Saturday, December 15, 2012


Many thanks to Meg, Ken and the crew at Connotation-Press for repeatedly publishing my work.

Ellis watched from a cushioned window seat across the room, as yet another grad student managed to push his way into the crowd surrounding her husband.  Amusing, she thought, the way he drew people to him like metal filings to a magnet.  Zzzzzzzzt!  They became attached to him for the evening.  Yes, he remained erudite and charming.  Yes, he was still handsome for a man of advancing years and yes, he continued to radiate an aura of scholarly gravitas that managed to intimidate them.
She was elderly, the oldest woman in the room and the only one carrying a handbag.  She kept touching it as if to make sure it hadn’t vanished from the pillow next to her.  She massaged her temples for a moment - academic social gatherings still tended to give her migraines.  
Her friend, Max Richter, head of the Anthropology department, had been one of the few people able to resist becoming ensnared in the net of charisma cast by her husband, the Pulitzer Prize winning author.  That was the single reason Ellis had slept with Max off and on over the years, until his death ten summers ago.
The rest of them knew her husband, Charles Brinkman, as the shape-shifting persona he summoned for them.  And, they adored him.  Of course, they didn’t have to share a house with him, bear his children, put up with his bullying anger -- his “creative angst” as he referred to it --and nurture his monstrous ego for all these many years.

Friday, November 30, 2012


By MaryAnne Kolton 
Sly, profane, charming, alcoholic, sensitive, lonely, handsome, addicted to drugs, ballsy, well read, wry, nasty, self-deprecating, savvy, vicious, darkly humorous, vulnerable, cunning, insecure, emotionally damaged, loves his music, melancholy, short-tempered, bookstore lover. 
Jack Taylor or Ken Bruen?  

Do you always tell the truth?

Of course, but bearing in mind Tom Waits dictate
...............Do I tell you the truth or just string you along?
And of course, never allow a little thing like the truth to ruin a good yarn. 
Sean Connery said...........tell them the truth and then it’s their problem.
Now take all the above, add a large dose of incredulity and stir.
I’ve always been a fine ...........stirrer, vital if you intend to write.

There is a rumor making the rounds that one of your ribs was surgically removed, and from this rib Jack Taylor was created.  What are the similarities between you and Jack?

I’m laughing at the notion, great idea.
Jack is based partly on my brother Noel, who was found dead , a homeless alcoholic, in the Australian outback.
Does alcoholism run in our family?
It gallops.
I wanted a character who had my fascination with books, who showed the horror of booze and unlike the other stereotype, did not love ‘His Mammy’
Jack says
‘My mother is a walking bitch’
Jack is the road I might have traveled if I’d another lifetime to squander.
He has alas, my short temper, and love of hurling.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012


Thanks once again to Linda Richards at January Magazine for publishing this interview.

Matt Bondurant is passionate about life, writing and open water. His second novel follows the hugely successful The Wettest County In the World, now a riveting film called Lawless
His new novel, The Night Swimmer, is a richly textured journey of a young couple, Fred and Elly. This powerful tale of melancholy, goats and the dark waves off the southern coast of Ireland, caught me up and held me in its net until the very last page.  

Matt Bondurant was born and raised in Alexandria, Virginia.  He received his B.A. and M.A. in English from James Madison University, then went on to earn a PhD in English Creative Writing from Florida State University. Bondurant is the author of three novels, The Third Translation (Hyperion 2005),The Wettest County in the World (Scribner 2008), and The Night Swimmer (Scribner 2012), as well as numerous published stories, poems, essays and reviews. The film, Lawless, was made from Bondurant’s second novel, The Wettest Country in the WorldLawless was directed by John Hillcoat (The Road) and stars Shia Labeouf, Tom Hardy, Jessica Chastain, Mia Wasikowska, Gary Oldman and Guy Pearce and is currently in release.

MaryAnne Kolton: Was there anything specific in your childhood that encouraged you to be a writer? Tell us a bit about your life before you became Doctor Bondurant?

Matt Bondurant: I developed a serious reading habit at a very young age, mostly due to my mother’s relationship with books. We went to the library every week, each time taking home an armload of books, more than we could possibly read. I still have yet to encounter a book written before about 1950 that my mother hasn’t read.
My parents also ran an antique stall on the weekends, and in those days [1970s] you could just leave your eight-year-old kid at a used bookstall for the entire afternoon. From grades four to my senior year in high school I spent most of my time in school trying to conceal a book under my desk. I would bring several so I had spares when they were confiscated. I developed the essential habits of quiet isolation, becoming very comfortable with spending whole days alone. I was an ostensibly normal child for the most part, playing sports, friends, and the rest of it. I just read a lot of books.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

A True Independent Spirit Known for Her Generosity, Best Selling Novels, and Collection of Cowboy Boots: An Interview with Caroline Leavitt

Thanks, once again to Melissa at HerCircle Zine.

