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Daughters of Daughters of Eve: An Interview with Megan Abbott

Laura Lippman: One thing that struck me about DARE ME is that it’s told by an insider, someone inside the group, not an outsider who’s infiltrating it (Mean Girls) or an outsider (pretty much every book I read as a teen). And it struck me that was a bit new for you, too, especially when compared to THE END OF EVERYTHING or even BURY ME DEEP. If history is written by the winners, isn’t fiction usually written by the outsiders? 

Meagan Abbott: Absolutely. And since most writers are introverts, at least in part, one of the hardest parts for me was writing from the point of view of someone whose position in the world of social power was so different from mine at that age. I’ve written male protagonists, female gangsters, women whose lives were circumscribed by conditions (the Great Depression, pre-feminism) I’ve never experienced, even women who have to commit gruesome acts to save themselves. But somehow it was harder, at first, to imagine myself as a member of the high school elite (and an athlete, but that’s another story).

Of course most writers are voyeurs too, and I certainly am, so the more I dug my feet into those trenches, I saw the same power machinations occurring within the elite group of girls as I’d experienced from the outside. Someone always seems to have what you want and there’s always a moment when you realize: ah, this is how I could get it? Would I do this to get it?

LL: I wrote to you about my fascination with names, once I glommed onto Tacy and we joked about the very small cohort of people on the planet who would recognize a Wire reference and a Betsy-Tacy reference. (Us.) As it happens — awful moment of self-reference coming up — I wrote To the Power of Three from the point of Tib, the third friend in the Betsy-Tacy books who can never catch up; Betsy and Tacy will always have been friends longer. But while this is a book from the inner circle, it’s also a book from the POV of a Tacy, a #2, right? 

MA: Oh, that’s so right about Tacy, though I can’t say it was conscious. And that makes so much sense about the Tib connection in TO THE POWER OF THREE (a book which spoke with such intensity to me, having occupied each of the triangle corners in different friendships in my life).

Interestingly, I have always had a complicated relationship to Tacy. As a girl, I identified with Betsy as the aspiring writer, though I think Tacy’s shyness and reserve was far more my own. In the later books, when they’re in high school, I remember feeling disappointed with how Tacy becomes even less ambitious, even more of a homebody, lacked Betsy’s Jo March-verve.

So it’s particularly compelling to consider how Tacy’s presence might be felt in DARE ME. Because doesn’t the Number 2 (to reintroduce THE WIRE) always harbor their own ambitions? Continue reading “Daughters of Daughters of Eve: An Interview with Megan Abbott”

Exploring the Big Island of Hawai‘i with Bree Kessler

1. When is the best time to visit the Big Island to avoid the crowds?

September, October, March, and May tend to be less crowded times. If you want to stay away from crowds, definitely steer clear of the standard school break times.

2. What’s a must-do activity for first-time visitors?

It’s easy to go from winter to summer in one day on the Big Island. For those looking to cool off, a trip to Mauna Kea to observe the nighttime sky is a must-do. For those craving the classic warm temperatures of Hawaii, check out the view at Waipio Valley and if you feel motivated, walk down the near vertical road to the beach at the bottom.

3. Name of a few of the best beaches, in your opinion.

There is a beach on the Big Island to fit every personality. Some beaches offer much more shade than sun, some are completely desolate, while others make you feel like you’re right in the action. Manini’owali Beach in Kona is a beach that is easy to access and allows for great people watching. The Mauna Kea beach in Kohala is a public beach that offers visitors the same waterfront as guests staying at the resort at the same time (without the price). Punalu’u Black Sand Beach in Ka’u isn’t the best beach for swimming, but you can’t find a better spot for a picnic and to see turtles nesting in the sand.

4. What are the best gluten-free and vegetarian food options on the island?

Check out Island Naturals Grocery Store chain (in four locations throughout the Island) for all kinds of gluten-free, vegan, and sometimes raw goodies. Kalani Oceanside Resort in Pahoa has a daily lunch and dinner buffet with tons of gluten-free and/or vegan options. Check out my Moon guide for more recommendations on where to find gluten-free pizza, crepes, and traditional mochi treats made from sweet rice flour.

5. Is the weather actually beautiful year-round? Do you have a favorite season?

The weather is wonderful all year, but a Big Island fun fact is that it has 11 of the world’s 13 climate zones. This means that you can go from the tropics to the desert to a snowy landscape all within a few hours—nearly all year round!

