2012 Kerrytown Bookfest – Make it Happen!

It’s that wonderful time of year again! The Kerrytown Bookfest will take place in Ann Arbor on Sunday, September 9, 2012 and has more offerings than ever before. With so many distinguished authors slated to speak, this is definitely the year to make it happen!

Regardless of your literary appetite, the Bookfest has offerings for people of all genres. Sunday’s schedule of events will offer children’s programs, book making workshops, illustrator samplings, indie bookstore displays, panel discussions and of course, books.

Michigan acts as host and home to a rapidly growing, ever-thriving literary community. The Kerrytown Bookfest is a great way to hear from Notable authors and those whose work we admire while making connections with readers and writers who share a passion for fine literature. For all information, link to the Bookfest site here.

*Support your local bookstores, libraries and universities. It matters.

-Post by Megan Shaffer

Nicola’s Books Stacks Stellar Appearances This Week

Dust to DustNicola’s Books in Ann Arbor has plenty on tap for local readers this week.

On Tuesday evening, actor and author Benjamin Busch will be appearing at Nicola’s Books for a discussion and signing of his memoir, Dust to Dust. Busch, who currently lives in Reed City, Michigan, was born in Manhattan and grew up in upstate New York. He is an actor, photographer, film director, and a United States Marine Corps Infantry Officer who served two tours of combat duty in Iraq. In addition, he has appeared in the HBO series The Wire, Homicide, The West Wing, and Generation Kill.

Acting aside, Busch’s memoir is a heavy, thoughtful read that utilizes the elemental (water, metal stone, blood, etc) as device for examining the brevity of our existence.

Dust to Dust will hit stores this Tuesday, which happily coincides with Busch’s appearance at Nicola’s. The discussion and signing will take place on March 20, 2012 at 7:00 pm. For more on Benjamin and Dust to Dust, try this recent piece in the Detroit Free Press.

The Boiling Season: A Novel

Also appearing this week at Nicola’s Books is author and debut novelist Christopher Hebert. Hebert is a graduate of Antioch College and earned his MFA in creative writing from the University of Michigan, and was awarded its prestigious Hopwood Award for Fiction. Currently, he teachers at the University of Tennessee and lives in Knoxville with his wife and son.

The Boiling Season, Hebert’s debut novel, is a stunner thus far (I’m halfway through), and I’m quite shocked Hebert isn’t getting more airtime for this richly detailed and beautifully written work.

Hebert’s discussion and signing of The Boiling Season will take place Thursday, March 22, 2012 at 7:00 pm. For more with Christopher Hebert you can link to this Metro Pulse interview.

Nicola’s Books is located in the Westgate Shopping Center at 2513 Jackson Avenue in Ann Arbor. As always, events are subject to change so please call first before heading out the door (734.662.0600).

*Support your local bookstores, libraries, and universities. It matters.

– Post by Megan Shaffer

Author Scott Sparling Lights it Up in ‘Wire To Wire’

Cover ImageScott Sparling is bringing his hip thriller Wire to Wire home to Michigan.

Sparling’s recent release is the wild, amped-up story of train-hopping Michael Slater, who tries to pull his life together after taking a live wire to the head while riding freight through Detroit.

Wire to Wire is a slick departure to the darker side of northern Michigan. Hardly Pure, Sparling offers up a bevy of vice hidden among the sweet, touristy towns that sprinkle the state’s map. Next to photo-ops and fudge shops, Sparling positions the seductive forces of money and sex which play out in Wire to Wire’s hazy shades, sharp dialogue, and escalating acts of violence.

Sparling will be making a number of Michigan appearances which kick-off this evening at Petosky’s McLean and Eakin as part of their Yellow Chair Series. If you are interested in meeting Sparling, he’ll be making stops at several Michigan indies and will be a bit closer to the Detroit metro area late next week. You can link here for a full schedule of upcoming Wire to Wire events.

In a recent email exchange, Mr. Sparling was kind enough to field questions about his new book, its evolution, and the fortunate score of publishing through Tin House.

Scott Sparling on Wire To Wire

Night Light Revue: Where did you grow up in Michigan?

Scott Sparling: I grew up in Jackson, Michigan. I lived in Ann Arbor briefly in the mid-1970’s. A good friend lives in Maple City, northwest of Traverse City. I’ve spent a lot of time there, in his cabin. My time there influenced the book quite a bit.

NLR: What city is Wire to Wire’s Wolverine based on? Was the setting based on actual areas in Michigan?

