[Q&A with the author] The All-Night Sun by Diane Zinna @DianeZinna #TheAllNightSun

I’m so excited to be sharing this Q&A with the wonderful Diane Zinna, author of The All-Night Sun.

Q&A

Q: What inspired you to write The All-Night Sun?

A: The idea for the book actually came to me in a dream, though it grew into something very different in the writing. I’d dreamed of two friends traveling together by train. I dreamed that one of those women snuck off to reunite with a lover in an underground Parisian bathroom filled with art—dream stuff. In the writing, the bathroom became Stockholm’s art-filled subway. The lover remained. The friend, waiting upstairs, her jealousy rising, remained.

Q: How long did it take you to write your debut novel The All-Night Sun?

A: It took about a year to write the first draft, but the story went through many years of revisions, mostly in its structure. I had written it toggling back and forth in time. As a book about grief, that felt right to me, the way intense, vivid memories can interrupt our day-to-day. Someone who read it early on suggested a linear format, so I pulled it apart and did it that way to see how it might work. It was a helpful exercise in that I was able to close some plot holes, but it didn’t feel like the same story anymore. I know as writers we are told to drive forward, always forward, but moving back and forth in time was part of what gave this book energy. After taking it apart for someone else, it took me a long time to put it back together in a way I loved again, but I’m so glad I did.

Q: Do you have a routine of writing at a certain time for a couple of hours or do you do it spontaneously?

A: I have always longed for a regular practice, but so far I haven’t been successful at keeping to one. I’ve always worked full time, and the writing of this book overlapped having my daughter and dealing with illness, and there’s always the stuff of life that interrupts us. When generating new work, I tend to write in short bursts. When I’m in an editing phase, I can write for hours and that process just overtakes everything I’m doing. I have even been known to write with the laptop open in the car, squeezing in words at red lights.

Q: Was there a particular scene which you found hard to write (spoiler-free if possible)?

A: The last chapter was difficult because I longed to give Lauren a good ending. I felt that if anyone deserved that, she did. I knew that some people were not going to find her to be a “likeable” narrator, and I liked her very much. I wanted her to be okay out in the world without me when I was finished. In early drafts, my last paragraphs tried to do too much. I hinted at who she later married, showed her starting over as a teacher in a new school, showed her with new friends, even new hobbies.(I had her scrapbooking!?) But I always knew that this book was about coming right up to the edge of being okay after grief—coming to the lip of it and finally taking that first breath after so long being underwater. So that’s how I ended it—with Lauren’s first, deep breath.

Q: Do you see yourself in any of your characters?

A:  Lauren is another version of me, I think. I too lost my parents too early, though not in the way it’s described in the book. The memorization of things, the TV always on, how she was constantly teaching herself new things to occupy her mind—that was all very much me. But for me, that drive also became an obsession with work and service.I worked three jobs. I volunteered as much as I could. I tried to help others dealing with loss. But all of that also served as a way of hiding my grief away, and like Lauren, my pain often burst out at inopportune times.

Q: What authors made you fall in love with reading?

A: Early on for me, it was Ray Bradbury. I checked out a copy of The Illustrated Man from my elementary school library and never returned it. I felt like that book had found me, and I still have it. One of my favorite Bradbury stories, “All Summer in a Day,” appears in The All-Night Sun. My early reading was this really formative mix of dark science fiction and Sweet Valley High books. In high school, I loved The Once and Future King for its romantic sense of being held by the natural world, and a science fiction novel called A Canticle for Leibowitz, that was about hope during a dark time. These two books also imparted structure lessons to me I still think about a lot.

Q: Are you currently reading anything – if so, what are you reading at the moment?

A:  I’ve been reading a lot of books that are debuting in 2020, into this pandemic time. One thing I was grateful to discover is that there are opportunities to connect with other writers who are debuting in your year. In our 2020 Debuts group, we started out sharing the normal joys and anxieties, but now we are supporting each other through cancelled book tours, delayed publication dates, and format changes. With so many bookstores closed, many of us will never have the experience of walking into a bookstore and seeing our books on display. I hope readers will seek out the 2020 Debuts on social media—there are so many extraordinary stories waiting to become part of someone’s heart.

Thank you so much to Diane for taking the time to answer these questions for Breathing Through Pages!

I hope you guys enjoyed reading this Q&A!

THE ALL-NIGHT SUN

Forthcoming from Random House, July 14th, 2020

All the buy/pre-order links for The All-Night Sun are below!