6. If a traveler is craving privacy and a secluded spot to relax, what’s your recommendation?

It’s surprisingly easy to find privacy and seclusion on the Big Island as long as you stay away from the bigger cities. The beaches dotting the very south coast of the island, like Manuka Bay near “South Point”, require four-wheel-drive to reach—but that’s how you know they are great places to seek solitude.

7. Where do you consider the best place to stay on a budget?

If you’re on a strict budget, the best place to stay is in a tent or cabin that you can reserve on the state park website. If you’re seeking a bed, there are some great hosteling choices in Hilo. If you’re looking for something more private, there are several bed and breakfast options on the Island that offer great deals and they include breakfast! For a large group of people, rent a condo in Puna or North Kohala for great views and lots of space for the whole family (or friends).

8. What’s the best drive to take to tour the island?

There is only one road that circumvents the island (note: the name of the road changes as you go around from Hwy-11 to Hwy-19). You can circle the island without stopping in just half a day or take a full day (or longer) and make some stops along the way.

9. Name a few of your favorite local dishes.

Spam musubi (from 7-11), mochi (from Two Ladies Kitchen), and poke (from KTA grocery store).

10. Where’s the best place for hiking and volcano sight-seeing?

The Big Island offers a range of hikes: those that are do-able for a novice hiker (or experienced sitter) as well as hikes that are extremely technically difficult. In Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, there are both types of hikes. Novices can walk around the Crater Rim or walk down into Mauna Iki (where lava once spewed forth). Experienced hikers should try the moonscape of Mauna Lau. The best place to view the lava glow at night is from the Jaggar Museum overlook.

11. Where can travelers visit to have a truly local experience?

Take the bus and ride with the locals! Or hang out on Coconut Island or Richardson’s Beach in Hilo during the weekend.

Related Travel Guide

Movie Review: Savages

Adapting Don Winslow’s 2010 novel Savages was never going to be easy. The book is both revelation and revolution whose joys come from its distinctive prose as its propulsive plot. Winslow’s novel feels like the culmination of years of experimentation in previous books like The Winter of Frankie Machine, The Death and Life of Bobby Z, and The Dawn Patrol, albiet infused with the anger and politics of The Power of the Dog. It has strong sexual content and ultraviolence aplenty — plus, it’s funny and sad and beautiful and a Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid for Generation Y.

Now it’s a movie, directed by Oliver Stone, working from a script co-written by Shane Salerno and Winslow himself. In many ways, it’s an excellent adaptation of the book, honors the spirit of Winslow’s work with a deft, affecting touch. It has almost as many flaws, including a controversial ending that is sure to outrage fans of the novel.

The film begins in Laguna Beach, California — present day. Botanist Ben (Aaron Johnson, Kick-Ass) and ex-Special Forces soldier Chon (Taylor “Tim Riggins” Kitsch) produce some of the best marijuana in the world. Ben is the brains, Chon, the enforcer — and both of them are in love with O (Blake Lively, xoxo Gossip Girl), who’s the kind of California girl Brian Wilson writes songs about. The three of them share an unusual but comfortable relationship, until the Baja Cartel, led by Elena comes calling.

When Ben and Chon spur the advances of the cartel’s generous offer to buy their business, Elena instructs the vicious, perverse Lado (Benicio Del Toro) to kidnap O. She hopes this will send Ben and Chon into her embrace. Chon has other plans, plans best summed up by Tommy Lee Jones in Rolling Thunder:

“We’re gonna kill a whole bunch of people.” Continue reading “Movie Review: Savages”

TNT Options Marcia Clark’s Rachel Knight Series

Marcia Clark‘s best-selling crime novels (GUILT BY ASSOCIATION and GUILT BY DEGREES) featuring L.A. Prosecutor Rachel Knight have been set up at TNT as a one hour series. Clark will Executive Produce with Dee Johnson and Nelson McCormick. Show-runner Johnson will also write the pilot and McCormick is attached to direct. The e-book edition of GUILT BY ASSOCIATION is currently available for $2.99 through the month of July wherever e-books are sold.

To learn more about Rachel Knight and her Los Angeles haunts, check out Rachel Knight’s LA the GUILT BY ASSOCIATION edition and the GUILT BY DEGREES edition.

