Literary Atlanta Podcast Episode 9: Denise Kiernan

The Last Castle by Denise Kiernan
Denise Kiernan’s latest book, The Last Castle: The Epic Story of Love, Loss, and American Royalty in the Nation’s Largest Home, explores the Gilded Age and the titans who ruled during that time. She finds her way into this time period through the monolithic Biltmore House, which remains the largest private residence ever built in the United States. The Biltmore is located in Denise’s current home town of Asheville, North Carolina.

Denise has been working as a writer for more than 20 years. Her work has been published in The New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Village Voice, Ms. Magazine, Reader’s Digest, Discover and many more publications. She has also worked in television, serving as head writer for ABC’s “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire” during its Emmy award-winning first season and has produced for media outlets such as ESPN and MSNBC. She has co-authored several popular history titles including Signing Their Lives Away, Signing Their Rights Away, and Stuff Every American Should Know.

Her last book, The Girls of Atomic City, is a New York Times, Los Angeles Times and NPR Bestseller, and was named as one of Amazon’s “Top 100 Best Books of 2013.” It was also awarded the 2014 American Political Science Association Woodrow Wilson Foundation Award for the best book published in the United States on government, politics, or international affairs. Throughout her career, Denise has been a featured guest on many radio and television shows, including NPR’s “Weekend Edition,” PBS NewsHour, MSNBC Morning Joe and The Daily Show with Jon Stewart.

Denise Kiernan brings her book The Last Castle to Atlanta on Monday, October 2nd. She’ll speak and sign copies of the book at the Jimmy Carter Presidential Library. The event begins at 7:00 p.m.

Denise Kiernan Author Website

Jimmy Carter Presidential Library and Museum Events Website

Emory Exhibition: The Dream Machine: The Beat Generation & the Counterculture, 1940–1975

Pete Souza, Obama: An Intimate Portrait

David Gushee Event Website

Books Mentioned in This Episode

The Girls of Atomic City by Denise KiernanThe Girls of Atomic City: The Untold Story of the Women Who Helped Win World War II by Denise Kiernan




The Last Castle by Denise KiernanThe Last Castle: The Epic Story of Love, Loss, and American Royalty in the Nation’s Largest Home by Denise Kiernan

Literary Atlanta Podcast Episode 8: Celeste Ng

Celeste Ng, author of Little Fires Everywhere

Celeste Ng has written my favorite book of 2017—Little Fires Everywhere. I adored her first novel, Everything I Never Told You, and it was a bestseller and one the “Best Books of 2014” according to numerous publications and websites, including NPR and the San Francisco Chronicle.

I read an advanced reader copy of Celeste’s sophomore novel back in May. An advanced reader copy, or A-R-C is an uncorrected proof of the book that the publisher binds and sends out to book reviewers, publicists, bloggers, booksellers, librarians, and others who will read and praise the book before it comes out. I read the ARC of Little Fires Everywhere in just two days and probably would have finished it in one if my husband hadn’t accidentally scooped the book into his bag with his gym clothes. I tore the place apart looking for the ARC, not because I couldn’t get another copy, but because I was desperate to find out what happened. That’s a little odd given that Celeste tells you exactly what happens on page one of the novel. I asked her about this structure during our interview.

Also in this week’s episode: Celeste talks about getting her MFA and everything she never told you about creating really tiny dim sum.

Don’t miss Celeste Ng in conversation with Daren Wang (the author of The Hidden Light of Northern Fires and my guest on Episode 1 of the Literary Atlanta podcast. Celeste and Daren will be at SCADShow in Atlanta this Monday, September 25th at 7 p.m. This is a ticketed event, which means you need to visit the event website and buy a ticket, which includes a copy of the book. Celeste will be signing copies of the book after her talk.

Celeste Ng Author Website

Celeste Ng SCADShow Event Site

Michael Twitty Event Site

Jared Yates Sexton Event Site

Books Mentioned in This Episode

Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste NgLittle Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng





Everything I Never Told You by Celeste NgEverything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng





Heating & Cooling by Beth Ann FennellyHeating & Cooling by Beth Ann Fennelly (available for pre-order; publication date is October 10, 2017)


Literary Atlanta Podcast Episode 7: Celeste Headlee

The idea of interviewing someone who interviews people for a living (about a book on communication, no less!) was quite intimidating for me. I haven’t worked as a journalist in almost 20 years. But Celeste Headlee is as generous and brilliant an interview subject as she is a radio host. She currently hosts “On Second Thought,” a daily news show on Georgia Public Broadcasting.