She wears so many hats: novelist, essayist, interviewer, book reviewer, as well as being an award-winning senior instructor at UCLA Writers Program online. And that’s just a partial list of her talents. Although admittedly obsessive and compulsive to a degree, I found her relaxed, open and a joy to interview.
MaryAnne Kolton: Will you share some information about your childhood? Favorite books, family life and who first encouraged you to read?
Caroline Leavitt: I grew up in a working class suburb of Boston, Waltham, where it was uncool to be Jewish, smart and sickly, and I was all three. I had terrible asthma as a child and while the other kids were out playing, I was in the school library reading and dreaming up stories. I was bullied a great deal, but reading was an escape for me. I used to beg the librarians to find me books about kids with asthma, and while they couldn’t, they did give me Mrs. Mike, a wonderful book about pleurisy, and lots of 18th century novels about TB! My parents both encouraged me to read and I still remember when my mother had a show-down with the local librarian who refused to let me take books from the “adult section.” My mother marched in and told her that I could read whatever I wanted, even Lady Chatterley’s Lover, and that the librarian was not to shoo me out of the adult room any longer!
Both my sister and I read for hours and we also wrote books together. We always had the same story, about a young girl like us, who was orphaned but had millions of dollars so she could run around the world having adventures. We illustrated the books, too. I have to say that reading and writing saved my life. I wasn’t that little girl with asthma anymore when I was lost in a story. I could be anything and anyone.
MAK: I’ve read that your home life was also fraught with brutality and intermittent abandonment. How do you see this less-than-ideal childhood affecting your work?
CL: What an excellent question. I’m really glad you asked that. Well, in my work, I try to both understand and rewrite the story of my life. I’ve written some terrible mothers—but I’ve tried to make them sympathetic or at least understandable. In putting these characters into print, I reduce their power over me in a way. I often have felt that if I couldn’t write, I would have gone insane because there was just too much pain growing up. When I wrote Sam in Pictures of You, a little boy with asthma, it was incredibly healing for me because in giving this little boy so much compassion, I got to heal my own shame and fear about growing up sickly. And of course, raising a child—giving him the exact opposite childhood I had—has been the most healing of all. It’s like getting a second chance to do it right, to break the cycle, to give my son everything I so desperately wanted for myself. I get to see the results, too: a happy, well-adjusted, confidant, talented boy!
MAK: Since you mention it, your most recent novel, Pictures Of You, led to what sounds like an idyllic relationship with Algonquin Books. Would you care to tell us how much and why you adore them so?
CL: I tell everyone I am the poster girl of second chances. I’ve had four publishers go out of business just as my novel was about to come out. (The novel died). The last two publishers I had were big huge ones that gave me two and three book deals, and they did no promotion or publicity, never returned my calls or emails, and one editor even handed me over to her 21-year-old assistant. (I was lucky. She was a great editor.) When I turned inPictures of You to my then publisher, they declined it, saying, “It’s just not special. We don’t get it.” I knew my career was over. I had 9 novels out there, and though they all (except for one!) got fantastic reviews, my sales were so poor, I could probably buy a week’s worth of groceries with what I made. No one really knew who I was, so who would publish me?
I cried to my writer friends. One of them was at Algonquin and she said, “Want me to ask my editor?” She did, the editor liked the idea of the book and wanted to read it, and three weeks later, I had a sale. Algonquin did amazing things that no other publisher did for me. They invited me to come in and meet all of them. They told me they were going to change my career. And they did. They got that novel into 4 printings 6 months before publication. They turned it into a NYT bestseller, and they are STILL promoting it nearly two years later, which is unheard of in an industry that usually gives writers three months. At a party, one of the marketing people told me, “You know how we are different? Other publishers look at sales figures and say, ‘Hmmm, this author isn’t’ doing so hot. We should drop her/him.’ But we look at it, and say, ‘Hmmm, this author isn’t doing so hot. What can we do to promote this book better?’”
I call them gods and goddesses. They are all so warm, so respectful of their writers, and my editor, Andra Miller, is brilliant. Plus, I know and love a lot of the Algonquin writers. Many were like me—rejected by their publishers, or unhappy with their publishers—and then suddenly, their lives changed. I adore all of them. Anything they want me to do, I do, because every decision they’ve made has been golden. When they first decided to make POY a quality paperback, I was panicked. I said, “But it won’t get the reviews,” and they said, yes it will. That paperback got more and bigger reviews than any hardback of mine, including from places like NewsweekVanity FairElleO, the Oprah Magazine and so much more. I went from having no sales to being a NYT bestseller. Amazing. Totally amazing.
MAK: “…as they got closer, she saw all these bright bolts of color… ‘What the fuck?’ Luke said… “They’re my clothes.’…her favorite blue dress, her winter coat, and all her junk jewelry sparkling among the dandelions… the yard was a Jackson Pollack of clothes. Then the door banged open, and there was Nora… Her arms were full of clothes and she stared hard at Isabelle and Luke, then opened her arms so the clothes tumbled out onto the front steps… ‘You don’t follow my rules, you don’t live under my roof.’ Nora shouted.”
In this bit from Pictures Of You we hear from one of the “terrible mothers” you mentioned before. There is often a fair amount of tension in most of your novels. When you are writing these scenes are you as angst-filled as the objects of the abusive characters appear to be?
CL: I am. To me, the most terrible and terrifying thing is to be cast out by your mother, the one person who is supposed to love you unconditionally. The whole “You don’t follow my rules, you don’t live under my roof” argument is one that robs you of your own individuality. It’s as if Nora wants to live through Isabelle, and if she can’t, then she rejects her. Certainly, I felt terrible writing this scene, but there’s also the desire to have others see it, to have them understand that there is sometimes a heavy price to pay when you are determined to shape your own life. I should say that I love my mother and she loves me and she never threw me out of the house! But we did have huge arguments about how I was going to live my life, and my mother was deeply upset when I did not follow the path she wanted for me, and I did feel rejected sometimes because of that. I used to tell people some of the things that happened to me growing up, and no one believed it, but when I write about it, or about the feelings I had, somehow they do.
MAK: In your novels, most of the characters have a sense of being many-layered. How do you keep the layers from overlapping and have you ever wanted to delve more deeply into the psyche of a character than you allowed yourself to do?
CL: Another great question. I do a whole lot of work on my characters as I am writing, pages and pages that never enter the novel. I have letters the characters write to me or to each other, I have stories of their whole childhood—and sometimes only a line is used—arguments and conversations they have. I was about to say, no I’ve never wanted to delve deeper because I know the characters so well, but then I remembered, in Pictures of You, there is a moment, when April stands in front of the car as if she knows it’s coming for her, and for the first time in my whole writing life, I really didn’t know what was going on in her head. I felt she was alive. I knew everything about her and even though she isn’t a particularly likable character, I felt great sympathy for her. I knew she was alive and breathing on the page, but she was so confused inside that it was disturbing to me—almost as if there was a “danger ahead” sign stopping me from going further.