Exploring California via Road Trip

Moon Travel Guides recently released an all-new guidebook, Moon California Road Trip. The book, which features routes, travel tips, and suggestions from a collection of Moon authors, is available in stores and at online retailers now. We asked Avalon Travel Acquisitions Director, Grace Fujimoto, to talk a little bit about the book, and to offer her suggestions for what she thinks makes a great California road trip.

1. Moon California Road Trip isn’t just about California (or about all of California, for that matter), nor is it a classic road trip like those in Moon’s Road Trip USA. What is this book, exactly?

This book covers the six essential destinations in and around California: the “golden triangle” cities of San Francisco, Las Vegas, and Los Angeles, and three natural wonders, Yosemite, Grand Canyon, and the Pacific Coast between LA and San Francisco. This book is unique in that the information focuses on these six places only, with specific driving directions and estimated driving times for getting from one to the other in almost any combination, and gives enough depth about each destination to have lots of choices for a one- to three-day stay.

2. There are already so many guidebooks for California. Why add another?

I volunteer at the visitor information center in San Francisco, and I was surprised at how many people would tell me they were planning to go to Yosemite, Las Vegas, Grand Canyon, Los Angeles, and then up the Pacific Coast back to San Francisco, all by car. When they asked for advice about how to do it, I would check to see if Tioga Road (Hwy. 120) in Yosemite was open; show them the Rand McNally California map, which they usually ended up buying since it showed the entire route except for Grand Canyon; and point them to the nearest bookstore so they could peruse the various California, Las Vegas, and Arizona guides for more information. But I knew that they probably wouldn’t find everything in one book–the all-California guides would have way more information about the state than they needed, but little to nothing about Las Vegas and Grand Canyon. That’s why I thought Moon California Road Trip would be a useful addition to the bookstore shelf.

3. Is this book mainly for international visitors?

International travelers definitely do this trip—I’ve helped a lot of Europeans plan out this route, and one of our interns even mentioned that her Norwegian friends came to do this exact trip. But I think that anyone coming to California who wants to see these essential highlights in one trip should have this book. And it’s also helpful for people combining any number of these six destinations for different trips, even if they live here.

4. Have you done this trip?

I haven’t, but now I really want to! I’ve been to all these places separately, and last year, during the production of the book, I traveled the California portions of the route: I did the San Francisco–Yosemite–Los Angeles leg over Labor Day and also the Los Angeles–San Francisco drive up the Pacific Coast Highway after Thanksgiving. My family lives in Orange County, so when I drove down to see them for the holiday weekends, these were great alternatives to my usual slog on I-5.

5. What are some highlights of the trip?

Oh, my. Well, Olmsted Point, which is along Highway 120 in Yosemite, is fantastic. It’s not just the view of Half Dome in the distance and the suspended-motion quality of the glacial rocks there—everything around you is so beautiful, including the crisp, clean mountain air. East of Yosemite, the oldest trees in the world (some upwards of 4,000 years old) are in the Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest off 395. If you’re ever feeling old, these gnarled trees will put things in perspective.

After all the driving, the spas in the Las Vegas casinos will be a welcome treat. The opulence can be over-the-top, but that’s part of the Vegas experience.

For the Grand Canyon, just seeing it is amazing — it’s not a World Heritage Site for nothing!

In Los Angeles, I love the LA County Museum of Art (LACMA), which is huge, and the new Renzo Piano designed buildings on the western side mean that it’s not just the art that’s interesting.

For many, the highlight of the entire California loop is the undeniably spectacular Big Sur coast between Cambria and Carmel, although since I’m a public transportation nut, the best part of my most recent drive was finding out that you can get to Big Sur by bus, which I will do someday!

Closer to home (meaning, my home), you can’t miss the Golden Gate Bridge (best seen from the overlook in the Marin Headlands, just off the north side of the bridge), but my favorite sight in San Francisco is Coit Tower, which has views of the bay and downtown, as well as WPA murals inside that depict life back in the 1930s.

6. Do you have any tips for people making this trip?

If you really want to go to Alcatraz in San Francisco, make reservations three to four weeks beforehand (two months for night tours in the summer), especially for weekends. You can pick up the tickets when you arrive, and if you change your mind, you can get a refund as long as you cancel a full three days in advance. For Yosemite, try to visit during the week to avoid the crowds—even though I was traveling for Labor Day, I went to Yosemite on a Wednesday and had a lot of breathing room. Also, cell phone coverage will be spotty on all the driving legs of this trip. And this last one is totally obvious and I should have known better, but be sure to fill up on gas before you hit the Big Sur coast—I paid more than $5 a gallon when I decided, near Gorda, that I couldn’t take the stress of the needle hovering around E anymore.