Add ‘The All-Night Sun‘ to your TBR:  

*Pre-order ‘The All-Night Sun‘ here:

*Pre-order ‘The All-Night Sun‘ with free international delivery here: 

**I am in no way compensated by these sites. I am simply sharing it so people can find this book easier.

Diane Zinna is originally from Long Island, New York. She received her MFA from the University of Florida and went on to teach creative writing for ten years. She was formerly the executive co-director at AWP, the Association of Writers & Writing Programs, which hosts the largest literary conference in North America each year. In 2014, Diane created their Writer to Writer Mentorship Program, helping to match more than six hundred writers over twelve seasons.

Diane lives in Fairfax, Virginia, with her husband and daughter. The All-Night Sun is her first novel.

Find her on: Website, Goodreads and Twitter.

[Q&A with the author] Shuggie Bain by Douglas Stuart @Doug_D_Stuart #ShuggieBain

I’m so excited to be sharing this Q&A with the wonderful Douglas Stuart, author of Shuggie Bain.

📸 Amy Chin

Q&A

First of all, huge congratulations on your debut Shuggie Bain! It’s already out in the US and Australia and it will be out in the UK in August!

Q: What inspired you to write Shuggie Bain?

A: No one particular thing. I grew up in Glasgow in the 1980’s but have lived in New York for the past twenty years. I think I was grieving for the boy I once was, for the people I grew up around and the city I love. I was just overwhelmed with a need to set it all on the page. I actually started with (what is now) chapter thirteen, where the characters Leek and Shuggie go to the closed down colliery and Leek teaches his young brother how to walk like a proper man. Then the rest of the book seemed to flow from there and there was no stopping it.

Q: How long did it take you to write your debut novel Shuggie Bain?

A: Like most writers I worked full time – except I worked in the fashion industry. It took me ten years to write Shuggie Bain;fashion is a really intense industry, and NYC is a really restless city, so I always had to be quite selfish in order to steal some time to actually write. I wrote Shuggie in the margins of the day. Once the book had its hooks in me the rest of my working week felt like an obstacle to overcome before I could return to my characters. There were periods where their stories swallowed me so completely. Writing this book definitely tested my marriage – my obsession with my writing has ruined many family holidays!

Q: Do you have a routine of writing at a certain time for a couple of hours or do you do it spontaneously?

A: I write full time now so I try to have the discipline of arriving at my desk after breakfast every morning. But I’m not too hard on myself if it doesn’t come to anything. Thinking and living and stepping back to consider your work are as necessary as writing itself. I’m both an early morning thinker and a late in the day writer – I’m useless after lunch so I try to keep the afternoon for admin and allowing my mind to wander. Because I live in a chaotic city, I find my most valuable tool is noise cancelling headphones. When I have those on, I can focus for hours. Any time I get stuck, I go out for a walk and New York usually presents me with some unexpected human behavior that inspires me.

Q: Was there a particular scene which you found hard to write (spoiler-free if possible)?

A: There is a scene near the beginning of the book where young Shuggie is playing near an old dis-used washing machine. He is bullied by an older boy. I found that scene particularly jarring because it deals with both abuse and homophobia – and it is really the turning point forShuggie. After this he is marked in his coal-mining community as too effeminate, as being ‘no right’. This was a hard scene to write becauseits always harrowing to steal the innocence of a child. Instinctively, all you want to do is protect your characters.

Q: Do you see yourself in your character Shuggie?

A: I think many writers pull from real life. Shuggie is too kind and too patient to be anything like me, he endures incredibly painful things with such grace,and I think they would make me crumble.

It’s not that I see myself in Shuggie, but that I see my life and my experiences growing up in Glasgow in all the characters. I tried to be as authentic and truthful as I could in re-creating the millieu – I hope that is one of the strongest things you will feel from the book. Sometimes in order to do that I needed to remove myself as the author to ensure I didn’t have too much intrusion. I wanted the reader to feel as though they were in the room, I never wanted them to have a sense that a writer was telling them this story and standing between them and these characters.

Q: What authors have influenced you and made you fall in love with reading and eventually writing a novel?

A: Growing up poor I rarely saw books that portrayed families like my own and that always made me feel so lonely. The first time I read Barry Hines’s A Kestrel for a KnaveI suddenly understood the power of literature because I felt seen. Later, when I discovered Agnes Owens and James Kelman, I saw that a writer can capture working-class lives with all the dignity and urgency and importance that we usually give to middle class characters. Poverty is just as worthy of the page as privilege is. I think the biggest influences on me as a writer have been Alan Warner, Irvine Welsh, Cormac McCarthy and Agnes Owens. I don’t know if this reflects in my work, but I admire their ability to look difficult things straight in the eye and write about it without embellishment. As a writer, everything you read has an influence on you – even if that feeling is about rejecting what you read.

Q: What are some of your favourite books?

