INTERVIEWS, LAGNIAPPE - A LITTLE SOMETHING EXTRA

AUTHOR INTERVIEW WITH KEVIN ANSBRO

recently I had the pleasure of conducting an author interview with Kevin Ansbro. Kevin is the author of four books. One of them is a collection of short stories that truly delighted me. He is a master wordsmith and writes mostly in the magical realism genre. I have fallen in love with his books and have read all of them. What follows are the questions asked and Kevin’s wonderfully honest answers:

1. In your opinion, does a big ego help or hurt writers?
Hi, Glenda.
A mind filled with self-delusion is as much use to a writer as a chocolate teapot! I’m a firm believer that a writer learns more from constructive criticism than they do from artificial flattery.

2. Have you ever considered writing a book in another genre from your preferred one, maybe under a pseudonym?
If I did, my pseudonym would be a toss-up between Rooster Hipthrust and Lancelot Mustang!
I write in the magical realism genre and endeavour to weave something outlandish into the fabric of our real world while still making it seem believable. To write something that would appeal to the masses would be a whole lot easier, but where is the art in that? It’s like telling a gourmet restaurateur that he could make more money by taking on a McDonald’s franchise!  : )
I did, however, really enjoy dabbling in different genres in The Minotaur’s Son: & other wild tales.

 3. In your opinion, do you think a writer can be effective if they don’t feel emotions strongly?
In order to drag an unsuspecting reader through the gamut of emotions, the writer should themselves be able to draw upon their own life experiences. I love to elicit strong emotions in my readers, whether they hoot with laughter, sob uncontrollably, or want to throttle me because I’ve killed off their favourite character! My muse is altogether a restless genie, a conniving devil, a wanton mistress and a fairy godmother.

4. Did the publishing of your first book change your process of writing?
Absolutely! My first manuscript for Kinnara was made considerably leaner by the publishing editor, much to my chagrin (although I was guilty of hyperbole). I straightaway saw the sense of her advice and henceforth adopted a ‘less is more’ approach.

 5. Have you read a book that you considered to be under-appreciated by the masses?
I feel that Yann Martell’s Life of Pi often goes unappreciated. I read it in 2002, immediately after it had won the Man Booker Prize. I was wholly intrigued by the improbable premise of a boy sharing a lifeboat with a Bengal tiger in the middle of an ocean, and was thereafter taken on an absorbing adventure. A clever book and a great read! 

6. Have you read a book that you considered to be overrated by the masses?
Too many to mention; especially nowadays, where the big publishers put their financial muscle into promoting humdrum books that create a whirlwind of undeserved hype. Sadly, the best authors are dead. My advice to everyone is to occasionally read novels that have stood the test of time if they truly crave excellence!  : )

7. What does literary success look like to you?
Success, for me, is the knowledge that I’ve taken my readers on a magic carpet ride around the world and beyond. Astonishingly, some even come back for more!

 8. How do you go about selecting the names of your characters?
I choose my characters’ names very carefully: their monikers should not only suit their nationality, but should also befit their personality. Charles Dickens was a master at this: how could Bill Sikes be anything but a brute? How could Scrooge be anything but an old miser?

 9. What was your hardest scene to write?
Without a doubt it was this: I included a rape scene in one of my books (The Fish that Climbed a Tree). It served to reinforce the inhumanity of one of the bad guys (Yuri Voloshyn), but wasn’t done gratuitously and the reader is spared any unnecessary detail. I ran it by my wife, as it weighed heavy on my mind, but she said it was instrumental in accentuating the clear and present danger that this thug posed.

10. What was your favorite book as a child?
It depends at which age:
The first books to enthral me were Aesop’s Fables. I couldn’t get enough of them as a little kid and their allegorical quintessence has remained a part of my authorial psyche ever since. Aged ten, I read a book titled Elidor, by Alan Garner (kids stumbling into a dark parallel universe). Not long after, I fell in love with Gerald Durrell’s Corfu trilogy. His descriptive writing instantly beguiled me and I’m still a huge fan.