Related Travel Guide

Enjoying the Outdoors in the Black Hills of South Dakota

The Black Hills of South Dakota are most famous for the outdoor activity of sculpting mountains into memorials. Mount Rushmore and Crazy Horse, two gargantuan feats of rock removal, are a big part of what encourages visitors from all over the country to add South Dakota to their travel agendas. What most folks don’t know until they get here is that the Black Hills are simply gorgeous. Rolling hills, big skies, craggy peaks and granite spires are surrounded by an ocean of plains. Much of the landscape remains undeveloped in the form of national grasslands, national forests, state and national parks. It doesn’t matter whether your aim is to relax and smell the flowers or to hike the highest peaks; the hills accommodate.

Sylvan Lake is tucked into the northwest corner of Custer State Park. Surrounded by ponderosa pines and granite boulders, it is a jewel of a lake. Kayaks, canoes and paddle boats can be rented from the small store. A trail circumnavigates the lake for a relaxing one mile walk. The more ambitious hikers tackle Harney Peak which at 7,242 feet is the highest point in the hills. The Sylvan Lake trailhead to Harney Peak is located across the footbridge near the swimming area. The hike is approximately 7 miles round-trip and is moderately strenuous. At the summit enjoy the panoramic views of the plains to the east and the hills to the west. When you return to the lake, cool off with a swim at the beach.

Sylvan Lake in Custer State Park, South Dakota.
Sylvan Lake in Custer State Park, South Dakota. Photo © Jesse Kraft/123rf.

The limestone and shale walls of Spearfish Canyon rise 1,000 feet above the canyon floor. In this scenic byway, the views are from the bottom of the canyon where the road follows the creek and the eyes are drawn upward. From the mouth of the canyon near Spearfish, along U.S Highway 14A, to Cheyenne Crossing near Lead, the byway climbs 2,000 feet in 22 miles. Home to wild rainbow, brown and brook trout, Spearfish Creek is a great small stream fly-fishing destination.

The roadway was designed with four foot shoulders on each side so that bicyclists can enjoy the canyon in safety. Stop in Savoy where Spearfish Canyon Lodge is located for hiking. Trailheads to Roughlock Falls and the 76 Trail are located near the Lodge. The trailhead to Spearfish Falls (a personal favorite) is across the roadway near the Latchstring Restaurant. The hikes to the falls are short and easy. For scenic vistas, the 76 Trail is a short but strenuous hike, rising 700’ to the canyon rim in just .8 miles. It is one of the few places you can see the world from the top of the canyon.

From Savoy it is a short drive to Cheyenne Crossing the endpoint of the scenic byway. Historically a stop along the Cheyenne/Deadwood stagecoach line, today it is a delightful place to stop for a great meal, a glass of wine and dessert.

This is just the tip of the iceberg for outdoor activities in the Black Hills. Every region from the Southern to the Northern Hills has its own special beauty and hidden places to explore. Bring a good pair of boots and sunscreen. Leave the dynamite and mountain carving to the experts.

Related Travel Guide

Popping Fresh Popcorn Every Monday

GlacesThree years ago this week, I started a website called Popcorn Fiction. The idea arose from a conversation with my buddy Craig Mazin, in which we were both lamenting that Hollywood never looks at contemporary short fiction anymore for inspiration. A slew of movies had popped up in the aught years based on sci-fi short fiction from the 40s and 50s it seemed, but if contemporary genre stories were being published, Hollywood wasn’t paying attention.
I turned to my brother, Austin, who is a programming whiz, and even though it was beneath him, I asked him to design a website where I could launch a new story each week. He enlisted his wife, Yoko, and they came up with both the code and the look. With that in place, I just needed material.
I hit up all the screenwriters I knew and asked if they were interested. Most were. They had prose itches they wanted to scratch, and the idea of penning something original – instead of working on the latest adaptation – intrigued them. They wouldn’t have to worry about budgets or set-pieces or notes or focus groups; they could just run wild on the page. I asked them to keep it under 8,000 words, and everyone but Les Bohem listened. I paid twenty bucks to make it official, because writers deserve to get paid for their work. ($25 now, because that’s how much you need to be eligible for contests.) I said to write anything you want as long as it wasn’t the type of story that would appear in the New Yorker. Comedy, horror, sci-fi, western, crime… make it count. Just write me the kind of story that would make a good popcorn movie.