MAK: You have talked at length about your attempt to adopt a second child, which in turn gave birth to your stunning novel, Girls In Trouble. Do you ever find yourself “over-mothering” your son, Max, because of the circumstances surrounding his birth and the knowledge that he will likely be your only child?
CL: I worked really hard to give my son the kind of childhood that I wished I had had for myself. I wanted him to feel respected, lavished with love, but because I had grown up with a mother who smothered me a bit, I wanted to give him independence, too. I wanted him to be able to make his own decisions about a lot of things. Of course it was hard for me! I adore my son and I always wanted to spend all my time with him, but I made sure to keep those feelings to myself. It’s hard now that he’s 16. He has his own life. He’s going to be going to college, and though part of me thinks, “Go to school in NYC! Live ten minutes away! When you marry you can live next door!” I know that isn’t a healthy way for me to be. So I tell him to go out there and experience the world, the way I did. To have adventures. And to know that I and his father will be here supporting him. 
As far as not having another child, it’s funny but Max was adamant about NOT wanting a sibling. We could have tried to adopt again internationally (we had tried domestically), but every time we brought it up to Max, he was really unhappy about it. And then, as two writers, we thought, well, could we afford two children? It began to feel like the right decision to have just one. The right one.
MAK: Some authors need complete silence in which to write. Others listen to music. Still others find the clamor of family and pets thought-inducing. What about you?
CL: I work best in my office that is right across from my husband Jeff’s office. I can look out my door and see him working! I love to blast music, but often the same song over and over and over, and it doesn’t even have to be good music or music I like. I’ve been known to write whole chapters on the Carpenters. (Yes, I admit it.) For 20 years, I had a tortoise sharing my office and I found the clicking of his jaws to be really comforting.
MAK: I can envision hundreds of would-be authors running out to buy tortoises as we speak… or not. Okay. It’s time to talk about the boots… go for it!
CL: When I first signed with Algonquin, they gave me something no other publisher gave me—a tour! To 30-some cities. I was anxious that I do well, and I had some speaking engagements in front of 500 people, and I knew I needed a talisman, something that I could put on like a superman cape that would make me feel confidant and strong and cool. Plus, my wardrobe is all New York black. So I began to look on eBay and I saw this pair of red cowboy boots. They were only $14 so I got them. As soon as I put them on, I felt different. I felt kick-ass strong and interesting. The first day I wore them out, two people stopped me in the street to ask about them. When I put them on for tour, I became the kind of woman who wore red cowboy boots. My nerves vanished. And the more I wore them, the more, suddenly, I became known for wearing them—so much so that I began to call my tour the Red Cowboy Boots tour. When I was interviewed by Anne Lamott in California, and filmed, the one thing people wanted to know about was my red boots! Since then, I bought up three other pairs on eBay, and I splurged and got a pair of green Old Gringo boots (these are the boots that feel like slippers—you’ve never worn a more comfortable boot) embroidered with flowers, but I’m waiting for my new tour to start to wear them! Oh, and I’m calling the new tour the Isadora Duncan Long Scarf and Old Gringo cowboy boots tour!
MAK: We know you have a new novel in the works and we know you have seen the potential cover. How about a title, a release date, a paragraph, a sentence?
CL: Title is IS IT TOMORROW, which is the title of a very old jingoistic 1950s pamphlet about how tomorrow could bring about the horror of (gasp) COMMUNISM! I loved the title and wanted to use it. It will be out May 7, 2013 (things could change) and all I can say about it is that it’s set in the 1950s dream of suburbia, where a divorced Jewish mother and her son are somehow targeted when a boy (her son’s best friend) vanishes. It’s about being an outcast, about paranoia, about boys and their fathers, mothers and sons, and how people are not who you always think they are. I was really influenced by “The Killing”—a show I began to watch when Pictures of You was part of a book tie-in for the show. I was obsessed with the way that show kept leading you down roads where you thought you knew how things were going to turn out, and then suddenly, there was a reveal, and everything reversed. 
MAK: Caroline, thanks so much for sharing the information about Is It Tomorrow, (sounds like a grand read—can’t wait) and for being so forthcoming and generous with your answers here.
Caroline Leavittis the author of nine novels: Girls In Trouble, Coming Back To Me, Living Other Lives, Into Thin Air, Family, Jealousies, Lifelines andMeeting Rozzy Halfway. Various titles were optioned for film, translated into different languages, and condensed in magazines. Her new novel, Pictures of You went into three printings months before publication and is now in its fourth printing. A New York Times bestseller, it is also a Costco “Pennie’s Pick,” A San Francisco Chronicle Editor’s Choice “Lit Pick,” and it is one of the top 20 books published so far in 2011, as named by BookPage.
Her essays, stories and articles have appeared in Salon, Psychology Today, New York Magazine, Parenting, The Chicago Tribune, Parents, Redbook, The Washington Post, The Boston Globe and numerous anthologies.
She won First Prize in Redbook Magazine‘s Young Writers Contest for her short story, “Meeting Rozzy Halfway,” which grew into the novel. The recipient of a 1990 New York Foundation of the Arts Award for Fiction for Into Thin Air, a 2003 Nickelodeon Screenwriting Fellow Finalist, and a semi finalist in the Fade In/Writer’s Net Screenplay competition, she was also a National Magazine Award nominee for personal essay.
Caroline has been a judge in both the Writers’ Voice Fiction Awards in New York City and the Midatlantic Arts Grants in Fiction. She is an award-winning senior instructor at UCLA Writers Program online, where she teaches “Writing The Novel” online, and she also mentors privately. A book critic for The Boston Globe and People, she won a 2005 honorable mention, Goldenberg Prize for Fiction from the Bellevue Literary Review, for “Breathe,” a portion ofPictures of You. Caroline has appeared on “The Today Show”, “The Diane Rehm Show”, German and Canadian TV, and she has been featured on “The View From The Bay”.
Caroline Leavitt lives in Hoboken, New Jersey, New York City’s unofficial sixth borough, with her husband, the writer Jeff Tamarkin, and their teenage son Max.
About MaryAnne Kolton
MaryAnne Kolton’s fiction has appeared or is forthcoming in numerous literary publications including the Lost Children Charity AnthologyThe Toucan MagazineLost In Thought Literary MagazineAnatomy, Her Circle Ezine, and Connotation Press among others. Her story “A Perfect Family House” was shortlisted for The 2011 Glass Woman Prize.
Author Interviews with Leah Hager Cohen, Siobhan Fallon, Charles Baxter, Alice Hoffman, Dan Chaon, Tupelo Hassman, Carol Anshaw, Lyndsay Faye, Kathryn Harrison and Charlotte Rogan have appeared most recently in The Los Angeles Review of Books, Her Circle Ezine, The Literarian/City Center and January Magazine. MaryAnne’s public email is She can also be found on Facebook and Twitter and at her blog site