11.  If you could ‘live’ inside a fictional story, which would it be and why?
A wonderful question, Glenda! I was asked something similar by Goodreads a while back, so I’ll replicate my answer here:
Blinged-up with the most spectacular wings in the cosmos, I would swoop into the pages of Les Misérables at the point before Jean Valjean is forced to steal a loaf of bread to feed his sister and her starving children.
I would ask that he ignore my freakish appearance and accept my no-strings offer of a great deal of money.
Then, safe in the knowledge that I have saved a good man from a great deal of hardship, I would return to the 21st century for a nice cup of tea and a slice of cake.  : )

Thank you for inviting me to take part in this author interview, Glenda. I loved your questions (not a clichéd one among them) and had a blast answering them!  
Warmest regards and happy reading!
Kevin.

I want to thank Kevin for allowing me to conduct this interview and I hope everyone enjoys it as much as I did. Kevin is a wonderful person, with a great sense of humor that comes across in his books. He lives in Norwich with his lovely wife, Julie. They love to travel and have been many places. Kevin is also a foodie and loves fine dining.

LAGNIAPPE - A LITTLE SOMETHING EXTRA

MORE THINGS TO PONDER CONTINUED

It is Sunday afternoon here in Arizona. The weather is beautiful and I really should be out doing things. But, I prefer to stay in, read and ponder things. I turn to my computer to give me ideas that I would probably never think of, but they do deserve some thought.

Sometimes asking ourselves the right questions can do a lot to help us see life from a whole different perspective.

There are some questions that can be life-changing, if we raise them, contemplate on them, and try to answer them. This, however, can be achieved only if we ask those questions with full honesty.

Here are a few such questions to ponder:

I have answered some but must, well, you know, ponder most!!

  • If you were going to die tomorrow, what would you do today?
  • If you had the opportunity to be different, what would you change about yourself?
    • I would be less judgmental and more open to others opinions, even if I didn’t agree with them
  • If you could change one thing in the world, what would it be?
  • If you could choose to live anywhere in the world, where would you prefer to live?
    • England at the moment, but that is subject to change as I read more books about far away places
  • If you could commit any crime and get away with it, what would you do?
  • What would you do if you found the wallet of your next door neighbor who you hated?
    • I would return it to him. Crime never pays.
  • If you could have any car you wanted, which car would you choose? Would it be practical or flashy?
    • I would purchase a Jeep Rubicon Wrangler in either bright red or chartreuse. I have a Jeep Renegade now and have had Jeeps before. Good reliable automobiles.
    • If you could be famous (a household name), what would you like to be famous for?
      • Writing a book.
  • If you had one wish, what would you wish for?
    • Enough money to travel extensively.
  • If you could do any job, what would you like it to be?
    • Own or manage a book store
  • If you were asked to speak to a graduating class, what would you say?
  • If you were given a choice between being given great wisdom or great wealth, which would you choose?
    • Great wealth. Sorry, I’m shallow I suppose.
  • If you were given the opportunity to be born again, how would you change how you lived?
  • If you were walking through the forest and you suddenly saw a tiger, what would you do?
    • Stand very still and hope he didn’t eat me.
  • If you were told you had a terminal illness and had six months to live. What three things would be most important for you to do?
    • Spend time with my loved ones.
      I
  • f you could say a sentence which the whole world could hear, what would you say?
  • If you were given a choice to live as long as you want, how long would you like to live?
  • If you could only see three people for the rest of your life, who would they be?
    • This is the easiest. My two wonderful sons and my soul mate.


Here are five of just some things that I don’t think about often, but when I do, I am puzzled. The English language is a very hard language to master by someone trying to master it as a second language. I believe it. I’m going to list a few things that make me think. Some I have seen before over the years and others are new to me. I found them interesting.

WHY IS AN ALARM CLOCK GOING “OFF” WHEN IT ACTUALLY TURNS ON?

     Before your head hits the pillow at night, you have to set your alarm to go off at a certain time. But aren’t you really telling it to turn on at a certain time, so that it wakes you up? This is one of the unanswerable questions about life that might not matter much, but makes you think.

IF A PERSON TOLD YOU THEY WERE A PATHOLOGICAL LIAR, WOULD YOU BELIEVE THEM?

