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Recent Work By Jessica Anya Blau

Photograph of Novelist Katie CrouchBestselling author Katie Crouch (Men and Dogs; Girls in Trucks) has a new book out. Abroad is a quick-moving, high-action read that plays out both our best and worst fantasies of being a young, beautiful foreigner in Italy. Her characters are so perfectly drawn, so wonderfully vivid, you might just confuse them for people you actually know (or have read about in the news!).

author-photo-lower-res-copyOf Maud Casey’s most recent book, Alice Sebold said, “The Man Who Walked Away cast a spell from which I never wished to wake.”

Indeed, this book is spellbinding. Between the mental patients, the overly-confident doctors who treat them, the women suffering from hysteria, the dazzling acrobat, and the man who simply walks across Europe, this book is like a an eerie, unsettling dream that you cannot shake from your head.

Maud and I shared a fascinating discussion about The Man Who Walked Away, in which Maud brought up “ovary belts,” the difficulty in simply being human, and a “hunger for peace.”

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Walter Kirn’s newest book, Blood Will Out: The True Story of Murder, a Mystery, and a Masquerade, is a riveting, chilling, and sometimes funny real-life psychological thriller about Kirn’s fifteen-year friendship with a man whose life story eerily parallels Tom Ripley’s in The Talented Mr. Ripley. Kirn is a witty, sharp observer who will flay himself with the same X-Acto knife precision that he uses to flay his characters. I couldn’t stop reading Blood Will Out—it made me want to dig through my bookshelves, pluck out and reread everything Kirn has ever written.

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When Willy Vlautin’s first book, Motel Life, came out, I brought it with me to the beach house where my family (parents, siblings, spouses, kids, etc.) meet up for a week every summer. I read it in an afternoon, loved it, and passed it on. By the end of the week no less than six people across three generations were diehard Willy fans. We have all read (and loved) every Willy book since. So, when an advance copy of Willy’s new book recently landed in my hands, I felt I owed it to my family to get this guy on the phone.

Our conversation took place over two hours on the Friday after Thanksgiving. Willy has a great voice with a lot of gravel and a little bit of twang—he sounds like a really smart country boy who’s read a lot of books. We skipped the usual small talk and went straight into the heart of things: writing, love, life, family, childhood, happiness, drinking, and his latest book The Freewhich happens to be the official March selection of The TNB Book Club.

Willy said way more than is fit to print in a single interview, so here are some highlights from one of the most interesting conversations I’ve ever had with a stranger:

Beth_Ann_BaumanBeth Ann Bauman writes about women and girls with humor, grace, insight, and unflinching honesty. Her three books mostly take place at the Jersey shore, where we meet a diverse cast of compelling female characters. Beth’s latest novel, Jersey Angel, is about 17-year-old Angel Cassonetti, who is so spot-on that it’s hard to believe she doesn’t really exist. Jersey Angel received high praise from the New York Times, Booklist, Publishers Weekly, and other publications. Here are six sex questions for the irrepressible Beth Ann Bauman….

ErikaRae_2010Erika Rae knows a lot more about the Bible than most people. She was a devoted and educated Evangelical Christian for all of her childhood, adolescence, and early college years. Today she is a devoted memoirist whose writing is frank, humorous, compassionate, and tolerant of all people. Like many smart women I know, Erika writes and thinks about sex, too. If you haven’t read Erika’s hilarious and insightful memoir, DEVANGELICAL, yet, check it out soon!

 Who is the sexiest person in the Bible?

sussman2010Ellen Sussman’s last novel, French Lessons, was a national bestseller that charmed Francophiles and non-Francophiles alike. With Ellen’s new book, The Paradise Guest House, the reader is again taken away to an exotic locale. Only this book goes beyond a romantic travel story by plunging into the painful complexities of terrorism and its echoing aftermath.