Continue reading “Popping Fresh Popcorn Every Monday”

Brian Michael Bendis Interviews Greg Rucka

iraqOur post-Comic Con celebration of come of our enormously talented, cross-media authors continues with an interview between Brian Michael Bendis, writer of Ultimate Spider-Man, Ultimate X-Men, Ultimate Fantastic Four and The Avengers, and Greg Rucka, whose first new thriller series in a decade kicked off with ALPHA, now in bookstores everywhere.

Brian Michael Bendis: So we’re being honest with our reading audience. Last week you were cool enough to come to my class—I teach a class at Portland State—and you came there and dropped some truth bombs on them, and rattled them to the core. It was a lot of fun. But I had questions left over that we never got to because it was more of a free floating conversation, so there was questions I was going to ask, and I didn’t. And the primary question I had that I think is more pertinent to this conversation than the one we were going to have in front of the students, was if you’ve given thought to your goals as a novelist at this point. Like, there’s the goals that you had when you started, which was to get published—and now you’re starting a new kind of phase in your career, in that age we’re in, we get more introspective. OK, we’ve been published—now what? OK, I get to do this—now what am I going to do with it? So I was curious if you had given thought to that, or if you were bring more take it as it comes.

Greg Rucka: You know, it’s weird, because coming into Mulholland, and Alpha is the first new series that I’ve done in over decade in novels, in prose.  Stumptown was sort of the next step, but Alpha is the first in what is initially conceived of as the first of three novels, and may grow beyond that. I did give it some thought. There were two factors at work. The first is the obvious commercial one—you want to write something that’s going to be successful and you want to justify the publisher’s faith in you. You want to return them the money they’re willing to extend to you to write this thing, and most of the other novels are selling pretty well, but none of them have really broken out, and I’m not sure that’s a top agenda point.

But I would like to be able to write something that rewards the publisher’s faith. That actually does matter to me. I don’t hear a lot of writers talk about it. But self publishing is so viable that if you do go with a publisher you do want to make it worth everybody’s time. Content-wise, you touched on it, you know—I’m older. Like you, I’ve got kids. I have a different perspective than I did when I was 24, when my first novel was published. Continue reading “Brian Michael Bendis Interviews Greg Rucka”

A Conversation with Duane Swierczynski and Ed Brubaker: Part I

Suffering from post-Comic Con withdrawal? Get your fix with the below conversation between award-winning writer Ed Brubaker, author of CRIMINAL, SLEEPER and INCOGNITO, among many others, and Duane Swierczynski, originally appearing to celebrate the publication of FUN & GAMES. Hardie endures!

Ed Brubaker: So, Duane – FUN & GAMES, am I right in saying this is your first non-Philadelphia book? (Not counting any co-writing) Did you leave your hometown behind in life and fiction?

Duane Swierczynski: You’re right — this is my first book set in a place other than Philly. I still live in Philadelphia (for the time being), and my fictional heart still lives here, too. But I do cop to a little bit literary wanderlust. The idea for FUN & GAMES, grew out of repeated visits to the Hollywood Hills over the years, and even though I tried (at one point) to set it closer to home, it refused to work anywhere but L.A.
Ed, how important is “place” in your work? You’ve created this brilliant fictional location in CRIMINAL‘s “Center City,” but was that on purpose? Why not, say, Chicago, or Seattle, or NYC?

EB: I think with CRIMINAL, it was to make it like the city in Walter Hill’s The Driver, or to use Chandler’s Bay City and Macdonald’s Santa Teresa as location names. Also, I was a Navy brat, so I don’t have that hometown thing a lot of writers have. I lived in DC (or right across the bridge in Arlington) in the summer of 1979, so I get Pelecanos’ views of it from the little I experienced at age 12, but I think one of the reasons I’m drawn to a lot of crime writers I love is the way their books inhabit a city, in a way I never could, as the always traveling outsider.

Continue reading “A Conversation with Duane Swierczynski and Ed Brubaker: Part I”

Baldacci is back with a bang

“To put it alliteratively, Baldacci is back with a bang,” writes David Shantanu in The Indian Express. “In The Innocent (Pan Macmillan, Rs. 350), David Baldacci shows why exactly he’s one of the world’s best-selling thriller writers.” Read the full review here.

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