Wednesday, August 22, 2012


Thank you, once again, to Dawn Raffel at the The Literarian - Center For Fiction for her fine presentation of my work!

Photograph by Gabriel Lehner
Lyndsay Faye
The historical novelist (and Center for Fiction reading group leader) talks withMaryAnne Kolton about playing dress-up, discovering "vivid particulars," and deciding what to cut

Following her remarkable debut, Dust and Shadow: An Account of the Ripper Killings by Dr. John H. WatsonLyndsay Faye entices us to enter the roiling streets of New York City in The Gods of Gotham. The year is 1845. Two seemingly unrelated events, the Irish potato famine and the creation of the “copper stars” are the basis for a riveting tale of desolation, crime, politics, and intrigue.   

I find that most people like to know something about the early background of the authors they read.  With that in mind, will you tell me what books you read as a child?  Did anyone specifically encourage you to read? What was your family life like?

I grew up with books. My mom read to me and my little brother continually, and my dad did too. I always adored stories, so a time without books doesn't really exist in my recollection. I'm very grateful to both my parents for that, for having a house where it was no question you loved reading. And I learned to read for myself quite early, I think. All the usual classics --The Secret Garden, The Mouse and the Motorcycle, Peter Pan, Ferdinand the Bull. We loved the Narnia books, my brother and I. I'd an early mind to be a playwright/director, so I outfitted my brother in a pair of khakis, paper cloven hooves, and some kind of horn headband, and then glued cotton balls all over his chest with Elmer's. He made a fabulous Mr. Tumnus.

When I started reading for myself, I was voracious about it. The Lord of the Rings series was a huge favorite. I pored over them. Something about the bravery and self-sacrifice enthralled me to the point that I read the entire thing aloud to my little brother (with a few canny deletions of endless descriptions of forests).  At about age ten, I discovered the Sherlock Holmes mysteries, and I've been obsessed with those ever since. It turned out that hero stories are my mojo.

We grew up in the Pacific Northwest, so we pretty much had free rein of the neighborhood. My parents were always careful, but the town was safe, so we put pennies on railroad tracks to flatten them and sailed Lego men through dyke tunnels and fostered families of mice we found in the meadow. If we weren't reading tales of adventure, then we were out running amok imagining our own.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012


A big thank you to Linda Richards at January Magazine for her continued support!

The Lifeboat (Reagan Arthur Books) by Charlotte Rogan kept me awake at night.  The first night to read straight through to the end… unthinkable to drift off to sleep not knowing how the story plays out...The second night to read it again, focusing on the philosophical and ethical conundrums.  The harrowing tale of Grace and her fellow travelers will call to you again and again.

MaryAnne:   Readers always crave more knowledge about the personal side of the authors they read.  Can you tell us what books you read as a child?  Who encouraged you to read and what was your home life like?

CharlotteStory time was sacred when I was growing up. My family did not get our first television set until long past the time I was able to read for myself, and books represented the door to two magical kingdoms: the realm of the imagination and the world of education and ideas. My family cared about both. Part of the fun of visiting relatives was having an aunt or a grandmother read to whatever assortment of children she found piled on the couch or gathered at her feet. My grandmother, who was born in India, loved Rudyard Kipling; my mother, who was tough and adventurous, loved Robin Hood and The Call of the Wild; my father could recite “Jabbberwocky” from Through the Looking Glass and “Concord Hymn” by Ralph Waldo Emerson. I was excited by the stories, but I also loved the rhythm of the words and the distinct voices and interpretations brought to the texts by different readers.

