For your reading pleasure: a series of interviews with writers on novel-writing, translation, poetry, nonfiction, and much more.

The organizing principle for this ever-evolving, ever-growing collection of interviews is a simple question: What writer doesn’t appreciate the insights of other writers on their craft?

Enjoy, my friends.



bernadette murphyThe World Before Her: A Talk with Bernadette Murphy

The creative process is truly incredible … and unpredictable.  Even when you start out with a clear plan of what you want to write, your muse changes the plan.  In Bernadette Murphy’s case, her memoir Harley and Me not only charts her awakening to a new life — and a newfound love of motorcycles — but also the painful factors that culminated in that awakening (a stifling Catholic upbringing, her mother’s troubles, Murphy’s divorce).

Her interview with the Call provides fresh, thrilling insights into what the writing process really involves, especially when the subject of the narrative is yourself.

Click here to read the interview.



jim rossiWhy Should You Self Publish?  Your Book’s A Startup Company, That’s Why

If you’re a regular visitor to LinkedIn, you will probably encounter Jim Rossi, who offers his expert insights on a range of issues now affecting the zeitgeist.  Jim also happens to be a writer who did the unthinkable not long ago: turned down a publisher contract in order to self-publish his manuscript.

Wait a minute.  What?  What the heck is going on?  Why?

Reserve your judgment, my beloved friends.  At first, I reacted the same way until I understood Jim’s argument.  Visit here to read Jim Rossi’s perspective on your book and why you might consider self-publishing … and you just might understand, too.



mcgonigleThe book could have easily been three times as long’: A talk with Thomas McGonigle about his novel, St. Patrick’s Day: Another Day in Dublin

Ever since I met Tom when he wrote book reviews for the Los Angeles Times, I have been struck by the profundity and practicality of his approach to literature.  Behind every sentence of his — in his fiction and his criticism — you sense the immense presence of literary tradition.  This interview with him offered another chance to receive his frank, blunt assessment of his work and writing in general.

Click here to read the interview.


raymond jacobs‘So here, now, is my testament’: Q & A with poet Raymond Jacobs

Jacobs writes long-form poetry with firm roots in autobiographical soil.  This interview looks at his work as well as his determination to continue producing — and publishing — poetry in a marketplace where attention (and money) is mostly being devoted to blockbuster thrillers and mysteries.  His insights are truly inspiring.


Endangered … and necessary: A Talk with Scott Timberg

timbergThe venerable Mr. Timberg is an extremely versatile commentator on all things arts and culture, and also someone I’m lucky to call an old colleague at the Times.  If you haven’t read his poignant and insightful account of the destruction of the community of arts and letters, Culture Crash: The  Killing of the Creative Class, you probably should.  But before you do, check out his interview here at Call of the Siren about his book, the writing process, and much more.

Click here to read the full piece.


Screen Shot 2014-05-06 at 3.03.35 PM

The Writing Life: Something From Mary: 

 Gaitskill is an acclaimed novelist and short story writer (Two Girls, Fat and Thin; Veronica; Bad Behavior) whose stories defy boundaries of all kinds — societal, personal, gender — and have earned her a National Book Award nomination, among other honors. She’s also very accommodating and open about the craft of writing, in general and as it pertains to her own art. That’s what I discovered when we had a chance to sit down and discuss some of the lessons she’s learned over time.


Literary Exits: Nicholas Delbanco on artistic lives cut short 

Screen Shot 2013-12-10 at 2.52.50 PMDelbanco moves with immense ease between fiction and nonfiction. Two necessary titles for your bookshelves are his Sherbrookes (a novel that collects and recasts an earlier trilogy of his as a single work of fiction) and Group Portrait, his fascinating study of the dynamics surrounding a group of writers that includes Stephen Crane and Joseph Conrad. A third title that you might also consider is his recent study, The Art of Youth. In our interview, which examines the contents of this book, Delbanco discusses the creative impulse in the works of several artists whose lives were cut short.


Part One: A tightly-controlled world: A.R. Williams on ‘The Camellia Resistance’

Part Two: ‘You have to want the story’: A.R. Williams on writing


In this two-part conversation, A.R. Williams describes the creation of her novel of a dystopian world and the lessons that she learned in the process of composition. Part One examines how she managed to produce a unique vision of a future world that doesn’t relay on all the Hunger Games-type tales that are in the marketplace.

Part Two offers some great insights into the process, especially the patience that’s as vital as the actual writing itself. I learned a lot. I think you will, too.


Translating the Translator: A talk with Andrew Frisardi about his version of Dante’s Vita Nova


Frisardi is a premier translator of Italian poets (Ungaretti, Alighieri) who worked with me on several assignments at the Los Angeles Times. It’s a real blessing to have a first-tier translator share insights into an aspect of modern literature that’s sometimes easy to overlook.

Why is that so? Because the art of translation, when it’s accomplished at the level of Frisardi’s work, becomes nearly transparent: We forget the language barrier and hear the writer’s voice, plaintive and clear.


What does poetry mean? A talk with Michael Odom


Odom is a brilliant practitioner of modern poetry in his own right and as a translator of others. “Density” is a term that, outside of the realm of science, seems to have a very pejorative ring to it. Nobody wants to be considered “dense.” That’s not the case with poetry. I once heard the late Frank Kermode explain the rich, dense layerings in T.S. Eliot’s poetry that produced a  brilliant friction among the images; the same is true of Odom’s verse, which achieves a density evocative, to me, of the very best in Dylan Thomas.


‘I’m still looking for the answers’: An interview with Ross King


King, like Nicholas Delbanco (see entry above), moves easily between the worlds of fiction and nonfiction, between the dynamic present and the historical past (Ex Libris, Domino, Michelangelo and the Pope’s Ceiling).  In this interview, Ross describes his perspectives on writing history (as well as fiction) and how many challenges remain the same regardless of the genre. As always, he’s instructive and generous with his insights in this interview as he is in his many published works and commentaries.

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