Author Interviews

Talking with published writers about their PC service, current life, writing their books, their advice for other writers — and what is in the works.

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BRIGHTEST SUN by Adrienne Benson (Nepal)
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Talking with Tim Suchsland (Kazakhstan)
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Talking with Glenn Ivers (Liberia)
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Christine Herbert (Zambia) answers questions on Operation Awesome
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Talking With Lawrence Grobel (Ghana)
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Tom Bissell (Uzbekistan) Speaks With Literary Hub’s Jane Ciabattari
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RPCV Brother Guy Consolmagno (Kenya), Director of Vatican Observatory
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Talking With Eric Madeen (Gabon)
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Multi-genre writer RPCV Carolyn V. Hamilton (Suriname)
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Talking with Robin Varnum (Afghanistan)
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Talking with poet Katie Speicher (Senegal)
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Talking to Ted Wells (Ethiopia) author of POWER, CHAOS & CONSENSUS
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Talking with Carl Murry (Pakistan) about THE G-K PROJECT
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Talking with Robert (Bud) Abbott (Nigeria)
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THE ADVOCACY — a ‘novel’ approach to civil engineering by Melissa Fischer (Ghana)

BRIGHTEST SUN by Adrienne Benson (Nepal)

An illuminating debut novel following three women in sub-Saharan Africa as they search for home and family   Leona, an isolated American anthropologist, gives birth to a baby girl in a remote Maasai village and must decide how she can be a mother, in spite of her own grim childhood. Jane, a lonely expat wife, follows her husband to the tropics and learns just how fragile life is. Simi, a barren Maasai woman, must confront her infertility in a society in which females are valued by their reproductive roles. In this affecting debut novel, these three very different women grapple with motherhood, recalibrate their identities and confront unforeseen tragedies and triumphs. In beautiful, evocative prose, Adrienne Benson brings to life the striking Kenyan terrain as these women’s lives intertwine in unexpected ways. As they face their own challenges and heartbreaks, they find strength traversing the arid landscapes of tenuous human . . .

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Talking with Tim Suchsland (Kazakhstan)

  Where and when did you serve in the Peace Corps, and what was your Peace Corp project assignment? Kazakhstan, 2007-09 — I was a TEFL teacher in a village near the Russian border called Yavlenka. Tell us about where you lived and worked. Yavlenka is in northern Kazakhstan about 50 miles from the Russian border and 1.5 hours from a city called Petropavl. The village was a regional center so it had quite a bit of activity and business for rural Kazakhstan. It was also a big agricultural area so lots of farming in the area. The landscape was fairly flat where the Kazakh steppe met the West Siberian Plains. I lived with host families my entire time in the PC. During training, I lived with a Kazakh family. My first year in Yavlenka I also lived with a Kazakh family of 5. In my last year, I lived with . . .

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Talking with Glenn Ivers (Liberia)

An interview with Glenn H. Ivers (Liberia 1974-76), author of ANGELS OF BASTOGNE   Glenn, what is Angels of Bastogne about? This is a story from World War II. The main characters are Jack Prior, a U.S. Army doctor, and two heroic Belgian nurses who volunteered to serve in his aid station in Bastogne, Belgium in December 1944, during a German offensive, the “Battle of the Bulge.” The aid station was short-staffed, under-equipped, and unsuitable for the tidal wave of wounded they faced, yet with grit and great compassion they persevered. What is the genre of the book? It has been described as historical fiction by a prominent Upstate New York historian, who generally “avoids books of this type,” but who nonetheless claimed he could not put the book down once he started reading it. I think of it as narrative nonfiction because it is a true story with an . . .

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Christine Herbert (Zambia) answers questions on Operation Awesome

    Would you please, in 160 characters or less, give a #WriteTip ? Don’t wait for the “perfect idea” to arrive before writing. Just get those fingers on the keyboard. The ideas will come.  What emotions do you hope your book will evoke for the reader? Above all, I want the readers to laugh. Hard. In my face. (Okay, not literally. Please don’t show up at my door, point to a page in my book and guffaw. That would be weird.) Because my book deals with a challenging time in my life—namely living in a mud hut in the middle of Africa by myself—there’s going to be a lot of emotions flying around. There are some truly soul crushing moments in there; I’m not going to lie. But mostly I wrote the book as a way to laugh at myself, and I hope the reader will too. What is . . .

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Talking With Lawrence Grobel (Ghana)

    Lawrence Grobel (Ghana 1968-71) has written 31 books and for numerous national magazines and newspapers. Playboy called him “the Interviewer’s Interviewer” after his interview with Marlon Brando for their 25th-anniversary issue. He created the MFA in Professional Writing program for Antioch University in 1977 and in 1985 his book Conversations with Capote received a PEN Special Achievement award and reached the top of several bestseller lists. He is married to artist and textile designer Hiromi Oda and they have two daughters, Maya and Hana. His blog, books, and articles can be found on his website: www.lawrencegrobel.com. We interviewed Larry in connection with his new memoir — Turquoise — of his Peace Corps years in Ghana. • Larry, why the Peace Corps? When I turned 21 in February 1968, I had to start thinking seriously about my future, and whether I’d have one. The Vietnam War was raging, with over a half-million . . .