Thursday, July 19, 2012


Thanks to all those at Thrice Fiction -
See Page 21 for story and outstanding illustrations!

by MaryAnne Kolton

Bethann Dean was huge, like the Goodyear blimp, only rounder.  And only in front.  If you were walking behind her, you wouldn’t even know she was pregnant.  She stood on the driveway, in the dark, next to the car, with her pink polka dot, overnight bag, looking … determined?  Impatient?  Resigned?  Hard to tell.  Lloyd raced from room to room, making sure all the lights were off, throwing some salmon kibble at the cat dish and grabbing several energy bars.
“Lloyd, please!” she hollered.  She had yelled these same two words, at exactly the same volume and with the identical tone of exigency, on the afternoon the blimp had been created.  Lloyd’s parents were on a cruise.  The couple was on his bed, her legs wrapped tight around his lower back.  He didn’t have a condom and she wasn’t on the pill.  They had been dating for three months.  He had graduated from high school three days before.  Bethann had one more year to go.

Thursday, June 21, 2012


Thanks to all those at Inwood Indiana for the release of Harvest Time, which contains my story BETH. Page 271. The online copy is available by visiting the website and clicking the “Current Issue” link.  The paperback issue will be forthcoming in several days.

by MaryAnne Kolton

Beth hoped she might at last be unhooked from the shame of her errant father and manipulative mother now that they were both dead, but she soon learned it didn't work that way.  Her depression deepened and the tapes of “not good enough, never will be, just like your father”  refused to be stilled.  Barely audible, they swarmed like gnats around her head.  The non-stop voices of her parents gave her headaches so violent that she was unable to complete the course work for the last semester of her business class.  She failed to eat, lost too much weight and spent days in bed.  She slept the hours away.  Depression settled deep into the pores of her skin. 
At some point during the next three weeks when she crawled out of bed to go to the bathroom, Beth stood in front of the sink and risked a glance at the mirror.  She was shocked by what she saw there.  An emaciated woman of indeterminate age looked out at her.  Filthy hair hanging from her head in clumps, face grey with grime, soiled, tattered pajamas hanging from a skeletal frame.  Beth tilted her head and listened, startled by the near silence.  The voices were so muted she was hardly able to make out what they were saying.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

A Fresh, Compelling, New Voice With An Old Soul: An Interview With Tupelo Hassman

Thanks to Melissa at Her Circle Ezine

A startling debut that is unsettling, curious and heart-winning. In Girlchild: a novel, Tupelo Hassman’s account of Rory Dawn Hendrix’s youth is complete with trauma, redacted diary pages and endearing prose.

Friday, June 15, 2012


Many thanks to Meg and the crew at Connotation Press for publishing this one!

Joellyn started fingering portions of the desserts into her mouth.  Her eyes filled with tears.  The thick, blue-black mascara on her lashes threatened to trail down her all too rosy cheeks.  She ate the sweets, shoving each portion in her mouth and forcing herself to swallow. . .

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Through the Woven Door

Thanks to Tim Lepczyk at the gorgeous new Scintilla Magazine for understanding and publishing this story.

by MaryAnne Kolton

As she wakes Linka feels the hopeless weight of failure at the discovery of another month’s flow seeping from her body.  The flush glazed her thighs and stained the snow-white linen of her nightgown a fierce geranium red. 
Linka has longed for a child since she was a child.  Even her daydreams are filled with vivid images of a brass-brown, woven reed basket, overstuffed with a plump, peach–skinned infant whose chubby arms reach to claim her.
  Erek believes she has become bewitched by the constant cooing of babies, heard only in her head, to the point where she will never conceive.  He knows he has become the unhusband, useful to Linka for one purpose only.  They have been married for four years and he has yet to give Linka the one gift she craves above all

Saturday, May 26, 2012


Many thanks to Sara at Orion headless -

by MaryAnne Kolton

He drove too fast, weaving in and out of traffic.  He flashed his brights again and again when a car ahead of him wouldn’t move over.  Dark veins, like worms pulsing blue-red, stood out on the side of his head.
She watched the speedometer climb steadily toward ninety.  Slow down! she screamed silently. “Could you just slow down?” she said.  The muscles in his jaw tensed.  He hit the steering wheel with the flat of his hand, jerked into the right lane and slowed to the minimum speed limit.
He travelled a great deal on business.  She lulled herself to sleep when he was gone, with half-dreams that the police had come to the door to tell her he was dead.  Killed in a car accident, shot through the heart by a stray bullet in a drive by or the only fatality in a plane crash.  She tried to summon the emotion she would feel when they told her.  The best she could come up with was relief.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Tuesday, May 1, 2012


Many thanks to Her Circle Zine for publishing this interview with Carol!

In her latest novel, Carol Anshaw presents us with a sizable group of friends, and an unforgiveable accident. She ensnares us and them in a net of gut-wrenching guilt, twisted families, fierce addictions, love, lust and everyday life. Carry the One then proceeds to lure us into closely following these people for thirty years. What an amazing ride…
MaryAnne Kolton: First off, I have to tell you I think Carry the One is certainly one of the best books I’ve read this year. The characters are so finely etched and layered. I ended up lost in their lives and loving each and every one of them—despite their many flaws, or maybe because of them. Your writing voice is incredibly knowing and easy to listen to. What a great story this is.
Will you tell us if your childhood and/or family experiences encouraged you to write?  What books were your favorites early on?
Carol Anshaw: First, thank you for your praise.