SS: There’s a real town called Wolverine, but the Wolverine in Wire to Wire is a fictionalized combination of Frankfort and Elberta. I’ve created a fictional version of Northern Michigan that is populated largely by people who are escaping reality. In real life, there are the same kinds of people up north as there are downstate. So you could say the values are fictional, but the geography is fairly accurate to Frankfort and Elberta.

NLR: The premise of Wire to Wire is so incredibly unique. Did you actually know someone who got hit in the head by an electrical wire?

SS: My mom once sent me a clipping about a similar train-powerline accident. It was a news story about high school kids who’d been drinking and climbed up on top of a moving boxcar as a lark. I was riding freights all around the country at the time, so I guess my mom sent me the clip as a kind of warning. In the news clipping, the boy who got hit by the power line was killed.

NLR: The book feels so indie with its curling smoke, flickering tapes, and dark churning Michigan waters. It all seems to unspool to a killer backbeat that sort of pulses in the back of the brain as it reads. Was that your intention? Did you listen to music to pump you up while you were writing?

SS: Early on I used to listen to Mickey Hart’s Planet Drum while I wrote. The drum cuts have a beat but no real melody and you can listen to them for hours. I used to play drums, and some of the cadence and rhythms of the prose are influenced by that in places – or at least it seems that way to me. Later I started listening to more trancy-stuff, particularly Jesse Sykes and the Sweet Hereafter, while I was writing. During the final edit, I listened to Jon Dee Graham and Alejandro Escoveda.

NLR: Did any particular movies, writers or books influence Wire to Wire?

SS: Dog Soldiers by Robert Stone was a big influence, as well as his earlier book, A Hall of Mirrors. Those books are probably the reason I write in third person. I also tried to learn from the way Stone moves his story forward with very little exposition. Since this is my first book, almost everything I read influenced it.

NLR: The glue-huffing, if that’s the right term, is so dark. Is that where you find parts of forgotten Michigan? Does that reflect the Michigan you know?

SS: The term “huffing” didn’t come into general use until later – so it’s the correct term now, but not during the time of the book. The glue-sniffing doesn’t have anything to do with my view of Michigan. Lane’s using it as a way to dissolve her past. If she were a different character, she’d be drinking or taking drugs.

NLR: I definitely picked up an anti-capitalism vibe in Wire to Wire. An extreme dislike of capitalism and its environmental crush come through loud and clear with both the Whispering Sands complex and the ruination of the legend of Sleeping Bear. Was Wire a message to the masses in the guise of a thriller novel? Was there any political intent on your part?

SS: All the characters in Wire to Wire have difficulty with money and sex. I tried to write about money and sex as if they were elemental forces like fire and water. Fire (or electricity) and water make our lives better when we keep them under control. When they jump channels, they flood us out or burn down the house. At various points during W2W, both money and sex jump their channels, and become forces of destruction for individual characters. Harp doesn’t think of it that analytically though – he simply sees the damage money can cause when it’s out of control, and that shapes his view. Considering the Wall Street meltdown and greed of recent years, it seems like a reasonable take on things.

NLR: Two of my favorite things in the book, oddly, were the sort of yin and yang of the gritty, skull-powdered Tru Balance knife calmed by the soft snapping of fingers by Slater’s ears. Where did you come up with these devices?

SS: Like a lot of the novel, those are little moments stolen from real life and converted into story. When my son was learning to snap his fingers, he walked around the house snapping them constantly. It seemed like an interesting bit of business, and I gave it to Slater. I’m not sure where the hidden handle on the knife came from. I’ve seen scenes in movies where a hero picks up a gun and can tell whether it’s loaded by the weight. That might have influenced my thinking.

NLR: How, with the utmost curiosity, did your research this book?

SS: My friend and I rode freight trains all over Michigan, and later, all over the country and across Canada. Most of the freight sequences in the book stem from trips we really took. By the late 1980’s, I was no longer riding trains much, but I was spending a lot of time in Northern Michigan. I stayed in my friend’s house in Maple City for six weeks one summer, taking notes all the time, reading the weekly newspaper, listening to his stories. Beyond that, it’s invented. I never sniffed glue or tried speed. I can’t throw a knife.

NLR: How long did it take you to write Wire to Wire? Was it difficult to translate the mental version onto paper?

SS: It took 20 years and it was insanely difficult, only because I’m a slow learner. And I did a lot of other things along the way, like raise a family. The first finished version was done in 1991. I got that draft to Jim Harrison and he said he liked it. He actually passed it along to his agent, but the agent didn’t think it could be sold. After that I just kept re-writing. There was another finished version in 1996, and another in 2001 and so on. I just kept working on it until a publisher finally bought it.