Here are six questions for Ellen Sussman:

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You probably already know who Marion Winik is. She was a commentator on NPR’s All Things Considered for years. Her essays have appeared everywhere from The New York Times to The Sun to Ladies Home Journal, where she was, somewhat unbelievably, the advice columnist. Her first eight books have been featured on Oprah, The Today Show, Politically Incorrect and The New York Times Notable list. Her ninth, Highs in the Low Fifties, is a memoir of her dating life after her divorce from her second husband. Baltimoreans have been getting glimpses of these tales in her biweekly column Bohemian Rhapsody at BaltimoreFishbowl.com.

IMG_5390 FINAL-1Gina Frangello is the author of the novel My Sister’s Continent and the story collection Slut Lullabies. She is one of the most bold, fearless, unhindered writers I’ve ever read. After reading the manuscript of My Sister’s Continent, one editor was quoted as having said, “I couldn’t explain this book to a marketing rep without blushing or breaking down.” Here are six sex questions for the inimitable and amazing Gina Frangello.

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Everything young adult novelist Sean Beaudoin writes is cutting-edge, fast-moving, and fun. If you haven’t read his first three books (Going Nowhere Faster; Fade to Blue; and You Killed Wesley Payne) you’ll probably want to after you devour his newest book, The Infects. The Infects is funny, thrilling and suspenseful. And, best of all, it features zombies! Here are Six Sex Questions for Sean Beaudoin:

It’s always a joy to sit down and talk with Michael Kimball. He’s into his cats, he plays softball (and is quite competitive!), he likes music, and he wears interesting T-shirts that make you want to scoot your chair back so you can get a good look. BIG RAY is Michael’s fourth book and, I think, his most intimate and moving. Whereas his other novels (Us, The Way the Family Got Away, Dear Everybody) all deal with loss of some sort, and are touching and powerful, BIG RAY emotionally dives down to a whole new level. You can’t help but be somewhat changed after reading this book.

Here’s what Michael Kimball has to say about BIG RAY:

Michael Kardos is one of those great, nice guys who doesn’t piss people off and doesn’t behave like some chest-inflating, flea-bitten ape. So it’s not surprising that he wrote a book about a great, nice guy who, in general, doesn’t piss people off or act like some loamy-smelling jungle animal. The great guy in Mike’s book, however, gets into a whole lot of trouble—more trouble than you and I, hopefully, will ever have. The Three-Day Affair earned starred reviews in Library Journal, Kirkus Reviews, and Publishers Weekly, which named it one of the best books of Fall 2012.

Here are six questions for Michael Kardos:

If you don’t know who Junot Díaz is, you should. His writing stands out as startlingly original in a world that often feels crammed with literary replication. He is the author of Drown; he won the Pulitzer Prize for The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao; and he is the author of the newly-released This is How You Lose Her, a story collection that centers around the charming and irresistible Yunior whose flaws only make us love him more.

Michael Downs is the award-winning author of House of Good Hope and the newly-released and highly-acclaimed The Greatest Show. His short stories have been widely published and have been listed in Best American Short Stories many times. Michael also writes a blog with his wife, the journalist Sheri Venema, who is 17 years older than he. The blog is called, aptly, HimPlus17. I asked Michael if instead of doing the usual writer-on-tour-book-interview we could do the Six Question Sex Interview. Thankfully, he and Sheri agreed!

The hilarious, award-winning comedy writer Larry Doyle has a new book out this month. Deliriously Happy is a compilation of short, funny pieces Larry wrote for The New Yorker, Esquire and other magazines. You might know Larry from when he wrote and produced The Simpsons. Or maybe you know him from his first novel, I Love You Beth Cooper. If you’re a true Larry Doyle fan then you know that he also wrote the wildly fun and inventive novel Go, Mutants! and was a writer on Beavis and Butthead. And then there are the Hollywood films he’s written! Because there’s so much to talk about with Larry, I thought I’d narrow it down by subject matter and number. Hence, here is the Larry Doyle Six Question Sex Interview:

 

There is sex in all your books but it’s never straight-forward sexy. It’s always, well, embarrassingly funny. Can you explain this?

I was unaware that sex was not embarrassing. Clearly I should have read up more on the subject before attempting it.

Most sex writing is embarrassing and funny, though not intentionally. My goal is to one day write an amazing sex scene, Olympic and profound, that is also funny on purpose. That will be my life’s work.