 My early love of books was a lonely pursuit. My parents were not educated; they had no way of knowing what to recommend. My father did take me to the public library and waited while I picked a pile of books, whatever the limit was. Also, I was in Catholic school with 40 or 50 kids per class, all reading together. Very slowly. I read those books upside down just to give myself something to escape the boredom. High school was more boredom, so I stayed up through the night smoking and reading novels. I didn’t have a way of knowing what was good. I didn’t know there were classics. When we moved into a new house, my parents bought some books by the pound to fill the shelves in the den. I read all those books. They were mostly terrible. Mysteries like Another Mug for the Bier. I read books from the library like the Hardy Boys mysteries, but also books from Bob’s Drugs, which would sell anything to you. I picked up a lot of Harold Robbins there. The Carpetbaggers. The Adventurers. Big, sexy stuff. When I babysat, I’d reach around behind the books on the bookshelves. That’s where I found Peyton Place, and a couple of marriage manuals—illustrating sexual positions like “while dancing” and “while sitting in a chair”. I was a little explorer. And I think what my early reading gave me was a much bigger sense of the world that lay past the lawns and deadly conventions of the suburb where I was growing up.
MAK: Who did encourage you to begin writing and when?  
CA: My mother says I tried to write a novel when I was six, but had to ask her how to spell so many words that she finally told me I wasn’t ready; I’d have to wait. My parents got me a desk for my bedroom so I’d have a place to write. They got me a typewriter. One nun in high school took an interest in my writing and entered a couple of stories in contests for young writers. In college I was too busy being depressed and playing pinochle and smoking pot and skipping classes to write. As soon as I was out, though, I began writing fiction in earnest.
MAK: I’ve read that you cosseted several of the characters from Carry the One in your head for many years. I can’t say I’m surprised. They are all so absorbing. Which ones were they?
CA: I first wrote a story about Carmen (and Rob and Heather]), in thehammam. Later on I wrote a story about Alice (and Jean and Tom Ferris) called “Elvis Has Left the Building.” Both of these made it into Best American. I was writing other books then, but in the background, I had in mind a novel that covered a long stretch of time, to show how time both makes a great deal of difference, and no difference at all. I wanted it crammed with people, the way a city is. When I rode the el past the backs of houses and apartments with their lights on inside, I felt euphoric with the idea of making this book. I wanted to call it ”In a Taxi, Honey,” from the old song. Here is a good example of how something can be dazzling in your mind, then you see what reaches the page and you have to get serious.
When my brother was going down, I told him I wanted to write a character who wasn’t him, but had his addictions and he said to go ahead, the more the stories get out there, the better. And that’s how Nick came into being.
MAK: We should probably explain here that a hamman is a traditional Moroccan “bathing retreat.” A spa or steam bath.

Since you mentioned your brother, I’m wondering what you think about the theory that family of origin is somehow the jumping off place for most writers? A base from which to build?

CA: My family was not a base from which it would have been possible to build anything. By the time my brother and I were teenagers, our parents hated us. They were contemptuous of everything about us. That seems harsh to say, but it was true. It was us against them. The best we could hope for was staying under their radar. I remember telling my brother that I’d been to friends’ houses and they were nothing like ours. I told him that I would get out, then get him out. I did get out, but could never entirely extricate him. He had Stockholm Syndrome; he was in thrall to his captors. The father in Carry the One is the only character I’ve written who even has aspects of my father. I guess because life under their rule was such a terrible experience, I haven’t wanted to relive it by writing autobiographically.

MAK: Unfortunately, yours is a story not unlike those we’ve heard from so many writers. And yet, you seem to weave a delicious, wry, sense of humor into the doings in Carry the One. It plays off the serious issues your characters live with—a perfect counterpoint. Here are two examples:
His politics were not that great. He wasn’t a Republican, nothing out-and-out repulsive, but he was shifty on certain issues—like welfare and the death penalty. He thought people ought to work harder, the way he did. He thought it was okay to fry certain criminals. He picked the least sympathetic examples. Guys who chopped up their victims and served them in stews. That sort of thing.

(Carmen and Matt)
“How’s it going?” she said.
“Big doings here.” He was talking not in a whisper exactly, more like a TV golf announcer during an important putt. “The twins started a fire in a new house going up on the next block over. Then they stuck around to watch their handiwork. The cops picked them out of the crowd right away. The toes of their sneakers were melted and charred…Those girls are so sweet looking but they are total criminals.”

Is this just you, Carol, or a dedicated effort to mix sweet and sour, tragedy and comedy?
CA: This is just how my mind works, in writing, also in life.
MAK: How do you feel about the birth of the eBook, especially when coupled with more and more publishers’ reluctance to fund tours. Who knew authors would have to be masters of self-promotion with degrees in marketing…
CA: As someone who has a cabinet full of cd’s and a stack of LPs in the basement—all unplayable on any device I still own—I worry about the impermanence of the eBook. If my work was only to be available as a data file, I don’t think I would write anymore. But as long as there are still also physical books, I’m okay with eBooks. So many of my friends love their eReaders, particularly those who travel a lot, or live in remote places.

