Photo+Credit-+Anna+BeekeKate Axelrod’s debut novel The Law of Loving Others is about a high school student dealing with her mother’s recent schizophrenic break. The title was taken from a quote in Anna Karenina that reads: The law of loving others could not be discovered by reason, because it is unreasonable. This story is NOT autobiographical. Kate’s mother Marian Thurm was my workshop teacher at the Yale Writers’ Conference 2014. Marian and I chatted for hours in and out of class. She told me that the first story she sent out got published by The New Yorker when she was only twenty-five years old. Marian’s daughter Kate isn’t much older than that. She’s right on track. She holds a BA in creative writing from Oberlin College, a master’s in social work from Columbia University, and splits her time and efforts to satisfy both passions. When she flew out west this summer, I whipped up a batch of raw vegan pecan truffle bars and asked Kate over to my place in Santa Monica to get raw and candid about mental illness. We discussed her day job as an advocate in the criminal justice system, what it’s like to hail from New York literati and how she came to the story.

Some authors might dateline their novels from London and Paris, but Susan Straight writes by hand while parked in her car, waiting to pick up her daughters or escaping her house crowded with friends and family.  Fitting, because she sets much of her work in the town of Rio Seco, a parallel world to her hometown of Riverside, located sixty miles east of downtown Los Angeles.  A land where, she writes, “the land and sun and smog and violence and people could be forbidding, but the same land and sun and people offered survival and love and tungsten-hard loyalty to each other.”

Her latest novel is the last in the Rio Seco trilogy she worked on for fifteen years.  A Million Nightingales (2006), tells the story of Moinette, a beautiful mixed-race slave and her journey to freedom.  Take One Candle to Light a Room (2010) follows Victor, a present-day descendant of Moinette.  The young man falls into trouble on the fifth anniversary of his mother Glorette’s death.  Between Heaven and Here returns to the night of her murder.  Each chapter, told by different character, reveals the mystery, pain, and beauty of Glorette and Rio Seco.