  Pathological liars never really tell the truth, so it’s hard to believe a word that comes out of their mouths. So if they claim they’re a pathological liar, are they being honest for once?

IS THERE ANOTHER WORD FOR SYNONYM

Synonyms are words that have the same meaning as another word. It would be ironic if ‘synonym’ did not have a synonym, but no words come to mind.

WHAT IF THERE WERE NO HYPOTHETICAL SITUATIONS?

This question is a hypothetical one, which is what makes it so ironic. You can’t imagine a world without hypothetical situations unless you’re thinking about a hypothetical situation.

That’s all of today. I’m sure I’ll find some other things to sit and waste time thinking about when I’m not reading.
Until next time……….farewell!!!!

BOOK REVIEWS

SUMMER HOUSE WITH SWIMMING POOL BY HERMAN KOCH

I’ve finally gotten a chance to sit down and look over my notes to write a review on this wonderful book. Herman Koch is one of my favorite authors. I will read more by him. Was it better than The Dinner? In some ways, yes and in others no. Both are terrific.

Marc Schlosser, is a Dutch doctor, a General Practitioner who has some high-profile patients. He is a mediocre doctor who simply gives lip service to his patients. The sight of naked bodies repulses him. Marc’s wife is Caroline. He has two daughters, Lisa and Julia.

One of these high-profile patients is Ralph Meier, a well-known stage actor who has been recently tapped for a television series to be shot in California. He has a wife, Judith and two sons. Ralph is overweight and a braggart. Obnoxious to the nth degree.

Marc and Caroline become socially connected to Ralph and Judith. Ralph extends an invitation for them to stay in a summer house that he has rented. He makes sure to let them know it does have a swimming pool. Caroline does not want to go, however Marc without conferring with her, heads out to a place very close to the house Ralph is renting. Caroline is not happy.

Since they did not take Ralph up on his invitation to stay at the summer house, he invited another couple instead, film director Stanley Forbes and his much younger girlfriend, Emmanuelle. Marc, Caroline and the girls end up pitching a tent in Ralph’s yard and staying there.

At this point, things start happening. Not all of them good. The characters, all unlikable to me, play a part in the drama that unfolds.

From this point on, I will not reveal a lot. Let it suffice to say that much transpires over the summer and this book kept me turning pages, laughing during parts of it and horrified during other parts.

The ending was very sad in my eyes. I believe that the attitude expressed in the book is one that is commonplace in America today.

In a nutshell, as in The Dinner, I really disliked all the characters in this book. I did, however, give it five ***** as it well deserves it.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Herman Koch is a Dutch writer and actor. He has written short stories, novels, and columns. His best-selling novel The Dinner has been translated into 21 languages. He has acted for radio, television, and film. He co-created the long-running TV series Jiskefet.

EXTRAS

Want to hear a fascinating interview with Mr. Koch about this best-selling book? You can catch it on YouTube?

This is another interesting webpage I found talking about Herman Koch. He is one of my favorite authors, which is pretty strange, in that I really hate all of his characters. Brilliant in my opinion.

BOOK REVIEWS

THE GOLDFINCH BY DONNA TARTT

Purchase

I read this book during the first part of 2018 and, apparently never wrote a review on it. I loved it. It was long. Over 700 pages. But I can honestly say that I never lost interest or even thought about putting it down. I loved the well-developed characters. Donna Tartt’s prose was beautiful and brutal. The main characters, Theo and especially Boris were both special in their own way. Boris, what a character he was. There are many more characters that were developed for this story perfectly.

The book won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 2014 among many other rewards. All well deserved in my humble opinion. While I devoured its 700+ pages I went to Amsterdam (the Netherlands), Las Vegas, Nevada (aka the gambling capital of the US), and New York, New York (nothing to say here. Some love it, some hate it). Theo seemed to love it.

The story begins with Theo and his mother visiting the Museum of Modern Art in New York, NY. Theo’s father is not around. During their visit, there is a terrorist attack, a bomb that kills his mother. Theo grabs the famous painting, The Goldfinch and absconds with it. From that point forward Theo experiences heartbreak, happiness and every emotion in between. There is much joy in this book as well.

