it, like gum, on the wall. But it wasn’t inanimate like gum; its surface was roiling as if something beneath were struggling to be born.”

Author Essays Good for Book Clubs

Thriller Author Samantha Hayes On Feeling “Different”

Divorce was almost a thing to be whispered about: her parents are divorced, as if it would explain any oddities I had.

“During the week, I lived with my mum,” remembers Samantha Hayes, author of What You Left Behind.

“She was an artist, of the archetypal starving and bohemian kind, but had left art college to marry my dad and have kids. After the divorce, she went back to painting, but making a living was really tough. The family home had been sold, and the little cottage my mum bought was very basic and tumble-down, although she had grand plans to renovate it when she made some money. But despite her best efforts, the money never came. For the rest of my childhood we lived with a leaky roof, concrete floors, no heating, and we sometimes struggled to afford food.”

Author Essays Good for Book Clubs

Bethany Chase on ‘Books I Ritually Re-Read’

I like to be happy, and I will shamelessly defend my fondness for books that tend to make me that way.

“Like most bookworms,” says Bethany Chase, author of The One That Got Away, “I have an important list of criteria for the books I ritually reread.”

“The book must be funny, romantic, with characters I miss when I’m away from them. It definitely can’t be depressing, offer any dreary meditations on human nature. I have a lot of re-reads I dearly love, but here are my tippity-toppity five.”

Author Essays Good for Book Clubs

Start Reading “Sweetness” by Toni Morrison

It’s not my fault. So you can’t blame me. I didn’t do it and have no idea how it happened.

Toni Morrison’s short story “Sweetness” appeared in The New Yorker in advance of the publication of her new novel God Help the Child, which hits the shelves on April 21, 2015. This new novel is the first by her to be set in our current moment, and it confirms that Toni Morrison has changed American fiction forever with her matchless literary voice.

“A chilling oracle and a lively storyteller, Nobel winner Morrison continues the work she began 45 years ago with The Bluest Eye,” says Kirkus. Have you read a novel by Toni Morrison? Let’s share our favorites in the comments!

Author Essays Good for Book Clubs

Exclusive Sneak Peek of Signature Kill by David Levien

Flesh. The lone word came to Officer Hawkins’s mind.

“He thumped the cruiser into park and stepped out, one hand wrapped around his six-battery Maglite, the other resting on the butt of his Glock .40 duty weapon,” begins David Levien’s new serial-killer thriller Signature Kill.

“He walked closer, his feet making a slight crunching sound on the grass, crisp with frost. He passed his light over the pile, and what he saw made his mouth go dry. There was a racing in his chest and a sickening drop in his stomach. Sweat popped along his back and crotch as adrenaline hit him hard.

It was a woman’s body, or parts of her body, naked in the night.”
Keep reading . . .

Author Essays Good for Book Clubs

A Real-Life Doctor on Watching Hospital Dramas on TV

“It turns out Grey’s Anatomy got hospital life mostly right. (The call rooms are actually for naps, not necking). But the viewing experience in no way prepared me for the lysergic roller coaster of practicing actual medicine. “

“I was crazy about Grey’s” admits Matt McCarthy, doctor and author of The Real Doctor Will See You Shortly, “and all medical shows, really—because I was dying to know what being a doctor was really like.

Was it that intense? Did physicians ever screw up? Or yell at each other? And did they really hook up in those cramped on-call rooms? I desperately wanted to know . . . . For the first few months, I felt like I was on a tv show, playing the part of a real doctor—one who was well-intentioned but ultimately overwhelmed—and occasionally flattened by the daily tragedy of watching people die.”

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.”