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Tom Bissell (Uzbekistan) Speaks With Literary Hub’s Jane Ciabattari

 Thanks for the ‘heads up’ from Bill Preston (Thailand 1977-80)   LITERARY HUB The Author of Creative Types Speaks With Jane Ciabattari By Jane Ciabattari December 14, 2021 Tom Bissell (Uzbekistan 1996–97) has built a career on being a master of the literary pivot. He has written eight books of nonfiction (including The Father of All Things: A Marine, His Son, and the Legacy of Vietnam, in which he and his veteran father return to Vietnam together, and The Disaster Artist, co-authored with Greg Sestero), countless features, essays and cultural criticism for magazines like Esquire, The New Yorker, Harper’s, The New York Times Book Review, and The New Republic; video games (Gears of War: Judgment, The Vanishing of Ethan Carter, Battlefield Hardline), books about video games (Extra Lives: Why Video Games Matter, The Art and Design of Gears of War), and the 2021 TV series, The Mosquito Coast, based on the Paul Theroux (Malawi 1963–65)  novel. Talk about versatility. But he is, at his core, . . .

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RPCV Brother Guy Consolmagno (Kenya), Director of Vatican Observatory

  Brother Guy Consolmagno is the co-authored two astronomy books: Turn Left at Orion: Hundreds of Night Sky Objects to See in a Home Telescope – and How to Find Them (with Dan M. Davis; Cambridge University Press, 1989) and Worlds Apart: A Textbook in Planetary Sciences (with Martha W. Schaefer; Prentice Hall, 1993). He is the author or co-author of four books exploring faith and science issues, including The Way to the Dwelling of Light (U of Notre Dame Press, 1998); Brother Astronomer (McGraw Hill, 2000); God’s Mechanics: How Scientists and Engineers Make Sense of Religion (Jossey-Bass, 2007), and Would You Baptize an Extraterrestrial? (With Paul Mueller, Image, 2014). He also edited The Heavens Proclaim (Vatican Observatory Publications, 2009).  Since 2004 he has written a monthly column on astronomy for the British Catholic periodical, The Tablet. Brother Guy Consolmagno (Kenya 1983-85) is the director of the Vatican Observatory, and president of the Vatican Observatory Foundation. . . .

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Talking With Eric Madeen (Gabon)

  Eric Madeen (Gabon 1981-83) is an associate professor of modern literature at Tokyo City University and an adjunct professor at Keio University. He has been published widely – in Time, Asia Week, The East, The Daily Yomiuri, Tokyo Journal, Kyoto Journal, Metropolis, Mississippi Review, ANA’s inflight magazine Wingspan, Japanophile, The Pretentious Idea, several academic journals and so on. His most recent novel Massage World is a  high-octane thriller. Note: John Coyne    Eric where are you from in the States? I’m from Elgin, Illinois, which is a suburb of Chicago. I earned my BA in Journalism from the University of Arizona and MFA in Creative Writing and Literature from San Diego State University. Why did you join the Peace Corps? I joined the Peace Corps for several reasons, foremost I wanted to see the world, get down and dirty in the outback of the “third world,” specifically Africa since . . .

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Multi-genre writer RPCV Carolyn V. Hamilton (Suriname)

  Welcome to BookView Interview, a conversation series where BookView talks to authors.   Recently, we interviewed  Carolyn V. Hamilton Proctor (Suriname 1999-01) a multi-genre author, with books published in mystery, romance, memoir, and non-fiction as well as adult coloring books about her writing, and recently released, Elisabeth Samson, Forbidden Bride, a poignant and powerful historical drama.     Born and raised in Seattle, Washington, and a graduate of Antioch University Seattle, she spent over 30 years in the real world of “Mad Men.” She is also a Success Coach for memoir writers, and manages the FB group, Aspiring Memoir Writers. She currently lives way up in the Andes in the World Heritage City of Cuenca, Ecuador. Besides writing and mentoring, Border Collies, chocolate-covered raisins, art journaling and painting in watercolor are favorite activities. Carolyn V. Hamilton is proud to have served 2 years in the Peace Corps (which inspired her first novel) . . .