The character that I was most fascinated with is Theo’s lifelong friend, Boris. Theo meets Boris, an immigrant from Russia. Theo is a daring boy and adds excitement, albeit not always appropriate behavior, to the story. There is so much more to this book but I won’t go any further. Please read it for yourself. It is fantastic.

I Highly recommend this book. Especially Charles Dickens readers.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Donna Tartt from what I have read, is a very private person. She is not on social media or any of the usual avenues that authors use to promote their books. I did, however, find an interview with her that I found to be quite interesting. During the interview she talks about The Goldfinch. Everyone who is a fan, and those that are not, should check it out.

Donna Tartt Interview

BOOK REVIEWS

A GENTLEMAN IN MOSCOW BY AMOR TOWLES

I have taken some time between when I finished this spectacular book and writing this review.
Sometimes when I read a unique book such as this one was, I have a really hard time reviewing it. I feel I don’t have the words to describe what a fantastic book 

A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles

 it really is but I shall give it a try here.

It is 1922 and the Bolsheviks have taken over power in Russia and have abolished all ruling classes. Count Alexander Ilyich Rostov has been stripped of his title and placed under house arrest at his place of residence, The Metropol Hotel. He is doomed to spend the rest of his days, not in his luxurious Suite 37, but in a cramped attic room. If he should step outside the hotel at any time, he will be shot dead. The Count is a true gentleman who approaches this sentence with a good attitude. He commences making friends with the staff of the hotel and the guests.

He makes the best of the fact that all of his possessions, as well as his title, have been taken from him. First, he meets a precocious nine-year-old girl, Nina, and forms a lasting friendship with her. He accompanies her on her journeys throughout the hotel and, since she has acquired a passkey to all the rooms, nearly every nook and cranny is explored.

The author created a fascinating cast of characters, one of which is Nina’s daughter, Sofia, who ultimately ends up in his care and rears as he would his own daughter. There are many others that the reader will get to know throughout this wonderful book. And I defy anyone not to feel as if they are a part of the admiration society for the Count. As a matter of fact, I fell a little in love with him.

There are humorous shenanigans in this book that left me laughing out loud. And at other times, I almost cried.

You can view an interview with Amor Towles on YouTube at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tdEOS…

Amor Towles has created an outstanding novel here. I have purchased Rules of Civility. If it is a fraction as well written as ‘A Gentleman in Moscow’, it will be exceptional.

About the Author

Born and raised in the Boston area, Amor Towles graduated from Yale College and received an MA in English from Stanford University. Having worked as an investment professional in Manhattan for over twenty years, he now devotes himself fulltime to writing. His first novel, Rules of Civility, published in 2011, was a New York Times bestseller in both hardcover and paperback and was ranked by the Wall Street Journal as one of the best books of 2011. The book was optioned by Lionsgate to be made into a feature film and its French translation received the 2012 Prix Fitzgerald. His second novel, A Gentleman in Moscow, published in 2016, was also a New York Times bestseller and was ranked as one of the best books of 2016 by the Chicago Tribune, the Miami Herald, the Philadelphia Inquirer, the St. Louis Dispatch, and NPR. Both novels have been translated into over fifteen languages.

Mr. Towles, who lives in Manhattan with his wife and two children, is an ardent fan of early 20th century painting, 1950’s jazz, 1970’s cop shows, rock & roll on vinyl, obsolete accessories, manifestoes, breakfast pastries, pasta, liquor, snow-days, Tuscany, Provence, Disneyland, Hollywood, the cast of Casablanca, 007, Captain Kirk, Bob Dylan (early, mid, and late phases), the wee hours, card games, cafés, and the cookies made by both of his grandmothers.

ABOUT ME

ARE YOU A BIGGER JERK THAN YOU THINK YOU ARE?

Are you known as a jerk to your acquaintances? Our friends, of course, would never say that. Regardless whether they believe it to be true or not. Here’s my issue and what has been gnawing on me all this week. I work full-time at an RV Park during the winter outside of Phoenix, Arizona. This is my third year to work here. I’ve had absolutely no problem with anyone up to this season. I, of course, being fairly strong-willed (just a little, LOL) have taken exception to two particularly irritating individuals’ intrusions into how I and my husband manage the park. No one else seems to have a problem with us. I know that I am a grown woman and, therefore, need to “put my big girl panties on” and deal with it. However, it has gotten me more upset than I want to be.