 As for promotion, Simon & Schuster has done so much for Carry the One that I am just hugely grateful, and try to do my part whenever they ask. I’ve never had this sort of treatment, and know I’m lucky to be getting it now.
MAK: Carry the One feels like a book that would make an intelligent, engrossing film. Has anyone expressed an interest in optioning it for that purpose? If that were to happen, how would you be affected emotionally and intellectually.
CA: Yes, I think it could make an excellent movie, but both good and bad movies have been made from good books so it’s nervous-making. One of the best aspects of novel writing is the nearly complete control of your work. Sell the movie rights and you can kiss that goodbye.
MAK: One of the most compelling characters in your book lives an openly, so-called, alternative lifestyle. Isn’t it glorious that no longer means that bookstores won’t put it on the shelves, people will whisper about it, but not read it, and haters will make placards about it and ban the book from the library. Thrills me to death.
CA: Oh yes, the landscape is much prettier; no fires in the hills. I am queer and have always had queer characters in my books, and I think at first that limited my readership and sales. When I started out, I read at a women’s bookshop that had a back room with all the lesbian books. So no one passing by would see your interest. Those days are gone. We’re ho-hum now. Only one of the reviews of Carry the One even took note of the lesbian stuff, and that was a queer reviewer praising it.
MAK: And look how it all happened overnight! Final question. Questions. Are you working on something new? Still decompressing from Carry the One? Will we hear more from the endearing, eclectic characters in this book?
CA: I am working on a novel called The Map of Allowed Wandering. I also have a story coming out in the 2012 Best American. I think it’s the best story I’ve written. It’s called “The Last Speaker of the Language.” I am also closing the gap on a painting project—a series of paintings of Vita Sackville-West. You can see some of these at my website, if you like. I’m making a biography in paint. And funny you ask about the characters in Carry The One. I might need to check in on Carmen and Alice later.
Carol Anshaw is the author of the novels Seven MovesAquamarineand Lucky in the Corner. She has won the Carl Sandburg, Society of Midland Authors, and Ferro-Grumley awards for fiction, and has been a finalist for the Lambda Literary Award three times. Her latest novel is Carry the One, from Simon & Schuster. Her short fiction has been anthologized and published in various periodicals including VLSStory and Tin House. Her stories, “Hammam” and “Elvis Has Left the Building” were chosen for inclusion in Best American Short Stories of 1994 and 1998 respectively. “Hammam” was read on NPR’s “Selected Shorts” series. Her latest story, “The Last Speaker of the Language,” has been chosen for inclusion in The Best American Short Stories 2012, to be released in October of 2012. Anshaw is a past fellow of the Illinois Arts Council and the National Endowment for the Arts. She teaches in the MFA in Writing program at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. She lives in Chicago and Amsterdam with her partner, Jessie Ewing.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Writer, Educator and Generous Mentor: An Interview With Charles Baxter

Here is the link to my interview with Charles Baxter, posted today at the Literarian/For Writers.
MaryAnne Kolton, met Charles Baxter at a book signing in Chicago, many years ago when she boldly handed him an envelope containing a short story she had written, a note asking for his critique, and a stamped, return envelope. She recently reminded him of that meeting and asked if he might take time out of his busy schedule to answer a few questions. He graciously consented and prefers to be called Charlie... 

Friday, March 23, 2012


Thanks so much to Nikki and Katelyn for publishing The Chess Teacher at The Vehicle!

                                The Chess Teacher
                                by MaryAnne Kolton

           Lisa lay on the sofa, crying for a long time.  Was this her fault?  Had she given him some sign?  Encouraged him in some way?  It was true she had thought he was cute.  Did he somehow  sense that and take it as some kind of an invitation to do what he did?


No one had asked Lisa if she wanted to go to Utica and live with complete strangers for the summer.  Her mother had sold her to the D’Angelo family.  Three hundred dollars for the entire summer.
 One of her mom’s best friends’ daughters.  A mother’s helper job.  Some babysitting, some keeping the kids busy when their mom, Sharon, was otherwise occupied.
  No one stopped to consider that it was to have been a special summer for Lisa and her friends  since they would be starting high school in the fall, splintering a group that had maintained an affinity since first grade.  Lisa pulled her long blonde ponytail to the front of her neck and examined a few split ends as they drove the last few boring miles to Utica.   
When they pulled into the apartment complex where the D’Angelos lived, Lisa tried again.
“Mom, I could take the bus home on the weekends.  What would be wrong with that?”
“Sharon and Gino might need you to babysit on the weekends.  That’s what’s wrong with that, plus there is no way you are taking a seventy-mile bus trip by yourself.  You’re fourteen years old.  It’s not like you’re doing this for free, Lisa.  Think of all the money you’ll have to spend on whatever you want when summer is over.”
“Yeah, three hundred dollars for my entire summer.  Big deal.”

Monday, March 19, 2012

Cycles Of Waiting: An Interview With Siobhan Fallon

Many thanks to Shana at Her Circle for her swift publication if this interview!  I love Siobhan.  How can you not?

CYCLES OF WAITING:                                                              

Siobhan Fallon is a remarkable writer and mother, who also happens to be a military wife. She survived several difficult years of living on insulated Army bases while her husband was deployed. Most recently she capably dealt with a move from the Middle East to Falls Church, Virginia during Christmas week - while battling a killer sinus infection, caring for a sick child and looking for a rental house. Her first novel, You Know When The Men Are Gone (Amy Einhorn Books/Putnam) is a collection of intelligent, heart-wrenching, unforgettable stories. (MaryAnne Kolton)

MaryAnne  My first question is going to be a compound one. Who are you? Where did you grow up?  Brothers and sisters? What was your family like? What drew you to reading as a child? Please let us know a bit about the "you" before you became the wife of a soldier.

Siobhan  I come from a family of bartenders. My father was born in Ireland and came over to New York at sixteen, working his way through high school in Queens, doing a stint in the Army during Vietnam, then settling down when he married my mother. They chose to live in the small town of Highland Falls, about an hour north of New York City, because my father fell in love and purchased a bar/restaurant there, the South Gate Tavern. Part of this particular Irish pub’s charm is that it stands right outside of the front, or south, gate of the United States Military Academy at West Point. And in a small town like ours, where everyone has gone to school with everyone else, the South Gate Tavern has become a large part of my family’s identity.