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Talking with Robin Varnum (Afghanistan)

  In June, Robin Varnum published her Peace Corps memoir Afghanistan at a Time of Peace. Peace Corps Worldwide asked Robin about her service, and about the writing and promoting of her book. • Robin, where and when did you serve with the Peace Corps: I served in the Peace Corps in Afghanistan (1971-1973), and  taught English (grades 8-12) in a girls school. Where did you live and work? I lived in Ghazni, a small city around 85 miles southwest of Kabul. I taught at Lycée Jahan Malika, the only girls school in either the city or the province of Ghazni. At the time, it served around 400 girls from kindergarten through 12thgrade. What kind of work did you do? I taught English. Although I did not understand initially why my students needed to learn English, I soon saw that a knowledge of English could open doors for students with serious ambitions. It was necessary, for example, for those who wished . . .

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Talking with poet Katie Speicher (Senegal)

  In her literary debut, Katie Speicher invites readers to join her in Senegal with her poems on beauty, strength, questioning, nostalgia, heartbreak, and contentment. Her poems have sprung from her Peace Corps service and from reaching deep into memory. Here Katie tells about herself and her writing. • Katie — where and when did you serve in the Peace Corps? Senegal 2016-2018 What was your Peace Corp project assignment? Agroforestry Specialist Tell us about where you lived and worked. I lived in Koumbidia Soce, a Mandinka village of about 700 people in the Kaffrine region of Senegal. What were your living conditions? I lived with a host family. I had my own hut within a family compound. At the time I was there we had no electricity, and water was pulled everyday from a well. During my service electricity went up in the village, but my family did not . . .

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Talking to Ted Wells (Ethiopia) author of POWER, CHAOS & CONSENSUS

  Ted, where are you from in the States? I was born in Boston, Massachusetts and raised in a small town called Sharon 20 miles south of the city. I started a 5 year degree in Architecture at the University of Oregon in Eugene, but finished it at the University of Colorado in Boulder, where I met my wife-to-be, Helen, who was born in Oak Ridge, Tennessee, but had moved to Colorado just before I arrived. Why the Peace Corps? I was strongly opposed to the Vietnam War and would have emigrated to Canada with my wife of ten months had we not both been accepted into the Peace Corps immediately after I graduated from university. Thankfully, my Draft Board accepted this as an alternative to Vietnam. Why Ethiopia? We would have accepted any assignment anywhere in the Peace Corps, but Community Development work in Ethiopia was the only choice . . .

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Talking with Carl Murry (Pakistan) about THE G-K PROJECT

Carl talks about his new book • Carl, where and when did you serve in the Peace Corps? I served in East Pakistan, which is now Bangladesh, from 1962 to 1964. I also served as Associate Peace Corps Director for agriculture, education and appropriate technology in Swaziland from 1978 to 1981, and served as a trainer for CAST, CREST, and pre service training in the 1980s. What was your Peace Corps project assignment? Training agriculture extension agents in the Ganges-Kobadak Irrigation project. The assignment evolved into developing farmer Clubs to support new and improved agriculture practices in their areas, starting a technical library, publishing a monthly newsletter, Recognizing “Master” farmers and being the team leader. What kind of work did you do? Initially we set up irrigation committees to distribute water from the tertiary canals to small, highly fragmented fields. This required a high level of cooperation. Each committee discussed . . .

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Talking with Robert (Bud) Abbott (Nigeria)

  Robert Abbott is author of the new book  Transformation: The 60-second Mind-body Practice Integrating Tai chi and Yoga to Manage Stress and Unlock Your Potential Where and when did you serve in the Peace Corps? I was assigned to serve in Nigeria as a member of Nigeria-19. I did the training in the Virgin Islands in the fall of 1965 and arrived in Nigeria in January 1966. I was assigned to Federal Government College in Warri, in the Mid-West State What was your Peace Corps Assignment? My assignment was to be a teacher in the new Higher School College. I was the first teacher to arrive at the college, so I initially taught biology and chemistry, and was the school nurse and P.E. Instructor. Tell us about where you lived and worked? I lived in the oil town of Warri. The campus was about two miles from the center . . .

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THE ADVOCACY — a ‘novel’ approach to civil engineering by Melissa Fischer (Ghana)

  An interview by Ben Walpole Senior Manager, Content Development ASCE’S NEWS AND INFORMATION HUB American Society of Civil Engineers • Melissa Fischer’s first novel, The Advocacy, published in 2019, mixes all the human drama, emotional stakes, plot twists, and character development that you’d expect from a great work of fiction with a realistic portrayal of a working civil engineer. It’s not often that civil engineering and literature show up in the same sentence. Melissa Fischer, P.E., M.ASCE, is aiming to change that. Fischer, who identifies as nonbinary, is a supervising engineer for the Los Angeles County Sanitation Districts, but lately they’re probably better known as a novelist. Fischer’s first novel, The Advocacy, published in 2019, mixes all the human drama, emotional stakes, plot twists, and character development that you’d expect from a great work of fiction with a realistic portrayal of a working civil engineer. Fischer discussed the book on a recent . . .

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