Best-selling authors on Big Books and Bold Ideas

Two people pose in separate images
Authors (from left to right) Brendan Slocumb, Leila Mottley and Emily St. John Mandel all published breakout novels in the last year, and they all appeared on Big Books and Bold Ideas.
Photos by Glenn Fry, Magdalena Frigo and Sarah Shatz

Few writers get to experience the rush of one of their novels topping the charts and becoming a best seller. But that’s just what happened to today’s guests.

Emily St. John Mandel’s “Station Eleven” soared up the charts when it was released in 2014, inspiring a TV miniseries on HBO and becoming a finalist for the National Book Award. Its much-anticipated sequel, “Sea of Tranquility,” published in 2022, to equally-delighted acclaim.

As she told host Kerri Miller, “Sea of Tranquility” is about a writer on a book tour in parallel worlds. Their conversation included talk about time travel, life’s hinge moments and the “what if this and not that” question that inspires so much of science fiction.

Leila Mottley began writing her best seller when she was just 19. That novel, “Nightcrawling,” introduces us to a teenage girl living with her older brother after their parents have vanished into prison and addiction. Kiara goes to school, holds down a job and tries to keep her brother on the straight and narrow, even as he chases an elusive dream to be a rap star.

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When Mottley talked to Miller in July 2022, she told her she was deeply influenced by the burdens Black women in America have to shoulder.

Brendan Slocumb is a writer and a professional musician, and his experience of playing classical music as a Black man enriches his debut novel, “The Violin Conspiracy.”

In the book, his central character mysteriously inherits a Stradivarius, which comes with a complex history. That inspired a delightful conversation between Slocumb and Miller, where the musician and writer shared his beliefs about how musical instruments carry history within them.


To listen to the full conversation you can use the audio player above. 

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