While pondering this problem, strictly by chance, I came across an article that seemed to speak volumes about my problem. After reading this article no less than three times, I came to the conclusion that, Oh Dear!!! Perhaps I’d better re-examine my behavior as well and figure out how much of this I am causing or exacerbating by being, well, who I am. The article is very interesting. I am putting the link below because I think that most of us need to take a step back, particularly as we get older, and take a look at our behavior and our opinion of others. But, more importantly, take a look at how much we think of ourselves. Try to figure out if we are actually more of a jerk than we think we are.

You may find this article of some value or interest.

BOOK REVIEWS

NOTHING TO SEE HERE BY KEVIN WILSON

Today, I am reviewing “Nothing To See Here” by Kevin Wilson.

A quote from the book that describes Lillian’s thoughts as she enters the elite preparatory school for the first time:
As I walked to my dorm, I realized that the other girls didn’t even look at me, and I could tell that it wasn’t out of meanness. I don’t think they even saw me; their eyes had been trained since birth to recognize the importance. I wasn’t that.”

My Thoughts:

I liked this book so much more than I expected to. I tried to read “Ready, Player One” but it just wasn’t for me. So, Netgalley has sent me “Nothing To See Here” by Kevin Wilson. I decided to read that one in its place, and I’m so glad I did. This book made me feel good, sad, angry, and frustrated.

The Main Characters:
We have Madison – Privileged child growing up and wealthy woman by any standards through her marriage to Senator Jasper Roberts.

Then we have Madison’s husband Jasper. He would prefer, of course, to be addressed as, Senator Roberts??? Jasper is in the midst of being vetted for a high political office. He is married to Madison and they have one son, Timothy.

Then we come to the protagonist, Lillian. Lillian is an impoverished child who grew up without wealth or affection. As she reaches adulthood, things haven’t changed much. She is working as a cashier at two different grocery stores and living in her mom’s attic.

I would be remiss in failing to mention Carl. He’s a jack of all trades for the Senator. He runs errands and basically does whatever he is called on to do. This includes babysitting at times.

Then we have the twins, Bessie and Roland. Ten years old and children of Jasper and the late Jane who committed suicide. Oh yes, one important thing about Bessie and Roland is that when angered or upset, they spontaneously combust. They are unharmed but the fire is read. Yes, you read that right.

Lillian and Madison, best friends in high school until Lillian leaves abruptly after a scandal ensues. They have not communicated much past an email or text message now and again in the past 15 years.
Lillian receives a letter from Madison asking for help in a very delicate situation in the form of a job. She sends money for a bus ticket to her home. Lillian boards a bus and arrives at the Senator’s mansion. The “job” is acting as governess to Jasper’s twins who are now his responsibility since their mother’s death. Lillian accepts, after all how hard could it be? Lillian and the twins are housed in an elaborate “guest cottage” on the huge estate.

After they are settled into the guest house, several incidents take place that are, at the least, disturbing. I loved the way Lillian interacted with the twins and the steps she took to make their life as normal as possible including homeschooling them. The children loved her. But alas, another incident occurs and the result of that is Lillian fleeing with the children to her mother’s attic.

This story is wonderful. I wish there was a sequel to this book to find out what everyone is doing today. If there ever is one, I will be first in line to buy it. Highly recommended as an easy read and positive subject matter.

SOMETHING EXTRA
I happened upon a video talking about Nothing To See Here on YouTube. Check it out, it’s awesome.

About the Author

Kevin Wilson, Author

Kevin Wilson was born, raised, and still lives in Tennessee. His writing has appeared in Ploughshares, One Story, Greensboro Review, The Oxford American, Carolina Quarterly and elsewhere. His work has twice been included in the New Stories from the South: The Year’s Best anthology (2005, 2006). He has received fellowships from the MacDowell Colony, Yaddo, and the KHN Center for the Arts. A graduate of the MFA program at the University of Florida, he currently teaches fiction at the University of the South and helps run the Sewanee Writers’ Conference.