Celeste was formerly a host at National Public Radio, anchoring shows like “Tell Me More,” “Talk of the Nation,” “All Things Considered” and “Weekend Edition.” She also co-hosted the national morning news show, “The Takeaway” from PRI and WNYC.

A frequent public speaker, Celeste delivered a TED Talk, “10 Ways to Have a Better Conversation,” that went viral. That talk earned Celeste a book deal and served as the groundwork for We Need to Talk.

Books Mentioned in This Episode

we-need-talkWe Need to Talk: How to Have Conversations That Matter by Celeste Headlee





On Writing by Stephen KingOn Writing: A Memoir of the Craft by Stephen King

Events Mentioned in This Episode

Celeste Headlee, author of We Need to Talk in Conversation with Rickey Bevington | Tuesday, September 25th at 7:00 p.m. | Jimmy Carter Presidential Library

Book Talk and Signing for Gabrielle Zevin, author of Young Jane Young | Thursday, September 14th at 7:00 p.m. | Margaret Mitchell House

Roger Johns, author of Dark River Rising in Conversation with Trudy Nan Boyce and Tracee de Hahn | Saturday, September 16th at 2:00 p.m. | FoxTale Book Shoppe

Book Talk and Signing for Leah Weiss, author of If The Creek Don’t Rise | Wednesday, September 20th at 6:30 p.m. | Fox Tale Book Shoppe


Literary Atlanta Podcast Episode 6: Longform Storytelling Panel

Literary Atlanta Podcast Episode 6: Longform Storytelling Panel
L-R: David Markowitz, Josh Jackson, Chuck Reece, Suzanne Van Atten. Photo courtesy of Frannie Jackson.

Due to a last-minute schedule change at the AJC Decatur Book Festival, I found myself moderating a panel of four award-winning editors and producers of longform storytelling. We recorded this discussion on September 2, 2017 in the Historic Decatur Courthouse and edited it down for this episode. Please enjoy this conversation featuring:

Suzanne Van Atten, The Atlanta Journal-ConstitutionSuzanne Van Atten, editor of Personal Journeys, an award-winning longform narrative feature that appears weekly in the Sunday Living & Arts section of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Suzanne is the author of Moon Puerto Rico, a travel guide now in its fourth edition, and a Pushcart Prize-nominated essayist, who’s been published in The Gettysburg Review, The Chattahoochee Review and Full Grown People. She is director of the Decatur Writers Studio and has taught writing classes at Emory University, Emory Continuing Education and Hub City Writers Project.

Chuck Reece, The Bitter SouthernerChuck Reece is co-founder and editor-in-chief of the award-winning online magazine, The Bitter Southerner. A recent New York Times article described the Ellijay, Ga. native as “…the kind of 21st-century Southerner not always heard beyond the confines of the place. His is a white voice, simultaneously proud and conscience-stricken, screaming to be heard over the stock-car roar but always cognizant that there are other voices, in other flavors, that may deserve a hearing even more.” (Read the full text of that article here: “In Southern Magazines, Easy Pleasures and Hard Questions,” The New York Times).

Josh Jackson, PasteJosh Jackson is president, co-founder and editor-in-chief of Paste Magazine, a website covering everything from music to books to craft beer. Under his leadership, Paste has won numerous awards and now attracts more than seven million visitors every month. Josh has been a regular music and film critic for CNN Headline News and two Atlanta radio stations; he oversaw and co-hosted four music podcasts for Coca-Cola; and he’s written more than 1,000 stories for various publications, including assignments on six continents. Now he rarely leaves the island of Decatur where he resides and works, except for twice-weekly soccer nights at Silverbacks Park and visits to Paste’s newly opened Manhattan office. Read this: “A Conversation with Josh Jackson, on the eve of Paste‘s Return to Print,” ArtsATL.

David Markowitz, Zero Mile MediaDavid Markowitz is co-founder and executive producer of Zero Mile Media (note: Zero Mile Media produces the Literary Atlanta Podcast). David is an award-winning audiobook director and producer who’s been at the forefront of the creation of new digital audio experiences and the creation of new markets for over 20 years. He regularly consults for startups in the audio and podcasting space on production and business development. He’s also the Head of Strategy and Partnerships at ListenUp Audio. Check out Zero Mile Media’s serialized fiction podcast, Tribulation.

