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.
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.
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.
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, 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 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 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 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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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!
And 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.
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.
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.
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.