 I credit bartending with teaching me as much about story writing as my MFA. There’s a tradition in my family of sitting around the kitchen table with hot cups of tea and sharing whatever wild happenings unfolded at the bar the night before, and we had to vie for the best hook to get our listeners’ attention, the best delivery and story arc.There are the mundane moments to bartending — handing people their pints as they watch Army football games, refilling the hand soap in the ladies room, washing glasses until your knuckles ache from the hot water. But there are a lot of transformations as well, from the shift of a mellow after-work-crowd to the take-it-to-the-face college kids or soldiers, to the fellow in the bar stool in front of you slowly changing from sober to drunk. People of course have a tendency to reveal secrets, to say and do incredible things when they have been freed by a touch of alcohol. The bartender is the observer, the person who tries to keep things easy, handing out vodka or conversation or music on the jukebox, but she is never truly part of the party, she is outside of it all, aware and ready.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Lost In Thought Issue 2

This is stunning! JLD and I both have stories in this issue.   Thank you Kyle Schuder.
issue preview
Each issue of Lost in Thought pairs a writer with either a photographer or illustrator. The result is 84 pages of great fiction, photography and illustration.
Print: $18.00
Free Digital with Print Purchase!
Digital: $3.00

Thursday, March 1, 2012

A Perfect Family House

Many thanks to Shana at Her Circle Magazine for publishing this story.  "Kate" is my friend.

A Perfect Family House
by MaryAnne Kolton

Kate begged off carpooling that day and cancelled a dentist appointment.  She waited until her two oldest, Michael, age six, and Amanda, age four, had been picked up by an obliging neighbor, to be delivered to the grade school and pre-kindergarten.  At nine o’clock, she gave Lyssa, her eleven-month-old daughter, a bottle laced with two-milligrams of crushed Xanax, held her over her shoulder smoothing her back until she slept.  As she carried her up the stairs, Kate sang softly into the sweet smelling spot on her baby’s neck just below her seashell ear,
“Pack up all your care and woe, here we go, night, night Lyssa.”
She placed her in her crib, laying her carefully on her back and then, with just a moment’s hesitation, placed the palm of one hand over the baby’s mouth and held her nose closed with the other.  Lyssa squirmed for a second or two and lay still.  Kate covered her, brushed a few silky, dark hairs back from her baby’s forehead and walked from the nursery down the back staircase to the kitchen.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Robert Vaughan Interviews MaryAnne Kolton for Some Unknown Reason

Remember this, Robert? 

RV     Name one food you have not eaten since childhood, and why?

MAK  Campbell's Chicken Noodle Soup.  My father was out of work and money was tight.  My mother found an unbelievable deal on the above, so she bought three cases!  We lived a half a block from the school and came home for lunch every day.  For almost a year we arrived in the kitchen to face a steaming hot bowl of ( makes my stomach roll just to think about this) Campbell's Chicken Noodle soup.  Yuck.

RV     Is there one person you can think of whose writing makes you want to write immediately.  If so, who, and why?

MAK  Aargh!  I hate being confined to a choice from a group consisting of one.  I'm not a very decisive person.  You know me, I'm the one at the restaurant where all my friends are starting on the third course, and menu still in hand, I'm musing, "Um, maybe the salmon, but I don't really feel like fish."
Getting back to your question, I get so much inspiration from so many writers.  A theme, a word, a phrase, or even an author's note can make me run to the computer.  That's not one person, though, is it?  Okay.  I can't pick one, however, I will say that writers whose fiction easily transitions to prose always makes me think, Now that’s how I want to write.  Kazuo Ishiguro, Leah Hager Cohen, Karen Alvtegen and Alice Hoffman are just a few examples.  Recently, I wrote a fairy tale that I thought came pretty close.  It’s been accepted and due to be published at some point.  Links will be everywhere.  I've considered hiring a skywriter. . .

RV    Any animal that terrifies you?  Why?

MAK  No.  I am such an over the top animal lover.  I suppose I wouldn't be enamored of an out of control orangutan with a face-eating compulsion or any animal with a face-eating compulsion for that matter, but overall I'm not afraid of much of anything.  I do have one sister that . . .well, never mind about her.

RV    First draft-Paper and Pen?  Or Computer and keypad?  Describe your first draft process.

MAK  Computer and keypad, even though I am the world's worst typist.  For a first draft I just write all the thoughts I have about the story any old which way - just to get ideas on paper.  Sometimes, the main character tells me the story, but that's rare. Then I go back again, clean it up, look for better words.  You know the drill.  It's not unusual for JLD and I to be in the kitchen getting coffee and I’m saying "Don't talk to me.  I'm writing in my head."  God forbid that I lose the perfect phrase.  My memory is not what it used to be, for sure.

RV    What matters more: expensive thread-count bed sheets?  Or fancy anniversary celebrations?  Why?

MAK  Twelve hundred thread count all the way.  JLD says I'm a hedonist at heart.  I have a luxe king size bed, down pillows and comforter and twelve sets of sheets.  Six for summer and six for winter.  Sleeping comfortably is more important to me than breathing.  Almost.  One of the stories I wrote, The Love Tap, is pretty much about me and sleeping.

Wow!  I really rambled on here, didn't I?  Sorry to be so wordy but you know how it goes. . .

Thanks Robert.  This was fun!

Robert Vaughan is a brilliant writer, a notoriously kind and handsome man, and happily, my friend. For his full bio see