I Spy with My Little Eye analyses and discusses our changing behaviours as a society. Why was this an important book for you to write?
This book was important for me to write for three different reasons. First, on a personal level, researching and writing this book has helped me think through a number of concerns that have been in the back of my mind for a while about the direction in which our society is heading. As a result of this process, I’m more convinced than ever that I, as a parent, need to make active choices that go against some of today’s societal trends if I’m to provide my children with a sensible worldview and a solid starting point in life.
Second, I find it worrying that there isn’t greater debate about the values and norms underpinning our society. I think we need to acknowledge and perhaps rethink many of our behaviours if we wish to solve some of the symptoms of ill-health that are plaguing our societies, such as stress and anxiety, financial indebtedness and shallow aspirations. It’s difficult to change course if we don’t know where we’re heading. Acknowledging the problems is therefore a good start. I raise a lot of issues for discussion in this book and it’s my hope that it will be used for spurring debates in schools, book clubs and other places.
Finally, as I see it, questions around morality have too often been outsourced to, and monopolized by, organized religion. What I want to show by using the seven deadly sins and seven heavenly virtues is that being religious is not a precondition for being concerned about, and engaging in discussions around, morality.
This book uses a combination of statistics, quotes and recent topics to illustrate various points. I thought the research was outstanding. What was one thing that surprised you while you were researching this book?
On the whole, the data I used in the various chapters supported the hunches I already had about the issues I raise. In that sense I wasn’t particularly surprised by what the data showed. That said, I was still horrified to have my suspicions confirmed, especially when it came to statistics concerning children, such as the large amount of time they, on average, spend in front of screens, and the little time they spend outdoors.
This book looks at some of the problems affecting Britain s society today. Is there a problem that is unique to Britain? What is a problem that is shares with the world?
Although I’m drawing on material mainly from the British context, the issues I’m discussing are applicable to many more countries than the UK. I would argue that much of what I write about are trends found across the Western world. For example, in the first chapter titled Pride I discuss how today’s ‘celebritisation’ – the increased celebration of celebrities – affects the aspirations of young people towards careers that come with fame and glamour. This trend is far from unique to Britain. Seeing, for example, that the reality TV series Keeping Up with the Kardashians is apparently aired in 167 countries, I would say this issue is rather widespread.
Also, the role of the West as a predominant exporter of popular culture and information means that the norms and values we experience today in Britain may well be the norms and values experienced across the developing world in the years to come, if they aren’t already.
I think it would be a worth-while exercise to organize cross-cultural debates around the issues I raise in this book. For example, it would be interesting to set up panel debates at universities for students from different countries to discuss commonalities and differences in how they perceive values and norms playing out in their respective societies.
I understand that you currently live in London, but you’ve also lived in various other countries. How has this affected you as a citizen?
I was born and raised in the Northern Swedish countryside and I have moved many times as an adult, both within countries and across countries and continents. For over a decade now I’ve called England my home; starting off in London, moving out to the Essex commuter belt, and more recently setting up shop in rural Devon.
These moves have naturally altered the mirrors in which I see myself in relation to other people and cultures. Each time these contextual mirrors have changed I have had to step out of autopilot mode and take stock. In that sense, I think the many moves have made me wiser and more understanding as a person. They have also added a comparative perspective to my societal observations. For example, I think I have a better grasp of American politics because I’ve lived in both Montana and Washington D.C. And, I think I understand European geopolitics better because I’ve called Sweden, France, Spain and the UK my home.
On the other hand, I would probably have exercised a louder societal and political voice if I had stayed in my home country. Being an immigrant comes with a natural wish to blend in, and to be accepted. Especially after Brexit, I have sadly found myself adding things like ‘my husband is British’ or ‘I’ve been in England for many years’ when I meet new people simply to justify my existence in this country. I must also admit that I’ve had a fear when writing this book that people will think ‘who are you to come here and judge us?’ I sincerely hope the book won’t evoke such feelings.
What is the next book that you are writing and when will it be available?
In my next book I highlight the Western world’s evaporated trust in politics, business, and international institutions and argue that we need to tackle this lack of trust through greater focus on integrity and honesty in public life. I shed light on a number of the mechanisms believed to induce integrity through interesting (and hopefully amusing) cases from around the world, including whether Donald Trump’s fibbing can be stopped by naming and shaming, and if FIFA’s culture of corruption is finally an issue of the past. My intention with the book is to re-package academic research into an approachable format and let interesting cases bring the theories to life.