NLR: Wire to Wire is a totally different read and exquisitely dirty. Did you choose Tin House to push the book? How did you find your publisher or did your publisher find you?

SS: A friend told me Tin House would like the book. But I’d heard things like that before, and I forgot about it. About six months went by, and then I ran into my friend again. She asked me what Tin House thought of the manuscript. I had to admit that I’d completely forgotten about her advice. So she gave it to them. I call this story The Miracle of My Incompetence, because Tin House has been tremendous to work with. Tony Perez, who edited the book, helped me tremendously with structure and narrative flow. From my point of view, it’s been a perfect match. Obviously, I owe my friend a lot.

* Support your local bookstores, libraries, and universities. It matters.

-Post by Megan Shaffer

Signing of ‘The Singer’s Gun’ at Nicola’s This Evening

Cover ImageThe Singer’s Gun is the latest novel from Canadian-born author and dancer Emily St. John Mandel. Though Mrs. Mandel currently resides in Brooklyn, she has most recently been hopping around the lovely summer state of Michigan. Offering appearances in several independent Michigan book stores, Mandel has certainly maximized this jag of her tour with events in beautiful Gaylord, Petosky, and Suttons Bay.

“The Singer’s Gun” was #1 on the Indie Next List in May of this year. Called “an eminently satisfying thriller,” “Gun” has been ringing with high praise since its release just a few months ago. Emily St. John Mandel is the author of “Last Night in Montreal” which was also an  Indie Next pick (June 2009) and a finalist for ForeWord Magazine’s 2009 Book of the Year.

Nicola’s Books in Ann Arbor will host Emily St. John Mandel for a reading and signing of her latest book, “The Singer’s Gun,” Friday, July 9th at 7:00 pm. As always, give a call before you head out the door to confirm all dates and times.

*Support your local bookstores, libraries, and universities. It matters.

-Post by Megan Shaffer

‘Someone Like Me’ at Nicola’s Books Tonight

Someone Like Me by John W. Quinn: Book CoverNative Detroiter John W. Quinn was born with cerebral palsy. Yet despite his disabilities Mr. Quinn was determined to make his lifelong dream of joining the military come true. After much hard work and determination, Mr. Quinn now boasts a successful and decorated twenty-year career in the United States Navy.

Written to “give hope to the millions of people struggling with muscular disorders who fight to make it through every day,” this is Quinn’s tale of how he kept his condition a secret and managed to make his vision of becoming a military man a reality.

Nicola’s Books in Ann Arbor will host author John W. Quinn for a discussion and signing of his book Someone Like Me: An Unlikely Story of Challenge and Triumph Over Cerebral Palsy tonight, June 8, 2010 at 7:00 PM. As always, call and confirm date and time before heading out the door.

*Support your local bookstores, libraries, and universities. It matters.

-Post by Megan Shaffer

Nicola’s Books to Host Elizabeth Kostova

Bestselling author Elizabeth Kostova will return to Ann Arbor on Wednesday night for a reading and signing of her new novel The Swan Thieves. No stranger to the area, Ms. Kostova holds an MFA from the University of Michigan where she won a 2003 Hopwood Award for her novel-in-progress.

The Swan Thieves, Kostova’s second novel, was released on January 12th with great anticipation after her widely embraced first work, The Historian. “It was a huge risk, but it was also very exciting,” Kostova shared on NPR’s Weekend Edition. “My first novel was heavily plotted, and although it’s a deeply felt novel for me, it’s kind of an intricate puzzle that I had to work out ahead of time. And this book I really wrote imagining the scenes almost the way you would stand in front of a painting. And it was a moving experience to be sort of there with the reader, not knowing exactly how this would turn out.”

Besides penning two novels, it’s important to note Elizabeth Kostova’s literary activities off the page as well. Through her Foundation for Creative Writing, which was created to “provide further opportunities for Bulgarian writers to foster their own work”, Kostova uses her considerable talents and opportunities to encourage and connect aspiring writers around the globe.

Nicola’s Books in Ann Arbor will present bestselling author Elizabeth Kostova this Wednesday, February 3, 2010 at 7 PM. Nicola’s is considered one of the premier independent bookstore in the area and a proud member of IndieBound. Please remember to call and confirm all details prior to the event.

*Support your local bookstores and universities. It matters!

-Post by Megan Shaffer

NLR’s review of The Swan Thieves

Kostova’s intro to The Swan Thieves on YouTube

NPR’s Weekend Edition: Kostova’s ‘Swan Thieves’: Art, Love and Crime