A: There are so many to mention. Whenever I read queer or working-class characters on the page, I feel incredibly seen. I am always drawn to urgent working-class protagonists: Alexander Trocchi’s Young Adam, Phillipp Meyer’s American Rust, Agnes Owens’s Gentlemen of The West, Barry Hines’s A Kestrel for A Knave. (Ken Loach’s adaptation ‘Kes’ is an incredible film.) I try to read as much queer fiction as I can: James Baldwin’s Giovanni’s Room, The Lost Language of Cranes by David Leavitt, The Swimming Pool Library by Alan Hollinghurst, Alexander Chee’s Edinburgh, Colm Tóibin’s The Story of the Night.I LOVE Thomas Hardy: but am especially fond of Tess of the D’Ubervilles or Jude the Obscure. Arabella Don is one of my favourite characters ever. Of all the Scottish books that have had influenced me, I really admire Alan Warner’s Morvern Callar and Janice Galloway’s The Trick is to Keep Breathing. Any fan of Elinor Oliphant should read Galloway’s book.

Q: Are you currently reading anything – if so, what are you reading at the moment?

A: There have been so many great books published recently but I love: Real Life by Brandon Taylor, The Memory Police by Yōko Ogawa, and Mary South’s short story collection You Will Never Be Forgotten is so exciting and strange. At the moment I’m finding myself in need of some comfort from what I read so I’m re-reading The Persian Boy by Mary Renault and Maria McCann’s As Meat Loves Salt. I find McCann’s book comforting and disturbing at the exact same time – and I love that. It’s a gay love story that is both immersive and propulsive. I’m obsessed with Jacob Cullen! If I had the money, I would commission a trilogy!

Q: Is there a lingering idea for a future novel?

A: There is! I am at work on a gay love story set amongst the territorial gangs of Glasgow. It’s about two young men who are in love and are divided by sectarian lines. It has been described as Romeo and Juliet with homemade tomahawks and shanking blades!

📸 Amy Chin

Thank you so much to Douglas for taking the time to answer these questions for Breathing Through Pages!

I hope you guys enjoyed reading this Q&A!

US cover

UK cover

Shuggie Bain is the unforgettable story of young Hugh “Shuggie” Bain, a sweet and lonely boy who spends his 1980s childhood in run-down public housing in Glasgow, Scotland. Thatcher’s policies have put husbands and sons out of work, and the city’s notorious drugs epidemic is waiting in the wings. Shuggie’s mother Agnes walks a wayward path: she is Shuggie’s guiding light but a burden for him and his siblings. She dreams of a house with its own front door while she flicks through the pages of the Freemans catalogue, ordering a little happiness on credit, anything to brighten up her grey life. Married to a philandering taxi-driver husband, Agnes keeps her pride by looking good–her beehive, make-up, and pearly-white false teeth offer a glamourous image of a Glaswegian Elizabeth Taylor. But under the surface, Agnes finds increasing solace in drink, and she drains away the lion’s share of each week’s benefits–all the family has to live on–on cans of extra-strong lager hidden in handbags and poured into tea mugs. Agnes’s older children find their own ways to get a safe distance from their mother, abandoning Shuggie to care for her as she swings between alcoholic binges and sobriety. Shuggie is meanwhile struggling to somehow become the normal boy he desperately longs to be, but everyone has realized that he is “no right,” a boy with a secret that all but him can see. Agnes is supportive of her son, but her addiction has the power to eclipse everyone close to her–even her beloved Shuggie.

A heartbreaking story of addiction, sexuality, and love, Shuggie Bain is an epic portrayal of a working-class family that is rarely seen in fiction. Recalling the work of Edouard Louis, Alan Hollinghurst, Frank McCourt, and Hanya Yanagihara, it is a blistering debut by a brilliant novelist who has a powerful and important story to tell.

SHUGGIE BAIN is already out in the US and Australia and will be out in August in the UK. All the buy/pre-order links are below!

Add ‘Shuggie Bain‘ to your TBR:  

*Purchase ‘Shuggie Bain‘ here:

*Pre-order ‘Shuggie Bain‘ here:

*Pre-order ‘Shuggie Bain‘ with free international delivery here: 

**I am in no way compensated by these sites. I am simply sharing it so people can find this book easier.

Douglas Stuart is a Scottish – American author. His short story, Found Wanting, was published in The New Yorker magazine.

His debut novel, Shuggie Bain, is published by Grove Atlantic in the US and Picador in the UK. It is to be translated into Swedish, Norwegian, Italian, German and French. He wrote Shuggie Bain over a ten year period and is currently at work on his second novel.

Born in Glasgow, Scotland, Douglas was raised in some of the city’s most deprived housing schemes, including the now demolished Sighthill tower blocks. After receiving his MA from the Royal College of Art in London he has lived and worked in New York City.

Find him on: Website, Goodreads and Twitter.