The book is only in its research phase so it won’t be ready for publishing for quite a while still.
Which direction is our society heading in? Does it provide a good enough nurturing ground for the next generation to flourish? Is it time we took a good look at our values and behaviour and changed course? Dr Linnea Mills offers a frank discussion about the prevailing norms and values in today’s Britain, interpreted through the seven deadly sins and seven heavenly virtues. She tackles head-on topics as diverse as celebrity culture, work-life balance, immigration politics and economic divisions. This is a book for anyone with a keen interest in society, philosophy and politics. Get inspired and join the debate.
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LT: The Voynich Gambit follows Special Police Officer Blalock as he is put to the test when D.C.’s most infamous artifact dealers set their sights on a mysterious treasure. What was your inspiration for this novel and how did it develop as you wrote?
Quintin Peterson: The Folger Shakespeare Library was the inspiration for The Voynich Gambit, like its prequel, Guarding Shakespeare. I worked there as a special police officer with its Department of Safety and Security following my retirement from the Metropolitan Police Department of Washington, DC on April 23, 2010. (http://tinyurl.com/jppths4)
LT: The novel is set in modern day D.C., where you describe polished skyscrapers, historic landmarks, and endless traffic. Why did you choose this as the setting for you book?
Quintin Peterson: I wanted to write a noir mystery thriller using the Folger Shakespeare Library as the backdrop. The Folger Library is located in my hometown, Washington, DC. (http://www.folger.edu/)
LT: Lieutenant Norman Blalock works at the Folger Shakespeare Library as a security guard protecting its treasures for over two decades. What themes did you want to capture as you developed Norman’s character throughout the novel?
Quintin Peterson: I just wanted to write an entertaining and enlightening good old fashioned heist story. I had the same goal for the first in the Norman Blalock Mystery Series, Guarding Shakespeare, and I have the same goal for the third installment, The Shakespeare Redemption.
LT: What is the next book that you are working on and when will it be available?
Quintin Peterson: Right now I am working on the second installment of my Private Eye Luther Kane Series, The Last Goodbye. Afterward, I will working on The Shakespeare Redemption. Like all of my books, The Last Goodbye will be available at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Books-A-Million, Indie Bound, et al.
Special Police Officer Lt. Norman Blalock, who has been guarding the treasures of the Folger Shakespeare Library for 25 years, has been coerced into a plot to heist from the Folger Museum “the most mysterious book in the world,” the Voynich Manuscript, on loan from Yale University. Under threat of suffering the consequences of their involvement in the botched plot to heist another priceless artifact from the Folger underground bank vault several months earlier, Blalock and his partner-in-crime Kavitha Netram are once again under the thumb of nefarious businessman Rupert Whyte, and have no choice but to play along.
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Einstein’s Fiddle begins with a man abandoning his child on a doorstep of a stranger’s home; the rest of the novel seeks to reveal and understand this man. What was the inspiration for the setup to this emotional novel?
Like my first novel (A History of the World), Einstein’s Fiddle began as a short story. The story form was abandoned quickly – perforce, as soon as Davy abandoned Mitchell. The inspiration for the setup was a simple disturbing question that presented itself: What if someone – no, not just someone – a dad – left his baby boy on a doorstep? The image that first came to mind was of the proverbial unwed mother from earlier decades in this country – desperate, ashamed, alone, afraid, and apparently out of options. The obvious second question followed hard upon the first: why would any person – at least any loving father – do such a thing? And these were questions that led quickly to others – questions of personality, motivation and experience – and my poor powers certainly could not answer them, or sufficiently illuminate the depths of such a father (Davy Calhoun), in a short story.
Davy Calhoun is a multilayered character that is deftly developed. What were the driving ideals behind the characters development throughout the story?
The relationship between fathers and sons has been at the heart of my writing from the beginning. It was there in my early stories and my first novel, and it is at the center of Einstein’s Fiddle. The desire for his (or her) father’s love, approval, guidance and acceptance is deep in every child’s heart from the first breath. It is a ‘natural’ yearning and part of each one of us because God put it there. I wanted Davy Calhoun to be a character with whom we all (if we are honest about it) share common ground; and of course – like each of us – he has his own story, his own unique experience and narrative, which I hope makes the book singular and engaging. There are a number of fathers in the novel, all of them flawed and fallen in his own ways – and one particularly outstanding in his degree of fallenness; but my ‘ideal’ father in Davy’s story is the dad in Jesus’ story about The Prodigal Son, a parable which one of the characters in the book’s third section relates to Davy. Perhaps the one ‘driving ideal’ behind Davy’s development is best summed up by something a friend of mine has said more than once: “Love is the most powerful force in the universe – just largely untried.”