Events Mentioned in This Episode

The AJC Decatur Book Festival: Journalism in our Current Environment  This is a video recording of the festival’s keynote discussion, moderated by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution editor Kevin Riley, and featuring Brooke Gladstone (WNYC’s On the Media), Wesley Lowery (The Washington Post), and Carolyn Ryan (The New York Times). Recorded live on September 1, 2017.

Writers @ The Wrecking Bar | Lightning Men by Thomas Mullen

Georgia Center for the Book | The Twelve-Mile Straight by Eleanor Henderson (Please note that I said the start time was 7:30 p.m. in this episode of the podcast. The correct start time, as listed on the GCB website, is 7:15 p.m.)

Literary Atlanta Podcast Episode 5: Pam Jenoff and Paige Bowers

Literary Atlanta Podcast Episode 5 - Pam Jenoff and Paige Bowers

As we complete our series previewing authors and books that will be part of this weekend’s AJC Decatur Book Festival, we share two different interviews in Episode 5 of the Literary Atlanta Podcast. Yes, it’s a twofer! Two fantastic authors with different takes—one fictional and one biographical—on World War II.

The Orphan's Tale by Pam Jenoff

The Orphan’s Tale is Pam Jenoff’s ninth novel. In this episode, Pam says readers may have different views on who “the orphan” is in her tale. She talks about the two true stories that she incorporated into her fictional narrative where two women find refuge under the big top of a German circus during World War II. Pam says she initially came across these stories when she was a diplomat for the U.S. State Department working in Krakow, Poland.

Pam talks about her research and writing process, including how she writes “the hard stuff.” You’ll understand why she held off writing one scene in The Orphan’s Tale until the very end, although it appears early in the book. She talks about the book she’s writing now and lists the three attributes that any good writer should have.

The General's Niece by Paige Bowers

Journalist and teacher Paige Bowers returns to her former hometown of Decatur, Ga. as an author at this year’s Decatur Book Festival. The General’s Niece is the first English-language biography of Charles de Gaulle’s niece, confidante, and daughter figure, Geneviève, to whom the legendary French general and president dedicated his war memoirs.

Paige says that Geneviève hated the word “hero,” although she risked death to work as part of the resistance movement in occupied France in World War II. This resistance movement has inspired many bestselling works of historical fiction in recent years, including Anthony Doerr’s All the Light That We Cannot See and Kristin Hannah’s The Nightingale. I ask Paige if she’s read those books and if the women’s resistance figures that she discovered might have inspired those novels.

AJC Decatur Book Festival Website

Pam Jenoff Author Website

Paige Bowers Author Website

Books Mentioned in This Episode

The Orphan's Tale by Pam JenoffThe Orphan’s Tale by Pam Jenoff





The General's Niece by Pam JenoffThe General’s Niece by Paige Bowers





All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr





The Nightingale by Kristin HannahThe Nightingale by Kristin Hannah

Literary Atlanta Podcast Episode 4: Peter McDade

Peter McDade, author of The Weight of Sound
Peter McDade is releasing not just his first book, but a whole soundtrack of original music, on Friday, August 25th. Each chapter in The Weight of Sound has a corresponding song, written and performed by Peter and more than 30 of his musician friends. Oftentimes, there’s even an accompanying homage to the 1990s on YouTube—a music video featuring one of the fictional bands.

As drummer for the rock band Uncle Green, Peter spent 15 years traveling the highways of America in a series of Ford vans. While the band searched for fame and a safe place to eat before a gig, he began writing short stories and novels. Uncle Green went into semi-retirement after four labels, seven records, and one name change; Peter went to Georgia State University and majored in history and English, eventually earning an MA in history. He teaches history to college undergrads, plays drums for Paul Melançon & the New Insecurities, and lives in Atlanta with his family.

In Episode Four of Literary Atlanta, Peter talks about going from being the drummer in the band to the frontman of his first book. He describes some of the similarities between writing and releasing an album and writing and releasing a novel, including that “weird limbo period” between the end of production and when the finished product drops. Is The Weight of Sound autobiographical? And does he have certain songs he listens to when he’s writing? Listen and learn.

AJC Decatur Book Festival Website

Peter McDade Author Website

“A Conversation with Author Peter McDade about The Weight of Sound,” ArtsATL

Books Mentioned in This Episode

The Weight of Sound by Peter McDadeThe Weight of Sound by Peter McDade

Literary Atlanta Podcast Episode 3: Adrian Miller

Adrian Miller, author of The President's Kitchen Cabinet
Adrian Miller is the author of Soul Food: The Surprising Story of an American Cuisine, One Plate at a Time, which won a James Beard Foundation book award. His latest book, The President’s Kitchen Cabinet explores the history of African-American cooks and workers in the White House, from the Washingtons to the Obamas. That means I had to ask Adrian what he’s learned about the current presidential palate and chef situation.