[Q&A with the author] The Body Politic by Brian Platzer @bplatzer #TheBodyPolitic

I’m so excited to be sharing this Q&A with the wonderful Brian Platzer, author of The Body Politic.

Q&A

Q: What inspired you to write The Body Politic?

A: For two years, I was dizzy all day every day. My vision was blurry, I couldn’t be alone with my kids, teach, write, or carry on a conversation in person or over the phone. I was lonely and scared–feelings exacerbated by the combination of constant suffering and the existential horror of not knowing if the suffering would last forever. After I finally found the medications that now give me a few hours of clarity each day, I wanted to process both my perspective and those of my wife, friends and family who’d endured it all with me.  Then Trump was elected, and the parallels between my illness and the political moment just snuck up on me. There was a comparable frustration, dread, disorientation, and uncertainty. Telling these two stories together put human emotions and decisions on a political scale and contextualized the characters in way that makes their story feel way more alive.

Q: How long did it take you to write your novel The Body Politic?

A: About 4 years!

Q: Do you have a routine of writing at a certain time for a couple of hours or do you do it spontaneously?

A: I have a few hours of clarity every morning, so I teach two mornings a week and write the other three mornings.  Then I edit in the afternoons.

Q: Was there a particular scene which you found hard to write (spoiler-free if possible)?

A: All the scenes involving the kids made me really emotional.  I hate thinking about what my kids went through when I was sick.

Q: Do you see yourself in any of your characters?

A: David, one of the protagonists, is pretty much just a taller, friendlier, sadder version of me.

Q: What authors have influenced you and made you fall in love with reading and eventually writing a novel?

A: James Baldwin, Philip Roth, Rachel Cusk, W Somerset Maugham

Q: What are some of your favourite books?

A: Giovanni’s Room, American Pastoral, Outline, The Razor’s Edge

Q: Are you currently reading anything – if so, what are you reading at the moment?

A:  I’m reading the great Rachel Monroe’s Savage Appetites

Thank you so much to Brian for taking the time to answer these questions for Breathing Through Pages!

I hope you guys enjoyed reading this Q&A!

In the bestselling tradition of The Interestings and A Little Life, this keenly felt and expertly written novel by the author of the “savvy, heartfelt, and utterly engaging” (Alice McDermott) Bed-Stuy Is Burning follows four longtime friends as they navigate love, commitment, and forgiveness while the world around them changes beyond recognition.

New York City is still regaining its balance in the years following 9/11, when four twenty-somethings—Tess, Tazio, David, and Angelica—meet in a bar, each yearning for something: connection, recognition, a place in the world, a cause to believe in. Nearly fifteen years later, as their city recalibrates in the wake of the 2016 election, their bond has endured—but almost everything else has changed.

As freshmen at Cooper Union, Tess and Tazio were the ambitious, talented future of the art world—but by thirty-six, Tess is married to David, the mother of two young boys, and working as an understudy on Broadway. Kind and steady, David is everything Tess lacked in her own childhood—but a recent freak accident has left him with befuddling symptoms, and she’s still adjusting to her new role as caretaker.

Meanwhile, Tazio—who once had a knack for earning the kind of attention that Cooper Union students long for—has left the art world for a career in creative branding and politics. But in December 2016, fresh off the astonishing loss of his candidate, Tazio is adrift, and not even his gorgeous and accomplished fiancée, Angelica, seems able to get through to him. With tensions rising on the national stage, the four friends are forced to face the reality of their shared histories, especially a long-ago betrayal that has shaped every aspect of their friendship.

Elegant and perceptive, The Body Politic explores the meaning of commitment, the nature of forgiveness, the way that buried secrets will always find their way to the surface, and how all of it can shift—and eventually erupt—over the course of a life.

All the buy links for The Body Politic are below!

Add ‘The Body Politic‘ to your TBR:  

*Purchase ‘The Body Politic‘ here:

*Purchase ‘The Body Politic‘ with free international delivery here: 

**I am in no way compensated by these sites. I am simply sharing it so people can find this book easier.

Brian Platzer is the author of BED-STUY IS BURNING (’17) and THE BODY POLITIC (’20) from Atria/Simon & Schuster, and THE TAKING THE STRESS OUT OF HOMEWORK (’20) from Avery/Penguin Random House. Brian has an MFA from the Johns Hopkins Writing Seminars, and a BA from Columbia University. His writing has appeared often in the New Yorker’s Shouts and Murmurs and McSweeney’s Internet Tendency, as well as in the New York Times, The New Republic, Salon, and elsewhere. He lives with his wife and two young sons in Bed-Stuy, Brooklyn, teaches middle school English in Manhattan, and suffers from chronic dizziness.

Find him on: Website, Goodreads and Twitter.