Author Interviews

Filipa Rodrigues for KUT News

Imagine – you have it all – a life of luxury, famous friends, a beautiful lover. You are a good, supportive friend – happy and content. And it’s all a lie.

The truth keeps you up at night, tortures you during the day. But you can’t change who you are.

Filipa Rodrigues for KUT News

It’s been eight years since Amy Tan’s last book. But critics are already saying “The Valley of Amazement” was worth waiting for. 

It’s a complicated story of mothers and daughters, secrets and lies, the past and the present, China and America. And – perhaps above all – it’s about women’s fierce wills to survive.

KUT's Emily Donahue spoke with Amy Tan about her new book. She was five years into writing a different novel, Tan says, when she took a new look at an old family photo.

“I had a photo of my grandmother sitting on my desk and it was my favorite photo of her,” Tan says. “She looks quite beautiful and dreamy eyed, and it is in fact the photo that is on the hard cover edition of ‘The Bonesetter's Daughter.’” 

Akashic Books

While Pulitzer Prize winner Larry McMurty described Dallas in Texas Monthly as “a second-rate city that wishes it were first-rate,” literary agent and editor David Hale Smith prefers a different description. This one’s found in the lines of Jimmie Dale Gilmore’s song “Dallas:"

Dallas is a rich man with a death wish in his eyes

A steel and concrete soul in a warm-hearted love disguise.

“It’s one of the great lyrics of all time. The song is a poem, but it really nails Dallas, and of course nails the essence of this book we put together,” Smith says. He sat down with KUT's David Brown to discuss that new book, “Dallas Noir." 

Emily Donahue, KUT News

Imagine a book about the future – a future where children are groomed to feed wild vampire-like beasts. A book with good guys who are bad guys, bad guys who retain a touch of humanity, and a few characters primed to save the world.

The Lair” is the second in a series of young adult books from Round Rock author Emily McKay. The first was “The Farm.”  Both are set in a post-apocalyptic future, in which adults have failed young people, and young people have adulthood thrust upon them.

McKay's vampires are neither glamorous nor elegant, but they are smarter, stronger and faster than humans. And in both “The Farm” and “The Lair,” human children are farmed to feed human/vampire Ticks.

Larry Tye

It's a bird … it's a plane … it's … you guessed it: Superman.

The high-flying Son of Krypton has been been a cultural force for 75 years and, while he's graced the panels of comic books and the silver screen, his humble beginnings and evolution over the years have reflected changing political and cultural tides, says Superman biographer Larry Tye.

Filipa Rodrigues for KUT News

Update: Donna DeCesare is one of four gold medal winners of the 2013 Maria Moors Cabot prize, awarded by the Columbia Journalism School for outstanding reporting on Latin America and the Caribbean. “The Cabot Prize honors journalists who have covered the Western Hemisphere and, through their reporting and editorial work, have furthered inter-American understanding,” reads a statement on the journalism school’s website.

You can see more of DeCesare’s work on her website.

Texas Book Festival

The Texas Book Festival has revealed its 2013 lineup. Headliners include three writers who currently sit on the New York Times best seller list: Reza Aslan (Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth), Mark Leibovich (This Town), and Scott Anderson (Lawrence in Arabia: War, Deceit, Imperial Folly and the Making of the Modern Middle East).

Other big names include:

  • Senator Kay Bailey Hutchinson – Unflinching Courage: Pioneering Women Who Shaped Texas
  • Lawrence Wright – Going Clear: Scientology, Hollywood, and the Prison of Belief
  • R.L. Stine – A Midsummer Night's Scream
Filipa Rodriques/KUT News

Hard to imagine a city other than Austin as the capital of Texas, right? According to Austin author and historian (and doctor) Jeff Kerr, Austin's status as the capital city –  and just a city at all – was in peril several times after Texas declared its independence in 1836.

A killing on a Texas gun range in February captured the headlines. The victim was Chris Kyle, considered by many to be the most deadly sniper in American military history.

The man who admitted to killing him was a veteran as well — a young, disturbed man who had been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder.

Gittings Photography

You think moving a piano is a pain now: Try doing it over rough terrain ... with no moving van.

Some of the women who came with their families to Texas in the early days of the 1800's insisted on bringing their pianos with them. While many of these women came from more genteel Southern backgrounds, the rough and rugged environment in Texas did nothing to dampen their spirits or enthusiasm.

Raymundo Ruiz

Ricardo Ainslie says the Mexican border city of Juarez used to be kind of like the state of Texas - with a strong, independent spirit.

But he says the violence of the drug cartels and the government's war hit just about everyone who lives there, and left the city vulnerable and paranoid. Eleven thousand people were killed in Juarez between January of 2008 and December of 2012.

Photo by Filipa Rodrigues/KUT News.

Mirabelle Garret works in economic development in the Rio Grande Valley. In 1983, she takes a business trip to Austin and is the victim of a brutal attack in her hotel room. How brutal? Mirabelle is stabbed twelve times; a plastic garbage bag is stuffed down her throat; and she is hit in the face and temporarily blinded. Mirabelle thought she was going to die. But she lived. And worked hard to heal.

Louisa Hall left the leafy suburbs of Philadelphia for Texas. And it was this move that prompted her to set her first novel back in those environs - both the good and bad of them.

Random House

Galveston Island is famous for many things: miles of beaches, its many festivals and Victorian architecture – and its sea wall – that was built after the hurricane of 1900. That was the deadliest hurricane in US history – and it rewrote the history of Galveston.

Texas author Elizabeth Black has set that famous hurricane at the center of a mystery in her first novel, “The Drowning House." Just as Galveston’s modern history is built on the foundation of the great hurricane, so is the narrative, set moodily in the city’s historic district. 

Austin is home to a lot of weird stuff: bat tributes, floating marching bands, Hippie Hollow. In his new book, Dreams and Shadows, Austin author C. Robert Cargill delves deep into the dark heart of the city’s inner weirdness, using a little myth and legend as punctuation for a truly unique story. He spoke with KUT’s Emily Donahue about his work and his inspiration.

Little Brown and Company

The Yellow Birds is a critically acclaimed novel from a young author, Kevin Powers. Listen to him read from his book's opening passage above.

An Iraq war veteran, upon returning to the states, Powers earned a graduate degree from UT’s Michener Center for Writers. A spare but poetic story, The Yellow Birds follows 21-year old Private Bartle as his vow to protect an even younger private amid fierce conditions in 2004 Iraq is tested. But the novel isn’t simply a war story; skipping forward and backward in time, Powers captures the confusion and pain of war on a more intimate, emotional level.

Vania Stoyanova

Deborah Harkness isn’t as well known as J.K. Rowling or Stephenie Meyer. But with the publication of “Shadow of Night,” the second tome in her supernatural “All Souls” trilogy, that may be about to change.

“Shadow of Night” picks up right where her last book, “A Discovery of Witches,” left off, with heroine Diana Bishop and her vampire lover, Matthew Roydon, pulling off a daring escape. But she soon learns her escape – which sends her through time to 16th century England – poses additional threats.

Set in a supernatural world where demons, vampires and witches intermingle and overlap with the  historical figures Harkness studies as a professor, the “All Souls” trilogy has already been acquired by Hollywood. KUT News recently spoke with Harkness on her work, its reception, and what’s next.