Adrian is a certified Kansas City Barbecue Society judge and attorney who worked in the White House as a former special assistant to President Bill Clinton. He lives in Denver, Colorado, where he’s settled into his current role (tastiest job title ever) of “Soul Food Scholar.”

In this episode of Literary Atlanta, Adrian talks about rejection and acceptance in the literary food world. He also shares a story that didn’t make it into the book about fried chicken saving our country. Dig in!

AJC Decatur Book Festival Website

Adrian Miller Website

Adrian Miller is quoted in this article by Kim Severson and Marian Burros, “Looking for a Trump Doctrine in the White House Kitchen,” New York Times

Books Mentioned in This Episode

The President's Kitchen Cabinet by Adrian MillerThe President’s Kitchen Cabinet: The Story of the African Americans Who Have Fed Our First Families, from the Washingtons to the Obamas




Soul Food by Adrian MillerSoul Food: The Surprising Story of an American Cuisine, One Plate at a Time

Books to Help Us Better Understand Charlottesville

White Rage: The Unspoken Truth of Our Racial Divide by Carol Anderson

Blood at the Root: A Racial Cleansing in America

Citizen: An American Lyric by Claudia Rankine

Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor E. Frankl

Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates

Confederates in the Attic: Dispatches from the Unfinished Civil War by Tony Horwitz

The Almost Sisters by Joshilyn Jackson

Small Great Things by Jodi Picoult

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

The March Trilogy by John Lewis, Andrew Aydin and Nate Powell

Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi

Charis Books & MoreAnd the book recommendations kept pouring in long after we recorded the podcast! So… you really can’t do any better than consulting these lists from Charis Books & More, one of the nation’s oldest independent feminist bookstores, located in Atlanta.

Charis Books & More’s Book List for Understanding and Dismantling Racism (Adult Readers)

Charis Books & More’s Books to Teach White Children and Teens How to Undo Racism and White Supremacy

Literary Atlanta Podcast Episode 2: Joshilyn Jackson

Joshilyn Jackson, author of The Almost Sisters

Joshilyn Jackson is the New York Times bestselling author of seven novels, including gods in Alabama and The Opposite of Everyone. Her books have been translated into a dozen languages.

A former actor, Joshilyn is also an award-winning audiobook narrator. She says she and her family moved to Decatur, Ga. because they loved coming to the AJC Decatur Book Festival every year. Personally, I think she moved to Decatur to be closer to me!

In this episode of Literary Atlanta, Joshilyn and I talk about the festival, audiobooks, comicons, and her advice (it’s an acronym) for aspiring authors.

AJC Decatur Book Festival Website

Joshilyn Jackson Author Website

In this episode, Joshilyn and I touched on her exploration of privilege, race, and growing up in a small town in the South in her writing. She wrote a brilliant personal essay for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution (AJC) that really takes a much deeper dive into her family’s story here. I think everyone should read it.

“Joshilyn Jackson Ponders Privilege, Second Chances and Racial Identity,” Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Books Mentioned in this Episode

The Almost Sisters by Joshilyn JacksonThe Almost Sisters by Joshilyn Jackson





gods in Alabama by Joshilyn Jacksongods in Alabama by Joshilyn Jackson

Literary Atlanta Podcast Episode 1: Daren Wang

Literary Atlanta Episode One - Daren Wang
Photo Credit: Tom Meyer

Daren Wang is the founding executive director of the AJC Decatur Book Festival, which celebrates its 12th year in 2017. This year, Daren adds another impressive credential to his resume: debut novelist. His first book, The Hidden Light of Northern Fires, publishes August 29th and has its first public outing at the festival.

AJC Decatur Book Festival Website

Daren Wang Author Website

“Southern Novelist Plans Bourbon Soaked Book Tour,” Publishers Weekly

Books Mentioned in this Episode

The Hidden Light of Northern Fires by Daren Wang

The Hidden Light of Northern Fires by Daren Wang (release date is August 29, 2017, available for pre-order)




Cold Mountain by Charles FrazierCold Mountain by Charles Frazier (celebrating its 20th anniversary at the Decatur Book Festival)