It’s hard to not get emotional when reading Einstein’s Fiddle. Did you pull anything from real life or personal experience to use in this novel?
I spent time in all the places where the narrative unfolds – Charlottesville, Washington, D.C., Chicago and San Francisco – and I used a lot of my experiences of those places (and the places within those places) in the book. As I imagine any author does, I created whole characters with pieces of people I know or have known. Whenever it worked well in the narrative, I used – call it stole, if you like – real-life stories that friends have shared with me over the years. In the last section, when Davy is in San Francisco, there is a scene near Pier 39, which completely replicates something that happened to a good friend of mine in New Jersey. It was a wonderful gift to me, and I gave it joyfully to everyone who reads Einstein’s Fiddle.
What is the next book that you are working on and when will it be available?
The working title is Thomas, but that could change in an instant. I expect it to be much shorter than Fiddle…but that could change too. I don’t want to say much about it right now, except that it is about a life-changing relationship between a white doctor in Charleston, South Carolina, and the black man he hires to build a stable for his horses. You can safely bet that there will be fathers and sons in this book too…. I hope it will be available in a year or so. I’ve begun to work on it in my head, but I have yet to write the first word.
What kind of man leaves the infant son he loves on a doorstep in a strange town and drives away? With its present set in the summer of 1985 and its past reaching from 1950 to 1974, Einstein’s Fiddle is a dramatic examination of Davy Calhoun’s journey from home to the far country and back. The language and landscape of the novel vary between the existential and familial, tragic and comic, as the non-linear narrative – by turns realistic, lyrical, magical – focuses fearlessly on Davy’s fall, dishonor and redemption.
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The term “Paralian” comes from ancient Greek origins, and it has taken on the meaning of “people who live by the sea”. There could be no more apt title for Liam Klenk’s autobiography. In Paralian: Not Just Transgender, He recounts the sweeping and nomadic movements of his life via the lens of the rivers, lakes, and oceans by which he periodically makes a home. Water is the element of change and transition. It is also the element at the heart of so many human-nature entanglements; the resource that has always defined and guided the movements of our species. Fittingly for a tale of bodies, travels, transitions, and wandering, Klenk uses bodies of water to parse the sections of his life like chapters in a narrative.
The voice and experience of Liam Klenk is tender, vulnerable, and honest. It comes to the reader unassumingly and asks only for a patient ear. As the title would suggest, Paralian: Not Just Transgender tells a tale far wider in scope than Liam’s courageous journey through gender confirmation. If anything, the story is about the contexts that occur before, during, and afterwards. It tells the story of a human being finding his place in this world. It opens near the River Enz in Germany, with a young girl named Stefanie and illustrates how a complex and tumultuous family origin, vexes and feeds her inherent confusion over identity. At the end, the reader closes on a confident, middle-aged man named Liam who views the world through hopeful, optimistic eyes from an airplane above Hong Kong. In the intervening pages a transition obviously happens but—to the author’s point—so does a full life. As Stefanie becomes Liam, the reader is taken abroad from Germany to Seattle, from Zurich to Italy to Macao, and all points in between. What makes Klenk’s tale so necessary is that we get a story about a transgendered individual that articulates that while a singular aspect of his life was important, it by no means is the sole determinant of identity.
Regarding execution and readability, there are some pieces that could give readers trouble. As with many ESL authors, minor line-level similes and metaphors go overboard at times and actually distract the reader from the emotional intensity of scene and moment. The larger issue however is that Paralian: Not Just Transgender isn’t just a fascinating book, as it is several fascinating books mashed together. Because Life has no definitive plot, the best works of biography and creative nonfiction tend to follow an A-side/B-side construction in which real world chronologies and events are echoed and digested alongside another more metaphorical through line. Klenk’s book is framed around the metaphor of nomadic travels and bodies of water, but the device is often glanced over or abandoned entirely for lengthy sections. This leaves the prose, like it’s subject, to wander widely. Luckily for Klenk, his book is entertaining enough that its propensity to lose direction is easily forgiven.
Pages: 456 | ISBN: 1785891200
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